Monday, June 30, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

Okay, just saw this film. Decided Ben Affleck has a very good future as a director, should he continue to direct.

I love it when a celebrity surprises people by being smart. I didn't know much about Ben Affleck before this film, other than he was engaged to J-Lo and suffered overexposure as a result, and won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting. And it's not like I know much about him now, other than: he's a good director. I mean, really good. I suspect he's a hell of a lot smarter than he's given credit for in the media.

But I digress.

Two Boston PIs, a couple, investigate the abduction of an adorable four-year-old girl. The girl's aunt and uncle ask for their help three days into her being missing, as the police are getting nowhere. What the PIs bring to the table—especially Casey Affleck's character—is first-hand knowledge of the criminals and drug dealers who operate in Boston. These are people he grew up with. So he's able to find information the police miss, although he's misled in a number of ways.

The film explores the theme of nature vs. nurture, along with underlying subtexts of the problems that make this even a debate. Even if this kid is found alive, would she really be better off if she came back to her mother? After all, her mother exists in a heroin-snorting-induced haze, where she floats from one high to the next, fulfilling only the most basic of her child's needs. Her saving grace is that she doesn't beat the kid. Yet she isn't wholly unsympathetic, as she clearly loves her daughter. But how much of that is for the cameras? You wonder after seeing the ending.

Everyone in this film is good. Casey Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Michelle Monaghan (who was in the excellent Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Amy Ryan puts in a stellar performance as the girl's mother.

See. This. Film.*

*You should know that this film is based on the novel by Dennis Lahane.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Book Meme

Cribbed from fairyhedgehog's blog:

bold = A book I've read
bold + underlined = A book I've read and love
green = Started but haven't finished yet
blue = Saw the movie
italicized = Intend to read

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (Left this one in a doctor's office. Will finish when I find a cheap copy.)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare 
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame 
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis 
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne 
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt 
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (I'm surprised this one is one here. I found it sappy.)
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding (I'm not sure this should be on a great books list, but I did find it hilarious.)
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (I try to make it a point to reread this every Christmas.)
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks (Some of these books, such as this one, I've never heard of. But I intend to read them just because I like their titles.)
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Looks like I've read 30 titles from this list.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The American Dream

When I say the American Dream, I don't mean the one about owning a house in the suburb, with 2.5 children and a minivan.

What I mean is that distinctly American belief that things work themselves out.

Perhaps this unabashed optimism isn't unique to the United States. I couldn't say, as I have never been outside the U.S. But I do notice that even the most cynical Americans I know, when faced with an impossible problem, shrug on occasion and say, "It'll all work out."

I found myself believing the exact same thing in spite of there being no evidence I would be able to pay the rent. In spite of rejection, in spite of everything that's gone wrong this month, I still believed things would work out. Why? I'm not a Believer. In the last few years, I've generally become an atheist.

I once saw, on the Sopranos a scene where the MC and a Russian woman had sex. (The scene was the afterglow.) The Russian woman had one leg. The MC (Tony Soprano) was impressed with this woman's ability to figure out how to build her own website. "You lose a leg, you start makin' websites," he said, in typical American fashion, as if making websites somehow served as an inspiration to him. Her reply was interesting. "Is that what you think? You think people like me exist to inspire people like you? You Americans always expect something good to happen. The rest of the world expects something bad to happen, and they're not wrong."

That struck me as a timeless truth.

And yet, it did work out, as it always seems to. I've got rent, bills, and a good start on next month's rent.

What do you think? Do you think Americans could do with some healthy cynicism?

EDIT: Whenever things go really wrong, I start to hum that awful tune from American Splendor. "Where is my American Splendor, in a world that's cloudy and grey . . . " People hardly ever get the joke, but I guess you have to see the movie to get it. Then again, I must admit I have a very strange sense of humor. Not as strange as Arlyle's, but strange.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I'd like to link the people I know from EE's blog. Please comment if you'd like me to link you!

The Book Cellar

Saturday, before a lesson, I got to spend a little time at The Book Cellar, one of the coolest bookshops I've been to in a while. I knew it was cool before I visited (hence the link), but just not how cool. It's not huge, and the science fiction/fantasy section is tiny, but they had a rack of Penguin Classic books to itself, and for some reason that impressed me. I'd like to go back and see that place again. Their music section was crap, but I've noticed that most mainstream bookstores now have tiny music sections or no music sections at all. I can remember when I used to be able to buy music scores at Borders. I don't think I can do that now.

