Friday, December 22, 2006

Haiku Friday

My vacation would
be less fun if an earthquake
squished my apartment.

Goooooo, squid!

A team of Japanese researchers just released the first-ever video of a live giant squid. I am stupidly excited about this. The truth is, I love the giant squid--I mean, it's a giant squid. It's an actual sea monster, with tentacles and everything! Sixty feet long! They're not just making it up!

And anyway, how is it that something that huge lives in our oceans and we don't know about it, or even where to find it? The researchers say that there may be far more giant squid in the oceans than they previously thought, and I just hope that's true. I hope the ocean is crawling with giant squid and they're just smart enough or light-sensitive enough or just lucky enough to have eluded us this long. And even though I'm geeking out about this one, I kind of hope they're able to keep it up.

In other news: Mid-post earthquake! Not a small one, either.

ETA: It was a 3.7, the second in three days. Hmmmm.

Hallows = a clearing in the forest where they hang people?

So, the title of the final Harry Potter book has been released.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Except that "hallows" is not a noun (I checked), and "deathly" is not the same as "deadly."

Hmmmm. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I see a proper noun in our midst.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

EEEEEEEEEEE!

I didn't know until recently that the twelve days of Christmas were supposed to take place after Christmas (we Baptists aren't really into Epiphany, so it never registered). If they were before Christmas, today would be the first day, partridge-in-a-pear-tree day.

I pretend to be surprised that it's almost halfway through December, but it's not really true. I was dying for December this year. I bought Christmas cards the day after Thanksgiving--no mean feat, as I am absurdly picky about my Christmas cards--and I've been plugging away at a list of Christmas movies for Cinema Hype. I don't decorate much for Christmas and I just can't be bothered with a tree, but I'm definitely working on the mindset.

My brother likes to proclaim Christmas by listening to Amy Grant's Christmas album over breakfast (don't mock; it's a family favorite, and it rules). I always start with this record my parents have from 1966, "The Great Songs of Christmas," Vol 6. We listened to it every year until the record player stopped working, and now Ben and I are trying to re-create it on iTunes. My incomplete digital version starts with Andy Williams's rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and it's such a satisfying way to kick off the season--his voice is deep and smooth, and the song just gets better and better as it goes on ("SAID THE KING TO THE PEOPLE EVERYWHERE..."). I love it. The rest of the album varies between the fairly normal (Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand) and some stuff that I guarantee iTunes will never have as long as they claim to be cool (The New Christie Minstrels, Jan Peerce [ChristthenewbornkingNoEL!]). I like a lot of different kinds of Christmas music, but there's a right way for me to begin the season, and Andy Williams is it.

Once the music's playing, The Sound comes out. If you've ever spent any time with my family at all during December, you know where I'm going with this. I believe the whole thing started with Ramona Quimby, actually; in Ramona and her Father, Ramona makes up a "joyful noise" to express her excitement about Christmas. As a kid, I thought this was a pretty good idea, because I was pretty excited about Christmas, myself. Thus: EEEEEEE! It's loud, it's high-pitched, and I'm sure it's obnoxious, but it's what we do, and we do it more and more as Christmas approaches. It's our joyful noise.

Oh, Christmas. Welcome.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

12 of 12: December

Happy 12 of 12 to all, and to all a good night (seriously, it's barely the 12th by now)! For the uninitiated, 12 of 12 is an internet project started by TV writer (formerly of Alias fame; he's now on Crossing Jordan, I believe) Chad Darnell. On the twelfth of every month, people around the world take twelve pictures of their days and post them online. You can see my October entry here.

Getting on with it:


A rainy morning in Oakland.


The mural in progress at Lakeview Elementary School. Oakland is mural heaven--if there's a concrete surface, somebody's going to paint it. Most are representations of Lake Merritt (or Lake Merritt as New York, or Lake Merritt as Italy, or whatever), but there are others, too. I used to live right next to the overpass with giraffes on the columns.


Sticking a Netflix disc in the mail (if you must know, The West Wing Season Four, Disc Four, in which CJ's dad has Alzheimer's, President Bartlet invades Africa, Toby and Charlie get into a bar fight, and Josh tells Donna how amazing she looks).


My favorite Key mug, the People's Princess mug. I know I'm not alone when I say that I tend to hoard it.


Yoga! Those are my feet propped up against the wall. At the end of class, we lie on our backs with our feet on the walls, and it feels great.


Lunch: organic Indian food from the freezer. Peas, chickpeas, tomatoes, cheese, and rice. It looks less depressing if you put it on a plate. Really.


The Daily Show and knitting. I had essentially this same picture in October--same show, same pose, different scarf--but 20 minutes of fake-news love is what I do when I get home.


Hanging out in the magazine aisle at Safeway after going to the ATM.


Dinner at Koryo on Telegraph to celebrate my friend Luke's birthday. Korean food is the original small-plate cuisine combined with the genius of letting people pay to cook their own food. Tasty, though.


The birthday boy and me.


Caroline dealing with the meat while Steve "helps." At least he's enthusiastic.



Some quality time with Cinema Hype before bed.

Off to bed before I miss the West Coast deadline.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"At least I took the smug, blonde pretzel chick down with me."

I took my first yoga class today. There's a studio across the street from my office, and my company set up a schedule of Key-only classes during lunch and after work, just to see how it goes. Now, I consider myself a strong girl: I row three days a week for an hour and a half each, plus Dennis's crazy weight-lifting circuits before practice. I can do twenty (girl) push-ups without stopping. I'm proud of the little columns of muscle on either side of my spine. I can tell I'm going to be sore tomorrow, though. Yoga is such a different kind of exercise and such a different kind of atmosphere--crew is certainly meditative in its own way, but it's all about force and speed and grace and the wind on the back of your neck, whereas yoga is slow and still and awkward for me. It was hard. My arms and back are tired. I had fun, though, and I feel pleasantly quiet and relaxed this afternoon.

