Monday, April 23, 2007

More, please.

Oh, Monday. Why are you so persistent? It's like every seven days, or something. What is that about? You're there and you will not be ignored. It's not even like my Monday was a bad one. We had sunshine and a reasonable workload and reduced-fat banana dulce de leche coffee cake at Starbucks. All good things, right? It's just that I had such a good weekend. Monday is not the weekend. It's a bit disorienting.

On Saturday, the (super-fantastic!) Internet friend Glenna came to visit all the way from Canada (via a conference in San Francisco), and we whisked ourselves off to Napa for a rainy afternoon of wine-tasting and yarn-ogling, which in my opinion is a fairly excellent way to spend a spring day. We stopped through V. Sattui, which is one of my favorite wineries, but I'm now realizing that I mostly love them for their hardcore deli and their pretty picnic grounds. Maybe it's because they skipped out on the Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc region of the wine spectrum? I was less impressed than usual by their crowded tasting room and their "herbal" Semillon. After, we headed to Rombauer, which is a ways off the beaten path and makes my friend Erin's favorite Chardonnay. It was a completely different crowd, a testament to what happens when you move off Highway 29 and raise the price per bottle by $30--far fewer Reeboks, we'll say. And some darn tasty Chardonnay, truth be told.

We spent our evening in a vortex of homebody fangirl bliss, surrounded by pasta, Hershey kisses, something to drink, knitting, and a mini-marathon of Bones, which is not a bastion of excellent twenty-first-century television, but it's sort of engaging anyway. We were productive. We watched and knitted and discussed, and then promptly passed out in our beds after a day well spent.

And I can barely even talk about Sunday. My mother will think I had some kind of temporary illness, really. After Glenna left, I did the dishes. Doing the dishes turned into cleaning out my ridiculously full shirt drawer. Cleaning out the shirt drawer turned into weeding through the bedroom closet. Weeding through the bedroom closet became a full-fledged assault on the coat closet, which--I kid you not--was mostly taken up by a box I hadn't unpacked after moving into my apartment nearly two years ago. I filled three garbage bags and an ancient suitcase with my (former) stuff, packed them all into my car, and drove them to the Goodwill on International Blvd. I'm telling you, it's a miracle. I can see the floors of both of my closets. There are shelves I didn't know I had, people! Book space! Brilliant, this cleaning-out thing. Who knew?

Anyway. Tomorrow is Tuesday, which will probably be less of a shock than Monday. Right? Right.

Photo op!

Those playing the home game may have noticed (ha, right?) that April 12 came and went without a single photo or link to Chad Darnell or his 12 of 12 project. I was so good, too: I put my camera on the nightstand before bed on the 11th, carried out my photography duties until approximately noon, when things got crazy and I just plain stopped. But in the interest of continuing my twelve-month photo series of myself in the early morning, I can't ignore this photo's pleading. It must be posted. It cannot be stopped.

So here:

Charming, no? I'm still in flannel sheets, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"You've got to listen to this one song. It'll change your life!"

I got to do something last night that I think everyone should do at least once: I saw my favorite band live. I'm not sure I know exactly how the Shins became the band for me--their song "Know Your Onion!" is on the old Gilmore Girls soundtrack, I guess, and then "Caring is Creepy" and "New Slang" showed up in Garden State, and I went home and downloaded the whole album. It was the first thing I ever bought on iTunes, and it took all afternoon because I had dial-up.

It was so worth it--Oh, Inverted World is still the single most-listened-to album I own. I've listened to it so many times that I don't even hear it anymore, except that at the same time, I sometimes rewind songs to hear them again--mostly the last two, "Pressed in a Book" and "The Past and Pending," which I swear makes my heart rate and blood pressure drop every time I hear it. I like to listen to "New Slang" when I'm far away from home, because it's the most comforting song in the world, but it's also good for driving with the windows down at night in the summer. Or for walking in the afternoon in the fall, come to think of it. I don't know how their songs can be airy and murky and springy, all at the same time, but they are. The whole album just seems like a series of perfect musical moments to me, like I keep thinking, "there is nothing else in the world that would go better in that spot in that song. It's just right the way it is." And so I keep listening to it, and it becomes even more ingrained.

The Shins have put out two albums since then, Chutes Too Narrow and the brand-new Wincing the Night Away, which I think is poised to someday knock Oh, Inverted World off its throne, once it's all worn in and comfortable. It's a wonderful album--sort of atmospheric, but also perfectly, head-boppingly bouncy at the same time, and every single song is good. We'll see where that album and I go together, and maybe I'll write about it more specifically someday.

