Thursday, December 29, 2011

I don't even...

Truthfully, I've got nothing to say. Really. I just got tired of looking at that last post, and never quite got around to doing a music post (but I keep promising myself that I will!). So here's a random post to get rid of that last one.

Let's talk about NaNoWriMo for a minute, since we're here. I did it, and I won, and I did it quickly, that's how good my outline was. As in, I was finished by November 15th. And it was actually kind of a bummer because it took away from the experience for me -- part of the fun is the struggle and the bonding with other participants to see if you can get it done or not. And instead, I felt like one of the assholes in the Overachievers thread who has to set their word count goal to like 150,000 (pfffft!) because they are so prolific they can't possibly settle for a mere 50k. So I kept it on the downlow and kept posting in the Chick Lit thread and getting to know the women who started the Chick Lit NaNo Cheerleaders group (they are all awesome, by the way, and by "awesome" I mean "super fucking cool and awesome"). But I felt sort of fraudster-y and whatever, and then later I felt dumb for being embarrassed by finishing so quickly. Why be embarrassed about something like that? It's only because I had a really detailed outline. It's never going to happen again, let me just say that!

And doing NaNo did totally screw with my head and mess up what I had going on with Less Than Perfect (novel #1). I lost my mojo for a while there. But I think I have it back. I just have this huge chunk of the book that needs to get fixed and taken down to about a third of its length -- this huge chunk called "the beginning". Which is like whatever, no problem, right? Also I feel like it's all lost focus a little bit. But I think my readers will give me fresh glimpses into where the focus needs to be. Let's just hope that my five readers don't come with five totally different opinions...

So also, I just want to say that Christmas was lame. It was lame, because my sister wasn't there. Maybe it will be better next year, but this year, it made me feel stressed out and a little bit melancholy and there was drama with getting a new tree (I was allergic. To a plastic tree. We had to take it back. Even the store clerk laughed at me.) so we didn't end up having a tree and that didn't help, and we didn't plan well financially, so that made it hard to buy gifts, and -- it was lame, like I said. I mean, it was nice to be with the family, and see the kids having a good time. But there was the underlying unspoken sadness over who was missing and honestly, I was just glad when it was over and we had gotten through it.

Our traditional Christmas morning breakfast at the Waffle House was delightful, though!

Also, I didn't hit my goal for 2011 of reading 100 books, and I counted comic books. Comic books. Okay, they were trades, but still -- I still couldn't get it done. I blame my sister dying. I'll do it in 2012 for sure.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It SEEMS like a good idea, but it might not be.

So I'm planning, as of right now, to do NaNoWriMo again this year. It starts tomorrow. I have an extensive outline of a sequel to the novel I've been working on since last year at this same time, and my plan is to put that in actual readable format (if I can read my own writing -- it's getting sketchier by the day, and smaller).

The thing is, I haven't finished that novel from last year. As I've mentioned over and over ad nauseum (if you're my Facebook friend), I'm still finishing up the second draft. And my original plan was to be all the way to a third, really polished draft by this point, so I wouldn't feel bad about working so hard on something new. But that didn't quite work out, as you can see by my two prior entries.

So here's the plan: I'm just going to do it anyway. I'm going to chalk not being where I wanted to be with Less Than Perfect up to life, which I'm sure all writers must experience more often than not, and I'm going to go ahead and do NaNoWriMo. I'm going to get as far as I can in revision by the end of this week, and then send it out to my readers. And while I'm doing that, I'll just strive for 2-4 pages per day on the new thing for NaNo. And then once it's sent out, I'm going to set it aside for the rest of November while I hit the new thing hard, and get back to it with fresh eyes and mind on December 1.

Oh my god. My heart just started racing as I typed that last sentence. Set it aside?? What am I thinking? It's sort of like sending The Pook over to his dad's house for an entire month.

On the other hand, I'm to the point where there are parts of it I can't even stand to look at right now. So I think a break is necessary.

So it SEEMS like a good idea, but it might not be.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

So That Happened.

Seriously, I can't believe it's almost Halloween.

Obviously, the last couple of months have been a little... well... stressful, for me. My sister passed away and it was horrible and it's still horrible, and I miss her every single day. But then to top it all off, about two weeks after her memorial service, I was innocently wandering through my favorite grocery store, and slipped in a huge puddle of something and broke my ankle. So I've been in this boot-cast stupid thing for almost a month now, and have about two more weeks with it, and it's generally been the biggest pain in the motherfucking ass EVER. Because first of all, it's my left foot and I'm left handed and left footed. And second of all, we live on the third floor of a building with no elevators. So good times have been had.


Anyway. I'm trying to finish the second, hopefully way more polished, draft of my novel. It is so much harder than I thought it would be. It goes like this: you sit there and you know what has to be done, but you can't figure out HOW to do it, so you just stare and stare until the page becomes blurry, and then you get up and wander around the house and eat some chocolate and take a shower and while you're in the shower you have a revelation and figure out HOW to do it, and then you go do it, and then you move on to the next thing that needs to be fixed, and you sit there and you know what has to be done, but you can't figure out HOW...


And there's this voice that lives inside my head that tells me all the time how I could totally get this done faster AND better if I didn't have to work full time, if I didn't have to take care of my child, if I didn't have to ever speak to my husband again. And sometimes part of me believes that voice and I become very crabby and out of sorts and bent out of shape with my real life. Other times I manage to just suck it up and get the writing in when I can like I always have. Early mornings. Late at night. Lunch hours.

Today it's snowing, the first big snowfall of the season. I feel like I should be allowed to stay home and write if the weather sucks, but that didn't happen -- the amount of snow fell far short of the predictions. So much for that idea.

Revising mostly feels like taking one step up and two steps back. I'll be all excited over a breakthrough, and then I'm suddenly crushed because something else isn't working, or because a part I've fixed creates problems elsewhere, 100 pages down the road.

But it's getting there.

It's definitely better than it was when I finished the first draft in July. It's changed, a lot. It's a thousand times better than what it was when I started pounding it out for NaNoWriMo last year.

I just wish I could make it get there faster, without sacrificing the writing.

But it's getting there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Miss My Sister

 This is the eulogy I wrote for my sister Lianne's memorial today...

