Friday, July 25, 2008

who's in your five?

the tagging continues unabated!

so, the "celebrity free pass" list. got one? you know you do. here's my five:

george clooney

so he's like 85 years old. who fucking cares. look at the man.

tom brady

my tommy is not the brightest bulb on the circuit, i know. but really? intellectual prowess is not what this exercise is about.

matt damon

the thinking woman's brad pitt. who said that...i think it i'm sorry what were we talking about again?

freddy rodriguez

gio from ugly betty. i had a serious "is it hot in here??" moment after the end of the penultimate episode last season.

matt iseman

ok this is out of left field, i know. but my love for clean house's "go-to guy" is well-documented. at least in my apartment. where jason is pretty sick of hearing about it.

honorable mentions - disqualified from actual list for being fictional characters or residing in a previous decade:

dean cain, circa 1996

i don't care what you say. this man was HOT back then. and a superhero on the tv. yes please.

daniel craig as james bond in casino royale

it's not so much daniel craig, actually, as it is him playing this character in this movie. i nearly passed out in the theater.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

they are always the same thing.

it was just past one in the afternoon, and i had conquered most of Maryland, a small slice of Delaware, the entirety of New Jersey, and the upper reaches of Manhattan. i merged onto the Taconic State Parkway and reset the trip odometer – i could cruise for 80 more miles before thinking about where to turn next.

the journey through Westchester, Dutchess, and Columbia counties, out of the city and into the midsection of New York state, has little in the way of landmark or distraction. nothing but shades of green in the height of summer – everything at full flush, a blinding monochrome of grass and weeds and leaves. i had never driven it before, but i knew it – it might sound strange, but even with no distinguishing characteristics for miles, i still could have told you where i was. i could have told you where I was headed.

i rolled up and over hills, around wide curving turns flickering in deep shade, past the exits signs for town names: Yorktown, Cold Spring, Peekskill, Fishkill.



we all have our origin stories. each of us, on our own little odyssey, each of us always racing forwards and tracing backwards simultaneously. there is no logic, no continuity in life without it, the origin story. they are at once vastly complex and stunningly simple – beginnings usually are that way. i suppose that’s because beginnings are rarely ever just a moment, but an unfolding series of moments and parts and contexts – a thing, constructed, and then set in motion.


my grandparents lived in Pawling when i was born until i was five or six – then they moved across the Massachusetts border to Great Barrington, where they lived for the next ten years until their deaths. Pawling and Great Barrington are, in a way, of the same place – the Berkshire mountains, the great stretch of hills and woods and valleys between New England and the mid-Atlantic. since i was so young, the two are largely entwined in my mind – both generative spaces, full of so many things that pierced my mind clearly, twenty years later, as i drove past the exit for Route 55.

this origin story has so many moving parts, so many slippery images – i kept seeing them out of the corner of my eye as i sped along, northward, towards the Massachusetts border. long gravel driveways, low stone walls, saint statues. stray cats. foxes in the night, shotguns. sheds. barns. carved wooden mirrors, carved wooden signs: Mostly View. snow-laden pine trees, acres of lawn and forest dulled to shimmering yellow by the setting sun. oriental rugs, basement doors, birdseed kept in big metal tins. cereal with sugar in white and blue plastic bowls. wading pools, motorized trainsets, sandboxes, back decks. bedrooms behind bathrooms, steep wooden stairs painted blue. tv carts, china cabinets, rolltop desks with metal keyholes. canvas gardening gloves, tire swings, tennis balls. creaking wooden doors, windows scraped by tree branches. mahogany. silver. ceramic. wood. alberta spruce. green, green grass.


sometimes, it seems to me, we look in the wrong direction for answers. the future, though it holds many things, usually does not reveal solutions. it just creates more questions. why is it, then, that we don’t turn around, that we don’t reach back into the past? why do we so rarely even consider it? perhaps it is too frightening to acknowledge just how much is contained there. perhaps we would rather be without knowledge than be overwhelmed by it.


