Thursday, December 30, 2010

Turn Off Your Tweets

Despite, or maybe because, I am both a superhero geek and a musical theater nerd, I've been watching the rise and fall and rise and fall again...this time hard...with a broken arm and a fractured rib or three...of Julie Taymor's Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark musical.

When I expressed my initial sense of complete and utter discomfort a friend of mine who is also a theater critic her immediate response was, "C'mon, it's going to have music by Bono and The Edge."

It was only later that I found myself wondering if she was being sarcastic.

The latest on the show, which has just put the latest of four actors in the hospital with stunt-induced injuries and moved one lead actress to quit, is that Broadway actors from other shows have begun tweeting that it should be shut down.

Which bugs me.

Not because I necessarily think that anything that Taymor and Bono et al. have developed is worth someone ending up in the hospital over. Were this a big budget Hollywood film I actually think production would have been shut down some time ago...if only because the financial weight that it's carrying is astronomical and the potential return on investment seems to be evaporating thanks to the bad press over the injuries and some dissatisfied social media chatter.

But I do believe that Taymor has a vision...perhaps one that is reaching a bit farther than it should...and to have other artists dismissing what she is trying to do in 140 characters or fewer seems dismissive and not a little self-serving. And that's to say nothing of what it says to the actors in the show who are moving forward with not a little bravery and a great deal of determination.

Perhaps Turn Off the Dark will become a spectacular failure of historic proportions. Maybe Taymor and crew are going to need to start scaling back a musical that simply overreaches what is safely possible in live theater at the current time.

But to be hurling tweets from the safety of one's own Broadway dressing room hardly seems up to the "show must go on" spirit of things.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A place for everything.

On my way to meet Leopold I stopped by one of the big brick and mortars that I rarely visit.

While I continue to do my very best to shop local, books are where I unquestionably fall down. I'm just that much of a junkie (1). To be fair, however, I will say that I went in with a very specific item in mind. This was not a casual browse. Volume 3 of John Layman and Rob Guillory's amazing comic series Chew has just come out and I'm anxious to track down a copy.

For the unfamiliar, Chew is the story of Tony Chu, a cibopathic detective working in a world where the avian flu epidemic has turned chicken into contraband. Cibopaths, we are told, are individuals who get psychic readings from the things that they eat. I'll note here that Chew is not for the light of stomach. While the artwork is fantastic and the storytelling brilliant, Chu does eat a thing or two that is best not considered for too very long.

But I, as I sometimes do, digress.

So, I stop in long enough to give the shelves an unrewarded scan and then, as I turned to head back outside, it caught me square in the eye.

"Teen Paranormal Romance".

This is not a book. This is not a satirical movie. This is not the name of a great indie band (2) or a great indie album.

It's the name of an entire section in this behemoth bookstore. An. Entire. Section.

I have to think that I'm not alone in finding utterly and completely depressing. I mean, I understand that success breeds copycats. Look at what was spawned by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Or by the Harry Potter books. Or, hell, the vast majority of what fills those shelves marked Science Fiction, Fantasy and Mystery.

But, those sections...and the copycats housed within them...are marked "Science Fiction", "Fantasy", "Romance" and "Mystery". Not "Adult Female Pirate Romance". "Adult Dystopian Future Fantasy". "Not Particularly Deep Gay Fiction" (3).

So why then devote an entire shelf to "Teen Paranormal Romance"?

The argument could and probably would be made that it is intended to make life easier for parents and aunts and uncles and all the rest doing a similar dash into the bookstore for something, anything, that will bring a smile to the face of that otherwise sullen teenager enduring her way through the holidays at Grandma's house...with only her iPhone and Facebook friends to keep her warm.

But I also think this is further proof of that thing that I have opined on before, that most teen literature is not intended to inspire a love of reading, but brand devotion. The industry is not developing a next generation of book lovers, but a class of genre junkies who eventually lose interest in choosing between Team Necrophilia and Team Bestiality and wander away altogether.

And that's a prospect scarier than all the glittery teenage vampires put together.

1. Though circumstances may soon have me trading in my hard cover addiction for more frequent trips to that Miss Kitty of the book world...the library.
2. Though it should be.
3. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's a mostly wonderful time of the year.

I admit it. The subject line?

Totally stolen.

But I am fully onboard with the sentiment. Not because I don't love the holidays. I really do. Christmas Eve is my absolute favorite of all the holidays - holy or otherwise. There's something about the anticipation of it all and the sappy memories I have of sitting in my parent's living room with just the lights of the Christmas tree on (1).

But this is also a time of year that, despite my best intentions, stresses me out. The excuses most often given for this do not really apply to me. I work very hard not to overspend my budget. I work very hard to plan gifts I think people will genuinely enjoy. I have greatly whittled down my shopping list to a very small circle, with bottles of wine and the above mentioned champ wishing others good holiday spirits.

I even like to shop (3).

Despite all these things working in my favor I always feel rushed (4). And stressed (4). And easily panicked (4). Even though I know in my head that everything will be as it needs to be, I always hope that this will be the year it all comes together more easily. More cleanly. More smoothly.

Perhaps next year Tiny Tim. Perhaps next year.

1. Later on, this very Rockwell scene was expanded to include three or five glasses of champagne...a tradition that has been continued my and Leopold's house, which really does help make the season bright. What? Don't judge me. You don't know me. You don't know my life (2).
2. This too is stolen, from one of my students. He's a totally wonderful nightmare who is bright, funny, engaged and capable of completely disarming me at any given moment. For the full effect please imagine a skinny, hyper-caffeinated white kid shouting, "You don't know me! You don't know my life!" in a raspy falsetto, all while gesticulating wildly. This is an average 8am for me.
3. For others. It is safe to say that I drive Leopold insane at this time of year. I'm the kid that asks for books for Christmas. it would only be worse if I were to ask for books wrapped in socks.
4. Because I am.

Heartburn.

This past weekend involved a good chunk of time spent in airports and on airplanes. While there was certainly a fair amount of work waiting for me on my laptop and more in my bag, I took the little forced "life recess" as an opportunity to grab the paperback editions of a couple of books that I've been interested in reading for some time...just not enough to want to pay the hardcover price for them.

What can I say. There's economy is affecting all of us.

One of the books that I picked up was Julie Powell's Cleaving. While not quite a follow-up to Julie & Julia (1), in Cleaving Julie has decided to throw herself into the world of butchery in order to escape, to be perfectly frank, the train wreck that is her self-esteem.

The cover - and the author - want you to see this as a kind of meaty meditation on obsession and love and lust and relationships...shot through with recipes because, you know how you do.

But, ultimately, it really isn't. Or, that's not how I'm feeling about it as I continue to slog my way through its pages. Powell's Cleaving falls into that dangerous territory between confessional memoir and feel-sorry-for-me monologue. She renders herself as a fairly unlikeable and entirely self-destructive personality which, in terms of the writerly act of such a thing, is fairly brave. Perhaps more so when coming from an author who made something of a name for herself as being a kind of hapless young woman whose two anchors were her husband and Julia Child's enormous cooking tome.