So there was this misunderstanding about a pair of shoes.
            And please – don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one before. I know Lianne tells it better, but I’m going to give it a shot.
            Anyway. It was a pair of red high top Converse sneakers. Very, very 1985. Lianne owned these fabulous shoes, and I coveted them greatly. So apparently I may have borrowed them without really asking if it was okay first, and she got a little mad. Okay – a lot mad. And a fight ensued – we had been left unsupervised after school, always a big mistake – and I was terrified. Because make no mistake: the girl could kick my ass. She had this move she called “The Windmill,” where she’d just come at you, arms flailing like… well, like a windmill, and you better run or get torn to shreds. So I did what any self-preserving 7th grader would do in the same situation: I hid in my room, back to the door, bracing it shut by putting my feet against the wall.
            And she was pretty enraged when she couldn’t get in. So she got the bright idea to go out her window, crawl across the roof overhang to mine, and bust into my room that way and give me a beat down. And I could hear the commotion at her window, and the warning issued by Stacey, who was probably five or six at the time, and watching our PMS-fueled antics with glee. “She’s coming across the roof!” And really, I was still terrified.
            But then! Suddenly I heard a sound like fingers scrabbling across wood shake shingles, and Lianne’s voice saying “Oh shit!” And then a yell that faded away as she fell.
            Yes, ladies and gentlemen: She slid on a wet spot on the roof and fell, onto the front lawn. She apparently grasped onto a “branch” from the giant tree gracing our front yard, but sadly, that tree was some sort of willow, and didn’t really have branches so much as thin little vines. And the next thing I heard was a “THUD” as she hit the lawn. And then we were all silent for a moment, and Stacey and I ran to the window to see if we could see her, if she’d been hurt at all.
            But no. She got up, dusted off the butt of her jeans, laughing hysterically, and said, “I have to go tell Suzanne!” And headed off down the street to tell Suzanne, giggling the whole way.
            And I guess I tell you this for two reasons: One, because it’s our all time favorite Lianne story. I mean, the way she tells it is epic, and she’s probably up there telling it to my Grandma McEwen right now, shaking her head and rolling her eyes and going, “Shannon doesn’t tell it right.”  But two, because that was so Lianne: just picking herself up, dusting herself off, and laughing about it.
            She was always laughing. These last few weeks, as people sent us well wishes, the common thread was always her laugh, her smile. And that’s what we’ll always treasure the most about her too – our memories of her laughing and smiling. And she was funnier than me. The way she told a joke. The way she saw humor in every situation. The types of things that made her laugh. I can hear her voice right now quoting funny lines from “Airplane!” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Better Off Dead.” No one can do “I want my two dollars!” better than Lianne could. Or “Sorry I blew up your mom, Ricky.” Classic.
            In a sister, you pretty much want three things: a playmate, a confidante, and a cheerleader. Lianne was all three, and then some. I was lucky because Lianne was not quite two when I was born, and I had a ready-made best friend from day one. Every memory I have of my early childhood includes Lianne, right there beside me – endless days filled with Barbies and hide and seek and silly stories; the nights we were allowed to stay up late to watch The Partridge Family; our mutual love for trips to Stanley Park in Vancouver, and plane trips, and visits to our grandparents. Lianne was always braver than me, and learned to be a good swimmer while I sat on the sidelines and watched, and struck out and made more friends than I did – it might surprise you, as reserved as she’d been in recent years, to hear that she would always be the one to make easy friends wherever she went, while I’d rather stay inside and read a book. But she was just like that – always ready with a laugh and a smile and up for nearly anything, all those things you look for in a friend.
            It was different for Stacey, who came along when Lianne was ten and I was eight. We spent the next twenty years tugging her in two different directions, competing, thinking she had to like one of us best. Eventually we realized it wasn’t a competition after all and the three of us settled into a grown-up relationship of three sisters, but Lianne had won anyway. How are you not the winner when you’re the sister who allowed your toddler-aged youngest sister to spend every night in your bed because she’s afraid of the dark or the thunder or had a bad dream and doesn’t want to sleep alone? That’s what Lianne did for Stacey.
            And you could tell her anything and not have it get back to Mom or Dad. Not that we would dare keep any secrets from Mom or Dad. HAH. She might offer up some advice or be a little judgmental about whatever it was you were telling her, but that was her right as your sister, and still, it never got repeated. We were thick as thieves, as the saying goes – she would launch these spy operations around Christmas time where one of us would hide and spy on our parents at night after we were supposed to be in bed, to see if either of them slipped up and mentioned one of our Christmas gifts. We also had an elaborate series of knocks on the wall between our rooms, codes for “Are you awake?” and “Goodnight” and “ Come over.” The most important, of course, was three knocks, for “I love you.”
            She was a practical joker and loved to tease, and loved to laugh and make us laugh. Ask Stacey about the clown mask. She taught us to love comedy – movies, tv shows, comedians. We never would have been interested in any of it were it not for Lianne. And music – she taught me, and Stacey by extension, to love rock music with wild abandon. Early on it was Andy Gibb, Shaun Cassidy, the Bee Gees, the Bay City Rollers. Eventually she moved on to Van Halen. Def Leppard. Sammy Hagar. Bon Jovi. She never met a Canadian rock band she didn’t like. She was the first person we knew who watched endless hours of MTV, and Dad would threaten to throw the tv into the pond behind our house because he thought it was rotting our brains. Which – it probably was. I mean, she would make Stacey walk up and kiss the tv any time David Lee Roth appeared. And she’s the one who introduced me to Guns N Roses, and to hip hop – she had a thing for Too Short, Run DMC, and 2 Live Crew.
            Other things you should know about Lianne: She taught us to appreciate a cute boy and later a good-looking man. But she also taught us the value of looking inside a person, and seeing what was in their heart and soul rather than just seeing the outside. She was fiercely protective of us, especially of Stacey, the baby, and she was a fierce defender of people she saw as needing a leg up. I have some good friends from high school who were – let’s face it – a bit nerdy in junior high and high school, and the popular kids used to make fun of them. Until Lianne stepped in and befriended them, and questioned the popular kids for treating them poorly. When these friends of mine heard last week that Lianne had passed away, they all wrote to me and told me how Lianne had once made their lives a little brighter, just by being their friend, and that they’ve never forgotten her.
            You’ll see in the slideshow Stacey and I put together that Lianne tended, in more recent years, to step back in the group photos, and push the rest of us forward. And that’s probably the biggest gift she’s given to the two of us over the years – she was our biggest supporter, our biggest cheerleader. She was always so proud of Stacey’s painting, and she never let me forget that I’m supposed to be a writer, not an insurance salesperson. We won’t let her down, because we know she’ll come back to haunt us if we do.  Oh, and Daniel – you know she expects you to earn that black belt someday, and become an Oscar-winning director. Ben, you’re gonna have to become a champion race car driver and really work on those guitar chops. Aspen, she expects you to cure cancer someday, but no pressure. Owen? President of the United States. She always had our backs, and I know from now on she’ll be perched on our shoulders, ready to give us all a nudge in the right direction.
            But what you also have to know is that we were proud of Lianne too. She was a success in her career by anyone’s definition, and she married Sam, the best brother in law a girl could ask for – with apologies to Nate and Rob. She was a good person, a kind person, and the type of person you just wanted to be around. She didn’t always want us around – in fact her last words to me were something along the lines of “Get out of my room,” and trust me, I’ve heard that line from her many times in my life. But we always wanted to be around her.
            My friend John and I joke all the time that we were one another’s first friend – we’ve known each other since we were one and two years old. But really my first friend was Lianne –my friend, my Hot Dog Head, my partner in crime, my sister. The world’s a little brighter because she shared with it her lovely eyes and sweet smile and that crazy machine-gun laugh. We love you, Yannee Banners, and we’ll miss you every single day. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Edge of Glory

I hated Lady Gaga at first. I think I just didn't get it. She seemed like maybe she was trying too hard. But then "Bad Romance" came out and I could no longer fight it. That shit will suck you in no matter who you are. Even Evil Rob loves "Bad Romance."

