Friday, January 31, 2003

well clearly all of a sudden this site has fucked itself up. any clue as to why? anyone? i didn't change the code ... double bonus points for an answer. it doesn't necessarily even have to be a good one. you may have to email it to me at ESTER [at] SCCS [dot] SWARTHMORE [dot] EDU cuz [sigh] comments seem to be among the things affected by this fuck up. [sigh.]
liz has started to put her sheep comix up on a page.

i'm near giddy, having successfully steered my First principals only Rehearsal. lovingly brigid brought me diet coke and lovingly i'm drinking it, listening to billy bragg. in a bit i'm going to dinner w/ her parents, and then we're all going to see About a Boy on campus. nice, low-key things that will hopefully prevent me from emotional roller coasting down into low. another rehearsal tomorrow, then big como gathering sunday -- my god, i have to figure out WHEN during the week i will do WORK.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

damn and drat it. i woke up early to go meet a fella from my poetry class with whom i share a goal: to write a screenplay as an honors thesis project. this goal has been approved by everyone to whom i sold it except, most recently, the head of the film department who has returned from time off looking fresh and slim and young -- which is to say, she bears no signs of having either (a) just had a baby [which she did] or (b) to care for said infant. rumors abound that the infant's father is none other than the lauded director/screenwriter todd "far from a safe velvet heaven" haynes, with whom she is friends, but that's neither here nor there.
here nor there: as she doesn't know me and has never seen my work, she's doubtful that i can produce a screenplay that's honors worthy. she's worried that there's no one on campus qualified to judge or advise. &c. it is up to me to convince her. this, my friends, is a frightening prospect. on the other hand i don't have to face it alone. this fella emailed me -- he has a similar idea, he met with similar skepticism and wariness on the professor's part. so we met this morning to hash out a plan of action. mostly instead we talked about movies (magical realism!; two towers eh; he also considers adaptation the best film of the year and brilliant beyond that) but it still felt good, like we were creating a united front. always helps to have a compatriot.
-- oh but the bad part: i had to leave the conversation unfinished b/c i had an appointment. except it turned out there'd been a miscommunication (grr). instead i am rescheduled for 9:30 in the (damn and drat it) morning. at least i got up early, tho i am now swiftly happily squandering the day ...

yesterday evening my entire cast assembled for the very first +2 hrs read through. i nearly started hyperventilating. my cast is so cool. SO COOL. i don't just think that cuz i chose them. they're witty and relaxed, they seem to have good chemistry ALREADY, even the freshfolks. they laughed at my jokes, not to mention at the play (if they hadn't i would have called it off right then. what's the point of working w/ actors on a farce if they don't get the humor? but they do, they do, the little darlings). i think i managed to keep a strong, consistent Director thing going too. wouldn't it be awesome if they liked and respected me, and i liked and respected them, and the play ended up being entertaining? i mean ... *dreamy sigh* wow.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

coming home post- the meeting of my very first seminar, during which my best actively listening facial muscles -- since i sure as hell wasn't about to open my mouth -- (what could i contribute to a theoryhead conversation, even one about reading i did? the seven other people around that table, mostly senior history honors majors, *knew* the difference between post-modernism and positivism and can intelligently argue about the merits of both. i miss the days of "vocab boxes" in the bottom corners of worksheets. in hebrew classes it was even better: the term was "otzar milim", lit., the treasure of words. who could call structuralism a treasure and keep a straight face?) -- i tried not to become too depressed at the prospect of spending a semester in this fashion and i blasted indigo girls. there simply was not an alternative.

but this evening, after conversations w/ two out-of-swat friends cheered me and i did some laundry and sundry, the only appropriate music to blast was tori amos. don't you love that song about wanting to kill the waitress? i think it's classic. as i'm unfortunate enough to be a junior residing on a hall teeming with freshmen, i feel that rendering services such as these impromptu lessons in musical apprecation are the best i can do. and sundry. i love that as an end to sentences.

