Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Velvet Underground - Oh! Sweet Nuthin'

Hi everyone -- back in the saddle after some computer issues have been fixed! Okay, it's that time of year again for my readers to pick a birthday song for this year. Here's Jason's selection for last year which definitely kept me going all through 39 of which I have a whopping three days left. Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Favorite Things

Do you notice when people use the word pleasure, it's almost always accompanied by the word guilty? Well, on this peaceful Tuesday, I offer you a few of my guilty and not guilty at all pleasures, in no particular order. Feel free to add yours -- Stand-In Grouchie is the picture of the day -- Baby Grouchie is on a break, but he will be back!

Driving at night alone listening to jazz -- I don't know why, but jazz always sounds better at night in a car. Miles Davis, you are the ruler of this lonely place.

My stories (as the women used to say in my childhood) -- Showtime and HBO, I am so indebted to you.

Actually reading the articles in Playboy. Love the Playboy Advisor. It's my version of Dear Abby. In a very different universe, far far from the sun.

Chopping on ice. Although I have now learned this is a form of Pica and indicates an iron deficiency. I still like it. (Dentists, please skip this one.)

Champagne. Not very guilty at all about this one. To quote the great Bette Davis, sometimes there's nothing else that works in a woman's life but a glass of champagne.

Watching reality tv at the gym. Hey, I'm doing one virtous thing by working out, so it balances out, right? Umm, maybe.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Plato

Cocktail Hour
Movie suggestion: Very much looking forward to the new Raymond Carver short story movie, Everything Must Go.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beauty From Ashes

Being from Mineral Wells, I think about the fires burning over Possum Kingdom Lake and worry. I spent many a summer at PK, lying around on its shore, pretending I was at a spa and enjoying a mud bath treatment. I put myself in New York City where the mud would be pure and snakes wouldn't be hanging off the trees, but there I was, in Possum Kingdom, not so far from Hell's Gate, a couple of rock cliffs that come out of the water and served as the ultimate truth or dare for people tanked up enough to think it was a good idea to jump off them.

When people remember childhood, they often cast back to the simplicity of it, which does not mesh with my experience at all. Childhood means longing and loneliness and a certain kind of painful clarity that fades with age. But I also know what they mean -- I never thought about disasters except the ones I saw, never thought about the snakes even as I was surrounded by them. I wonder about the snakes and where they go when they are driven out by smoke or if smoke even bothers them. Like me, they enjoy the night when everything fades from view and the past seems to haunt the present, a specter that can never be banished, only viewed through a lens darkly.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I'm out there doing the best that I can, My lip is cut and I'm still playing." Miles Davis

Cocktail Hour
Kudos to the latest episode of United States of Tara -- a truly haunting ending, beautifully done.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday! And many happy birthday wishes to my dear friend Nick and also the great Iggy Pop!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Birth Of The Cool

While writing this morning, I played Miles Davis' "Summertime" on Youtube. The next recommendation was the New Kids on the Block version of "Summertime" which gave me considerable pause and must have sent Miles spinning in his grave. I skipped the new kiddies and went to John Coltrane's "So What" which always makes me think of Joy Behar saying, "So what? Who cares?" and I realize that unlike the United Negro College Fund slogan about the mind being a terrible thing to waste, I realize my mind is just a terrible thing. Which makes me think of Dan Quayle's bungling of this line years ago. And so it goes.

