Thursday, July 26, 2007

Take this job and snort it

Before this week, I never really thought of this blog as a place to go for the latest pop culture gossip. With the exception of my foray into the sweet and cheesy goodness that is Carrie Underwood. I mean, hello. This is me we're talking about, Ms. Kill-Your-Television who can count on one hand the number of episodes of any (by the way that's not actually) reality show I've seen, ever. But at my writing group today it was pointed out to me after a couple of us spent the first 15 minutes or more skewering Harry Potter that we were just participating in the phenomenon, and this was followed by another member of the group saying, "Geez, I thought at least we'd talk about Lindsay Lohan" which elicited from me an "Oh my gosh I know!" followed by a few minutes blathering about my fascination with her latest story. Which is:

What's up with the fleeing personal assistant? Seriously?! How does everyone not find that the most fascinating part of the story? I mean, I'm dutifully impressed by the scary picture (which one of my Facebook friends changed his profile pic to, nice) and that having and transporting the cocaine are felonies and all, but seriously? The personal assistant, who quit just a few hours before, is being driven off by her mother and Lindsay is chasing them? I so wanted to know more about that. Like, how much did that job suck, being Ms Thang's personal assistant? Did Lindsay make this girl go get the coke for her and she's like, "OK but it's the last thing I'll do?" Was Lindsay afraid of being ratted out for breaking sobriety? Or did the girl just not throw a good enough 21st birthday bash? Which, if I were in charge of her 21st birthday bash I'd be like, listen lady, you've already had your 21st birthday, many times over.

So, yeah. I was totally fasincated by this. I freely admit it.

I'd beter go slink off to read some Willa Cather now...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Seven Things I Hate About Harry Potter
(hey! that's one for each book)

(Still no Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows spoilers, although this entry does contain Citizen Kane spoilers. And that, in fact, is part of the point.)

So I've been thinking about how nearly every blogging friend I have has posted about Harry Potter in the last couple days, either assuring that their entry contains no spoilers or imploring others not to spoil or both. Even I have posted about Harry Potter, and I don't even read it. The only thing I remember resonating this much in my little corner of the blogosphere was the the death of Kurt Vonnegut. (Wait, sphere? Corner? Well, you know what I mean.) Of course, I suppose HP blogs are better than the alternative, which right now is apparently posting a link to the prisoners in the Philippines who reenacted the "Thriller" video. Ugh. (Have I mentioned I don't get all the fuss about Michael Jackson either? Yeah. And I don't feel a speck of guilt about that one, unlike The Simpsons, or even an intellectual curiosity as to why, as with our good friend Harry.)

It started me thinking about how long the spoiler grace period is. For example, JK Rowling will appear on the Today show I believe tomorrow and Entertainment Weekly's comment was, "Who cares if she tells Meredith Vieira how it ends? You finished it two days ago, didn't you?" Ha ha. But seriously...when does something pass from the realm of "Oh my god, don't tell me!" into the realm where it is proper to allude or refer to it?

The Citizen Kane spoiler is in this paragraph.---> I was thinking about the movie Playing By Heart that came out a few years ago. I really liked it; it seems to have missed a lot of people's radar but the cast alone was fantastic. Anyway, at one point in one couple's fighting after one has ruined the ending of something for the other the ruinee says, "Geez, you might as well run into a theater showing Citizen Kane and yell, 'Rosebud is a sled!'" Interestingly, I had seen Citizen Kane before watching that movie, but only shortly before. Somehow I never got around to watching "the greatest film of all time" (ahem) in my childhood and only watched it after the original AFI Top 100 Movies list came out. I thought, there must be people watching Playing By Heart who haven't seen Kane yet. Possibly some who even, as I did, knew "Rosebud" was this big secret mysterious thing in the film and would not want it ruined. But was that spoiling line justified, since fifty plus years had passed? (END OF CITIZEN KANE SPOILERS)

But this isn't what I came here today to talk about. I actually came here to address the burning question that so many have been asking: why is it, exactly, that I don't care for the little wizard? Why the Harry Potter hate? I'm not sure I can come up with an exhaustive list, but here off the top of my head are some...

