Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hang the DJ.

I think Daniel Handler might be one of the most overlooked writers of our time. You might know him better as Lemony Snicket, and up until a couple of years ago that was how I knew him too. I didn't hate the Lemony Snicket books, but I sure didn't love them like so many people did. And then a colleague told me I should read The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler, who, it turned out, was Lemony's alter ego. (or vice versa?) I loved The Basic Eight. It had all the themes I always look for--private school ridiculousness, intense highschool friendships, murder, psychological damage, sarcastic upscale jokes, croquet, heroines named Flannery. You really should read it. The prologue to his novel Watch Your Mouth is also required reading for all librarians: you will never think about LC Subject Headings the same way again. I think he's one of those too clever for his own good kind of writers, the kind that might stumble a little from time to time, but when they're on, they are ON, you know?

Anyway, I just stumbled on him again in Heavy Rotation, an essay collection of pieces by writers writing about the albums that have meant the most to them. Handler, God love him, writes about Savage by the Eurythmics. I could take or leave the Eurythmics (whenever I hear Here Comes The Rain Again on the radio I'm always certain, for the first eight bars, that it's actually going to be Sunglasses At Night), but the way he talks about what music can mean to you when you're young just got right into my heart:

"When you're seventeen you can drive around at midnight listening to anything and your life will change. You will quit your job or your lover, dance with someone or miss them, see someone for the first time or the last time, realize that you're not alone or you are, that you're connected or dis-, that you aren't the person you thought you were, or it turns out you are, or someone else is or nobody is or everybody, which means the world isn't fair and life isn't worthwhile or it is and it is, and all the while it's a classic or an obscurity, a gem or an embarrassment, cred or poseur, Ocean Beach or Ocean Rain, Giant Steps or Little Creatures, OK Computer, Computer World, The Freewheelin' Suzanne Vega, Achtung Baby it's Cold Outside, and then it begins to seem like a joke after all."


Heavy Rotation is totally worth a gander for a handful of lovely essays like Handler's. Also my secret writer husband Joshua Ferris talking about Ten, by Pearl Jam, because he feels exactly the same way I do (and probably the way all my friends do too): angry they sold out even though we knew they would all along, and wildly, passionately nostalgic.

Awwww, 1992 was a banner year.

Lenten rose.

For a girl raised in a deity-free liberal religious community, I've got a real thing for Christianity. I think it's kind of on par with kids who are denied sugary treats in their youth becoming total candy monsters later in life, but I have some serious Christian wannabe tendencies. Especially at this time of year, the darkest point in the calendar, Holy Week. I wrote about this last year, but I think it bears repeating. Maybe it's the masochist in me, but I love the whole idea of Lent, of giving something up and really missing it. None of this lame "oooh I'm giving up chocolate" bullshit--I think Lent should be about letting go of something that really brings you joy, like smelling the flowers, or giving yourself half an hour of solitude every morning to drink coffee and read the paper, or whatever. Not that I ever actually give these things up, but I sure admire the notion.

I used to think it was because suffering was just important, something that people should learn to do because life's just such a rotten thing and you're bound to be miserable in the end. But lately I've realized this kind of giving up is about more than just suffering--it's about acknowledging that things go away. When you give something up, you recognize that you're not always going to have it. You detach from the things that give you comfort (and the things that don't) and if you really commit to it, in the end, you find that all you have left is yourself, your choices, your life. It's not such a bad way to be.

Enough philosophizing for now. I'm reading Mommie Dearest and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Joan Crawford was a DOG, man!

Clearly I've given up intellectual content for Lent too. With that in mind, I leave you with David Brent.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Instead of reading, I've mostly just been cooking.

...and watching episodes of Parks and Recreation on the internet.

And identifying very intimately with Amy Poehler.

Here's a Tuesday Night Special.

Nearly-rotten vegetable soup (vegan friendly!)

olive oil (a few tablespoons) or butter (ditto), or both
1 celery heart (by which I mean, like, the whole thing you buy at the market, not just a stock or two), chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and minced to hell
1 container of stock (you may also want to water this whole baby down a bit)
1 head kale, chopped (Kale is very nutrient dense and under-appreciated! You will love it!)
1 tbsp. miso
random spice (I had fennel seeds on-hand, my favourite new go-to spice; I think it would also work well with basil)
2 or 3 avocados, chopped
tamari and/or salt and pepper, to taste
juice of one lemon (Actually I didn't have this, but I so wish I did, because it would've been even better with it)

Heat oil/butter and stir-fry veggies, random spice and garlic till tender. Add stock, miso and kale and bring to a boil. Simmer for ten minutes or so (longer if your dad calls and you forget about the pot on the stove). Add avocados and lemon juice and let cool. Season with tamari and salt and pepper as needed. Puree to your desired consistency (I like it with a few chunks left in). Serve and feel instantly warmed on a cold, Indian Winter kind of night. Tastes embarrassingly good with some cheese string as garnish.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Frankie Say Relax.

So, it was a pretty gorgeous today, and I ate an insanely delicious dinner at Casa Domenico, and now I am full of rare tuna and I can't sleep. My houseguest has suggested I go through my online photo albums and give him laser eyes, so he can be incognito, as he is someone who is archaically wonderful and not interested in being on The Facebook, but I'm not really much of a photoshopper. So I figured I should just relax, with this great video of Young Rival. I know I'm basically tooting my family's horn, but seriously, Young Rival has the best YouTube channel of anyone life (except maybe the random dude who posts the whole run of Freaks and Geeks in ten minute segments--sorry, I can't find him right now in my tuna addled state). enjoy.

Ghost in the Park

Aw, I can't embed it. Seriously though, click it. It's worth it.

Incidentally, does anyone remember the Frankie Say Relax reference on Friends? I really feel like that show deserves more credit.

Goodnight, children, everywhere.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I'm easily overcome these days. Here are a few of the lines I've been stuck on.

You can't eat for eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours a day--all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.

--Faulkner (always a ray of sunshine), quoted in the epigraph to Working, by Studs Terkel.

We sit there and we joke, "Wouldn't it be reat if we could just take this handful of plugs and just yank em? ... Like I said, you get so tense...If we could just pull em. Disconnect them and see what happens. You accidentally disconnect somebody, which happens quite often. You don't do it on purpose, although there are times when you feel you'd like to do it.

--Frances Swenson, Hotel Switchboard Operator, in Working, by Studs Terkel.

"He's a very charming drunk. It was somebody's birthday party up here and he had quite a bit of whiskey and he was quoting Yeats poems and he was crying."

"He was? He weeps?"

"But in the sweetest way."

--Mia Farrow and Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives by Woody Allen.


...Seriously, though, I've started reading again. Studs Terkel is blowing my work-obsessed mind. And I've nearly run out of Sex And The City reruns to borrow from the library (I think I'm a Miranda, trapped in a Carrie closet), so I think I'll turn back to fiction once I'm through Season Six. Promise.