Sunday, December 23, 2007

Queen of the Sloths

Every day for the next 11 days, my first thought will be, "You're on vacation!" You have to hear it the way my mom says it--"You're onnnn...vay-caaaay-tion!" She says it like it's some kind of revelation. Which, of course, it is.

My entire agenda for today is:

- Knit and watch the second half of Bridget Jones's Diary, which is and ever shall be one of my most favorite movies; I'm just at the part where she's leaving the Smug Married dinner party, and Mark Darcy tells her he likes her just as she is. And it only gets better from here! Hi-larious. And totally moving, in a weird kind of way. I love it.

- Go see Juno in Berkeley

- Church

- Whatever post-church trouble/merriment I can find

- More deadline-induced knitting

If I am very, very virtuous (or very, very hungry), I might head over to Farmer Joe's to see if they have mangoes. Or if anybody's selling tamales in the parking lot, because Christmas Eve-Eve tamales = delicious.

See how interesting I am? But it's the best kind of boring.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12 of 12: December

Hey! I remembered! (See? My failure to complete the 1-11 meme imprinted enough guilt on my brain that I couldn't forget. Genius!)

7:02 - Awake, kind of.

7:57 - Oh, Grand Lake Theater. Never change!

8:05 - Yes, I live in California, and yes, I dress for the Arctic. Mornings are chilly, okay?

10:20 - My first Christmas present of the year--from a coworker. It was an amaryllis plant. Pretty!

10:40 - Isn't it weird to think that this will someday be a Tangled Yoke Cardigan?

4:48 - Getting off work before dark, technically. I call this a win.

5:03 - There really is nothing better than coming home from a long, hard day and finding Arrested Development in your mailbox...

5:04 - ...unless it's Arrested Development and garlic-flavored crackers with garlic hummus. I just can't imagine why I'm single!

8:15 - I actually did go to crew practice after my snack break. It wasn't very photographable: dark and wet. But the post-practice pile on the bathroom floor doesn't lie.

8:48 - Frankly, the only dinner for which I had the energy or presence of mind.

8:49 - Entertaining myself while the spaghetti cooks. I'm finally, finally reading Persepolis. So far, so good.

9:02 - Speaking of long, hard days: Lee Pace, take me away! (Sad episode, though.)

See you for 12/12 '08!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

0 of 4; 5 of 5

Four of four got a little out of hand, in the sense that it...kind of didn't happen. Moving on!

Welcome to Wednesday evening, the only quiet night of my week.

5:34 - Christmas music!

7:37 - Recipe for the best easy fall dinner ever: Chop 1 apple, 1 turkey/chicken sausage, and 1/4 to 1/2 of 1 member of the onion family. Saute until everything's a little softer and browner than it was raw. Enjoy!

7:45 - I've had Kiss Kiss Bang Bang from Netflix since approximately the dawn of time, but I know I'm going to love it. Robert Downey, Jr. in a heist movie! PERFECTION. I watched the first five minutes and then Luke came over for some sash-sewing action, which I would have photographed except that I already took that picture on Monday.

10:25 - The cabled beanie, take two. I'm just starting the decreases for the top, but doesn't it look better? Less yarmulke-like?

11:30 cheater - What I'll be doing right before bed. I've been working on this puzzle for ages now, but I'm determined to finish. I'm still finding answers fairly steadily.

Good night! Happy 6 of 6 tomorrow.

Monday, December 03, 2007

3 of 3

Aha! On time and everything. December 3, ladies and gentlemen:

11:25 - SO MUCH WORK. Ack!

5:02 - Getting dark already!

9:23 - More sashes; we've got our system worked out now. Five down, twenty to go!

Tomorrow: on to 4 of 4. See how this goes?

2 of 2

I know. I know! Late already.

3:36 - My living room as a sweatshop. Luke and I volunteered to sew/hem 25 chiffon sashes for the women in our choir; turns out working with chiffon is like trying to sew fog together. But Christine and Christine offered their help, and Luke's serger will save the day, and we will have our 25 sashes by the time of the concert (Sunday and Monday, December 16 and 17, for anybody interested)! It's going to get done.

My apartment still looks this way--three hours of work yielded a few well-measured pieces of fabric, some diagrams and planning sheets, and exactly one (admittedly beautiful) sash. Since we have twenty-four left to cut and serge, we decided to leave the Young Adult Choir Wal-Mart Express up and running.

Any mess in the name of choir is so worth it, though. It's hard to express to people who've never been in a choir what it's like. It's even harder to express to people who've never been in this choir what it's like. I'm no vocal prodigy, but I love this choir. I love standing in the middle of the group and getting so carried away with the sound of us that I almost forget to sing. I love Monday night rehearsal, and post-practice trips to Yogurt Park for yogurt or Triple Rock for cheese fries and a cider. I love that I know people now that I never would have met otherwise, and I get to call them my friends. I love that the music stays with me all week--I know I'm not the only one that practices in the car, in my office, and in my head. Sometimes our songs catch me off guard, so that I realize that what we're singing is exactly right for my life in some moment, and it can't possibly be accidental. Can it? The whole experience has blessed me in a way that I never could have expected and wouldn't trade for much of anything.

11:47 - Stayed out too late on post-Hanging of the Greens energy. BED!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

1 of 1

Once upon a time there was a meme/internet art project called 12 of 12. Remember? Twelve pictures on the twelfth of the month? Endless photos of me waking up in the morning? Well, see, the thing is: I'm a space cadet. I managed to forget 12 of 12 not once, but three months in a row. But I want to get back on the proverbial horse and try to remember. And so I'm taking on my own little project to drill it into my brain: this month I'm going to work up to it. One photo today, two on the second, three on the third, and eventually it will be 12 of 12, and I'll be so tired of photographing things that I won't be able to forget. I'm a harsh disciplinarian, yo.

