Thursday, November 29, 2012

Scary lady alert ...

Reasons to post on your blog if you're me:

1. The cats have been super hilarious. Like Orin. When he runs into the bedroom, leaps onto the bed, rolls on to his back to leave his stomach in primo petting position, then cocks his head like a cute owl as if to say: "What. I just spend my free time being adorable. This is not an act. I didn't even know you were coming into this room. God."

2. You're on vacation and you want to remember the man wearing teal scrubs. The medical professional on a skateboard selling weed prescriptions while 20 feet away a man serves Chicken Cacciatore out of a 5 gallon garbage bin for $1 a plate. And that tan man who made you ask your boyfriend-for-life: "Statue or human being?"

3. You've spent the week watching movies, making delicious foods, reading books and taking self-portraits. It is time to collect these snippets of a life and put them together on a single page of the internet. You're not a scrapbooker! (You tell yourself).

4. You eat a Better Cheddar and remember the time you and Princess Linda set out to write a list of 101 things to do with Better Chaddars (in addition to simply eating them). You were going to send this list to the Better Cheddar inventors. Remember when we simulated using them as earrings? You imagined this would mean you would become the Bruce Jenner of the Better Cheddars box.

No, you're right. The answer is No. 5: Body horror.

5. Your fucking tooth, the one that had the root canal, is infected and honestly, if you had to live with this kind of searing pain every day of your life -- the tender tooth, the swollen gums, the raw mouth, the shredded throat, the sore jaw, the bubbled gland, the Z of sharp pain that runs to your cheek and ear -- you would be one scary lady.

"What happened to your teeth?" the dentist asked yesterday, wondering why I have such issues. "Were you in like a car accident or something?"
He gave me a prescription for antibiotics.
Every six hours, on the nuts, I take something to combat the pain. That lasts three hours if I'm lucky. Then I hold myself and rock and moan and even my nostril is raw, so every time I breathe it's like splashing my sinuses with minty cool ouch of fire.

I keep Googling "How long until antibiotics work on infected tooth" to see if science has released any new information on the subject in the past few hours. The going rate seems to be 24-48 hours. I'm just over the 24-hour hump, but I can still feel my heart beating in my jaw bone, so.

I called the Nurse Helpline to find out if there was a better way to manage the pain. Like, how, it might say on the Advil bottle to only take 2, but everyone knows you can really take three at a time. In fact, three is a much more satisfying amount to toss into your throat. I wanted insider info. She conducted an extensive interview with me that made me feel like I now have a profile on OK Cupid. Ultimately it took 10 minutes for her to advise me:

"What did she say?" Chuck texted.
"Cold wash cloth," I responded. "SCIENCE!"

i'llputacoldwashclothonmycheekyou ...

So anyway. That's what I'm up to: Hating my fucking face and waiting until 3 a.m. so I can take more pills.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brown and white all over ...

Yesterday I stopped being consumed by cigarettes. It was so sudden I didn't notice. I realized around midday that now I have room in my brain for other things -- like reading. I'd been unable to read for the past week, doubling back to repeat sentences and paragraphs and puzzling over what everything meant.  I tried to rebuild my attention span by reading Granta, committing to just small chunks of thoroughly absorbing tales. That worked. It's a good issue that had me reading more than skipping around. 

As a celebration, I committed to a short novel I started reading awhile ago and then ditched for no real reason. It has an asshole narrator and I'm delighting in it. Sometimes I really love the loathsome. (See also: Bret Easton Ellis). 

Also as a celebration, I bought a pair of punk rock boots, keeping the thought What would Courtney Love Wear in the back of my mind. I fell short of the CL-standard. Mine are more like: Two-off boots Courtney Love's stalker would wear when she tries to crawl in the bedroom window, dab some of CL's perfume behind her ears, rip her T-shirt, mess her hair, smear her lipstick and seduce a lights-out Cobain in the dark by pretending to be Court. 

Anyway, here is what I've made, watched and read. This isn't a very satisfying collection. 