Bravery, however, doesn't always equal good writing. Gutsy writing, sure. But not good.

1. And a book/movie combo that seems to have been neatly shuffled to the back of the "how food saved my life" shelf by the continuing fervor surrounding Eat, Pray, Love.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hello darkness my old friend...

"So, the blog has been silent again."

With very few exceptions I have come to regard this as the most popular sentence in the blogosphere.

In some cases because the novelty has worn off and folks have moved on to new methods of baring their souls to the world.

In others it is because people have run out of things to say.

In yet others because people have come to realize that, as in a good conversation, talking constantly is not always a good thing.

I've bounced in and out of this space. First so that I would get myself on the path of doing some kind of personal writing every single day. Now, so that I have a place to play around with ideas and, frankly, to vent about those things that lose most folks attention within the first few minutes of my speaking about them.

Hmmmmm. If only I had an example to use. If only, if only, if only.

Oh. Wait. How about this?

For the link averse, here's the deal.

The Smithsonian Portrait Gallery - a museum that, because it is not on the Mall, is often overlooked by those tourists hoping to get their DC culture ticket punched as fast as possible so they can get on to the important things like the Hard Rock Cafe and the Pentagon City Mall - has recently mounted an exhibition titled called Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. The exhibition included a video by the artist David Wojnarowicz that included 11 seconds of footage where ants crawled over a crucifix.

The full work, as described by the artist and those familiar with the work, is about Wojnarowicz's lover's death from AIDs.

Cultural giants and art experts like Republican Representatives John Boehner (Ohio) and Eric Cantor (Va.) immediately came forward to denounce the work and remind anyone that thought that we were past the Mapplethorpe years that the culture wars are alive and well and living in the minds of the narrow minded and ill-informed. A refreshingly short-lived push was made to take away the Smithsonian's federal funding despite the fact that the exhibition was privately funded.

This did not keep on political player from asserting that it is impossible to say that the show was privately funded because it used electric and heat and cooling from federal dollars (1), and going on to say - and you're going to love this - that he sees no reason for taxpayers to be funding a museum (2) when most would rather go to a game or a sports activity and...wait for it...we don't fund stadiums with public money (3).

My greatest disappointment being that no one called Boehner and company out on their desire to keep Americans from seeing the original Star Spangled Banner or the Constitution or the books from Thomas Jefferson's library. That they wanted to pull the funding from a zoo that does holiday events for children and from places where kids can learn about science by visiting with spaceships and dinosaurs.

Yep. That's what's in all those elitist museums. Stupid history. Dumb records of American achievement.

Who the heck is interested in that crap?

I will also count myself amongst the creative types furious that the Smithsonian removed the work. I'm even more incensed by the fact that a protestor (who had the genius to strap an iPad to himself and stand in the gallery playing the video...you sir, are not only amazing but probably deserving of grant funding...) was banned from the Portrait Gallery for life.

No. I'm not kidding. For life.

Here's the deal kids. I have no blind love for the current administration. I certainly pledge no allegiance to the Republican party. But, if you're willing to have an intelligent conversation with me, I will happily engage with you. I recently had a student write an essay defending a stance I whole heartily disagree with. I thought - in terms of her argument - she was being naive, privileged and short-sighted.

But instead of telling her why I thought she was wrong, I'm currently working with her to write a stronger, better essay. That's the deal that we've made. I'm not there to tell her what to think. My job, as a a teacher, is to help her tell others what it is she thinks.

What I have no patience for, however, is ignorance. And really, when you make the "museums are for the elite" argument...particularly a museum system like the Smithsonian that is free and open practically every day of the year, truly serving the role of being America's attic...then I have no time for you. You are, and I have no other way to say this, an ignoramus. And for the leadership at the Smithsonian to cave in and change any single element of its programming based on the petty, uninformed grievances of an ignoramus makes me sad beyond words.

We are heading into strange times, certainly not for the first time.

I can't help but hope that it might be for the last.

Which most certainly makes me as naive as my student.

1. This line of reasoning being somewhat...what's the word...insane to those of us who work in fundraising and deal with divisions between funding streams and restricted and unrestricted funding on a daily basis.
2. Seriously, emphasis his.
3. Um. Yes you do.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Getting smashed.

So, my first impulse today (1) was to jump on the bandwagon of folks who are not impressed by the new Green Lantern trailer. This is something of a bummer because I've been really looking forward to it.

But then I realized that my discontent wasn't Green Lantern specific.

The problem that I'm having is the exact same issue that I had with the big screen Incredible Hulk movie and which I fear will be my issue with much of the new crop of superhero flicks that are in the pipeline.

Too much computer animation.

For Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds suit is sewn entirely out of pixels and special effects. The result, at least as it seemed to me in the trailer, is something that looks not unlike body paint...painted on a body that doesn't look particularly anatomically accurate (2).

A similar rumble of discontent worked its way through the comics blogosphere when the costume that Superman was to wear in the Tim Burton Superman movie was leaked. An opinion that fell closely after objections to the "hipster Superman" who will be starring in a graphic novel about the Man of Steel.

Sure, I admit it. I'm the guy sitting on his porch yelling at kids to keep their e-books off my front lawn, but there's something being lost here. We don't have, almost literally, the texture of these super threads that used to tie all the mutants and aliens and gamma ray-enhanced beings to the real world. It's the magic that lets one believe that maybe, just maybe, Hal Jordan's ring could have ended up on their own finger.

But as frustrated as I get with all the technology, at least I've not crossed the line.

I haven't done this.

1. Okay, so it didn't actually start percolating until I was on the Comics Alliance website during lunch but, as the kids say, whatever.
2. No. I don't mean that. Sheesh.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Everyone's a winner! Or else.

So, what happens when a group of judges get together to award a significant amount of prize money to a promising, young, female playwright only to decide that - amongst the pool of candidates nominated - no one meets the standards put forward by the competition?

They borrow from the handbook of playground kickball games the world over and declare a do-over.

And why? Because a whole lot of people stomped their feet and said this could not possibly be the case.

This is supposed to be one of those times when I look at an issue from various vantage points presented and say that I can understand where all involved are coming from. This is a difficult and thorny issue and good points are being made by people on all sides.

Except, well, it's not. And the points being made by some - especially those who are claiming the award rules are ageist (you have to be under 32) and that the failure to award the prize is another example of the rampant sexism of the theater community.

That's not to say that people don't have any right to be bummed out by the idea that a deserving 33 or 34 year-old can't be considered for the $25,000 Wasserstein Playwriting Prize, nor am I suggesting that a degree of exasperation over that money remaining on the shelf for next year's awards isn't entirely understandable. Particularly if you were one of the 19 finalists who were told that there work did not measure up to the standards of the prize at this time.

