Friday, July 22, 2011

down memory lane, the Beverly Hills 90210 edition.

Things I miss about the 90s, inspired by my catching of a summer cold on the hottest day on record (seriously) and being forced inside to watch a 90210 marathon.

But first, for context:

1. Sports montages. Montages of any kind, really. Most often accompanied by a synth-rock song you've never heard before that is usually vaguely reminiscent of Eye of the Tiger.

2. Babydoll dresses. I know these are back in vogue, but to my mind, no one pulls it off like Kelly Taylor. Incidentally, Kelly had some pretty killer style in Season 3, when she was all depressed and unsure of herself and Going Through Some Changes. Her look got sort of grungey and was so much more interesting to look at than Brenda's never-ending parade of bodysuits and men's trousers.

3. Pre-reality television Tori Spelling. Such innocence, such foolishness.

4. Plots that hinge on such life or death melodramas as "Will the deaf kid have a good time at the beach club?" and "Whose earring is this on your futon?" and "What do you MEAN, Dylan doesn't know how to use a barbecue?" HEADY TIMES!

5. Legacy keys. True story: there actually was a legacy key at my undergraduate college, back when guys and gals still lived in separate dorms the way the great Bishop John Strachan intended it and the boys passed around a years-old key to our building to let themselves in and sneak themselves past the Commissionaires. Now the whole place is co-ed, and probably guarded by retinal scans and robots. Progress.

6. Dylan McKay. I still have a crush on Luke Perry. There, I said it. I defy you to disagree. Those sideburns, that furrowed brow, the modest reserve with which he tells Brandon he's already read all the books on the senior reading list. (footage unavailable.)

7. This isn't really a thing, but for the record, I feel really sorry for Steve Sanders. I used to tell people Ian Ziering was my favourite 90210 man because it just seemed like the poor guy couldn't catch a break.

8. Pre-internet culture. These dudes spend time at the LIBRARY, man! WITHOUT LAPTOPS! They go there to SOLVE MYSTERIES and even reference visiting the periodicals department. My heart, it's so full.

9. Television writing that doesn't assume even a basic intelligence in its viewers. Plot holes so big you could drive Steve's Beemer through them.

10. Line dancing. In earnest. I'm so stoked that YouTube actually had a clip of this scene. Cut to about the 12 second mark.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer reading club.

Here's what summer is made for.

1. Reading children's books. I just cracked the spine on The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and can't believe it never found its way to me when I was younger. It's got that nerdy, puzzly, E.L. Konigsburg vibe that has rocked my world since I was about seven, and I'm pretty grateful that Mac on Veronica Mars made a reference to it to bring it into my life.

1a. Pausing to think wistfully about Veronica Mars, and how great it is.

2. Diving head first into teen books you should have read when they came out but forgot to check out because you're no longer lucky enough to work with some bitchin' teen librarians who tell you what to read all the time. First on my list: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

2a. I've had a real thing for John Green for a really long time, and that passion has not waned. If I'd discovered him as a teenager I think I'd have been so much more comfortable with my own geekiness, and also, so very much in love.

3. Folk rock road trips. I'm off to Perth to the Stewart Park Music Festival, arguably this country's best free fest. I'll be the one throwing myself at Dan Mangan and drinking pinot grigio out of a Nalgene bottle.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Resist, resist.

Some of the best moments in life spring out of resisting your first reaction to something. There's a theory in Ayurvedic medicine, the sister science of yoga, that whatever you're feeling, you should act in a way that makes you feel the opposite. I'm not doing it much justice with that bald language description, but basically, if you feel exhausted, don't take a nap--instead, go out for a walk, get your energy moving. If you feel wiggy and buzzy and over-excited, don't run it off--sit down and take some deep breaths and relax already. When I can, I try fairly earnestly to follow this directive. It works, I tell you. It works.

Case in point, last night. I got home from work and felt like I was ready to go into a cocoon. I have to admit, one of the things I hate about summer is that it seriously cramps my hermit style--how the hell can I justify burrowing under the covers and watching seventeen episodes of Arrested Development while drinking a mug of wine when the beautiful blazing sun is still high in the sky all evening? All I wanted to do was lie down, but I just couldn't justify it. Instead, I wandered over to visit a dear old friend with four dear, hilarious kids. In so doing, I was offered one of the best protracted moments I've had in weeks: After they'd all been herded like drunk kittens into their pajamas, I got to read out loud to them from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Here's what's delightful about reading out loud to kids.

1. They LISTEN. They see you holding a book and they just know something good is happening.

2. They interrupt you to observe the best things, like "How did Augustus Gloop get so fat? Even his NAME is fat."

3. If they've been raised in a certain way, they just know books as books--we were reading Charlie in a glorious vacuum devoid of movie tie-ins and product placements. A story is just a story.

4. If you're really lucky, they'll curl up right next to you and absent-mindedly play with your necklace and twist the buttons on your sundress and by the end of it all you'll emerge looking just as disheveled as they do.

5. They'll remind you of just how magical a book can be, and of how joyful you can feel just by sitting and reading and nothing more.

I tell you, it was pretty special, even for this cynical old broad. I wandered back home and pulled James and the Giant Peach off my shelf and continued my Roald Dahl love-fest. I tried to read the way I read when I was a kid, without the filters and lenses of everything I've been exposed to since. It was hard, but it was worth it. Resist, resist. Redirection is hard, but oh, the payoff is sweet.

Then I treated myself to a little floor-lyin' and Royal Wood-listenin'. I think I deserved it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How I spent my summer vacation.

I was off work last week. Following three days of birthday-related bacchanalia, I poured myself off the couch and read the following.

1. Daughters-In-Law by Joanna Trollope. If there is one thing I love, it's a good British society melodrama. Trollope's books exist in this totally unrealistic, upper class version of the UK that I absolutely adore, where the biggest problem in a woman's life is that her new mother in law didn't react appropriately when she announced her pregnancy and where people make their living drawing pictures of birds. This is my idea of a perfect beach read.

2. Bossypants by Tina Fey. Oh god, I love her. I love her so much. I can't even go down the road of quoting my favourite bits of this book, because my favourite part, to borrow a phrase from the kids in the summer reading club, was ALL OF IT.

3. The Harvard Psychedelic Club by Don Lattin. This was one of those "journalistic non-fiction"-y books where the author reimagines conversations between Timothy Leary and Huston Smith and Aldous Huxley, awkwardly. The best part of this book was the thread about how Andrew Weil basically sold Leary and his fellow Harvard researchers up the river because he was jealous of all the LSD they were doing. As a reward, the university and the government helped him procure a bunch of pot and he later got away with publishing a buttload of research about how marijuana wasn't that bad for you. This is a great book if you have a couple of hours to kill and would like to pretend to "learn about social history," or if you would like a reminder of why you should never do acid again.

I also listened to the Decemberists, a lot. They're the masters of the nursery-rhymey, folk-pop-hook-y music that I love so much.