Sweet-ish Meatballs and Gravy: About five-ish years ago I was just learning to cook and instead of honing my knife skills and learning the art of balance, I decided it was time for me to skip a few grades and try making Butternut Squash Ravioli.

This entailed: The mushing of various foods to insert into the ravioli; negotiating wet wonton wrappers; boiling these homemade raviolis that all split open once the water started rolling; while simultaneously doing something with a frying pan, butter and sage. It all ended with me in the fetal position, crying, and a pizza on the way. Chuck ate the remains (cremains?) and said it tasted good (and never mentioned the part where it looked like something you'd find on the sidewalk outside of a bar). Anyway, I knew the truth.

I thought that once again I'd blown passed my skill level. This meal requires multi-tasking: steaming the tempeh and boiling the potatoes and making slurry all while texting your friend to tell her that, yes, you can see her 7-year-old son's trapezius muscles when he does that shirtless gun show pose of his.

So my firsts batch of (un)meat balls turned out globby and ugly and my second batch burned a little, but  once I packed the mixture tighter, set aside the book I was reading while monitoring the stove top, and watched what I was doing, it came around.

Really good, really different. It's got a good autumn flavor with the cinnamon and nutmeg and allspice. And anyway I wanted to MAKE A MEAL anyway instead of just cutting stuff up and throwing it into a pan. So this was a good time. As always: Taking horrible food photographs.

All Good ThingsThis is totally a Lifetime Original Movie but with real actors -- Ryan Gossling and Kirsten Dunst -- instead of actors who look like real actors except with different hair or noses. Boy from money meets girl without big money background. They marry. She doesn't know that deep down he's a little whack from that time he saw his mom kill herself. Bad things happen. It's deese. Observation: I think that Kirsten Dunst might be the actress who is best at simulating the act of falling in love. She can really make her face explode. She always looks like sun is shining on her.

Blank City: The world of underground movie-making in 1970s NYC. Daddy like.

Mallrats: I've never seen anything anywhere on the internet about this, but here is the truth: There is some weird brown and white checked pattern theme that is going on in this movie. Shirts, tiled floors, etc. If someone knows Kevin Smith, could they ask whether this was intentional or whether this is just what happens when you make a movie in the 1990s?

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir by Bill Clegg: Another well-off, good looking dude gets all crazy on drugs and then goes on a wicked bender that ruins his life.  Temporarily. It's like most addiction memoirs, but maybe more well-written. Full review here.

The End of Everything: A Novel by Megan Abbott: Two young girls are besties, one goes missing, a whole bunch of really complicated relationships surface. Whoa. I liked Abbott's book "Dare Me" better, but this is probably the more complete and sophisticated work. Although I think that if you read more than two books by Abbott, you will learn there are a lot of ways to describe teenaged girls, their smooth legs and how they smell like fruity lipgloss and lotion. Full review here.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Hands ...

1. I see now that these are the first words I've written for fun since I quit smoking (cold turkey) five days ago. Yowch. I didn't have an opening sentence and automatically started to close my laptop so I could stand on the front porch and inhale some good ideas. Then I winced when I remembered and my chest tightened a little bit, like early onset panic attack, and Chuck said "It's just a ritual. David Sedaris had to break his, too." And now, since my new writing routine can be whatever I want it to be, maybe I'll finally learn the "Thriller" dance.

2. We could either: A) Drive to Eden Prairie early Thursday morning, stuff our faces, and drive back to Duluth Thursday night; B) Drive to Minneapolis on Wednesday night, stay at a 1970s-style hotel, sink into a fluffy bed and watch "WKRP in Cincinnati" on a large TV and wipe our Divanni's pizza stained fingers on the white bedspread we are not responsible for laundering, ease ourselves awake, take a leisurely drive to Eden Prairie, stuff our faces, and drive back to Duluth. We choose B.

3. This is what it looked like when you pressed your hand against the bathroom door in the hotel room:

4. If you've ever seen "Teen Mom 2," you know that Jenelle is this lovely wild-child addict with a terrible personality. She has been ordered by the courts to lay off the weed while she's on probation, something she is unwilling to do. She smokes pot to dull stress and panic. Footage from this season includes young Jenelle in her car -- an Ed Harvey-esque seat cover on the driver's side of her new mini cooper -- and she's practically gnawing on the steering wheel as she yowls "I JUST WANNA SMOKE." This is exactly how I feel. Except, with Camel Lights.