So, the Shins. Live and in the flesh! What to say about the show itself? I went to see them because I wanted to see them, and not because I thought they'd be an especially great live show. And that's about right--they were a fine show, a good show, but it's not like they're super exhibitionists, or anything. They mostly just come up, play, bounce around a little, and call it a night. It's just that the music is so good, you know? James Mercer must weigh about 130 pounds soaking wet, and he mumbles less live than on the albums. His falsetto is a little scary in real life. There's also have a sort of adorable bass player/second vocalist, and a guitarist who obviously plays Guitar Hero waaay too much, and the requisite all-instrument guy that looks like Richie from The Royal Tenenbaums. They started with "Sleeping Lessons" and ended with "So Says I," and hit most of the high points along the way--just about exactly what you'd expect. It was just a show, not that different from any other show I've been to, but I'm so happy that I got to go and listen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A mini-break means true love

I'm back! (To let you know: I can really shake 'em down.)

But you didn't even know I was gone. I took last Friday and Monday off and drove to L.A. for a quick vacation--just a few days to investigate my friend Kendra's new house and housemates, check some things off my "to do in L.A." list, and just generally get out of town. I have a love/hate relationship with L.A.; I always think that it would be so beautiful if it weren't...itself. Kendra lives in Calabasas, north of L.A. and east of Malibu--out in the sticks, really--and it's pretty there, but I think I'd have to live in L.A. proper. I'd need to be near the beach. And take lots of vacations to places that are not L.A.

Vacation highlight reel:

- The trips down and back were surprisingly painless. I have memories of my last solo drive down "the 5," of listening to Roald Dahl's The Witches on tape and pretty much expecting to die of boredom and muscular atrophy somewhere between Kettleman "City" and Patterson. This time, I packed up with the Creative Screenwriting podcast and a basket of organic strawberries, and probably could have driven forever. Just me and blue sky, hills, tumbleweeds stuck in the fences on the side of the road, a group of actual cowboys on actual horses herding actual cattle, and the inexplicable Indian restaurant in Buttonwillow. The Pull of the Road, and all that. It was nice.

- My new favorite thing: House of Blues Gospel Brunch! Picture miles of soul food buffet and a quartet of church ladies in their church-lady hats and church-lady suits rocking out on stage. I never caught the name of the group, but the woman assured me many times that they were, indeed, legendary. Pretty much the best thing ever. I want to go every week, just for cheese grits and "Holy, Holy, Holy."

- I gave in to temptation and took myself on the Warner Bros. studio tour--I was hoping to see the main theater set for Studio 60, which by all accounts is pretty incredible, and is also unlikely to be around much longer. The bad news is that the set was unavailable; the good news is that it was unavailable because they were filming! The tour guide assured me it would be back on the air around June, which is really all I ask. To make it up to me, the tour guide took us on the "all Gilmore, all the time" tour--we walked around the exteriors of all the Stars Hollow sets and then through the interiors of Lorelai's house and the Dragonfly, which are beautiful and so detailed. Livin' the dream on the front steps of the Crap Shack:

Anyway, it's a fun tour if you like TV and film history and seeing celebrities' parking spaces, which, apparently.

- I took a field trip to the Writers' Guild library in search of a 30 Rock script to look over (and remember with my crystal-clear photoraphic memory? I don't know). They didn't have what I was looking for, but I did have a fine time reading some Newsradio and The Office scripts. I'm now even more convinced that tracking down an actual 30 Rock script would be wise, but I'm not sure how that works--I wonder if NBC would send me one, since it's for educational purposes? Anyway, I also met a very polite old man in a suit and bow tie in the elevator, and I'm convinced he was Milton Berle (dead or alive?), or someone. It was all very writerly, and I had a good time. Is it sad that the writers' union library is like a tourist attraction for me? I can't decide.

So now I'm home and theoretically back in the swing of things, even though my brain is still somewhere on I-5. It'll catch up eventually, I guess.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Odds; ends

- I finished Pants 4 yesterday, and couldn't help giving it a little hug as I put it back on the shelf with its buddies. I'm naming it my second-favorite Pants book: not quite as true and honest and heartbreaking as #2, maybe, but still willing to do some heavy lifting character-wise. I loved Tibby and, surprisingly, Bridget--I think the Vreeland family (or what's left of it) is the final frontier for Bee, and I liked the way she finally had to deal with the people she'd left at home all this time. I would have felt good about the outcome of Lena's story either way, I think; I was ready for her to be content by herself, and I liked the ways in which she grew in this book. But I also feel like I can be gracious to Lena and let her have her happy ending, so it's okay. The ending as it currently stands works for me. In short, I'm really impressed with Ann Brashares and what she's done with herself as a writer since the early days of the original Pants book--this final book in the series is so much more complex and mature than I would have expected from her in the beginning. Well played.