Monday, January 27, 2003

so, after 10 hours of auditions split over 2 days, during which time i tried to project Competent but Upbeat, Authoritative but not Dictatorial (rebecca summarized this behavior as "punchy"), and sarah my helpmeet ran back and forth from room to phone and led vocal exercises and deliberated with me, we have a Cast. 12 actors. 6 m/ 6 f. a helluva lot of freshfolk, which is fun if you think about it. these are the people who will be steering the theater department in several years, someday possibly the world; i get them Now.

the experience took its toll. as much as i love auditioning, deciding between two people (or 5) who in their own ways could be excellent as a part is exhausting. every possible visible element came into play ultimately: actions during the opening exercises, attitude, time committments, friendliness, a look, a vibe. i want to hug several folks who didn't make it and explain to them how good they are and how hard the choosing can be. but no matter how sincerely that's meant, it can feel condescending and hard to believe. i figger i'll just stay back and talk to people if they approach me.
scripts arrived today! read-through #1 tomorrow! oh it's all so exciting. i'm even managing to get work done despite/around this craziness. well, a little.

Friday, January 24, 2003

i. have been published. in the washington post. this goes a long way towards redeeming the paper. or maybe it doesn't, but for good or for evil i will be more fond of it now.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

my little brother has never, to my knowledge, called anything racist. when he switched last year to a dc public skool, most of my family braced to see how he'd manage: surely the transition from a jewish skool -- even accounting for a stopover in a only-mostly-white private skool -- would be tough. but he adapted immediately. wilson suits him far better than either of the other two. he's got a group of friends so diverse my most pc friends would envy him, and effortlessly, because as far as i know, he doesn't think about race. without disregarding differences, he seems to render them unimportant. as ideally they would be across a chess board, or while watching anime.

that's why when he IMed me this evening and referred to a post columnist as a "racist bastard" he knocked me off-balance. but he certainly wasn't overstating. even (especially?) for a mainstream publication, this is egregious. how could they publish an opinion piece, "They Should Behave Better" this rambling, racist, and badly thought out?

first paragraph: Sometimes, watching students coming and going from Coolidge High School, I wonder if Americans would have supported the goals of the civil rights movement if they'd known these children would be among its inheritors.
last paragraph: I can think of no more compelling reason to insist that the kids from Coolidge -- and black kids everywhere -- adhere to certain standards of behavior.

in between: myriad reasons this author should be thrown through a plate glass window. and further evidence that my family knows better than the media.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

everything i'm not. although this almost puts it in perspective. switch back and forth fast between the two pictures for best comic effect.
20 people have signed up now. quite exciting. even more so perhaps i went to my first definite class of the week: my poetry workshop. better than i expected. that is, of course, the unremitting joy of being a fatalist: your experiences, even if they are only mixed, can't fail to please you.

poor ben meanwhile is down for the count. his website, boldrobot, has mysteriously fallen ill in that way of mysterious internet things. hopefully in the next couple of weeks the fellow in charge will return from france and restore to ben his compiled two-years worth of memories. in the meantime those of you desperate for a benfix can visit his lj.

to distract him and you, i profer fame tracker, a brilliant site mentioned in this latest installment of Bitch. my favorite section so far is the galaxies of fame. read the golden globe one -- the bit about lara flynn boyle brought tears to my eyes. in the best possible way.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

not to be a rabble rouser, but i just came across this article from and thought it was hilarious. this ufo sighting may or may not be funnier, especially when you take into account that a "bra fence" exists at all {via malpractice}

this has been the strangest week. one class i may not be able to get into but i'm hoping; one class too full i bowed out of; one class canceled. that leaves me sitting on my hands at 2 in the afternoon. not entirely of course. with a play in the works, there's always something to do. 6 people have already signed up to audition (this weekend, the 25th and 26th, 1 - 4 in kohlberg 116) and we haven't even put up posters! actually i should probably go do that. or -- does anyone want to watch a movie?
no, shit, i know what i have to do. i have to pick an introductory poem to bring to my workshop to read out loud tomorrow. that's a real challenge.

