Monday, December 31, 2007
by Charles Reznikoff
Not because of victories
but for the common sunshine,
the largess of the spring.
Not for victory
but for the day's work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.
Happy New Year, dear friends close to me and dappled readers one shade beyond.
Friday, December 28, 2007
"I intend to drink my mortgage industry sorrows and await the next crisis to hit the financial world, the credit card debacle. Maybe I can charge a bunch of stuff and Bush will lower my interest rate since we Americans certainly don't know that a house worth 500K will not be at 1000 dollar payments a month no matter how may brokers tell you that."
— Rahim, Dallas, Texas
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
All my life, I have lacked two things: a camera and a sense of direction. This year, both deficits have been resolved.
One crazy sweet elf gave me a digital camera. Fantastic! I took pictures of snow. I took pictures of prime rib (it is not very photogenic). I took pictures of cookies, my shoes, angels (below), my hands, doorways, window sills, my obliging parents, my sleeping grandmother, of police at the Dunkin' Donuts (Bavarian cream, good call), of passing ambulances, electric snowflakes (also below), inflatable lawn art, the whole god damned Christmas shebang.
I took pictures of pictures, themselves already framed on the wall. I took pictures and deleted them, sent them places, took them four times over just to pick which I liked best. This is tremendous. I am quite sure, in fact, that no one has ever owned or used a camera before. Otherwise, it's all they'd talk about. I do believe I am the first to experience this rapture. What a holiday. All I can say is just wait till you too get to work with this new-fangled invention, this enthralling little box of light; it’s great, good fun—but now onto the showstopping news.
That would be the sense of direction. Brothers and sisters of this new, well-met year, I have received a GPS for the Matrix. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, you have no idea my joy (unless you’ve been in the car with me, in which case, alas, you know how sorely I lack the ability to drive anywhere beyond my own bedroom). The miracle device’s name is
Chelsea is versatile as all good performers ought to be—she can direct me in Italian (rawr!), with a British accent, whatever my fancy—she’s absolutely bellissima, bloody brilliant. I tell her my destination and off we go, sure on our course. If I overshoot a turn (though it’s quite hard to mess up when she guides me with such sterling confidence and clarity), she patiently says “recalculating” and directs me back to the original destination by way of the next shortest, sensible route. She’s infinitely reliable, thanks to her satellite network. Hillary, you could learn a thing or two from your daughter’s efficient utility.
Above: After the show at the Jazz Standard, I hung by the Rockefeller tree with the angels—the tree, btw, had blue lights for Hannukah, did you notice? That was a first; better late than never—and anyway, angel and I pretended we were Nicholas Peyton blowin' it out in the horn section. (Though if I had it to do over again, I'd have angled the umbrella down, not up, and stood in as the fella on alto sax, Donald Harrison. As my father, who has become startlingly hip and jazzy in recent years, would say, man, that cat can blow. Check Harrison out. You'll be glad you did.)
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Christmas, post-dinner. Mom and I had energy to burn. Both fidgety and disinclined to read or otherwise operate productively in the world, we decided to pack up some gifts and bring them up to the baby Jesus at the local church for his big 2012th birthday. Things did not go quite as planned.
First off, our lord baby Jesus had been stolen. Awesome surprise. See for yourself:
But I had walked all that way with my frankincense and myrrh. So someone was going to pose for me in that frickin' manger. Mom, gamey and ever deferent to my bratty pleas, climbed on in. Again, awesome. Awesome, that is until she thought she heard it crack. That's what we've captured very flatteringly here. (For the record, it did not crack. And also for the record, we’d not had a sip of moonshine. Nothing.)
I made several friends along the way, including a nice gay man to whom I gave a holiday bouquet:
And a thirsty lamb:
And a mechanical bull that, to my disappointment, did not take quarters, after all.
Merry Christmas, folks. If you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, well then you might as well. Right? Next up, New Year's.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Observation Late December, temp in the twenties with wind chill. I am going for a run.
Experiment Marathon training continues, regardless of locale.
Analysis Incorrecto, Doktor Kennedito! I nearly died.
Conclusion I am a lily-livered, pansy-footed West Coaster incapable of exerting myself anywhere but in a Surfin' Safari video set.
Above: Laughing death in the face.
Monday, December 17, 2007
(Looking at the map included in the story, I gotta say I think someone on the BBC's cartography team may have been hitting the Maker's Mark because Pennsylvania appears to be eating its way into Jersey's westerly midsection. So much for Trenton.)
Let me try to get you there: Etta James, Tori Amos, Norah Jones, and Koko Taylor all rolled into one in a smart, darling, effervescent package. Her subject matter runs from an NPR-inspired number on domestic violence to a heartfelt ode to the metal roller skate. She's all impossible charm and whimsy. She's got lungs like you would not believe, unswerving vocal control, and a vibrato that ranges, rages, and rattles cages. A human that manages to purr. I can't say her recordings do justice to her live performance. She's really all that in person. But a CD may do ya in a pinch. (I challenge you to play "Give Me a Reason" in the car and resist singing along. I find myself hollering along without even realizing it sometimes, missing exits, fleeting past stop signs, rolling off roads into the brush. And still, we sing.)
Here are some lame pictures. (I asked my imaginary admin Hillary to get me a camera, but she's busy Christmas shopping for herself.)