But this is not about sexism or ageism or any other "ism". It's about a group of judges trying to meeting the standards they felt they were charged with upholding. The fact that out of the pool of nominated individuals - which in and of itself meant meeting an arm's length worth of criteria - is not a comment on the entire world of theater. It's a comment on the work that they reviewed as they saw it.

That's what makes it a contest.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The final blow.

It's sometimes hard to know what it is that will ultimately set you off.

For me, it was the new biography of Isabella Blow.

Between NaNoWriMo (1), teaching and the writing that I'm struggling to keep up with at my day jobs, the stack of books that I want to read keeps growing like the tower of shame which it is. There are even some books that aren't even in circulation yet that I'm already dreaming about...like Sarah Vowell's new edition.

And then, there it was, Blow by Blow, The Story of Isabella Blow.

Sigh.

Blow was one of the most influential voices in fashion, she's perhaps best known for the role she played with bringing attention to the work of hat designer Philip Treacy and discovering fashion bad boy Alexander McQueen.

Her death by suicide reads like something out of a great Victorian novel. During a weekend house party in the Hilles, Blow went into the bathroom and drank weed killer. She was later discovered by her sister Lavinia and, for some time, her death was reported to be due to illness.

Even if her sister wasn't named Lavinia it would still sound to me like something out of Agatha Christie. Like her Aunt Jane Marple would have stumbled into the bathroom moments later and recognize a peculiar discoloration on her fingertips or something.

Walking into the bookstore and seeing Blow by Blow on the shelf I had that moment of realization.

I can't afford to buy all these books that I want.

The truth of the matter is that, if we're being very, very honest here, I probably should have refrained from buying most of the hardcover lovelies that are currently laying about our house like post-retirement dot-com millionaires.

And so, it is time to make that leap that so many book lovers have done before me.

I will go to that great literary pimp, that trader in hardcover trollops.

I will go to the library.

The library.

Maybe it's because I've typed the name Lavinia twice today, but I'm feeling a bit like a Jane Austen character right about now.

1. Which I apparently respect a bit more than NaBloooBlamBlow, as I actually bothered to learn the very silly acronym.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just a bit of butter.

The Farmer's Wife sent me a message on the Facebook.

Farmer's Wife: Are you and Leopold coming to Thanksgiving still?

Artboy: Yes.

Farmer's Wife: Can you bring those string beans again?

Artboy: (staring blankly at the screen, not entirely sure what string beans are being discussed)...uh...sure (1).

Farmer's Wife: Great.

Artboy: I mean, sure I will if you remind me what string beans we're talking about.

Farmer's Wife: The Paula Deen stick-of-butter-will-probably-kill-us-all beans that nearly caused a fistfight between your cousins.

Artboy: Oh. Those beans. Happy to.

Ahhhhhh...the holidays.

1. Which, in the language of the Facebook comes out like: "Yes."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lacking the words.

We are experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by.

Okay.

So it's not so much that there are actual technical difficulties as it is the fact that I made a deal with The Novelist to tackle National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short (1).

So far, things are going well but, as we enter the word count deadline for week two, I'll be honest. I'm struggling a bit.

Currently, I'm running a couple...okay, a few thousand...words behind where I'm supposed to be if I plan to meet the goal of writing 50,000 words of fiction in just 30 days.

So, don't delete this space from your blog rolls and sidebars (2).

It could be that Leopold and I will engage in some kind of witty banter when we all  least expect it.

1. And kind of silly.
2. Unless you were already heading in that direction. In that case, just please remember to tip your waitress. She has kids to feed.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Status Symbol

Last night something big happened.

Something significant.

And, as so many of us now do, I changed my Facebook status.

Now, as I am doing here I will say that I did not share the big story on my Facebook page. I didn't even share it when I was almost instantaneously contacted by a family member to tell her everything I knew.

"Don't worry," she wrote. "I won't tell anyone."

Less than a minute had passed before the next e-mail arrived. "Okay. I will."

Less than a minute after that another e-mail arrived, the story was already making the rounds. It was a bit fractured, but largely laid out as it was in the real world.

Minutes ago I got even more details to the story. Through Facebook.

It's funny really. In the last several weeks I've spent more time on Facebook than I normally do. I've been running back and forth from jobs and printers and assignments, riding on buses and trains at all times of the day and night. Invariably, instead of opening a book, I've been flipping through Facebook pages.

People mourn. They announce births and deaths. They rail about politics, the economy, civil rights and what costume they will wear for Halloween.

And it's all done with the same tone. The same volume. There's no choice really, because that's one of the things about social networking. We all get to be different in the very same way. We decorate pages with funny images and post videos and music that we like. We add clever phrases and post status changes from our desks and mobile phones and from the seats of buses and theaters and restaurants.

When this all started, when Facebook and MySpace and all the rest came into being, it was played out like a new common square where we could all hang out. A place where great ideas would be shared and we could all be "friends".

But right now, as I think more and more about the social networks, things are feeling far less social.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Second verse, same as the first.

I am prone to phases.

In truth, it was one of the things that caused me the most issue when I was a student in art school. Where most of my classmates became deeply embroiled in a passionate affair with one medium or theme or idea, I bounced around trying to make the images in my head a reality on paper. On fabric. In metal. In plastic.

Nothing ever really seemed to stick and it did not pass without notice. In a refrain that reality show competition judges had not yet made famous, I was consistently told by faculty members that they weren't able to see "me" in my work.

It wasn't until I was just a few months until my thesis exhibition that I finally hit on something, a series of tiny cast-plastic sculptures that each came with a little story.

Later, when people would hear I went to art school, they would ask why I "gave up" being an artist. My answer has always been that the pieces I was making got smaller and smaller and the titles I was giving things got longer and longer.

Which is all true.

Writing the collection of short stories that became my MFA thesis was - while not easy - a much less vexing process. I wrote about artists and process and materials. All the jumping around I had done finally had a purpose. I knew about encaustic and oil painting and weaving and installation art.

But when those stories were finally done, and those pieces went out into the word either alone or nicely packaged together as they were intended to be, the light dimmed a little. It's not that I stopped writing - I've done nothing but since finishing my degree. But, with the exception of a few fits and starts, it's not been fiction.

I've written about media and politics and the arts. I've drafted heft research papers and quirky little columns. I started this blog.

Lately I'm finding that an old familiar is back. My affection and occasional obsession with comic books and graphic novels and superheroes back with a full-throated vengeance. It's a hornets' nest buzz in the back of my head that has inspired me to track down some terrific online comics and comic writers. I've thumbed (but have not purchased) the new Best American Comics. I'm getting really excited about the new Green Lantern movie.

So what to do with it all?

That might be too much to figure out on a Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

All the world is waiting for you, and the magic that you do.

Can I tell you what has me ridiculously excited?

News that a new Wonder Woman television show is in the works.

Or, it's on the table.

Or, there are rumors about it.

