6.27.2010

Question of the Day

The universe contacted me directly via a wall nearby.

Gypsy: A Memoir

The edition of Gypsy: A Memoir I read had a New York Times column at the back that began, “Gypsy Rose Lee had no major talents. And I’m quoting her.” It turns out that Gypsy did have a great talent for storytelling. I asked for the book after seeing the 2008 Broadway production and somehow finding out it was based on a memoir, a genre I’ve gravitated towards recently. I didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these tales, how many times I laughed out loud at the punchlines, how sad I was to finish the book.

Her mother, what a character! There are some great lines. One of my favorites happens when she is arguing with a hotel desk clerk about the bill: “‘It’s not the principle of the thing,’ Mother said. ‘It’s the money.’”

I tried to think of who the contemporary equivalent of Gypsy might be. It is evident that the American obsession with celebrity stretches back a while, and this woman (this girl, really) of average talent is propelled to fame. At first I thought of Paris Hilton, but it’s not at all a good comparison because Gypsy came from nothing. This story is a life of work starting in childhood. This story is about someone who understood the value of publicity.

Gypsy’s son wrote an afterword, and I loved the woman for telling him this: “You don’t need to be religious to believe in God, just observant.”

It’s difficult to tell what is fact and what is fiction in these pages, but it certainly is worthwhile entertainment. Author, Author!

6.25.2010

Home

I was at Newark Airport today, and the TSA guard looked at my Colorado license and said, "Going home?" I was confused. I looked at the license on his podium and said, "Oh, yes!" It felt like a lie.

6.17.2010

Never Let Me Go

I loved this book. It always makes me nervous when the book becomes a movie, but I don't think I can resist.

Boys! Boys! Boys!

I. Hello, Roomie

"How was the rest of your weekend?"
"Good. I went to Celestial Seasonings."
"You go there every time someone is in town!"
"I know! They like it. After a few samples, I decided to buy some Morning Thunder."
"That stuff is good."
"I also decided if I ever start having morning sex again, that's what I'm going to call it."

II. Hello, Lover

"I left Derek's movie at your place. I have to pick it up."
"It's still in the DVD player."
"I guess I can pick it up when I drop Patty and Ryan off."
"Are you just going to stay at my place tonight?"
A shrug. The idea is dismissed.
"I'll blow you. If you stay over."

III. Hello, Friend

"We're setting you up for a lifetime of funerals."

IV. Hello, Drifter

The first time after we moved to the new seating arrangement, we were singing "Moon River," and it clicked, and I nearly cried without knowing why. Everything felt right. Like maybe I would have a new friend.

6.12.2010

Dear Michael

Dear Michael,

Well. It looks like I no longer have a monopoly on writing you Internet letters.

Your original digital pen pal,

Brian

6.11.2010

Manhood for Amateurs

In Hook, Peter Pan left Neverland because he wanted to be a father. I was thinking about that while reading Manhood for Amateurs, a book that provoked an interesting feeling: it made me want to be a dad. The essays on his family were written with love and reverence. I don’t have much to say, so I’ll proceed to vomit quotations.

I loved “The Memory Hole,” where Chabon writes that he and his wife throw out most of the art the kids make at school and keep the good ones. It was sad but tender:
The truth is that in every way, I am squandering the treasure of my life…Every day is like a kid’s drawing, offered to you with a strange mixture of ceremoniousness and offhand disregard, yours for the keeping. Some of the days are rich and complicated, others inscrutable, others little more than a stray gray mark on a ragged page. Some you manage to hang on to, though your reasons for doing so are often hard to fathom. But most of them you just ball up and throw away.

The “Wilderness of Childhood” looks at how much freedom kids had when the author was younger versus now, when childhood is a “door-to-door, all-encompassing escort service,” which leaves the question of what effect the closing of the Wilderness has on children’s imaginations, and what effect it will have on literature.

I liked the opening to “The Story of Our Story” better than even the story itself: “For the job entrusted to Dinarzad [Shahrazad’s sister ] is the universal job of younger siblings the world over: not merely to witness history but to demand it.” Chabon says of his younger brother, “It was not until that morning, in early September 1968, that my story truly began. Until my brother was born, I had no one to tell it to.” Love!