Reasons I hate Harry Potter:

  • The whole "kids reading again" thing drives me batty. Especially the way people say it. The way they say it is as if a.)kids really weren't reading at all for some indeterminate number of years b.)that was somehow the fault of the children's books that were out there and not, say, the parents...or, hey, the children themselves c.)now every kid in the world has seen the error of his/her ways and become a reader. I reject all three of those notions.
  • JK's "writer's block." This was one of the top 2 most ridiculous statements by a person of influence on the bookselling/publishing world during my Borders career (the other being Oprah's ending her first book club because she just couldn't find enough good, inspiring new literature). JK's alleged writer's block was in between books 4 and 5, I think. The publication date of the next one was delayed or something, and then the rumor surfaced in the bookselling world that J.K. Rowling had writer's block. I was like, are you kidding me? Doesn't she get it? It *doesn't matter* what she writes. Salivating fans will buy the book by the millions and then come back for more. It was no longer a hard sell, or even an easy sell, but simply a fact. And people taking this "writer's block" thing seriously surprised me, because I realized they were viewing it as some inspired work of art instead of the crafting of a commodity. I don't even think it's wrong to have something become an entertainment commodity. It can still be creative and fun to work on and a satisfying finished product (example: the third Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End). But writer's block? I was highly offended. I've seen writer's block, and that wasn't it.
  • The vast bookselling/publishing conspiracy to create false demand. At best it's corporate money-grubbing; at worst it's psychological warfare. There is no reason on this planet that they can't print far more than enough copies for release day, but we still have to go through this nonsense of fans reserving a copy and bookstores selling out. Furthermore, the bookstores are in on it, too, for their own hype purposes. There is no reason on the planet for them not to order far more than enough copies. They're going to get another shipment in a matter of days. Why all this pretending that the initial few thousand is all they could get? This actually disgusts me. Because it is a lie. And a capitalist lie at that. (I prefer well-meaning Communist lies, I suppose.) Also, recall that I was around when there were only three books out. That's when I started working for Borders, right when this crap was getting hugely popular and we were anticipating Goblet. ALL THREE of the hardcovers were on the bestseller list (this was before the NY Times finally just gave in and created a children's bestseller list, probably because other authors were like, "Screw this! I'm angling for one of seven given spots now instead of ten?") And yet we would sell out, just here and there, of one of the books for a little while. Now, never mind the pain in the neck that was my life as a merchandising supervisor when we were sold out of a bestseller. There was just no reason for it. Oh, today we have Chamber of Secrets in paperback but not hardcover. Oh, no Azkaban for you this weekend. Ugh. I watched the "on hand" numbers dwindle in our computer, and I watched them not be promptly replenished. I'm pretty sure we blamed the publisher, which is a bit like Bush making Rumsfeld the sole scapegoat for the debacle that is the Iraq war. (You'll notice that didn't work, either.)
  • Changing vocabulary for the U.S. editions. The books are English. Apparently, however, it is too much to ask of all those United Statesian children who are "reading again" to read any vocabulary from across the pond. Seriously? How many England-based books did I read growing up--I was never flummoxed by a "lift" or a "boot" or a whatever. It's educational. Most egregious of all, and this one has actually bugged others, I know, is the changing of the first book's title from the "Philosopher's Stone" to the "Sorcerer's Stone." I say, so what if we don't have the same meaning/connotation for the word "philosopher" and people here don't know what the legend of the philosopher's stone is all about? Let them read and find out. No one previously knew what an "Azkaban" was either. Good god.
  • Sycophant writers. My dumb Writer's Digest newsletter, an issue or two ago, reran a 2000 interview with Ms. Rowling Thang. Shamelessly. "Oh, this was from before she stopped giving interviews, but it certainly gives some insight into the process..." blah blah blah. I rolled my eyes and deleted. Nothing? You had nothing better to put in this issue? Even the writers of the world are supposed to be waiting with bated breath for whatever glorious wisdom she deigns to shed? Ewww. Come on, we've all heard the story: girlfriend needed money for her children (who may, even now, be "reading again") and she went to a coffee shop and wrote. That's the trick. Now run a new interview, for god's sake. (At least Oprah can get reclusive authors who don't give interviews to capitulate and talk to her.)
  • They're really not all that original/amazing/nothing-like-it-under-the-sun. Of course, you'd never know it now, because some talking heads have put it out there, and now that's what all the lemmings think they think about these books. But those of us capable of thinking a critical thought might just remember that we've always had imaginative children's books whisking us away to fantastic worlds where gifted children triumph over evil forces, such as insipid and cruel adults. And a lot of those books have been British, as recently pointed out by Le Monde. I'm sick of people saying J.K. Rowling invented all this. More like she copied and borrowed quite a bit of it, if anything.
  • Those little wizards just didn't hold my interest. What can I say? I read the first 150 pages of the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Philosopher's Stone. Twice. There they were sorting themselves into Hogwarts dorms and I was just like, "Yawn. What's on the telly?" No one at my Borders could believe I didn't finish it. Later I thought I'd try again by reading it in Spanish, to kill two birds with one stone. I like to read books in Spanish and French from time to time, to practice my languages. But I got to around the same place and realized I still didn't care. I moved on to Isabel Allende's excellent young adult series and read that in Spanish instead. Which I highly recommend, by the way.