Or, there are Internet rumors about it (1).

I have loved Wonder Woman for as long as I can remember. Playing superheroes with my first grade best friend - gender issues be damned - I always wanted to be Wonder Woman (2). I loved the original series starring Lynda Carter, the Superfriends cartoon series that included the character and the comic books.

Granted, I've always been a fan of the supergrrl.

The Batgirl episodes of the Batman television series were my favorites, a little thrill would go through me whenever that purple motorcycle would flash across the opening credits, signaling a guest appearance by Yvonne Craig.

I loved Buffy and Isis and, now, there's the chance that Diana Prince is on her way back.

Little things people. Little things.


1. Yes. There is a difference.
2. At the time I was unaware of the character Wonder Man...and eventually  I would move on to always wanting to be Aquaman.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

But will they ever get their own bar night?

Comics Alliance - the site that has brought you great things like a Spiderman/Calvin & Hobbes mash-up - did a recent post about the rise of the writer-artist at DC Comics.

The one-man band has always been more of a rarity in those streets where supermen and women are leaping tall buildings in a single bound. But maybe that's why it sometimes feels like true innovations in the creation of superhero books are so few and far between.

When Superman first took to the sky (1) no one had really seen anything like him before. Likewise Batman, the millionaire vigilante who patrolled the streets of Gotham City as the kind of ultimate expression of the self-made man.

Ditto for Wonder Woman, titillating S&M overtones and all.

All characters created around tiny tables at a time when the only boundaries were the panels filling the pulp pages of the comic books they would later occupy.

It's not to say that there is nothing new under the sun. I've always detested that expression as, while not without more than a little truth, it also provides far too much shade for the lazy and unimaginative.

But, when I think of the people who have sent a jolt through the art form, it has been the inspired soloist. The timing seems right for something of a renaissance for the artist-writer given the DIY tone of the times.

Can I get an up, up and away?

1. Literally leaping over tall buildings in a single bound...the original Man of Steel didn't actually have the power of flight in those early days.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Durn fer'ners...comin' in here and takin' our jobs...

I have a song stuck in my head.

This is not out of the ordinary for me, I'm often walking around with my internal iPod running on an endless loop.

But today the song in my head has the wrong lyrics and this is starting to drive me crazy.

While Sting is still an "alien" a "legal alien" he is no longer an Englishman in New York.

He's a bus driver.

As in, "I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm a bus driver in New York."

Annoying, right?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

iAm busy.

"Every now and then," Leopold says as he pulls out his iPhone, barely placing it down on the table before he begins pecking at the screen, jumping between his e-mail, his calendar and a Scrabble game he has been playing with a friend for some time now, "I feel like I need to be seen pressing the keys on this thing."

Without looking up he quickly concludes, "I guess that means we've lived here a really long time."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sweet Merciful Minerva! Or, Holy Job of My Dreams Batman!

I have a history of embarrassing myself in front of people I admire.

If not reduced to a state where I lose most of my ability to speak like an intelligent human being...or a mildly autistic six-year old (1)...I begin to interview them (2). I have also been known to simply flee (3).

The other night, however, I employed a new strategy. I bought a particular collection of folks who I have come to greatly admire professionally drinks (4).

I will come clean and say the jury in my head is still out as to what degree I may have looked as ridiculous as I do when the scene replays in my head based wholly on a single exchange.

You see, one of the people at the table writes about comics. More than that, he writes about comics brilliantly because, go figure, he himself is an unashamed comics fanboy.

Or, at the very least, that's how he comes across.

And so, when the one person at the table who knew me prior to what we will now refer to as "The Night I Attempted to Pick Up a Table of Culture Critics" introduced me to the table and said comics writer (5) said that he knew my writing I blurted back, "I read your work too."

Or, at the very least, that's the way I remember it in its least embarrassing iteration.

I will also note here that I don't recall if there was an ending to his sentence. Like, "...and I think it's very good." Or, "...you rarely make me question your overall literacy." Or, "...but the less said about that the better."

"I read your work too." This is what I said to the comics writer in question when what I really wanted to do was pull a full fanboy and let loose with how fantastic I think his writing is...especially this gem (6). That's what I wanted to do, but did not do in the hopes of avoiding the addition of another pratfall to the scrapbook.

So close.

1. The Gwen Ifill Incident.
2. The Ted "Apparently I Am Writing a Book About Iron Chef and Must Learn All About it Right Now" Allen Horror.
3. The Great Ira Glass Escape.
4. Note to all fanboys and girls out there: buying people cocktails is a very good strategy.
5. Who also writes about books in the event that there is someone beyond my three regular readers for whom that cv addition might be important.
6. This was sent to me by The Theatre Critic on a particularly bad day. That day instantly turned around.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hello Blog. It's me, Artboy.

It's been a frantic couple of weeks and it's not really showing signs of letting up. Priorities over the next several days is to try as hard as I can to catch up on the laundry, get the house back together and try really, really hard not to buy any new books.

That's right. As nuts as things have been I've spent some time browsing the shelves and, well, I'm afraid there are some items that have caught my eye.

Michael Cunningham has a new book, By Nightfall, which sounds pretty much as wonderful as The Hours. There are artists involved. Of course it's going to be good.

Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists looks like the kind of book that should be hanging out in my house, waiting to be read.

And then there's John Waters' Role Models which, let's face it, was written by John Waters so...c'mon.

As the list of books that I'm craving continues to grow the voices in the back of my head are getting louder and louder. These are the voices of folks like the Cheap Bohemian, VanPelt and The Roller Derby Queen who wonder, often and out loud, why it is I don't just go to the library.

The answer?

Where others fill their closets with clothes or their kitchens with gadgets or their livers with fancy cocktails, I love a good book (1).

I like the crack of a fresh book spine. The feel of a freshly printed page. The heft of a hardcover.

Which is why one of the books that I have lately picked up is a book about how to make books.

I consider this my "teach a man to fish" phase...

1. Okay. I'm not opposed to a fancy cocktail or two.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Like a spiral in a circle, like a wheel within a wheel...

So, I've already admitted to picking up a copy of Our Patchwork Nation. And even leaving all bias aside, it's a pretty fantastic book. A serious piece of investigative journalism that recognizes the necessity of good narrative.

While it follows in the great tradition of journalists dropping into communities to tell the towns' individual stories, Our Patchwork Nation shines because Dante Chinni has taken the time to really get to know these towns that exemplify the 12 community types the Patchwork Nation project identified.

It's a great read.

I also discovered that Sloane Crossley released a book, How Did You Get This Number, at the beginning of the summer that I somehow missed. David Rakoff added Half Empty to a list of essay collections that already included personal favorites Fraud and Don't Get Too Comfortable. David Sedaris has thrown Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, A Modesty Bestiary onto the stack.

While we were in Maine both of my parents slipped books into my suitcase and that doesn't count the books that Leopold gave me for my birthday - which are largely finished - or the books that VanPelt passed along when we were in Georgia or the strays that have been waiting on my desk for a while.