And so:

4:02 - At my friend Kristin's birthday party. Today is her actual birthday. Happy birthday, Kristin!

Tomorrow: Two of two!

Mug(ging) shot

I've been ignoring my blog this week because I haven't wanted to write about something that happened to me, but I feel like not writing about it actually makes it worse, because what's the point of writing at all if not to tell the truth? And so I say it: I got mugged.

When you tell someone you got mugged--and it's hard to know who to tell and how big of a deal it should be--there are so many questions. The answers to those questions are: Monday night, nine o'clock, walking from my car to my building; it was scary; they took my purse but didn't hurt me; the police came and I cancelled all of my cards; I hope it never happens again. Also, I hate the term "mugged." It's like detective slang. So dramatic! But I tried telling people my purse was stolen, and it wasn't the same--they thought I'd left it somewhere instead of having it taken from me. There's a big difference.

Anyway, I'm okay. I'm slowly refilling my wallet--actually, I haven't gotten a new wallet yet, but I'm working on replacing all of the things they took. I'm back to feeling safe in my apartment, and I'm sleeping well. I'm coming home alone tonight for the first time, and realizing that the worst thing I lost was my self-confidence; I hate that I've been thinking all day about that walk down the street, and that I'd suddenly really love it if I could have a personal bodyguard to walk me home at night. It's a bad feeling. And I hear it goes away, but I wish it would leave a little sooner.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Making and unmaking

So, I am greatly saddened, kind of, to say that I probably will not be finishing my novel this year. (Again.) See, the deal I made with myself was that I would do NaNo IF I had no other pressing writing assignments. And when I had no other pressing writing assignments, it went pretty well. But then I got one--something I can't talk about yet, but be assured it'll be all over this space if things work out--and, well, 1,667 spent elsewhere each day start to add up. So I'm cooling it. Plus, my Novel Voice is, I'm sorry to say, kind of boring. Sorry, Self.

The good thing about dropping out of a crazy masochistic writing event is the amount of free time I suddenly find on my hands. It seems I'd been neglecting books, movies, actual food that requires actual cooking, a crafty project or two, and maybe some people. No more! This afternoon I made this much chili:

So if nuclear winter hits this week, I think I'm good to go (corn muffins optional).

I also knitted myself a cabled beanie, which ended up being more like a cabled yarmulke. Before:
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This is the joy of small knitting projects: find that your beanie should actually have a propeller sticking out of the top? Rip back to the ribbing; you'll be fine. I think a couple of extra repeats of the cable pattern should make the poor thing at least reach my ears. Note to self: Things that stretch sideways shrink lengthwise. Words for the wise!

And now it's on to Christmas cards and Christmas music and probably a viewing of White Christmas or two. Not to mention The Noise. Are you ready? not. But at least I have some time to think about how unprepared I am.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


I went with friends on Saturday night to a French restaurant in Berkeley. I tried a little of the foie gras appetizer, despite foie gras definitely being among the official Top Five Foods Liz is Unlikely to Eat, Ever--that rare combination of ethical squeamishness and general liver-y grossness being especially potent.

One of my favorite books, Julie Powell's Julie and Julia, has this to say about liver: "Now, this is going to be a stretch for some people, but I believe that calves' liver is the single sexiest food that there is. This is a conclusion I've come to relatively recently, because like almost everybody else on the planet, I've spent most of my life hating and despising liver. The reason people despise liver is that to eat it you must submit to it--just like you must submit to a really stratospheric f**ck. Remember when you were nineteen and you went at it like it was a sporting event? Well, liver is the opposite of that. With liver you've got to will yourself to slow down. You've got to give yourself over to everything that's a little repulsive, a little scary, a little just too much about it. When you buy it from the butcher, when you cook it in a pan, when you eat it, slowly, you never can get away from the feral fleshiness of it. Liver forces you to access taste buds you didn't know you had, and it's hard to open yourself to it."

I thought about that passage as I cut my portion into tiny pieces--my parents will recognize this maneuver, called "surgery" in our house--and ate it. The good news is that foie gras doesn't taste anything like creamed chicken livers on toast. It tasted like the caramelized onions it was cooked and served with, but Julie is absolutely right: the underlying flavor is, all at once, delicious and disgusting, too much in a way that makes you think, "that's really tasty, and maybe I shouldn't be eating it." It really tastes like a body part in a way that is spookier than any meat I've ever eaten.

The thing is, too, that afterwards, the sensation sticks with you: after the foie gras, I munched on mesclun with grapes and blue cheese, pommes frites, and a really delicious coq au vin, followed by part of a pear poached in wine and served with ice cream. This was a meal not to be trifled with, including some totally justified Altoid action at the end. And yet, coming home pleasantly full, what taste wouldn't quite go away? The foie gras. And here's the weirdest part: foie gras invaded my subconscious. I woke up in the early morning on Sunday and realized that I'd been dreaming of fatted goose liver and caramelized onions, and wondering whether I was somehow being haunted by the spirit of some really angry (and overweight) goose. No joke. Submit to the liver, indeed.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Status report

So I ended up not flaking out, and now here I am, seven days into NaNoWriMo. Things are going pretty well--I'm consistently about a half-day behind, which is nothing to my inner jaded old-fart cheerleader. You should have seen the great finishing flood of '05! Six thousand words a day! In the snow, uphill both ways! I will say, though, that NaNo is nothing if not an exercise in self-awareness, and not always in the good way.