But now the backlash is beginning, with her newest album. Critics like it or even love it, but the more casual fans are all, "What the hell is this crap?" and the hardcore fans seem a little confused. So allow me to break it down for you: It's an exploration of and tribute to her musical influences. Also, Gaga loves hard rock a little more than you might have cared to admit.

"The Edge of Glory" is a kick ass song.

No, it really is. It totally sounds like something Lita Ford might have come out with if she'd just stuck with it and not given up. And that Clarence Clemons saxophone solo is sublime. It conjures up every single outstanding 1980s sax solo all in one simple 30-second riff. Mostly it reminds me of a combination of the sax solo in Glenn Frey's "You Belong to the City" and George Michael's "Careless Whisper" and Rod Stewart's "Downtown Train." Only it's better, because it's not in one of those shitty songs and stuck in the 1980s, it's in a Lady Gaga song from 2011. It's cool, and it doesn't sound like anything else on the radio right now.

I think that's where people get confused: they want everything to sound the same. Bland and predictable. And Lady Gaga was getting overplayed for two years and then she did something a little different, mixed things up a bit, and people don't know what to think because it doesn't fit in with fucking OneRepublic and Train and Bruno Mars and the newest made to order hits by Katy Perry and Britney Spears (who, don't get me wrong -- you know I loves me some Britney but her newest song is such a snoozefest!). This is a summer without a jam and it's been really depressing.

"The Edge of Glory" though -- it perks things up a bit. The other thing that's cool about it is that she doesn't do ANYthing in the video. She just prances around a fire escape in a weird outfit and up and down a rainsoaked street showing off her ass. Which -- there are worse things in life than 5 minutes of looking at Lady Gaga's ass. Here:

Yeah. I'm a little put out by that part where she kisses the pavement because that's really unsanitary and conjures up images of a real New York City sidewalk covered in old chewing gum and black dirt from cars and the bacteria left behind by a million pairs of shoes. But whatever. Also, I bet Clarence Clemons totally loved seeing as much Gaga ass as he did, filming that video. And the part where she's all snuggled up next to him -- she's like a little pocket Gaga next to The Big Man.

I dunno. I dig it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yeah, I wrote a book.

Something strange happened to me over the weekend: I actually finished something.

Even stranger: It was something I wrote.

I've been a non-finisher my entire life. Honestly, it took every ounce of strength I had to finish college -- and that required an extra semester. After that, I spent many, many years not finishing things. Relationships. Books I was reading. Leases. Goals. Scrapbooks. You name it, I did not finish it. In 1999, I got my insurance license and it was huge. HUGE. Huger than it should have been, because it was an actual accomplishment for me -- something I had finished instead of walked away from. But don't worry -- that was the last thing I finished for a long while. I wasn't in any danger of becoming some sort of goal driven overachiever.

Sure, I had dreams. But they were just dreams. Dreams of having a book published, and dreams of writing something for the screen -- movie or television, I wasn't choosy. This was supposed to somehow make me rich, so I could travel the world and rub elbows with rock stars and movie stars. My dream self didn't get the memo that rock stars and movie stars don't hang out with the JK Rowlings of the world.

I've been writing my whole life. I mean, since I was old enough to actually write. So I've always thought of myself as a writer -- even when I was a nanny or a student and well into my years as an insurance agent, I never let go of thinking of myself as a writer. But I could never really finish anything. I wrote two novels in junior high -- horrible, terrible melodramas about figure skaters. Lots of teenagers making out and poorly written competition scenes, going on for hundreds of handwritten pages. I couldn't stop because I liked the act of writing them so much. My best friend wrote one too, and we would pass our pages back and forth to entertain one another. Neither of us ever came up with an ending. I'm not sure there was actually even a plot in either of mine.

I started another book my freshman year of college, about a cocaine addicted high school girl. It was based loosely on someone I knew. It never really went anywhere. I think I let my little sister read it, and she never forgave me for not finishing it. As a creative writing major, I had to write short stories all through school, and mine always ended up being the basis for what I hoped would turn into book length works. But I could never quite get there. And then my senior year, I finally turned in a story that wound up being a pivotal chapter in a novel that I worked on for years, through three major versions. I took seriously beginning around the age of 27 and worked on it till I was about 33, at which time I was too busy single parenting to continue struggling with it. It wasn't going anywhere. I had about half a book, and no end or character growth in sight.

And I didn't write for years. And I missed it all the time. So last November I decided to do NaNoWriMo. And I finished -- a little more than the qualifying 50,000 words. And I realized that I really liked the novel that I had begun, and decided to keep working on it.

And something crazy happened: I started to take it seriously. I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I could finish this time. And maybe something would come of it, though that wasn't at the forefront of my mind. I woke early every morning and put in at least an hour before work; I wrote on my lunch hours; I wrote well into the night more nights than not. I set some goals for myself: I wanted a first draft by the end of May, and I wanted a revision by the end of July.

I didn't quite meet those goals.

But I finished my first draft. This past Saturday, very quietly, around 2:15pm. I was exhausted, and went to take a nap without even telling my husband I was done. I had been certain that when I finished, I was going to just put my head down and weep. And I probably would have if I hadn't been so tired that day.

And Sunday night, I sent it out to a handful of friends who'd volunteered to read and critique for me. And that's when it actually hit me, what I'd done: I wrote a book. A BOOK. A whole book.

I mean, yes, it was just a first draft. A very rough one at that. But it was a book. Almost 300 pages, with a beginning, a middle and an end. And I was flipping out. In a good way. As soon as I hit "send" on the email, my heart started pounding and I thought, "Oh shit, what did I just do?" But then within twenty minutes, I had a reply from one friend saying she'd read a few pages and was hooked, and that made me feel better.

And the next morning, as I went into work, I felt so amazing. Like I could do anything. Because I'd written a book. A BOOK.

No one at work was impressed. Well, that's not entirely true -- two people were very impressed. Everyone else was like, "Umm, okay, you have a phone call..." It took me down a notch or two. But I wrote a book. A BOOK. And they can't take that away from me. No matter what.

