Secret Pop

Dec 18, 2006

Glad Tidings

My lovely sister Sarah and her lovely beau Paul got engaged tonight. And I couldn't be happier.

Slow Shutter Magic

Dec 13, 2006

Cold and hot feel exactly the same at first.

I began writing this in August. And even then, it was really just a transcription of the things I wrote in a plain, brown journal. Mostly notes taken while reading, occasionally ideas of my actual own. Potential titles for future journal entries. Potential kindling for future fires. None of this will mean anything. I promise.

I was dreaming and it was war and there was a monkey.

He's too singularly responsible for my current unhappiness.

It's an impossible amount of time. And yet, there it is.

What is and isn't important begins to blur together.

My body is sore from being told "no."

Apophenia. The spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness in unrelated things.

I am not such a nothing after all, I think. I am not such a nothing.

You have a lot of time on your hands.
Picasso had a lot of time on his hands.
Shut up.

No fair. You changed the outcome by measuring it.

Dream. At N's house for a party. Downloading photos but not talking to her. Then Audrey tried to eat a min pin puppy.

Flipped through a deck of cards and pulled out an Ace of Spades.

"Nothing in life has any business being perfect." King Henry, The Lion in Winter
"Departure is a simple out. You put the left foot down and then the right." Eleanor, The Lion in Winter

Schoziphrenia. Adler. So little personal ballast that he has to suck in an entire other human being to keep from disappearing or flying away. He asked the doctor quietly and with tears in his eyes, "You won't make me disappear, will you?"

The weight of days is dreadful. Which is Camus, I think.

Only angels know unrelieved joy -- or are able to stand it.

He was alive and empty, which is so close to Godhood that it was crazy.

An old woman was squeaking as she walked. Her companion answered a cell phone with the oldest-sounding "Hello" I have ever heard.

That's another thing that sucks about The Wizard of Oz.

A sophisticated and veiled form of rejection.

Thinking begets doubt.

Limitlessness is the cause of all evils.

A prayer is significant but neither true nor false.

The deliberate lie

A triangle laughs

Catching the shadow of shadows

leere Gedankendinge (empty thought things)

reason's need
reason's uncontested rulership in the household of the soul

the powerful sovereignty of the mind

the soundless dialogue of the I with itself

a deliberate withdrawal from appearances

things which are not yet and things which are no more

toward the understanding of things that are always absent, that cannot be remembered because they were never present to sense experience

In order for us to think about somebody, he must be removed from our presence; so long as we are with him we do not think either of him or about him; thinking always implies remembrance; every thought is strictly speaking an after-thought.

At times I think, and at times I am.

Take on the color of the dead.

Mnemosyne, Memory, is the mother of the Muses.

Thinking annihilates temporal as well as spatial distances.

Remembrance versus anticipation

Orpheus and Eurydice

Every thought is an after-thought.

A word that signifies both fame and opinion

"You're more than popular. You're pure lowest common denominator."

forever solitary by reason of his excellence

to illuminate an experience which does not appear

This helps to explain, too, why the typical phallic narcissist, the Don Juan character, often takes any object -- ugly or beautiful -- that comes along, with the same unconcern. He does not really take account of it in its total personal qualities.

Dream of Taco Bell with D and M. Dinner with P and Beulah and E and J. Telling jokes and feeling like I was trying too hard. I said that if I had a baby born with a birth defect, I'd probably drown it. P said, scoldingly, "Mary Forrest, you wouldn't." And I said, "Well, I'd want to. But of course I wouldn't. And then thirty-five years later, I'd be sitting there with little Jib Jab." And then Beulah was teasing J, who grabbed her hand and began bending her fingers apart for fun but broke her little finger completely off. And I freaked out and went to get ice and take her to the ER. In the Taco Bell, they kept asking us to leave for a moment and making us stand in the rain. It was actually a Subway. And half my sandwich was empty.

I actually have to be up at A TIME.

"Three" is your answer to every question.

Vitamins stuck in my throat. I washed them down with whiskey.

You're not death. You're just a kid in a suit.

Wonder begets rainbow.

It's a streetlight. But it may as well be the moon.

Dream of Beulah and me. Flying around the world (like in Around the World in 80 Days). Paper fish balloon plane. Hotel in Japan. Flying over the ocean.

Going mad with eloquence

Bad people are not full of regrets.

Absence of the inner accusing dialogue. A lack of conscience.

Between Chuan Chen and a butterfly, there must be some destination.

That episode of Futurama where Fry finds his lost dog makes me so sad. That dog waited his whole life for Fry, and Fry never knew it. It's the saddest, saddest thing.

What is brought into being by action is that which could also be otherwise.

The future is nothing but a consequence of the past.

John Stuart Mill. Our internal conscioiusness tells us that we have a power which the whole outward experience of the human race tells us that we never use.

Rock, water -- would believe they moved of their own will. Spinoza surmised that we act in the illusion of free will because we are conscious of our actions and unconscious of the causes by which these actions are determined.

Descartes. Refuse then to be free, if freedom does not please you.

Every hope carries within itself a fear, and every fear cures itself by turning to the corresponding hope.

Leibniz. Everything that is, looked at from the viewpoint of the whole, is the best.

The futile attempt at willing backward which, if successful, could only end in the annihilation of everything that is.

A change of pajamas.

Nap dream. There was this leviathan. A fish snake. I had this dream before. I had to use a flute to escape it. I lost someone. The fish swallowed the flute. There was a ship. I was in the sea. I was going to die.

My first awareness of Adolf Hitler was by way of Family Feud.

We are your better selves.

I would totally have dated Ray Bolger.

It could have been a very different life for me.

How reckless human courage would be if experienced pain left no memory behind.

A self-evident theory, standing in need of no special reasoning

Augustine. In his youth he had turned to philosophy out of inner wretchedness, and as a man he turned to religion because philosophy had failed him.

"I have become a question for myself."

Anybody who says, "I'd rather not exist than be unhappy," cannot be trusted, since while he is saying it he is still alive.

It is in the nature of the will to be resisted.

The durability of love. Even able to coexist with revulsion.

Deepening of genius.

If I foresaw my future and it held devastation, I would go forward as planned. I have never been one to spare myself where suffering is concerned.

"Our whole life is nothing but a race toward death."

Would have defined us not as mortals but like the Greeks, "natals."

They say that all good things must end someday. There is no surprise in this.

When love loses its restlessness
Neither pursuing an end
Nor afraid of losing it
Doesn't it also lose its flavor altogether
Maybe feeling can only be translated
In the vibrations that radiate off of
Nervous tremblings and fear

He died too young. Too young for a philosopher.

Possession extinguishes desire and delight.

"The bird and the plane are nearly the same."
"Every shoulder has a highway you can cry on."

1st person personification of Oscar: "My Metal Self"

Quantum fissure. Alternate realities. Everything that can happen does.

"One of the first things a child has to do is to learn to abandon ecstasy, to do without awe, to leave fear and trembling behind."

Cary Grant takes the stairs two at a time.
Tall, dark, and Cary Grant.

Adler describes schizophrenia. So little personal BALLAST that he has to suck in an entire other human being to keep from disappearing or flying away.

the dispassionate quiet of the soul

No one who possesses the true faculty of thinking, and therefore the weakness of words, will ever risk framing thoughts in discourse, let alone fix them in so inflexible a form as that of written letters.

"The internal limit of all thinking...is that the thinker never can say what is most his own...because the spoken word receives its determination from the ineffable."

"The results of philosophy are the uncovering...of bumps that the intellect has got by running its head up against the limits of language.

"But, as I said before, I had no time to be bored; there were my old friends, Logos, Bucephalus, arras, lucubration and so on. Why play chess? Locked up like that for days and nights on end I began to realize that thinking, when it is not masturbative, is lenitive, healing, pleasurable. The thinking that gets you nowhere takes you everywhere; all other thinking is done on tracks and no matter how long the stretch, in the end there is always the depot of the roundhouse. In the end there is always a red lantern which says STOP!" (Miller)

Dec 12, 2006

Sinus Relief. Delousing. Tomayto. Tomahto.

If you ever decide to try SudaCare Shower Soothers, I hope you will look on the box and check to make certain the active ingredient isn't listed as Zyklon B or prussic cyanide gas. Because there is nothing about the way these things are being marketed that doesn't look like a way to conveniently turn a shower into your very own home gas chamber.

The center cannot hold.

Dog on my lap. Sun in the glass. Cloudy, non-specific sense of urgency somewhere in my chest or throat. Nothing out of the ordinary. I am guilty of not counting days when they are beautiful. Of waiting for the streets to be wet with rain before I appreciate them for not having been.

This is my favorite weather. Even on the days when it rains. This time of year is the one that makes a year seem like a year. When my hands need pockets for warmth. When indoor climates are more unpredictable than outdoor ones. No matter how cold it gets, there is nothing more unpleasant than overheat. I've never been burned by acid or bitten by a wolf or drowned or electrocuted or stabbed much. But I'm pretty sure there is nothing worse than sitting indoors in a place where the heat is on too high. The stuffy injustice of everyone around you flushed and sweating in cashmere and too many layers of t-shirt. I prefer the cold to lead me to warm drinks and fireplaces and maybe an outdoor heat lamp. But let the heat be localized. Please oh please let the heat be localized.

This year, I haven't been to Vegas. I haven't had a car accident. I haven't gotten a parking ticket. I haven't gotten my camera fixed. I haven't learned a new language. I haven't baked a cake. I haven't sent a handwritten letter. I haven't left the door wide open, even when it was unbearably hot. I never said these were things I wanted or needed to do. But I notice their presence on an imaginary checklist. And I notice the absence of checkmarks.