In other news, I filled out my Free Application for Federal Student Aid last night, so I'm all set for school. Now on to finding as many grants and scholarships as I can.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Yoga Books

I've been been an off-and-on yoga practitioner since my twenties. I started off with simple routines that were not all that strenuous. I suppose you could say they were designed more for stretching and relaxation rather than building muscle strength. Certainly I'm no expert, but here are some yoga books I like, for those of you who may have an interest in trying it:

Yoga Self-Taught — Andre Van Lysbeth

Richard Hittleman's 28 Day Exercise Plan — Richard Hittleman

Journey Into Power — Baron Baptiste

40 Days to Personal Revolution — Baron Baptiste

Probably the most accessible one of this bunch is Richard Hittleman's book. There's not a lot of text compared to the others. Generally he just has one page explaining the basis of that day's routine, and the rest of the pages for that day show photos of the poses and detailed explanations on how to perform them. Good for anyone looking for a relaxing, not-terribly-time-consuming routine.

The other accessible one is the Yoga Self-Taught. This one does take quite a bit more reading, and espouses a couple of odd diet things, but the poses in here are classic poses—the very basics you need to practice yoga.

Baptiste is somewhat controversial in yoga, from what I understand, but I really like his routines. His books could stand another once-over in the proofreading department, but if you don't like learning from a book, you can always pick up one of his DVDs. (I'm not sure yet what I think about the "personal revolution" part of the 40 Days book, or if I believe you can "Journey into Power" But the routines in both are good.) Although you should be warned that the style of yoga he teaches, vinyasa yoga (aka "power" yoga) is intense and the routines are long. Still, his routines get results. I've been using 40 Days for the last two months (taking twice as long to move on with the routines than recommended in the book), and so far, so good. My arms are more toned, my stomach is smaller, and in general I'm stronger than I was.

There are tons of other books, DVDs, and so forth from which to choose, of course, but I thought I'd throw these up there.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Scammers and Music Instructors

Now that I'm posting on Craigslist with more regularity, I'm getting replies from scammers.

The latest is 'I'm a military nurse in Iraq and was a good and active member of my church choir and am coming home to my special funds, of which you are now in my budget' variety.

I'm afraid that for the first one, however, the scammer simply wrote and said she'd like to take piano lessons.

So I e-mailed her back. Only then did the 'military nurse' thing come up, and I knew it was a scam. Also, another scammer just e-mailed me with a nearly identical message.

So . . . am I screwed now that this c&%$ has my e-mail? I remember Dave F. and Phoenix saying that scammers can get into your computer and all sorts of scary stuff.


I've finally given in and put Google AdSense up. I don't like that I can't really choose what to advertise. Probably I'll take it down in a few months, or something.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Online Acronyms

I probably have ADHD, or am perhaps a slow learner, but there are some acronyms online I have a little trouble figuring out.

I know LOL means Laugh Out Loud, and WTF means . . . well, you know. OMG - yeah, know that one.

But ROFL? Not sure. ZOMG? I don't know what the "Z" means. Is that supposed represent the sound where you're exhale-snorting through your nose, like when you're trying to hold back a laugh and can't?

There are some others, but I can't think of them right now. Perhaps I will start a collection and post when I have a sizeable list.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Some Things You May Know . . . Or Not

I'm collecting all the banned books from the American Library Association's list of the most frequently banned books (from 1990—2000) in America. Of which I have . . . four. Hey, it's a start. (I could have sworn Cohen's book was the #1 banned book, but maybe that was another list.)

Anyway, in reading Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen, #73, I'm learning a few new things.

Did you know the American presidency has had a twenty year curse since 1840? Every president who has been elected on the twentieth year of the cycle has died in office, either from natural causes or by assassination. I did not know that.

Makes me fear for Obama if he loses this term and wins the next. (Actually I fear for a lot more if McCain wins the next term, but that is an altogether different post, and probably one that does not belong on this blog.) And lest you think I'm off by four years, know that at least two of the presidents killed were elected to their second terms in their turn in the cycle. For example, President McKinley gets into the cycle when he's elected to his second term in 1900.

Also, from pjd's blog, women gained suffrage on August 18, 1920. My birthday is August 18. All my life I've complained nothing happens on my birthday. Found out I share a birthday with Robert Redford when i was 33. And now I find this out.

I tell you, had I known these things earlier, my life might have taken on a different trajectory. (No, I'm not falling back into an existential crisis. Just trying to be funny. And failing, probably.)

I don't get why this book is banned. It's only a short historical account of the basis for belief in certain curses, not a handbook on cursing your enemy. I guess . . . lemme think hard here . . . that the parents who challenged this book didn't read it.