Even if nothing else happens, it's really amazing to know I wrote a book. To know I finished something. At last.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Bars Are Dark and Lonely

I don't write about music very often. This is because I love music, probably just as much as I love life itself. And what music does to me is nearly impossible to put into words. It would just sound trite: the right song in the car on the way to work can change my outlook for the entire day. The right song on a road trip can make even the most boring of drives a beautifully hued memory. Like the time a few years ago that we drove straight throught to Florida, and intellectually I know I thought it was horrible at the time, but because of the accompanying soundtrack, I've been tricked into believing that it was fantastic from start to finish, and something to laugh about now. Some songs take me right back to where I was the first time I heard them, or to a time in life when they were in heavy rotation, and can bring me to my knees with nostalgia.

I'll listen to nearly anything. I'm not terribly fond of jazz or country, but give me the right jazz, the right country, and I'll listen to that too. I'll hate a musician with a passion, but then they come out with "Blow" or "What the Hell" and I can't look away. Evil Rob gives me shit about this, because he intellectualizes music too much; in fact, he'd probably make a really good writer for Paste magazine. He thinks good music should be deep. I disagree -- I think good music can be deep, but it doesn't have to be. Not always. Sometimes you don't want deep, you just want "Bad Romance." Also, this from a man who listens unironically to Tenacious D. Right?

But I digress.

We are fans in our house of this new folk-rock sound. I think I described it to my friend Betty last night as "folk-country-jam-band-rock" or something like that. This was specifically to describe My Morning Jacket, but it could also apply to Fleet Foxes. Mumford & Sons are more bluegrass-rock. Seryn, my newest favorite, are folk-bluegrass-magical-rock. Anything with a ton of traditional instruments being used to make what is essentially rock music -- that's the folk-rock sound. With some magicianship thrown in, where the music steals you away for a bit and when you come back, you're sitting in your car at a red light somewhere in the middle of the suburbs and you're not quite sure how the hell you got there.

Or maybe that's just me.

When Evil Rob and I got married, we had a really hard time narrowing down the music for the ceremony and for slow dancing at the reception and stuff like that, because we had what felt like a million songs that meant a lot to us. So we decided to choose a careful selection of songs to be played in the half hour leading up to the ceremony, and then there were a couple of songs during the ceremony, and then there was the one at the end, and then there was our first dance, and we put all these on a cd that we gave to our guests as a party favor -- since little boxes of candy stamped with the bride and groom's faces are dumb. Hell, maybe our cd was dumb too, but I've had a lot of people tell me they really loved it, and they seemed sincere, so I'm just going to continue to take that at face value and believe our cd was cool.

And one of our songs was "Golden" by My Morning Jacket. This is a band I was first introduced to in the (awesome) Cameron Crowe film Elizabethtown. They played the cousin's band Ruckus, and whenever I see them on television or someplace now, I shout out, "Ruckussss!" I'm going to do this when we see them at Red Rocks this summer. Just to be an asshole. They had a couple of songs on the (also awesome) soundtracks: "Gideon" and "Same In Any Language." Evil Rob got hooked on them after we got together and he heard these songs for the first time, and that was all she wrote. So this song "Golden" became one of our songs. Basically it's a song about how hard it is to meet someone, and when you do meet someone special, you want to be there for them forever, "if it falls apart or makes us millionaires." For better or worse, basically. It's a beautiful song about commitment, realistic commitment, not this starry-eyed bullshit fairy tale crap that so many people seem to go into their relationships with.

So I was all excited last night when My Morning Jacket were the latest band to be featured on VH-1's Storytellers series. And the second song they played was "Golden," and Jim James, the lead singer, told a really long story about it, about how he got one of the signature lines from his Grandma, which made it all even more perfect somehow. And after he told this somewhat rambling story, they played the song, and OH. MY. GOD.

It was literally one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. And this is a song I've heard hundreds of times in my life. It took my breath away for a minute, and I felt like my heart was going to break, and then it did break a little bit, and then my eyes filled with tears (just as they are right now as I tell you about it), and I realized that this? This feeling? Was IT. The reason I love music. The reason I love the music I love. The songs I go back to over and over and over are the ones that break my heart a little bit.

Not in a bad way, no. In a way that makes me feel alive, and like I'm part of the universe and everything and everyone in it. Yeah, that's cheesy. But it's so easy to forget that, as we go through the routines of our daily existence. I cherish my routines, and knowing where we'll be from one moment to the next. But every now and then, you need a reminder that you're part of something bigger. That it's not just about you.

That's what music does. Not just for me, but for anyone. I feel sorry for these people who never listen to music, or who claim they don't like music. I honestly think they're broken inside. I give people shit all the time for listening to boring music or music I'm not a fan of, but it's lighthearted teasing -- everyone loves what they're going to love. It can't be helped. I myself have an unfortunate soft spot where Britney Spears is concerned.

And this? This is why I don't write about music.

Here's a link to the video of "Golden." I can't promise it will be life-changing, but I can promise it's a really killer song.

Monday, May 16, 2011

On Reading Trash for Fun and... Fun

Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do. You know -- like use toilet paper in place of coffee filters because you've run out and it's 6:30am and there's no way you're capable of getting ready for work without that first cup of the morning.

I don't drink coffee, but I've seen this in a movie, so I know it's real.

Along those same lines, sometimes you just gotta read what you gotta read.

The summer before my senior year of college, I remained at school in order to take a couple of requirements I'd put off during the school years. Sometimes it was easier to do the more difficult classes during summer term, since you went to the class every single day and the information tended to stick better in your brain for what was usually a weekly test. I think this particular summer I took a class called "Math in the Social Sciences," which was math for idiots who couldn't handle normal math (you know -- English and History majors, and maybe the occasional Art major) -- mostly we did things like "map the optimal route for the postal worker," but there was one section on probability that the entire class of 60 collectively failed. I also took Grammar. Not like the grammar shit you learned in elementary school and your junior year of high school, but Grammar for senior level English majors -- people who might actually become professors of Grammar someday. That shit was difficult. I barely scraped a B. That class brought down my 4.0 in-major GPA. I was pissed.

But not as pissed as I was about the third class I took that summer: American Literature of the Early 20th Century. Or something like that -- it was all Dos Passos, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, with a dash of Willa Cather and a light dusting of Gertrude Stein. The professor we got stuck with for this class was a classic professorial douchebag: over 70, drunk, hated women (except, you know, Willa Cather and Gertrude Stein), hated students in general and teaching in particular. My classmates were half fellow English majors, and half not -- the second half consisted of three perpetually confused but game Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers; a bitter, argumentative girl named Willow who seemed to own a week's worth of orange shirts; and some other quiet people who mostly sat in the back and tried not to fail. The professor was, yes, a douchebag, but he did end up grudgingly liking me and the frat boys because we four always, without fail, picked up on the sexual euphemisms in the books. English lit professors appreciate that sort of thing, but sadly never test on it.

There was a shitload of reading to be done.