I loved “Art of Cake”, about the magic of cooking, the connection to his mother. I laughed out loud during “I Feel Good About My Murse.” Loved “Burning Women” and “A Textbook Father.” I enjoyed “Radio Silence”, about the connection between songs and memory, making the case that “No medium is as sensuously evocative of the past as radio. No other medium deploys that shocking full-immersion power of random remembrance.”

And I liked the closing of the essay about the history of OCD in his family:
…It begins to seem to me that writing may be in part a disorder: sheer, unfettered XO9. Look at Borges with his knives and his tigers, or Nabokov with his butterflies, or Irving with his bears, or Plath with her camps and her ovens; look at every writer, writing the same damn story, the same poem, returning endlessly to the same themes, the same motifs, the same locales, the same lost summer or girl or father, book after book.

6.10.2010

Dream, 6/10/10 Morning

I am sitting at the circle in front of Whippany Park. Anthony (from work) walks outside, and we talk about staffing. He sits down by me so we are both cross-legged on the sidewalk. I say, "You are a very nice person, Anthony. Unfortunately, that means you probably have to listen to a lot of ranting."

Then we are in a bright red sedan in the circle. The car is sporty but compact, like a Toyota Matrix or Honda Fit. Shilpa is kneeling on the driver's seat, her hair in a ponytail. I slap the ceiling with my hand and ask her, "Hey, are you taking this bucket of tin to Delaware?"

She smiles and nods yes. We are moving. Shilpa runs the red light at Whippany Road and Fairchild but makes a left turn instead of going towards my house. So I said, "Can you drop me off first?" We make the right onto Karla. I give Shilpa instructions and she says, "Yeah, I think I've been to your house before."

We pass a maroon Cadillac with the license plate "DAY BREAK". The girl in the passenger seat appears to be JP's friend Emma. The house at the corner of Joan has been replaced with a small glass reception hall. Shilpa asks twice, "Is this your house?" but we are not on the right street yet.

Smile

1. Bob had a cactus he named Bruce. Bruce's favorite song was purportedly "Missing."

2. Michelle and I watched the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair. We nicknamed Rene Russo "The Talented Mrs. Nipply" due to some choice shots.

3. When I lived in the Soccer Boys' House, Melanie thought of having a Pity Party: we would all write things that we were pissed or sad about on slips of paper, read them out loud, shout "Yeah, fuck that!" and take a drink.

6.05.2010

Bedroom Dance

I have a playlist on my iPod whose name, "Bedroom Dance," is misleading. I was telling JP how you might think it was a playlist of sex music, but it is in fact a list of songs that I listen to on Saturday mornings when I'm doing nothing, or getting dressed, and they make me want to dance around the room. "Songs that might require a hairbrush microphone," he said. I said I rarely reach for the microphone prop, but the description is correct.

I give you a list of the songs that bring me great joy, that get me excited for the day, that I'm shuffling through right NOW (sidenote: I've probably cited all of these songs in some other context already):

Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
The Life of the Party - Idina Menzel, The Wild Party Original Cast Recording
Silver Lining - Rilo Kiley
You Oughta Know - Alanis Morissette
Breakin' Up - Rilo Kiley
Miss Murder - AFI
Rehab - Amy Winehouse
Deja Vu - Beyonce
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out - Bruce Springsteen
Lovefool - The Cardigans
Just What I Needed - The Cars
Johnny Sunshine - Liz Phair
The Search for Colonel Mustard (Part 1) - Cheese on Bread
The Search for Colonel Mustard (Part 2) - Cheese on Bread
Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex - CSS
Make-Out King - Eleni Mandell
It Was a Very Good Year - Frank Sinatra
Fa Fa - Guster
Wig in a Box - John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch Soundtrack
Origin of Love - John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch Soundtrack
Me and Bobby McGee - Janis Joplin
Family Affair - Mary J. Blige
All That Jazz - Bebe Neuwirth, Chicago (1996 Broadway Revival Cast)

"No, I'm no one's wife, but, oh, I love my life!" That's what I belt out on Saturdays. Don't judge.