So: Yoga. Yay.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Woooo! 30,000!

You'll note that today is the last day of November, and here I am writing here. People who are finishing their novels by midnight tonight aren't writing on their blogs today, I can assure you. So that's the deal: my novel is lovely and messy and possibly interesting, but it is not 50,000 words long, or even close to it.

It's mildly upsetting to me, not finishing, but it's also a relief to not have to think about it any more. I never really settled into a rhythm--so necessary for high-volume writing--and, admittedly, there were times when I just plain blew my novel off to go to the movies or do something else. I spent a lot of my writing time on Cinema Hype, which is as it should be, but then I didn't always have the time or the brain power for 1,667 words of fiction. I feel a little like a wash-out from Top Gun, or something, but then I'm also just looking forward to the day when I can sit in front of the TV and knit or maybe write Christmas cards without experiencing novel guilt (i.e. tomorrow).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Haiku Friday and more

November has been rough on this blog; Cinema Hype and my novel (and, well, life) are keeping me plenty busy. I hate to neglect this blog, since I've grown kind of attached to it, but the rest of November may be a little sparse as well. I'll be back full-force in December.

But anyway, there's no skipping out on Haiku Friday! My Friday-night dilemma:

Housewarming party?
Or Paul Newman in The Sting
at the Paramount?

The answer: Both, maybe.

In other news, The Novel is coming along; I've fallen behind a fair bit in terms of volume, but I had a major revelation last night in the car that may well save my story and my word count. It's hard to write prolifically when your protagonist is boring, and when your plot seems so far away--there's nothing to say. I've decided that I need to use a non-linear structure, so I can cut to the chase more easily, and I also gave one of my characters a sudden sex change (my hotel maid is now a non-English-speaking handyman). I'm suddenly feeling much better about this, and planning to dig in and get some work done this weekend. 50,000 words shall be mine! I think. I hope.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Haiku Friday; Life Update

Quick, before I head off to Mount Hermon for the weekend:

It's Haiku Friday!

Days off are the bread
and butter of the writer/
procrastinator.

Also,

Current NaNo word count: 12,018, which places me a little behind, but I discovered this morning that I'm ahead of where I was on this day last year. Not bad. Week Two is the toughest week of the month--it's where most people drop out--but I think my novel is actually going to get exponentially more interesting (I hesitate to use the word "better") in the next few days. I'm still excited, though I need to find places to write that aren't on my couch, just for sanity's sake.

I had a long post about voting and Democracy planned, but I've been too busy with NaNo and Cinema Hype to actually type it out. I'd still ideally like to write it one of these days, but the gist is this: regardless of my political beliefs, I am so pleased to live in a nation where the right to change that nation is built into the infrastructure. Representative Democracy isn't the only system out there, and maybe it's not ideal for everyone, but I am proud to have cast my vote on Tuesday. More later, in my "free time." (That was a joke.)

So: Alive and kicking; just trying not to replace my brain with my laptop.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Nineteen down; 49,981 to go

Today is November 1, and I feel like writing a book. Good thing, too, since as of 12:01 this morning, it's National Novel-Writing Month, and I'm participating! By midnight on November 30, my mission is to have written a 50,000-word novel on the subject of my choice. It doesn't have to be good, and it doesn't have to really make much sense, and there can be plot-holes if I so desire, but: 50,000 words. November 30. Midnight.

I got up a few minutes early this morning and wrote a sentence, for ceremonial purposes. I couldn't handle the idea that we would be nearly a whole day into NaNoWriMo--I've seriously been looking forward to this since, like, January--and I would have a word count of zero. So I opened a new file on my laptop, typed 19 words, saved the file, and shut down. I feel so much better, though. Staring at my blank screen for an hour is not on my schedule for this evening. Also, only 1,648 words to go before I meet today's word quota!

I did this last year, and finished ("won," in NaNo terminology). Just so you all know, 50,000 words is a lot of words. It translates to a total of about 175 pages, or 1,667 words per day, if you try to cram them all into one month. It's one of those things that not only sounds crazy, it is crazy. But at the end, you have a novel, or a draft of a novel, or at least something you can say that you worked really hard on.

And anyway, it's fun, in its own mildly masochistic kind of way. I get to hang out in cafes with my laptop, get together with other NaNoers for write-ins, tell people I'm "working on my novel," and....well, I get to write. Because I really do love to write, and much of the time, the hardest part is just sitting down and doing it. Having a ridiculous, temporary challenge just lights a fire under me. I even have a few friends who are participating this year (including my office-mate, which means our cube is going to be a beacon of joy and philanthropy by the end of the month). It's exciting.

I'm sure this won't be my last post on this topic, either moaning about or doing the happy dance when I'm done. Anyway, I'm gonna go write now.

Boo!

Halloween: Check.

I dressed up as Betty Crocker--that's a homemade pumpkin-praline cake, half-eaten, that I'm holding--which was actually just kind of an excuse to wear a crinoline and heels and pearls for a day, and also to say "crinoline" as often as possible:



Honestly, my favorite part of Halloween is handing out candy, but living in a locked apartment building as I do, that's not part of my routine these days. Instead, I went to choir practice and then to Heather and Erik's house on Treasure Island to hang out and eat homemade applesauce while Erik set out flaming jack-o-lanterns (courtesy of rolls of toilet paper dipped in kerosene). His level of comfort around flaming/exploding things is admirable, or nerve-wracking, or both.

Also, as a kid, did anyone else's teachers tell them not to eat apples from trick-or-treating, because they might have razor blades in them? Apparently, there's never been a documented case of someone giving razor blade-spiked apples to children. However, as far as I can tell, the myth persists (not that it's a good idea to eat non-wrapped trick-or-treat food anyway, but who gives apples to trick-or-treaters anyway?). What a strange idea to put into kids' heads.