To end on a positive note, however, I will now share with you the Thing I Like About Harry Potter. Because it has been flung around the globe and forced down the throats of all those children who previously "hated to read" I had the makings of an excellent vocabulary lesson one day in Korea. I had an evening adolescent class with about half a dozen remarkably fluent students, and we loved to chat about this and that. One day Harry Potter came up. They had all read the books in Korean, of course, and I challenged them by making them try to come up with the titles in English. It was awesome. They could get "prisoner" and some others, but it was fun watching them strain for "goblet." They'd make a lot of frantic hand motions and say, "Teacher, it is the cup that goes like this." Good times.

I would also like to point out that when I arrived over there HP and the Half-Blood Prince was out in English (and U.S. English) but the Korean translation had not yet been published. However, this same group of adolescents told me all about what happens in it. "Did you read it in English?" I asked, knowing they could (a few of them, anyway) but doubting very much that they did. "No, teacher," they said, amused at the thought. "We look for what happens on the internet."

Aha. I wonder what the Korean word is for "spoiler."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry, Barry, and Bart
or, Less Than Zero. Waaaay less.

(Note: There are no specific HP and the Deathly Hallows spoilers in this entry, just a general mention of the fact that some characters die, which everyone with an internet connection already knows at this point unless they are living under a rock with some wacky kind of firewall that blocks all information about obsessions and salivating fans.)

It's funny (or is it) that in the five years and three Harry Potter releases(books 4, 5, and 6) of my Borders career I managed to get out of ever working a midnight release party, but now that I work sporadically at the Borders in Queens I actually worked the big event. Enthusiastically, I might add. But it was frightening. I played the palm reader/fortune teller at the "Grand Hallows Ball." I had a script of things like "You will soon be reacquainted with old friends" and "You will not get much sleep tonight." Of course I had to spice it up a little with my own interpretations of these people. But here's the scary thing: they thought I was a real palm reader. They told their friends, "Oh my god she's so amazing." They asked for my card. My card?! Ha ha ha ha ha ha...oh dear, it was all so amusing.

I mean, seriously. I sat in a chair behind a black curtain with Halloween decorations supplied by one of the supervisors there: a crystal ball in a skull's hand, a sphere on the table that lit up Tesla-style, black cloth. A fake spider, for god's sake. "Lady Linda lurks in her lair..." was what the sign said. I wore a long skirt, a scarf holding back my hair, thin gold hoop earrings, a fair amount of eyeliner... and the masses of Middle Village, Queens, New York, USA came flocking. There was still a line at midnight. A couple people were like, "I don't care about the book; I just want my palm read." It was the most absurd thing I've ever been a part of. And I've been a part of some absurd things in my day. (See also: Provo, Korea, etc.)

The whole thing was so weird because Borders had it set up where you were kind of palm-reading/fortune-telling. But to my knowledge (which is very little) palm reading isn't really a fortune-telling divination, but more of a personality/strengths/life determination. But what do I know? I just tell people what they want to hear. Apparently. I would tell them they were going on a magical journey. (With Harry, Ron, and Hermione, right?) They would get so excited. I discovered how easy it is in the space of two seconds to look at someone and tailor what you say to them, based on age, wedding ring or lack thereof, what they're carrying, and whether they're wearing fashionable clothes and hairstyle. I mean, I even took a look at their wristbands for getting in line at midnight to buy the book, and if they had the color for people who had not reserved in advance then I told them they procrastinate things but will pursue what's important.

It was awesome. So did I have an epiphany that I could have a great career as a psychic? Not at all. Despite the fact that I was really tempted beforehand to put out a tip jar and now wish I had been allowed to. I actually felt kind of disgusted. It was the most like a liar I've ever been. I don't care if I was acting and playing a role--these dumbasses who've never left their Queens neighborhood believed I had answers for them. I'd be like, "OK thank you for stopping by; enjoy the Grand Hallows Ball!" And they'd reply, "But wait! Am I going to get married?" I said I did not reveal such things. One woman asked me how long I'd been doing this. I wanted to say, "One hour and twenty minutes." Instead I said, "Lady Linda does not count the years."