Thursday, December 13, 2007
The butter changed my life. This fascinating big hunk of heavensent fat alerted me to the inherent limitlessness of hedonism, a greedy reality that has never since left me, not once. Up to that point (I think I was around seven), I'd not only lacked a consciousness of food and its various local incarnations, but of where it came from in the very first place, what seasons brought which produce, how things like butter were even made.
And that, not really in any kind of linear thought progression that holds the conceptual hand of you, dear and ever-patient reader, brings me now to tins of biscuits. As phenomenally farmy as the bacon, butter, and bread were, the biscuits at said family farm were a tremendous disappointment to my young Wonder-bread palate. Likely packed with rolled oats, wheat germ, and other wholesome dust, the biscuits served in that heatless canister of a house delighted my grandparents and parents alike. Me, not so much. I rolled the mealy lumps around in my mouth and hardly took my eyes off the butter, which I just wanted to take, dip in sugar, and eat. (I had done this before with Land O'Lakes.)
Still, it is with some wistful reminiscence of those dreaded biscuits—and the kitchen with what stands in my mind now as an old Wedgewood and below it, Mick the meanest Jack Russell staring and growling at me after a long day's herding cows—that I present to you dog biscuits that (yes, I tried them) bear an uncanny, and therefore sentimental, resemblance to my greataunt's miniature oat bran ship anchors/biscuits.
They're easy to make. The dog will love them. Mick guarantees.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I am bereft of words and of hope. Woot indeed.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
K, well there's more to come on this case. The hearing yesterday was limited to racketeering charges at the state level, I believe. Vick could still receive a federal sentence for neglect and abuse charges—and if I've got it right, he's just admitted he personally helped hang two of the victim dogs. So the question will be—if he is in fact sentenced to more time—whether they'll restrict him from serving it concurrently.
Here's a new piece from the Contra Costa Times.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Here, as a point of reference, is Adam Gopnik on Cornell's work: "The art under inspection ... has ... old French hotel ads and stuffed birds and soap-bubble pipes hermetically sealed behind glass, evoking vanished Victorian worlds of Curiosity Shops and steamer trunks and natural-history-museum displays of long-refuted principles. They ought to have dated; they ought to date; they are, in a way, about being dated. And yet something keeps the visitor locked in place, looking, and turns his mind to the warmer, though still not quite satisfying, words of romantic praise: haunting, mysterious, dreamy, sublime.... "
Why does it always seem the artists I favor are characterized as provincial or dusty or quaint in effete intellectual circles? Cornell built little windows of imagination. Art. Period. I'm not sure why we need to speak of nostalgia in the diminutive. I think his art is beautiful and the simple measure of that effect is in the oblivion of my singular I, the checking of one overblown sense of self, even if just for a few seconds. For the record, I'm all for art without irony, complication, or ornamentation. Huzzah for steamer trunks of nostalgia, old chaps!
Simplicity is the highest art we've got.
(That picture is from icanhascheezburger.com, by the way, my latest in an endless array of time-destroying diversions.)
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
During the twelve-miler through Berkeley yesterday, the following citizen assurance won Best in Show for my favorite sightseeing experience. It's a two-step dance. First, one thinks as she approaches the car, "Oh how awful." And if that someone is me, she imagines the worst for the passengers:
Then, in passing, she is met at the side window with a note (blurry, sorry) that makes her laugh out loud, stop for a second, and just take in how great some people can be:
What a considerate Berkeley resident. How much better this made the last leg of the route, knowing that, at least in that instance, the evidence looked so much worse than the event ... and how comforting to know that someone out there was aware enough to realize that I—or any random stranger taking in the sight of such a gnarled car—would benefit from witnessing the small, seemingly insignificant solace of miraculous survival.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
1 Quibbler's Cove
Oakland, CA 94606
To: scribblers everywhere
Re: email signatures
Dear friends and collared greens,
Let's agree not to sign emails with "best" or "cheers" anymore. It drives us crazy, much like spoken sentences that end with a raised pitch (just make the statement already; lifting the intonation makes the listener think you may be asking your declarative—a most impossible action).
Monday, November 26, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Well, well. I'm beyond delighted. Who knew when I was done with my doughy bits of cheesy delight that I could eat the thermometer too.
Fantastic. Like I says, I'm SO thankful for it all. I, for one, intend to enjoy this stuff, folks. It's all we've got.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
So I--of course--read that damn story (Sin Dolor) he just had in The New Yorker. I instantly regretted admitting to the chambers of my mind yet another tortured cast of Tom Waits-Diane Arbus mutant children, each more screwed by nature than the next, this one being a merry little narrative involving scorpions, skewers, heated blades, and a young boy who literally feels no pain. Predictably, the good doctor (see moral struggle in your writing manual) tries at once to exploit him and champion his cause.
And so it was one of those couldn't-have-written-it-better life developments that ratcheted up the Boylean hyperbole a mere day or two later. I opened up The New York Times and saw a story about a prehistoric sea scorpion that would have been seven feet long. Yes! Scorpions, like in the story, only monster huge. Epic scorpions, if you will.
Thank God Boyle did not read that before he submitted the story. Lord knows where the crazy bastard would have run with that one.