And now...it's November! Where did that come from? Scarf weather and pumpkin food and a couple of holidays coming up: all good things. And yet, I'm not ready.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Haiku Friday

New favorite word,
not sounding like its meaning.
Dainty "crinoline."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kate Atkinson

I went last night to Diesel and heard Kate Atkinson read from her new novel, One Good Turn. Atkinson is the author of what is probably my favorite novel of all time, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which I picked randomly off the shelf of the Benicia Library just before I graduated from high school. It's one of those books where I knew from the first line ("I exist!") that we were meant to be 2getha 4eva, and it's still true--I love Atkinson's quirky, British prose; I love her characters, who are lovable but to whom you know only bad things can come; I love that she drops a trail of bread crumbs toward a surprise ending, and I never even noticed the first time around.

I can't actually say that she's one of my favorite writers, or at least not consistently so. Her prose is always faultless, but most of her books from the late 90s are just varying degrees of strange. I almost broke up with her over Emotionally Weird, which might as well just be called "Weird," and which doesn't have enough other winning qualities to make it even remotely recommendable. She's wormed her way back into my heart lately, though, with a collection of short stories (Not the End of the World) and her last novel, Case Histories, which seems to be her best-known book so far. We have a tumultuous relationship, Kate and I.

She was lovely last night, though. There is practically nothing that is more inspiring to me than hearing writers talk about writing, and she was properly writer-ish: charming, self-deprecating, and willing to admit to total disorganization. She made it sound so easy, like she just sits down every morning and the story tells itself. She said she never plans her novels out before she writes them, which is anathema to my obsessive little heart, but wouldn't it be nice? And I'm sure there's more to it than that--I'm thinking here of whatever pain and suffering her editors go through--but she did sort of make me wonder whether I'm not on the wrong end of the author/editor relationship. Something to think about. In the mean time, I think I might go back and re-read Case Histories.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ex libris

Why doesn't anybody use bookplates anymore? I mean, I realize that it's perfectly fine to write your name in the front cover of a book, and call it good. But isn't it so much cooler to have something pretty and personalized to paste into the cover? There's something beautiful and exotic about the words ex libris. And any opportunity to use stationery is a good opportunity, I say. I found this website devoted to the bookplates of famous people, because apparently famous people used to have bookplates. So many devil-related ones! What are they trying to imply, here?

Anyway: cool. Bookplates.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bring me the finest tamales in the land!

There are many things I cherish about living in California--In-N-Out, the beach, fog, perfect weather 300 days a year, the color of the hills in August--but one of the benefits of California living about which I'm most vocal is the taqueria/taco truck. What do people do, exactly, who don't have constant access to authentic Mexican food? Now, I'm a little picky (okay, a lot picky) about meat in general, so it's not like I'm even partaking of tongue tacos, but I have a strong belief in the right of all human beings to have good carnitas, or even just solid bean/rice burritos, and I can't help but think that people living in taqueria-less regions aren't quite living full lives.

Which is why I was so utterly excited to see that an elusive legend has returned: TacoTrucks.net, a website listing and rating Oakland taco trucks. It's been offline for quite awhile, much to the dismay of my coworkers and I. The new version isn't quite firing on all cylinders--it only deals with East Oakland and Fruitvale right now--but we're hoping it'll be including our neck of the woods soon. And, actually, the current incarnation may be helpful, since the best Mexican food in Oakland is obviously in Fruitvale, where I never, ever go. Maybe I'll take an exploratory trip down there and come back with something tasty (especially since Day of the Dead is coming up. Wooo, pink-sugar bread!) Welcome back, taco trucks!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Seeing me

I got contacts last week. I went to Kaiser, and a not-very-patient eye doctor (Dr. Augustine from last Friday's haiku) stuck his fingers in my eyes to put the lenses in and then looked on in exasperation as I tried in vain to stick my own fingers in my eyes to get them out. The implication was that everyone else is just picks them out on the first try, blink reflex or no, which I'm fairly certain isn't the case. Trauma. Also, mascara everywhere.

I'm getting better, though. The key to putting them in, it seems, is not letting them turn inside out on my fingertip. And I just need to get a handle on the "reach in, slide, and pinch" motion, and I'll be picking them out like it's nothing.

It's strange to not wear my glasses. I feel exposed without them, and like I'm missing something--when I got in the car to leave Kaiser, I reached over to grab them and put them on before I realized I didn't need them to drive. Since I've always had heavy frames of the 50s-nerd variety, I worry a little that people won't recognize me without them, and my cousin told me yesterday that I'm harder to pick out of a crowd now. I plan to wear them some days, just because I like them, and because my new frames are blue and orange, and I don't want to let that go to waste. They're me, covered up a little; this is me, out there for everyone to see.

What's strangest and most disturbing to me about my naked face, I think, is how much I look like myself as a baby. There's a certain picture I'm thinking of--I'm maybe seven or eight months, and I'm wearing pink, and I'm kind of gnawing on this doll (it's a really attractive photo, as you can probably imagine). And when I look in the mirror, I see that my ears are crooked and my eyebrows are the same as they were then--I don't know why I thought I'd look different, but I think my glasses gave me the illusion of symmetry. It's especially noticeable when my hair is pulled back, and now I have ample reason never to shave my head. Apparently, I...look like myself. Who knew?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Just what the world needs

As if I didn't prattle on enough, some crazy editor hired me to write a movie blog. As of today, you can find me at http://www.cinemahype.com for all things film-geek. By way of shameless plugging, I'll add it to my sidebar and possibly send out an obnoxious e-mail or two.

Haiku Friday

"Dr. Augustine"
sure does make an excellent
super-villain name.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

12 of 12: October

Happy 12 of 12 Day! For the uninitiated, 12 of 12 is an internet project started by TV writer (formerly of Alias fame; he's now on Crossing Jordan, I believe) Chad Darnell. On the twelfth of every month, people around the world take twelve pictures of their day and post them online.