Furthermore, what I did realize is that there is great hope for my political career, because I can apparently look people in the eye and make them think my truth is what they want to hear, even though I don't know them from Adam. Speaking of politics and liars, I was thinking about war later that evening. The silver wristband people somehow got lined up in two separate places and we were trying to sort them out and merge them back together and these people were freaks. No matter how much we tried to get them to shut up for ten seconds so we could discuss the situation, they kept piping up in our faces. And what shocked me most was the active resistance to the compromise of merging the lines. (Which we did anyway, because hello! We have brains in our heads!) They just couldn't see that taking two from here and two from there would get everybody through better, and would definitely be faster for them than if we took one line at a time and *their* line was the second one chosen. How could they not see that compromising was not only the most fair but also the most efficient? I thought, 'No wonder we have so much war in this world.'

"People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles..."
-- first line of Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

My favorite parts of the night were the after-hours, though. First, at 2:30 a.m., when we had triumphantly rung up the last customers and sent them on their way, the employees who'd reserved the book purchased theirs and we all stood around looking at the store which had the appearance of the dregs of a New Year's Eve party. That was when Brian and I read the end of the book. This shocked and awed many of the people around us. It also horrified them as I would eagerly point to a page and say to Brian, "Oh, look, s/he lives and s/he dies!" and things like that. I thought it was just about the funniest thing in the world. I've never read a Harry Potter book in its entirety, although I got through about 150 pages of the first one before I stopped caring. This summed it all up for me nicely and now I can move on with my life. (Would that I could say the same for the rest of JK Rowling's minions.)

Then we went out to do shots of Jack Daniels with our general manager and wash them down with beer until 4:30 a.m. All in all, a great night. And Brian makes an excellent Harry Potter. I knew he would. We just had to find the right pair of glasses.

Back here in Boston, I watched a lot of baseball last night, including my Braves against San Francisco. And unless you've been living under another rock, perhaps next door to the one you've been living under if you don't know about characters dying in the last Harry Potter book, then you know Barry Bonds plays for San Francisco and is thisclose to breaking Hank Aaron's home run record, which is great for me because everyone wants to see it happen so my Braves games against them are televised for sure. No home runs for Barry last night, but it was highly amusing because the announcers talked about basically nothing else, and going in and out of every break it was all about home run race tidbits. I'm amused because they have to be prepared for it last night, tonight, any night--he could easily hit three in one game. At the same time, though, if he doesn't do this for a while they are going to get really sick of having no other subjects and the interns are going to be digging deeper and deeper for interesting things to say about it.

I rather like Chipper Jones' take on the whole thing. He said if he were pitching (but he's not a pitcher) and it was that time, he'd throw one right in there. Really, the interviewer asks, incredulous. He said, "Sure, I'd be in every clip. Forever." That's awesome.

Meanwhile, I have yet to go to a Simpsons Kwik-E-Mart. And the one in New York is right by Port Authority, where I've spent so much quality time lately. (There isn't one in Boston.) Shame on me. I haven't really begun salivating over the Simpsons movie as much as most folks have. I mean, I like The Simpsons and it's one of the shows whose greatness I acknowledge while rarely watching it. But I must admit I am pretty skeptical about whether any TV show can be turned into a good movie. They just always feel like a long episode of the TV show that's trying to be more. That is why The Brady Bunch movies were so great: they made fun of the TV shows and the fact that their plots barely merited a half-hour sitcom to begin with. So I'll probably go see the Simpsons movie, but I won't expect it to be a great movie.

I'll leave you to decide which is weirder--not being a Simpsons fan or not being a Harry Potter fan. At least I love baseball, so you can't call me "un-American." Not that I would mind.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Galaranting

Consider me blown away! There I was, innocently typing one of my scintillating stories in Microsoft Word, when I chanced to look at the little red squigglies calling my attention to my incorrectly spelled words and/or words that Word had not seen fit to recognize (Sabra, Ruggles, 'ol). I noticed an unexpected little red squiggly under the word "galavant." Hmm, thought I, checking to see if I had left out a letter in a fit of quick typing. But no. This was so strange. Why were the little Microsoft spelling gremlins taking issue with this fabulous word of words?