Some things are unobtainable when you want them too fiercely -- being cool, being happy, finding someone to love. Some things don't work when the effort is seen -- a sacrifice ceases to be one when you are acting like it is a chore, writing that appears labored doesn't work (the irony being that only when you labor over writing intensely does it appear effortless, a gift handed down from an angel, the only secret being that you had to wrestle with that angel like Jacob did and the writing is the scar you receive for your battle). It's all so simple and yet so complicated. As Easter approaches, I think of this season of lent, of renewal and sacrifice and hope. The dark closes in and then there is light. Never one without the other. Such is the nature of joy. We must acknowledge the reality of the tomb before we can rise.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself." Rumi

Cocktail Hour
Movie suggestion: Win Win

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday! Welcome back Heff and a special hello to the lovely Lana! And no, the Louds do not have big butts. Only I do. Ha!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Review Customer Reviews: Storylandia Issue 3: The Wapshott Journal of Fiction Much thanks to Charles Gramlich (a terrific writer) for posting this review on Amazon and Goodreads! And yes, Mark, you can quit keeping up with those darn Kardashians now that you know about the Louds. They created the genre in 1971 without a hair/make-up team and much cooler clothes. The British documentary is called 7 Up and it follows a group of school children and checks in on them during various points of their lives.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

HBO Films: Cinema Verite Trailer (HBO)

I've always been fascinated by the story of the Louds, first seen on PBS under the name, An American Family. Imagine my joy -- my dear James Gandolfini is in this version of their story! Happy Saturday!

Friday, April 15, 2011

All In The Family

Happy Friday to all! And a special thanks to Dave and Shea for their incredibly thoughtful comments on yesterday's post. Shea pointed out perhaps the most controversial portion of my blog, not the writing (which can upset people from time to time), but the pictures. Thanks for the defense to your friend! I enjoy the pictures just from the standpoint of going different places and having fun with it. But I also know they provoke intense reactions and that's okay. And in all truth, I liked Demi Moore's Vanity Fair cover -- I do think pregnancy is very beautiful (it's having an actual baby after that's always given me pause) and I'm glad she made pregnancy a more culturally acceptable form of beauty. But for reasons I don't understand, I don't like when men are naked in that type of photograph as it seems to cross the line from art to something too private for me to see as a viewer. That said, I'm sure my pictures do the same thing to people from time to time.

And Dave, your comment blew me away! My favorite show as a child was All in the Family along with Sanford and Son and Maude, and I adored Archie and everyone else. I think we all have a little Archie in us, the part that is swept away by vast cultural change and left in a state of horror and befuddlement. It's the essential honesty of Archie that is appealing, I think. And the series dealt with all sorts of painful topics -- the episode where Edith is attacked and almost raped in her house still stays with me to this day as one of the all-time great explorations of the subject.

On another note, I'm ever so sad to see All My Children cancelled. I'm going to write a longer post on this turn of events, but for now, I will miss the denizens of Pine Valley, a show that has been on television literally my entire life.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

This I Do For Me

Upon viewing the cover and a few pictures from OK Magazine of Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon on my dear friend Trent's Pink Is The New Blog, I longed for the days when men stood outside delivery rooms, ruminating their fates as fathers and passing out cigars while the birth process took place. We've swung the other way as a culture -- Mariah is posed naked with her husband fondling her very pregnant body in a variety of positions. Nick appears also to be unclothed, bringing to mind John Lennon's disturbing album cover of Two Virgins, where he and Yoko are entwined in their full naked glory. Why, God, why? I get why Mariah did it -- I'm sure she got paid good money. But why do we want to see it? I blame Demi Moore for starting the trend on the cover of Vanity Fair so many years ago when she was married to Bruce Willis, not Ashton, when I only used a computer to type my name over and over in a trance-like fog (telling detail -- it was only my name. I never typed a boy's name with mine). Those days stay in my mind like a faded Polaroid, capturing an innocence to which I will not be returning.

I get it. Pregnancy is beautiful, natural. But I only expect to see these types of photos when I peruse through Our Bodies, Ourselves. I'm not particularly squeamish, but I still can't hop on the pregnant photo bandwagon. I have no problem with doing these pictures for your private collection. I've never been pregnant; I'm sure it's a wonderful feeling and you want to capture it. Like the old Clairol slogan, This I Do For Me. But the obsession with pregnant naked celebrities? I don't know. I don't want to know. I clicked the link, though -- it's my fault I saw these pictures. Like Oedipus, I couldn't look away. Next time I'm tempted, I'll go in the next room and hand out cigars.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with." Mark Twain