Slightly self-absorbed in that extra-special bloggish way? Probably. Kind of addictive (to participate and to look at others' entries)? Yes.

So without further ado, a photo essay of my October 12:



Charming.



I had a 9:30 doctor's appointment this morning, which gave me time for possibly the best morning ritual ever: reading in bed.



Revelation and Frosted Mini Wheats: plenty of fiber and a healthy dose of apocalyptic symbolism. Breakfast of champions.



9:30, Optical Sales, Kaiser Oakland.



Look! No glasses!



Squash, leek, and pesto pizza; also, a discussion of silly regional pronunciations. (Note to Christine: The other one was worse. Really.)



Bask in the glamor of algebra manuscript!



My genuine Louisiana alligator, brought back by my editor from her native Baton Rouge. It's sitting on a model box from the origami book I edited.



The perfect post-work moment: knitting with my Jewish fake-news boyfriend.



The sidewalk-sale table at Walden Pond books.



On the scale at Weight Watchers. I am officially .4 pounds lighter than I was last Thursday.



Sunset from my living room.

Next month: 12 of 12, the November edition! Same bat time, same bat channel. If I don't forget, that is.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Movie review: The Science of Sleep

As titles go, The Science of Sleep is kind of a misnomer. It sounds like a documentary, or maybe a slightly dry family drama. Instead, it should be called The Most Charming Movie in the World, or more accurately, Le Film Plus Charmant du Monde. It's a French thing, I think--obviously, there are plenty of dark, gritty French films, but when they put their minds to being sweet and kooky, they've really got it down to, well, a science.

The ads for The Science of Sleep say that it's from the makers of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, though I'm not exactly sure how that works--it isn't a Charlie Kaufman movie, and anyway, it was made in France (though part of it is in English). There are certain similarities, mainly a preoccupation with the workings of the human brain, but The Science of Sleep is less complex, less strange in a lot of ways, and less of a comment on human relationships in general. It's probably not as good a movie, actually, if we're going by the technical standards of good moviedom. The thing is, though, that the technical standards don't really matter here--even if it's a little lighter, TSoS is a movie you want to watch. It's lovable. It's funny and friendly, and the characters are complex, but they're people you want to hang out with. The whole thing turns out more like Amelie than Eternal Sunshine, I think. And for that, it gets many, many points.

The basic story of The Science of Sleep is that of a Mexican expat living in Paris, of his dreams and his relationship with the woman living next door. It's about growing up and taking responsibility for yourself, with forays into self-doubt, arts and crafts, disappointment, silly gifts, passive-aggressive behavior, crushes, forgiveness, and--of course--the subconscious. There is also a stuffed horse involved. The utterly adorable Gael Garcia Bernal stars, and shows that he can actually act while also looking nice onscreen. The dream sequences are spot-on in capturing the weird balance of changeability, familiarity, and nonsense we find in our dreams, and the dream/reality set-up is surprisingly easy to follow. It all comes together to make a sweet, slightly silly, slightly sad, and just generally extremely charming movie.

I say: go see it. You'll like it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Welcome to Key; here's your tux.

I was crossing the street on my way to work yesterday morning, and my company's CFO caught up with me in the crosswalk. I could tell he was trying not to stare at me as we walked along, and failing miserably. Finally, he said, "Um, you...don't usually wear a lot of dresses."

I was wearing a mango-colored bridesmaid's dress at the time. And heels. Can't forget the heels. Because it was Friday, and what is there to do on Friday besides wear your fanciest clothes and revel in the half-ironic humor of looking good while trying to mark up manuscript? Welcome to Formal Friday, a departmental dress-up holiday wherein anybody who feels inclined decides on the meaning of "formal" and dresses accordingly, and tries to squeeze some work in on the side. You'd be amazed at how much time you can kill just because everyone's wearing tall shoes.

The idea for Formal Friday came about during lunch a few months ago, as we watched people in line at a local deli and gloated over our own lack of a dress code. Wearing jeans and Converse low-tops every day isn't a bad way to go, in my opinion. But there's also a certain allure that comes with dressing up--a feeling of adultness, of efficiency, of actually getting things done just because you look the part; plus, there's a whole universe of pretty clothes available to the dressers-up of the world. So we decided to take casual Friday and turn it inside out, just to see what it looks like to, as one person put it, "dress like adults." Also, as we found, "formal" is a relative term--business dress sounded like fun until we realized that none of us actually own any dressy business clothes. Hence the liberal definition of "formal."

So out came the tea-length, strapless number from this summer, paired with heels and my favorite $40 Target cashmere cardigan. Other people wore cocktail dresses, evening gowns, business suits, pearls, fishnet stockings, top hats, suspenders...all the things we love but never get to wear. Our dressing up--i.e. not wearing jeans, Hawaiian shirts, or sneakers--was such a historic event that HR came and took pictures (though that may also have something to do with the HR director's quest to have a viable newsletter). It was like Halloween, except everyone had the same costume idea.

And then there was the food: if you're dressed up, what better way to spend lunch than marching around the corner, past the hookers on San Pablo Ave., to McDonald's? After all, it's Monopoly season, which is...a terrible reason to eat at McDonald's. But I had chicken McNuggets, my first in nearly a decade, and I gave my game pieces to two of my coworkers, who are pooling their pieces so they can win $5,000,000 and not have to be EAs anymore, I think.

After work we all trooped over to Trader Vic's, which apparently is a world-renowned chain of tiki bars--they claim to have invented the mai-tai, and I have no reason to doubt them--that is inexplicably based at the Emeryville Marina. Apparently, it was quite the hot spot in the 50s. Now all of the same people still go there, and we joined them for mayonnaise-y crab rangoon and weird sliced pork and fruity drinks, along with a healthy dose of obnoxious hipster irony (well, that might have been just us). A good time was had by all.