Off I scurried to TheFreeDictionary.com to get to the bottom of this. Lo and behold, as they say, "galavant" offered up simply this: a variation of gallivant.

Gallivant? Really? Really?! I am going to go out on a limb here and say I have NEVER seen it spelled that way. And yet, there it is. The Online Etymology Dictionary doesn't even have a "galavant" entry! Only "gallivant" is there!

What is the meaning of this? Do we blame Canada? You know, when I was in Korea I got to learn a lot about the ways we crazy United Statesians have been deviant spellers, surrounded as I was by Canadians not to mention the Brits who started it all. Well, to all my peeps of the Commonwealth of Nations...what do you have to say for yourselves? Do you galavant or do you gallivant?

And now aren't you curious to know more about this story that includes the words Sabra, Ruggles, ol', and galavant??? What could it be?!

Gallivant. Man. Who woulda thunkit?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Who's calling, please?

"Paranoia, paranoia, everybody's coming to get me..."

I love Netflix. OK, this we already know. Unless we've been living under an extraordinarily large rock. Netflix has introduced yet another new feature: Movie Privacy. This is a supplement to an established Netflix feature, the Friends page, on which you can add your friends who are also part of (the beauty that is) Netflix and share movie recommendations and compare your ratings of movies and see what they have at home and what they have in the queue and so on. I am all about my Netflix Friends page and play with it almost as obsessively as I reorder my queue.

A few weeks ago one of my roommates who had just joined the glorious world of Netflix expressed resistance to adding people as her Netflix Friends. She said she wasn't sure she wanted to have a Netflix Friends page at all because she didn't know that she wanted her friends to see what she was renting. To which I of course responded - my god, how bad can the movies be that you're getting from there? I mean, do they even have porn? Don't know, I never looked for it. But the point is, it struck me as so weird. Also, the girl lives in my HOUSE. I could potentially see the movies she gets lying around the table, you know? And I just thought, who cares if people see that you've watched dumb crap? I proudly rate Adventures in Babysitting five stars, for example. ("Don't f**k with the babysitter!")

So of course upon discovering this latest and greatest feature, I promptly dashed off an email to my roommate (who is out of town in a location I shall not disclose). Like so: "Dear [name not revealed], There's a new feature! You can mark movies 'private' or 'shared' so now you can be my Netflix friend even though you're paranoid...You're apparently not the only one..."

Then the whole thing reminded me of caller i.d. Remember when the phone rang and you had to answer it to see who it was? Ahhh, the old days. Then somewhere along the way people began to screen calls in their homes by letting the answering machine pick up. I was fond of this practice not necessarily because I wanted a device to act as my call-screening secretary but I could just rarely be bothered to answer the phone anyway so it was made for someone like me. I could always dash over to the phone if it turned out to be worth answering. But then answering machines gave way to voice mail in the 90s, and I think around then is when this newfangled caller i.d. also came about.

My initial response to caller i.d. was totally noncommittal. Like, who cares? If I really wanted to know who was calling me (and that was a big if indeed) then I'd pick it up and say hello. I don't think most of the caller i.d. people ever actually used it to not answer their phones; it was just some way to seem cooler when they answered. I was not impressed.

But then there were of course the paranoids who didn't want someone to know they were calling. After all, this whole thing totally killed our childhood fun of making obnoxious prank phone calls. So the paranoids would block their numbers and the phone geeks would see "private number" or something on their little display screen. Not to be outdone, the caller i.d. cult responded with an even-more-paranoid refusal to accept blocked calls. This is when I noted how annoying the whole thing was. Because I moved in with a roommate in L.A. (different roommate, different era) who had caller i.d. but also had *her* number blocked (go figure) so when I randomly called a friend of mine who didn't accept blocked calls I'd get that "press star-eight-whatever to unblock this call" message. Ugh, I thought, this has GOT to stop.

And you know what? It did stop. (Thanks, universe.) Because also around this time everyone was starting to get cell phones. And as you know, now we all have our cell phones and we all look to see who's calling without even thinking about it; it's part of answering the phone. And we text (well, those of us who are wise do). And that one friend of ours who has her number blocked is mildly aggravating, but we kind of just know it's her when the incoming call shows up as "unknown." Of course, now we have the people who set their MySpace profiles to private. I love that they are on there checking everyone out and then set their own profile to private. They are the new I-have-caller-i.d.-but-block-my-own-number. Get. Over. Your. Self.