Monday, November 19, 2007
I offer you a new tradition for your post-Thanksgiving day off. Rather than clothes shopping among the throngs (or as my good comrade calls shopping, outfiteering), stay home and celebrate Lord of the Leftovers. What is *that,* you ask? Well ...
It's easy. You eat whatever mountains of food you have left from the big day in whatever order you'd like in whatever quantity with whatever beverage you prefer, all while enjoying a Lord of the Rings marathon in the best company you can muster. It is preferable to be near a fire. And if you can work it out, it's best that it's raining outside. And hard.
For the advanced Hobbitians, role play is strongly encouraged. You can take turns being the Lord. I, for example, am Frodo when he's run out of drink and you are Samwise coming over and giving me your little bota full. Or I play Aragorn and you have to be the wind that is always blowing gently when I am on set. And so on. But if you're old-fashioned or uncomfortable with that, the plain Lord of the Leftovers routine is perfectly sufficient too. Don't feel inadequate if you can't go quite that performative distance just yet. We'll get you there eventually. We are very patient Hobbitses.
One last thing. You may even want to plan and name your menu accordingly. I, for example, will be making my new traditional dessert, Raspberry Fool of a Took. Get it? If not, you probably will not be invited to our Lord of the Leftovers. And you should go outfiteering instead.
Ah, superheroes. I've been thinking a lot about which superhero I might be. And unfortunately, I think I found myself just this morning. I'll give you a moment to reflect upon all the golden heroes of your mental pantheon. Good. Done. I'm sure they're tremendous. Since this is, after all, my blog, we're going to talk about the one on my mind, the Greatest American Hero. The one who runs into walls and stuff. He came to me unbidden.
It was after our run this morning and we were nearly out the door of the Sunnyside Cafe when the theme song came blasting over the speakers. Natch, we stopped short. And we, yes we did, we started singing along, knew every word. With a belly full of bananas fosters french toast with rum raisin sludge from heaven, I felt more at home than I had in a long time. Punky Brewster bless that famed duo Mike Post and Stephen Geyer for their numero uno ditty, "Believe It Or Not." Here's a refresher:
Anyway, enough shenanigans. Practically speaking, this month of writing thing has been gnarly and the organizers of NANOWRIMO can kay my aye, but I do see the end of the month coming soon and so I am feeling sane about it. These last two weeks are big writing.
All in all, carpe diem never felt so good. But all that said, I would not mind having a private (handsome) chef or my own massage therapist, and my imaginary admin (Hillary, you've met) really could be doing a better job getting my laundry done.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Hello holiday gastronomers,
As you eat your way through the season's wild offerings, spare a teeny bit of room in January for my glimpse into the happy-belly goodness of local underground dinner parties. The full meal-deal story will be in The East Bay Monthly. Good eats and, as one of my students once said, gooder times. What a prospect I lay at your feet.
So come back to me then for the lowdown (don't worry; my imaginary admin—her name is Hillary, since you asked—will get on the horn here and remind you when the story's out). This is just a heads- and tummies-up to the bar: Kennedy promised to give you the goods (and the requisite secret password, d'accord) and indeed she will.
Monday, November 12, 2007
So! While I'm here. NANOWRIMO is for effing crazy people. Effective this week, I am shifting the focus from quantity to quality, from novel to story, because otherwise I'm wasting too much time. Call me crazy, but I'm in it to win it and I need to produce something other than a cracked-out, hepped-up, 1667-word-a-day notebook full of spinouts and drive-at-all-costs uturns.
Mmm ... coffee.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
One of the books I assigned in the course was In the Belly of the Beast, the letters and acute existential ramblings of Jack Henry Abbott, a convict and aggressive self-educator. Anyone who follows the angling stream of literati chaos likely recalls how Abbott and Mailer struck up a correspondence, how Mailer championed Abbott's parole, and how Abbott subsequently stabbed a waiter within days of his release.
I sympathized for Mailer in that era, the sobering humility of choices that prove retrospectively so ill-advised. But the more I read of him, the more I learned about him, the more grandiose his ego, the more incendiary his style, the more of a blind-swing provocateur he seemed to me. And this, of course, brought out the lion in the grass in me. I have never missed an opportunity to stage derision, however humble my savanna may be.
But it all comes to nothing, I see again. The giants all fall. And the thud sets the earth shaking. And we wend our way—quiet, quiet—back to the shade another day. The sun beats down all around us. We skulk and sulk, are agitated and upset. And the invisible clock ticks again just a little louder from somewhere out of sight.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
I know, I know that genius is the too-thin butter on the too-stale toast, meaning it's assigned everywhere to everything, like the new ric-rac edging on Cheez-its. But let me tell you, pal, that Mary Zimmerman is for reals for reals frickinsharp. I have not liked a show this much since I discovered Froggy Went A'Courtin as a wee babe. And I LOVED me some Froggy.
It is a Scandanavian-Design set with recessed oven lights, replete with hilarious and operatic acting, goddesses in platforms and Barbie gowns (except Athena, who appeared in all ways to be a kickass dyke), all the standard delights of Greek mythological insanity, a satisfying smattering of pop culture references (wait till you hear the tune the ladies of Lemnos play in their boudoirs), and just about the prettiest darn ending a dazzle-ready girl like myself could ask for.
I am going to tell you again. Go see Argonautika. You will be better for it.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good.
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.