6.04.2010

Stay Golden


The two cultural giants of my childhood in one place, courtesy of io9.

Meet the Parents

I've been thinking about the parents often, largely because I'm reading and loving Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs. Then
JM quoted Tiger Beatdown in responding to this MSNBC article:
"When you are in the pre-teen era, you spend a lot of time looking to adults to figure out how you should behave, because you are just beginning to become aware of changes in your body that mean you will be an adult within a few years! And holy shit! And guess what — the adults around you are constantly obsessing about their own weight. And yours. Because, since it is the responsibility of parents to decide what their kids eat, and there are a million narratives about how if you don’t eat right you will get fat, parents are looking for your not-fatness as a way to verify that they haven’t completely fucked up as parents."

It made me think of something that has always bothered me. My mom has dieted for my entire life. I can remember Slim Fast, back when Tommy Lasorda used to be in the commercials, Nutrisystem, Atkins, some weird fat-burning soup diet, the mango diet (well, that one Mom and Dad did before I was born), and countless iterations of Weight Watchers. And my whole life, when we are out at restaurants, and there's some dessert on the menu, my dad always makes this comment to my mom like, "No. You can't have that." His reasoning for making these statements is that my mom will cave, go for the dessert, and then he'll have to listen to her complain about how she wasn't losing any weight. And I know Mom can be a Class A nag. But. What, do you think you're in such great shape?

Was she always dieting because of what she thought or because of what he thought?

Anyway, it's crazy how something will bubble up like that. Maybe I have told you how I was trying to make a family tree of traits that I've inherited from my parents, maybe I have not. Bottom line is I haven't put anything on paper yet.

Or maybe I have told you how I have played the game of wondering whether, if you were contemporaries, would you have been friends with your parents in high school or college? I like to think that I would have been.

Then when I play that game I think about how I don't know what Dad was like as a kid. I have a better picture of Mom's childhood, and she may have the advantage of our growing up so close to where she did. Still, over time, my mom has told us about stories with her younger sister, her friends, boys she dated in high school, girls she didn't get along with. Any story of Dad's youth is the story of his family (8/31/03 paper bitchlog: "Spent the last two nights with Dad's cousins. It is fun listening to their stories. Dad + Victor riding their bikes to Center Moriches (~ 10 miles one way) to buy chicken on sale for 25 cents/pound; Marina waking up to find Uncle Mino smoking a joint in her bedroom (she had packed some pot into a cigarette, which he sneaked into the room and stole)...)" But I don't know who he was friends with, what the dramas and triumphs of school were. Dougy the kid is a mystery.

Today I thought of two everyday memories about the 'rents:

1)Without fail, my father asked each of us at the dinner table (or while he was in an apron cooking the dinner), "How was school today?" I'll totally ask my kid that shit everyday. When they're little they'll give me the play-by-play; when they're older they'll give me a laconic "Good" and roll their eyes about how I don't "get" them.

2) When my mother chatted on the phone, she always doodled. Most of the time she sketched profiles of women, with dark eyes and great eyelashes and bobs or perms. Back then we had red pencils with a silver nubby cap at the end where an eraser typically is (where did these come from?). I thought it was funny that the person she was listening to had no idea that these little drawings were blooming on the notepad.

6.03.2010

Ads

I liked the McDonald's France ad that got Bill O'Reilly to react O'Reillyishly. I thought it was cute.

The Kia ad has captured my imagination more than any other advertisement in a while.

The new AT&T ad with the Willy Wonka song seems like it's on every time I fast-forward through a commercial break. JP said, "I think they made a mistake with that song" because the song overshadows anything else in the ad. It seems like not mentioning the brand at all, only showing the logo at the end, makes the connection to AT&T even more vague. (Then again, if we're fast-forwarding through the commercials anyway, maybe it's not important to name the brand?) I don't know: guy in a suit on a bench is a setup that seems like a financial services or insurance product. So it's this ad that's annoying me because I see it all the time, and on top of that, it always takes a while to remember what the ad is even for.