I don't even know how to define "shitload" as it pertained to that class, but the term was 10 weeks long, and we read about 12 books. So I guess that's the definition. 12 books, 8 of them really difficult, only half of them really enjoyable -- it was through this class that I learned to loathe with every fibre of my being the hell that is a William Faulkner novel (and don't let Oprah trick you! Faulkner sucks!). I did learn to love Hemingway, though, and that love endures, so I guess that's something. It was a lot of reading, and a lot of work.

This particular summer was not really about having a good time. Not reallyat all. I can count on one finger the number of parties we went to.

I was sharing a house with four other friends that we sublet from one of my Sigma Kappa besties, and since there were five women in their early twenties living in one small house, one could always find one of the following three things if one needed them: expensive shampoo and conditioner in the shower; Ben & Jerry's ice cream in the freezer; and multiple copies of Vogue, Elle, and Cosmopolitan magazines lying around in the living area. And I don't know about now, because Cosmo is trash, but back then, they used to publish excerpts from romance novels every month. And one day, I picked up the latest Cosmo (brought into the house by someone else - I suspect the other Shannon but it might have been Tish) just to rest my brain for twenty minutes or so. And came upon the most delightful book excerpt I've ever read in a magazine: the third chapter of Judith McNaught's Paradise.

Now, up to that point in my life (I was 21 years old), I had actually never voluntarily read a romance novel. Period. End of story. I had been forced by my older sister to read the ever-so smutty book Lace when I was a mere sixth grader, but I barely understood a third of what went on, and I'm not sure it qualifies as a romance novel -- it doesn't really seem to follow the proper conventions. But this excerpt from Paradise -- oh, it gripped me. It just sucked me right in with its promises of drama and romance and sex. And I did what I had to do: I drove to the mall, marched straight to the bookstore, and picked up a copy of the book. In hardcover. I was a broke college student and I bought it new, in hardcover. In order for this book purchase to appear less embarrassing, I purchased A.S. Byatt's Possession and a Star Wars novel, Heir to the Empire, at the same time (also in hardcover, and I'm not sure how I thought that was less embarrassing than the romance novel, but whatever, right?).

And then I went home and immediately started reading Paradise.

Now, this was not a short book. And I did have other shit I needed to do. So I really couldn't allow myself to read it the way I normally do: give up all other responsibilities or interests for the next several hours and read it straight through in one sitting, maybe two if I exhibited some sort of self-control. No, I had to treat myself to it, a chapter or two at a time. You know -- get x amount of work done, and then you can read a chapter. If you're really good, you can read two. So I took to carrying it around in my backpack so I could bust it out on campus if I had spare time. And one day, I got to the American lit class early and had some time to read, so I took it out and read a few pages before others began to show up, then closed it when someone engaged me in conversation.

And then this one quiet bookish girl I'd been in classes with all through college looked over at the book sitting on my desk and asked, "What's that book?"

And I got all embarrassed -- I mean, it has flowers and a string of pearls on the cover -- and said, "Oh. It's just this romance novel I'm reading."

And she looked all envious and said, "You mean for fun?"

Other people had begun to pay attention to our conversation by this point. I nodded. "Yes. For fun. I needed some light reading." And everyone nodded. They could, of course, relate.

And then she asked, "What's it about?"

We still had ten or fifteen minutes before class began. So I gave them a synopsis of what I'd read so far. And let me just tell you: they too were gripped by the tale of the Chicago socialite who falls in love at the age of 18 with a dashing oil rig worker ten years her senior, gets her heart broken, and then has the opportunity for a second chance several years later (in fact, as she's turning 30, which is a romance novel convention, apparently -- not too old, but not too young, I assume is the thinking).

And so it was that a strange thing happened: By unspoken mutual agreement, almost everyone started showing up to class twenty minutes early, and the book got passed around and read aloud over the next several weeks. Even the frat boys joined in. It was crazy -- I mean, English majors had never exactly been known for our camraderie. But here we were, practically friends. We were all addicted to this book. We needed it. We needed it as a break from the serious, difficult and sometimes tortuous required reading. Yeah, we all laughed at it, and snickered our way through the only-slightly steamy sex scenes. But we did love it. Every single word. As much as we loved Hemingway or Fitzgerald.

Because sometimes, you gotta read what you gotta read.

I've been going through this a little bit lately. I'm working really hard, writing a novel, and already making outlines for a sequel. It's difficult. Rewarding, because I know I'm going to finish, and I know it's good, but still really difficult. And you know how much I read -- three or four books a week, usually, depending on length. And I just can't read anything serious right now. God knows I've tried. I have four books with bookmarks sitting anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through and I just can't pick them up again right now. I don't plan to abandon any of them completely, but they're just going to have to wait.

They're going to have to wait, because I've been really busy reading Rachel Gibson's romance series about a fictional Seattle NHL team called the Chinooks. I even bought one at the Tattered Cover on Saturday, because it's not available on Kindle, and I actually apologized to the woman working the register. But the fact is, these books are awesome. And the biggest question they leave me with is, are there really this many uber-hot guys on any one hockey team?

And sometimes, that's all you want to know.

Monday, May 02, 2011

In Which I Pick Apart The Most Awesomely Moronic Facebook Status Update EVER

Okay, so you know how President Obama gave the go ahead for a military strike to take out Osama Bin Laden, and now Osama Bin Laden is dead, and buried at sea, and they got DNA samples to verify it was him and everything?

No? I mean, it was totally in the news.

Anyway, on Facebook, everyone's talking about it. And one of my friends posted this status update:

They probably killed Bin Laden months ago and have him frozen somewhere. Obama saved this story along with his birth certificate fake to be brought out at the time of his announcing his intention to run again. Announcing this on such an auspicuous day was planned. Obama saying all this is to his credit? Where does the military get credit?

And I would like to take this opportunity to respond to these comments.

First of all -- really?? Someone I am friends with actually believes these sorts of ludicrous conspiracy theories? I honestly question the sanity of people who believe that sort of thing. I think it's pretty out of touch with reality. So I find the suggestion that his body is on ice someplace and has been for months to be a bit 1950s B-movie, truth be told.

And just FYI, President Obama announced his intention to run a month ago. A month ago. So how exactly is the successful military operation taking out Bin Laden meant to coincide with that?

And okay, this: "birth certificate fake"?? For chrissakes. President Obama showed his goddamn birth certificate to the proper authorities back in 2007 when he announced his intention to run for president. End of fucking story. He only brought out the long form version last week to make people like you and Donald fucking Trump look like an asshole. Which, guess what?? Totally worked, no matter how Klansman Trump wants to spin it. And yes -- the Birther movement is rooted deeply in racism. They cannot cope with the fact that a man who doesn't look like them got elected President of the United States. That's all it is. How can a man who looks like that and has such a funny name have been born in the United States?

I'm not sure what is meant by "such an auspicuous day." I've never heard the word "auspicuous" before. So I'll just let you have that one, I guess.