First of all, my capacity for wasting time is, what's the word? Oh: "staggering." I can kill a potentially useful chunk of hours without breaking a sweat. I attempt to cast on warm winter garments with the yarn I bought recently, which seems not to want to be much of anything. I compose those long, newsy e-mails I've been meaning to get around to. I watch reruns of 30 Rock (Top-secret note to James: You're right. This season is funny. "I have twelve grand in checking." "...are you an immigrant?"). I spend time with Winner of the National Book Award, which is dark and hilarious and makes me not want to stop reading. I suspect that I joined Facebook (a new development; find me and friend me if you haven't already!) solely for the purpose of not working on my novel. I am, in a word, not doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm specially gifted.

Second, I have learned that it is possible for me to fall asleep while typing. You know how when you're reading in bed, and it's kind of dim and you're warm and suddenly it's 3 a.m. and your bedside light is still on? Apparently this happens to me when I'm sitting up and the lights are on and I'm, like, in the middle of a sentence. I'm writing along, sailing through my word count, and...suddenly the last three lines make absolutely no sense. I have novel narcolepsy. Somebody should hold a telethon for me.

I do kind of like my novel so far, though. Writing without a net means that my novel will probably have a total lack of narrative/symbolic structure, which will break my heart when I try to re-read it, but it also means that I can have a kind of zero-tolerance policy towards boredom. It's a road novel of sorts, so when I stop knowing or caring what happens in one scene, I can just take my characters somewhere else and say, "And then THIS happens ('Ghosts!' 'Bible salesmen!' 'Self-help books!')!" I see that this is how all those over-quirky, self-indulgent first novels get written: it's all about things that are funny and endearing in the moment, because all you really want to be is funny and endearing. I am hoping that this translates to some kind of consistent voice over the course of the 50,000 words, but...I'm not counting on it. That's what NaNoEdMo (which apparently some people actually do, though I frankly can't imagine who) is for.

Any field reports from my fellow-novelists out there?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

37 down; 49,963 to go

Happy NaNoWriMo! I wasn't cool/dumb enough to stay up for the regional kick-off party in El Cerrito last night--midnight on a Wednesday? Bless my soul! Who am I, Paris Hilton with a laptop?--but I sat down this morning and wrote the first sentence of my novel to get things started. I didn't want to come home from work and face a blank white screen. And now I just have to type a few more words and it'll be done. NO SWEAT.

*girds up loins for massive writing effort*

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eight Things

Oh, my! I've been tagged! Whatever shall I do?

Rules: Give 8 random facts about yourself, then tag 8 more people to do the same thing.

The facts are these.

1. I always eat colored candy in reverse-rainbow order, starting with purple (or brown, if we're talking M&Ms) and working my way up to red.

2. I keep a mental list of alternative careers just in case the wordy writing-editing thing fails me. Thus far: librarian, florist, movie location scout, professional driver on a closed course.

3. My friend Maggie and I like to pretend that we're going to start an all-girl punk cover band called Israel and the Minor Prophets.

4. Top Five Celebrity Crushes, Fall 2007 Edition: John Krasinski, John Corbett, Jon Stewart, Zach Gilford, Lee Pace. Orlando Bloom visits when he has a few days off, but he's awfully busy with all that swashbuckling he does.

5. I hand-wrote most of a novel in the seventh grade.

6. I'm not much into shoes, but I adore cute purses.

7. I am a starboard rower, which means that a) my oar goes to the left, b) I sit in an odd-numbered seat (usually 1 or 7), and c) my right arm is bigger than my left.

8. I used to be grossed out by the Presbyterian tradition of dipping sourdough communion bread in grape juice, but now I like the way it tastes.

I don't think I have a combined total of eight bloggish friends, so: if you have a blog and want to consider yourself tagged, do so. If you don't have a blog and want to consider yourself tagged, well, either or Blogger or Wordpress could probably oblige you...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


How is it that the last section of October is stressful? Every year, there's the Halloween issue, which I've been considering off and on since spring and still haven't settled. I will be that person running around on October 30, looking for legwarmers, a ladybug costume, and, I don't know, a vintage cocktail dress (for the perfect aerobic ladybug lounge singer costume, obviously). And then there's the question that we all struggle with in as we settle into fall: Should I try to write a novel in November?

In 2005, I finished NaNoWriMo in a blaze of exhausted glory, hitting the 50,000-word mark with minutes to spare. Last year I started out with a great idea--based on the true story of my friend's Canadian grandmother and the Mexican restaurant she bought while her husband was in the hospital--but got busy and distracted with Cinema Hype, and petered out around the middle of the month. It was distressing. I didn't and don't really want to put myself through the process of watching a novel not get written.

I'd proclaimed myself finished with monthlong writing contests for the time being, since I'm still writing CH and I'm certainly not any less busy than I was this time last year, but now I'm starting to feel the pull of the NaNo. The posting guidelines for CH are less stringent than they were, so I don't have to post every day. I thought Tim and I might be filming our movie in November, but it looks like January's more likely. I'm fiddling with various TV spec scripts, but that's an off-and-on kind of thing, and it's the wrong season, and maybe Hollywood will burn to the ground before then anyway; I give it a 50-50 shot. And then I start thinking of how much fun it is to have something grandiose and kind of insane (Heh, I just typed "inane," which might also be not-wrong) to work on, and how much I like meeting up with people in cafes to work, and how Chris Baty's silly e-mails are really, really encouraging, and it just makes me want to sit down and write a novel next month. I even saw something this morning that made me think, "Hey, that's a novel!" This may be a sign.