I went to the art supply store near my apartment today. I hadn't been all year. They've moved everything around. It's easy enough to figure out where things are, but none of it is where it was. The aisles with the pads of paper and notebooks are marked by shelves that seem taller than the others. When you walk amongst them, it's like being in a forest. Some secret place. And when the guy with the two piercings coming out of the corners of his mouth asks if you need help, it startles you. Because it felt like you were the only one in the world in need of paper for drawing.

After a bath, I put lotion on my arms that I haven't used since 1996 or 1997. The fragrance is aggressively familiar. I remember putting on this lotion in my bedroom in the house that later burned down. I remember listening to CDs while I got dressed. I remember looking in that vast mirror and wishing there was more light. I remember sitting in the corner at a small drawing desk I no longer have and writing something rhymey by the light of a clip-on lamp. I remember seeing the moon through beige blinds above a grove of eucalyptus trees. And finding ways to write about it without saying the actual words. Sometimes, I sit in the bath with a book and lament the eventual loss of the bubbles and the heat and the perfect sultry stillness. Sometimes, I sit there and just wait for the bath to be over. As if it's something to endure. Bored, but unwilling to let all that hot water go to waste.

My mother says, when you're staying in a hotel, to take lots of hot baths. That's what you're paying for.

It's well into December and I'm nowhere near ready for it.

Nov 26, 2006

Repetitive Motion Injury

Although it comes but once a year, it isn't lost on me that it comes every year, this Thanksgiving business. And that each new one I celebrate is piggybacked on all the rest that preceded it. And that maybe I'm getting tired of having all these milestones to mark my progress. Or regress. Or no-gress, as the case my be. Maybe it's just "gress" at that point.

Often with the hope of not being extremely redundant -- despite the fact that eating a turkey dinner every year at the same time seems prone to a redundancy that even Kurt Vonnegut couldn't dress up in disguise -- I end up reading over my previous writings on this subject. Now that I've been writing in this venue for over five years, there's more to pick through and more to tiptoe round. It wastes a bunch of time. And usually leaves me with the feeling that the thing I wrote last year or the year before was better than whatever I'm going to say now, and why didn't I ever get paid to write when I was saying clever things like that? And why doesn't it result in any palpable satisfaction to read something I've written and like it? Why isn't that ever ever enough? Anyway. I went back is my point.

I began my holiday on Wednesday, leaving town at precisely the stupidest possible time and having already been warned that there was some shitty-ass shit going on on the 405. But surprisingly, I really didn't suffer much. The big hubbub in El Segundo was still there, and many lanes were closed, but I probably had to slow down for ten or fifteen minutes, and then once I was through it, I was flying along at 75 the rest of the way. So I got to my parents' house with time to heft all my junk in the house, write my annual Thanksgiving email, feel very tired and contemplate not doing anything social, and then get myself into the car and on my way to Ono Sushi, where a typically super duper dinner was had. After sushi, I visited Nunu's, where I was treated like a princess -- as usual. I had hoped to stop by Jivewire at The Casbah, but the ranks of enthusiastic compatriots had thinned, and I guess I was tired enough that dancing would have done me in. So I'm glad that Nunu's was where we landed. My mom didn't even hassle me about not getting home until well after her Thanksgiving day preparations had begun. That's unprecedented.

Come to think of it, this year was different than previous years in a few ways. But it was also very much the same. Maybe with deliberation attached. Like my annual Thanksgiving nightcap at Nunu's. I've come to look forward to that, so I make a point of perpetuating it. This year, there were so many people there with me and other people there that I knew, it really did feel like it's own special holiday thing. And after a dinner of turkey and lobster -- yes, LOBSTER -- and more things than can be artfully put on a normal-sized plate at once without layering and overrun unless you serve your cranberry relish and yams and stuffing in tiny little tablespoonsful, like they might do at a chi chi restaurant. With like cilantro oil or a vanilla-infused truffle and balsamic vinegar reduction drizzled on the plate and a garnish of something like star fruit or caviar. That gives me an idea. Would anyone mind if I started calling poultry eggs caviar? I will serve turkey caviar at my next Thanksgiving dinner. And see if anyone notices. And if anyone wants to try and fit it on melba toast.

If I can recall properly, here was our menu:

Appetizers
Cheese Platter
- Aged Mimolette
- Huntsman (Stilton layered with Double Gloucester)
- Wensleydale
- one other one I didn't try
- every possible kind of cracker
Fresh Fruit
Marinated Mushrooms
Kalamata Olives
Picholine Olives
Wine: Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon

Dinner
Roast Turkey (specially brined and cooked to moist perfection)
Broiled Lobster Tails with Clarified Butter
Mashed Potatoes
Jansen's Temptation (a Swedish potato casserole, apparently secretly including herring -- yum)
Chestnut Stuffing
Mashed Yams with Apricots and Almonds (?), Topped with Bruléed Marshmallows and Coconut
Cranberry Relish (a special recipe that causes all others to be deemed inferior)
Green Beans (I almost called them Haricots Verts. And I can't remember if they were Amandine.)
Corn (It wasn't fancy, but it's still my favorite.)
Gravy (duh)
Wine: Stag's Leap Merlot and Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon

Dessert
Side by Side Pumpkin Pie and New York Cheesecake with Raspberries
Espresso/Cappuccino
Apéritif: Sambuca

I hope I've managed to make it sound fancy and perfectly planned and brilliantly executed. Because it was. And I noticed how proud and happy it made my mother to have everything go over so well. Big success. Big success.


Friday night, I went over to Beulah's, and we went shopping for groceries and treated ourselves to a variety of artery-clogging snacks. A lot of cheese and crackers and apples and pepperoni and stuff. But also Totino's Pizza Rolls. In case anyone was wondering if I've ever eaten poorly. Believe me. I have. And I do. We also watched The New World on pay-per-view. Essentially only because it's another flick Christian Bale is in, and Beulah is devoted as the day is long. We didn't like it. It was the slowest movie I've watched in a long time. Perhaps ever. Unbelievably slow. And the dialogue was so soft and so ickily poem-like that I often had to stop chewing and lean in to try and hear what was being said, only to find that what they were saying revealed nothing at all story-wise. The only way Beulah and I were able to enjoy it was in being so disappointed in it. We began to sarcastically wish it could just be slower. That Christian Bale and Pocahontas would just TAKE THEIR TIME. I once heard a comedian say that he was surprised that Finding Neverland had been nominated for Best Picture; he said the movie was so slow it should have been nominated for Best Photograph. I liked Finding Neverland, but I thought that joke was funny. Even funnier, however, was Beulah's exclamation during one of the sequences of inanimate objects being shot for long silent moments for no apparent reason: "This movie is a screensaver." It really is like a two-and-a-half hour poetry reading. And if you're into that, we probably shouldn't go to the movies together. Incidentally, Beulah's never seen Reign of Fire and was concerned that it, too, would suck. But I maintain that Reign of Fire is a terribly underrated film. As long as you let yourself buy into the whole dragons thing -- and as long as you can bear to watch Matthew McConaughey playing an insufferable wacko, which I further maintain is less insufferable than watching him play a love interest or a looker -- and if you allow that these kinds of grandiose fantasies might call for some grandiose acting, it's perfectly entertaining to watch. And it contains one of my more favorite Star Wars references. Which will do nothing to help Beulah want to watch it, I realize.

I performed in a couple of improv shows on Saturday night, spent the night at Beulah's place, then drove home to Los Angeles today, with not much traffic to grouse about, bookending a relatively painless travel experience. And while I was driving up today, I listened to nothing but Beatles music on the radio. First it was just Beatles Beatles Beatles, and then it was an hour-long tribute to George Harrison, the fifth anniversary of whose death is this Wednesday. Which made me sad, and made me marvel at how long it's been, because I distinctly remember when I heard he had passed. And the night it happened was an awful one for me, through no fault of George's. Golden Slumbers made me think of Tasha, which made me cry a bit. The rest of it made me think assorted things. I never give you my pillow. I only send you my invitation. And in the middle of the celebrations, I break down...Lying there and staring at the ceiling, waiting for a sleepy feeling...You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.....Everybody had a hard year. Everybody had a good time. Everybody had a wet dream. Everybody saw the sunshine...Bang, bang, Maxwell's silver hammer came down upon her head. Bang, bang, Maxwell's silver hammer made sure that she was dead...Will I wait a lonely lifetime? If you want me to, I will...Boy, you gotta carry that weight, carry that weight a long time.

Very little Guitar Hero was played. Very little sleep was had. There was an unfortunate -- and perhaps statistically unavoidable -- falling out with my mother. She was so happy with me for two straight days. That couldn't possibly have continued without somehow triggering the onset of Armageddon. I had a lot of work to do. I squeezed that in where possible. I edited and posted photos, despite drooping eyelids and flagging spirits. I didn't get to eat Thanksgiving leftovers even once. And I didn't bring any home, which is usually the case and an unfortunate one. I drove home wondering why I allow things to matter, particularly when I am doing it alone. And I felt thankful for a sense of history. Even though it's a sense of history that most often prevents me from ever having a sense of present.

Everybody had a hard year. Everybody had a good time. Everybody had a wet dream. Everybody saw the sunshine.>

Nov 23, 2006

You know what I am thankful for? You, et cetera.

Reprinted from an actual email.

Dearest email recipient,

Please consider this my heartfelt request that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I guess you could choose to not have a wonderful holiday, and there's nothing saying that what I want is atop your list of priorities, but if saying so makes any difference, I'm pulling for you in the great battle of enjoyment of the holiday versus glaring at people who look to be happier than you.

So, let it not be left unsaid that you are awesome, and I applaud you for having the temerity to share your email address with me. I even applaud the apathy that has kept you from changing said email address or -- in the event that you really need to keep it -- creating an email filter just to weed out messages from me. No one would blame you. Even I know that.

But consider doing a few things for me this Thanksgiving, if you would.