Monday, January 20, 2003

goals as a general rule don't work for me. you don't want to set them cuz if you don't meet them, well, what then? but as long as i'm playing at being organized and managerial this semester, i may as well try a couple small goals. just to see what happens. my fairy godmothers dropped off a cup of my favorite cereal on my desk this morning; the world feels full of possibility.

so: goals:
-- when i am alone in my room, i will not play ten successive games of freecell. rather i will at least strongly consider visiting others.
-- i will not panic about my seminar. i came to college to take seminars. remember: if i didn't like american social history i wouldn't be majoring in it.
-- if infuriated by newspaper piece, i will write a Letter to the Editor, because writing (and sending!) one to the washington post yesterday made me feel quite good.
-- i will try not to be cowed by new people or large groups of people or people who are thinner/prettier/smarter/more talented/cooler than i am, because there's no money in it. besides, *i* have a weblog.
-- i will eat less sugar.
-- as i declared at the comotion meeting last nite, swigging from the cheap bottle of french wine and crunching harry and david's caramel-chocolate popcorn, there're lots of reasons why this semester could be hard or upsetting but fuck it; i intend to have a good time regardless.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

back. drinking the diet coke and eating the kugel my mother provided for me, wisely since the meal plan doesn't kick in til this evening. yesterday ben ross and i managed with the dinner party o' soup and bread taking place at a nearby offcampus house. there we met up with many people i don't know and several i like quite well indeed, including ms("i'm going to be apolitical this semester" "really? oh wait, you're making fun of me")kelly and the-recently-sri-becca. ben and i had the distinction of leaving a couple hours later because ben admitted he "had to work." the words landed among these still vacationing folk like a large dead fish. in bewilderment, people stared, and ben and i shuffled out.

true enough, ben may be the only person in a 4 mile radius to whom those dreaded words apply. the rest of us have a day or two of denial left. but even without Work to do per se, i have enough Stuff to keep me busy. auditions for An Ideal Husband will begin saturday. i needs must create signup sheets and posters (go wilde!!). luckily sarah rose is around to keep me sane. oh but it's strange: an unfamiliar soul is lodged in sorelle's old room. stef and eliz are nowhere to be found, tho they left cheerful piles and an ancient typewriter on brig's-and-my floor as remembrances.
and i'm still chewing the cud of my outrage at this style section article. in short it laments the "hook up culture" of contemporary young women. it outlines the problems as follows:
1) girls hook-up increasingly in high skool and college rather than dating or getting in formal relationships. hook-ups are characterized by sexual activity that ranges from kissing to oral sex, tho they usually stop there. rates of intercourse among high skoolers have actually decreased since this phenomenon, which occurs between mutually interested acquaintances, friends, or ex-lovers, began.
2) this means girls are more assertive, depend less on guys, have more interaction with guys, date less and thus aren't prepared for marriage.
3) however girls who seem to desire this are just fronting, abetted by the dangerous combo of IM and emancipation:
... even as they seek the same sexual rush that guys historically have enjoyed, young women confess to dreaming about the romance of the old-fashioned pursuit: being wooed by leisurely strolls, candlelight dinners, small gifts and other gestures of courtship that were more common when their mothers were their age.
Could this explain the large amounts of alcohol some girls say they consume to make hooking up more palatable? So much has changed, so fast, as gender rules have collapsed.
Less than a half-century ago, girls hung out mostly with other girls, guys with other guys. A girl who was interested in a guy never came right out and told him. She'd tell a girlfriend, who would tell a male friend who would tell the guy in question. Then she'd wait for the phone call.
If the call came, the two then might phone each other every night, talking for hours before going out on their first date. The steps after that were understood: a guy would offer a girl his ring and the couple went steady. Maybe she got pinned or lavaliered, then engaged and so forth.
Today the distance between genders has virtually dissolved. Young women have taken PE with guys since elementary school and gone to movies with them since middle school. They compile coed Buddy Lists on their computer screens and think nothing of instant-messaging guys or calling them on the phone.
4) this is rock bottom for women. we are throwing away our only leverage to rope in young men: Oh, but there is something left to lose, what dramatist Ben Jonson 400 years ago called the "coupling of two souls." Young women talk about this, too. If romance is reserved for the truly serious, what guy will choose serious when he can get the other stuff without committing more than a few hours of his time? and morally, we're going down the toilet: But when will they learn that just because you can do something doesn't necessarily mean that you should? Who will teach them that there is power in holding back?

