Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It's a Jane, Jane, Jane, Jane world

2005 was the year of Pride and Prejudice for me: I went through a phase where I read the novel and both Bridget Jones books, then watched both the 1996 Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version and the new Keira Knightley version, plus both Bridget movies. It was a thing. I was into the story that year. I like theme reading.

It's looking like 2007 is shaping up to be a year of Jane Eyre. She's everywhere! I picked up my copy around the New Year and have almost finished it; since then, several of my friends have also started, some of them for the first time. And then there's the new Masterpiece Theatre. Is anybody watching this? It's fantastic. I Tivoed the first half last Sunday and watched it in dribs and drabs over the course of the week; now I'm dying to immerse myself in the second half, though I might torture myself and finish the novel first. It's such a lush intepretation of the story: there's starkness in Jane and in the landscape, but the relationship between Jane and Rochester is all crackly and vibrant, and they've done justice to the creep factor, which only intensifies everything. Also, the production values and art direction are lovely, which is sometimes a sore point between me and the BBC. In all, wonderful. From here, I'm eyeing the handful of Jane Eyre meta-literature that's cropped up in the past few years. The Eyre Affair? Wide Sargasso Sea? There's potential here for a whole spate of Bronteian goodness, no?

Unrelatedly, my favorite band of the past few years--the Shins--came out with a new album last week. I never buy new-new music; I prefer to wait a year or so and then pretend that I've discovered something once everyone else is already over it (see: Coldplay). But I've been awaiting Wincing the Night Away for ages, and I downloaded it this weekend, sight unseen, and I have not been disappointed! They're so good, and this new album of songs is dark and blurry and thematic like their first album (Oh Inverted World), while also being tight and sometimes poppy and bouncy like their second album (Chutes Too Narrow). I get later Brian Wilson from them; also snippets of Abbey Road. We're bonding, this album and I, and then I think we will be fast friends.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


At the beginning of the fall TV season, I wrote a post about all of the shows I was thinking about watching, and why. Well, TV has been on winter hiatus for a while now, but this week is spring, so to speak: a few NBC shows have been there to fill the void, but come Monday, my schedule will be back in full swing. The truth is, this is a glorious time to be a TV fan--there will always be bad TV out there, but there is an abundance of interesting, complex, likeable material to be had these days. Here's what I'm watching:

Monday, 10:00 p.m., NBC
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Aaron Sorkin's first post-West Wing outing is like a person: flawed, but lovable. It can be a little preachy, it cares way more about TV than the average American ever will, and the sketch-comedy portions are hit-or-miss; these are bumps that are still being worked out. But these are Sorkin's flaws, and he brings with him such wonderful characterization and dialogue that it's hard to care in the long run. Halfway through the first (and only?) season, the relationships he's so carefully set up are captivating, particularly between the two male leads, Matt and Danny--writing male friendship is Sorkin's passion and his gift--and between Matt and his lady love, Harriet Hayes. Regarding Danny and Jordan: I don't much care about them in theory, but I'm very much looking forward to Sorkin and Bradley Whitford rocking our socks off, so I'm in favor. In other words, Studio 60 isn't perfect, but it's funny and sweet. You'll want to hang out with these people. The good stuff's just ramping up anyway.

Tuesday, 8:00, CW
Gilmore Girls
I've been watching the Girls for a long time now; I've seen the ups and downs, and I've been around long enough to see the cycles and patterns in the writing. I don't think I could stop watching, even if I wanted to. Things are different this season; creator and evil genius Amy Sherman-Palladino called it quits last May and left her baby's final season to a new guy, dropping the dreaded Chris-Bomb on her way out. On one hand, I give David S. Rosenthal props for being willing to explore a self-evident Gilmorian truth in depth: Lorelai and Christopher Are Not Meant to Be. It's been a little onerous to watch (Come on, dude, you can't just buy your way out of a knit-a-thon. Jeez!), but I don't mind the detour, in theory. I trust that Luke and Lorelai Are Mean to Be; I can wait this out. I'm also pleased with what he's done with Rory, Luke/April, and all of the minor characters--he's redeemed the townies in my eyes, which is a pleasant surprise. On the other hand, I think Rosenthal's weakness is a particularly bad one: he doesn't have Lorelai. He doesn't have her mind and he doesn't have her voice, and more than anybody, Lorelai makes the Gilmores what they are. It's an issue. But in general, this season is watchable, and I sense good things coming our way.