In other words, my bookshelves are running over.

This is a problem that I'll take any day of the week.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Am I blue? Not entirely...

At one point during our trip through the great American south I flipped the radio over to NPR.

After about 20 minutes Leopold looked over and started to laugh.

"What?"

"You love listening to the news."

"Why do you say that?"

"You're talking back to Michele Norris."

Which I was and which I do...a fact that Leopold knows better than anyone. After all, on more than a few occasions he has walked into our house to find every radio in the house tuned to NPR so I don't miss anything as I move from room to room.

If you're having trouble reading this post because you're simultaneously rolling your eyes about "The Media" (1) it's not that I am an individual of blind faith. Sometimes when I'm talking back to Michele Norris or Michel Martin or Jim Lehrer, I'm telling them that they're missing the point. That they're getting it wrong. That there's another way to look at the story that they're covering.

Which is really the way that relationship is supposed to work. Watching the news or listening to the news or reading the news isn't meant to give you the answers. It's to help you reach your own conclusions.

Which is why I'm so excited about the publication of Our Patchwork Nation by Dante Chinni.

Before you ask (2), yes, I know Dante. He's a good friend and a fantastic writer.

But what most intrigues me about the book and what I've loved about the Patchwork Nation project is that it embraces how complicated our country really is. No red state, blue state. No conservatives think this way and liberals think that way. It wonders out loud about the issues that influence ideas and opinions and recognizes that the circumstances that cause me to think one way about an issue will not be the same for someone else in another part of the country...even if our profiles might seem the same in a 20 second soundbite.

So I'll be picking up my copy of Our Patchwork Nation and, yes, I'll be getting it signed.

And yes, you should too.

1. Which is high up on the list of words and phrases that drive me insane...mostly because it doesn't mean what the people who use it think it means. But that's for another time.
2. Not that you would.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Solo act.

Here's the funny thing.

Tonight I find myself with one of those rare evenings where I have no where that I'm expected to be. 

I'm not on deadline for the magazine.

The work that I have to have done for tomorrow is done. 

The work that I could be doing that will be claimed by someone else as their accomplishment I have no interest in doing.

The work that I'd like to be doing for myself is not interested in being done. There is a temptation to say that I'm experiencing another bout of writer's block but it's not that dramatic. It lacks the depth of desperation I generally feel when I realize that I'm experiencing a creative freeze. It's more a complete lack of inspiration. 

And, in a way that is not usually me, I'm finding a certain amount of satisfaction just sitting here with my laptop, writing here in the blog. Not engaged in some big project. Not stressing out over what I'm not accomplishing.

Just writing because I like to write.

When I was in graduate school I remember a conversation with the person I thought should be my mentor because the work we did shared some kinship though I would never, ever put my writing anywhere near the work that he had done and continues to do.

In the course of one of our weekly meetings he asked if I was planning to do a novel for my thesis.

My response was no, I didn't know that I really had a novel in me. I quickly added that it felt like something of a deficiency on my part. At the time it felt like everyone was working on a novel or digging up the bones of one family member or another for a gut wrenching memoir. I told man who would not be my mentor that I didn't really feel like anything sufficiently bad had happened to me to allow me to run with that creative nonfiction crew. 

The man who would not become my mentor laughed and said that not every writer is meant to write a novel. We don't really all have one of those big books in us. We write what we write and we worry about what it will become later.

So tonight I'm letting myself worry about it later.

Yeah, that's right pile of dirty laundry. That goes for you too.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Am I blue?

The other day, in response to a review I had written, someone posted a note in the readers' comments.

They suggested, because I had not liked the show they had enjoyed, that I was perhaps "...having an off night."

That comment has stuck with me (1).

I mean, if I was an architecture critic or the person that tested bathroom cleansing products then, yes, I can see where the potential of a foul mood coloring my judgment would be an item for concern (2).

But I write about the performing arts.

The argument could be made that, if the group in question was really doing its job, they should be able to turn the most grim of moods around (3). Short of my cutting out of the funeral of a much beloved aunt to make the trip across town so I could be in my seat in time for curtain, there should be very few things capable of making my mood the culprit for a negative response.

That's the beauty and the challenge of being a professional when egos and the arts are involved.

So there.

1. Leopold will attest to this fact.
2. Though I'll say here and now that I have a peculiar fascination with the field of architectural criticism. I don't know why. Just add them to the list of types of writers I find cool.
3. Allow me to add here that I was not only in a good mood, I was well rested, well fed and full of great anticipation for this particular assignment.

Close, but not so loud.

Leopold and I hit the National Book Festival on Saturday.

Despite the fact that, as Leopold correctly called it when work required him to leave the Roller Derby Queen and I on our own, the day ended up with Derby and I sitting at a bar wondering why everyone in the world hasn't realized that we are, without question, two of the funniest people on the planet, much book-related fun was had.

I will say with some pride that I purchased no books while on our National Mall.

This is not to say that books are not on the near horizon but, for one day, I was a model of abstinence and self-control.

Leopold and I did not make it there in time to see Jonathan #1 (1) but did catch Jonathan #2 (2). J#2 spent the majority of his time talking about his newest nonfiction book, Eating Animals, much to the thrill of the GAP tank top suited throngs of skinny jean and flip-flops girls in the audience.

To say that there was an air of cult wafting through the Contemporary Life tent when J#2 spoke is perhaps putting it too gently. It was something closer to the shovel-thick scent of Polo cologne that once filled the halls of most American high schools for that bright, shining era of the 1980s.

What I appreciated about J#2 was that he was extraordinarily thoughtful in his discussion of the book and took particular care to note several times that his book was NOT about the virtues of a vegetarian lifestyle. He was not out to convert people to vegetarianism. He was not even going to try and convince people that there was something particularly reprehensible about the practice of eating meat. He is, as he noted in his opening remarks, one of those vegetarians who will tell you that meat is delicious and tastes very good.

This was, I have no doubt in my mind, not what most of the individuals in the audience heard. I am relatively certain, based on the applause that sprouted up, much like a Starbucks, at every opportunity most of the young and adoring in the crowd heard only, "Blah blah blah BAD blah blah blah MEAT blah blah blah MORAL CHOICE blah VEGETARIANISM."

But the point of Eating Animals is to look at something that our household has already accepted. While we are not at the place where giving up meat is something we are entirely interested in - though we do go meatless at least one night a week as part of Leopold's practices - we do our best to avoid mystery meat. Meat of unknown origin. Meat that comes from factory farms and goes from cow to styrofoam tray in the blink of an eye.

When we eat dinner with The Farmer and his wife I always get a little thrill when we find out that our meatloaf was once Bob or the oxtail in the soup belonged to Stu (3).

So I appreciated J#2's desire to articulate the nuances of his argument and his desire for clarity.