isn't this precisely what the bush administration wants? more and more women are abstinent! that's the distinguishing characteristic of this "culture." free love in the past has included women having sex without love, sex with friends, sex without guilt. nowadays according to this it's just oral sex substituted for intercourse. why should that make a difference, unless it speaks to a greater canniness on the part of females to keep themselves safe (from pregnancy, at least). so what if we date less in college? we intend to marry later, as a few individuals in the article note. we can date in our twenties or thirties and prepare for marriage -- if that's really what it takes -- then.
the subtext of this article may well be, strangely, that if women engaged in intercourse their men would stick around and relationships would form. that flies in the face of not only centuries of experience but a poster i saw at barnard when i spent a summer there: it advised, straightforwardly, and resonately, "sex won't make him love you and a baby won't make him stay."

Friday, January 17, 2003

whew am i scared of this semester! sure i'm always scared of what hasn't happened yet, but this semester is especially chock full of Things That Could Go Wrong, New and Public Ways I Could Fail, and Potential Miseries. this is why i can only think as far ahead as tomorrow. tomorrow my brother will drive ross, who should be arriving momentarily, and me back to swarthmore. soon after tomorrow -- preparations for auditions for an ideal husband, auditions, the meeting with marge where my class from last semester goes over our projects, meeting with marge about my grant proposal, finishing my grant proposal, submitting my grant proposal, rehearsals, having to pull off seeming to be a competent director, taking my first seminar ever, being graded on my first seminar ever, exposing my play to the lofty criticism of swarthmore students, watching people important to me graduate -- that's when the tough stuff starts.

overdramatizing? me?

to compensate in advance for the over-intellectualism i will be resubmerging myself in starting tomorrow, last night i watched both straight episodes of joe millionaire. so what if the show's built on, and glorifies, lies? so what if the 21 -- 22 if you could the french chateau's bewilderingly australian butler -- don't have as many IQ points among them as a big mac has calories? it raises interesting sociological questions, like, can you believe he dumped that chick, you know, the classy one with the earrings? take that, heidi, you over-confident snob! and go allison. she's definitely my pick.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

though it's only 11:30 i feel totally wiped out. appropriate for the end of an urban evening. my friend marc from skool is in town staying w/ his brother in dupont circle. we met at 5:30, dined at a thai restaurant to the accompaniment of two cosmopolitans (that's the 2nd time in a row i haven't been carded. do i look older or in this wintry economic climate does nobody care?) i enjoyed a introductory meeting with marc's brother. in the midst of siblingish bickering, he looked up at me and said, "you have terrific hair. i'll bet you get that all the time. have you seen yentl? you know what they're trying to do w/ amy irving's hair and it doesn't quite work? they're trying to make hers yours."

after that bit of careless flattery, he headed out w/ his friends to mothertongue, the monthly open-mike poetry reading. marc and i tripped over to the studio theater where a friend of his had promised him two comp tickets to runaway home. an all-black ensemble performing for an predominantly white, older audience -- for some reason i find that unsettling. the staging and pacing of the play, and even to an extent the script and the acting, seemed like it would lend itself better to tv than the stage. we enjoyed, tho we weren't compelled to stay after intermission. instead we moved on to kramerbooks & afterwords for coffee/dessert. they, as you might know, are the geniuses behind the Trent Lotte: separate but equal parts coffee and milk, to be integrated as you see fit.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

i am a sucker for this stuff. the buildup of excitement excessively beforehand is my version of the christmas shop'n'sing season. who'll get snubbed? who's getting noticed? if you read a few pages in you'll notice that they answer a question i posed a couple days ago: yes, apparently once before two actors each got two nods. in 1994, holly hunter and emma thompson shared the honor. that was another excellent year for films (pulp fiction, shawshank redemption, red, forrest gump -- well some people liked it --, ditto the piano, and clerks.)
but since 1997 was the first year i paid attention, it retains a special place in my heart.
an op-ed explaining why class-based campaigns don't work in america. we're all "pre-rich" here, cooling our heels as we wait for our lucky/worked-and-fought-for break. a funny way of thinking about it that actually rings true. i've never experienced much class resentment; i figured that's cause i've never spent extended periods of time with underprivileged people. but if even the bulk of lower-income men can't be persuaded to vote against the interests of the rich, there's little hope for a serious grassroots revolutionary spirit. unless i guess it comes from the nonwhite sectors, people who still feel that the system is biased against them.

