Sunday, December 24, 2006

hallelujah! hallelujah! and so on.

Handel's Messiah is a three-hour long experience, a little dazzling, a little painful. There's no story to speak of, no arc to follow; it just goes stanza by stanza until the last Amen (which lasts and lasts ...) So here's my arc, as an audience member seeing it for the first time: for most of the first act, I found myself distracted and unsettled at points by the focus on little baby Jesus, as predicted (sort of) by Isaiah. By the time the second act started, I had stopped swimming against the current. By the famous Hallelujah Chorus, when the whole audience rises to their feet as though to take the pledge of alliegence, I was saved.

By the end of act three, that Indy 500 loop of an Amen, my head was on the verge of exploding.

I emerged feeling like I'd been dunked in Christianity -- baptised, if you will. The soprano making her Metropolitan Opera debut really gave it all she had, as did everyone else, but I had to wonder: out of the 150 or so people on stage, counting orchestra, choral members, and soloists, how many actually believed what they were singing? How important were the words, per se, to them; and how important did they have to be to me?

Dinner at Outback Steakhouse with Mr. Ben's family felt equally strange, yet somehow appropriate, considering we were all gentiles.

Tomorrow morning, however, I turn back into my little jewish self. Mr. Ben and I wing it down to Florida to spend a week with my family, and then wing it back only to ditch the plane for a car and drive all the way up to our friend K-Ross's house in Wanakena. It'll be pretty packed, for a vacation, but hopefully a good start to the new year.

Happy 07!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"air is the enemy of spice"

Glum. Why glum? Perhaps it's Maureen Dowd's fault. She actually started her column today like so: "The only sects that may be more savage than Shiites and Sunnis are the Democratic feminist lawmakers representing Northern and Southern California." (I know because I can access Times Select at work, courtesy of an assistant in the Boston office who sent her username and password to the entire company.)

Setting aside for a moment the fact that Dowd didn't specify "Sunni" or "Shiite" TERRORISTS, that she thought it sufficient merely to name a religious denomination and assume that her readers would figure "mass murderer nutballs" was implied -- following that sensationalistic, racist, and horrifically untrue intro, did the column proceed to explain why Nancy Pelosi and Jane Harman compare unfavorably to religious fundamentalists on the verge of civil war? Did it even ultimately RETURN TO THE SUBJECT of California feminists once Dowd moseyed on to her real hobby-horse, Silvestre Reyes? No! Because you know why? Because Dowd is *actually* Michelle Malkin. And Hitler. Rolled into one! And given the best real estate in Manhattan for some reason because life is very very fair.

Really, I can't blame MoDo. She's just an awful person doing what awful people are paid much too much money to do. My glumness began shortly after we hired a new Assistant to join my department. She was quite shiny, and lo, we dubbed her Shiny.

After accepting our offer, Shiny asked for two weeks before she began; and then, the day before she was to start, Shiny jumped the ship she hadn't even boarded in order to work at some other publishing company that will remain nameless and thinks it's so cool just because it publishes Harry Potter books and can pay her a lot more money. Well, we publish grammar, okay? And grammar is way cooler than magic. Ask any ... English professor.

However, I can't complain. I am very fond of my office. In my post-college life, I have moved from the equivalent of Oliver Twist's orphanage (wherein his asking for more gruel was analagous to my asking whether it would be ok to attend graduate skool classes at night) to the equivalent of hanging out with Fagin and his band of thieves (wherein my having to clean the bathroom, take out the trash, and listen to coworkers discuss US Weekly all day was analagous to having to pick a pocket or two). This job is like living with the rich old lonely guy who adopts Oliver and gives him an iPod and then the entire Series of Unfortunate Events box set, AND a bonus, AND (supposedly) a raise.

Still -- a little glum. I'm working on that.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

arts, lately

Not long ago this year I found myself increasing distressed with my literary options -- Special Topics in what? Fortress of who? Why can't you people stop being so exhaustively clever and just WRITE? Lately, however, I have experienced an uptick in quality. The trick, apparently? Switching from longform to short. Essays/stories read fast, and often funny; and best of all, if you find yourself despairing of one, you can flip to the next.

In this fashion, I have read:
- The Ladies of Grace Adieu (Clarke, Susanna)
- I Feel Bad About My Neck (Ephron, Nora)
- Shiksa Goddess (Wasserstein, Wendy)
- How To Be Alone (Franzen, Jonathan) (thanks, Yanni)
and a little earlier this year,
- Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (Lamott, Anne)

In general, I am very much a girl of novels. Some memoirs sneak in now and again, as do some "serious" books, but in both cases, usually those written to resemble novels. It's been interesting to focus on the small, the concise and self-contained.

With movies, I've had less luck. Stranger Than Fiction and Little Children, my most recent theatrical experiences, are both entertaining in the moment, well-directed and bursting with well-acted pathos. But neither has enough substance, really, to compare to the Queen, the only truly, 100% worthwhile thing I've seen this year. (Little Miss Sunshine runs a close second, with 49 Up in third.)

I have to admit I preferred STF's ending to LC's, which I found predictably disturbing. I hope it's not giving too much away to reveal that STF, being a darkish comedy, chooses to pursue a happy ending, while LC, being a literary tragedy, revels in an unhappy, supposedly redemptive one. Frankly, part of me wishes they'd swapped. Who needs all that resolution? Let the wrong people die! Let the good-hearted sinners be rewarded!