And I have to say that, after 12 hours of boning and organza and chilly toes and a wrap that wouldn't stay wrapped, I had never been so happy to see my pajamas. Here's to Formal Friday and Casual Monday through Thursday!

Haiku Friday

Nothing says "classy"
like fruity drinks at the old
people's tiki bar.

Monday, October 02, 2006

If you can't see the camera...you probably don't have your glasses on.

I went to the optometrist last week for my first eye check-up in ages. Everything's fine--my prescription got worse, to absolutely nobody's surprise, but I don't have glaucoma or macular degeneration, or anything. What I do have is a carbon-copied slip of paper with my new prescription printed on it. And that means one of my favorite sartorial pastimes ever: shopping for new glasses.

I love shopping for glasses. This time, I'm getting contacts, so I probably won't even be wearing my new glasses in public all the time. But what other accessory is so much a part of my identity? They're on my face constantly. I'm a little afraid that people I don't know well won't recognize me with contacts, just because they associate me with my square black nerd glasses. And what else can be so flattering while having practically nothing to do with fit? Shape, yes. But my glasses don't care if I've gained five pounds, and I can't say the same for my favorite "I Heart Jake Ryan" t-shirt. The right pair of glasses is all potential with few caveats.

Which is not to say that hitting up LensCrafters is easy. Shopping for glasses alone is no mean feat. For one thing, I can't see. Compared to a lot of people, my vision isn't so terrible (I once went glasses-shopping with a friend who literally couldn't see her reflection in the mirror without her real glasses on; she needed me there to tell her what she looked like), but without my trusty glasses on, there's a fair amount of squinting and invading the mirror's space. It's a cycle: see a promising pair of frames, hook real glasses into belt loop, try on promising pair, get really close to the mirror, take off promising pair, put real glasses back on, put promising pair back where they came from. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I spent a few hours on College Avenue this weekend, checking out the string of eyewear stores between Zachary's and the library--it turns out that Rockridge is like the Garment District or the Meatpacking District, except that they have optometrists instead (and are in Oakland and not New York. So maybe not so much like either of those places.). First lesson learned: red glasses, while alluring on the shelf, are not it for the fair-skinned and green-eyed among us. Second lesson learned: it's a fine line between "charmingly retro" and "Dame Edna." By far my favorite glasses store along Optical Alley was Phoenix Eyewear, which has thousands upon thousands of pairs of vintage eyeglass frames, organized by shape and color. I tried on practically as many pairs as they had on display. They were bold and wing-y, the kind favored by Lauren Winner and old ladies in Far Side cartoons, the kind that look like a giant butterfly has landed on your face. They were awesome--my favorite pair was lavender with a few very tasteful rhinestones on the edges. Sadly, they were also supremely unflattering. Apparently the 1960s and their slanty, feline eyewear would not have been kind to me. It wasn't meant to be.

I still haven't found the right pair, though I tried on some good possibilities at Kaiser last week. I'll need to go back, and maybe bring a friend for common-sense patrol. There will be squinting and unabashed vanity. But soon I will be clear-eyed, both able to see myself in the mirror and apt to like what I see there.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Raise a fist for boot-cuts!

Today over her roast-beef sandwich at Ruby's--because some days, the Key kitchen is just too much--Heather brought up a point that I thought pretty much summed up the cultural consciousness of 2006.

"Can't we just have some new fashions?" she asked. "Please?"

We were staring semi-unabashedly at a woman waiting in line. She was wearing tight, dark-wash legging-jeans and little black ankle boots, and pretty much looked like Vogue had planted her there just to prove to the skeptical masses that yes, actual people do wear skinny jeans. And the masses, they are skeptical. There are three groups of people who are in favor of the skinny jeans, as far as I can tell: the fashion-magazine industry, who ought to know better; the under-eighteen set, who weren't alive the last time we went through this, and therefore aren't responsible for their actions; and Gap, Inc., who were smart enough to capitalize on the ignorant folly of the youth market. Everyone else? Horrified.

Obviously, fashion cycles aren't new. Clothes come in and out all the time. I know this. What boggles the mind about the return of skinny jeans--and 80s redux in general--is that they're so recent and so universally despised, and yet somebody made the decision to bring them back. The 80s aren't vintage; they're not old enough, and certainly not flattering enough, to merit going back to now. Nobody looks in the mirror and says, "I really loved the way my hips looked in those stirrup pants from 1988. Man, we looked cute. Those were the days." People make fashion references to the 80s because they're funny. It's a comment on the ridiculousness of people and the total lack of common sense that goes into fashion. The problem is that someone with way too much influence failed to get the joke, and now here we are, Molly Ringwald-ing it up. Either that, or that person's sitting in a Fifth Avenue office, cracking his or her classy, boot-cut-wearing self up at our expense.

There's nothing like an ugly fashion trend to make a person feel helpless. It's like a tidal wave of bad clothing--you can see it coming from miles away, but you're powerless to stop it. At first, I thought the skinny jeans might be a high-fashion flash in the pan, like ponchos: we'd see them in magazines, a few fashion-forward adolescents would buy them, the rest would end up on the big clearance rack in the sky, and we'd all go on our boot-cut way. I still think it's the pre-driving set who are mostly wearing them (tucked into their Uggs, of course), but I'm beginning to see the inevitability of a tapered future. Slowly, flared jeans will disappear from stores, until only Land's End sells them, and we'll begin to second-guess ourselves. Stacy and Clinton will mock us in the 360-degree mirror, and we'll be ashamed. We'll wonder vaguely why our bodies used to look so balanced and attractive, but we won't be able to place the reason. It's what happens. We get swept up. All we can hope for is an even faster "retro" cycle to take over.