and so i was moving in two directions as i passed under the sign that said “Great Barrington – 10 miles.” forwards and backwards, ahead and behind, towards both what has past and what is to come.

when i reached downtown – the intersection of route 23 and route 7 – for a moment i was disoriented. i should have known where i was, but i didn’t recognize the surroundings. i felt, to be honest, a moment of rising panic – if i’m in a place that i know, but i don’t know this place, well…where am i?

the light changed, and i turned left, where a large white house loomed on the hill. a carved wooden sign: Finnerty and Stevens funeral home. one building, but it was all i needed to gain my bearings – the town spread out in front of me in my mind’s eye, and the reality of my arrival – my re-entry – punched me in the chest as i drove down main street. the wake would start in an hour.


in the high heat of summer, the mid-afternoon light in the Berkshires has a sharp quality about it – it clarifies the edges, brings the foreground into relief. in a few hours time, the opposite effect will take hold, a golden hour blurring of the scene, but in these moments, everything is clear and present. i begin to remember it even before i stop seeing it.

which doesn’t matter, really, because here – for me – they are always the same thing.

Friday, July 18, 2008

more meme-time.

i knew this day would come. sooner or later, someone would tag me with the book meme. and i am nothing if not honorable when it comes to being meme-tagged! so, without further ado - my completion of the book meme.

(oh wait, one moment of ado - does anyone else wonder how exactly they came up with this list of "the top 100 books they've printed"? i mean, "top" in what sense? and who exactly are "they," anyway? the Big Read website does not make it easy to track down the origin of this meme's statistical claim - the whole thing seems like a front for some kind of shadowy literature syndicate to me. bent upon world domination via internet propagation. anyway. end of ado.)

"The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed."

1) Bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own blog.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Ronald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

food for thought.

i'm off to massachusetts for two days - the circumstances of the trip are essentially the opposite of ideal, but the faintest of silver linings means i'll get to spend time with some family that i haven't seen in a while. before i go, though, i wanted to share a Susan Bordo quote i stumbled across today in the comments section over at Shapely Prose. what can i say - when i read something that actually makes me say "yes!" out loud, in my office, in the middle of the day, i have the impulse to pass it along.

in my view, feminist cultural criticism is not a blueprint for the conduct of personal life (or political action, for that matter) and does not empower (or require) individuals to ‘rise above’ their culture or to become martyrs to feminist ideals. It does not tell us what to do [...] — whether to lose weight or not, wear makeup or not, lift weights or not. Its goal is edification and understanding, enhanced consciousness of the power, complexity, and systemic nature of culture, the interconnected webs of its functioning. It is up to the reader to decide how, when, and where (or whether) to put that understanding to further use, in the particular, complicated, and ever-changing context that is his or her life and no one else’s.

i love this idea. i love this kind of critical ethos. and it mirrors what a lot of other feminist bloggers that i admire have said, which is essentially that they refuse to condemn women for the choices they make in a patriarchal culture in order to survive and try to thrive. they'll condemn the culture that circumscribes those choices, the hierarchal system that bullies and intimidates and coerces and cajoles women into acting in its best interest and not their own - but women, when it comes down to it, are always just doing the best they can with what they've got. and that means different things to different people. but i'd like to think, regardless of those differences, we can all agree that MORE knowledge about the contexts in which we live, breath, think, and interact is always better than less.

anyway. that's all. now to go put that book on my DC library hold list...

Monday, July 07, 2008

you know what my problem is?

(part one of a 4,327,896 part series...)

i see ugliness everywhere. forget about seeing the beauty in all things - my inner eye often finds itself trained upon the down side, the dark side, the heartbreaking side of random arrangements, of totally inconsequential moments. and this is not surface-level ugliness - this is existential ugliness, the deep-down ugliness of life that you can only bear in short increments. that, so often, is what registers with me.

i see it on a perfectly normal day, at 4:15 in the afternoon, while standing in line at cvs to buy gum, altoids, and lollipops.

i see it where no one else is even really looking.