5. My niece Mel introduced me to the game "Zombie Tsunami," which is like any iPhone game that requires brain-munching and hole-hopping: It's terribly addictive. It's a little like Super Mario Bros, if Luigi was a Zombie who sometimes turned into a Giant Zombie or a Football Player or Ninja and delighted in flipping cars. I'm pretty angry that I even know this exists. I've had to recharge my phone like four times in two days to keep myself in Brains. Chuck scoffed. Then today I saw him flipping a busload of brain vessels and gorging himself. Chrissie sent me a text that said: "I'M GOING TO BEAT UP YOUR NIECE."

6. Already my odds of having a heart attack have decreased and my circulation has improved. My senses of smell and taste should improve in upcoming weeks. I'm producing less phlegm. I'm crabby when I'm anywhere but in the comfort of our home. I had to plug my right ear while talking to someone a few days ago because the person's voice pierced my migraine.

Day 1 wasn't terrible. Neither was Day 2. Day 3 was awful. So was Day 4. This is Day 5 and all I want to do is write poetry about how fun it is to smoke a cigarette. A person can go through withdrawal for three weeks, I've read. Still, I'm an optimist. Every day I wake up and think: "Maybe today I'm over smoking!" Meanwhile, I'm treating myself very gingerly and not doing anything I don't want to do.

7. Mel used Sharpies to turn my hand into a frog puppet. This was funnier to me than to her.

8. On the drive back to Duluth, the weather got weird and it didn't take much to imagine that those white swirls on the highway were an element unique to the newly discovered planet whose surface we were cruising over in our space rover. Around us, everyone was either driving 30 mph or 70 with nothing in between. When I eased into our exit off the highway I hit a patch of ice and the car did a 180 so we were facing oncoming traffic from the shoulder of the frontage road. But nothing bad happened, so whatever.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cake ...

When JCrew mentioned the cake tasting, I played my bridesmaid trump card. "I'll go!" I said, even though she hadn't asked. I'm not sure how people plan weddings. Is there a master checklist they work from, ticking off to-do items in a certain optimal order? The color schemes, the flowers, the music, the food, the dress, hair up-hair down, the thickness of the paper and the gajillion shades of off-white.

I'm not a planner and imagining the whole thing makes my brain slosh against my skull in a really painful way.

"It's at 1 p.m.," she said. "Are you sure?"
I have a certain reputation. Actually, I have a couple. Sleeps late; Loathes commitments.
"I've been waking up at 8:59 a.m. every day," I told her. "And, cake."

So I'm in. I'm invited. I will be allowed to taste six flavors of cupcake and vote for my favorite. She's rattled off the menu and I've already got some frontrunners: Salted Caramel with Chocolate and Red Velvet Cheesecake.

She reminded me again on Friday and my stomach fluttered. Cake.


Chuck and The Great Archivist made their way downtown on Friday night in the midst of a massive parade. I make my way toward them and Geo Grl on foot, pushing my way through throngs of people hopped up on holiday cheer. A truck outlined in Christmas lights keeps honking its horn and every time I cringe. I always forget that I'm noise sensitive until I am at a parade.

The bar is bum so we head to a new one. After my second beer, I remember the cake tasting in the morning and sub in a glass of water. Chuck and I continue to the next stop, a bar I used to frequent back when we met.

"It's like walking into your old apartment and seeing it filled with people you don't know," he says.

From there we catch a bus to West Duluth and hit another bar. Eventually we walk home. I fill myself with frozen pizza and combos and Gatorade, pain reliever and most of the movie "Mall Rats" and hope for the best.

I wake at 11 a.m. and do a fist pump. I'm totally fine. I've lived to further bury my bad reputation.


JCrew's sister and I beat her to the tasting, which I think really shows my commitment to this whole bridesmaid thing.