1. When the "what are you thankful for" thing is making the rounds, think of Mary Forrest. Just for a second. You don't even have to say it out loud. In fact, it's perfectly acceptable for you to think, "What am I thankful for? Not Mary Forrest." As long as I'm on your mind.

2. Don't tell anyone about how bad the holiday traffic is or why the city you live in is better because it is not Los Angeles. (This means you, San Diego.)

3. Let someone else have a turn at Guitar Hero.

4. Tell the people you love that you love them, and make sure to point out that you're only saying it because it's expected of you.

5. If you have a dog, make him or her wear a humiliating outfit.

6. Don't get murdered. I ask this of you a few times a year, I know. But my stalwartness is unwaveringly vigilant. If you can do everything in your power to not be murdered this Thanksgiving, you will have given me yet another thing to be thankful for. Thank you in advance.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and know with great certainty that I am thankful for you. Even if you are receiving this email in error.

Mary Forrest, thanksgiver

Nov 20, 2006

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

I drove down to San Diego early yesterday morning to sing in church, as I had promised my parents I would. I learned the song I was going to sing as I was driving, and I was not optimistic that I would perform it well, as the service went on much longer than I expected. The Spanish-speaking congregation was joining the regular congregation and the entire service was being done bilingually, which means in any language: TWICE AS LONG. I was playing hangman and madlibs with Sarah. By the time the pastor was beckoning me to come forward, I suddenly realized I no longer knew the words to the song.

Fortunately, that's when my performance auto-pilot kicks in.

My dad cried a great deal, apparently. And at the potluck after the service, some old guy said to me, "Mary, I think you're losing your touch. Your dad didn't look to me like he was crying." I relayed this to my dad, who cried out vehemently, "I was weeping! I was weeping!" And then he had Dolores tell me about how, while I was singing, she was shaking and felt as if God put his arms around her and made her feel warm. And another woman in my father's Bible study told me that when she saw my father in the morning, she had teased him. "I told him,'I know what you're going to be doing later, Sam. CRYING.'" But then she said she felt bad because she ended up crying, too. And one member of the congregation paid me this compliment: "I loved your song. It was so beautiful. If you are around when I die, I would like you to sing it at my funeral." It was all very nice and very embarrassing. And I was glad to get back to my parents' house and have a nap.

Best moment of the day. We were singing the hymn Count Your Blessings, and there is a verse that essentially admonishes you not to count your riches on earth, because you will have riches in heaven that are greater, including a house and land. And my mom leaned over to me while we were singing and said mirthfully, "I don't think so."

Amen.

Nov 18, 2006

I don't have it in me to write this with the flair I would wish.

I went to see Stranger than Fiction last night. Here are the things that occurred to me to write down in my little Moleskine notebook, presented in a less than fully fleshed-out manner.

"Wednesday" has a "d" in it.

If Amélie had been an American film, it might have sounded a lot like this film at first. I loved Amélie. So this observation makes me angry.

There's that Fractured Fairy Tales sort of vector animation again.

And there's that guy from the Sonic commercials.

By simply not getting any more or less attractive, Linda Hunt has now surpassed Tom Hulce in attractiveness. Which is thoroughly dismaying.

The fat people sitting to my right laugh at all the most obvious and disappointing places. I'm sure they go to Ren Faire. I'm sure of it.

They cast Will Ferrell to play alongside every short actor in Hollywood, it seems.

"It's been a very revealing ten seconds."

Who would sit on the buckle of the bus?

Spoon soundtrack. Yay!

"Aren't you relieved to know you aren't a golem?"

Smoking in the rain gives the appearance of ruling.

Hey, look. A Moleskine notebook.

"Who in their right mind, when given a choice between pancakes and living, chooses pancakes?" Me, probably.

And then it went and got life-affirming. I hate that.

The apple on the ground reminded me of The Great Orange Adventure.

Why does my dad love Queen Latifah? I hate her.

Sue Grafton in plastic.

What would have killed me is reading that manuscript on a moving bus.

Heart-shaped cookie provokes "awwwww" from Ren Faire folk. *Shakes fist.*

What do you want to bet this ending was a compromise?

"Even if you avoid this death, another will find you...It's the nature of all tragedies."

Memory Makes Mincemeat

Today makes ten years. Tomorrow makes six.

We get to decide what is and isn't meaningful. If everything I remembered was worth remembering, the rest of the world would be at a considerable deficit. As it is, recall is just a habit for me. A valueless, hindrance-prone habit. And a constant reminder that one recollection is not as powerful as two.

Elusive Villainy

Note: I'm not going to assume I need to provide a spoiler alert. I read Casino Royale when I was in grade school, so I already knew a lot of what was going to happen. But if you are fearful that you will not be able to be authentically mystified if you have read any plot points before seeing the film, I encourage you to read this entry later. Cool? Cool.

I got to see the press screening of Casino Royale on Tuesday, which should have resulted in a review of some kind, but I forewent promptness for truly skillful procastination. Partially because I was supposed to go see it a second time on Friday and partially because I am unreliable.

I think I shared some misgivings with Bond fans the world over that Daniel Craig was too thuggish to play the smooth operator with the casual aplomb that made the previous good Bonds good and the previous less than good Bonds less than. But with just the prologue and the opening titles and a few minutes of the first scene behind me, I had already decided. Daniel Craig is no Sean Connery, but he's no slouch. And David Arnold is almost John Barry, and that's saying a goddamn mouthful.

I was really entertained by the opening titles. Even though I am being made to feel a little antsy by the sudden fashionability of vector animation in live action features. Maybe it started with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Or with a commercial for a breakfast cereal. I don't know. The fact that it seemed derivative kind of rankled me at first glance, but then I decided to lighten up and appreciate the witty image transitions. At one point, I thought, "Spirograph?" But the rest of it went down pretty smoothly. Especially at the climax. By the end of the opening titles, I bought Daniel Craig as Bond. Blue-eyed thuggery and all. And then that first action sequence. An ambitiously choreographed chase/fight scene that was so action-packed, so intense, and so mostly free of Bond witticisms that you wouldn't know you were watching a Bond film were it not for the David Arnold score, which reminds you that music in action films is seldom as good as it could be, especially when you weigh the impact of techno music against a full orchestra. And in this first scene, Daniel Craig is so tough and so sure. So rough and tumble. In a way, it felt like a deliberate attempt to unseat the notion that this is a guy who cares about his shirts. His pursuit of his quarry is so comparatively unballetic, it recalls that moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy stops that Cairo swordsman with his pistol instead of his whip. Just a lot of "to hell with this." This Bond is deliberately rugged, deliberately more of a bleeder, and deliberately less wry. And for my part, I like it.

Some of the shots through the latticework of the cranes and the construction site reminded me of a documentary I once saw about William Wyler, who noted I think it was William Wellman and his habit of shooting action and dialogue through deliberate visual obstructions. I doubt it was any sort of homage. But it proved that I am never not thinking about everything else I've ever seen or heard. Annoying.

There are times the film feels like an outright Sony commercial, with VAIO, Sony Ericsson, and Cyber-shot product placement that receives better framing than some of the featured actors. The second movie -- the one that begins right when the movie should have ended -- is where this is most prominent. There are times when I wish my comfort with technology didn't make it so difficult to sell me on fictitious application interfaces or make it so hard for me to ignore the preposterous notion that MI6 computers actually sport military intelligence wallpaper. But I'm learning to be less of a pain in the neck in this respect. I can't, however, be less of a pain in the neck when it comes to wardrobe. While Daniel Craig looked really good, -- and granted he is European -- his apparel was in some cases just so clearly made for a gay man. And don't get me started on the women's wardrobe. I have never seen uglier dresses in a Bond film. Not even in Live and Let Die. Just plain abominable. So, in addition to the fact that I didn't find either of the Bond girls especially attractive or compelling, every time they came on screen, I scowled at their low-budget couture and -- in Eva Green's case -- the low-budget way they wore it.

The Body Worlds exhibit is prominently featured early on in the film. I chuckled to myself, remembering the time Beulah and Justin and I visited the exhibit during its visit to Los Angeles. I remembered all the installations that prompted Beulah to snicker and say, "Look at the anus."

Daniel Craig doesn't walk well. There is something overly erect about his posture. Something forced and unnatural. It's not a deal breaker. But I can't not notice. Especially when the hallmark of 007 is his appearance of being at ease in even the most harrowing situations. He's got an unmistakably excellent physique. But it's a shame he can't appear a little more relaxed in it. Also, you can totally see his package in every outfit they put him in.

A Photoshop reference? *Shakes head.*

I have two big complaints about this movie. One is the clumsy narrative exposition that kept making me want to cry out, "I get it! Stop telling me what's going on. I'm on top of it. Seriously. Shut up. Honestly. Christ." I just think that if you constantly have to provide a play-by-play, maybe you're not doing your job directorially. It's like being made to read the libretto before going to see an opera if you've any hope of knowing what's going on. In movies, everything you need to know is supposed to be right there. If you're constantly having to be reminded what to notice and what to pay attention to, the cinematic storytelling is failing. And the filmmaker thinks you're probably a low-scorer on your various standardized tests. "I'll stake you. And by that I mean that I will put up the money for you to play. And by that I mean that I will transfer money into your name so that you can stay in the game. Get it? No? Okay, let's try some other synonyms. P.S. Guess what. I'm with the CIA."

The second complaint is the overly sentimental and inexplicable affair between James Bond and Vesper Lynd. I never bought this for a minute. She is obnoxious and unappealing from the outset, and she never does a thing to redeem herself or to win him over. So the fact that they fall in love at all is implausible. And the way they fall in love -- essentially all verbally and without the slightest shred of real sexual combustion -- is just plain nauseating.

Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Le Chiffre, was pretty great, if you ask me. And I noticed that, now that my sister is dating a Swede, I can spot those Scandinavian accents right off. And it occurs to me that this is what the sum of your life experience gets you. There are things you know and things you don't. And there are things you will know because of things you just found out. And you should never wish you could go back to some other time in your life, because -- if nothing else -- you wouldn't have been as quick to notice when a guy probably speaks fluent Swedish.

Ultimately, I think the movie was twenty minutes too long, and the clarity of the story was irreparably fractured by the unfortunate abandonment of the original story line when it neatly wraps itself up, leaving ample (and awful) opportunity for the exploration of a pasty, wooden love affair between two people who have no reason to smile at each other. I also think that the movie spends too much time trying to analyze James Bond as a man, providing unnecessary and in some cases illogical back story to his character. I don't want to know why he is cold or why he is suddenly no longer cold. I don't want to know what makes him tick. And I certainly don't want to see M mothering him over the telephone. I want to see the mission. Period. That is the directive I would give if I were making this movie at my imaginary high-budget film studio. Show me the mission. And that is not a reference to Jerry Maguire.

So, yes. As was foretold, this film takes a much less refined and much more sober view of the work of the secret agent. The pugilism is more brutal, the victories more costly. This is not the James Bond you fell in love with, if you fell in love with any of the others that came before. But it is James Bond, in the end. It's a movie about a secret agent, and that was always all that mattered to me.

Nov 13, 2006

I play my red guitar.

I don't often go on and on about how nice my weekend was. But this past weekend deserves laudatory distinction. On Friday, Beulah drove up to see me do stand-up at the Comedy Store. She was one of twelve friends who showed up, but she drove the furthest. I was not horrified at my performance, but I was sapped of energy by the time I got to go up, which was hours after I got there and the third to last spot in the line-up. And I never even got a drink in me. Never not one.

After the show, a handful of us went over to the Dresden and then to Fred 62. So I got drinks and breakfast in my gullet and cigarette smoke in my lungs, and I went home very late feeling very pleased. Because I have lovely friends and an extraordinary sister, and the stress of doing a show was well behind me.

In between snatches of sleep and the odd meal and Borat and running lines with Jessie for the sketch we're doing at Garage Comedy, I spent much of the weekend playing Guitar Hero II and watching the Star Wars Marathon on Cinemax. I do love a marathon. Especially the kind I can leave on all night. Even while I'm sleeping. When I turned on the television on Saturday morning, the end credits for The Empire Strikes Back were rolling, and I was disappointed, but then Return of the Jedi came on, and I was actually able to pique Beulah's rather geek-hating interest when I pointed out that Han Solo is very clearly modeled after Rhett Butler. We had just watched Gone with the Wind a week or two ago, and she ranks it among her favorites. So when I pointed out the similarities between Captains Solo and Butler, it pleased me that she seemed marginally swayed into believing maybe -- just maybe she might be able to enjoy Star Wars after all. Those similarities, by the way, are as follows:

smuggler:blockade runner
rogue:rogue
not loyal to either side:not loyal to either side
profiteer:profiteer
thinks Leia wants to kiss him:thinks Scarlett needs to be kissed (and often)
handsome man's man:handsome man's man
competing with girlish boy:competing with girlish man

Mark Hamill went to my high school. In Japan. I stole the copy of the yearbook with him in it. I have it somewhere. I think I had forgotten about it entirely, but Beulah was telling Kerstin that fact, and it reminded me. And I furrowed my brow and wondered how many other little stories worth a "wow" I've failed to keep from being sloughed away in the great brain cell holocaust that occurs whenever I'm at a bar. Lots probably. It's dismaying. Also dismaying is how different Mark Hamill looked after all that reconstructive sugery. Poor guy.

I'm kicking the ass of Guitar Hero II, by the way. I'm good at less and less, but this is one of the things at which I am goodest.

I didn't get to do a number of things I had planned to this weekend. I missed out on parties and plans that I'm sure would have been worth the effort. But in the end, I had a lovely time. I even got to make use of my fireplace for the first time this season. And I had an egg nog-flavored something at the Coffee Bean. These are a few of my favorite things.

Nov 10, 2006

Catching Up with Mary and Her Mom

I was watching the election returns with my mother on Tuesday night, and I saw that Jerry Brown had won, and I said, "Yay! Jerry Brown! Yay!" (I wrote a blog decrying Chuck Poochigian's retarded campaign commercial, so I feel slightly responsible.) And my mom said, "Jerry Brown is a crook." And I said, "No, he isn't. What are you talking about? How is he a crook?" And she said, "I don't know. You'll have to come down to San Diego and ask your dad." Apparently, she had once said she thought Jerry Brown did a pretty good job in Oakland, and my dad said, "He's a crook." And she said, "Oh." So I said, "You know, just because you married him doesn't mean that you have to accept all of his political views as gospel." And she shrugged and wondered aloud when Dancing with the Stars would be on.

While we were watching Dancing with the Stars, a commercial for a Nivea body lotion aired. I wasn't even really paying attention and didn't look up at it (I was reading), but I gather that it features a girl smoothing lotion on her legs and a guy later showing up and making out with her. This is what I heard my mom say: "Hm. Her leg is ugly. Short and not good. And he looks kind of gay. He doesn't look good enough to kiss girls. I wouldn't buy the Nivea."

Later, we saw Diane Keaton doing a spot for Loreal skincare. My mom commented on how wrinkly she is, and I said, "She doesn't use that. I'm sure she uses La Prairie. Or some other $200 a jar cream." After a beat, my mom said, "She should use more cream."

No one is immune. This may give you some idea of what amplifies the voice in my head that is always telling me what's wrong with how I look.

Finally, I was sitting on the couch with my mom, and Audrey was between us, and my mom leaned forward to reach for something on the coffee table, and Audrey freaked out and barked and lunged at her. My mom threw both her hands up and said, "Sorry!" I grabbed and scolded Audrey. And I said, "Mom, she looked like she was going to bite your face. You don't need to apologize to her. You should protect yourself." And she said, "No. If she would have tried to bite my face, I would have picked her up and thrown her over the couch." Audrey is a little six-pound thing and would probably have broken two of her legs if thrown in that manner. So that's awesome. When I told Beulah this story, she laughed and laughed. But now that I'm writing it out, it seems less funny.

Nov 9, 2006

Hooray?

I was driving back from San Diego the other night, and Adam and I were chatting about the upcoming mid-term elections. We were agreeing on the importance of electoral reform. I think that -- if we are ever going to make a real dent in the problem of voter participation and also begin to undo some of the disillusionment created by the last two presidential elections -- the electoral process needs to be overhauled so that it is possible for a layperson to actually understand how it works. The way we do it now, I don't think I would be able to audit my precinct, much less a national election, even if I was given the chance to do it. I don't really know what's supposed to happen. I think Adam agreed with me, if I recall correctly, and he went further to talk about the problem of disenfranchisement among the poor and immigrant populations. He was talking about how requiring a driver's license would disenfranchise the very poor in particular, as they are less likely to have such identification (correct me if I'm wrong, Adam), and that previous leadership would never allow such a requirement to be imposed. And, while I completely agree that we need to make certain that one party does not seize or maintain power expressly by keeping the groups who are likely to vote against them from getting their ballots in the ballot boxes, I had to admit to him that I'm growing more and more tired of being a member of the party that relies on the poor and immigrant populations to win. Because like it or not, the poor and immigrant populations are generally less educated and have less influence, and needing them to come out to the polls en masse in order to win has begun to make me feel like we're riding some sort of Democratic short bus. What we need is for the white, affluent, English-speaking citizens to vote on our side, too. What we need is for more people to give a shit about more than just themselves and for Democratic campaigns to call out and trump the six-year-long keg stand that has been taking place in the Oval Office since the hanging chad became a part of the cultural lexicon. Because that seems to be the key policy-making difference between Republicans and Democrats. Republican policies -- that decimate social services, line the pockets of the richest of the rich, foresake the environment, protect the assets of the largest corporations, chip away at healthcare and educational infrastructures, and pay the robber barons of the war machine instead of the soldiers at war -- seem to have one overarching value, and that is that these policies are plainly shortsighted and don't consider the plight of future generations at all. And Republican voters have gone to the polls repeatedly and reiterated this value. "I don't care about the environment. Let them worry about it when I'm gone. I don't want the estate of my wealthy family to be taxed. Let me spend that dough now, and fuck you, schools. I don't care what the rest of the globe thinks of us. I won't be alive to need their help in the next international crisis. Plus, when am I ever going to France? I don't want to pay teachers a decent wage or give public schools the funding they need. I won't be around to be robbed, raped, and murdered by the kids who don't get the proper education. I don't want women to be able to have abortions, because that makes me feel bad NOW. Instead, I want to force them to have their babies and then just not fund the social programs that will help them raise those babies with the proper healthcare and education, because that will happen LATER, and I won't be watching when it does. I'll probably be in Montserrat."

And then the election happened.

And I'm happy to say that I'm encouraged today. For the first time since November of 2000, I'm encouraged. I'm hopeful that a Democratic Congress can restore some sanity in a system much in need of it. I was never terribly partisan before the 2000 election. I never felt I had to be. But I almost feel as if the divisive partisan tactics of the Republican campaign engineers backfired on them this time. Because I would have voted a straight Democratic ticket, no matter who had been running, just to try and restore the balance of power. Which means the issues are lost and the conscience of the voters is lost, and that is a scary precipice to be perched on. I voted this time in the spirit of triage, but I really look forward to being able to vote one day soon armed with just my intellect and powers of reason.

I don't think the mandate of the voters can be selectively honored. But I wouldn't be surprised if Republicans choose to instead find another way to say "mandate."

I echo Adam's sentiment: "I haven't been this hopeful since Bill Clinton."

I'm happy for my party, and I pray they don't fuck it up.