Good Reads

Well, I was going to link the Good Reads website here and see who wants to join me, but the website's nowhere to be found now. Oh well, more on this later. At least I still have Librarything. As soon as I can afford it, I'm getting a lifetime membership. Then you'll see just how big my library is.

I feel like a guy bragging in a bar. Your "library"? Oh yeah. *wink, wink*

EDIT: Looks like Good Reads is back up. I'm not exactly sure how it works yet, but will report back. It sounds pretty cool.

Got a Job

I feel like Harvey in American Splendor when he wakes up, saying with relief, "I got a job, I got a job. . . . "

Don't know how long it will last, but the project sounds like fun. Proofreading a book of quotes.

You know, come to think of it, I may add a quote feature to this blog. Could be fun.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Good News

Well. Looks like I'm going back to school.

Some of you know all about my latest existential crisis. Some of you don't. If you don't, too bad. I'm not going revisit it.

I contacted my old school about resuming classes in the Fall. I assumed I would have to reapply to go back, seeing as I didn't 'mark my spot' when I left. (Such a crude way to put it.) But according to the head of the program to which I was accepted and the head of Graduate Admissions, my acceptance is still valid and there is a spot waiting for me should I resume in the Fall. (And I didn't even have to mark it!)

I'd really like to say something profound about taking advice from strangers, especially about something so important as that of a career path. *thinks hard* Nope, nothing profound to say. I'd say it's all a rather capricious business, but it's been something I've been regretting for a year (leaving school, that is), so I guess it isn't. I guess all I needed was a nudge.

I don't know if this is the "right" decision. There's every reason in the world not to do it. Yet I still want it, and with only 10 people accepted into the program a year, I've already beaten some odds. I know now I've put it off long enough.

Thanks again, all, for the kind words and gentle nudges. Special shout out to Robin S., who saw through the bullshit and said, "Now is now." (That's going to become my new motto.) Also to Fairyhedgehog, a fellow hearing aid wearer (we should share some war stories!). And Whilochre, who made me laugh. And last but not least, Kiersten, who said, "Cheer up. We don't even know you and like you already."

Cripes, I sound like I'm at the Oscars already.

Now I just have to make sure I follow the advice of the illustrious Muddy Waters. "Don't make no check with your mouth your tail can't cash."

Also. May have a job. We shall see.

EDIT: I see this whole 'enough about me' business lasted about a half an hour. Seems that I will fit in well in L.A.*

*a move that comes at the end of the two-year program

Distracted? I think so.

This morning, as usual, I got up and went straight to the coffee maker. I poured in new water, put in a new filter, and pressed "On." As the grinder got going, I vaguely noticed through my sleep-addled state that something sounded different, but I just attributed this to my hearing loss. Everyday is an adventure when you have hearing loss.

But normally I hear the beans grinding. Can you see where I'm going with this? Yep, forgot to put in the coffee.

Last week I turned on the dryer to fluff some clothes only to find a few minutes later that I'd already folded them. This happened twice.

I'm almost afraid to cook.

Favorite Writers

Okay, enough about me.

I want to hear from you. Who are your favorite writers? Who are the ones that wrote the books that changed your life, made you decide to be a writer? Why?

As a kid, it was Beverly Cleary. As a teenager, Judy Blume and Stephen King. As an adult, Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman.

Beverly Cleary because she wrote a character that was just so me: Ramona Quimby. Ramona was weird and individual and totally followed her own beat.

Judy Blume because she wrote books that allowed girls to explore being a teenager, including that sex thing. Yeah.

Stephen King because his writing was so scary yet so conversational.

Ray Bradbury, because in Something Wicked This Way Comes he nails what it means to be alive.

Neil Gaiman because his ideas have such a twist and are the most original thing out there. There's no one out there doing what he's doing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


My apologies for deleting my last post. Here's the link that touched it off—JK Rowling's address to Harvard graduates regarding the fringe benefits of failure. My post basically said it's difficult for me to see the benefits of failure when right now I feel like I'm one big ball of F.A.I.L. Was feeling sorry for myself and deleted the post later in embarrassment. Though it is still on RSS feeds. Ah well. Live and learn.

Those of you who saw, feel free to comment or not. From now on I will leave up whatever I'm stupid enough to post in the first place, embarrassing or not.

Except pictures. If I ever post more . . . well, they may not last, despite that old saying.