I think I'll do it. Unless I don't. Unless there are certain things that happen on a certain schedule to prevent me (How's that for vague?). Or unless I start to feel like not finishing would be too, too stressful, not in the way that motivates, but in the way that makes me avoid books, words, novel-talk, the computer, other writers, other people, and the real world altogether. See? This is fraught already.


Friday, October 12, 2007


The first knitting project I ever started was a scarf. My mom took me to Mrs. Blaufarb's yarn store on First Street and we picked out a pair of US-8 aluminum needles and two skeins of purple heathered yarn--I didn't know enough to hang onto the ballbands, but I think it might have been Cascade 220. I went home and my mom taught me to knit. I swatched. I ripped out. I swatched some more. And then I started a ribbed scarf. Over a year later, it's about two and a half feet long and still on the needles. I'll finish it someday--I will, after all, need my size 8s again at some point, and putting the scarf on stitch holders counts as admitting defeat--but it's a little scratchy and it doesn't seem very warm, and it's just going to have to be a "someday" project. I've sworn, after getting stuck at the halfway point, never to knit another scarf.

But then I came to work today, and my neck is cold.

I think I'm going to head over to Article Pract later and see what they have in the way of "soft and pretty." I was thinking about a cabled scarf, but then I found this, which is cool and unusual and has an easy-to-memorize stitch pattern. So I'll cast on and start it and see how I feel about it, and maybe it'll end up kooky and so-called, and maybe I'll end up with classic and cabled. Or something totally different. Because, you know, it's not like I have anything else crafty going on, like, say, a pair of green socks, or maybe a cute flowery A-line skirt. And it's not like all of the shows on TV are new and non-knit-worthy right now. So, you know, it's a perfect time for a patterned project! Excellent!

At least my neck will be warm.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What if you didn't have to be dead?: Why I love Pushing Daisies and you should, too

1. No beating around the bush. Ned likes Chuck. Chuck likes Ned. Ned can't touch Chuck, but he lets her move into his apartment, where they bake pies and sleep in twin beds. The end. Or, rather, the beginning.

2. Emerson Cod knits sweater vests and cozies for his handguns and his stacks of money. He doesn't like to knit in public, but he keeps a set of needles in his pocket, just in case.

3. Chuck's clothes. Serious sundress envy, here. Rumor has it she wears orange next week!

4. Lee Pace is adooooorable.

5. It has a whimsical orchestral score and a Gothic narrator.

6. Kristin Chenoweth is Hopelessly Devoted to You. And Ned. And Digby the dog. THERE ARE NO WORDS.

7. It's not like anything you've seen on TV before. Trust me.

Wednesday nights! 8 p.m.! ABC! Experience the adorable weirdness for yourself!

Friday, October 05, 2007

A bird in the hand

I went to the west coast's largest book sale last weekend. I bought a whole stack of books. They're sitting in a stack on the floor of my living room, waiting for the day when I find them spots on my shelves (pending the eternal and theoretical organization of said shelves). That's a lot of reading.

I'm also nearing the end of Lost in a Good Book. So what did I do today? I went to the library.

I was watching the pilot ("Pie-lette", because they're cutesy like that) of Pushing Daisies and reflecting on how much that show feels, to me, like the strange televised love child of Roald Dahl and Alice Hoffman. And all of a sudden, Alice Hoffman was IT. Lush, thick, magic-realism fiction, weird and sweet and just about perfect. And so I'm ignoring the stack of perfectly fine volumes I just acquired and lugging around a hardcover, thick-papered, big-type copy of The Probable Future (why are library books always the biggest books possible? Do none of these people carry books in their purses?). And it's totally exciting. I figure the stack's not going anywhere.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The spoils of victory

From the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library Annual Big Book Sale:

The Annotated Alice, by Lewis Carroll (intro and notes by Martin Gardner)
Amsterdam, by Ian McEwan
Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner
Winner of the National Book Award, by Jincy Willett
The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Buck in the Snow and Other Poems, by Edna St. Vincent Millay
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon
The Best of Adair Lara (for my mother)
Love, Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli (for a friend)

Being a book vulture is hard work, you guys. So much standing! So much scanning of tables and tables and boxes and boxes of books! Everything was organized by genre but not by author, which was doable for everything but fiction--thousands of volumes, completely at random. There was also a surprising lack of pre-1970s 20th-century fiction, which is my favorite book-sale genre; we seemed to skip from around Anna Karenina straight to the Oprah period. It was surprising. I guess that's the stuff people give away, though: classics and pop lit they're never going to read again (SO many copies of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason!). I also didn't see a single copy of David Copperfield, which isn't 20th-century, obviously, but I was looking for it just the same.

I'm pretty pleased with my takings, though, especially the Edna St. Vincent Millay--it's a perfect, clean little hardback from 1928, clearly old but not cheesy. I love it. I was in the poetry section looking for that bright pink book of Pablo Neruda's love poems--you know the one I mean? I've been eyeing it for years but I'm always a little embarrassed to buy it, being...a bright pink book of Pablo Neruda's love poems--and there it was. I also ditched quite a few books I was on the fence about, but I feel pretty confident about what actually made it into the final collection.

Books aside (!), today was essentially the perfect day in San Francisco. I get that California doesn't have seasons like other places have seasons, but I wish everybody could experience October in the Bay Area just once, just to see how fantastically beautiful it is--we don't really have the changing leaves, but there's a quality to the light and the air that is clear and warm and golden and just about perfect. After the sale, my friends and I went next door to Greens for lunch, and the Golden Gate Bridge was right there, and the water was all green and Alcatraz looked like it was within spitting distance (not that anybody spits at Greens; it's genteel like that). You couldn't make up San Francisco in the fall. Or the "fall." Whatever you want to call it.