Aaand ... this orchid that has been massacred by tenacious ant colonies (plural), knocked by cats from a second-story balcony (repeatedly), and split and repotted by yours truly and her brutal tools has just started blooming on my first day writing this thing. When we look for indicators of universal support, it's nice to have such easily accessed signs.
And by the by, our mile time is now roundabout 9:30. I've got a 12k coming up this weekend. I'm feeling like setting a personal record.
"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."
No such thing as impossible, only what's not yet happened. That earthquake the other day reminded me: time's only ever of the essence. I write now or I may never have written.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
My marathon times have gone from 5:30 to 5 to 4:45 (each to the minute) and it looks like 4:30 is a reasonable Napa goal with my compadres pushing me along. Bruce would call that an "all-set cobra jet creepin' through the nighttime."
Anyway, I'm tempted to leave you for the month with this next poem. I just finished the day's work and was on my way to go out and play when AGNI delivered their online wares. I had to look. Enjoy. This is probably not the last you'll hear from me, though, because I am going to see Joseph Cornell's shadowboxes at the MOMA. Deliriously excited about that and will probably have kindeegarten-variety enthusiasms to share.
"Cures for Love"
by Stacie Cassarino
When you give me back to the world
and the world throws me over, I read Ovid’s
“Cures for Love”: one, love is better
than doing nothing; two, divert the mind
with farming; three, wine promotes sex.
For months I obsess over farm tools, then go to Italy.
But this is supposed to be a sad story,
remember, written in Finnish because
there is no future, there is no forever.
Here is your name crossed out. If you could
now go away from my heart. I’m in Rome
where the gods are lying around at Trevi,
and only the head of the fish on my plate
can look me in the eyes and stay there.
What would Ovid say about this?
The light inside the Pantheon makes me cry
inexplicably. The letter I imagine writing: it is blank.
We are stars as well as dust here. A man
throws fire, the doctor is cutting
my mother’s neck, I’ve lost my way.
Can there really not be any concrete
evidence of love? But this burning sky,
my hands like local relics. Someone
is coming near, someone is vanishing,
I can’t tell which I want
to be real. Now there are bells, now
there is singing, it’s forgiveness
we want. We want to press against
strangers & we want it to be rough.
How much would you pay for joy?
Grandma says nothing is worth
dying for, and in my dreams I can bring her
back to life anytime she decides to leave.
Love is that powerful. Just look at my eyes
saying reaper, spade, sickle. The wine in Rome
has never tasted so lovely. Even this table
you’re leaning on may not be there, someone says.
Even the Forum is all in ruins, and the people
are not sure if history has written them
out from under the rubble.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I am lucky to have the ideas, community, blinky garlands of words, the whole shebang. So I've signed up and gotten the below letter back from the support system I'm going to use to stay focused. It's a big, ridiculous, sprinty writing party called NaNoWriMo.
You know this has to mean that it will be a blackout period for the blog. In t-minus six days, Betta done gone fishin' for a brief writer's holiday. Mayhaps sooner while I shop around for a desk chair (Yeah, because Hemingway? He had it all wrong with this standing at the desk thing). I'll flip the shingle back over first dawn of December. Come up and see me at that time, wouldja?
Well, you did it. You've gone and pledged your November to the pursuit of the month-long novel. Whether this is your first or ninth NaNoWriMo, we know you're going to have a great time, and we're thrilled to have you writing with us.
From The New York Review of Books:
On July 15, the postal rates for many of this nation's small magazines increased by 20 to 30 percent, due to a decision made by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) that turns against more than 200 years of postal policy.
We believe this issue to be of such importance to small intellectual publications on both the right and left that we felt it imperative to alert our readers.
This rate increase has the effect of shifting costs from the large publishers, such as Time Warner, to smaller publications, such as The New York Review, Commentary, The National Review, and The Nation. These unfair and onerous rate hikes threaten the future of many smaller, independent publications.
Congressional hearings have been scheduled for next Tuesday, October 30. Prior to that, we are requesting that all concerned readers sign a congressional email petition that can be found here:
Free Press, working with a wide variety of small publishers, is hoping to collect well over 100,000 signatures by the end of this week in order to get the attention of the committee members prior to the hearing.
We hope you will join in this effort. These new postal rates threaten the existence of the small independent magazines and journals that are so important to a free press and a vibrant democracy.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
New titles you've mailed to me so far: World Bridger, Information Czarina, Word Smith (let's make that two words, maybe with a comma between: a greeting AND a generalist's title), Market Probe (not sure about that one!), and the very best: Your Boss. I am indubitably getting cards printed up that say Elizabeth Kennedy, Your Boss and giving them to anyone I come across who needs a good, strong hand. Watch out! I'm coming to a town near you. Delicious.
* * * * *
C. just got a job at Dreamworks as a Render Wrangler on the graveyard shift. Yet again, I have no idea what that means. But when she speaks the official title to me, I feel a covetous wave of interest, as if I've spent the preceding decades married to a lifeless dud when all of a flutter, a stunning looker grazes past me with taunting attentions. Wow, I realize, my title has the sex appeal of a cold stone. I want what she has.
So. Lettuce problem solve, rancheros. Today marks the death of Project Editor Kennedy. Homilies and eulogies to follow. In the meantime, please call me the Word's Mercenary. No. The Sentence Swashbuckler. No, no! Closer: the O-town Manual of Style. That one's not bad.
