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:, 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 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:


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 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.