Nov 7, 2006

I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

I voted. Did you? If you did, (a) bravo, and (b) send me a photo of your "I Voted" sticker presented in some interesting fashion. I will do something with it. And maybe reward you with something for your participation. Maybe.









P.S. If you're the sort that expects access to private photos, you'll have to specify that. And I will take any such notification under advisement.

Nov 4, 2006

Epicurean Exercises

I don't cook as often as I should. I really enjoy it. And I'm not bad. In recent weeks, I've played in the kitchen a few times. But tonight, I really went to town. I had shopped yesterday with the intention of making risotto, and I did that. But I also had some chicken breasts to cook, so I made something up for those, too. I didn't name my dishes; I'm not some affected egomaniac and/or professional chef. But I can tell you what I put in them, if you like.

The risotto contained crimini mushrooms, radicchio, and asparagus with parmigiano reggiano and a Dutch cheese called parrano. Onions, garlic, butter, salt, of course. And organic free range chicken broth. I used champagne instead of cooking wine, Italian cream instead of half and half. And I made far too much, which is something I do.

I cooked the chicken with onions, garlic, butter, olive oil, salt, a little bouillon, and balsamic vinegar. After cooking it all down to mostly caramelized, I added chopped tomatoes and crushed red pepper. I don't even know what I intend to do with the chicken dish, but I tasted it before putting it in plastic storage, and it was super great.

I sipped champagne while I was cooking; I didn't have an open bottle to use, and I don't endorse waste. The Fugitive was/is playing on the television, and I am happy to report that this film still holds up, if you ask me. And it's also a fine example of a successful feature film adaptation of a beloved (and good) television series. Which teaches me this: Not everything has to be ruined.

I haven't actually written much lately. Here anyway. Just a lot of list-making and filling in of blanks. Maybe I will write something tutti frutti before I turn in. I have a lot of champagne to drink.

P.S. I'm drinking Veuve Clicquot from the bottle. The only thing more ghetto would be drinking it with a crazy straw. And I don't have one.

Another conversation with Simon.

I was chatting with my brilliant friend Simon from Australia again. See?

Simon: We have the worst national anthem in existence.
Mary: I don't think I know it. But ours is pretty crap.
Simon: No way! Yours rocks.
Mary: Bah. You're just used to it.
Mary: Nearly no one can sing it well.
Mary: And the words are gay.
Simon: Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
Simon: What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Simon: Genius.
Simon: Germany, Germany above all,
          above everything in the world,
          when always, for protection,
          we stand together as brothers. (Germany)
          Let's go children of the fatherland,
          The day of glory has arrived!
          Against us tyranny's
          Bloody flag is raised! (France)
Simon: Australians all let us rejoice,
          For we are young and free;
          We've golden soil and wealth for toil;
          Our home is girt by sea;
Simon: ^ retarded crap
Simon: Nobody even knows the words to it.
Mary: Yeah. I guess we rule. But the clauses are all over the place.
Simon: At least it's poetic.
Simon: Ours is just bureaucratic.
Mary: I guess. That's true. Most anthems sound like college fight songs.
Simon: probably because they were composed during wars.
Simon: I learned today that "slogan" is gaelic for war cry.
Mary: So was ours.
Simon: Ours was composed when we stopped being a British colony, so it was probably written by a committee.
Simon: If they replaced it with a new one, it would probably have something about fully sick Mazdas.
Simon: Iraq's is pretty lame in English.
Simon: I heard Germany's national anthem used to be a drinking song.
Simon: they removed the verse about booze, women, and singing.

I always learn so much.

The cream on the mashed potatoes.



A few weeks ago, Sarah and Paul were in Anaheim and wanted to visit Disneyland, so I drove down to shepherd them around on a Saturday night. It would have been much more fun had it not been Gay Days. Not because we have any problem with gay people, make no mistake. But because I have never been to Disneyland that late at night and seen it that crowded. As a result, we didn't really get to do much but wait in line and elbow our way through red-shirted crowds. But we still had a good time. And while we were waiting in line for Space Mountain, Paul was teaching me some of the idioms that the Swedes have that approximate ours. For instance, where we would say "bite the bullet" to reference the act of enduring something painful or unpleasant, Swedes would say the equivalent of "bite the sour apple." And where we might call it "icing on the cake" when something great comes after something already very good, Swedes would call that the "cream on the mashed potatoes." I love this. And I loved the fact that, even after our somewhat stressful Disneyland visit, Paul sent me a lovely email and told me that I was in fact the cream on the mashed potatoes.

While I'm on this language instruction kick, here are some additional Swedish idioms you can use at your leisure or when you're hanging out with Paul.

"The important thing [here] is to get away alive."
Det gäller att klara sig undan med livet i behåll.
It shrieks to clear one self out of the road with the waist intact.

To totally abandon someone.
Lämna någon vind för våg.
Leave someone wind by wave.

A cheerful expression of surprise.
Hej hopp i blåbärsskogen!
Hello, jump in the blueberry forest!

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
Bättre en fågel i handen än tio i skogen.
Better a bird in your hand than ten in the woods.

"Don't count your chickens until they hatch."
Ropa inte hej förräns du är över bäcken.
Don't yell hi until you're over the stream.

A party that got out of hand.
Det var ett riktigt sjoslag.
It was a real sea-battle.

"You're in deep shit now."
Nu är det kokta fläsket stekt.
Now the boiled pork is fried.

"Run like hell."
Lägga benen på ryggen.
Put your legs on your back.

To make things worse
Att lägga lök på laxen
To put onion on the salmon

"Calm down."
Kiss och gå lägg dig!
Pee and go lie down!

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
Det är skönt med den goa värmen, sa kärringen när stugan brann.
It is nice with the heat, said the old woman when the house was on fire.

"Now, you've done it!"
Nu har du trampat i klaveret.
Now you have stepped into the accordion!

To come into a lot of money
Lägga rabarber på klöver.
Lay down rhubarbs on clover.

Talking nonsense
Han pratar i nattmössan.
He is talking in his nighthat.

"Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades."
Nära är bara bra med en atombomb.
Close is only good with an A-bomb.

"Good gracious!"
Milda makter!
Mild forces!

"It doesn't work."
Den är paj.
It's pie.

"Fat chance!"
Inte en sportmössa!
Not a sportscap!

"You'r talking out of your ass."
Nu är du ute och cyklar.
Now you are out and cycling.

"Caught with his pants down"
Med skägget i brevlådan
With his beard in the mailbox

"No kidding!"
Dra mig på en tallpinnevagn.
Drag me on a pine-twig wagon.

"You've really made a fool of yourself."
Nu har du skitit i det blå skåpet.
Now you've shit in the blue cupboard.

I love etymology. And vulgarity.

I guess I say "skeevy" a lot. According to Rob. I hadn't noticed. Maybe I've just been telling a larger proportion of stories lately with skeevs in starring roles. But I thought about it today, and I wondered if "skeevy" comes from the Italian "schifo," which I understand to mean "disgusting." So I put the Internet to use -- and counted myself briefly grateful that I no longer live in the days when wondering something like this might force me to (a) go to a library, (b) ask a friend who would know the answer, or (c) call a radio station -- and didn't really find my answer but did find giant pleasure in reading the various insults, swears, and narrative declarations of vulgarity that it made available to me. (In that last clause, "it" meant "the Internet," as previously referenced, but the long, emdash-encased section may have made that ambiguous.) See for yourself.

Andate tutti a 'fanculo!
You can all go fuck yourselves!

Nessuno me lo ficca in culo!
Nobody fucks me up the ass!

Tua madre si da per niente!
Your mother gives it away!

Te lo tronco nel culo.
I'll fill in your ass.

Vaffanculo a Lei, la sua moglie, e' la sua madre. Lei e' un cafone stronzo. Io non mangio in questo merdaio! Vada via in culo!
You, sir, go fuck yourself--and your wife and your mother. You are a common turd! I'm not going to eat in this shithouse. Fuck you!

Ti metto il cazzo in culo e te lo faccio uscire dalla bocca.
If I put my dick in your ass, it's going to come out your mouth.

La tua madre puzza di pesce.
Your mom smells like fish.

Caccati in mano e prenditi a schiaffi.
Shit in your hand and hit yourself.

Il tuo cazzo รจ un brufolo.
Your dick's a pimple.

Sei una busta de piscio.
You're a fucking piss bag.

Sei una bolla de sborra.
You're a sperm-ball.

Cachi il cazzo.
You're shitting on my dick.

Uno che va in culo a sua madre.
That one ass-fucks its mother.

Non vale un cazzo
Not worth cum, i.e., useless

Ditalino
Female masturbation, i.e., finger banging

Ciuccia cazzi
Dick sucker

Cazzo di cane
You did that work very badly. (literally: a dog's dick)

Porca la Miseria/Porca Miseria)
Pig Misery!

Boia faus!
Dishonest executioner!

Mille cazzi nel tuo culo
A thousand dicks in your ass

Se il cazzo avesse le ali, la tua fica sarebbe un aereoporto.
If a dick had wings, your pussy would be an airport.

Gesu e un cornuto.
Jesus is a cuckold.

Va funcuolo Dio and tutte e santi.
Fuck Christ and all the saints.

Oct 23, 2006

Magic Is Gay

Friday night, I went to The Magic Castle to help my friends Kevin and Chris celebrate their birthdays. I am not a fan of magic. I find the melodrama and faggy hand gestures to be the height of overdoing it. I especially don't like the Vegas-y variety of comedy and magic that The Magic Castle seems to be famous for. (Incidentally, is it The Magic CASTLE or The MAGIC Castle?) The first time I ever went to The Magic Castle, I had only lived here for a month or two, and my office had our Christmas party there. I had dinner, and then left before the magic show. I had tickets to see Tenacious D, Naked Trucker, and Spinal Tap at the House of Blues that night. And that was far more magical a prospect.