Apparently the Departed and the upcoming Letters from Iwo Jima are excellent. But why do they have to be so durned, well, masculine? Like Apocalypto, the testosterone emanates from the screen when I watch previews. First I'd have to grow loins and then gird them to watch either flick, and who has the energy, or the stem cells?

Babel and Volver remain on my list. I'm not terribly optimistic that I'll have a horse in this race that I'll be as passionate about as I was about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

citizenship rights

How horrifying is this? Sen. Tim Johnson is hospitalized, maybe (but not) for a stroke. Or could it be Polonium 210? Those damned Republicans -- who would benefit from a Senate retilted -- are in totally in league with the KGB; after all, their fearless leader did say he looked into Putin's eyes, saw the man's soul, and pronounced the president of the most corrupt, bullying, autocratic administration in the Western hemisphere "Good."

Even if Sen. Johnson is incapacitated, I hope he retains hold of his seat. It's hardly even required of him to have a beating heart; he just has to vote occasionally. Strom Thurman was functioning on a lung and half a liver for three years and he kept his seat. I think they rigged up a thing so he could vote from his hospital room. You have to imagine he sometimes registered a "Yea" for an appropriations bill while trying to get his bed to go down.

In cheerier news, I've been wondering how long a person has to live in NYC before s/he can claim NYer as an identity. Having started as an east coaster born of a city AND as a card-carrying member of the worldwide conspiracy, I feel like I must have a leg up. So, another two years? Another four? Is there a court I have to appear in front of? Cuz I even know what I would say:
Ladies and gentlemen of the panel, thank you for taking the time to hear my appeal for citizenship. Allow me to state my credentials.

- I happily overpay to share a studio in Brooklyn.

- I'm on chatting terms with my Egyptian grocer and my Korean tailor.

- I can list several places that Carrie and the girls visit on Sex and the City, and I've been to lots of them, not just Magnolia Bakery

- Also, I know that Carrie's apartment was supposedly on the Upper West Side but the building facade is actually from the West Village, not far from where SJP herself lives. I can also tell you where Heath Ledger lodges and can list the various brooding, bookish, boyish authors that live in Park Slope

- Since I've been in the city, I've had close encounters with James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli, Gabriel Byrne, Paul Giamatti, Mary-Louise Parker, who showed me her ass, Ice T, Coco & Little Ice, Sarah Chalke, Lili Taylor, Rip Torn, Cynthia Nixon, and Jeffrey Tambor, who I called "Jeremy" and who called me "Rachel." Then he kissed my hand. True love; AND a true story

- I have close friends in four of five boroughs, and a creative writing buddy from Staten Island. I asked him if he was Republican and he said, "Very."

- I have ridden back and forth all night on the ferry. Well, I've ridden it. And I've crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on foot in both winter and summer

- I survived the transit strike

- I have reservations at Babbo for January

- I've never gone to see the ball drop at New Year's Eve or the Rockefeller Center Xmas Tree

- I have an opinion on the Atlantic Yards project, the potential 2nd Avenue Line, the Disneyfication of Times Sq., the Yuppification of the Lower East Side, & whether singing should be allowed at Strawberry Fields

- I've been to all sides of Central Park, to the Zoo, and to the Bronx Zoo too

- I listen to New York Public Radio WNYC about two hours a day. I give them money; they give me the New Yorker and I read that on the subway

- I say "subway," not "metro," even though I grew up in DC

- I've eaten the pizza at Grimaldi's, Lombardi's, Patsy's, Totonno's, Joe's, Ben's, and John's. (Also the fabulous Pizza Napoletana)

- I've ridden the Cyclone

- I've taken yoga

- I've gone in for one of those $10-for-10 minutes quickie acupressure sessions that leave you feeling more sore

- I carry an overly heavy bag

- I read the New York Times and I can do the crossword puzzles through Thursday. Friday's too tricky. But I can make inroads

- I was an underpaid, underappreciated peon in Entertainment; now I get the same money to be, more respectably, in Publishing

- Did I mention how happy I am? In general?
What other bona fides do I need? Is a like signing a lease, where I'd have to get a guarantor who's been in the city long enough to qualify?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

blogging the sunday papers

Wherein I laze around for two hours, eating a cranberry scone and browsing the Washington Post and the New York Times, so you don't have to.

What topics focus the attention of the intelligentsia this weekend?

** Diamonds **
The NYT covers Hollywood's faddish interest in conflict diamonds, and then makes clear that the gray lady herself couldn't care less.

** Blond ladies of show **
The NYT favors chipper cherub Kirsten Chenowith with a profile, while the WPost chooses the no-less-bubby Dolly Parton. Both tiny but pneumatic and powerful entertainers bewitch their respective interviewers. The NYT's Jesse Green wins the prize, however, for describing Chenowith as being "like a bag of puppies" and for making her so darn likeable! Much more so than her doppleganger on Studio 60.

** The rich, mating habits of **
When readings Weddings & Celebrations headlines, you often see an entry that makes you think, for example, "That Hearst? That McInerney?" In this case, you can finally nod in relief, realizing, "Yes, and yes." And wow. Though you have to read down to figure it out for sure, the fact that Guiliani officiated should be an early tip off.

Consider yourselves enlightened! You're most welcome. Enjoy your Sundays.