Cocktail Hour
Okay, my dears. I have hopped onto the Dexter bandwagon. If you think you aren't the type to like this show, you might be wrong. I always thought I would hate it, but turns out it's as addictive as crack cocaine. So far, I have three more episodes of Season Four. If John Lithgow isn't full out scary, nobody is.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Double Exposure

Hi everyone! Thanks for the thoughtful comments about my last post. I'm always fascinated about how much we choose to expose through our writing, the varying comfort or more accurately, discomfort levels, in which we work. I agree with Keith (JCO is pretty awesome) and with Jim about the absence of the Ontario Review, a terrific journal which is sorely missed. I also admire JCO's memoir for the level of truth-telling. A lot of it is unflattering (if my informal survey of friends who have read it are to be believed) which takes guts. I know that whatever I write, I face similar criticism, some warranted, some not. I once wrote on this very blog that I'm not terribly fond of animals which warranted the kind-hearted comment that I was a "narcissistic self-absorbed disgusting cypher." Don't hold back -- ha! But I'm okay with that. Everyone I know is an animal person with loads of pets, and they don't hold my half-hearted pats on their beloved companions' heads against me.

But the subject of the memoir that holds the most interest for me is responses to grief. I believe that most of giving things -- flowers, food, kind words, letters, and gifts is about the giver's need to give. I love giving people presents. It always makes me feel better even when what I part with is something I need or love (sometimes money, time, prized possesions). It's not that I gain any moral high from it or give to make people feel indebted. Quite the contrary -- it's just something I enjoy. No high ground here. But it takes a special talent to receive. I think a lot of people are afraid to give because it the potential responses make them uncomfortable -- that the gift won't meet certain standards, that it's inappropriate, that they'll be perceived as an ass-kisser. I used to worry about that sort of thing, but I don't anymore. I give when and what I can because it makes me happy. I don't care if people thank me, don't care if they need it, don't care if it's awkward. It's no surprise that one of my favorite Bible stories is the about the widow who put two mites in the collection box. It was all she had. It used to make me so very sad when I heard this story, almost to the point of tears. Her last two mites! What was she thinking? She might need those mites! But as I aged, I realized that the need to give was stronger than the need to hold onto her last few pennies in the world. She needed to show her love, to contribute to something she felt was greater than herself. And honesty is a form of giving. Ann Landers once wrote that the best-dressed lie was far worse than the bare truth.

Michelle's Spell of the Day "Why won't you let me talk about sexytime with Lenny?" "Because you call it sexytime." Nurse Jackie, last week's episode.

Cocktail Hour
I have heard a very ugly rumor that Detroit 187 is in danger of being cancelled! Say it ain't so . . . Please help petition to keep this fantastic show on the air.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Miracle -- A fish shaped like the state of Michigan! Some people see the Virgin Mary, I see the Mitten . . . Make of this what you will! Recently, I read a memoir titled Widow by Joyce Carol Oates. Her long-time husband, Raymond Smith, died a few years ago. Being a writer and a quite prolific one (mind-boggingly so), she wrote about the experience. I'd read The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion which covers the same bitter terrain of losing someone who is, in essence, your entire life. The Oates book is quite different -- while Didion maintains a somewhat clinical yet deeply touching tone, Oates takes a different tack. She goes for the moment by moment hysteria of grief, of self-laceration, of sleepless nights, and social awkwardness. It doesn't have the artistry of Didion's book, but I'm not sure that was the point. She's also describing a very different type of marriage. While Didion and her husband shared everything -- work, troubles, and a child, Oates contends that she and her husband spent most of their time together in an effort not to mention their work or things they found unpleasant or troubling. I've never had a relationship like this, so it seemed to me quite exotic. I liked it for its honesty. But when I discussed various parts of it with people, I found the reactions quite interesting. To note, Oates complains bitterly of the flowers and gift baskets of food she receives in the wake of her grief. When I mentioned this to a friend, she said, Send the food to Haiti, bitch. She complains about people mentioning her husband, complains about them not mentioning him. She complains of the letters she receives and the hardship of having to be a "good widow" and answer all of them. Strange, but I don't think anyone expects to be answered by someone in deep grief. And nobody knows what to say when someone dies. You always tread the ground of saying to much or not enough. Even so, I understood her delicate nature. One gets the sense that her husband shielded her from many of the difficulties of social interaction. Even so, I have to commend Oates for her ability to put it all down, every unflattering emotion. The memoir demands honesty and the ability to disregard judgement, especially one's own. So I give you guys the question -- do you find this kind of soul-baring off-putting or refreshing?