I did actually like the Close-Up Room, where the show is more about sleight of hand, which I can truthfully appreciate very much. Our magician in the Close-Up Room was a lady named Suzanne, and she was really good. And not at all covered in glitter or self-tanner. I think sleight of hand and magic are very different things. Where one of them is a good and cool thing and the other is a thing that makes me want to punch my fist through a hat. And frankly, it really comes down more to the issue of whether or not you are really good at it or whether you have one of the two hairdos magicians are apparently allowed to have. The guy in the Parlor of Prestidigitation was not funny, not skillful, and not someone who is not a hunchback. I had had enough to drink that I was probably not a very gracious audience member. And a fat guy glared at me at one point because I was having a good time but not in synch with the rest of the group. I think we also annoyed the young lady whose bosom would have received a marriage proposal from Chris, had she not liked magic so much.

I also don't like being asked to participate in the show. I don't even like it when this happens at comedy shows. Or at restaurants with especially gregarious servers. I hate being put on the spot. And I'm always convinced I will do the wrong thing. So I was relieved to not be wrangled into doing anything to support the magic. I had warned Kevin before the event that there was no way I was going up on stage for anything. Especially not to be sawed in half. It also occurred to me that women are always more at risk at these events for the simple reason that women are considered less likely to be -- or worse to think they are -- funny. So you get a lady up on stage to hold your tablecloth, sprig of baby's breath, and bewitched hat stand and you can do your schtick uninterrupted. You get a dude up on stage, and there's a very good chance he will find himself a chance to do a one man interpretive scene from Top Gun. (Probably either the You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling part or the part where Goose dies.) So maybe I resent this tradition. Despite the fact that I freely admit women are less likely to be funny.

In the end, I had a nice enough time. A lot of whiskey helps. I also started out the evening with a Campari soda at dinner, and I haven't had one of those in years and years. It was nostalgic and good. And afterwards, Kevin and Chris and I went to the 101 Coffee Shop and argued about my Guitar Hero skills (though Chris has never played) and whether or not mac and cheese should be soupy. I'm a fan of the crispy/chewy variety. Chris prefers the soupy version. But everyone agreed on the onion rings. Although the boys ate theirs with mustard, while I ate mine with ranch. And I drove home quite certain I would never need to -- nor should I -- ever eat again.

Birthday Party

Oct 22, 2006

The High Ground

My front door step is unfortunate. If you are a gentleman leaving my apartment at some point, and I am standing there a step or two above you, seeing you off, chances are you will stumble a little or have to turn too suddenly. You will look slightly clumsy and slightly embarrassed. And I will either find it endearing or unfortunate. I'm not saying ladies never have cause to leave my apartment. I just think that it's the gentleman who is more prone to want to leave a dashing impression, and it's nearly impossible to accomplish if my front door is involved.

The Fed Ex guy who needs only stand there, awaiting my signature, accepting my apology for my dog's vicious demeanor, exchanging a parcel for my thanks -- he needn't fret. His altitude never changes. And it's more likely he isn't trying to make a memorable exit. Which is maybe why I'm the one who is usually flustered and wishing I had put on lipstick.

I watched Shop Girl tonight. It has a strange pace and an oddly fluid but seemingly motionless soundtrack. I felt as if I was holding my breath for the length of the film. No wonder I have a headache.

Oct 18, 2006

All in the timing.

Congratulations, Michael. An industrial fog machine has made certain that no one will be able to follow you. You win. With distinction.

Oct 17, 2006

It's probably a whiskey tumor.

Last night, my friend Tim's short film Slideshow screened at Garage Comedy. I took all the photos featured in the film, and the film is very funny, so I felt especially proud when I saw my name come up in the credits. I remember the day we shot those photos. It was a long, long day and included me getting a little toy dog out of a coin-op machine. There were many characters to choose from. A variety of breeds. Even one named "Duchess" who was nursing pups, but you had to get the pups separately. But the one I wanted stood out.

Craps


His name was "Craps," and he's in a shitting position. Which I can't believe was ever mass-manufactured. But it only took me three tries and $1.50 to win him, and now no one can ever tell me he doesn't exist.

So that was a fun day, as I recall. And it was already long enough ago that one of us could have had a baby by now. The blasted passage of time. I guess I like getting past the awful things, but the good stuff just whizzes past, too. At least we have this to show for it.



So last night, I went to Garage Comedy. It was a little chilly out. Fall weather that scolds me in advance for the sweater I don't feel like carrying. I was tired and out of sorts all day. Too many cocktails and too little sleep. For days and days. I haven't been to El Cid for a while. Mondays have become problematic and vied for. I always end up saying no to at least two things. But good ol' Garage Comedy. I always see so many friends there. I am a fan of that.

Ryan and Susie at El Cid


That above photo is a link to the photo set from last night. If you are not my friend on Flickr, you won't be able to see them. If you would like to become my friend on Flickr, click this link and use your powers of instruction-following and deductive reasoning to make it come to pass.

El Cid kicked us all out before midnight, which was unexpected and unwelcome. The persistent partygoers among us went over to 4100 and continued doing what it is we do, just in more dimly lit surroundings and with more places to sit.

All in all, I drank too much. I smoked too much. I have limited my hopes today to becoming hydrated.

Oct 15, 2006

The dream is still alive.

This morning, after a late night of applauding comedy, performing comedy, and then drinking more than was necessary, I took Audrey for a walk, feeling still slightly drunk and glad for the cloud cover. When we got to the east end of my block, an adorable little girl who lives on the corner was peeking out her kitchen door. She was wearing what may have been pajamas. She's a little short-haired thing with lovely manners and a seemingly jocular disposition. I've seen her outside with her father or with her nanny. She is a doll. So today, as Audrey and I walked past, she said, "Is that your dog?" I said it was. And she said, "What's her name?" And I said it was Audrey. And she said, "And what's YOUR name?" And I said, "Mary." Then I asked, "And what's your name?" And she had to say it a couple of times before I understood she was telling me her name is Princess Leia. I said that was a lovely name and that I was pleased to meet her. And I was.

Now, I suppose it's possible that her parents actually named her Princess Leia, in which case, it is their persisting awesome I'm proclaiming. But I suspect her name is probably not Princess Leia, making it all the more wonderful that she would want it to be. She can't be more than four or five. That she already has the presence of mind to wish she was able to see Alderaan one last time -- well, I just think that's super. The only thing that might have trounced that would have been for her to say her name was Han Solo. Because, gender oppression aside, that's who everyone wishes they could be.

Oct 11, 2006

Martin Scorsese still likes to fuck.

A friend of mine recently posited that the hallmark of compelling filmmaking is a director who wants to get laid. That you can scan the filmographies of directors who have at least at one time been considered to be great, and you can see where in their lives they lost interest in all the tail they were going to get as a result of their labors. George Lucas. Steven Spielberg. James Cameron. Quentin Tarantino. Oliver Stone. Some of them apparently have lost interest in sex altogether. Some have gone through apparent periods of quiet reflection and keeping their junk in tight little rubber underpants. Some have come back from celibacy like warriors. Some have tried to leave celibacy but found themselves instead in the persistent embrace of no-self-respecting-woman-would-ever-let-you-even-touch-her-boob-through-clothing-after-that-heap-of-shit-that-you-just-made. You can also see how long after a film comes out a director can milk the end credits for hanky panky in some cases. Darren Aronofsky. Richard Kelly. This may even explain why Kelly released his second version of Donnie Darko.

Anyway, I had this in mind when I went to watch The Departed yesterday. Does Martin Scorsese still care about banging? My short answer, which will come as no surprise to you if you read the title of this post, is, "Yes." But in the spirit of something that pretends more earnestly to be an actual review, I have these additional things to say, too.

Firstly, it really seems that Leonardo di Caprio is chasing Oscar. Not that he shouldn't. But it seems like the last few films he has chosen are really intended to be excursions for him. Before the film, I saw the trailer for Blood Diamond, and I heard Leo wielding a passable Afrikaans accent. And in The Departed, he's from Southy. Although, I don't think the Boston accents in this film are always so worthy of applause. Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon have obviously got it nailed, but some of the other headliners -- while delivering truly fine performances -- couldn't seem to keep their vowel decoder card straight. But that's neither here nor there. I think Leonardo di Caprio is really good. Not just in this. In general. I really think he is. I think it's a shame that even when he slathers on a convincing new dialect, it's hard to hear anyone but Jack Dawson, but that's just because all women remember the first fictional man they fell in love with who died handcuffed to the North Atlantic. It's a fact of life. That being said, it seems that he really wants an Oscar, and I'm not going to say he shouldn't get one. But I'm not someone who gets a say in it anyway.

It's not a cawmedy.

So my first big problem with this movie was not with the movie. It was with the audience, who laughed entirely too much for my liking. And there were at least two fellows sitting near me who seemed to think they were watching a Farrelly Brothers film. This one dude in particular. He laughed at every single line Jack Nicholson spoke. And, while I will admit there is a lot of snappy dialogue in this film and that it is in some cases funny enough to merit a laugh, there is also a tone that is being set by the dialogue that has nothing to do with its being funny or not. But no one who saw the movie with me seemed to get that. Nor did they worry that they were missing the point of what was being said. They were all too busy experiencing the orgasmic release of being able to laugh at racist and homophobic one-liners in a public place without fear of being hit in the teeth with a gun butt for it. I guess there's something comforting for white people about hearing the word "nigger" in a movie made by an Academy Award-nominated (and famously not yet Academy Award-winning) director and being allowed to find it amusing.

Mark Wahlberg's character's first scene reminds me of Hank Azaria's character in Quiz Show. That is not a qualitative assessment. It just does. Also, the back of his hair looked ridiculous. His stylist should buy him a truffle farm (as a means of making restitution, in case that didn't come across).