So the way I see it, all that point-counterpoint number blocking and such that everyone was so ratcheted up about was never destined to last, and I said that then, which means you should listen to me because I am very wise and a fortune teller and you're all clearly going to join Netflix eventually so you should just do it now, why wait? And add me to your Friends page while you're at it so I can spy on your queue.

"Paranoia, paranoia, everybody's coming to get me
Just say you never met me

I'm running underground with the moles
Diggin' holes
Hear the voices in my head, I swear to god it sounds like they're snoring
But if you're bored than you're boring
The agony and the irony, they're killing me..."
-- harvey danger

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hit the button, hit the button...

I wish I could remember exactly when I saw it, and more of what he said, but I think it was my boy Bill Maher and I *think* it was fairly soon after Sept. 11th. He compared the general U.S. public to rats. Lab rats, who had been trained/brainwashed to hit a button in order to keep their supply of food or whatever coming. He said we act like that, doing as we're told, unthinking. Oh, OK, the Supreme Court made Bush my "president"...oh there are weapons of mass destruction...oh I should vote for this...? Oh, OK. Hit the button, hit the button. Don't even think. Do anything they'll tell us to do. They feed us. They keep us alive--in our miserable little cage. Only, of course, how he put it was better. It was incisive commentary and it was brilliant. I so need to find that again.

I personally have often shared my own theory that Prozac, Zoloft, and their SSRI anti-depressant ilk are largely responsible for Bush et. al. It's kind of a similar idea to his. I see us as terribly Brave New World-esque these days. Rather than soma and feelies, we have mass distributed drugs that are yielding billions for Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies while no one really even claims to know how they work nor can anyone identify the nature of the "disease" they are meant to "treat." (A "cure" is not even discussed, for obvious reasons.) And we have remote control. So if the big bad realities of the world are too much to handle, we just hit the button and look for something better -- Paris Hilton in jail, perhaps, whose treatment is so much easier for us to process than the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo.

So, in keeping with our grand tradition of doing anything to avoid feeling an actual emotion in response to the Bush Administration's evil warmongering ways -- an emotion such as, oh, I don't know, how about outrage? -- we numb ourselves with soma Zoloft and escape to the feelies five thousand channels who claim to portray our "reality."

And then when along comes Michael Moore, or Hillary Clinton, you say, "Ohhh---(s)he's so controversial. People don't like him/her." You say this long before you think through anything they've said. You say people "would never elect" Hillary. Because....why? Because she's won over practically the entire New York populace with her outstanding performance in the Senate? because we're going to "elect" Bush instead? Why exactly? You judge Michael Moore's movie before you've seen it. He's "wrong and inflammatory and one-sided" you say. And you know these things because...? What was it again? Oh right, I know. That's what you heard. Or read somewhere.

Well for the love of god read something else! Try this:
Sicko: Commenting on Commentaries.

While we sit on the couch, let's see what happens if in response to that emotion creeping up from deep in the pit of the stomach, that anger or despair or disgust, see what happens if you actually feel it, instead of hitting the button/popping the pill (or, yes, drinking the beer...) to make it go away before it actually makes you pay attention.

Also, I think I really should give Brave New World a place in my top ten books list. That was a damn good book. I want to read it again. I read it when I was 15. Oh, but then I forgot -- we didn't have Harry Potter. We didn't have anything good to read as children and adolescents. Apparently, to hear some folks tell it, before Ms JK Rowling Thang there was nothing so imaginative and well-written under the sun. Ugh. Who came up with that line? Whoever it was, a lot of you bought it. And repeated it. Often. Hit the button. Hit the button.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hey, T.S.! June is the second cruelest month.

I like July. April and June just really didn't work out as great as they should have this year, but so far July is good stuff. Perhaps I will write a book and the evil villains will be twins named April and June.

What's so great about July, you ask? Oh, I'm just having a lovely time. Productive initial weekend, lovely 4th, fabulous time this past week, and today here at the house I actually stood in the backyard for a bit remarking - again - how glorious it is to have this house to live in for the summer, which is for all intents and purposes IN the city (on bus line, close to subway, stuff to do) but is also peacefully suburbanesque (residential, treetops, Mystic River). It's not that I don't like the utterly urbanesque Manhattan and even some bits of Queens and Brooklyn (and they certainly beat the hell out of the Hofstra area of Long Island, land of strip malls and not a suburbanesque lovely tree-lined river to be found), but I like New York City differently. And today I revelled in liking this. A lovely run in the morning, the way the summer sun shines while the breeze stirs the wind chimes, sipping from my mug of coffee while I write and work -- good god, it's the stuff of dreams.

