Saturday, November 29, 2008

the glamour of vampires

My favourite part of tagging along with my cousins and sister to see Twilight on Thanksgiving? Watching my sister pantomime the way the handsome (?) vampire looks like he's about to throw up when he first meets the human girl (who blinks excessively); and hearing her repeat the line, "You're like my own personal brand of heroin," and then crack up.

Dear Twilight, the movie:
What is with all those 360 degree panning shots that so obviously happen with a camera zooming around on a miniature track that traps the actors in a tiny circle? One is nice. Too many make me dizzy.

The lack of continuity in color and details between close ups and the rest of the scenes hurt my eyes.

If you have to resort to a montage to show how much your guy loves your girl in a romance... well, it's a bad sign.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

reacquainting with the kitchen

Since starting at the bookstore, I haven't had much time to cook. I seem to run through the kitchen, stopping long enough to make a cup of tea, or dissolve a packet of miso soup, or throw an apple and a block of cheese in my bag for work. I have become a devotee of the microwave (horror!) and the Japanese appliance that keeps water on the edge of boiling at all times.

However, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have to make cranberry sauce. We're having Thanksgiving with friends in southern CA, so the actual cooking is happening down there while I'm in the car, driving one of the most boring freeways in the world. But I have to make cranberry sauce. I always make cranberry sauce. I think only about three people even eat it, but my sister adores it so much that she'll spoon it out straight from the container and eat it like pudding.

So the cranberries are on the stove and I'm feeling proud of myself for finding the zester, for remembering to put in the cloves, and for getting it all started before midnight. I haven't even gotten any cranberry juice on my clothes yet. Yay.


Am cold, am cold, am cold.


It's only 59 degrees F. Never mind.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

music wars

When you walk into a bookshop, the ambient music probably isn't the first thing that enters your mind. It probably straggles in much later, after, "where is that book that I desperately want and must have in my hands in this exact moment?" or, "what direction shall I wander in first?" or maybe even, "what are those strange things that sort of look like Rubik's cubes, but aren't?"... But then, after a little while, the music seeps in. And then, after several hours, even with all those lovely books crowded around you, the music is suddenly pounding through your head and you wonder why everyone hasn't either burst into spontaneous dance, or run away with their hands pressed to their ears.

At the bookshop, we have music wars. The combatants are:

The company sanctioned, nice at first, but easily tiresome CDs that we sell. These have French songs, Spanish songs, "world beats", and other such globally inclusive tasters.

A strange amalgamation of things that reminds me of a fake honky tonk bar. Or, possibly, the parts of the 70s that I'm glad I missed.

Classical music. Mozart, Bach, and all the usual suspects. I'm extremely fond of classical music, so it makes me unreasonably happy when, say, a Bach CD makes it's way into the stereo.

Once, I think someone brought in some French accordian music, the cheerful oom pah pah kind. In small doses, it's actually quite infectious. I felt like doing jigs up and down between the shelves.

Sadly (or maybe fortunately), nobody wins for long. It's all just skirmishes and sometimes your ears bleed and sometimes they don't.
I've just started reading Dali & I by Stan Lauryssens. I have high hopes for this one. Even higher now that I've read the author's bio, which says that he spent time in prison for selling fake Dalis, then "turned to writing crime fiction". This is possibly the most exciting thing I've read on a book flap in a long time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

sticking points

Worked on some of those small, worrying details that pluck at me while I'm dancing and go, "right, you're really not capable here, but I guess you can just skate over the whole issue and pretend like you didn't notice." My upper back, the bit underneath the shoulder blades, isn't particularly articulate or clever. It moves in a solid, lumpy block until I'm really warmed up, and then class is almost over and there's not much to do about it.

Anyway, stood in the studio for a good twenty minutes with a glazed look on my face, contemplating the space underneath my shoulder blades and making odd shrugging movements and twitches.

Sometimes, I think about the things that I think about while I'm dancing and it all seems so bizarre. The way the front of my shoulders rotate in their sockets. The distribution of weight between first toe and last. Those little muscles that run in between my ribs. It's like someone standing very close to a painting and trying to decide exactly what color the shadow between two cobblestones should be.
Am reading Angela Carter's Nights At The Circus. I'm about half-way through and it's a very strange, very beautiful and twisty, piece of enthusiastic cabaret. Am also reading A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich, which is like history told in bedtime stories.

Monday, November 17, 2008

guitars and magic dragons

Am back, a bit dazed and rather tired, after a very short stint at the bookstore. Peter Yarrow played the guitar and sang for over an hour to a crowd (200-odd) of adoring children and nostalgic parents. It was a nice event--the audience was flooded with enthusiasm and he did sing "Puff The Magic Dragon"-- but my brain feels like it got a little battered. It was a bit surreal to see a large crowd of children and parents and grandparents paddling imaginary boats to a song that talked about being a boat and being a sea. There were parts where everyone was singing along, and I felt like I had been transported to some weird and dangerous universe where life spontaneously morphs into a folk musical.