Both Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen are enjoyable to watch. But neither of them can consistently do that Boston "o." It's not a cawmedy. But it is a cawp movie. And in one sentence Martin Sheen has to say "cawp" three or four times, and only one or two of them is not pronounced "cop." I forgive them that. Jack Nicholson didn't even try.

I would say that my overall takeaway was positive. I cared about the characters. I saw the careful juxtaposition of the good guy living the bad guy life and the bad guy living the good guy life. I was intrigued by all the subterfuge and trying to figure out who could be trusted. I was invested in it, and I think it was very articulately accomplished. Cinematically, it felt very Scorsese. The violence was vivid but not especially gratuitous. I enjoyed it. And I was not angry at my friends who have raved or begrudging of the critics who have thumbs-upped. In my book, that's a victory.

I do have to say that I almost categorically hated the music choices. The soundtrack was just jarring and ill-chosen. And that seems like such a small mistake to make. I wish they had opted to make a good soundtrack, but then I once really liked the soundtrack to St Elmo's Fire. True, it is a very Scorsese-sounding soundtrack, with a moody original score by Howard Shore and a bunch of rock and roll songs. And I know a lot of people might disagree with me about this, but I really think the music blurts out in weird places at unusual volumes and doesn't necessarily support the action on screen, and that's the stuff that Scorsese is usually lauded for. There is a version of Comfortably Numb that I hated, and that is a song that I love. There is a lot of the Stones' Gimme Shelter, which just feels like every other urban drug culture movie ever made. And there is a lot of the Dropkick Murphys' I'm Shipping Up to Boston, which was fine, if a bit on the nose. It's not the worst soundtrack ever made. But it kept jumping out at me, and I actually think that a good soundtrack has to be unobtrusive enough to make whatever point it needs to make without making you suddenly go, "Wait. What was that song. I'll try to remember to look it up when the credits roll." Or, worse, "Ow. That was so loud. I can't concentrate on the dialogue because my ear is sore." I hated it. In short.

Oh, and my one really big eye-rolling groaner moment was at the very end of the film. There is a bit of symbolism that is really just such overkill. I was very sorry that I saw it and wished instead that I had been sneezing.

Lastly, I couldn't help but think about the film's Hong Kong progenitor while I was watching, and maybe that made me go more easily on the movie as a whole than my friend Kevin did. For some reason, foreign films get away with a certain amount of whimsy that I don't always allow in American films. Maybe it's just that I don't know the streets of Hong Kong as well as I know the streets of America, so I'm less likely to know when something that would never happen happens. Or maybe it's that foreign films sometimes incorporate cartoonish elements into otherwise straight-laced storytelling and it feels courageous and clever rather than contrived and forced. The best example I can think of is the way I felt about Face/Off. If that movie had starred Jet Li and Chow Yun-Fat and had been made in Chinese, I'll bet I would have thought it was awesome. But because it was Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, it seemed so dumb, so implausible. So unintentionally campy. I guess campy is not so bad. And I guess I dislike Nicolas Cage and John Travolta so much that I wouldn't have really liked them in a movie unless they died in it. For real. And with a huge gay scandal surrounding their deaths.

In summation, I liked The Departed. And Martin Scorsese apparently still likes to bone. And if you want to know which trailers I saw and what I thought of them, you're in luck. As long as you do not go blind before reaching the next line.

Trailer Trash

So I mentioned Blood Diamond. I didn't form any distinct impressions. Just that Leonardo di Caprio is campaigning for his statuette by way of the Meryl Streep school.

The trailer for The Queen looked interesting enough. Although the main thing I noted was that it was obviously VERY important to cast actors who looked a great deal like their real-life counterparts. Because James Cromwell looks a good bit like Prince Philip, but I'm not entirely convinced he can sound like him. However Helen Mirren is wonderful. And I am one of those Americans who is too uninformed about British government to resent the Royals. I still have a bunch of Diana clippings in a cabinet. Clippings. I'm embarrassed that I have clippings of anyone. And, not that you care, but the trailer music was from the Restoration soundtrack.

Stranger than Fiction looks funny. It also looks like a Charlie Kaufman movie, but it isn't.

300 looks like Frank Miller, and it is. I don't know if Frank Miller's graphic novel was based on the 1962 Italian film The 300 Spartans -- although they are both certainly based on the actual story of Spartan King Leonidas and his army of 300 men at the Battle of Thermopylae -- but in doing my research, I read this detail about the 1962 film on IMDb.com: "When the Immortals attack, the javelins thrown by the Greeks have no points. Many of the Immortals can be seen dropping their weapons to grab the javelins and hold them under their arms or to their chests. A javelin with a blunt end can also be plainly seen hitting one of the extras in the mouth." I kind of want to see that instead.

Oct 5, 2006

A bowl of broth

I don't think "broth" is a very pleasant word. Even when limited to the meanings that are food-related. It still brings to mind frothy, chummy liquid. Something that -- once skimmed -- will be clear, but will still glisten with telltale dots of fatty oil. When I worked in biotechnology, "broth" meant things in fermentation and cell culture that would in no way go good with rice.

But I've been sick all week, so broth it is.

Oct 2, 2006

"Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty."

There is a campaign ad running right now that begins with both the text titles and the voice over announcement that Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty. It goes like this: "Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty. Even for serial killers and cop killers. Jerry Brown. He may just be the least qualified person in all of California to be Attorney General. Paid for by Poochigian for Attorney General." Holy assumptive leap. I don't even know what the premise of this objection is. Because Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty, he doesn't know the law or wouldn't be willing to uphold it? What a load. For the record, I oppose the death penalty. And, yes, even for cop killers and serial killers. Opposing the death penalty does not mean that one opposes enforcement of the law or that one maybe even applauds crime. But proponents of the death penalty often use this method of communication to get you to start thinking that people who think the death penalty is bad must also believe that violent criminals should go free. Like if you think it's pointless and unenlightened to think that killing murderers will not keep people safer or less murdered -- despite what common sense, statistics, and the rest of the Western World might tell you -- you must be some kind of misanthrope or perhaps even a criminal mastermind yourself. Do you think Jerry Brown thinks serial killers and cop killers should just go free? Maybe you think that Jerry Brown thinks that cop killers and serial killers are super cool and that he probably has a secret fan site dedicated to congratulating these guys and hoping that one day he might get a chance to buy one of the works of art they create while behind bars, eating lobster thermidor on the taxpayers' tab. If you don't already think that sort of thing, I guess you should start hanging out with Chuck Poochigian. He's probably got some opinions on the topic.

Also, I've lived in California for a number of years now, and I feel fairly confident that there are a few residents who are less qualified than Jerry Brown to be Attorney General. Let's just start with my upstairs neighbor and then begin going house to house on my street, knocking on doors and asking my neighbors what res ipsa loquitur means. It's not that I never use hyperbole, but come on Senator Poochigian. Is campaign advertising really the place for it? I'm surprised the advertisement I saw didn't close by saying Chuck Poochigian is the only man in California ever to have had a dream or be handsome.

And Chuck Poochigian's campaign web site promotes him with the slogan, "Tough to pronounce. Tougher on crime." If this isn't a ridiculous non sequitur. While he alienates his Armenian constituents and those of use who have at one point or another been hooked on phonics, he also proves that he is not keen on convincing anyone that he is an astute logician. I'm not running for Attorney General, but I'm pretty certain that the ability to put two and two together (and find four, as opposed to a lollipop or a hat) is a big part of what the job calls for.

Please make up your own mind when you go to the polls, but please also remember that it would likely be possible to stymie Chuck Poochigian with a simple if-then statement.

The Thankless Beauty of Your Better Side

Beulah and I were watching Celebrity Duets the other night, and I couldn't get over how misshapen Wayne Brady's head is. One side, normal. The other side, smashed in with a sledgehammer. One side, adult human male. The other side, silverback gorilla, gender not specified. Beulah hadn't noticed it until I pointed it out, but once I brought it to her attention, she congratulated me for again using that unique talent I have for telling you what or who someone looks like. Like when I pointed out that Lance Bass looks like K.D. Lang. And then later when I pointed out that Jake Gyllenhaal looks like K.D. Lang. And then later still, when I pointed out that Clive Owen looks somewhat like K.D. Lang, as well. Well, there are better examples.

In other news, the other day I was listening to NPR, and I heard a Chinese diplomat discussing the goings on in the Middle East, and he kept saying that we should not use "The Force" and that there are many diplomatic alternatives to the use of "The Force." Whether or not this comes from this diplomat having heard and taken to heart Lionel Twain's admonitions about Chinese syntax in Murder by Death, I couldn't help but be amused by the idea that the solution to the world's most pressing problems might be to tell the Jedis to give it a rest.

Oct 1, 2006

Identity theft is so Buddhist.*

So I posted to my MySpace blog last week, because it had been brought to my attention that there was someone calling herself Jessica in New Haven, Connecticut, using pictures of me on her profile and passing them off as her. So I guess it's more appearance theft than identity theft. But it's theft anyway. Ten out of her twleve profile pictures are photos of me. They were all taken in various parts of 2004, and they are all copyrighted. By me.

I wrote to MySpace requesting they get involved. (There hasn't been any response yet, by the way. I know we hear this argument all the time, but honestly, for the amount of money that was paid to purchase MySpace, you'd think by now they would have been able to staff up and start offering some actual customer service. But no.) The way you do that is to send them what's called a "salute." Basically, you have to take a picture of yourself holding a handwritten sign that reads MySpace.com and then your friend ID. You send that to them, and then you send them the URL of the profile that is attempting to pass itself off as you. And theoretically, they swoop in and fix everything.