yesterday when searching for one thing i uncovered a twelve year old capital steps album, "sheik rattle and roll." yelping with glee at the good timing of it, i brought a tape player into the kitchen and my father, my brother and i sat there listening to the whole album. some parallels are eerie -- the looming iraq war, of course, being the paramount example, but also the deficiencies of the democrats, their inability to come up with a coherent, consistent, meaningful message, and the crookedness of the rich.
other songs were evocative just for the part they played in my growing-up. they certainly got my family through the first gulf war. they may have been my primary source of information, especially since, at the age of 9, i was bound to better absorb and understand anything sung than said. you can't go wrong with rhymes.
overall it was quite a trip (down memory lane). remember those days of S&Ls?? i don't!, but i sure do remember the songs.

Monday, January 13, 2003

over fine southern dining at georgia brown's last nite, in honor of my parents turning 26, my brother told two jokes:

1) in england during the war it was common practice for enlisted soldiers to spend weekends, get meals and some hospitality, with british families. one woman requested, "please, no jews or blacks." that friday, she opened her door to five african-american men. "there must be some mistake," said she. "no ma'am," said one of the men. "general cohen, he doesn't make mistakes."
2) one new leader of his country found on his desk two letters from his predecessor, numbered 1 and 2 and to be opened in the case of the first emergency (1) and the second (2). well, the first emergency happened. the new leader opened the first envelope and the letter said, "blame me." he did; his people bought it. life went on. a year later another emergency hit. he opened the second envelope and the letter said, "now sit down and write two letters."

my grandfather told a story:
stationed in england during the second WW, he developed the habit of walking with his head down (stupid british weather) and his hands in his pockets. a superior officer was heading his way and he weighed exposing his hand to the cold against exposing himself to the officer's wrath. he decided to take his chances and not salute, hoping the officer would ignore him. five steps past each other, the officer barked, "sargeant!" my grandfather froze and turned around. "don't you remember me?" said the officer. "it's morris -- we went to hebrew skool together ..."

and i saw the hours. gorgeous film. meryl streep is all you could ask for in an actress (i ask you: in that first scene, when she goes into the bathroom and there's a beautiful white orchid next to the sink -- is that a coincidence?) nicole kidman manages to disappear into the role. those shapeless dresses help, as does phillip glass's constant evocative mood-setting score, but she gives an honest performance, one i believed. julianne moore had arguably the most difficult task. that section of the book occurs almost entirely in her head. that she manages to convey as much as she does without speaking, voice-over, or narration is remarkable.
(conceivably both streep and moore could be nominated for two films. i wonder if that would be a first.)
read the novel, if you haven't. the film does it justice, and, as it's one of my favorites, that's saying something.

so: tho i still haven't seen talk to her, here's my top ten for 2002:
1) adaptation. only if you're willing to work with it. complicated, layered, completely original. real in a way that films almost never are and unreal in the way great films should be.
2) the hours. "someone has to die so the rest of us can value life more." have a life-affirming cookie afterwards.
3) chicago. the most enjoyable film of the year -- cocky, ironic, exciting, it seems to like itself quite as much as you do.
4) y tu mama tambien. the beautifully photographed, smart-ass, wake-up-call coming-of-age you never had.
5) the pianist. haunting, unrelenting, like, you have to imagine, the memories of warsaw in the 40s must be.
6) far from heaven. the first film i've seen to capture the spirit of the 50s earnestly, without disdain or melodrama.
7) monsoon wedding. more colorful, more subtle, and more joyous than the big fat greek one.
8) punch drunk love. who knew an adam sandler flick could leave you grinning at the credits? bizarre, imperfect, but captivating.
9) catch me if you can. winning, diverting, easy on the eyes. the best spielberg film i've seen in ages.
10 ) secretary. a deviant, risky romantic comedy that gets points for originality and excellent performances.
runners up: about schmidt, which i'm still on the fence about, and bowling for columbine.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

