Friday, November 30, 2007

links that make you think "so true!"

Via NYMag, a handy-dandy graphical guide to the depressing movies to choose from this holiday season!

Via People for the American Way, the hilarious parody Right Wing Facebook!

It's my last day in this office and I can't concentrate properly. Last night I went to a Mountain Goats concert at NYU and was distracted nearly the whole time by this kid making out with his girlfriend in front of me. There was something so mesmerizingly wrong about the pair of them: she was a normal looking 18-22 year old; he looked like a serial killer. Pale skin, old-fashioned nerd glasses, the kind of haircut you give your middle-schooler before he learns to rebel, and clothes to match. Why on earth were they sucking face for the length of the show? Was the girl under some kind of spell?

Then the Goats played The Best Ever Death Metal Band out of Denton as their final encore. There's nothing like a packed auditorium of undergraduates screaming, "Hail Satan!" to shake one out of a reverie.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Whee! Enchanted, that girliest of girl movies starring Amy Adams, won the box office match-up this past weekend, beating, by a long shot, Natalie Portman's trippy-sounding entry, Mr. Magorium's Magic Emporium. Not that I contributed to Enchanted's success; I was too busy watching boy movies 1. I'm Not There and 2. No Country for Old Men, both of which I enjoyed and admired, although neither knocked my head off my shoulders.

I'm Not There at least breaks free of the tedious biopic formula in which the director attempts to psychoanalyze the subject based on a five minute snippet of his childhood, tracing all of his problems with women, for example, back to that time his mother put him in a closet. Todd Haynes doesn't try to understand Dylan at all; six actors portray different facets of the rocker, and the composite both serves as a good overall sense of the people Dylan has maybe been at different points AND a good example of the Being John Malkovich/Walt Whitman theory of identity. You know, that we contain multitudes.

The two standout Dylans are a little black boy who rides freight trains with his guitar, dressed like a Depression-era mini hobo, Sir-ing and Ma'am-ing and performing for the bemused 1959 adults he meets along the way as Grassroots Bob, and a b&w Cate Blanchett in fantastic drag who captures everything itchy, rangy, brilliant, and savage about Famous Bob.

As for No Country, aka this year's Departed, I liked it better than Nora Ephron did. (Caution: her piece contains spoilers, in case you care, when going to watch a bloodbath, exactly who dies.)

Mr. Ben and I went to his dad's house in Westchester for Thanksgiving with a swarm of Russians, which meant a feast lengthened by frequent cigarette breaks and toasts that made Ben's dad weep with laughter. He and/or Mr. Ben tried valiantly to translate but I only found the jokes perplexing, which made everyone else laugh harder. One gag began, "So, you remember Stalin" and went on to be about a man who had fathered three kids by three different women.
"Get it?" said Ben's dad at last having painstakingly explained.
"Yes," I said. "But what does that have to do with Stalin?"
The table roared.

Foodwise, everything that didn't have meat had mayonnaise. I ate a lot of bread and, at the debut of the fruit bowl come dessert-time, I fell on those melon cubes like they were my personal lord and savior. But the evening was definitely an experience.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

jump the broom, pass the bar

Mr. Ben had cause for celebration this weekend so we ran a lot of errands. This is the way things work around here. But they were fun errands! Thanks to them, I traded in a few books I wasn't crazy about and got in return Best American Comics 2007 (f0r Mr. Ben) and Under the Banner of Heaven (for me). Barnes and Noble can be a regular lending library if you know how to game the system! And then, in a different store, I traded in a couple movies I wasn't crazy about and got in return Season One of the Gilmore Girls, a Madeline Peyroux CD, and Bruce Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on video.

Especially when the various birthday parties and friends and sleepovers and Buster Keaton shorts and Korean dinner and magical sandwich brunch were factored in, it was the best weekend I've had in a while. Mr. Ben and I hadn't gotten to spend that much uninterrupted time together since he started at the firm. Um, because clearly he's been spending too much time golfing at the club? Whose life am I living?

I did realize recently that my draconian regimen of no alcohol and no food with more than 25g of sugar has turned me into a new person. It's been months since my last anxiety attack, and that one was over the wedding weekend; and christ, if a person can't go shaky before they get married, then I don't know what. Anyway, it's wonderful not to have to worry all the time that I'm going to turn into a fragile, eplileptic mess, crumpled on the bathroom floor like a junkie trying to inject relief in the form of a children's book. (Before xanax, the Snicket series was worth its weight in gold.)

