25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

There is about a half an hour left in the west coast Christmas day, and I wanted to take this opportunity to wish my friends and other readers (like you, Marcus! We missed you today, but really enjoyed seeing the kids. I beat the Lady M in Sorry by one move. It was a badass Sorry game!) a really terrific holiday.

And if it hasn't been a terrific holiday (because I can certainly understand that), I want to wish you a better 2009.

At least we're all not still waiting to finally see Twilight, or to hear Chinese Democracy, or for the election. We have lived through a lot of stuff already. Proof that we can persevere.

23 December 2008

Year-end Mix

One of my favorite traditions that belongs to this time of year is the year-end mix. For many years now, I have been trading mixes with Mikey J and Dr. Awesome that somehow represent the year that has just passed. Last year my mix was populated with songs that all came out in 2007. The year before that, I chose a song that represented each month of 2006 somehow. I know that Mikey and Shane have different kinds of criteria for their mixes.

This year's mix (entitled "Spin it Again") is now done, and mailed off to the regular recipients (or sitting under my tree for Mikey and J-bro and Jane), so I thought I'd "publish" the list here. For posterity, or whatever. Before I do it, I have to say--I have felt very uninspired this year. And I admit that this is mostly a very depressing mix. Which is to say that it sort of befits a mostly depressing year.

*"Ride" The Old 97s
*"Chinatown" Luna
*"Too Drunk to Dream" The Magnetic Fields
*"A Dustland Fairy Tale" The Killers
*"The Bleeding Heart Show" The New Pornographers
*"Disorder" Joy Division
*"Love Song" The Dandy Warhols
*"Stone Cold World" Caroline Herring
*"Librarian" My Morning Jacket
*"All in It" British Sea Power
*"Clouds" The Go-Betweens
*"Lost Coastlines" Okkervil River
*"Mapped by what Surrounded Them" The Twilight Sad
*"Walls" Beck
*"Ruin" The Pierces
*"Believe" The Bravery
and, because it wouldn't be 2008--
*"Madagascar" GnR

(You will notice for the second year in a row, there is no Frank Black on the list---!)

Cabin Fever

Alright. So you might think that being almost totally home bound for the last 9 days would give me ample opportunity to catch up on some blogging. But I know how much Qwanty resents any blogs about the weather, and really, it is impossible for me to write about anything else. Since a week ago Sunday, we have had temperatures almost exclusively below freezing, and snow, freezing rain, and sleet. As you all know, I am sometimes given to hyperbole. In this case I am reporting fact. Currently, at the compound, we have about 10 inches of packed snow, a 1 inch ice layer, and then another 12-14 inches on top of that. Do the math, people. That is about 2 feet of snow. In Portland. For over a week.

For those of you who do live here/have lived here, you recognize how freaky this is. We are just not a people who are used to long-term arctic conditions. The last time Portland had a "snow event" of this magnitude was 40 years ago. So, I have never seen anything like it. The year that I lived in Boston was exceptionally mild, so I didn't even see it there. And if you think that I'm exaggerating, wait until you see the pictures (they are coming--).

And I am so bored I can hardly stand it. My little car is buried. So I'm stuck here for awhile. Yesterday I actually played 2 rounds of that racist domino game (I'll not name it, in respect to J-Bro) with my parents and my grandmother. Have any of you ever played a game with me? That's right. You haven't. Because I don't play games. I don't play games because I am the world's worst sport. It is very unpleasant to play games with me. But I played that damn game for 4 hours yesterday because THERE IS NOTHING ELSE TO DO.

There are, of course, a couple of silver linings in this series of storms. Here are the highlights:

1. Watching Ella snowboard in the backyard at 10 o'clock at night. That was pretty cute.

2. Going to "McCool's" with my dad for lunch Saturday (the last day we were able to get out), and seeing a room full of people drinking coffee nudges (the $5 cocktail special) in the middle of the day.

3. Local news. They are preempting almost everything to continuously tell us that it is still snowing (awesome!). But after the first 48 hours they began to get really bored and punchy and they have had to work harder and harder to find things to talk about. That has led to some funny on-air antics. The best thing that I've seen so far--one news team was talking to their field correspondent in Troutdale, which is a pretty important location since it is the end of the line for truckers who are wanting to travel east--I 84 has been closed for about 3 days. Anyway--the correspondent had his camera man pan over to the diner at the off-ramp to show a 10 foot drift, and as the camera panned back to the correspondent, a man walked out of the gas station and fell. I'm not someone who usually laughs at other people getting hurt or embarrassed--I don't tend to think that sort of thing is funny. BUT. One of the anchors back at the station actually said, "Aww. Look at that! I sure hope that guy isn't one of ours!" Which is a completely jackass comment to make on the air. It was a nice break in the facade that these guys try to create to make us feel like they care.