my oldest friend turns 21 today. hip hip hoorah! even tho she's too far away to hear. in my own small way i celebrated by drinking bourbon with my father and playing a cut-throat game of scrabble, my first in a while. i was taking it too seriously; i needed a break. really, this was no holds barred and the way we bluffed as much poker as scrabble. he played "nonquam" on a double, i countered with "zoom" on a triple. he put down "toxic" -- an hour later i made it into "toxicity" for another triple. i won by about 50. the sole accomplishment of an otherwise lazy day. that "toxicity" made me mighty pleased. i debased myself to every deity i could think of for that "ity". anyway, the point is, happy birthday, liz.

Friday, January 10, 2003

hey, my people. just in time for shabbes.
my brother looks more manicured every time he leaves the house. he's going job hunting, on the hill of course, dc's nerve center. it's frightening to hear this kid, who til now has spent his vacations waking at noon to play video games til midnite, musing to himself whether he'll have enough money next year to keep his cell phone. society inflicts these various arbitrary-ish deadlines on adolescents: be economically independent of your parents by 21 or else. but it's certainly gotten my brother moving.
glimpse-into-the-future-wise, last night i ran into a mournful-eyed boy who just started penn law. not good?, i asked. he shook his head. his girlfriend jumped in: it gets better after first semester. right? her boyfriend didn't look convinced. just tired.

that after i sat through the palme d'or winning the pianist starring an even more mournful-eyed adrien brody as a jew in warsaw during those 6 midcentury years where it was frankly unwise to attempt such a thing. get out!, you wanted to scream at poor adrien brody, poor beautiful talented adrien brody; take your eyes and run while you can! of course he doesn't. the fool has character and optomism: in true catch-22 fashion that probably accounts for his naifish beauty.
the 2.5 hour film contains some of the most wrenching, unsentimentalized portrayals of cruelty i've seen on narrative film. the contortions it put both me and my various organs in were impressive even by my standards. then, of course, i can only cry for so long before i get angry. at extreme temperatures sorrow turns to rage and my head filled with the kind of bitter, redundant expletives that would have made adrien brody blush. if someone had handed me a trigger i would have pulled it, and halfway across the world, poland would have gone poof.

the pianist lightens up a bit during its last 20 minutes -- thankfully, cuz otherwise i would have left that theater prowling for just such a trigger. i got home and slept til noon, my night midsectioned by a horrific 5 a.m. dream in which three men with boards were attacking me and i could only beg, "please." better this morning -- er, afternoon -- i still am in no condition to see the hours, as planned. i need some recovery time.
on a more cheerful front, i spent a terrific $20 on: two paperbacks (barth's chimera, and the fermata), one mint sondheim recording of the frogs and evening primrose, and a screenplay of casablanca illustrated with still photographs. since yesterday marked 26 years of my parents staying together, my dad and i shopped cashmere sweaters for my mom at saks and found a lovely one. good shopping experiences are very satisfying, she said banally. but all happiness is banal, right? as well as all un-. there's nothing to be done except to wade through whatever's in front of you and put as unique a spin on it as you can.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

i spent a lovely twenty hours in the company of two darkly-curly-haired girls i don't get to see often enough. when various people called the one whose house it was she chatted briefly then said, "listen, tho, i have two high skool friends over ..." funny: i don't feel like a high skool anything. i guess it's a convenient label. we rolled our eyes at high skool for the most part and discussed college, marriage, grad skool, when we'll be adults; baked no-pudge fudge and ate popcorn with sesame oil (hey, that's good stuff); and watched titanic -- yes, titanic -- in two parts. and wept. at least i did. i always do.
we slept three to a bed, well, dreamlessly, and woke to continue the conversation until near sunset today. we're very different, except for hair and height (and body image problems and faith and class ...) rather, i should say, we are as different as three female honor students the same age from the same background raised in two-parent liberal households within 20 miles of each other can be while sharing a sense of humor. not that different at all, i guess. i should remember that more often. just like perhaps i'm not that different than i was three years ago when i couldn't imagine being more than 20 miles apart from them. nostalgia: my drug of choice.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