Tuesday, 9:00, CW
Veronica Mars
Longtime fans of Veronica's seem to be having problems with this season, but I'm having a great time with it--if nothing else, I'd be suspicious if a third murder happened in Neptune around September, only to be solved in May. The first "act" of the season (out of three, I'm told) ended with the solving of one major crime--terrifyingly, by the way--and the start of a new mystery. My general rule for Veronica is not to try to figure the story out ahead of time; the plot is always so convoluted that I'd rather just sit back and let the writers break my brain. It's worked well so far, and I expect not to be disappointed. Also: Logan!Angst and plenty of good stuff with Keith, my current favorite TV daddy (who contends only with Jack Bristow, but who wants to contend with Jack?). Just...fun. That's what it is.

Thursday, 8:00 NBC
The Office
Every week, I think to myself that The Office can't possibly get any better, that it's at the top of its craft, and every week it knocks my socks off in a whole new way. This show is like watching a three-ring circus with Shakespeare going on in the background: it's in your face, it can be relentless, but the beauty is in the small human dramas going on behind the main stage; you just have to pay enough attention to see what's happening. Everybody interacts with everybody else; everybody's a little bit awful, but a little bit redeemable; there are weird connections and happy little moments sprinkled around, and it's just brilliant. Also, I never thought I'd say this, but I've gotten rather attached to Karen. She's no Pam Beesly, but she didn't know what she was walking into, poor girl. Also: Ed Helms? You're hilarious, and I'm so surprised by that. Heh. For those who don't want to pick things up cold, I'm told that NBC is re-running three episodes this Thursday, January 25. Tune in. It's worth it.

Thursday, 9:30, NBC
30 Rock
I'm brand-new to this show, but I have nothing but affection and respect for Tina Fey, and also, watching her as Liz Lemon is uncannily like watching myself on TV. I was not the first to notice this. The show is funny; Alec Baldwin is funny; Tina Fey is funny. Win.

And just in case there's not enough on the airwaves to keep me entertained (to be fair, we've been on hiatus, remember?), I've been cruising through a couple of shows on Netflix, which also deserve honorable mentions.

Sports Night
If Studio 60 is Aaron Sorkin post-West Wing, Sports Night is the other side of that coin: his show before he hit it big, a sitcom about a sports show. I am smitten with this show. I have a crush on a TV show. As I round the corner into Disc Three, I'm carried away by how attached I am to the main characters--who do I love more? Casey McCall? Dan Rydell? It's just lovely. Also, Filliam H. Muffman and Robert Guillaume. 'Nuff said.

This one's a little different--Mary Louise Parker (who is awesome just by showing up; she's that good, all the time) plays a suburban mother of two boys who's recently widowed and starts dealing marijuana to maintain her lifestyle. It's cynical--frequent potshots at suburban hypocrisy--but also takes an emotionally honest look at grief, parenting, wealth, race, etc. It's engaging and clever and very, very funny; it's also from Showtime, so consider yourself warned.

Oh, TV. There's so much excellence right now, I can hardly stand it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Haiku Friday

Barack Obama
to start a committee for
the Presidency!


On Monday, I went to my mom's house for a sewing day. Now, I grew up with a Sewing Mom--Halloween costumes as far as the eye can see--but I don't sew, myself. In my mind, the sewing machine is like a mythical beast: the source of great things, yes, but also noisy mysterious and capable of taking off my finger without breaking a sweat. When I was about ten, I sewed my grandparents a pair of matching his-and-hers pillow cases (very Wheel of Fortune of me) with their names puff-painted on the hems. A few years later, I made myself some flannel pajama bottoms. That's been about it for me and the sewing machine: I got away with my pj pants and all of my fingers intact, and felt grateful for it.

Knitting supplies make a girl do crazy things, though. My needle collection has begun to grow, and it's practically a miracle that I haven't impaled myself on a stray US-10.5 on the way to the bathroom at night; instead of tempting fate, I decided awhile ago that I should make myself a needle case. I studied the (sewing) pattern in the back of my Stitch 'n Bitch book; I went to Hancock Fabrics and bought some uber-girly pink-and-brown fabric and a shiny brown satin ribbon to use as a tie. My mother graciously volunteered to help me out.

The case took practically all day, no thanks to a mis-cutting incident where we ended up back at Hancock's for more fabric. It turns out that learning to use a sewing machine is much like learning to drive a stick-shift car: feet do one thing, hands do another, there's a button for reverse, and don't forget to steer! There's a lot of lurching, of S E W S E W S E W sewsewsewsew S E W S E W S E W sewsewsewsew. I measured the fabric and cut it out and spent an hour measuring and sewing seams for the needle pockets. I sewed seams around the edges and only called for help when I'd inched in towards the middle and couldn't steer back. Eventually I turned the whole thing right-side-out and Mom agreed to sew the outer 1/4-inch seam and hand-stitch the ribbon to the outside. And? Voila:

All ten fingers still attached, and my knitting needles are safe and sound (and not sticking out of my bare feet in the middle of the night).