In a show of passing but pitiable dumbness, I remember having a flash of concern that this Jessica could send them a picture and get them to shut down MY profile. It took me a second or two to realize, "Oh, wait. She can't do that, because she isn't me. So if she were to take a picture of herself holding up this sign, the picture would reveal that she isn't me. Because she isn't. Duh." I shared this lapse with Beulah, and she confessed to having thought the same thing. And she's a school teacher.

I have thought about this situation for the past week, as I've been waiting for MySpace to respond. I suppose there's room to be flattered that someone in need of a fake appearance would choose mine. The profile is not intended to use my image to satisfy anyone's chubby fetish. Jessica is not telling anyone that she -- wearing my face and body -- is some cock-hungry whore or multi-level marketer. I just took issue with the fact that this fake me would say that her musical likes are Enya and Buddhist chants. And that she would make all of the content of her profile about how much she's into Buddhism and helping others, especially children. I was discussing it with my brilliant friend Simon over IM last week, and he said, "You should write, 'Fuck you, Jessica,' on your hand and take a picture. Or how about writing something hurtful about the Dalai Lama on your body, take a nude picture, and email it to all her MySpace friends." I love the idea of getting back at this person by maligning the Dalai Lama. Not that I believe for a moment that she's really a Buddhist. Or that she's really a she for that matter. And what's the point of pretending to be so enthusiastic about Buddhism? I don't think a lot of hot girls are going to be sending nude pictures of themselves to Jessica with a rap like that. And I'm assuming that's the idea. But I'm no psychologist. Is there money to be made in Buddhist evangelism? I'm assuming there isn't, but I haven't really done my homework.

A number of my friends have written to Jessica, as have I. The gist of my message was just, who are you and why are you using pictures of me. My friends may have phrased their queries with more verve. MySpace lets you see when someone has read your message, and I've confirmed that "she" has read mine but just chose not to respond. She didn't accept any of their friend requests either, so no one has been able to post comments to her profile or photos. The one of me with my min pin Audrey that is captioned, "Me and my puppy Tina," is particularly irritating. As is the one of me at Coachella wearing a Duran Duran baseball cap and captioned, "Duran Duran is my band." The one that is captioned "Saturday night" was actually taken in the middle of the day on a Monday. I remember it distinctly, as I was on my way to LACMA to meet a guy for coffee, and it was my friend Angie's birthday. Beulah and I have taken to referring to Audrey as Tina now, just to amuse ourselves. But everyone knows "Tina" is a dumb name for a dog.

It seems that Jessica has not signed on since reading my message, so I assume that she -- like me -- is just waiting for MySpace to summarily pull the plug. I wish there was some hope that the mystery would actually be solved. But I doubt I'll ever find out if this was a prank or something more sinister, if it was executed by someone who actually knows me or just by someone who has been to my web site enough to have collected a few photos they liked. The photos were all pulled from my Roundup page but from a few different sets and from a few different time periods. So that has an element of creepiness to it. Generally, no one gets weirded out when they find out someone likes them. But when they like them enough to have done their homework...that's a horse of a different color.

So I'm in San Diego now. I played the late show and the midnight show at the comedy theater. I was exhausted, but the shows went all right. My eyes are burning, and I am filled with a form of disquiet about a number of things. Tina is curled up sleeping beside me, but when I got home, I realized that she had splattered a few of my parents' carpeted steps with liquid shit. So I spent a half hour or so cleaning that up, much to my dismay. I really do need the help of the Dog Whisperer. As cute as she is, she is a ridiculous handful. But I don't want to apply to be featured on the show, because I don't want the world to make fun of my cluttered apartment.

I've been uploading photos to my Flickr photostream for the past week or so. I have more than 21,000 photos uploaded so far. And there are many, many more to go. That verges on mindblowing. I have taken a gigantic lot of pictures in the past few years. A crazy, inexcusable lot. If only I could focus some of that energy on all the other things I still have to do.

Kerstin and I are trading writing projects. I've got a Channel 101 pilot idea that I think could fly. I've got a friend's screenplay to rewrite, and I've been sitting on that one for ages. I've got a thousand one- or two-sentence ideas that could easily be fleshed out if I would just stop destroying the muscles in my right arm moving pictures and photo sets around on the Flickr web site with my notebook touchpad. My right forearm is noticeably Popeye-ified. And that can't be good.

My plan tomorrow is to wake up at a reasonable hour, maybe go swimming a little bit, then go down to Mission Valley to take executive portraits of my clients, for whom I am designing a fundraising prospectus. Then I will drive back to Los Angeles and hopefully get back in time to perform in a show at Improv Olympic West with Lunch with the Girls. I played my first show with them last week. I don't know that I distinguished myself so terrifically, but I did get to play Teddy Ruxpin in one scene. I only wish I knew more of the phrases Teddy actually said.

Anyway, I'm extraordinarily tired. I even overslept this morning and didn't make it to San Diego in time to sing at a funeral I had agreed to sing at. I'm pretty sure that makes me an awful person. But then I've never tried to pass myself off as anyone else. So maybe it all balances out.

*Beulah Forrest

Sep 14, 2006

Severance of the Link Between Affluence and Good Behavior

I was walking back to my car after a visit to the gym this afternoon, and I nearly placed my walking foot down upon a used Winnie the Pooh diaper discarded haphazardly beside my driver's side door. My assumption is that these Winnie the Pooh diapers cost more than your average disposable diaper, and they certainly cost more than cloth diapers, which is what I assume poor people and environmentalists use. So I concluded that the person who left this obscene parcel beside my door has the money to spend on fancy diapers and also appears to have the money to operate a vehicle in these pricey times. Conclusion: They're rich. And yet they haven't been raised to participate in the longstanding social contract to not leave your or your family's evacuations in a public parking lot where fitness enthusiasts and fans of submarine sandwiches might be too trusting to look down and might accidentally tread on them. This proves my just-formed theory that being wealthy doesn't make you polite.

Nor does being fat and/or a fitness enthusiast, apparently. I concluded this only moments before the almost-diaper-stepping-on incident, because I had gone into a store to buy mineral water and other sundries. And there was only one checkstand open, and there was a loaded cart in the aisle but no person attached to it. The cashier was about to move it out of the way when the guy came back and said he had to get just one more thing, and she tried to protest, but he was too busy yammering into his phone in another language. So I'm right behind him, and a big fat lady is behind me. And she's wearing gym clothes, just like I am, so I assume she's just come from the gym, just like I have. Unless it's just a workout for her to get from the car to the store. So another checkstand opens, and the cashier says she can help the lady behind me, and I totally make eye contact with her and expect her to say, "She's next." But she doesn't. She just begins shifting her weight and her cart towards the other aisle. So I say, "I was next." And the fat lady looks at me again. And smiles. And keeps going. And she completes her transaction and leaves the store before I've even gotten to unload my purchases, because the phone guy is very busy and can't seem to decide which of the fifty credit cards in his wallet to use. I hate that. I hate it when you are relying on the decency of another person to prevent your having to stand up for yourself and justice. Had our roles been reversed and I had been the one behind her in line (but not necessarily so fat or unattractive), I would absolutely have insisted that she go before me. And not because I want an award. I just can't bear to look someone in the eye and have us both know that one of us is a shithead, and it's me.

The upside of this story is that the cashier appears to have been flustered by all of this, too, because she only charged me for one of the cases of Pellegrino in my cart. Hooray, free sixteen dollars worth of water! And also, hooray, impromptu social experiment. If I am ever rich or very fat, I will probably not discard soiled diapers or piggishly assume someone else's rightful place in line. But I have a feeling my behavior won't be enough to be statistically significant.

Sep 11, 2006

Memory Lane is not aptly named.

In my case, "Lane" carries too much of an air of quaintness and small-towny quiet. Memory Lane is a street in which kids can play ball without worrying for being run over. I guess because any cars that venture down that apple tree-lined stretch require a hand crank to start and may be delivering blocks of much-needed ice. Where my memories reside, there are four full lanes, a double yellow line (not for crossing), and room enough along the curbs to park and or ride a bicycle. And not one of those bicycles with the one really large wheel. Memory Lane, for me, is huge and heavily trafficked, and I've received many citations there, both for cruising and for loitering.

I am staying at my little sister's home in San Diego. She and her boyfriend recently moved into a very nice place in Carmel Mountain Ranch. I used to live in an apartment nearby, so this visit is filled with familiarity, right down to the smell of a September morning. It's cool out. The grass and shrubs are covered in beads of dew. In the shade, it feels like autumn. And in the sun it feels like spring.

I used to live here. I used to go running just down the road. I used to smell jasmine and eucalyptus in the shade, and I used to like it when the mist from the sprinklers caught me in the face. I used to wake up earlier than I intended and wonder how the days would go. I used to manufacture reasons to do just about anything for fear of sitting still.

Five years ago, when September 11 didn't yet have a name of its own, the air was a lot like this. The sun a lot like this. I fully believe in global warming, but you can't always feel climate change from one year to the next. It seems like this morning is just like the other September mornings that found me awake very early and heavy with the looking back. That was the last September 11 I lived in this city and in this neighborhood. Every subsequent anniversary, I have been elsewhere, except for one when I was here, but in the capacity of a visitor. I even went to a baseball game that time. And the Padres even won.

This is always the time of year I stumble back into old messes. There are milestones on previous calendar pages. Proximal moments with like elements. The spans between them converging as the point of looking back grows further from them and the idea of a beginning loses its meaning. I have always felt this way. I have never felt this way. I am assuming a brand of feeling that may never have been. Mostly, I just know that there are times when I have been unhappy and there are times when I have been reluctant to admit that I was not unhappy, and neither of them felt as foreign as the times when I was sure everything was wonderful, and unhappy was only worth understanding for the sake of its antonym.

Saturday night, I noticed people wearing sweaters, and I was thrilled. I celebrate the return of fall weather. And all the melancholy it brings. I have needed a break from the heat.