But the most moronic bit was saved for last: "Obama saying all this is to his credit? Where does the military get credit?" ARE YOU INSANE??? All he did was give the military, and everyone else involved, credit. Herewith, a transcript of his speech:

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda -- an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

If that's just too much reading for your ignorance to deal with, here's a link to a video of the speech. Maybe you should actually, I don't know, watch it and listen to it and allow it to sink in instead of making uninformed, ignorant statements that you mistakenly think are clever.

I know what the argument is for this type of behavior: You're going to say, "Well, I'm entitled to my opinion." Yes. Yes you are entitled to your opinion. What you AREN'T entitled to is to perpetuate lies and half-truths and ludicrous accusations. Lies are only lies. They aren't opinions, and you aren't entitled to them. If you can't participate in the discourse like a grown up, then step away from the table and find something else to talk about, like boys or movies or adult contemporary music.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thoughts on the Royal Wedding

Evil Rob had to pee at 4:36am this morning, and you know what that means -- it required a lot of noise to get in and out of bed and walk to and from the bathroom. So naturally I woke up, and we all know I can't get back to sleep at that hour, so I figured to hell with it, and tuned into the Royal Wedding.

First of all, Kate -- excuse me, Catherine -- looked beautiful. And I love it that she looked like herself. The dress, while not as drama as some people might have been hoping, was gorgeous, and totally her. She didn't do anything insane to her hair or wear too much makeup (Princess Eugenie, I'm talking to you) -- because she knows that when you've got it going on, you've got it going on.

Some other random thoughts I had while watching...

-- Prince Harry got the good head of hair in that family, didn't he?

-- Also, who thought it was a good idea to leave him in charge of the children's carriage? Or was that punishment for something -- sticking Prince Harry at the equivalent of the children's table for the duration of that ride?

-- You know Prince Harry is never getting married now, after all this. And if he does, he's eloping to Vegas (or okay, Monte Carlo!) and letting the chips fall where they may.

-- We're obsessed with this wedding in America because the closest we've ever come is the televised wedding of Trista and Ryan. A Bachelorette and the fireman she loves. That's the best we can do.

-- I think we can all agree that the Queen took her fashion cues from Luna Lovegood and accordingly, wore sun colours for the wedding.

-- I laughed when they cut to shots of the crowd, and all the people over 50 were singing along with the hymns, and all the people under 30 were giving them looks like, "You are SO embarrassing to be around." The 30-and-40-somethings were, of course, oblivious.

-- Wow! That kiss did take place at exactly 1:25pm, didn't it? I for one appreciated the extra little kiss. I'm sure they did that just for me.

-- Speaking of which, I'm certain that as soon as the doors shut behind them, they were like, "What is wrong with these people?" Referring to the throngs who'd waited days in the streets just to watch them roll by.

-- On the other hand, I think it's nice that we can still all come together over something nice, instead of only after a tragedy, or to fight with one another.

-- Also, I think we can all agree that Pippa has a really nice ass. I'm sure she'll be watching this on video days from now and thinking, "My ass looks enormous," because that's what women do, but I would just like her to know she's wrong.

-- I spend way too much time thinking about asses. I know. And yet.

Anyway, congrats, you crazy kids!

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Saffron rice for breakfast. Kind of wish I'd been born into a culture where that's acceptable behavior.

Watching the VH-1 Top 20 Countdown. The new 30 Seconds to Mars video has the boys thinking they're the fucking Clash or Queen or something. It's good to dream, but... you know, come on. No one even remembers the REAL name of your lead singer. Everyone just calls him "Jordan Catalano."

Also, I'm pretty sure that the first person my son would want to see after being rescued from kidnapping by terrorists is not My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way.

Bad videos are better than no videos, though.

I got my first stitches ever the other night! I shouldn't be so excited about it. I cut my finger with a sharp kitchen knife while cutting an onion. It was the onion's fault. So we had to roll on over to Urgent Care and I got some stitches while Evil Rob and the doctor discussed the first season of "The Walking Dead." Which was way better than what Evil Rob did after it first happened: sat at the computer and ignored me while completing his fantasy baseball draft.

I was going to post a review of this great book I read, The Botticelli Secret, but there's not a lot to say about it other than it was totally fun and entertaining. It's about a young woman in Renaissance Italy who gets drawn into this political plot after modeling for Botticelli. She and this Franciscan monk follow all these clues in the painting to solve a mystery, and along the way they fall in love. Of course. So it's historical chick lit, basically. So fun.

Is it just me, or does "Source Code" look like the most goddamn boring movie ever??

A bonus included in one's viewing of VH-1 is all the ads for class action lawsuits against drug manufacturers. Did you know that nearly every single problem your baby has ever had in their entire life was caused by the drugs you took when she was in the womb?????

Yeah. I know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: The Weird Sisters (Eleanor Brown)

The Weird Sisters is about three sisters in their late twenties/early thirties, daughters of a Shakespeare professor (hence their names: Rosalind, Bianca, Cordelia), who return home to their small Ohio college town upon learning their mother has breast cancer. Ostensibly, they don't get along. Each has followed a different path in life dictated by what they feel their role in the family has always been -- Rose, the oldest, is solid and dependable, a professor of mathematics at a nearby university, engaged to another professorial type who wants her to move away to England, where he's taken a position at Oxford. Bianca, or "Bean," went to New York City in search of money and men; it's ended badly. Cordy has been living what seems to be the life of one of those Phishkids, wandering around the country, crashing wherever, never landing anywhere for longer than a few weeks. She learns she's pregnant just as she gets the news of her mother's illness.

The tagline of the book is "See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much." And it's interesting -- as the book began, I didn't like any of the main characters, but I loved the writing, so I kept going, because I was so engaged. And by the end, I liked them all a great deal -- which is parallel to what actually happens in the story. And what does happen? Not much. Just a family living in a house and getting to know one another again, and each of the three sisters having some small victory over her own demons -- these three women bring a lot of their own problems on themselves (well, I suppose most of us do that, don't we?), and a lot of their supposed dislike for one another is created in their own heads.

I think the danger in a book like this is that, because the narrative is being spread thin across three main characters, motivations can get short shrift. And that definitely happens with at least one character, Rose -- I found myself frustrated with her need to stay in this small town and not go be with her fiance, because there didn't seem to be anything real behind her insistence in staying. She kept saying she had to "take care of" the parents, but it was quickly obvious that this was not the case, and thus it was unbelievable that someone capable of earning a living as a professor wouldn't know this and come to accept it much sooner. She does eventually go (that's not really a spoiler, as it's not really that kind of book), but I was frustrated by her the entire 200 pages it took her to get gone. I was rolling my eyes at her often and muttering under my breath, "Come on, just get over it already."