The first is a moist red cake with a strawberry filling.
The next is a chocolate cake with a salty caramel frosting.
Then a green cake, so soft, with green cream cheese frosting.
There is a blueberry option that is more muffin than cake.
Then the chai-flavored one with a bit of a kick.
The red velvet cheese cake has smooth filling of cheesecake inside.
For fun, the owner passes along a slice of chocolate cake with mascarpone. I get to take this one home and Chuck will eat it for breakfast.

"Can you decorate them to look like cartoon cupcakes?" JCrew asks.
Of course, the woman says. She can do anything in any color with any look.
"You want your cupcakes to look like something Katy Perry would wear on her head," I say to JCrew.
"You know me so well," she says.

The top two are unanimous.

This thing is really coming together. JCrew has an answer for every question the cakemaker asks. I know this about her, that she can plan the shit out of anything. See also: Our trip to Virginia last April. Still, it's always interesting to see a plan master in action.

I left the cupcake party coursing with sugar power and craving something salty. It's hard to be a bridesmaid.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jean Day ...

This morning I assessed my costume in the mirror and deemed it: "Jean Day for Catholic School Girls."   In recent months, I've taken to naming the look I'm taking into the world. Though I was using cues from an outfit I saw on a fashion blog, this one smacked of something I would have put together in a mid-1980s winter on the most festive of Catholic School occasions: Jean Day.

For most of the school year, we were confined to a green plaid skirt or jumper with a solid-colored collared shirt. There were a lot of footnotes to this uniform. During colder months we could wear blue or black pants beneath our skirt or jumper and in later years, we could forgo the jumper altogether. (In warmer months, of course, we wore Jams underneath and really got away with something big if an inch strip of Hawaiian colors was visible). And in junior high we were finally relieved of the primary color palate. We could wear any color of collared shirt, even pink. Here we went off-the-rails by trying to wear mock turtlenecks, which were officially a dress code violation. In high school we tried to get away with hoods and leggings. Catholic School is, it seems, just a way to practice testing boundaries in the most dangerous way.

One of the Top 5 holidays at St. Pius X was Jean Day. On this day rare day every few months we were allowed to strut our Wranglers or Lees with, maybe, a two-toned baseball style t-shirt with the glittery words "Totally Awesome" ironed on the front. This vacation from dress code was electric. Like Tilt A'Whirl's covered in Lick 'em Aid while you're listening to "Beat It."

On Jean Day I always had the wherewithal to wonder how the public school kids ever got anything done when EVERY DAY WAS JEAN DAY.

The other Top 4 holidays would have been, in no specific order:

1. California Achievement Test days: The usual daily grind was interrupted in favor of No. 2 pencils AND we were allowed to eat candy during the tests. I was pretty into Jolly Ranchers and Lemonheads in those days, though eventually I learned about Nerds and whoa.

2. Marathon Awards day: Our annual fundraiser was a short walk-bike event and in the weeks beforehand, we all went door-to-door asking our neighbors to pledge money toward our goal of walking two miles or biking 12 miles or whatever. Prizes for the big earners sat on a table outside of the office, things ranging from Boom Boxes and TVs to Frisbees and Gift Certificates for Pizza. The principal started at the biggest winner, who selected a prize first, and went down the list until the goods were gone. This took an entire afternoon and even if you were in 30th place, it still felt like a minor bit of celebrity to hear your name called over the loud speaker, to stand up from your desk, walk out the door and down the hall to the prize table.

3. Christmas Program Practice: These ran for at least a month. We would all file into the church with our school boxes, 64-packs of Crayons and unicorn trapper keepers. We would sit on the kneelers and use the pews for a writing surface as we waited to rehearse our part of the program. I now understand that we were simply making a pretty tedious 3-hour long production starring a doll in the roll of the birthday boy. Don't get me started on the time that we waited our whole lives to find out who of us, come eighth grade, would get to be Mary, only to learn that the music teacher (I have some thoughts on her) PICKED A NEW GIRL WHO NEVER COULD HAVE UNDERSTOOD THIS HONOR.