Benedictions and Maledictions Happy Sunday!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Church bells and sirens are my two favorite sounds which kind of sums up my entire life. One foot firmly planted in crisis and tragedy, one in the promise of Heaven. I think the bells were the real reason I converted to Catholicism, that sweet mystical sound that suggests a homecoming, a calling back. As a person who is deeply fragmented, I love the idea of peace, of being home. When I was young, I often wanted to be someone else, the girls that always seemed beautiful and content, the ones that didn't seem frazzled and unkempt, like me. I swore I would become that kind of person. I didn't. I went the other way. I became more like myself over the years. For a long time, I saw this as a tragedy.

But as the great Miles Davis says, it takes a long time to sound like yourself. I've found this to be true in my writing life and true in life itself. So many awful costumes to shed, so many goals that will never be obtained. But ultimately this is such a good thing, a miracle really. Everything that is not essential falls away. One spring I looked out the window and saw white flakes drifting out of the sky. I didn't know if it was snow or petals. It turned out to be both, one of those strange seasonal anomalies. I thought if only life could be like this and then realized it was, at least for that moment. I love the world, the sirens, the snow, the flowers, but ultimately like everyone else, I cannot stay.

Cocktail Hour
Working on some spring concoctions -- next up, a hibiscus jalapeno margarita. When I perfect this gem, I'm doing a video to show you guys how to do it.

Monday, April 04, 2011

व्हेन बाद थिंग्स हपपें तो गुड पोपले

When I was a wee tot, everyone was reading a book titled When Bad Things Happen To Good People. This, of course, is when they weren't reading The Road Less Traveled Or I'm Okay, You're Okay. I always wanted to retitle the last selection to I'm Shaky At Best, I Have No Idea About You. The books all address a similar issue -- turning lemons into lemonade, what to do when a shitstorm starts, and how bad times can actually be good. I agree. In theory. In reality, living through bad times is about as great as a colonscopy -- good to do (in theory), uncomfortable as hell while happening. I had a friend who described a root canal as uncomfortable but not painful, a distinction too fine for me to usually make. What do we do with our grief? How do we make sense out of misery? Like Neil Young, do we implore ourselves not to let us bring us down and find someone who is turning? Let's face it -- it sounds better when Neil sings it. It actually sounds much better when Annie Lennox sings it.

I think of everyone as having their hour of need which shakes things up, the status quo on which we rely. I've lived this in different incarnations many times. The whole Linus and his blue blanket thing. I like to think of transition as the time that the blanket is in the washer. It's a terrible feeling. You wake up one day and everything on which you counted is gone. You start over. You deal with it. You rely on coping mechanisms. You hope for the best. All the cliches apply. Time heals all wounds. (not really, if you're wondering) The cloud with its fucking silver lining. That turns out to not be silver and actually turns your skin green. But one thing applies -- we rely on our friends. We do our best, our personal best. We wait for the blanket to be clean again. It's not easy. The dryer takes forever. We wait. Bad things happen to good people. Worse, good things happen to bad people. But I'm okay and you will be too.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them." Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Cocktail Hour
Charlie Sheen show in Detroit -- losing! Don't be hating on my city, Charlie. Jokes about the dwindling population not appreciated. Don't be a troll.

Benedictions and Maledictions Happy Monday!