Luckily, the writing was good enough to keep me going. And as for the other two sisters -- I didn't really like Bean, but I totally got her and understood what she was going through. And I did like Cordelia, who would have been easy to be annoyed by with her hippy dippy flakiness and utter lack of any sense of responsibility. I loved the parents. And I also loved how the family all quotes Shakespeare to one another at every turn, in any situation -- all of them but the mother.

All in all, it's an enjoyable read, and really well-written. I definitely recommend it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What the Hell

So yeah. I'm sitting on my couch, watching the FUSE Top 20 Video Countdown. I got kicked out of my office. Not for bad behavior or anything. We're have a remodel done, and today the contractors were sanding the shit out of this new flooring they put in, and I've already been having asthma and allergy issues from all the dust and whatever. So my boss was like, "You need to go home." And I was like, "See you next week."

But it's kind of depressing, I've realized, to be at home when you're not sick. I mean, literally the minute I walked out the door of the office building and got some fresh air, I was feeling better. So here I am, all perky and snarky, and posting funny shit on Facebook, and everyone else... is at work. It's so sad and pathetic to be sending out status updates into the void. Stuff about the new Ke$ha video, and Katy Perry's sparkler boobs in the video for "Firework." And my self-loathing at how much I love the new Avril Lavigne song.

I'll tell you what I don't love, though: Avril Lavigne. She is still a halfwit, and has ludicrous hair. In a bad way.

I'm still of the mind that musicians really shouldn't be allowed to speak. They're all so stupid and ineloquent.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Best Picture Showcase 2011

So this weekend and last I attended AMC Theatres' Best Picture Showcase, like every year, and saw all 10 Best Picture nominees for this evening's Academy Awards. Which, trust, are more fun to watch when you've actually seen a bunch of the movies. Following are some thoughts on the nominated films (oh, god, now I'm one of those pretentious people who call "movies" films).

Toy Story 3: This was a good movie. Of course -- it's Pixar. Pixar makes a good movie. And I loved that they still found a way to make the Toy Story franchise relevant and fresh, even with a third installment. The visual gags were fantastic and the story was engaging. I mean, I wasn't sitting there weeping like a lot of people I know claimed to do during this movie, but I was definitely invested. Also, it was not shown in 3d at the showcase, and I don't think I missed anything.

127 Hours: This was a great movie -- the story of Aron Ralston, a dude from Colorado who went hiking alone in the Canyonlands and fell into a crevice, an arm pinned beneath a boulder; he had to cut his arm off to get free. The combination of Danny Boyle as director and James Franco in the lead role make for a gripping movie which could have been really boring, given the subject matter. But there were just enough diversions and flashbacks to keep it moving, and James Franco's performance is so engaging. He's a well-deserved Best Actor nominee for this one, and while he'll likely be beat by Colin Firth, he's definitely worthy.

The Kids Are All Right: This is the story of a lesbian couple played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore and their two teenage children, who initiate a meeting with the sperm donor who their moms used to conceive them. They all wind up drawn in to one another's lives in different ways. It's a good movie, and everyone in it is really fun to watch, but it's not all that. Sometimes I think I'm missing something when a big fuss gets made over a movie or someone's performance in the movie, and that's kind of what I think is happening here -- critics have compared Annette Bening's performance in this movie to her performance in American Beauty, and I just don't see it. Mark Ruffalo is perfect as the sperm donor who's not really a slacker but wants everyone to think he's a slacker. Julianne Moore's character is hard to pin down -- the things said of her character form the part of the movie that annoyed me most: at one point Annette Bening accuses her of micro-managing their lives, but then it's clear she sees her as flaky and devil-may-care. So which is it? I don't think you can be both a micro-manager and a flake. That's just not real. And then I read this funny thing by someone in Slate who complained that it didn't make sense that Mark Ruffalo's character was all into organic food farming for his restaurant, but didn't seem to give a shit what Julianne Moore's character was doing to the garden in his yard -- it just didn't gel. And that was something that I had gotten hung up on as well -- the characters just didn't make any sense sometimes.

I mean, it's a good movie. It's just not worthy of Best Picture.

True Grit: What do I say about this one other than "OMG it's so amazing"???? From the opening piano note in the score (literally, the very first note) to the very last second of the credits, I was just hooked. I mean, at times my mouth was hanging open. The performance of Hailee Steinfeld as the girl was absolutely fantastic; I don't know the mechanics of billing and stuff, but feel she should have been nominated as Best Actress, rather than supporting actress. I didn't expect to like this movie, let alone fall madly in love with it, because it's a western and that feels like a dirty word to me. But fall madly in love is exactly what happened. The Coen brothers gave it their own special sauce, but otherwise apparently stayed pretty true to the original. Jeff Bridges is great as always, and Matt Damon was barely recognizable in his role as the Texas Marshall hunting the same man -- totally a good thing. I absolutely loved this movie, and can't recommend it enough.

The Fighter: Look, I get it -- hardscrabble story of a boxer down on his luck, and the drug addicted brother who brings him both inspiration and a lot of grief, and their journey into healing through... boxing. It's one of those quintessentially American stories that we are all suckers for. But no fuss would be made over this movie if it weren't for Christian Bale's scenery-chewing performance as Dicky. I mean, it's a pretty good movie. But it isn't fantastic -- it doesn't transport you anywhere. It just makes you glad you never smoked crack. Or took up boxing.

Winter's Bone: Not a single actor you've ever heard of, though you may vaguely recognize a face or two, and yet this is a sadly beautiful film about a teenage girl (Ree) who is attempting to care for her two younger siblings and a mother who's gone 'round the twist, after being abandoned by a meth-cooking father. Ree learns that her father has placed their house as collateral for bail and has a court date he's about to miss; she tries to find him in order to avoid losing the house. Her search takes her on a journey through the criminal underbelly of her extended family, and eventually she learns her father was killed, but no one will produce his body. My husband rightly pointed out the parallels between Ree's journey and that of Frodo's in Lord of the Rings -- this is an ultra-modern hero's journey. Her quest is for the truth; her ring of evil is avoiding the drugs that have destroyed so many in her family; and her Shire to come back to is personified by her younger brother and sister. It's a brutally real movie, but lovely just the same. The young actress who plays Ree, Jennifer Lawrence, has been nominated for Best Actress -- well deserved. I can't recommend this one enough, either.

Black Swan: This is seriously one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It's cliche, it's poorly filmed, the acting is terrible -- it's a goddamn melodrama. The biggest issue is that you're supposed to go on this journey into madness with the main character, Nina (Natalie Portman). But you don't really want to go on this journey with her, because you don't actually give a flying fuck about her. She's cold and crazy and she has a batshit crazy mom who is just a lame shadow of the Joan Crawford portrayed in Mommie Dearest. Honestly, there's better acting in the so-bad-it's-good Center Stage, if you want ballet, and if you want a crazy mother, just check out Mommie Dearest. If you want Natalie Portman, check out almost any other movie she's been in, including the pretty hilarious No Strings Attached. Don't check out this. It's garbage.