Friday, June 13, 2008

What Book I Am

I saw this on fairtyhedgehog's blog and took the quiz:

You're The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

by C.S. Lewis

You were just looking for some decent clothes when everything changed
quite dramatically. For the better or for the worse, it is still hard to tell. Now it
seems like winter will never end and you feel cursed. Soon there will be an epic
struggle between two forces in your life and you are very concerned about a betrayal
that could turn the balance. If this makes it sound like you're re-enacting Christian
theological events, that may or may not be coincidence. When in doubt, put your trust
in zoo animals.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

This is amusing because this was my favorite book as a kid.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What the Novel Is Turning Into

It's turning into a graphic novel.

I like writing it as a graphic novel, because writing it that way forces me to think about the plot. One thing about second drafts that I find frustrating is that when I rewrite, the plot I had in the first draft spins wildly out of control. Either that, or I get so caught up in the prose I move at a snail's pace. I've been stuck for weeks on the prologue and chapter one. Writing the novel as a graphic novel forces me to think about the things I tend to let fall by the wayside. It's pretty fun. I may just submit the first few pages to some comic book publishers, just to get something out there to quell this nervousness about the rent.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Theology of Street Kids

I don't know what dredged up this article, Myths Over Miami, from the depths of my memory (it probably had something to do with the novel, which seems to be turning into a graphic novel), but I've been thinking about an article I read about the theology of street kids, most notably in Miami.

Edit A lot of this is rather heartbreaking, so if you're an extra-sensitive person, don't read. I just find it interesting that these kids came up with a theology that is almost as complex as Christianity (and far more cynical) or [pick religion of your choice].

Read the article and see what you think.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008

All About Meme Me

Okay, no one tagged me on this (and I'm a little bummed), but I don't think anyone would mind if I answer some questions. Apparently some people think I'm a bit of an enigma.

Inquisition Meme

What were you doing ten years ago?

I was completing my fourth year as a Music Composition student. Ah, the good old days . . .

What are five things on your to-do list for today?

Hmm. Work on the novel. See if I can't come up with a version of Danse Macabre for cello and double bass (or maybe two double basses). Watch a movie. Clean up the kitchen (maybe). Send out a few resumes.

Hey, it's Saturday.

What are some snacks you enjoy?

Chocolate, of course. Brownies. Grapefruit. Almonds.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?

I would buy a big-ass brick Victorian house in the country with lots of land (half meadow, half timber, with a creek or a pond or both), invite my parents, brother, nieces, and sister to live with me, and go effing crazy on Amazon. I'd go crazy adopting kids from all over the world, a la Angelina Jolie. I'd get two dogs and four cats. I'd have a huge garden. I'd send money to researchers studying to cure hearing loss. I'd donate a lot to Defenders of Wildlife, especially their wolf program, because I adore wolves. I'd save the polar bears and possibly try to solve world hunger. I'd take a long trek through Europe and check out all the old castles that I could. Last but not least, I would build a recording studio.

Oh, and I'd pay Alexander Siddig to marry me.

What are three of your bad habits?

I'm disorganized and a bit of a pack rat. I don't finish enough short stories. I'm temperamental and moody. I don't trust my gut enough.

Okay, that's four. I could go on, but you wouldn't like me anymore.

What are five places where you have lived?

Dorm room
Basement apartment that flooded twice, with sewage water
Dallas, Texas
Chicago, Illinois (Lincoln Park)
Chicago, Illinois (Andersonville)

When I lived in Lincoln Park, I lived three blocks south of Wrigley Field. But don't go romanticizing that if you're a Cubs fan. After every game, the drunks would vandalize everything in sight and no resident could walk down the street without being hassled. That sucked. And now Cubs games are filled with people who aren't even there to watch the game!

What are five jobs you have had?

Music instructor

What were the last five books you read?

I don't remember the order of these at all, but here goes: All the President's Men, V for Vendetta, Heart-Shaped Box, Mr. Big, The Golden Compass

Okay. There's a few things you didn't know about me.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ooh La La

Is it just me, or does Neil Gaiman look kind of sexy in this photo?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

When a Story Is On the Verge of Falling Apart

I've got a short story with all the right elements: a haunted house, a deranged baddie (yet to appear), a woman out for revenge, and a dead daughter who turns up as a ghost, possibly to help her mother.

The only problem is, it refuses to be written. I don't know who the baddie is yet. It certainly isn't the ex-husband; he's too much of a fop. I get only so far with things and then it just crashes. And I'm not sure whether I want to try to beat this one into existence. Damn thing might roll over and die on me. Maybe it already has.

Well, I'll come back to this one later, I guess.