Sunday, March 30, 2008

the shiny guy...

[This just in! ML from LA read this post and sent me something so much better, the merger of Darth and Hamuel Day Lewis's voice from There Will Be Blood. It's movie magic, people. I'm delighted.]

So we had a little Star Wars movie marathon this weekend. It needs to happen every so often. Only this time, I'd since watched a certain video of a certain critic's recap of the original movies. I challenge you to watch this video and then watch Star Wars and tell me that the girl's voice doesn't pop up in your mind every single time C-3PO is in the frame.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

the latest in objectionables

I'm all for innovation and invention. Small discs that vacuum without the help of humans? Sure, why not? Laser tape measures? Neat. Zesters, pastry scrapers, ice cream scoops with the little dislodger arm, yes, I like all of these. But I think someone needs to tighten the belt on the buyers at Sur La Table and Crate & Barrel. Let's observe together.

If you cannot spare the energy to shake the shaker, you have not earned your martini.

These may be, as fixtures go, as old as the hills, but longevity does not justify ceramic eyesores. No more sculpted, painted fowl in our kitchens.

Let's spare our dishware the responsibility of communicating for us. If I want to say good morning to you, I'll do it myself.

Flashy mixers. I say no to pastel mixers, even if they are part of the assuredly moral "Do xx for the Cure" campaign that appears to be taking over the planet.

Can you see what that sign next to me says? Those are branches and they are for sale inside the store for $6.95 (they are, incidentally, also available just outside the store, the very same type of tree, for free if you bring a hacksaw).

Monday, March 24, 2008

now is the time to drink the coffee

"Instructions for a Journey"

Wear sneakers. Stuff a pocket
with tissues and treats for the dog.
Fill the other pocket with coins;
the ferryman won’t accept your
E-Zpass. Infrared binoculars
would be handy. Turn off
your cell phone. Do not annoy
the guards in any way and don’t
take the same path twice. Bring
a guidebook, compass, and map.
When you think you are lost,
you are lost. Someone may find
you but it may not be anyone you
are happy to see. Don’t complain
about it, or anything else. Be polite
and noncommittal. Do not form
attachments or enemies. When
invited anywhere, pretend you
can’t understand whatever language
the invitation is issued in. The hills
are steep but the flats are boring.
The composition of the soil is so
alkaline, it can put you to sleep.
Resist the urge. Now is the time to
drink the coffee. Don’t take Valium,
no matter how nervous this journey
makes you. When told to leave, go.
Do not wait for a signal or someone
to see you out. Do not feel you must
say good-bye. When the door slams
behind you, let it. Don’t look back.

—Susan Thomas

that Curry kid

Not that I'm bitter that my alma mater was defeated or anything, but is anyone else distracted by the presence of a nine-year-old boy in the Sweet Sixteen?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

have your sushi and save it too

Those (six) of you who keep up with my fiction know one of my first (only) short stories involves a bumbling girl who, among her many gaffes, mocks a friend when he pulls out a list to determine what fish is safe—meaning sustainable—to eat at dinner. Such a list exists. Dunno if you knew that.

Well as fate would have it, it ends up I'm the very lucky editor of the one, the only definitive sushi guidebook to be published by—yes, it's true—the creator of said list. I didn't know him when I wrote the story. And you're right, he's not the only one that put the list together. As always with such efforts, it was the result of a whole motley crew of all-good, freebooting, seafaring, entirely overeducated, pointyheaded researchers. But of them all, Casson Trenor's the one who has made me an official acolyte and that's why I petitioned so hard to get his book on our list at North Atlantic.

Casson is like a handsome Paul Watson, or maybe a radical Bill McKibben. He's the all-around cool guy in the North Face jacket who talks like an encyclopedia and makes it all feel doable, whatever it all may be. You'd probably find yourself wishing you could keep him in your pocket anytime you needed to make an informed decision in a world at its environmental ends. He stops to talk with each of the youngsters waving clipboards and standing out on the streetcorners, demands they back up their arguments, laments when they fail. Because lives matter to him he puts in the effort to understand the complexity of a crisis. So step right up, first contestant. Today is your lucky day! Because believe it or not, now you actually can put Casson in your pocket...or at least a Zagat-sized guide he wrote anyway.

But you'd rather eat sashimi than save the planet, you say? That's the point. Casson's book (tucked neatly in your cargo-pants pocket) makes for a world in which you can gleefully indulge your selfish hedonist's impulses without scarfing up the last of our world's rare, wild creatures that really have no place being options at the sushi bar in the first place.

Even my fictional cynic has to admit it is a fun read, teaching you how to talk up your sushi chef (it's an art, in fact), what you can eat into eternity, how to tell fresh food, where it all comes from, and the questions you have a right—an obligation—to be asking.

And did I mention color photos of every fish (both the fish and the sushi, actually), along with killer illustrations? Say hello, for example, to my friend the monkfish.

Now that's an animal. I'm telling you. Coming to an aquarium, bookstore, and near you January 2009. Don't wait! Order today, wasabi tomorrow. Sustainable Sushi: A Guide for a Changing Planet. Make a note of it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

these mean everything

Just learned an old friend has died. The rest of us are still here, making adjustments on our knees before the mighty grief of everyday life. We're here! It's an insult to whoever has gone before not to appreciate being here. She'd have said it herself: today is the most beautiful day in the history of days. Now is all we have.