Seriously. Garbage.

Inception: Here's another movie I wasn't all that excited about, and in fact had no interest in it at all when it was first released. But it turned out to be really well done and fascinating -- a very cerebral action movie would be the most apt description I could give it. I've heard people bemoan its lack of acting nominations, but I don't agree -- I don't think any of the performances are all that fantastic. It's just an example of a movie that could have been sucktastic were it not elevated by an ensemble of compelling actors, led by Leonardo DiCaprio. There are some things I'd have done differently -- lose the unnecessarily bombastic Hans Zimmer score for a start -- but otherwise, it's a really good movie. Maybe a bit overlong, but still really good. Also, some people find it confusing, and I admittedly have no patience for that -- it's not confusing, but you do need to pay attention from beginning to end to follow along. If paying attention to a movie isn't your thing, you might want to skip this one.

The Social Network: Yes, this is me and Evil Rob's kind of movie -- sharp, witty dialogue and a quick-paced story. A fictional account of the rise of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. I am a huge fan of Facebook and resent the constant demonization in the press of its founder, so I had concerns that this movie would be overly critical, but it wasn't. Nor was it fawning. I think it just did its best to present a reasonably balanced picture of the early days of Facebook, framed by some of the ensuing lawsuits. I am married to an individual with undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome (his mom just thought he was really, really smart-- and he is!) and it's always been clear to me given everything I've read and seen about Mark Zuckerberg that he has this "disorder" as well, so I get very prickly and defensive whenever it's portrayed in television or film, because it's so easy to get it wrong and be insensitive about it. So we really liked this movie on a couple of levels -- first because it's about Facebook and that's just good entertainment; and second because of the way it deals with Zuckerberg's humanity -- it doesn't suggest why he is the way he is, but it does tell us what it might be like to live in his shoes. Evil Rob was particularly struck by the moment near the end when the attorney played by Rashida Jones explains to Zuckerberg why he'd never be able to win over a jury -- Rob knows he's usually seen the same way by people who don't know him.

The King's Speech: This was a lovely movie as well, and it has Colin Firth in a quietly brilliant performance as King George VI; Helena Bonham Carter as his wife; and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist. It's quite well done, and no one needs to chew any scenery to make us care about this king who struggled with stuttering. This is the odds on favorite for Best Picture and Best Actor, and it's well deserved. It's not my personal favorite of the 10, but I can't wait to see Mr. Darcy win his Oscar.

So many good movies! I'm glad I only disliked one of the ten -- it's really hard to sit through bad movies.

If it were up to me, True Grit would be Best Picture, with a Best Director win for the Coens. I can absolutely live with Colin Firth for Best Actor, although James Franco runs a close second for me. My personal Best Actress pick is Jennifer Lawrence for Winter's Bone. For Best Supporting Actor, I think I prefer Geoffrey Rush to Christian Bale, although I do love his Baleness, and for Supporting Actress, I'd choose Hailee Steinfeld for sure.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Short List of Things I Find Way More Offensive Than Justin Bieber

1. Republicans.

2. spiders

3. Train

4. Miley Cyrus

5. shitty beer

6. mud tracks on the carpet

7. People who drive with their heads up their asses.

8. The Goo Goo Dolls.

9. Ill-fitting clothing that I have to look at on other people.

10. Lengthy periods of cold weather.

11. Violence.

12. Racism.

13. Anti-gay sentiment.

14. Pro-lifers who believe they should kill fully grown humans in order to "protect" fetuses.

15. Poorly written books that I had to pay money for.

16. Pro-Activ ads.

17. Jeanelle on Teen Mom 2.

18. Hypocrisy.

19. Religious fanatics. Of any religion.

20. Willful stupidity.

21. Monday mornings.

22. Sick people who come to work anyway.

23. Farts in the car.

24. People who chomp their gum.

25. People who wander around the grocery store like they're the only people there, stopping in the middle of aisles, blocking aisles, chit chatting with their neighbors in the middle of the walkways... etc. etc.

26. Stupid boring sitcoms that pander to the lowest common denominator.

27. Low budget ads on television.

28. Anyone in management at my old office. (See numbers 18 and 19.)

29. Limp pickles.

30. Neighbors who can't be arsed to throw away their baggies of doggie poop, instead leaving it on the staircase landings for others to... enjoy.

Yeah. I could go on...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

But at least we got the tree down.

The house is still kind of messy. But at least we got the tree down. It's amazing how much better that makes me feel. I mean, we were out of town for two weeks right after Christmas, so it's not like we really had the time or inclination to take it down before we left, but I didn't realize how annoyed I'd be by it once we got back. I mean, I've intentionally left my tree up till Valentine's Day before, so what makes this year any different?

Clutter. That's what makes it different.

It's not that I view the tree as clutter. It's that placing our tree causes other clutter to get shoved behind the couch in a pile. And we don't really have a lot of good places for the other Christmas decorations to go, so they were all cluttering up the bookshelves and stuff. And it was just annoying.

Also, I realized yesterday that we need at least three new bookcases.

That damn Ikea in Park Meadows can't open soon enough.

Friday, February 11, 2011

And now it's February.

You should see what our house looks like.

I'm one of those people who comes right home from vacation and unpacks so I can start laundry and not have a giant mess to navigate around. And that's what I did when we got home from Florida: I unpacked my suitcase, Evil Rob's suitcase, and the dirty laundry suitcase. Pook's was neatly organized and full of clean clothes so I let it sit in the front room for a few days before finally putting it all away. But I think it was giving myself license to do that which created the current disaster we're calling "home." Because then it took me 10 whole days before I finally unpacked my giant Disney tote bag full of all the souvenirs Pook and I bought while at Disney World and Universal. And there are still five grocery store shopping bags in the hallway full of crap we've pulled out of the car post-trip, in addition to all the toys Pook bought at the Lego store.

But that's not all. Oh no.

Our Christmas tree is still up.

And all our Christmas decorations are still out.

I can't even tell you how much I'm hating my Christmas decorations right now. I just can't even stand the sight of them. It's starting to look like I will never decorate my house for Christmas ever again. Until November.

It's times like these when I find myself actually wishing that Harry Potter was real, and I could just whip out my wand and perform "one of those householdy spells" that Tonks was never any good at and get the damn stuff put away. Because I swear to you, if I stub my injured toe on one of those bags full of crap, I'm gonna kill someone.

Yeah, I have an injured toe. An ingrown toenail gone awry while walking around Disney World for five days. TMI? I thought so.

And by the way, I actually have a wand now. It's a replica of Sirius Black's wand. Someone -- or two someones, really -- convinced me I had to have it while we were making our last shopping rounds at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It's pretty awesome. It has runes carved in it.

And hell -- I didn't have enough crap around my house to dust already. What's one more thing?