But some sneaky moment down the line, I'll think of better and return to this post and quietly edit it (for all my many, mighty rereaders; that's you, Mom!) to make it appear that my title genius spontaneously combustiblogged right here into the It Title. (Hey, help a hustler out and email me ideas. Cmon, you don't think Render Wrangler was a groupthink product? Totally. Was so. Uh huh.)
And while we're playing these little make-believe divertissement ... from here on out, you are no longer visiting me on the second floor corner office on MLK Way. You are venturing up, up, up to the Eagle's Nest. Code word coconuts. Fly, free bird, fly.
Yeehaw, Wrangler. Now we're raising dust.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
He's explained it, much like my Georgetown economics professor explained the sigma-algebra of measurable subsets involved in axiomatization of probability theory in stochastic processes. Nod, nod, blink, blink. (An absolute emptiness echoes between my ears.) All I know is he has done whatever he does since 1998. And that his role has to do with kernels of something (data? bytes? maybe corn? bytes of corn?) at Sun Microsystems. So I decided to Google him. The guy's everywhere. He's a technical superhero behind the curtain, speaking what passes word by word for English, but shatters into impressively prohibitive non-English when strung all together. See below for a sampling of his advice on the incomprehensible:
>> I am curious if it is possible to manually configure the sub mirrors in a \ mirrored jumpstart profile? Normally we are allowed to create a profile and \ assign the mirror such as the following:
>> filesys mirror:d0 c0t0d0s0 c0t1d0s0 1024 /
>> But what if I wanted to assign my own sub mirrors instead of allowing them \ to be selected automatically, because as is probably known the numbers are not \ logical. For example:
>> d10 1 1 /dev/dsk/c0t0d0s0
>> d20 1 1 /dev/dsk/c0t1d0s0
>> d0 -m d10
>I'm not aware of a way to do what you're asking from within a
>jumpstart profile. That said, you could use the metarename
>command to change the component names after the fact if they
>aren't to your liking.
Monday, October 22, 2007
(And by the way, when did J. K. Rowling become our old pal Jo Rowling? Just wondering. And what in the world is going on with Ellen and her dog insanity pleas? I wish she would just recover some of her private life and do what Mariah did: take some mani-pedi time and make a comeback with a quality movie like Glitter.)
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
But I just went and saw Gone Baby Gone and I feel all the more certain that the tragic is where it's at. Affleck's invented a mesmerizing world: a little Arbus, a little Eastwood, with some Todd Field—and sure, why not?—brutish characters cut so convincingly with real, weary, unlikeable watchability, that we catch the Shakespearean glitter of misery extinguishing its carrier.
The conclusion exceeds its ending and echoes off-time. I need from my movie, my book, my music the sense not only that I've left the work with my sights sharpened, but with the charge of responsibility, the alarm of a life shown for what it is, a series of moral hostage exchanges, of complex challenges to our most provincial convictions. Maybe it's the wabi sabi idea, the simple imperfection in the complex plan, but I like to think of it as a kind of fluid strategic assymetry, or as the most tenuous pause that compromises the whole moral imperative. We have no right answers, ever.
The movie is tricky, not quite big house aping indie, not quite indie finessing the Hollywood flourishes. It's got a humble feel, a real bead. Affleck gets my neighbors out there on the East Coast cold. He gets the working class. He gets boozers, the righteous, the lost. He gets so many small things really right from table tops to smacktalk. Can't complain. Won't complain. Loved it. Break my heart like that any time. I'll even pay you for it.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I'm mindful of much of what's awful in the world and I do my fair bit to remedy, or at the least attend to and address, it. Given that, I feel more free license than ever in my day-to-day to celebrate Jack Gilbert's "music despite everything." Here's a Szymborska poem. Enjoy it. Maybe even make it part of your Best Day Ever!
The commonplace miracle:
that so many common miracles take place.
The usual miracle:
invisible dogs barking
in the dead of night.
One of many miracles:
a small and airy cloud
is able to upstage the massive moon.
Several miracles in one:
an alder is reflected in the water
and is reversed from left to right
and grows from crown to root
and never hits bottom
though the water isn't deep.
A run-of-the-mill miracle:
winds mild to moderate
turning gusty in storms.
A miracle in the first place:
cows will be cows.
Next but not least:
just this cherry orchard
from just this cherry pit.
A miracle minus top hat and tails:
fluttering white doves.
A miracle (what else can you call it):
the sun rose today at three fourteen a.m.
and will set tonight at one past eight.
A miracle that's lost on us:
the hand actually has fewer than six fingers
but still it's got more than four.
A miracle, just take a look around:
the inescapable earth.
An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:
can be thought.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
So, uhm, psst. Hey, you. Yeah, you. Take this envelope. This one here. Can I pay you this cash to take this test? It's kinda hard.
Just kidding, teacher! Kidding!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Publicity Intern: Man, you couldn't pay me to attend a Trump book signing.
Publicist: Mervyn, by God, you're a genius! (Publicist gets on the horn with Trump's people.) Okay, I just thought of something great. Let's pay people to come to the book signing!
And so it is, my friends. A new era in what we abashedly call the book business.
Monday, October 15, 2007
But oy, look at it:
It's just so very pretty.