4. The St. Pius Skate at Skate Country: This much-anticipated event was bursting with romantic potential. At some point in a two-hour night of roller skating, there would be a couple skate and you would get to wobble around an oval holding hands with Tom or Adam or Brian or whoever you were in 10-year-old love with for the length of a song by Peter Cetera. And a yard of Taffy only cost 50 cents.

How to make your own Jean Day for Catholic School Days outfit: A pair of jeans with some strategic rattiness to them with a wide cuff at the ankle and a pair of high heel Mary Janes; Collared shirt; Shorter sweater over the collared shirt. Glasses.

I'm not into fashion, per se. I'm not, like, reading labels and frowning my way through Vogue. But I am trying to wear things that I don't plan to sleep in later. I also can't wrap my head around dress pants or the color taupe or handbags or the weird fabrics one associates with adulthood. So I'm building a wardrobe of costumes and each costume has its own little secret identity:

Victorian Kindergarten Teacher
Secret Ballerina
Electric KoolAde Eccentric Aunt
Punk Rock Bowling
Your Handsy Scottish Uncle
Emo Teen Manga Fan
Jean Day for Catholic School Girls

Monday, November 12, 2012

If you like pina frittata ...

I get a text message from Chuck telling me that he and the Great Archivist are planning to walk from West Duluth to an art show smack-dab in the center of downtown. Walk? I ask. Yes, walk, he tells me. This is about the least surprising thing he could tell me. In fact: I'd only be less surprised if they said they were going to spend the whole walk communicating in an English-based non-language that they invented when they were 12.

About an hour and a half later I get a text message from Chuck telling me that they have made a stop at what I believe is D-town's only CW bar. The Great Archivist is sitting in a saddle. And now Geo Grl is there, too. I meet them there and I am impressed with the operator's commitment to theme.

Then we all go to the art show. We have one of the artist's paintings in a high traffic area of our home. He sees me and Chuck, we reintroduce ourselves and he smiles: "I never knew you two were a number."

I text a photo of one of the paintings to The Rock Star Amy Abts, who would certainly be at this event if she hadn't moved to Seattle. Maybe even running the wine box. Then I tell the artist, who has an anti-cell phone piece in the show, that I did this.
"I texted a photo to Amy!" I tell him.
"All over the world!" he says.

Chuck and I go to the DECC to see David Sedaris read. It's my fourth time seeing Sedaris and even though I'm not the hyper fan I used to be, I still get a kick out of his shows. When he stops for the Q&A, a woman in front of us growls all rock-star and loud-like: "CAN'T KILL THE ROOSTER."

After the show, we ditch into a chain restaurant for a quick dinner. Not only a chain restaurant, but a steakhouse. We're so hungry that I didn't even bother to reposition the car so the back tire isn't on the curb. Chuck gives the trunk a hip check, as though he can move the vehicle through the force of his thighs.

"Are you still serving?" I ask the host.
She looks at the clock and says "You have four minutes."
We pause.
"So ..." I say. "Does that mean you're oh-pen?"
She says "It's up to you."
We look at her.
"I think it's up to you," I tell her.
"I mean, it's probably going to take a little more time to get your food, but if you're willing to wait ..." "So you ARE open," I say.
"It's up to you," she says again.

The last time this happened, different restaurant, Chuck ended up with a hamburger so raw it still had grass in its mouth.

I think it's been at least four years since I've eaten steak. I'm probably wrong. Olivia Newton John plays on the sound system. Our waiter is professionally friendly and agrees that the butter at a rival chain steakhouse is really pretty good.

I order surf & turf and the turf trumps the surf. I can't complain about my cheesy hash browns at all. At first this dining experience had an air of irony. But sometimes the most ironic thing about irony is that it really isn't ironic at all.

So. That was Friday. Here's what else I made, saw and read.


Roasted Red Pepper and Onion Frittata: So we have a well-worn copy of "Urban Vegan," except we only ever eat two things from this cookbook: roasted beets with wasabi vinaigrette and tri-color quinoa. Like, the cookbook falls open to both pages. So, instead of being all "Maybe it's time for a vegan slow cooker cook book, wouldn't that be neat?" I decided to see what was beyond these two, oft-prepared meals.