Eating Animals is not one of the many books currently waiting for my attention right now, nor is it hanging on the shelf with a growing number of neglected brethren.

But I have a sneaking suspicion it soon will be.

1. The Franzen.
2. Safran Foer. In my mind I like to picture them not unlike Superman's Bizarros...with chunky medallions around their necks stating #1 and #2.
3. These are cows lest you get the wrong idea.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Your face is your fortune.

I'm writing this just after listening to a Fresh Air interview with the actor Jon Hamm. An interview where Hamm, in response to a very direct question from host Terry Gross (1), claimed to not be one of the beautiful people.

Sure.

Right.

Hope life isn't too crowded under that bridge Hamm.

Hamm's made-for-radio modesty might not have hit me so hard were it not for the fact that my other big radio moment of the day was Gross's interview with author David Rakoff whose new collection of essays, Half Empty, is getting the kind of attention I think all of Rakoff's work deserves.

Rakoff is, after all, one of the writers on my "wouldn't it be fun to hang out and have 125 anchovy and onion pizzas delivered to Curtis Sittenfeld's house?" list.

In fact, and somewhat ironically, I recently assigned Rakoff's essay on plastic surgery from his last book, Don't Get Too Comfortable. In it, Rakoff visits two surgeons and gives them free reign...telling them to spare nothing in their assessment. To his surprise, neither suggest all that much in the way of changes.

Rakoff may not see his face as his fortune but, it appears, he's not running up any overdraft fees either.

And so, as I sit in this coffee shop that has inexplicably been taken over by an ungainly horde of field tripping teenagers (2), I will shed a silent tear for Jon Hamm, Plain and Tall and excitedly plan to add another book to the shelves.

1. Or, as direct as Gross gets. I sometimes wonder if, when out to dinner, Gross plays a few clips and quotes several classic rock songs as she prepares to ask the waiter, "Do you have anything on special tonight?"
2. Seriously, what adult stops and thinks, "Hey, I have a tour group of 60 thirteen year-olds. I think I should bring them into a small space and top them off with sugar and caffeine." Trust me guy. George Washington never did anything here. Move along.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Piece Work.

I tend not to use the book covers of authors that I'm writing about to illustrate my posts but, c'mon, how great is this cover?

Right?

Scribner is going to make individual essays by writer Chuck Klosterman available for just 99 cents each...just like some of the songs that the pop culture observer writes about.

Even as a die-hardcover-type person I'm kind of intrigued by the idea. What I particularly like is the fact that the author at the center of the experiment seems the perfect choice in terms of the subject matter he focuses on. Download "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" and "Dancing Queen" and then grab a copy of Klosterman's essay "ABBA 1, World 0" while you're at it.

The essays will be available individually, packaged in e-book fashion as they originally appeared in Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs**a pop culture manifesto, Eating the Dinosaur or Fargo Rock City, or resampled by theme in a kind of Pandora approach to reading.

So, I'll admit it. I'm intrigued. Which is to say, I'll periodically put down my hardback edition of Eating the Dinosaur to check in and see how this piece work idea is coming together.

Rock on.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Eat, Pray, Loss.

There are so many things that I could talk about to break this most recent bout of blog silence.

I could talk about the controversy going on with comics' Lulu Awards. See, the Lulu Awards are meant to celebrate "the people and projects that helped to open eyes and minds to the amazing comic and cartooning work by and/or about women.

The problem? Von Allan, whose graphic novel The Road to God Knows has scored three nominations including the Kim Yale Award for Most Talented Newcomer, is a man and some folks aren't feeling very tuned in to the "and/or" section of the Lulu mission. The Yale Award being the greatest sticking point.

I could write about Jonathan Franzen's great American novel Freedom but, honestly, I've lost three friends just by writing this much about the book. As the Cheap Bohemian put it far better than I, "It's like no one else has written a book this year."

Which is, of course, nonsense. One look at my Visa card will make that clear to you.

I could talk about Pop Culture Happy Hour, a new podcast from NPR that is, to borrow from one of the show's regular features, making me happy. Even if the podcast wasn't as funny as it absolutely is (1) Glen Weldon is one of the Happy Hour's panel regulars. Glen Weldon. NPR's Comics Blogger. If NPR made baseball cards this is the one that I would be trading packages of Twinkies on the playground to get my hands on. I mean. C'mon. NPR. Comics blogger. It's an Artboy's dream come true.

But, no. Instead I'm going to take a little time this gorgeous afternoon to once more mourn the loss of Gourmet magazine. This is firmly in mind because last night, for the third night in a row, I settled into bed, pulled out the new issue of Food & Wine, and felt a wave of disappointment so profound I still couldn't make it through a single article.

This is, as the little subscription card reminded me, my last issue of Food & Wine unless I renew now.

And guess what Food & Wine. I don't think that I'm renewing now.

The theme of this month's issue is great Italian-American favorites...the cover featuring a tarted up grilled ham and cheese. The guts of my last issue are largely packed with recipes cushioned by just the barest of editorial content. The photos are nice but, let's face it, the pictures are always nice when you're trafficking in food porn. Even that grilled ham and cheese on the cover looks beautiful.

But it doesn't inspire.

As I wrote about in the days following the cancellation of Gourmet, what I always admired about the magazine was how smart it was. I admired the research that went into the editorial content, the narratives that made me want to track down this odd vegetable or that bottle of vinegar. I was excited by the work that Saveur's writers were doing because the excitement they had for their subject matter was so evident. It was beautifully designed, brilliantly edited and, yes, gorgeously photographed.

And so, another magazine will be making the move from my "must read" pile to my "pick it up at the train station/airport" pile.

Food & Wine...looks like we're breaking up. Just know that it's not me.

It's you.

1. Seriously, seriously, funny. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Color wars!

Leopold and I are sitting at the dining room table sorting through the pile of catalogs that have been building up. Leopold is looking at the Pendleton catalog.

Specifically, page 76. Grand Lodge Dinnerware.

Leopold: Isn't this dinnerware cool?

Artboy: Which?

Leopold: This. With the teepees on it.

Artboy: Yes. It's perfect...for when we open the summer camp on Lake Gitcheegoomie.

Leopold looks up with great expectation.

*Pause*

Artboy: We are not opening a summer camp on Lake Gitcheegoomie.

Leopold: Fine. *sigh*

Monday, September 6, 2010

I don't know how to read.

So, it's been an interesting several days where I've spent way more time living in the past than in the future. This morning I came to the most recent of life changing revelations that may or may not take hold and result in any real personal transformation.

But, these occasional Eat, Pray, Love moments are at least pleasantly distracting.

Not Eat, Pray, Love profitable mind you. But distracting.

Leopold and I were sitting in the backyard this morning when I shut my laptop to declare my latest.

Artboy: I've been thinking and I think that I need to take a page out of your book.

Leopold: I didn't think anyone was reading that book.

Artboy: Well. I've been looking at the pictures.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

So, I have something of a vacation tradition.