home for the first time in 03 and hours from some of my favorite playmates. well i have three books to comfort me: two my indulgent father bought me yesterday (another chabon, another franzen) and one i'd forgotten my aunt gave me for hannukah.
sidenote: in high skool it was so simple. everyone celebrated hannukah. that was it. no stockings, no ho-ho-ho, no carolling (unless you were mocking them) certainly no presents under christmas trees. when ben's father added, on the evening designated as their gift exchange, that something lay wrapped under the tree for me, i was so flummoxed i viscerally learned the meaning of the word. that the gift turned out to be classical music -- "no words," grinned ross, looking over my shoulder -- unsettled me further. no one ever taught me how to sit still and listen to classical music. after 20 minutes of staring into the candelabra ben's dad had set up in the fireplace, my ADD started kicking in. when the music ended i wanted to say something profound and simply could not think of a thing. i blame the tree.

ross ben and i had spent that evening with ross's 2nd set of maternal grandparents, up in the country where they own their own vineyard. george, our disaffected intellectual host, went to harvard and studied government with jfk, for whom the skool was later named. michelle, our redgrave-like hostess, studied at juliard and danced on broadway before shifting her focus to culinary skool. they prepared us a lovely dinner and served their own, surprisingly good wine.
the day before we'd paid a visit to ben's russian grandmother in the bronx. she compensated for her difficulties with english with her ease with food, urging on us cake fruit chocolate buttered-bread coffee wine brandy.

now after all that family i'm with my own again. i guess i have to get started on that stuff i have to do. or maybe i'll go read wonder boys ... or explore mckee's website. the guy from adaptation -- yet another meta level. wow. that's the kind of thing i need, a story seminar. structure is my weak point in fiction too. i can't stand those conventional endings where everyone grows and learns and is happy forever after. i really liked about schmidt's ending even if i had issues with the film. it worked for that character; it felt plausible. but making that compromise between what's plausible and what's palatable is really damn hard.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

on new years, you write resolutions. on your birthday, you make wishes. since my birthday and new years lie almost precisely 6 months apart it feels appropriate that the corresponding demands each make are diametrically opposite. except i have trouble with both. on my birthday, i wished for more. now, that round-new-years time, i'm tempted to resolve same. more. only call it Renovation instead of Resolution, a la brilliant liz, and worry cause i don't mean it to sound like i'm greedy. i'd be fine if things stayed the same. renovation-wise, i just want the evolutions in me to keep on grinding: more of the progress: more courage, more self-sufficience, more adventure, more forgivingness, more openness. basically i've been happy since i turned 18 and hit an emotional growth spurt, and i want more.

i'm in new york still, 6 hours south-east of where ben, rebecca, ross and i spent new years. ben, our intrepid invalid coachman, got us safely there and safely back despite wrenching weather conditions. once there we sprawled. i finished three books in the first couple days: rushdie's east/west, leant to me by the other becca with whom i spent a lovely preface-type afternoon, the ice storm, and the fermata. the latter engaged me most by virtue of being entirely different than anything else i've read -- ross and rebecca, both of whom have read it before, smiled knowingly at my devotion to it. one review i came across labeled it "morally confused," from which it derives part of its charm. nearly plotless, insightful, funny, and [borderline?] offensive, i found it squirmingly fun to read.

anyway, we parted from the mountain idyll, having finished off two homemade pizzas, two stirfrys, one bottle of champagne, two bottles of wine, one bottle of kahlua, one pitcher of margaritas, one tray of homemade nachos, one yule log, one pumpkin pie, one apple-pear pie, one package of tortillas, several diet cokes and much more besides, including one afternoon-long monopoly game won by yours truly. for the first time ever, i think.
ross ben and i saw about schmidt in the city, which was more controversial than i expected it to be. pointlessly misanthropic, manipulative and depressing or scathing perceptive reactionary satire? for hours afterwards, ben and i mulled over films that we both find wonderful and rewarding, and we settled on harold and maude, barton fink, and mallrats.
two more weeks of break. is this heaven or what?