4. Hands down the best thing I've seen: I was at Kinko's on Saturday (long story--) and it was snowing like crazy. A woman walked outside and her windshield had iced/snowed up while she'd been self-serving at the copy machine. She took her copy of (I SWEAR!) The Prophet and used it to clear the windshield. This could only happen in Portland. It made me simultaneously proud and disgusted to be an Oregonian.

Thanks, by the way, to Stobie. Your Remington Steele tip came just in time.

08 December 2008


As much as I like to believe that I am the best storyteller in my family (immediate family, Marcus. Calm down.), the truth is that I have some competition. The youngest brother can spin a yarn or two, and even Rimmy occasionally can pull out a good one.

But we're all going down to my niece, who at three and a half can tell some whoppers.

If you see her ask her about:

*How Emily doesn't want to be her friend anymore cuz Ella stole the "E" from her name.

*How the little boy with the "black skin" (I think he's actually Indian or something) gave her his fruit snack. (In her defense, she has the most translucent of skin. EVERYONE looks like they have black skin in comparison!)

*About how she was a pumpkin when she was a baby.

*About what she is going to do when she gets older and drives a Toyota like Pal.

Only at your own risk should you ask her why she wants a high chair for Dodie (her stuffed bear) for Christmas. TMI, my friends.

Just So's There's No Misunderstanding

I don't have a thing for Clint Howard.

For the record.

It Must Be Addressed!

I'm taking time out from my grading hell (and it IS hell, my friends) and coffee-induced delirium to discuss the head shaving thing. For those of you who don't know this, I have, on occasion, had the opportunity to mention the fact that I have a kind of weird fascination (ok. maybe a fetish) about film scenes in which a character shaves his head. This began with the film Pi, and really, the only other film I can think of that has a comparable scene is The Royal Tenenbaums, which I believe I have mentioned in the blog before.

Anyway, the reason I feel a need to address this is that I'm a little embarrassed about it. Well, not so much about the fact that I do have a thing about it, but more about the fact that it seems to be a fact that is SUPER memorable to a particular group of people. Not only did Stobie and Mullins both just reference it in the comments to my last post (and Melissa actually implied that this particular fact is indestructible. Like this is the cockroach or Twinkie of memories), but I actually got a random Facebook message from THE DODD about a month ago. The gist of it was this: she had a student who had shaved his head and she had a conversation with him about his decision to do that, and then it reminded her of me (!) and I think she also said that she told the student that she knew someone who would be interested in his shaving his head.

Um. That's disturbing. And I can't, for the life of me, figure out what makes this so memorable. 1) Did I make a really, really big deal out of it? Because I don't remember doing so, and I'm really ashamed if I did. 2) Is it really that weird? I mean, people have all kinds of weird things that they are into, right? 3) Is there no one else out there that can see my point here? I can't be the only person---


On a related note, I was equally confused by the fact that I was at the grocery store with Felisa (maybe the last time she was in town?) and we were in line when she pointed to an item on the counter in front of us and said, "what are those called?" I looked down and saw a package of chocolate Popsicles. She thought that she was being VERY funny, but it took me a minute to realize that she remembered that I can't say that word. Really? That is memorable?


On what I hope does not become a related note, I can't believe the conTROVersy (to quote Jane's dad) over my attraction to Jason Mewes. I mean, it isn't like I wrote that I have a thing for Clint Howard. THAT would be weird. Jason Mewes is hot. That's why he doesn't mind being super naked in a movie. HE knows he's hot.

I don't think that this warrants Marcus's freak out. Listen M--we can agree to disagree. Why do these things always end up with you calling names? I can like If Lucy Fell (nice Jim Rome-style burn, by the way) and you can think that Shawshank Redemption is the greatest film ever. You can like Catherine Keener (although I really don't get it) and I can like Mewes. It's all good. Variety is the spice of life. It makes the world go 'round. Seriously.

01 December 2008

Thanksgiving Films

OK, so last week the time off afforded me the opportunity to see 2 movies. I made one really good choice, and one really bad one. Actually, I didn't make the first choice (since it was Mikey J's idea), so I really just ultimately chose badly.