For now, I'm staging my own little resistance movement. I bought a couple of pairs of flared jeans recently, and I wear them with an air of rebellion, I think (also with Converse sneakers). I thought of starting a rallying place on the web--stopskinnyjeans.com--but decided it was a bit of a one-note tune. Eventually, maybe the horror will fade, but for now I'm just trying to be a one-woman army for cute pants. So remember: friends don't let friends wear skinny jeans.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Cricket in Lakeside Park

I heard a sound tonight that I haven't heard in quite some time. My crew team recently moved from its rat-cave boathouse on Lakeside Drive to temporary housing at the Sailboat House, over in the park by Children's Fairyland. We were just docking after our workout, and I heard crickets in the trees! I didn't know we had crickets in Oakland. It's too chilly here, too foggy, too noisy, too everything. But there they were, like it's summer and I'm eight years old.

Crew these days is as close to perfect as it gets. We're in that precious window between the summer windy season and the long, dark night of the soul called "October through April"--the water is flat and silver, the sun is just setting, the clouds are pink, and the birds scatter in front of us as we row. Our coach has decided that we should enter some long-distance races later in the fall, which means lots of 5-k pieces for us. We row for half an hour without stopping, and it's just us out on the water with the rush of the boat through the water, the thunk of the oars squaring and feathering, and the guys on the shore playing the bongos in the stillness of the twilight. After awhile, we relax into the cadence of the boat, and everyone gets a little bit better balanced, a little swingier, a little stretchier in all the right places. It's good, and it makes me feel placid and pliant afterwards. I'll need to remember these evenings when it's January and forty degrees out, and I'd rather stay on the couch with a book. Because winter will be here soon enough; I guarantee it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

What I'm Watching

I cleaned out my Tivo last night in preparation for the new TV season; for the first time since college, I'm planning on watching new shows from the beginning. Usually, I see which shows have good first seasons and pick them up in reruns or on DVD, but this year (with the death of Alias, really), I decided to take my chances with some new material. This season seems like an especially strong one, with lots of potentially good new shows and the continuations of a few that are already staples. I've divided my preliminary schedule into three parts, ranked by importance. Here's what I'll be tuning into, and what I recommend:

Definites (Automatic TiVo Season Pass):

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; premieres tonight, September 18, 10:00 on NBC
If this show isn't the best thing to hit network television this millennium, then something has gone terribly, tragically wrong with the American television machine in general. First, there's the writing pedigree: it was created by Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme, who made the first four seasons of The West Wing essentially flawless. And then there's the cast, which I can only imagine must have cost more than the GDP of a small country: Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford and Timothy Busfield (The West Wing's Josh Lyman and Danny Concannon, respectively), Amanda Peet, Steven Weber, Evan Handler (Harry on Sex and the City), Nate Corddry...the list goes on and on. It's like a perfect storm for television awesomeness.

Gilmore Girls; premieres September 26, 8:00 on The CW
Going into the seventh and possibly final season of Gilmore Girls, I'm not sure what to expect (not that it matters that much, honestly; I'm a Gilmore girl to the end). The original writing team of Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino quit at the end of last season and left the new show-runner, David Rosenthal, with a plot point that's practically impossible to salvage--Luke refusing to elope with Lorelai, and Lorelai subsequently ending up in bed with the dreaded Christopher. Aside from the process of following that plot line, there's also the question of tone: Will the Gilmores be the Gilmores without Amy S-P in their heads? All that aside, what I'd like to see this season--what the writers will do, if they know what's good for them--is a return to the roots of the show. I want to see more of Lorelai and Rory together, more of the Elder Gilmores, more obscure music, more of everything that makes Stars Hollow a good place to spend Tuesday night. Here's to hoping.

The Office; premieres September 21, 8:30 on NBC
I'm not really a sitcom kind of girl, but then, The Office isn't really a regular sitcom. I mean, it's technically a situation comedy, but there's only one camera and no laugh track, and the storytelling is pretty subtle. Also, it feeds off of despair, disappointment, heartbreak, and general malaise in a way that Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond just never did (all while being completely hilarious and just a little bit sweet, of course). The Daily Show's Ed Helms is joining the cast, and I can't even comprehend what kind of character he'll play, but it doesn't really matter--before anything else happens, I want to know what happens to Jim and Pam. And then we can move on to everybody else.

Maybes (Watch Five Episodes and See):

Six Degrees; premieres September 21, 10:00 on ABC
The only reason I'm checking this out is because of a promise I made to myself last year: having missed both Alias and Lost in real time, I swore I would watch J.J. Abrams's next new show from the beginning. This one's about a group of New Yorkers who don't know each other, but whose lives are profoundly affected by each other's actions. I'm not sure how much I care, in theory, except I totally do, because I read something about one of the characters having a deep, dark secret, and...I can't stop with the J.J., even though he always leaves us all brokenhearted in a ditch somewhere (or, to be more precise, in an alleyway in Hong Kong, J.J.) after a season or two. It's a sickness.

Brothers and Sisters; premieres September 24, 10:00 on ABC
This is perhaps the least likely to make it through the season, or maybe just to keep my attention, but I think I'm going to give it a shot anyway. After Alias wrapped up, Ken Olin moved on to this show, a drama about a group of grown siblings. Mostly I'm interested because of residual loyalty to Ken Olin (he's no J.J., but he did what he could) and because he retained half the former Alias cast (Ron Rifkin, Balthasar Getty, Patricia Wettig) and because the playwright Jon Robin Baitz is head writer, which I think is an interesting choice. This is also the triumphant (?) return of Calista Flockhart to TV, which doesn't rub me one way or the other, but it's sort of worth mentioning anyway.