"Dear One, How Many Years Is It"

Dear one, how many years is it—I forget—
Since this luminous evening when you joined us
In the celebration of whatever it was that we were celebrating—I forget—
It is a mark of a successful celebration
That one should have little recollection of the cause;
As long as the happiness itself remains a memory.
Our tiny planet, viewed from afar, is a place of swirling clouds
And dimmish blue; Scotland, though lodged large in all our hearts
Is invisible at that distance, not much perhaps,
But to us it is our all, our place, the opposite of nowhere;
Nowhere can be seen by looking up
And realizing, with shock, that we really are very small;
You would say, yes, we are, but never overcompensate,
Be content with small places, the local, the short story
Rather than the saga; take pleasure in private jokes,
In expressions that cannot be translated,
In references that can be understood by only two or three,
But which speak with such eloquence for small places
And the fellowship of those whom we know so well
And whose sayings and moods are as familiar
As the weather; these mean everything,
They mean the world, they mean the world.

—Alexander McCall Smith

Friday, March 14, 2008

worn boots: my life

This is about my shoes. How will I ever get my aging boots resoled, a comrade asked this morning over poached eggs and bacon, when I wear them every day? I wear no other shoes. I'm holding out on giving them over, particularly since some poets suggest shoes are like the mortal coil itself. They are skins.

You may be fine just going and buying new Adidas. But understand: abandoning my worn, beaten, bent old boots now seems unnatural to me. They have lasted this last decade along with me. It would be like shipping off my toes, my fingers, my nose for a touch-up. You just live with what you have as it endures.

Mr. Simic, that great and reliable poet laureate, instructs us thus:

My Shoes

Shoes, secret face of my inner life:
Two gaping toothless mouths,
Two partly decomposed animal skins
Smelling of mice nests.

My brother and sister who died at birth
Continuing their existence in you,
Guiding my life
Toward their incomprehensible innocence.

What use are books to me
When in you it is possible to read
The Gospel of my life on earth
And still beyond, of things to come?

I want to proclaim the religion
I have devised for your perfect humility
And the strange church I am building
With you as the altar.

Ascetic and maternal, you endure:
Kin to oxen, to Saints, to condemned men,
With your mute patience, forming
The only true likeness of myself.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

not that i'm counting

Observation One: photo paper costs about $19.99 a ream, or roughly nineteen cents a page.

Observation Two: let's estimate the average cost of a color printer ink cartridge at $25.99—and figure that the Wikipedia ink cost analysis stands correct with the claim that tells us that even the highest priced ink ends up costing approximately three and a half cents a page.

Observation Three: the good folks at just sent me a kind offer to reproduce the laughably unflattering photos below at a cost of only $16.95 per photo.

Conclusion: if I bought all four of the photos below, just one each, not including six bucks in tax and nine bucks in shipping, I'd be paying $66.66 above cost to see these regrettable photos that I have presented here in merciful miniature in even brighter, bigger saturations of sweaty pink splendor. Now if for all the various reasons above you are not able to see this represents a deal with the devil, I don't know how else to explain it to you. Just say no to Marathonfoto!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

i = loops for hoops

If you have not been to the land of Jesca Hoop, you simply have not been. I've just returned. She opened for the Ditty Bops. Dreamy songs in mixed up keys slipping through the woods behind lyrics in which owls and raccoons wear flowers in their feathers and furs and know precisely the thing you need to know about love. I say too much. Really. Just go listen to this pretty thing:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

run, blarney, run

If all races were like the Napa Valley Marathon, I'd encourage every kid on the continent to go try distance. The course had a near-steady drop in elevation all the way along, with clear, straight sailing for the last six point two miles. Race officials were super lax with their no-headphones rule and there was a water station just about every third mile or so, plus plenty of aid stations. Always stocked, always friendly. (Several had the works—water, Gatorade, pretzels, bananas, and oranges. And Vaseline for the chafers.)

It's a very quiet race—not for those runners who depend on the encouragement of boa-clad, cow-belling yahoos on the sides. I mean *very* quiet. Which was just fine seeing as the entire stretch was nothing but unthinkably beautiful scenery: Napa-type estates, rolling vineyards, hills, horses, cows, green, green, green, and beauty, beauty, beauty. The kind of setting that gets you awful-sentimental about life and all its fleeting, precious wonder. (So yes, I cried while I was out there. I admit it.)

But before I get all carried away with the dreamweaving, I will say this: the start was a little dodgy. Their PA system was so weak, we were still in our sweats in the Portapotty line when they started the race. Very exciting to try running and taking off warmup pants at the same time. But that, I confess, was kind of fun. It got my adrenaline going and cut out the start-line jitters completely. Others may not have felt so forgiving. Chip timing would have solved this frustration for the more serious folks.

But otherwise, it could not have gone better. It was all quintessential Irish blessing business: the road rose to meet us, the wind was at our backs, the sun shone warmly on our faces (and on our everything elses, making for slight sunburn despite best sunblock efforts).

I've gotten a few mails asking for marathon tips. My secret is simple: have all the pizza and doughnuts you can eat. And be willing to hurt.