Zack and Miri was the good choice (credited to Mikey J). It is a very, very funny movie. We both laughed a lot. Since I know you people do not care enough to read a long review, just let me make the following observations:

1. Jason Mewes is a babe. I didn't just start thinking this. I have always even thought that Jay was really hot (which is weird, cuz that guy would NOT be my type in real life. AT ALL). But I swear that he's actually getting better looking as he gets older.

I don't like to think too much about what is behind my attraction to Jason Mewes, because, if I am honest with myself, it is for all the kinds of reasons that reflect badly on my gender. He is really screwed up. His characters are really screwed up, but Mewes himself is also really screwed up. He is also, from all accounts, a dog (with regard to his dealings with women). But, and this is where I sort of start to hate myself, he seems super, super vulnerable. It is my understanding that he lives with Kevin Smith more than he lives anywhere else--because he needs to be watched over a little, and Smith and his wife provide some sort of stability for him. The point is this--it is that mixture of bad boy/vulnerable boy that makes him sort of irresistible. I know that this is messed up thinking, and part of the reason that we don't have a woman in the White House (because, let's be honest, Bill is an older, puffier, better-educated, Southern Jason Mewes).

All rationalization aside, Jason Mewes is hot.

2. We are getting really old. It is hard to tell from looking in the mirror, but seeing certain other people age makes it impossible to deny. Traci Lords looks OLD. Part of it is hard livin'--I get that. But it still made me feel old.

3. This film requires me to write a sentence that I never expected/wanted to. That sentence is: "Justin Long is a great comedic actor." Seriously. His character is--by far--one of the funniest things in the film. Seth Rogan's reactions to him are equally priceless.

4. It is very, very strange, but also very, very pleasing, when Seth Rogan opens his mouth and Kevin Smith comes out. It's almost too much of a good thing, if you know what I mean.

5. I love Kevin Smith THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS much. I don't care how many unwatchable films he makes. When he makes a good film, I just love him THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS much more.


And then I saw the new Charlie Kaufman film Synecdoche, New York. I should not have done this. I always WANT to like Charlie Kaufman films, both because I sort of believe it is a thing-to-do, but also because, in theory, I like the idea of Kaufman. But in reality, I always either end up mildly disappointed (Being John Malkovich) or downright horrified (Eternal Sunshine*). S, NY is a horrifying movie. If you haven't seen the press, here is the story in a nutshell. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a theatre director who decides to stage an epic piece of avant-garde theatre after his wife leaves him and he receives a MacArthur genius grant. The idea of the theatre piece is to recreate reality--and to that end he casts someone as himself, and as the people (women) in his life and makes art until it kills him (and everyone around him). This takes a very, very long time. Long enough that I seriously considered walking out of the film, and long enough that 3 (smarter) couples actually DID.

Here's the thing. The idea behind the film is cool. The casting is interesting (except for Catherine Keener. I hate her. What is everyone's thing with her anyway?) and Hoffman is really, really wonderful, which is weird, given the fact that I hated his character so much that I wanted him to die, die, die (and the faster the better). Kaufman is smart, and he tries to make smart movies. But I can't stand them.

And I think that I've figured it out. Kaufman is a smart guy who is tortured by the kind of thoughts and the kind of knowledge that smart people are always tortured by. He's aware, self-conscious, thoughtful. And, like people who are these things tend to be, he is miserable because of it. His films are all about the pain of feeling and thinking deeply, about the tedium of obsessive thinking, about the hopelessness of insight.

I don't think I'm as smart as Charlie Kaufman, but I am familiar enough with the challenges of having a critical mind that I don't want to relive it in my art. The cyclical, obsessive thinking of Kaufman's characters only serves to irritate (and perhaps even trigger) my own cyclical, obsessive thinking. This is not therapeutic, nor does it offer any sort of escape. It is an irritant.

Imagine that you are walking around all day with a blister. Worse yet, it is a blister that you have had since you began walking at 11 months. You spend most of your days trying to manage the blister. You baby it--rotate your foot as you walk so as not to aggravate it. You think about ANYTHING other than how much your blister is bothering you. And then once every few years you walk by a store that sells pebbles. And you think to yourself, "I like the look of those pebbles", so you walk in and buy yourself one and then stick it down your shoe. Now you have a pebble in your shoe (and YOU put it there). With every step, you are reminded of the pain you are currently in, the pain that you are ALWAYS in (because even without the pebble you have that damn blister), and the fact that you are to blame for the increased pain you are feeling, because you bought the pebble and stuck it in your shoe.

That's what it feels like to sit through a Charlie Kaufman film.

*I don't get what people LOVE about this movie, by the way. It's nightmarish.