- I've now picked up Broken For You, by Stephanie Kallos, which Katie gave me for Christmas with a note that she thought I "really needed to read this book." So far it's pretty readable but also a little heavy-handed and self-consciously quirky in the way that first novels often are. *shrug* I'll reserve judgement.

- The urge to work on my spec script has flagged this week. I think it's related to the lack of TV--not a single one of my shows is on, so my TV is pretty much sitting there silent, taking up space and failing to inspire me with displays of brilliance by people who are writing. So I'm taking this as a break in the belief that my voice will come back soon. In fact, both The Office and 30 Rock come back tonight, so I'm thinking "soon" might actually mean "today." Bonus: 30 Rock has been renewed for a second season, which means it's technically fair game for spec-scripting. Wooot!

- I am not in the mood to write, but I am in the mood to knit, and knit prolifically. I made it through most of the length of Sleeve 1 (10 reps of a six-row cable pattern; increase at row five, twist the cable at row three!) and am getting up to the shoulder shaping. Very exciting! I'm also about to hit the part of the pattern that's full of things I haven't learned about yet, so I'm trying not to read too far ahead, or I get overwhelmed. One new skill at a time, I say, and soon I will have a sweater! Or, actually half of a sweater. I'm having fun with it, but I hope it goes quickly, because I'm dying to wear it.

- Which brings me to my new favorite thing: podcasts! The point of the podcast escaped me for a long time--if a blog is self-indulgence, written and published for all the world to see, do we really need to add the human voice to that?--but now I'm hooked. It's like having a talk-radio station that only talks about what you want them to talk about! My taste in podcasts is typical and typically nerdy: so far, writing and knitting. I like listening to the Creative Screenwriting magazine podcast, in which a vaguely obnoxious host interviews working screenwriters, at work--something about it has that tantalizing "yes, I'm a waitress, but what I really want to do is direct" quality to it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is nothing more inspiring than writers talking about writing, and this principle has gotten me through many a long afternoon of edit entry lately. When I've had it with the self-centeredness of writers, I switch on one of two knitting podcasts: Stash and Burn or Cast On. S&B features two San Francisco knitters talking about...well, knitting. Knitting projects, knitting yarn, knitting stories, knitting road trips, knitting books, knitting jokes. Cast On is a little different in that it's a podcast meant to be heard while knitting, and I've tried to reserve it for that purpose. There's indie music to knit to, a weekly essay on knitting (deeper than you'd think), knitting news (more than you'd think), and a segment in which the podcaster shares the backstory on a sweater she's made. It's a little NPR-ish in its soothingness and its vague more-liberal-than-thou quality, but I find it strangely addicting. Now all I need is a good literature podcast, and I'll be good to go! KLIZ, now broadcasting on a laptop near you!

- That is all, except that today is Maundy Thursday. I've never been to a Maundy Thursday service, and I won't be going this year, either. I am very much looking forward to the Good Friday service at my church tomorrow night, though. Good Friday is such a strange day--something to be *commemorated* but not necessarily *celebrated,* which is a tricky thing, I think. Anyway, I loved the service last year, and this year my choir is performing--we get to hang out in the balcony, behind everyone, and sing a Renaissance-era monks' chant. A capella. In Latin. Not that we're the point of the service, or anything, but we sound GOOD.

- That really is all.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Attack of the giant papillaries!

So, after one totally unsatisfying visit to the GP (Him: "You have a cyst inside your eyelid. There's nothing you can do. Hope you like your glasses!" Me: "Wrong answer!") and a much more satisfying visit to the optometrist, it seems that I won't need to knit myself a set of decorative eye patches after all. I have giant papillary conjunctivitis--basically a rash on the insides of my eyelids caused by over-wearing of my contacts and possibly an allergic reaction to Target-brand contact solution. I'm banned from wearing contacts for a month, and after that I'll be using better solution and wearing glasses two days a week. That's it.

I'm feeling a little vain and disappointed about the glasses situation, but I am pleased to not have cancer or anything else where they remove my eye, and so I am being grateful and polishing my "I rock the glasses hard" vibe instead. Glasses! Yay!

(And for my mom: Tina Fey, role model to glasses-wearing writer-girls the world over.)