Definite Maybe (Turn on the TV and See What Happens):

Veronica Mars; premieres September 26, 9:00 on The CW
I would have been perfectly able to ignore Veronica Mars if it had stayed put on the TV wasteland that was UPN, but the CW merger deal has placed it after Gilmore Girls, right where I'm bound to see the ads and get sucked in to its third season. In a way, I don't mind: Veronica Mars is an excellent, excellent show, one that deserves a great spot in the schedule, and I predict that its ratings will skyrocket once people have actually heard of it. It's also a great match for the Gilmores, in that it's a slightly more mature show with a precocious and sassy teenage heroine, as well as a plot that won't quit. On the other hand, I've previously been happy watching Veronica on DVD, and it's not really a show that's conducive to occasional watching. So I'm going to have to make a decision. I suspect that I'll turn on the Gilmores on the 26th, and see whether the ads for Veronica grab me. We'll let the promo department choose.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Movie review: The Last Kiss

Before I say anything about The Last Kiss, I need to be clear about three things. First, I'm an unapologetic Zach Braff fan. Second, Garden State is not the anthem of my generation. Third, I went into TLK totally blind in terms of genre, plot, and reviews. Actually, for a movie that I knew absolutely nothing about, it started out with a lot of baggage: essentially, my affection for Zach Braff compared with an inability to see his current movie without comparing it to Garden State (which, frankly, is the movie's fault, as it's kind of Garden State II). Sadly, The Last Kiss came out on the losing end of that deal.

I'm happy to report that the problem with this movie doesn't lie with Zach Braff himself, although I'm wondering what he'll do when he outgrows the adorkable-hipster vibe, since he's not actually getting any younger. He's surprisingly awkward in the role of discontented everyman (also known as Andrew Largeman: The Later Years), but he actually gets more genuine as the movie requires more of him, and he manages not to wilt when Jacinda Barrett comes at him like a spider monkey (TM Talladega Nights) in a couple of different scenes. His character does boring, predictable bad things, and Braff carries them off well, because he's pretty good at being screwed up in a really average way. In short, he does his job, even when it's unappealing. So it's not really a casting issue.

The problem with this movie is the movie itself, especially the total lack of real characters. There are a lot of them--the plot loosely revolves around four friends and some of their loved ones in various states of relational disrepair--but practically nobody has anything truly genuine or interesting going on, and it all ends up kind of muddled and not a little depressing. Things would have been better with fewer peripheral characters and a little more focus on the people who actually matter to the plot--eliminate the oversexed long-haired guy, for example, and spend more time with Jacinda Barrett, to show that she has some kind of personality--but as it is, it's just a little blurry and hard to follow, and it's hard to care very much.

The other, more specified problem here is Rachel Bilson's "character," Kim. In theory, we're supposed to find her artsy and intriguing. I know this because she's wearing black eyeliner. In reality, she's supremely obnoxious and un-self-aware to the point of unbelievability, and I found myself trying to decide whether she would be the hero or the villain of the movie--not in a "Wow, that's really complex and interesting" kind of way, but in an "I don't know where you're going with this" kind of way. The script fails the character of Kim by giving her no actual characteristics except her youth, which is expressed though utter thoughtlessness and nothing else. It fails the audience because we have to watch her: any role that can make Rachel Bilson unappealing is either really good or impressively bad, and I'll let you guess which one we're going with this time.

There are a few good things mixed in, here. I sort of liked the ending scene. Casey Affleck grew up cute, apparently, and does a good job. Blythe Danner sweeps around in the same flowy linen pants she wears in every movie these days, but she's reliable enough (though her relationship with her onscreen husband doesn't make much sense). There are a couple of good comedic moments, and the possibility of a good soundtrack, and some crazy driving in a Prius. If you're looking for twenty-something angst, though, you're probably better off watching Garden State, and I can't believe I'm saying so.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Haiku Friday

The sun is shining;
maybe I shouldn't have dressed
for Arctic winter.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Frosty cold...something

Proof of my active inner life, or something: on the way out of work this afternoon, I saw a man carrying a cooler. My first thought? "I wonder what kind of organs he's carrying?"

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New old books

There are two kinds of people in this world (besides those who divide the world into two parts and those who don't): book borrowers and book buyers. I am a book borrower. People who have seen my book collection may take issue with this statement, but I tend not to acquire that many books permanently. At least, not as many as I could, given my literary appetite and my inability to resist pretty cover art. It's partially a financial thing--why buy the milk when I can have the cow for three weeks for free?--and partially the fact that I'm picky about what books I claim as my own. I don't want to buy something, read it, decide it's mediocre, and have it sitting on my shelf for all eternity, (She's Come Undone, I'm looking at you).*

But yesterday, armed with a gift card that I don't quite remember receiving, I marched into Borders and came out with two paperbacks that I am happy to add to my permanent collection.

I suspect that Julie Powell's Julie and Julia is going to be my favorite book of 2006 (well, except for Middlemarch, but that's kind of an unfair comparison, it seems to me). I picked it up this past spring as some light reading, and it's been haunting me ever since. Just before her 30th birthday and feeling slightly miserable, Julie Powell decided on a whim to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, and to keep a blog about her experiences; J&J is the result of that project. After I finished the book, I found myself looking for more good food writing. But upon further thought, I've decided that it's not the food that charmed me (there's an entire chapter on aspic, or objects encased in savory jell-o); it's Julie herself. She's hilarious and neurotic--and not always in a charming way--and slightly unhinged in a way that doesn't often come out in the whole-wheat, whole-foods world of food writing. When she just can't hack Julia and her marrow-sauce-making ways, Julie watches The West Wing and eats Domino's pizza with bacon and jalapenos instead. In short, she's someone I would probably hang out with. I realized recently that instead of searching the library for something to fill the void, maybe I should just suck it up and buy a copy, and re-read it to my heart's content. So I did. Yesterday, I found myself reading at red lights on the way home from the bookstore, and I realized that I haven't done that in awhile--since the first time I read J&J, I think. That's a good sign. It's nice to have her back.