And have I mentioned how much I love my balcony? Who will help me to find such a balcony in New York? I am terribly fond of my balcony. Maybe I should have gone to that other 'H' for law school...you know, that crimson one down the road in Cambridge...? Just kidding, actually. I have no desire to law school it up there. If I were being ambitious in law school I would have gone to Yale, anyway. (That's where the Clintons went, you know.)

I am so fond of July right now.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Coup de moi, revisited

The answer is yes. I know you're thinking: what was the question? Well, this isn't Jeopardy or even The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so I will tell you. There are so many questions, though, aren't there? Even asked by me, here on this blog? (answer: yes! See, I told you! But that's not the question to which I refer of course...)

As it turns out, the answer is "yes" to a lot of the questions I've asked herein. For example, the other week I asked several questions here about whether I'm just acting spoiled about this whole "law school is boring" thing, and I asked, "Do I need to be slapped?" and some people probably offered a resounding yes to that one.

But the question I'm thinking about NOW was on my Literary Supplement a couple weeks ago when I was all angsty and moody and flashbacky and fretting. In my June 24th entry, "Caveat"(and not to toot my own horn but did anyone even get the clever title of that entry? I was pretty impressed with that one if I do say so myself), I asked if I was just being an idiot (yes) and repeated the question in various forms (yes, yes, still more yes) and then I asked, and here I quote, "And if so does that mean when I finish reading [A Passage to India] I can close the book on all this flashback nonsense as well?"

And that, my friends, is the question to which I am happy to report that the answer is, apparently, yes. A la volonte de moi! Vive le July!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Love means never having to watch overrated treacle from the 70s

Today I took a brief respite on the Boston Common in between writing group, research, and various errands. I sat on a bench in the sunshine reading A Passage to India. Others had ventured onto the Common to enjoy the afternoon; for example, a middle-aged couple sat on the bench next to mine.

Along came a slightly disheveled and maybe too heavily medicated man who began talking to me seemingly out of nowhere. I really was engrossed in my book (which, I reiterate, was A Passage to India. Bright yellow cover. Title written in red letters. Just pointing that out) but I lifted an eye from the page to acknowledge him, not that he really seemed to be waiting for this acknowledgement before continuing with his story. Which basically started in the middle of a sentence.

"...in the film, you know, there's this great film, Goodbye Columbus, there's this scene, it's not the other one, Ali McGraw's in it..." He went on like this for a while. There was a bit about Donald Sutherland, who, I don't think was actually in Goodbye Columbus? So maybe my little friend was just confused, but anyway then he said "and Ali McGraw, you know, so she's in the film..." And he kind of looked at me to check in, see if I was getting all this.

"I don't like Ali McGraw," I said. (What? Love Story is possibly the most overrated film of all time. I think she was the Renee Zellweger of the 1970s.)

"Oh, well, I don't care for her too much either, but she's beautiful, you know," he replied. I may have shrugged then and glanced down at the book I longed to continue reading so he quickly launched back into his rant. Man was responsive to his audience, I'll give him that. On and on some more about Goodbye Columbus this and that, and the scene, oh here we go, the great scene, the moment we've been waiting for, where "she's reading and he sees her reading and" -- here the man opened his arms in a sweeping gesture that took in the Boston Common, the assembled hordes, the bright sunny day, the glorious sky -- "and he says, 'You always know when it's summer because she's reading War and Peace. She reads War and Peace every summer.'" With that, strange medicated man slapped me on the knee (lightly of course) to emphasize the brilliant story's end and trotted off.

Pause.

I think the woman on the bench next to me gave in first. Then I laughed, too. The man on the bench said, "How did we get on Ali McGraw?" We all laughed together. I shook my head. A Passage to India? War and Peace? I don't get it. I've never seen Goodbye Columbus, I might add, but I guess maybe I should think about adding it to my Netflix queue tonight, eh? At any rate, I hope that man's day was brightened as he reflected on this movie scene in which he clearly delighted.

Summer time, and the livin' is - something.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Boredom
or, What lawyers and Mormons have in common besides dressing up in conservative suits and ties

I have come to realize that one reason for my happiness and contentment in life is I have adopted a sort of policy against being bored. I've remarked on this from time to time over the past decade. Some people have expressed their feelings of boredom and I have said I couldn't remember the last time I was bored. There's just so much -- too much -- I want to do, and no reason to not be in pursuit of it, I think.

