Monday, August 30, 2004
I have to go back to work tomorrow. I'm totally bummed that school is happening again this year.
Sunday, August 29, 2004
But, I think Auster falls short in his endings. Maybe it's just me, but at the end of all three stories, I was a little disappointed. It just didn't seem like anything really got resolved in a satisfying way, and I found myself wishing he had given his stories more of a conclusion. I don't think I always need a story to be wrapped up neatly at the end, but with a mystery-ish story, the last thing I want to say when I'm done reading it is, "That's it?" And that's what I said at the end of these.
Still, Auster might be worth reading for all of the aforementioned good qualities. And, if you prefer a more visual approach, City of Glass is also available as a graphic novel. Cool!
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
I'm in a hotel room in Indianapolis. I haven't seen much of the city, and I probably won't, but the suburban area I'm in looks exactly like suburban Chicago: mostly highway-ish streets intersecting and enormous shopping malls with upscale chains and big mid-priced chain restaurants. In fact, the hotel is behind a mall. If I didn't know I was in Indianapolis, this could be anywhere. I kind of want to go home.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
So far, I can't switch off of VH1 Classic. Have you seen VH1 Classic? It's awesome! It's videos for every song ever made ever! Well, not every song, because they don't play recent stuff (that's what VH1 Hits is for) or country music (see VH1 Country), but they play videos for songs you didn't even know had videos. And you know what? Music videos used to be really bad! Not bad as in, I can't watch this, but bad as in campy. So I am really enjoying watching videos by Nick Lowe and The Jesus and Mary Chain ("Head On" had a video? I had no idea) and Alphaville (bad bad hair, and hello? Too much eyeliner!) and Duran Duran and 10,000 Maniacs from back in the day when Natalie Merchant used to wear those frumpy old lady dresses. It used to be that Food Network was the default channel on my tv, but VH1 Classic is taking over.
Monday, August 16, 2004
Lately, as you probably know, it's become cool to hate contemporary country music (which technically isn't country music) but really like old school country. It's okay to look down on people like Shania Twain, for example, but if you can't see the inherent brilliance of people like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash and George Jones, you just don't appreciate good music. I will admit that over the past few years, I've come around to liking some of these "classic" artists, but I generally don't listen to country music unless it's on a sound system that I don't have control over (or if it's the horribly out of context Martina McBride intro to the Sean Hannity radio show, but again -- another topic).
So over the past few Sunday evenings, I've been driving in my car and scanning the radio, and I discovered that one of the local country radio stations -- and there are many -- does an all-request classic country show for five hours on Sunday nights. At first I started listening because the timing of their commercial breaks were opposite the stations that I usually listen to. But now, I listen to it almost exclusively when I'm in the car on Sunday nights. I thought it would be fun to see if I remembered any of these songs, but I'm mostly horrified because not too long ago, I realized as I was hurtling down the 94 that I remember all of them. Sure, it's all well and good to know a common song like "Stand By Your Man," but why in the name of all things holy do I remember every single fucking word to "That's My Job"? Remember that song? It's by Conway Twitty! Remember Conway Twitty? Of course you don't -- why on earth would you? Yet I do.
I know them all. Everything that DJ throws at me, I can sing along with. Songs about not even calling me by my name, hiring a wino to decorate our home, how's the frost out on the pumpkin -- the whole lot of them. Now I listen to see if I'll be stumped. So far it hasn't happened. I don't know if I should be concerned, since it is country music, or start bragging, since knowing these songs might be considered cool. For now, I'm concerned.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
On a related topic, I saw Supersize Me last night. While the premise was a little extreme -- eat nothing but McDonalds for 30 days? -- it was fun to watch Morgan Spurlock try to turn himself into Michael Moore (physically, anyway). But it still amazes me that so many people eat McDonalds on a regular basis and then complain that they can't lose weight. I think one thing that Julia Child knew that a lot of people today don't get is that no matter how healthy you think you're eating, if you're not making it yourself, you really can't be sure. Yeah, Julia used butter and mayo and bacon fat and chicken fat and heavy cream, and that was just to cook one Porterhouse, but she knew exactly what was in that recipe and she didn't overeat. I'm not sure that McDonald's fried contain real potatoes.