I may as well be addicted to heroin. If I had the choice to go back into a burning building for a kid or to sip a fresh latte, I'd waver. It is like someone keeps slapping me on the inside of my skull. Latte. Latte. Latte time, stupid! Go get it. Now. It's a screeching alarm.
And now I refuse to yield. Bastard coffee. Beelzebubbian coffee. Black hellwaters of Sumatran ambrosia washing through the unstimulated attics of my mind. Diuretic tormenter of my pure and otherwise hydrous soul! Oh, the pain of love deferred.
I did anticipate the difficulty. I'm not a total dodo. I made a plan that seemed smart in the filtered sweet shade of dawn (with my one permitted cup of home-brewed morning coffee at hand). I decided to pack myself a healthy alternative, a nifty little snack that would not only replace the 2pm chemical boost, but also function in some wholesome sort of way once in the mysterious bubbles and bends of my belly.
Well, brothers and sisters, eff that. Let me, as the kids (used to) say, drop some neurochemical science for the benefit of all: a banana and a cool glass of water do not adequately substitute for a hot, frothy latte with just the right bit of raw sugar. No, no, no.
So sure, the running is great. And I love that you can't catch me. And look at me, look at my skin—I'm sunny and fabulously hydrated! I'm practically a noontime lake. But however joyous and hot-flames-fast all this water nonsense may be making me, I still want a god damned cup of coffee.
Help me, Rhonda! (Unless of course you're a barista, in which case you should exercise your right to refuse service to my desperate soul. Don't help me. Don't!)
Saturday, October 13, 2007
But seeing as I've just gone dancing and cringily witnessed the lack of rhythm most humans exhibit, I have to confess a certain appreciation for the bird's panache. If you're disinterested in stupid animal videos, don't click. If, on the other hand, this blog represents a guilty timesinky pleasure for you (what else?), why not click through and stick around for the most fabulous part of all, the outrageous, flashy headbanger bow at the end?
Friday, October 12, 2007
What is it that I find so spooky about her pieces? She's done some collages in the past, too, things that I thought took their meaning and significance from a kind of disjointedness. But these are different, controlled.
p.s. It's raining. The smell of dirt and water—gorgeous, alive, alive.
As a kid, I sat at the sliding glass doors overlooking the stretched green of my childhood yard in Waldwick, New Jersey. My mother sat with me. I remember it being quiet, rare for me in those days. I was a talker, a rambler, a shameless liar, always inventing what I now see were unbelievable stories. We waited for the lightning, just scanned the sky past the trees, and at the strike's instant, we counted as loudly as we could until the thunder came. The thunder always arrived eventually. I knew I could count on it.
... Hmm. An amendment to this post. Writing about revelry despite all the devastation reminded me of one of Jack Gilbert's greatest poems, its wry treatment of God and the fallen, how evenly he manages to present life as Lethe and Elysium in one:
A Brief for the Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
But that's not really why I'm writing. I'm writing because the committee has just recognized Doris Lessing. I've never read her through. Does that make me a bad feminist? Perhaps. I remember reading a confession Jonathan Franzen published somewhere that he'd tried, but failed multiple times, to read The Golden Notebook. And while the old chestnut may be that misery loves company, this commonality made me feel even worse. It's not an underdog thing, no book-not-championed crusades here. Lessing clearly has a following that endures to date (yes, a Nobel Prize makes that much obvious).
I think it has something to do with an independent catalog of important books that I try to keep outside the bounds of the Hundred Best Books lists that predictably feature so many men doing their age-old, mainstream displays of peacock plumage and four-star words. It's an old guilt, my inevitable tension, the desire and distaste for privilege and power in narratives that lull me with their uncanny reflection of what is. Who knows. The harder I look at issues of politics and art, the more I find myself resembling Janus, shifting from one view to the next, a revolving door of perception, forwards, backwards, dizzy, dizzy, dizzy.
I know fundamentally I resist the notion of what I should read as much as I defer to it. Ever contrary, I regularly name Saul Bellow as one of my favorite authors. A reader could not really find literary work with more androcentric misogyny unless she hit up Roth or Mailer for a love story. And I stand behind my choice there. I'm always at the ready to discuss the tricky business of drawing the lines among authors, their views, and their stories.
But, yes, life is complicated and residual obligations from undergrad coursework in feminist methodology and pedagogy prove stubborn. I suppose I have long felt politically responsible to know the book, particularly if the ranks take amnesty in Franzen's example and relax away from it. But here's the news: the prize has adjusted this reality. Post-Nobel, obligation is a much weaker bond between Ms. Lessing and me. She is glowing now in the radiant, hot, magnetic sheen of an internationally touted prize. I'd say that that eases the pressure off me. Masses will take it back up, read her on beaches and in book clubs. I foresee a movie adaptation. So yes, you all go and read it, good respondents to the recognitions, readers in the prize wake. Tell me what you think. Do report back.
And now I am at liberty to state guilt-free that The Golden Notebook has not compelled me to stay after I've slipped between its covers. I will go read what I want. Come to think of it, I've yet to read Murakami's latest.
On Friday of last week, movie business reporter Nikki Finke wrote on Deadline Hollywood that Warner Bros. president of production Jeff Robinov had issued a company edict: "We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead." According to Finke's sources, Robinov's decree came in the wake of underperformance by two summer movies, The Invasion and The Brave One, which featured Nicole Kidman and Jodie Foster, respectively, in starring roles.