Even the time of year hasn't been stressing me out. I'm changing jobs but voluntarily and wow! what a difference that makes. The holidays seem to be arranging themselves nicely. The Scrabulous ratings system was instituted after my unlucky streak and before my current lucky one, so my rating is a whopping 1511. It's bound to go down and might never reach that pinnacle again -- thus, even though I know not what the numbers mean, I feel like I must enshrine them. And to top it all off, my sainted mother went dancing this past week in my high school prom dress. She promises pictures.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Without realizing that Defective Yeti had declared this November to be National Novel Reading Month -- the novel in question being Catch 22 -- my book group also chose to sink its wine-stained teeth into Catch 22. I had read it before in high skool and I remembered three things:

1) Major Major Major Major!
2) War is crazy. In war there are no heroes, only people struggling to maintain their sanity; and if that, maybe, once in a while, coincides with Doing the Right Thing, then cool, but no one goes out of his way.
3) There are an awful lot of whores.

My memory proved accurate. It's not an easy read: the story loops back in on itself, tangential characters wander on and off screen, there are almost as many unnecessary adjectives as loose Italian women. In parts you really have to push yourself through but each time you're rewarded with a scene that's so good you wonder how anyone couldn't love this book.

And what struck me this time was how revolutionary this kind of myth-busting must have been when the book first came out. At this point, in a post-Vietnam world, we're accustomed to hearing that the people who fight for our freedom may have flaws, that not everyone who ventures out on a battlefield has pure and noble intentions. But this book is about World War II: The Good War, the one we're supposed be to be able to be proud of. These soldiers, described by Heller in all their specific grinning idiocy are members of our Greatest Generation. How did he get away with that? Even today it wouldn't be easy.

Despite its stylistic flaws, I think that courage is going to be my key takeaway from this reading. But um, I do wish there were one female character who wasn't an empty-headed, busty buffoon. On that note: in honor of whatshisname, another great white shark of mid-century American fiction who died this past weekend, Jezebel put together a roster of He-Man Woman Hating Club. Made me feel better about feeling alienated by so much "contemporary" lit. Read the comments too. They are pure and noble.

ETA: if this isn't enough bile for a Wednesday morning, here's some additional spewing, bubbling, volcanic hate for Maureen Dowd.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Here I've been making pro / con lists, talking myself hoarse, giving myself wrinkles with all the thinking, and all this time I should have been consulting
Mars is still moving though Cancer, a sign that you are in the process of starting a brand new cycle. This is a process that will be ongoing for several months, ending on May 9 next year. During that time you'll be very busy, so you might want to pace yourself - these types of cycles can be exhausting, but also very exciting!

Mars does not come by that often, so it may help to know that the next time you'll have Mars in Cancer to give you an outstanding advantage, it will be August 2009. But next time you won't have several months to institute the changes you want so dearly, instead only a matter of weeks (which is much more typical a visit of Mars). As you see, you truly are in the catbird's seat.

The problem is that Mars is about to shut down when it goes retrograde from November 15 to January 30. During that phase you won't be able to access all the best qualities of Mars, which are assertive career action, determination, energy, and drive - so it is imperative that you make your most important initiations this month from November 1 to 14, your golden period. After that, you'll need to backtrack and course correct, and be ready to go at full throttle again in February.

Mars is the engine that runs your prestigious professional sector (tenth house), so this means that the coming two-and-a-half month period will not bring encouraging career developments. If you are not currently employed, or if you are anxious to leave your present position, you must be ready to begin your search in the first half of November, and to get as many interviews in at that time as you can. ...

November 4 could bring you a good career tip or breakthrough. That's a Sunday, but due to the fine angle of the Sun and Mars in Cancer, over this weekend you may see an interesting job listing on the Internet or in the paper, or get an email that brings an opportunity you will want to follow up on.

If you are in a creative field, you will be in top form. From November 9 onward, the date of the new moon, you will have an opportunity to put your stamp of individuality on a project that will become very dear to you. If an offer comes in that intrigues you at this time, take it seriously. ...

Pluto is the ruler of your fifth house of creativity. This powerful planet is about to meet with financially beneficial, expansive Jupiter. These two planets only meet in conjunction every thirteen years, and the last time they did was in very late 1994. These two planets are about to meet next month, on December 11. This is headline news, and it's been a conjunction I've been watching for several years - it is almost here!