Now I'm going to go make some shelf space for the new collection. Welcome, books!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What I'm Watching, v. 2.0

September in California isn't much like fall anywhere else, but I can feel the change of seasons in my bones. Maybe it's all the apples at the farmer's market. I wore pants and long sleeves to crew practice last night. Or maybe it's just because of that age-old ritual, the pre-fall Tivo clean-out. I'm in the process of making space on my 40-hour machine(!) for the barrage to come--can I really bear to delete the Gilmore Girls finale, even though I haven't re-watched it?--and thinking about my schedule for the season. I lost a couple of shows last year, leaving me with a reasonably empty plate, but I also picked up some newer shows over the summer. And then there's an entire Christian boo-fay of new stuff. I'm spoiled for choice.

I re-read last year's pre-season TV post, and it seems that things are far less settled now than last season--I'm trying out more shows, but I know less about them and I'm less assured of what's going to be good. There's a lot more herd influence going on this year, and I'll probably end up giving up on a lot of them (or seeing a few cancellations). Either way, this is what I'm looking at:

Already Watching:

Tuesday, 8 p.m., FOX
Premiere: September 25
Premise: A socially awkward forensic anthropologist and her hottie FBI partner solve murders using the victims' skeletons. Grossness, hilarity, and meaningful glances ensue.
Why do I always feel the need to explain my relationship with this show? Here's the truth: the writing on Bones is not the best. It's not the worst, either, but it's sometimes awkward and obvious and just kind of...lacking in finesse. But you know what? I really, really like it anyway. I should stop apologizing for it. It's a pretty show about pretty people solving crimes, and it cracks me up. Basically, it's a triumph of casting, chemistry, and cinematography over a mediocre script, and I am more than okay with that. And anyway, now that we're starting season 3: Did Angela and Hodgins run away and get married? Did Zach ("ZaaaachAddy!") go to Iraq and get shot? Will Booth and Brennan realize their love and be 2getha 4eva? And will poor Cam EVER get her own storyline? So much intrigue!

30 Rock
Thursday, 8:30 p.m., NBC
Premiere: October 4
Premise: Tina Fey plays herself, only single. (A behind-the-scenes look at the life of a female head writer on a sketch comedy show.)
Maybe if I say this really fast, it won't feel so mean: 30Rockisgreatbutdidn'tdeservetheBestComedySeriesEmmy;TheOfficeisabettershowandshouldhavewon. There. That said, I really do love 30 Rock, and I stand by it as the best true sitcom out there. I also intend to continue watching it in forever in my quest to be Tina Fey when I grow up. So: Watch it. It's silly and well-written and I look forward to it every week. (Also re-watches well, especially while knitting.)

The Office
Thursday, 9:00, NBC
Premiere: September 27
Premise: The everyday trials of working in an office full of...regular people. Steve Carell is in charge. 'Nuff said.
I have a hard time explaining why this show is so great, but that's only because it DEFIES WORDS. Every time I think it's gone all touchy-feely happy-happy on us, I happen upon some scene that leaves me stranded on the couch in fetal position, peering through my fingers (I recently watched the beginning of "Women's Appreciation." It was a near-death experience). The Office feels, to me, like a higher form of TV--it's characterization and dialogue and joy and heartbreak and hilarity and non-reality reality in a way that other shows can't even fathom. It's one of those shows that I believe has changed the face of TV and will continue to do so. It's just that good. WATCH IT. It will make you laugh. And cry. And have hope for humanity, or at least for comedy writers, even though they're sometimes terrible people.

Friday Night Lights
Friday, 9:00, NBC
Premiere: October 5
Premise: A small town in Texas is obsessed with its championship high school football team. DRA-MA.
NBC is so sure new viewers will fall in love with this show that they're offering a money-back guarantee on the first-season DVDs. It's a pretty cracked-out business model, but for FNL, it's not a bad idea--I have yet to meet a single viewer who doesn't love it in an ridiculous way. The thing to remember here is that this is not a show about football. This is a show about people who interact because of football, but it's about life in a small town, about friends and families and boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and wives, and then occasionally there's a game. But football is never the point, here. The people are the point, which is the hallmark of good TV from where I'm standing.

New and worth a shot:

Monday, 8:00, NBC
Premiere: September 24
Premise: Action-comedy in which a regular guy accidentally gains access to sooper-sekrit government documents. I think I read that he somehow downloaded them to his brain? I don't know. fun? I've heard good things from people who've watched the premiere on So basically I'm going with the herd, here.

Tuesday, 9:00, CW
Premiere: September 25
Premise: A young man learns that his parents sold his soul to the devil, and now he has to be the devil's personal assistant.
Like Dead Like Me, only on network TV. I'd be skeptical except that it's a Kevin Smith creation, and Tim Goodman loved it. And I do what Tim Goodman tells me to.

Pushing Daisies
Wednesday, 8:00, ABC
Premiere: October 3
Premise: A guy can touch dead things and bring them back to life...once. If he touches them again, they die permanently.
Another death show? This one sounds hokey, but it's probably the most critically-acclaimed new show out there. It's by the guy who did Wonderfalls, which everyone (and by "everyone" I mean "TV geeks," but there are kind of a lot of us) loved and which lasted approximately 3.6 seconds on TV. We'll see if this one sticks; I hope so. I like quirky TV.

Maybe if they sweet-talk me:

Aliens in America
Monday, 8:30, NBC
Premiere: October 1
Premise: A family takes in a Pakistani exchange student so their nerdy son will have at least one friend.
A half-hour show on the CW doesn't make me want to jump up and down, but 1) it's getting some good press--Tim Goodman liked it, anyway--and 2) Scott Patterson (Luke from Gilmore Girls) is in it. So it gets a chance, at least. I think.