I have a better idea. How about continuing to feature plenty of women in lead roles, but skipping the dodobird movies? Both of those films were so badly written. Cliche, formulaic, rote, void of depth or (cringe, but it's true) artistry—unfortunately for audiences, all these words apply in both cases. And as for the cult classic revival The Invasion, you can add just plain grody to the list.
All that said, however acidly the film turned the stomach, I've got to hand it to Nicole Kidman, singular among all actresses for her ability to look the part of the dignified defier even as she's sprayed with alien vomit around every conceivable corner. And Jodie Foster acted the paint off the brick walls of The Brave One and, to my considerable astonishment, managed to pull off many redemptive moments in what otherwise amounted to an unforgivable abomination of a movie, better for a model of the core cinematic elements for Film 101 than an elegant innovation against those elements.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Having the space and energy to spend time alone—as alone and awake as I have ever been—is a profound luxury. Engaging a written work makes different demands than film, dance, visual art, or music, and I feel it's resonant in inimitable, vital ways.
I couldn't replicate my pleasures for you here; to start with, I can't put Tin God up online, nor can I sit you down this instant with a cloth napkin and a hot meal (though I always make extra and you'd find yourself welcome). But I can give you a gift you will not get at Litquake, a chance to read what you otherwise may not, a work by a tremendous poet you won't find on this year's panels, but should. It's by Steven Rood, copied here from my kitchen wall where it's nailed up, written in huge red letters on butcher paper:
Why would we want to get drunk,
staggering around and forgetting our loneliness,
if, in the fourteen billion years of this universe,
we have only this time to experience it?
Why would we want to numb up and watch TV,
if, in June only of each year, a particular
lily, the Calochortus tiburonensis, blooms
inconspicuously on one mountain
made of hot serpentine rock?
Why would we voluntarily give up
witnessing its nectaries glisten under fine
hairs in the flower's throat?
Why would we let ourselves become zombies,
who resemble us almost perfectly,
except for consciousness and delight?
Why would we not choose to transform
our suffering into Lamentations and Psalms?
Or into Schubert's E flat trio?
Why would we not become gardeners
if we can still remember the flower
that first made us swallow hard?
A friend and dear author of mine once hassled me for a hermitty stage I went through. She said, "Elizabeth, we all do this. We love and hate each other. You're not unique in that." Though I didn't like being told I was not a mold-cracking malcontent, I knew she was right. And ultimately, after the post above, I rumbled along with everyone else at Litquake. How could I not? To start with, look at this shot of the Bay Bridge views that I took while driving in to the Lesser Evil readings. Not a bad rush hour. Can the sky please stay this way forever?
See you at the Litcrawl. Of course.
Helicopters with bullhorns blared out instructions for runners to stop. Some refused to heed the warnings and kept running.
"Runners are a very unique breed and they're very determined and they want to push themselves because of all the time they put in preparing for the race," Platt said.
It's necessary for some of us. One of the major justifications for deciding to start running ridiculous distances again is the chance to devote the time to poetry, reciting it (in my mind) like my grandfather did (aloud) for me when I was a kid. Over and over and over. So yippie tay yay, here we go. It's the only way to live! And it's pretty good to be so extremely alive, ain' it?
Friday, October 05, 2007
it gives one of lighting accidentally, like a voyager who touches
another planet with the tip of his toe, upon scenes which would have
gone on, have always gone on, will go on, unrecorded, save for this
chance glimpse. Then it seems to me I am allowed to see the heart of
the world uncovered for a moment.
-The Diary of Va Woolf
—over & out—
Thursday, October 04, 2007
In that case, it's all eyes (well-shadowed, lusciously lashed) on EK. The shimmering ladies working the floor, omnipresent like scented Oompa Loompas with up-dos, dodged around every corner to discern whether we'd "found everything we were looking for." (They followed so hot on our heels that we had to snap shots very fast, so pls forgive the blurriness in advance.)
My compadre and I entered the store on a lark, en route to finding skirts for me (I'm feeling skirty, why not?) and a gift for a road tripping friend nearing her Floridian destination. After relaxing into the olfactory fatigue from so much chemical perfume, we began browsing. The conclusion: Sephora is the domain of the devil.
1. First of all, can we please agree that Keats has no place showing up in a moisturizer display? Heavens to mergatroid, this just made me moan. These bastards trademarked the most famous, contentious line from all of Western poetry. Effing eff!
2. I'm not squeamish about pain. I get it. I like it. Hell, I'm a marathoner (Napa Valley, March, watch for a future post). I seek it out, much to the chagrin of those who would just as soon think about unicorns and rainbows in my company. But even for me, beauty ideals taking figurative cues from acute, painful animal attacks, that's messed up. (I, eons ago, was stung on the tongue by a bee, so the idea of bees anywhere near my mouth is especially repellant to me.)
3. God is all these things and it would appear God is also perfumed firming body emulsion.
4. This is the one that made me mad. I wonder what Fatboy Slim, who borrowed his oxymoronic name from Bumble Bee Slim of Chicago blues fame, would think of having his name adapted to a stupid caffeine cream for the body-conscious, brainwashed masses waiting to be suckered into snake oil purchases. I was tempted to buy all the boxes of this stuff, just to get it off the shelves. But they'd just ship more.