So I made this frittata! I can't find the recipe online, but it's red pepper, tofu, nutritional yeast, flour, baking powder made all pasty and baked in a skillet with an onion and garlic base. This is starving for dinner, but really good.

Seitanic Red and White Bean Jambalaya: So, I wasn't totally feeling this but that's just because I always forget that I'm not really into rice until I eat it. But otherwise, it smells good and Chuck thought it was deese and promised to eat all the leftovers. I liked it in theory: seitan, green pepper, onion, rice, a mix of seasonings, red and white kidney beans, tomatoes, etc.

Tortilla Soup: This has, like, every ingredient I like to eat all at the same time INCLUDING a handful of Tortilla Chips. Chuck noted that basically it's just like eating chips and salsa. I'll buy that.

Prometheus: So some science sorts get sent 2 years into space to find out more about how human beings came to be. Except, they aren't very science-y and make a ton of weird decisions about a) wearing a space helmet and b) playing loose-y goose-y with the curfew to get back to the main ship. I guess this ties into the whole "Alien" thing, and if you consider it along those lines, you will see the evolution of women's underwear. Sigourney's white tank top has evolved into a bandeau bra and low cut briefs. I would say neither is necessarily superior. They're just different. Also: We are revisiting the alien c-section.

GoonStiffler plays a dim thug with fists of steel who, despite weak ankles, is hired on to play for a Canadian hockey team and defend it's star player, a balletic skater who is all up in his own head after his most recent concussion. So this movie is pretty cute in a more violence concentrated sibling of "Slap Shot."

Reality Bites: Oh gah. This movie is like an exboyfriend that I can't even look at without a) getting shame shivers and b) wanting to tackle and play memory lane with. It's pretty embarrassing how much my life was directly influenced by this movie -- and continues to be. I spent all day Saturday wondering if I should get the Winona Ryder haircut.

Flashdance: I think I covered this one pretty well here.

Brief History of John Baldessari: After I posted a photo of Chuck's face covered with an I Voted sticker, one of my Facebook friends recommended watchings this quick 5-minute flick. It's totally great. A history of the artist John Baldessari, narrated by Tom Waits. Watch it: You won't regret it. "I will not make boring art."

Desperate Characters: A Novel by Paula Fox: Sophie gets bitten by a stray cat and then spends three days worrying about whether the cat had rabies. In the meantime, her husband Otto is separating from his longtime biz partner and friend Charlie, someone throws a rock through a window, Sophie and Charlie sneak out in the middle of the night to talk about Otto, and the summer place is vandalized. This is a kind of great little novel from 1970.

High-Rise: A Novel by JG Ballard: People basically go feral when the luxury high-rise they  live in faces its first electrical hiccups. It's deliciously lurid. In the opening scene, a dude is cooking dog meat over a fire.

Full reviews for both of these will be posted at Minnesota Reads. (Unless Jodi gets disgusted with my 1970s obsession).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A few thoughts on 'Flashdance,' Age 37

1. Archeologists will tell you that back in the 1980s, human beings used to turn the television to Channel 9 and record movies onto video cassette tapes. These duplications would include commercials for things like Dawn and Tony Home Perms. After the human being watched the recording, they had the option of taking a piece of masking tape and writing "Flashdance" along the edge of the video or blowing on it and re-inserting the tape back into the large metal machine and recording "Degrassi Junior High" over the material.

After a few go-rounds, recordings would begin to take on a graininess and the horizontal rainbow stripes of a film that has been exposed to sunlight. While this was frustrating at the time, it now lends a sort of hipster aesthetic to these old recordings and if you can find a VCR at your local electronics graveyard, it might be worth it to snag a friend and have him help you hoist this beast into your trunk. Worst case scenario, you can take the VCR apart and use the pieces to build an electronic car.

2. As you've probably guessed by my introduction, we had a copy of "Flashdance" in our stash. My mom claimed to love this movie, though I never remember her watching it and imagining it now makes me wonder what about it appealed to her -- and, if I knew what appealed to her, would it provide some sort of putrid window into her psyche that I wish I'd never opened?