Bionic Woman
Wednesday, 9:00, NBC
Premiere: September 26
Premise: ...The Bionic Woman
I just don't know about this.

Dirty Sexy Money
Wednesday, 10:00, ABC
Premiere: September 26
Premise: Peter Krause is a good-guy lawyer trying to deal with the bad-guy family of clients he's inherited from his father.
The title and the ABC-at-nightness turn me off of this one, but producer Greg Berlanti's involvement and my Sports Night/Casey McCall crush on Peter Krause require me to at least check it out.

Before anybody starts worrying about my mental and physical health, please know that I'm not actually planning to watch all of these shows. This is the pre-tryouts roster; some of them are sure to wash out before we've even finished warm-ups. (And now, see? I'm watching too much Friday Night Lights.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I'm out of things to read.

Usually, I get to the last fifty pages of one book and I'm already eyeing something else, but somehow I was genuinely surprised to finish The Portable Dorothy Parker even as I was counting down the pages. Now I'm feeling kind of disoriented--I think there were books I was planning to read after Dorothy, but I don't really remember what they were. East of Eden, maybe? Anyway, they all sound wrong.

Now I'm carrying around a bunch of books about books, because if I can't find something appropriate, I can always read about other people's reading. In the past two days I've been dipping in and out of 84 Charing Cross Road, The Polysyllabic Spree (Nick Hornby's collection of his book reviews/essays on reading for The Believer), and Book Lust, Nancy Pearl's eminent book of book recommendations. It's nice, light reading, but I have to say that it kind of emphasizes that I'm uncommitted at the moment. I find this unnerving.

Christine's going to bring me her copy of Jasper Fforde's Lost in a Good Book, even though I didn't love The Eyre Affair. It actually sounds pretty appropriate right now, though--it's quick, it's fiction, and it's about the books I was meaning to read before I forgot how to read (Miss Havisham! I love Miss Havisham!). After that, I have the vague idea that maybe I should read David Copperfield. So maybe that's it. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Just don't know what to do with mysel-el-elf

I was on the couch after work today, reading Dorothy Parker's letter to playwright John Patrick, when I turned the page and found...the index.

I finished The Portable Dorothy Parker.

I never intended to read this book all in one go; it's so big ("portable," ha!) and so long and so short-fiction-y that I thought it would be a dip-in-and-out kind of read. But then I found myself taken in by the short stories--a rare thing for me--and zipping through the verse sections, and here I am six weeks later, done already. And it does feel like an "already"; I know I've been reading the same book for a long time, but it still felt like a bit of a surprise to actually finish. I was enjoying the leisurely read. It was like she was telling me all about herself.

In fact, what surprised me most and touched me most about TPDP is the sense of her as a character--as a woman--that develops in her work. I first read Parker in ninth-grade English, when we read some of her sarcastic poetry. Her verses ("I cannot say poems," she says later on) establish her as a great wit, and they're good for sucking people in: they're short and sharp and accessible. But I was surprised to find Dorothy Parker the person in all of it: she's boy-crazy and disturbed by her own lack of will power; she's smart but sees the liability in being a "girl who wear(s) glasses." Men distress her, but so do women. (The men in her stories are cads, but I was surprised and pleased to find that the women aren't any better; they're flighty and uncertain, and they let the men act the way they do.) Sometimes she's heartbreaking (and heartbroken); sometimes she's hilarious; often she's both at the same time. It all comes together into a surprisingly unified portrait of a woman who's a little bit disgusted, not only by the people around her, but by her own tendencies.

The last third of the book is a collection of DP's work for Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, along with a few other magazines. My feeling about this section can best be summed up by her review/rant on Dashiell Hammett: "It is true that he is so hard-boiled you could roll him on the White House lawn," she says. "And it is also true that he is a good, hell-bent, cold-hearted writer, with a clear eye for the ways of hard women and a fine ear for the ways of hard men, and his books are exciting and powerful and--if I may filch the word from the booksy ones--pulsing. It is difficult to conclude and outburst like this. All I can say is that anybody who doesn't read him misses much of modern America. And hot that sounds! Dashiell Hammett is as American as a sawed-off shotgun. He is as immediate as a special extra. Brutal he is, but his brutality, for what he must write, is clean and necessary, and there is in his work none of the smirking and swaggering savageries of a Hecht or a Bodenheim. He does his readers the infinite courtesy of allowing them to supply descriptions and analyses for themselves. He sets down only what his characters say, and what they do. It is not, I suppose, any too safe a recipe for those who cannot create characters; but Dashiell Hammett can and does and has and, I hope, will."

Isn't that fantastic? She is passionate and specific and she's so well-spoken that it kind of makes me want to never write a review again (she says, as she types away at her review. So meta!) The reviews in the last section are reviews of people who are still famous, without the filter of history. She's writing about her contemporaries and her friends, and it's fantastic. They're lighter than the fiction, but still with a very specific voice. They make me want to use "I" in (non-blog) reviews, just because she does. She shares a little more of herself consciously in her non-fiction writing. And she is, of course, charming and clever on a constant basis. In all, a pleasure.

I feel like I got so much more out of TPDP than I expected; she feels a bit like an old friend now, and I suspect I'll have to come visit her every now and then. She's not particularly joyful, but I'd consider her a joy.