And one last thing. While we're talking about ads that bug, this guy's truck has been parked outside my bedroom window for days now. I have a nice view. I fall asleep looking out at it every single night. And now, there's this to add to the picture. If this were the representation of my plumbing solutions, I'd just as soon dehydrate.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Still feeling doubtful that an abused animal can find it in her heart to learn trust, be socialized, and step up as a face-smushable candidate for a worthy home? Check out Sophie's story or just watch the BADRAP website as the available dogs arrive and prove their mettle, resilience, and unthinkable capacity for forgiveness. We just finished with the last Katrina adoption this past month. New lease for deserving dogs. Eyes on the future!
(Want more of the scary fighting dog Sophie? Cute one, cute two.)
Keep up with BADRAP.
Monday, October 01, 2007
1. Standing up in a moving sailboat is not as easy as sitting in one.
2. All bags ought to be latched prior to shoving off lest pens, post-its, and dubloons go rolling across the floor.
2. One ought never refer to "shadows of sharks below the water" or the movie Open Water while very far out on the Bay.
3. Love is not all you need. Ocean chi is all you need. No wonder all those cigarette smoking, Miller swilling, docksider wearing salty dogs live to ninety despite their habits. Ocean chi. Get some!
And now, a poem:
I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled and barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.
In other art news, I finished the second in the Repair series of three shadow boxes. The first is called Save the City. It features Jesus, a power plant, live wires, a bottle of salt (for wounds/physical), and a bottle of wine (for wounds/psychic). The glass magnifying his injured rib is bound with bandage threads. ("I got God on my side. Who's that? Hell, I dunno." -Ditty Bops)
This next one is called Treehouse Futures. Overly personal this one, close to my heart. It's about salvaging for all it's worth. One of the owl's eggs has turned to a stone with the word "focus" etched into it.
After the 2nd Grand Intergalactic Messy Elizabethan (Art) Expo (GIMEE), Lars left me a lego sculpture. It has levers. I haven't got a picture of that yet. And then he helped me clean up. That, on the other hand, I do have on film (in pixels, I guess, technically). I have included it below for your edification to illustrate for all young grasshoppers with brooms that this is the way cooked-in kitchens should be tidied:
(For the record, if I were a scientist, I'd clone Lars. Again and again and then again.)
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Well here is Atwood again in any case, now a touchstone.
This poem is brilliant brilliant cynical cruel and, as my Great Aunt Etty once said when I noted that this one gray could only be found in Galway waters, "spot-on, dear."
This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:
the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls
the song nobody knows
because anyone who has heard it
is dead, and the others can't remember.
Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?
I don't enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical
with these two feathery maniacs,
I don't enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.
I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song
is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique
at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.
While I'm onto my recent reads ... I had hopes for this book, with which I was unfamiliar till I spotted it on a shelf. Stilted, not very insightful:
This book made my heart ache. I kept getting the feeling as I read The Road that I was suddenly so grateful for all the words Coetzee left out of his slim dystopias. Because McCarthy seems to have picked them all up and gathered them here. And they sting.
A wacky snack, this next one. Good for fans of Hempel, Lutz, Slavin:
And like most folks observing an absence, I picked up Liam Rector's latest. It's also sent me back to Don Hall's poetry. Without, in particular. Such beautiful poems in there.
We lost a good champion of free speech this year, so it's even more important to take up the task and at the very least check out this list of the most challenged titles of the year. (You'll have to click through a spam filter jump page. Sorry about that.) Maybe pick a few of them up.
Because I am the type well-advised to steer clear of Targets and Z Galleries (I really need that gigantic resin buckhead for a coat rack) for fear of the stupid things I might buy for no good reason at all, the natural next step in my internet timesinkathon was the enablement of silly purchases. It was noted that I could and should buy my very own domain, not for the $25,000 bid Network Solutions suggested when I first researched elizabethkennedy.com (I'm worth more, in my opinion), but a .org for a scandalously low $5.99.
So! Dear web traveler, watch this. Now that I (being extremely broke) have spent this valuable little fistful of dollars on elizabethkennedy.org, you, lucky you, can go to your address bar, type it in, and ... come right back here. Free ride for you! Wasn't that fun? You're welcome. (I should have bought a latte and listened to the Es instead.)
Thursday, September 27, 2007
A. O. Scott is my James Wood of film criticism. He's precise, incisive. He slices and dices. Delightful and sharp words, even serrated when called for. The Darjeeling review is no exception to his smart takes. That said ...
And forgive the untoward intimations in advance, but they're pretty incontestable.
I selected the "email this page" linko to share the remarkably positive review when I spied with my little eye a blue widget (a nanobillboard) on the upper right corner of the page. Article tools sponsored by:
Hay zeus! For reals?
Do I even need to explain my objections? No, of course not. And I don't mean to be provincial. I hav spent my time in the cooling shade of the money tree. I understand. But to put the button right there on the page with the actual review of the movie? Couldn't Darjeeling Limited rotate sponsorship of the tools on, say, an article on Doctors without Borders or Ed Jew or somesuch?
Alas, sometimes the inferno of interests is unavoidably visible to those rosily warmed by its intoxicating emissions. Not cool after all. It's getting hot in here. Quick, take off all your widgets!