Now, as a child I most assuredly experienced boredom on a regular basis. For starters, my family used to routinely make me watch The Lawrence Welk Show. Also, during my unfortunate (incarceration) churchgoing years I was guaranteed at least three hours of boredom every Sunday. There was just nothing there to intellectually, emotionally, playfully, or otherwise stimulate me, with the possible exception of my best friend, but we'd get in trouble for talking when we dared to entertain each other. Same deal at elementary school from time to time, though I could sometimes find ways to quietly entertain myself such as writing notes or stories, working ahead, being the teacher's pet, who knows. When those failed I got in trouble for talking there, too.

But during teenage and twentysomething life you get to assert control over yourself and even though you get to make lots of mistakes while doing so it's all so interesting. This, I think, is why I so hated that god awful Tues-Thurs afternoon low-level six-year-olds class I suffered through in Korea. It was the absolute worst part of my week and I used to count the minutes until it was over. It bored me to tears and I greatly resented that.

All right, so am I spoiled? Are people going to say I suck and I haven't known true hardship like working a mind-numbing factory job or living in poverty? Fine, maybe I'm spoiled. But I think everyone around the world in every situation creates leisure and diversion, whatever our means, because there is a natural tendency to avoid boredom. Actively. Intently.

And my second semester of law school was realllllllly boring.

The first semester was not. The first semester I had things like Professor Walker's enlightenment via Torts. And Criminal Law, which Professor Capers and our textbook made infinitely interesting. But second semeseter I was so bored every time I went to class that I thought I was going to watch my brain leak out of my ears. So I went elsewhere all semester -- intellectually, emotionally, playfully.

I'm not sure what to do about this realization. I'm having a hard time grappling with this. I kind of get the impression nobody else much cares; people have accepted boredom as a part of life. Isn't that why god made remote control? Let alone the entire anti-depressant industry, dedicated to the proposition that all emotions can be brought under equal control.

Maybe it's not "boredom" that's so dismaying, because also weird is the procrastination/boredom connection. You have something boring you have to do, and then you do anything to avoid doing it. Either way you're seeking random activities to avoid your current state of mind, but with procrastination you prolong your misery instead of cutting it short. I say, a procrastinator such as myself should avoid putting herself in situations where she has to do boring things to begin with!

Do I need to be slapped? So slap me. I refuse to take this boredom sitting down.

OMG, Google is so totally awesome!

Some people think Google is creepy. I think Google is changing the world. I'm into changing the world, unless it's done with violence (like Bush and other terrorists and warmongers). Google often delights me, and it's definitely a Gmail-Google Earth-etc. thing and not a search engine thing. I don't really understand the people for whom "google" as a verb is synonymous with "use a search engine." Like, where were you people pre-Google? Did you really not have to find anything on the internet before 1999? You horrify me.

Anyway, one of the things that many find creepy but I find oddly charming is the Gmail sidebar of "sponsored links" that places ads based on words and phrases in your email. I think it's a brilliant business plan, and it doesn't really faze me at all that Google is "reading" my email. And sometimes the ads are really amusing. Today in an email exchange between my mom and me about the movie Casablanca, Google helpfully provided a link to a site offering cheap airfares to Morocco. Or, take the one-sentence email from my sister, subject line "Utah??" She asks me if I'm going to be able to "swing a trip out West." Based on that, Gmail offers: Sundance, UT cabin rental; download this Mormon ringtone now; learn West Coast Swing dancing; and -- the best -- Coffee Exposed, a shocking secret the coffee companies don't want you to know. Ohhhh, Gmail. What's not to love?

Speaking of creepy innovative things all the rage among the kids today, the other day my dad, my aunt, and I were talking about text messaging. I text them both fairly often, and I happened to be sending a text message in their presence. My dad jokingly asked me about my use of the beloved text abbreviations such as GR8, TTYL, and, one I find particularly annoying, "NE1" for "anyone." Ugh. I said, "You know, I actually prefer to text in complete, properly written sentences, as you two may have noticed." And then my aunt said that in fact she had noticed and thought I was doing it for her benefit, to placate their generation! Ha ha ha ha ha! I love it.

OK, that's all for now. In my next entry I will perhaps share the thoughts rattling around my brain about boredom/law school.