Now. What next?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Progress, or Knitters *Heart* the Internets

So, there's this website, Ravelry. It's a community/social site for knitters: there are friends and groups, finished-object galleries, patterns-to-knit lists, a yarn-stash database capability, and I don't even know what else. You can search other people's work by pattern (see all finished photos of a particular pattern), by yarn (see all finished photos of items knit from a particular yarn), or, I don't know, alphabetical by needle size. Legend has it that Ravelry will knit on your projects while you sleep, so you get through them faster. (It doesn't make mistakes.) It is, by all accounts, a big rollicking yarn-y party and possibly the Best Thing Ever. There is much raving over Ravelry in the knitting world.

The site is still in beta, so the creators set up a waiting list for invitations before it goes live to the general public. I signed up a few weeks ago and I've been using the handy-dandy "check your place in line!" feature to see where I am.

Last week? 18,000-some people ahead of me, plus the 11,000 who've already received their invitations.

Today? 17,070 people are ahead of me. 3,065 people signed up after me.

Apparently, the revolution will have yarn and needles.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Curses! Foiled again!

Oh no! It's the 12th. And I forgot.

Never mind, though; I can fill you in on the details as they will probably transpire:

7:00 Wake up (that's a picture, right there)
7:52 Leave for work
8:04 Arrive at work
*Edit, edit, edit*
1:00 Lunchtime! Plus a few minutes with The Portable Dorothy Parker, for sanity
*Edit, edit, edit*
4:40 Booorn freeeeee, as free as the wiiiind blowwwwwwws....
*Snack, Cinema Hype, Daily Show*
6:00 Chris picks me up for crew practice
*Row, row, row*
8:15 Home again! Shower, dinner, couch. Script. Bones.
11:30 Bed. Whew!

(Why does 12 of 12 so often fall on the most boring days? Perhaps that's half the point. People's regular, mundane lives.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Status report

Well, that's a relief.

I sat down last night with the film outline, just to get a feel for it, and ended up with a couple of pages of dialogue. I don't think I'll ever get over that sensation: sitting down with nothing and having the scenes just show up like that. It's so bizarre. I can't say whether it's any good or not--that's a decision for another time--but it's not a blank screen, and that what counts.

So: Liz 1, Emptybrain 0. Woot!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Danger, Will Robinson!

Meet Manuel. Manuel (pronounced "Mon-WELL," with the proper accent and a little wiggle of the hips) is my new sewing machine, a birthday present from my mom so I won't have to spend the entire day at her house every time I want a new set of (adorable) pillowcases. I think we are going to be fast friends, Manuel and I. We spent some time on Monday getting acquainted, and I already ended up with a little drawstring bag for my sunglasses. It matches my pillowcases. Just like I always wanted! A pillowcase-and-sunglass-case set!

I can already see the (delicious) pitfalls of being able to sew whatever and whenever I want. My mom had suggested recently that I try moving beyond square things (novel!), and in a fit of "I have a new sewing machine hooray hooray" enthusiasm, I stopped by Stone Mountain and Daughter yesterday after work. I had a plan, see: when I moved cubicles at work, I ended up with one of my filing cabinets over in the corner with its top surface exposed. It's ugly. It's black and brown and kind of unfinished on the edges. I wanted to sew an oversized placemat for the top and maybe put some flowers on it. Cheerful, right? I went in to buy a 16 x 23-inch piece of fabric for my filing-cabinet cover/Hagrid-sized placemat. That's it.

I came out with two patterns, three quarter-yards of fabric, a yard of interfacing, two zippers, and a spool of brown thread. I've been owned by the fabric store, you guys! There are entirely too many pretty things there with entirely too much potential. I didn't even buy the materials for the skirt; I figure I can master the little purses and then move on to clothes. Also, everyone loves a girl in an A-line skirt! A few for summer, a few for winter, a few just for fun? So, you know, it's practical. DUH.

And you know what the best part is? I forgot to get fabric for the filing cabinet. Maybe I can make it an A-line skirt and some purse-lets instead.

For Your Consideration

Have I mentioned the news about the movie? No? Well, here it is:

I'm co-writing a short film.

My friend Tim recently offered me the chance to co-write a short for his film school application, and see how we work together. He had some ideas for a romantic comedy, he said, but he wanted help turning his brainstorm into a script. I got the outline this morning, and I haven't looked at it yet. But it's there, sitting in my in-box, waiting.

This entire situation is, of course, absolutely thrilling and absolutely terrifying. It's a great opportunity, a chance to write something that will actually get made. Honestly, I can't wait. It also means that somebody else is depending on my writing, which is basically nightmare material. (Perhaps, if I want to write professionally, I ought to get over that?) I just have to keep telling myself that my instincts will kick in, even if the thought of writing an original script sends them running for the exits, along with my storytelling skills and my sense of humor. It's all there, and I know that. I just need to sit down and be very quiet for awhile, and see what comes up.

If you need me, I'll be on the couch, staring at my laptop.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Out of the knitting bag and into the closet


It's magic! Four and a half months' worth of stitching, cabling, measuring, trying-on, adding-extra magic. It's my first garment and the first thing I've knit just for myself, and despite a few flaws--there's no picture of the back here, but we'll say that the ribbed edge and the "seamless" join are artfully asymmetrical--I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out (blocking helped a lot). And I'm sure I'm not the only one who's tired of monitoring its progress. So: welcome to the wardrobe, shrug! (The shrug is noncommittal.)

The knitterly details, for those who care:

Pattern: Cabled Shrug, Interweave Knits Summer 2005
Yarn: Rowan Soft Baby in Cloud, 4.5(?) balls
Needles: Susan Bates US 5 straights
Notes: This (free internet) pattern didn't include a size of any kind, and it turned out to be written for tiny people. Thankfully, it was knitted from the sleeves in, so I just kept knitting extra rows until it fit. I added a ribbon closure to keep everything in place. Other than that, things went reasonably well for my first big project. Hurrah!