Also, along similar knitting-related lines, proof that I don't deserve my friends--I arrived at work on Thursday to find this shirt:

folded neatly on my chair with a note from Christine. She'd seen it on a recent episode of Gilmore Girls and thought I should have it, because she's super-nice like that. Don't mess with me, yo. I have several pairs of big needles in my purse.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Friday, January 12, 2007

12 of 12: January

12 of 12: Chad Darnell; 12th of the month; 12 photos; fun for all!

7:30 - I am a little ray of sunshine in the morning. (Actually, I am. But this is pre-breakfast, so what more do you want from me?)

7:35 - Honey-Nut Shredded Wheat: tasty and Weight Watchers-friendly. One cup, plus a few extra. I cheat.

8:32 - My 12-minute commute.

9:17 - A morning trip to Starbucks with Holly, Donna, and Tom. I don't do coffee, but I do do morning walks.

11: 27 - Transcribing notes from a conference call. Wooooo!

3:15 - The New York Times Sunday crossword; note that it's pretty much finished. That probably took Editorial and Production a week's worth of lunchtimes.

5:09 - After work, a quick trip to the library--I needed to return a book I thought I'd lost, and also get a particular video. They waived the Lost Book fee, which was nice. I'm happy to be back on speaking terms with the OPL.

6:44 - This Mason Dixon Ballband Dishcloth is supposed to be easy, but, predictably, it's fighting me at every row. It's sort of ridiculous, but I WILL TRIUMPH.

8:13 - It's the magic risotto! With peas and shitake mushrooms, and a little bit of parmesan and a ton of chicken stock. Possibly my favorite food of all time; definitely a perfect quiet-night-in dish.

10:30 - Let's hear it for the silent WWI movies! I'm starting a project for Cinema Hype in which I'll be watching and writing about all of the Oscar Best Picture winners in chronological order. This was the very first one, Wings, from 1927. Good movie.

11:10 - Mmmm, Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte gets so breathless about everything; it's sort of cute. Jane Austen would either have rolled her eyes or just patted her on the head.

11:37 - Sexay.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A good calendar is hard to find.

I finally, finally bought a calendar yesterday. I'm weird about calendars: I manage to be incredibly cheap and spur-of-the-moment about them (i.e. I refuse to spend time or money), and yet I'm also absurdly picky, so that I show up at the kiosk in the mall on January 2 and wonder why they only have cocker spaniel calendars. I also can't handle being without a calendar, in the same way I hate not wearing a watch: someone says, "Let's get together on January 16," and somehow in my calendar-less state, I have no idea when that is. Next week? A month from now? For all I know, they're making a date for 2009, and I won't show up anyway. I'll just be wandering the streets of Oakland, not having any idea who I am or what I'm supposed to be doing. This is what a calendar is preventing.

The past few years have been easy, calendar-wise. Every year, my friend Al buys me an Orlando Bloom calendar and marks it up with a "thought from Orlando" (this is being generous to him, this attributing of actual thoughts to him) for each month. It's been awesome. Everyone loves the Orlando calendar. Apparently, though, poor Orlando ceased to be hot sometime in 2006: she couldn't find him anywhere ("Not even Wal-Mart! In Puyallup!"). So: no pirate-elf-men for me in 2007, which is not exactly getting things off on the right foot, now, is it?

I actually already had a calendar, hand-made by the lovely and exotic Teri with pictures of all of our friends. Everyone's birthdays are included, and everything. I love my Teri calendar. But that's my kitchen calendar, and for whatever reason, I can't live if I don't know what day it is in the living room. I need two calendars.

I almost bought a Georgia O'Keefe calendar when I was in Tacoma. I like Georgia O'Keefe. A lot. I like the images she uses. I like the colors she uses. I even--truth be told--like the whole botanical/anatomical thing. But I had to ask myself: was I ready to commit to flowers that look like genitalia? For a whole year? In mixed company? I decided to wait on it and buy it in the Bay Area, and took it as a sign when I didn't find another one here. I also came perilously--perilously, as in I really truly almost bought it--close to buying the world's most bizarre and disturbing calendar: ferrets acting out scenes from famous movies. It was so creepy, so unnerving, that I almost had to have it. I'm seriously still thinking about it with a mix of regret and repulsion. Hey, I'm still thinking about a calendar I didn't buy, like, three years ago (Sloane Tanen, and it's the little yoga-chickens with their feet in the air that make it art). This is serious business.

In the end, the ferrets lost out to a perfectly prosaic Fun with Dick and Jane calendar. Mostly, I like the production values: the colors are nice and they match my apartment; it's modern-vintage; everything's in English, French, and German. Also, it came with stickers, which apparently I haven't outgrown. And it won't give me ferret dreams.