Also, in a satisfying instance of writerly worlds colliding, I turned my copy over to read the back-cover blurb (this is what publishing geeks do), and found an endorsement by Lauren Winner, the author of my favorite book from last year. It seems that Winner--a Christian, a writer, and sometimes a Christian writer--reviewed J&J for the Washington Post and loved it just as much as I did. I must be moving in a small literary circle, but at least everyone I read gets along, I guess.

I also bought a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, which I haven't read since the ninth grade, but it was the first school book I ever stayed up late to finish. There's also the persistent rumor that it was partially or wholly ghostwritten by Truman Capote--since, clearly, a woman in 1950s couldn't possibly have written a single outstanding novel and nothing else. So I'm partly reading as a little sign of solidarity with Harper Lee, linking elbows with her against the second-guessers (also, I ask: Did Truman Capote have the kind of heart that came up with To Kill A Mockingbird?). Bonus for me, it's a really pretty copy, one that will probably look dated in fifteen years, but for now it's just kind of iconic and artsy, with rough-cut pages. I love it.

Mmmm, new old books.

*I make an exception for classics, which I acquire with abandon, usually in used paperback editions that find their final home with me. I figure that if people are still reading them, they can't be total dreck, right?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years ago today

I wasn't going to write anything about September 11. Honestly--and it feels strangely traitorous to say so--I'm not sure I have much to say. I wasn't in New York that day; I didn't lose anybody, or even miss class, if I recall correctly. I watched endless loops of news footage with my housemates, and skipped out on an evening prayer meeting to walk to 7-11 for Slurpees with Al and Kirticia, just to get out for awhile. Most of my thoughts about September 11--I don't like the term "9/11"--deal with the politics of the event and the events that followed, and not with sacrifice or heroism, and that's not really what anniversaries are for, so I was going to keep it to myself.

But I am an American, even if I'd rather not think about it sometimes. What happened that day happened to me, and it affects me, five years later and three thousand miles away, and what better way to commemorate the event than to use the voice I've been given? And so here I am, a terrorism victim by association, speaking up just for the sake of speaking up. I tried to use this anniversary to do what anniversaries are for: I tried to remember, and to celebrate, in my own small ways, my Americanness. I went to work, and thought about all of the reasons that September 11 isn't, and shouldn't be, a day off. I prayed without harassment. I turned on Sufjan Stevens and listened as he sang about the Midwest, and I used a gift card to buy a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, which strikes me as a particularly American novel. I told myself the story of my September 11, which isn't the same as anybody else's September 11, but it's a story, all the same. I remembered in small, silent ways, and nobody else brought it up.

I don't have more to say, really. I just wanted to say something.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Haiku Friday

Week floats away, gone
under the bridge like a long
Pooh-sticks tournament.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Take it, take another little pizza my heart now baby

I've had a busy summer. There have been weddings and camping trips and long, light evenings out of the house, and it's been fun. But now Labor Day has come and gone, and I've had a realization: my kitchen has missed me. I used to be good about cooking. I liked to cook. I had recipes and shopping skills, and I actually had fresh things in the house, and I usually had a week's worth of dinners planned at a time. But then I got busy, and I joined Weight Watchers, which makes cooking a little complicated, and suddenly I haven't made anything from scratch in ages. That's going to change. I'm taking back my kitchen.

After work today, I took a walk by the lake and made a lap through Albertson's (Travesty! I can't stand Albertson's. But it's there, so...), and decided to make myself a pizza. From scratch. With yeast and honey and flour, and the rising and the punching down. Simple food. Easy, yes?

For one thing, pizza-making is practically in my blood. My family made pizza from scratch every Sunday night when I was a kid. I spent hours upon hours perched on the bar stool in the kitchen, watching as my mom made the dough, my brother mixed the sauce, and my dad grated the cheese and chopped the green onions, black olives, and salami. I got to help arrange everything on the spread-out pizza (this was before they allowed me to handle knives, which was maybe for the best). I learned at a young age that it's very important to have all of your half-moons of salami facing the same direction. But I'm not anal, or anything.

And it's not like I've never had a relationship with bread. I left home two days after high school graduation and spent the summer working in the Mount Hermon bakery. In ten weeks, I baked countless loaves of bread: white bread, wheat bread, communion bread, cheese bread, onion bread, breadsticks; we even made challah once, if I recall correctly. I measured, mixed, cut, and fought with Carrie to (literally) throw the dough through the loaf-maker. I know my way around dough.

Which is why it was so surprising to find myself standing at my kitchen counter this evening, hands thick with pizza dough and attracting every non-flour item in the room, as I scooped what must have been eight cups of additional flour into the dough I'd made following the recipe. I swear, this dough ate flour. I never did get it quite to that springy, non-sticky stage, but it was close-ish when I dumped it into an oiled bowl to rise. That was an hour ago. It's going to be awhile before I actually get any pizza out of this deal, I think, as it has to rise again post-punching.

But it will be the best pizza ever (mushroom and heirloom tomato with herbed jack cheese), and I will have made it in my own kitchen from my own ingredients, and that's what counts. In the mean time, just...pass the crackers, please. I'm hungry.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Five Things About This Blog

1. This blog was a birthday present to me, from me. Well, it was free, but you know. It's the thought that counts. (I also gave myself a pair of shoes, which were...not free.)

2. Anybody who knows my brother may be familiar with his e-mail dispatches from around the world. The intent of this blog is similar--keeping friends and family updated, etc.--except that 99% of the posts will come from the wilds of Oakland. Also, it's bright pink, which is not true of my brother's e-mails.

3. The title is not an attempt to confuse; it's a lyric from the song "Pink Bullets," by The Shins.

4. I think that blogs in general are fascinating evidence of the self-centeredness of human nature, and yet here I am. I'm trying not to think too hard about the implications of that statement.

5. This blog is open to the public; feel free to read, not read, pass it on to others, or keep it to yourself. For now, I'm also accepting anonymous comments, so those without Blogger accounts can respond to my posts if they see fit.

Welcome.