I get sick. For at least one day during any vacation my body goes into revolt to remind me who's boss. I thought I had beat the system this time, thanks to sound advice from The Roller Derby Queen, but I was mistaken.

I was finally forced to take a good old fashion sick day, drinking ginger ale and camping out on the sofa watching television (1).

This is why I have nothing funny or entertaining to report from yesterday. Because nothing particularly funny or exciting happened to me yesterday.

Well, except for I Love Lucy reruns.

Those are pretty funny.

1. Which is, truthfully, not entirely different than most of the other days of my vacation. Big points to Leopold for indulging my relative sloth.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Scene from a Bookstore: Part 2


Crouched on the floor in Sherman's Books, making a go at the bottom shelf of a great stack of great clearance books, I found myself in the middle of an exchange by one of the store's employees and a eleven or so year-old boy. She was placing some books behind the counter for him to pick up later as he struck up a conversation with her.

Kid: I have to say that this is the best bookstore in Bar Harbor that I have found.

Fantastic Bookstore Person: Well, thank you.

Kid: I've been in other stores. I was in the Waldenbooks in...Portland....yes, I believe it was Portland. I could not find the kind of book that I was looking for there.

FBP: Those big stores sometimes make it hard for independent bookstores like us to stay open.

Kid: When I was a kid...a really young kid...I read all the time. Those books for younger kids. But then I stopped for a while. Now I find that I'm really getting back into the habit again. It was great to find these books.

The conversation went on as FBP stopped in the middle of an afternoon tourist-filled bustle to have a conversation with this kid about books and reading and to make suggestions about other books he might like. 

Please mark another point for the independents.

Scene from a Bookstore: Part 1

Yesterday, while Leopold was hobnobbing with one of his fellow wizards (1) I checked out the shelves of Sherman's Bookstore.

Which is, actually, Sherman's Maine Books & Stationary...a long stretch of store on Bar Harbor's busy commercial stretch that boasts a strange and eclectic collection of books.

"Strange" only in the sense that, in addition to the books focusing on local topics and written by local authors (2) it was as though the folks at Sherman's sat around and imagined every possible vacationer and what it is they might read. Best sellers that you would expect to find in any bookshop (3) sitting alongside collections of essays and some really excellent graphic novels and books that are destined to make the "greatest book ever" list for one...maybe two people anywhere.

It was a bookstore about customers. A bookstore where a woman was excitedly pulling through the stacks while turning to an exceptionally bored looking teenager and calling out book titles in an attempt to spark some kind of interest.

Woman: Have you read Twilight?

Teenager: No (4).

Woman: Have you read Jane Austen?

Teenager: No. (Pause to allow voice to drop to that level of bored only experienced by individuals ages 13 to 16...) I haven't read anything.

The story ends well. Or, I hope it does, as Excited Book Woman purchased Pride & Prejudice and Emma for the Girl Who Has Never Read Anything, promising her that she would love it. That she would never put it down.

1. Yes. That's right. A Wizard of Oz reference. In the first line. How's that for vacation?
2. Which is what you do when you run bookstores in popular tourist locations.
3. Lots of "Girls" kicking things and playing with fire.
4. Yes. That's right. I found her. The one teenage girl not yet enthralled by another teenage girl's struggle to decide between the undead and a the dog faced boy of her dreams.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The world comes a knockin'

The hardest thing about vacation is that impulse that tells you you should be doing something.

That this is time that you should be putting to use. That this is time you don't have when the day job is calling your name...and e-mailing your name...and texting your name...and leaving voicemails for your name...and...

You get the idea.

I brought one project that needs my attention along with me on this holiday but a new one has already e-dropped itself on my doorway.

On the bright side it actually requires a bit of bookstore time during our trip, or at least a trip to the library downtown.

On the downside, the delivery of said message has made me a little bit nervous. Like I'm seeing a pattern start to repeat.

It's also started to make me feel like time is starting to accelerate. That this time away that I think I am placing way too much pressure on is going to go much faster than I want.

Which, as is always the case, makes me think there has to be a way to break out of this "waiting for vacation" mindset without Leopold and I having to kit ourselves out in a large refrigerator box or borrow a stack of cash from a guy whose name includes the phrase "no thumbs".

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vacationland: Part II

It's official. We're on vacation.

I have already eaten pizza from my favorite place in the world.

I have made a dinner date with The Attorney.

I have found out that my other best friend from high school is now off the continent and back in town. Cocktail plans are currently in the works.

And I have read the Boston Globe.

A newspaper that still dedicates big, wonderful chunks of column inches to books and the kind of snobby lit writing one would expect from a newspaper from Boston.

Including this one, on the new trend of Hulk-themed Twittering.

That's right: "HULK GETTING ATTENTION ON TWITTER!"

Because, really, that's what the science was invented for.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Vacationland.

In just a few days Leopold and I will hightail it out of town for a part of the country that I love.

Ironically, it's the same part of the country I spent a good deal of time and effort, as a teenager, making certain I would not have to remain in a minute longer than I had to.

Funny thing that.

As I always do when we're getting ready to start some time away I am busy making promises to myself.

I will write while on vacation.

I will clean up the projects that I have not had the energy or necessary attention to complete over the last few weeks.

I will plow through some of the books that I'm dying to read.

I will disconnect. Unplug. Ignore. Recharge.

I will try, once again, to figure out how to eat at my favorite pizza place more than once before it comes time to pack up the car and point her south.

All this, and happy hour too.

Vacations are tough.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In which our hero tells himself to shut the hell up.

Two days ago, somewhere between a meeting and...well...another meeting something went the wrong way in my back. While it's been a while since something like this happened it's not completely out of the blue. When I was in high school ongoing back pain led to the realization that I have a very minor variation on spina bifida. There are, essentially, gaps in my spinal column where things didn't form all the way.

Whatever it is that's doing something it shouldn't right now is hitting in such a way that it's causing me to walk with a limp. A really slight limp. Enough so that I feel like I'm moving slower than I have ever moved in my life but only so much that a couple of folks have asked, "Are you limping?" because they aren't quite sure if there's something going on or if I'm...I don't know...testing out a new kind of swagger.

But here's the thing...in a really weird way this flare up has put some things in perspective for me. Basically, in a few days this thing in my back will work itself out. It'll be done and I'll be back to jaywalking against traffic with the best of them.

And, in much the same way, I'll get my creative groove on too.

Which means that there are far better ways to use my time (1) than complaining. I even have proof of that thanks to stumbling on some fantastic sites in my recent wandering. Some commercial storefronts where various designers have put out their shingles, and some really interesting places where folks are playing around and just having a good time.

A really good time (2). The kind of good time that makes me smile and think, "Good for you!" and not mean it in a Southern way.

It doesn't mean that I'll stop complaining here entirely. It's a revelation, not a magic trick.

But I'm ready to get on with it...and there's a good deal to get on with.