Now I'm working in earnest on the socks I took to England. I love them even though I'm fairly sure that 80% of the stitches will have been knitted at least twice by the time I'm done, as I am flying entirely by the seat of my pants and feeling free to interpret the pattern as I see fit. I'm going heavy on the lifelines, having already performed major surgery once this week--the odds that I'll have to rip back a bit are excellent. I've just turned the heel and taken a first shot at the beginning of the heel flap, but I think I'm going to take advantage of the most recent lifeline and try again. These are my Learning Socks, and I personally think they're pretty great, plain stockinette or no.

Knit on!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Playing catch-up

I've been a bad blogger. Who can't even follow up with photos of her own bookshelves? They're only in the living room. (In my own defense, getting good photo light in my apartment is a delicate business.) Someday.

But, in the last week, I went here:

Also, does anybody notice anything...wrong with this picture?

The shrug has hit some...shall we say roadblocks? in the end stages, due to my own airheadedness and the fact that knitting references the world over lied to me. Or perhaps I'm just not as good at Kitchener stitch as I expected. (I suspect it's the first.) I'm afraid this is going to end up closer to the "learning experiences" end of the spectrum than the "objet d'art" end, which is mildly disappointing. On the other hand, I may wear it anyway, because I MADE IT. Take that!

I came home sick today with a fever and some cold-like symptoms. Mostly, the whole thing involved me doing some knitting and watching a lot of the first season of Gilmore Girls. (Rory just ran away to the Elder Gilmores' and is about to tell Dean, "I love you, you idiot!" Good times.) Now I've moved on to my favorite episode of 30 Rock, in which the hot guy, The Hair, asks Liz out. She makes Star Wars/Star Trek jokes. It's great. (Ack! I just got spoiled for the future of Friday Night Lights, which just goes to show why old commercials can be dangerous. Curse you, Tivo!)

Aren't you sad that I didn't blog all week? So much excitement!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shelves of Glory

After looking at this and this, I've been thinking a lot about how I organize my books. Or, rather, how I don't organize my books.

You'd think that somebody as list-happy as I am would have an organized bookshelf, but for whatever reason, I'm pretty much about the Shelves of Anarchy. It kind of bothers me--list-happy, remember? Maybe I should decide on something and do it. There's alphabetical, which actually doesn't sound so bad, but it's kind of boring. Some people organize by color, which actually appeals to me, except that it makes me think of my Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, which are green, purple, orange, and yellow, respectively. I can't separate them; they're a series! And the by-color scheme seems pretty rigid. Anything mis-filed or granted an exception is going to be pretty obvious, and we can't have that! Some people put books together whose authors they believe should be friends, but that comes across as a whole lot of speculation (though potentially entertaining). I've also given some thought to the John-Cusack-in-High-Fidelity model, organizing autobiographically (starting, I suppose, with the copy of The Sneetches I got for my fourth birthday and ending with my new Portable Dorothy Parker?). I would love to be able to pull that off. I'm just not sure it would work. It certainly wouldn't be low-maintenance (which is actually kind of cool--an ever-shifting reflection of life, right there on my bookcase!).

I guess I do have some organizational guidelines. For as long as I can remember, the bottom shelf of my big bookcase has been reserved for the books that won't fit anywhere else: my (sizable) horse-book collection, my Calvin and Hobbes, anything by Dr. Seuss (The Sneetches, again), and the reference section. For awhile I had a "girly classics" shelf, where I kept my Jane Austen books, my Charlotte Brontes, my Louisa May Alcotts, and the like. (L.M. Montgomery would go there, but she has her own spot on top of the bookcase.) But those are all organizational whims more than systems, attempts at keeping things clean or making the books more sociable. In reality, I use the "I moved recently and might move again at any moment" scheme, which is not a scheme at all.

Coming soon: Photos of the shelves in all their freewheeling glory!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

12 of 12: August

What kind of 12-of-12er can't get her pictures up by the 13th, at the latest? The kind with too much to do and a suspiciously buggy-feeling wireless connection, that's who. Think of this as...a fond recollection of the weekend, okay?

What's 12 of 12, you ask? I never explained it, you say (as accused, wrongly, by my brother)? See here.

9:02 - A new twist on the waking-up photo: overhead! Also note that a 9:00 alarm is so much better than a 7:00 alarm (but it's kind of alarming--ha!--that I can't even manage to be conscious by 9:00 without help. How can I call myself a morning person?).

9:55 - I promised the novice coach at my rowing club that I'd cox for his Sunday learn-to-row class, so here we all are on the dock. And yes, that coxswain's seat is actually as small as it looks.

12:47 - Off to Berkeley!

12:56 - Corner of 65th and San Pablo; lost/misplaced and calling my cousin for directions.

1:03 - Found it! Heading to the back yard for....

1:05 - ....Alyson's surprise birthday party! Happy birthday, Alyson!

2:43 - The birthday girl and her cakes.

3:17 - Taking a "swing through" Sephora, if a "swing through" includes inching around the Bay Street parking garage (counterclockwise), squeezing into a space, testing every black eye pencil in the store, erasing the test marks, forgetting which one I'd liked best, re-testing them all, standing in line, paying for parking, and inching around the parking garage (clockwise).

3:30 - Eyeliner tests. Winner: Urban Decay, far right.

4:46 - Plums from the icebox. I was not saving them for breakfast, but they were in fact delicious, so sweet and so cold.

5:10 - Note to self: Church is not the time to be setting up elaborate photographs. Hence the blurry.

9:27 - Birthday party #2! Apple crisp and presents for my mom. Happy birthday, Mom!

Next month: same bat time, same bat channel, possibly on time.