To sum up: Sad about Julia. See Supersize Me. Cook your own dinner.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Let me go off on a tangent for a bit here, as it sort of relates to a point I want to make about the book. When I go places, I like to take pictures. Sometimes I take lots of pictures. Sometimes all I do is take pictures. But sometimes it concerns me that I'm replacing the actual experience of whatever I'm doing with the experience of documenting my surroundings. In other words, I'm not truly enjoying the beach because I'm so engrossed in photographing the beach. And yes, that in and of itself can be an enjoyable experience, but it replaces the experience of the sand, the water, the ice cream, the beach balls, and so on. In the end, I don't have the memory of my experience, but I've recorded what should have been my experience.
I think this idea is, in a similar form, present in The Autograph Man. The protagonist is, as the title suggests, a collector and seller of autographs -- documents of a person being present to sign a piece of paper (a photo, a guitar, what-have-you) without necessarily coming into contact with the person itself. You can't buy and sell a person, of course, but you can buy and sell autographs which may or may not be true signatures of the person behind the name. A big point that I got out of the book is that at what point does the autograph replace, or become, the person itself? (There's a Derrida essay on this, but since I've tried to block out a lot of that stuff, I will not be discussing it in this space. I also remember this theme being somehow present in Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey in that Mr. Yorick fretted that he wrote too much in his journal and didn't enjoy his travels, but that discussion took place like ten years ago, so I don't remember it really well, and besides, half of the text was in French without the luxury of a translation, and since I don't speak French, I skipped major sections of that book. Major. Anyway.)
There's more to The Autograph Man than that, of course. There's a main plot involving a reclusive former bombshell movie star, a lot of subplot about Jewish mysticism (you know...Kabbalah!), and all of the clever winding digressions that you'd expect from a work of hysterical realism. And the writing is clean and intelligent, which I guess should go without saying, but I still appreciate it.
All of this, of course, makes me want to go out and get White Teeth and read it soon. Strangely, The Autograph Man didn't get nearly as big of a promotional push as White Teeth, Smith's first novel, received. This either means that White Teeth is really really good, or that you can be the "Next Big Thing" once and only once. And should this phenomenon interest you, there was an article about this very subject (that is, debut novelists, not autograph collecting) in this past February's issue of The Believer.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Monday, August 9, 2004
I bought a copy of Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate at a book sale in grad school like six or seven years ago after reading that it was kind of clever. Why is it clever? Because it's written in sonnets, that's why. Petrarchan, I think, but gah, who can keep them all straight? Anyway, I was skeptical, but it was indeed very clever. The story itself is simple but very accessible and even a little sad, and the verse form made it fun to read. I usually have trouble reading longer works in rhyming verse, as I get tripped up in the rhyme scheme and lose what's going on (it took me like three reads of The Rape of the Lock before I finally had some idea of the story), but The Golden Gate was no problem. I liked it. Give it a try.
More book chat later in the month. In completely other news, a local Chuck-E-Cheese-type pizza and ball-pit place closed this week! I'm not sure why: it always seemed full of screaming kids and parents with pain killers (for the headaches, you understand). The pizza was lousy, but I'm pretty sure that's not why people go to those places. Anyway, it was kind of surprising. The sadness of the local kids is probably matched only by the sheer glee of those kids' parents.
Thursday, August 5, 2004
I've been riding it around town for errands and to the gym, but mostly I've been just cruising and enjoying it. I get the occasional horn honk or "woohoo" from wannabe playas, which is okay but silly. But lots of women think it's really cool, and I see them smile when they drive past. A few have even come up and asked me about it, and said that they've always wanted one.
So: what have we learned today? We have learned that a kicky motor scooter is indeed a wise purchase. It's the most fun way to get around ever, it uses very little gas, there are few fees associated with riding one, and it promotes girl power. Does it get any better? (No. No it does not.)
Monday, August 2, 2004
Also available anywhere and everywhere on Mackinac Island is fudge. Supposedly it's the best fudge in the world. I've never really had bad fudge (except for one time when I tried to make it, but we won't get into that here), but the fudge on Mackinac is quite good, and these places must make a killing selling it to tourists. In a way it reminded me of when we used to go to the Jersey shore when I was little, and you could get fudge everywhere. Maybe it has something to do with vacation destinations located on water? I don't know.
Sunday, August 1, 2004
This shot was taken at the end of one of the trails in the park. Those are my feet in the foreground and Lake Michigan in the background. It's not easy to tell from the photo, but there's about a 350 or 400 foot drop from where I'm sitting down to the lake. It takes about a minute to get down, but getting up takes considerably longer. I can't tell you how long because it varies from person to person, and to be honest, I didn't try it. It was hot, and it looked like hard work. I was on vacation!
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