I've also realised that, sometimes, discussing unconventional narrative techniques while wearing the ebullient and smiling retail voice is difficult for people to swallow. I was gushing about a Grace Paley story to a customer and looked up to see him staring at me as if I had just let him down, rather unforgiveably.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

puccini, plus explosions

I've been thinking about why I love action films so much, and I think it's for the same reason that I love movies about cons and heists: I like watching people who are terribly, terribly, outrageously and delightfully, good at what they do. There is something irresistible about a hero who can shoot a gun and leap off of buildings and drive cars at the speed of insanity, who can make every woman fall in love with him and catch the bad guys while still offering up, now and then, a wry remark that makes everything seem ineffably fine.

Reasons to enjoy Quantum of Solace in particular:

The title comes from a short story by Ian Fleming that is apparently in the style of Maugham.
A scene that cuts between a chase and a production of Tosca.
A big, climactic scene that is like watching a fireworks factory on a particularly unfortunate day.
The massive touch screen table the British Intelligence uses... I'm not anything close to a tech geek, but I was flipping out over that.
The MK12 designed main credits (can one have a crush on a graphics company?).
Anything and everything that comes out of Judi Dench's mouth.

Also finally got to type the words, "THE END", again. I'd forgotten how delicious it is to do that.

Peter Yarrow is coming to Kepler's on Monday. I wasn't too worried about this as I have a soft spot for Peter, Paul, and Mary... But now I'm a feeling a bit of trepidation as I've realised this means many small children crowded together on rugs around someone strumming a guitar and singing "Puff The Magic Dragon".

Friday, November 14, 2008

doctor who

Am feeling very behind the times in only just discovering that David Tennant is leaving Doctor Who. This makes me a little sad. When I first heard someone call Tom Baker, or Peter Davison, or whoever, "their Doctor," I was perplexed. It is only a tv show, I thought, and it's the same tv show, with the same sort of stories, and same blue telephone box, and the same wonderful, ridiculous adventures. Except now I completely understand and I can't imagine the Doctor without the manic energy, absurdly fast soliloquies, and (my favorite thing of all) the enormous and good-natured enthusiasm that Tennant is so good at doing.

However, he's going to be in a movie with Bill Nighy. I adore Billy Nighy. Except as that elderly vampire in Underworld, where he looks like someone who needs extensive dental work very badly and is in a very bad temper because of it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

writing, as an archaeological dig, with pickaxe

I'm really tired. It's not even midnight and I am so ready to drop into bed and sleep like a lump of undreaming rock.

But, somehow, magically, there has been writing. There has been writing every day for nearly a week. Writing on the same story, but not the same beginning over and over. It is going very slowly, glacially even, but I've closed one door and walked into another part of the story and things are still happening. It is even entertaining me.

Now if only I can get to the part that goes, "THE END."

I am now going to read a Michael Moorcock story, because I've never read a Moorcock story before and it seems like an adventurous sort of thing to do when all you have energy for is keeping your head above the blankets on your bed.


Amitav Ghosh read at Kepler's tonight. Sea of Poppies sounds like a swashbuckling, and literary, adventure. The excerpts that he read were intriguing. But what really, really delighted me was when he started discussing the permeability and elasticity of English in the 19th century. He told us that "seersucker" comes from a Hindi word, "sirsakar," which comes from the Persian "shiroshakar".

And because I am an absolute geek about etymology, this made me very happy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

letters from unregarded scraps of time

My latest enthusiasm is for letters. I am crazy for them, for the writing of them, for the folding into envelopes and marking of addresses and sticking on of stamps (not licking, not anymore... I remember when postage stamps tasted different; some like a bad imitation of sugar, some like a foul and bitter chemical). Receiving letters is fun too. You open them up and read the other half of a conversation that you had days or weeks or months ago. I like letters that wander about, the ones that put in the details to tell me what it was like to be the person sitting there and writing it. Letters are entirely different from emails. I only get to keep the part of the conversation that isn't mine. I send my thoughts and questions, all the little bits and pieces that happen to fall out of my head, off to someone else; and someday I can look through my box of papers and see what they had to say in return, but whatever I said is somewhere else entirely.

This is the long way of saying that I've been writing a great deal of letters.

I've been reading (Michael Chabon's Maps And Legends, a collection of essays about the wonders of genre fiction) and nervously writing. The story that I'm working on is an idea that is almost worn thin from long imagining. It takes up all the space in my head and leaves no room for anything else to grow there, so I am doing my best to pry it out with diligent effort (though I'm beginning to think that an ice pick might be a more effective tool). I've been dancing (do you know how delicious it is to do your first grand jete in an entire year?) and working (my favourite moment of the week: a woman asked me whether Macbeth was a book or a play. The only answer my amazed brain could come up with was, "do you mean the Shakespeare?" To which she said, "oh. I think so.") and discovering that time vanishes very quickly if you don't keep a close watch on it.

I've also been deciphering my notes from Clarion (mostly in search of a useful icepick) and one of the things I've been pondering is something that Geoff told us. He said something along the lines of, "What will telling a story in prose add that no other medium can give? Not film, not theater, not poetry. I suggest that it's interiority and how the characters think and feel. You can salt prose with their thoughts."

That's about it. I'm trying to figure out when I can go admire the California Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum, when I can take my bike out for a spin, and when I can try that fascinating rowing machine at the gym, but I haven't quite figured out the time thing yet. Soon.