It's going to be a good year.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Haiku Friday

Casablanca on
the big Paramount screen;
so good! Must not nap!

On books

Frequent visitors here may have noticed that that poor red copy of Dracula has been sitting under "Current Reads" for an awfully long time. That's not a mistake--I'm still working on it. I took it to my parents' house for Christmas, determined to finish by the time I left (nothing like a little vampire lit to brighten the holidays), and then a) completely ignored it and b) promptly left it next to the trundle bed in my old bedroom. The saddest part is that it's not boring. I'm not slogging through it. It's a fun read, full of melodrama and nights spent in the cemetery and just a little bit of Edwardian gore. It's just taking me ages.

In the mean time, I've picked up my old Benicia High School copy of Jane Eyre. I remember the first time I read Jane: my parents had kidnapped me from a New Year's Eve sleepover (at an absurdly early hour, I might add) and taken me on a family mini-break to Solvang and Santa Barbara, where I tried fairly hard not to have any fun at all. I was reading Jane Eyre for Academic Decathlon, and I remember being in the car and wondering why nobody had recommended such a wonderful book to me before. Ten years later, it's still that good. I'm sailing through it, trying to see Jane as I didn't in high school, and I'm just loving the way she's been developed: She's rebellious...but not. She's plain...but not a victim. She's practical...but romantic in a way that even she doesn't expect. I haven't gotten to The Plot Twist yet (trying not to spoil the surprise for anybody, here), but in my mind, it's what defines Gothic. I remember being so shocked the first time around. What a fantastic book!

This whole thing is actually part of a planned reading binge for me: after Jane Eyre, I'm going to complete the Gothic trilogy with my pretty new copy of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca, which is another high school love. I've never been clear on why Rebecca isn't more popular--it's well-written, creepy, and completely engaging; plus, the 1940 film (with an extremely young Joan Fontaine) is the only Alfred Hitchcock movie ever to win Best Picture. I can't wait. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." I've got shivers already.

And one last thing: if you like reading books or reading about books, check out my friend Teri's blog. I theoretically read a lot; Teri actually reads a lot, and she keeps track of what she reads. If you're curious or looking for a book recommendation, her blog is a good place to start. Also, I can't handle being the "token reader."

This is just making me want to read more. I think I will.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain

My crew got caught in the rain tonight. Rowing in the rain is kind of a trade-off situation. On one hand, it sounds worse than it is: the water is usually dead calm when it rains, so the rowing is easy; rain means cloud cover, which keeps the air a little warmer; and a bit of cool water feels nice on the back of the neck. Rowing in the rain is tranquil. On the other hand, it's...raining. Our oars get slippery and we hold the handles too tightly, which unbalances the boat and causes blisters. And there's nothing worse for concentration than a drop of water sliding through your part, down your forehead, and off the end of your nose.

We don't usually row in the rain. We'll keep going if we're already on the water, but if we're just showing up, we know what's good for us: if we hurry through our indoor workout--and herein lies the true spirit of my crew--we can just catch the 7:00 movie at the Parkway with enough time to stand in line for pizza. Every once in awhile, though, we get caught in the middle of the lake and we decide to stay out. It's not bad. I think we all secretly like it, at least for a while.

Also: thank goodness for soup and hot showers.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Queen of the Sloths

Happy New Year! I'm in Tacoma for the annual Slothfest with my college friends Katie and Al, which is lovely. We do this every year, basically--gather for a few days of hanging out in our jammies with pinochle and chocolate and the same few movies we always watch. Things are a little different these days--Teri opted to stay in Arizona, and I'm the only one without a husband in tow. It's just the same, though, too, in all the good ways. We went to Red Robin for endless steak fries, which is a necessity. So there's that.

We exchanged Christmas presents the other night; you can tell we're all becoming adults because we all gave each other cookbooks. I also got Book Lust (a book of book recommendations!), The Action Heroine's Handbook (Like I need a manual. I watched five seasons of Alias), the new Traveling Pants book, and a calendar full of photos of my friends and me. We're good at shopping for each other.

I have a theory about New Year's Eve. In my mind, there are two legitimate ways to ring in the new year: either go all out, get faaaaabulous, and go to a huge, formal party (note that I've never actually done this, but I'm open to the idea) or stay in with your very favorite people. This year, I chose the latter (minus Katie, who went up to Issaquah): I spent the evening with Al, Paul, Vicky, and Vicky's three-year-old nephew; we ate pizza and watched a Discovery Channel special about the ten most likely scenarios for the end of the world, then played Scene It? and rang in the new year with the Space Needle fireworks on TV. Nothing too exciting, but it wasn't exactly nothing special, either. It was just the way I like to celebrate the year: with food and friends.

Here's to 2007!