Pluto conjunct Jupiter is a powerful indicator of success. Bill Gates has this conjunction in his natal chart, as does Warren Buffet. You will have this transiting conjunction in your chart next month, in your sixth house of work assignments. These two planets move very slowly but are already close enough to bring you benefits. Be alert to the kind of conversations and offers you are having now - something is in the wind and it could wind up being bigger than you ever assumed possible.

If 1994 or 1995 is important to you in some way because you began an endeavor or made a major decision, you will have the opportunity to advance that endeavor now or end it and start a completely new one. (Or, you can do both.) I point to those years, for that's when we had that last Jupiter to Pluto conjunction. That event gave me the opportunity to start a then very tiny website that I called Astrology Zone. At the time I really didn't realize that my life was changing forever. This type of experience could happen to you, for Jupiter and Pluto are meeting in the same part of the chart that it did for me, the sixth house. When opportunity knocks, it will be up to you to either run with it - or not. The future is always in your hands.

Monday, November 05, 2007

up to

It's funny how little time it takes a Monday morning to devour an aura of warm fuzz. Even though this weekend featured a hurricane, a long day's worth of travel to and from Connecticut for In-Law Family Time, a bad cold that kept me from enjoying Friday night's festivities at a fancy lawyer's house in Larchmont (complete with lobster bisque!), and several Serious Conversations, it still left me feeling well-balanced and happy. You know, temporarily.

Still, it's good to keep perspective. At least I'm not a sex worker who's just been told by someone in a position of authority that gang rape at gunpoint = merely "theft of services."

And at least exciting movies will be coming out soon. I haven't seen anything I've been crazy about this year. Ratatouille, Michael Clayton, and Knocked Up were all entertaining in their various ways, but I want to be rocked like I was by Children of Men and Pan's Labyrinth. Who will rock me? Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd? The cast is promising; the trailer, less so. Philip Seymour Hoffman as brought to me by Tamara Jenkins? She was supposed to be my honors examiner, you know. Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter? One of the many Bob Dylanses? Or the animated Marjane Satrapi? After the recent NYT Mag interview with her wherein she declaimed, "I'm not a feminist; I'm a humanist," and then went on to extoll the pleasures of smoking, I'm disappointed with the IRL version, but I can hold out hope for celluloid.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

wisdom for the ages

"First rule: Do not use semicolons. ... All they do is show you've been to college. And I realize some of you may be having trouble deciding whether I am kidding or not. So from now on I will tell you when I'm kidding. For instance, join the National Guard or the Marines and teach democracy. I'm kidding. ... If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding."
-- K. Vonnegut, from A Man Without a Country

Lillian Gish Goes to Hell
Richard Siken

But she has been there before, has a suite
in fact, where she can swan and collapse
on a series of fainting couches: velveteen,
plush, gem-colored. In 1913, during the
production of A Good Little Devil, Lillian
collapsed from anemia. She took delight in
suffering for art. Although not a religious
man, Sartre was fascinated by suffering
as well, said Hell is other people and meant it.
Some like to suffer and some try to eliminate
desire. Buddha, God bless him, had a great
idea: whatever is subject to change is subject to
suffering. But let’s face it, he was fat and sat
around in his underwear, while we delight
in changing our wardrobes. You, terrible
in your solitude. Me, ruined and desperate
in my cowboy shirt with the pearly buttons
and significant stitching. We can suffer with
the best of them, Lil, effortlessly working off
our karma as the drunken father breaks down
the wooden door, or we roam, dying, through
the streets of Montmartre. I am no stranger
to love and I am not waiting for you, because
I believe we will be reborn, because I believe
everything, and I believe that we will meet
again and suffer together again. The future
belongs to China and yet I want to learn
French. This, too, is another kind of suffering.
Once, at a truck stop, I ate an entire banana
cream pie and half a pound of bacon, which
is a kind of suffering for some, but I felt
fucking great. You know this, you must know
this. We are lovely and full of desire, we die
so many times and come back here, to cross
paths. I didn’t fall off the roof, I was pushed.
I want neither revenge nor relief. I crave no
rescue. What I want, Lillian, is to be gigantic
and perfectly lit, to be with you again, carnal
in our reincarnation. The future will find us
handsome taikonauts in a small ship spinning
out of control, flawed by love and plunging
realistically toward the heart of a hellish sun.
In the future we will suffer together in outer
space and eat crème brûlée out of a silver tube.
The novelty never wears off, Lil. It never does.

"You don't gotta be a bitch to be competitive." -- Bianca, ANTM