1. And this piece of blog estate.
2. No, not like that...like in an all-night in the studio during art school kind of way.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Time, time, time...see what's become of me. And then let me know.

As I sit here typing two loaves of zucchini bread are baking in the oven, a tomato bread salad is doing whatever it is bread salad does in the refrigerator and I'm eyeing the clock trying to calculate when dinner should get started and giving a "over-and-over-once-over" to the design of a BIG project that I can't finish without some additional material (1).

I'm beat. And writer blocked. And design blocked (2).

And beat.

When I'm tired like this Leopold will often enter the room to find me watching cartoons. While that has not yet happened, my iPod is currently set to playing Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits. You've not heard the Spiderman theme song till you've heard it sung by The Ramones.

An actual get in the car, get out of town vacation is still a few weeks away. I'm doing my darnedest to do some reshuffling on a lot of fronts before then...many of those roads leading right to the front door of America's favorite Cheap Bohemian.

(And I'm not even going to add this aside in footnote form. This is parenthetical worthy. If you're one of the six people who read this blog when I bother to post anything do go visit her site. Even if I didn't like her and the divine Miss M so much I would still send people her way. It's financial advice for those of us who stopped trying to follow financial advice a long time ago.

Pay off my credit card debt? Pay myself first? Contribute the maximum to my 401K? What??? Next you'll tell me he doesn't hit me because he loves me but because he's an unstable bully who drinks his breakfast.)


But on too many fronts, the brain keeps stalling just when I'm counting on it the most.

What's the mental equivalent of jumper cables?

1. This is not to mention the BIG e-mail that I got earlier today...or series of e-mails...that has put me on edge. However, even the thin veneer of anonymity that I try to maintain in this blog doesn't allow me to get into that one fully. Thank you for becoming this blogger's Jiminy Cricket Cisco Fatty.
2. I have no idea if this is a real thing. I think it must be, right? 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

That's how they get you.

Today, in a BIG meeting, I had what I've come to think of as an emotional stroke.

In the middle of a discussion, as I was outlining certain obstacles to be considered in the planning process of one of those projects that everyone believes will be quite simple (1) I realized that I was about to lose it.

There was an unreasonable wave of anger followed by the incredible urge to burst into tears.

It past in a moment or so...right after I finished presenting the point that I had to make. But it's hung with me because it was just so unbelievably strange a sensation. Like one of those micro-burst storms you read about.

For the record, I didn't actually cry. I even checked in with a friend who was at the meeting who assured me that none of what was going on in my head was apparent on my face.

Which is also odd because I have no poker face whatsoever. If I'm thinking it it's usually not much of a secret.

So this is yet another thing to chalk up to this July of my discontent. Maybe it's because I'm invested in another grand re-ordering and reorganizing. Maybe because I'm restless and ready to move on because I've known the professional situation that I'm in right now is not working but - because of this funny thing where the bank likes to get checks in exchange for letting Leopold and I keep the roof over our head - dramatic gestures are not an option right now.

Maybe because there are so many things I would rather be investing my time and energy in right now but can't because of the whole "so many hours in a day" situation.

And maybe because some mental gremlin sat on the right bit of gray matter at the wrong time.

There's really only one way to be sure...but I'm not sure if the Very Brady Christmas clip of Mrs. Brady standing in front of the collapsed building singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" is on YouTube. If that bit doesn't make you cry, you're some kind of monster.

1. Meaning it's very simple for them as they will have nothing to do with making it happen.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Testing a theory.

It's hot.

Too hot.

Grimly hot.

Hotter than is reasonable.

And, because this is the way things work out sometimes, Leopold has been unwittingly drawn into testing a theory.

You see, for much of this week he has been trying to show a colleague the sites of our fair city despite the brutal heat. The colleague, as chance would have it, is from England.

So yes, boys and girls, they do go out in the noonday sun.

And if you're wondering, with regard to the heat, our dog Finkelstein's none to happy about the situation either.

Case closed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Someone's in the kitchen.

Leopold is home from the great beyond.

Artboy: Hey, I found this amazing job posting...and the job is here.

Leopold: (while pointing downward to indicate the room we're having this discussion in, our kitchen) Here?

Artboy: Yes. Right here. Right here in our kitchen.

Leopold: Well, I don't know. You already have a job in this kitchen and we're not giving raises out this year. I'm not saying you don't deserve one...I'm just saying it's not in the budget.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

King of the Road.

Yesterday, for reasons I won't go into in this post because it's really not my story to tell, I found myself on the highway driving a 14-foot moving truck. This is something that most people who know me will find surprising.

See, I don't like to drive. I have no natural sense of direction. I don't trust most other drivers on the road. I have none of the mechanical skills necessary to fix a car should it breakdown.

I don't like to drive.

But, for whatever reason, I don't generally mind driving moving trucks. I've done this on several occasions, including two fairly long drives that included crossing the Bay Bridge. Whether it's the relative unreality of sitting that high up, the comfort of the elaborate sideview mirrors or the fact that these rides have generally just involved me and my good friend the radio, I don't know.

But I don't mind driving moving trucks.

Another thing that some who know me have found surprising is the fact that I have several tattoos. Two are relatively small, the third larger though much degraded over time. All of them were taken from drawings I had done and executed by an old friend and former roommate, an amateur tattoo artist and amazing metalsmith.

Lately, I've found myself thinking about getting another tattoo. An early thought was a take on the octopus from the cover of Veruca Salt's Eight Arms to Hold You... but that has since been completely ruined.

This is probably a passing fancy, a poor suspicion to have when considering something as permanent as a tattoo. But, it's rattling around in there.

This is why it's never good when I've spent too much time on my own.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Write on man or, I'm okay with that.

Turns out I write like Kurt Vonnegut.

Sometimes.

Other times it appears I write like Dan Brown.

Sort of an angels and demons scenario of my own.

Wondering who you write like? Check it out here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yep, I am.

The girl with the big hair has pretty much said it all.

You know all those people that blame winter for their Seasonal Affective Disorder? Well, winter is never a problem for me. I love winter. Love the cold. Love the snow. Love being able to wear layers and throw tons of blankets on the bed.

Summer is what wears me down.

And this is something that I try to keep in mind when I'm having weeks like the one that I'm having.

Otherwise, things could get pretty ugly fast.

Or, uglier.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm sorry, that's my goat you have there.

I am the first to admit that I am prone to getting a bit obsessive. This is all the more pronounced when I'm dealing with one of my periods of feeling "off".

Not necessarily sad. Not necessarily depressed. Not really angry.

More frustrated... with the world.

This feeling was exacerbated over the last couple of days when I found myself, on several separate occasions, talking to people about things that I know inside out. Things I know how to do. Things that I have done and, as new evidence has revealed, done really well.

However, in each of these instances, I found myself being completely ignored.

Not disagreed with. Not engaged in discussion.

Ignored.

Which has given me something new to obsess over.