Though she had been a ballet dancer in her youth, dance line dancer during high school, I doubt that the career path our hero Alex takes, a sort of cabaret-style of almost stripping, resonated much with my mom. Perhaps she believed the male romantic lead, played by Michael Nouri, was handsome -- speaking of Tony Home Perms. Perhaps her romantic drama wheelhouse is the idea of being saved by a wealthy steel tycoon with a house shaped like a Pennsylvania castle. Maybe she has wanted to sit on a chair and get doused with something in front of an audience, although I doubt it because otherwise she probably would have watched more "You Can't Do That On Television" than I believe she watched (none).

3.Yesterday, when I was headed to Subway, I got a whiff of someone getting a perm at the adjacent Cost Cutters. What a strange thing we did to ourselves back then. I remember sitting at the kitchen table while my aunt wrapped my hair into tight curls, a towel tossed over my shoulders like a boxer. Standing on a chair so I could bend over the sink while she squirted solution onto my skull, this strange mix of sensations: burning and chill.

4. Jennifer Beals, as Alex, is such a lovely little pup, all big brown eyes, unruly hair and slight puffy frown. One thing that I really like about Beals is that here she is, just so adorbs as a 20 year old. But only an insecure lout would choose 20-year-old Beals if she was up against the 40-something Beals who starred on "The L-Word." If she lives to be 100, I can only assume that she will have aged into someone so lovely that it will burn our retinas to look at her face.

5. Beals plays an 18-year-old in "Flashdance," which isn't a stretch. If you look closely, you will still see a squishy fetal-ness to her fontanelle. I'm not sure I can get behind Nick Hurly as a suitable love interest. She is presumably a recent high school graduate; He is presumably in his 30s -- if not late 30s. He's built a successful steel operation, he lives in a big house, he's got a snippy ex-wife, and he's enough of an arts patron to comfortably attend the ballet. I'm not sure Alex and Nick have enough in common, mentally, emotionally and pop-culture wise, to be on similar footing.

I think that Nick Hurly is only interested in Alex because she is young, flexible and looks great covered in water. Adult men probably shouldn't date hot-headed teens who throw rocks through windows when they don't get their own way. Likewise, teens probably shouldn't date men who don't need to save up the dough to replace said window.

Fair question: Does human resources at the steel mill know about this relationship between the boss and the sexy welder?

6. I have to believe there was some kind of early 1980s backward feminism at the root of this movie. We, as women, are supposed to puff our chests with righteousness when it is revealed that beneath that welding mask is a long-locked lovely rather than the expected image: the grizzled mug of a Vietnam vet and skilled tradesman. Unfortunately, this is all negated by Alex's belief that stripping is a viable alternative to ballet. It's further negated by her willingness to be "saved" by the rich and handsome man who is her boss. And, it is especially broken when the handsome rich boss's ex-wife is portrayed as a middle-aged catty shrew.

7. In fact, it's hard to get behind Alex as the protagonist at all when she reveals such an embarrassing level of immaturity. Aside from breaking Nick Hurly's window with a rock and her total freak-out that he would pull strings to get her an audition at the ballet conservatory, there is a moment when she is dining with him at a fancy restaurant that is especially cringe worthy.

Nick's ex approaches the table and reveals that she's heard all about Alex. She infers that Alex is a hussy. She attempts to urinate on Nick's leg right there at the table. Alex, in response, removes her coat to strut a tuxedo shirt slash dicky that enhances her naked side breasts. Dear Alex: Proving that you are the sexier woman is a silly and fleeting argument. You, too, will someday be 35. And although, as I stated early, you improve aesthetically as you age, at 18 you cannot yet know this. You have to assume that you, too, will someday battle facial creases and a slowed metabolism. That someday you won't be able to get a perfectly waxed leg behind your neck. That grey whiskers will poke out of your chin. I'd have been more impressed if you'd worn a turtle neck and solved a quadratic equation on the table cloth, using the purple crayon you'd squirreled away in your purse.

8. In this same scene, Alex flirts with Nick using a piece of lobster meat to simulate oral sex. While this act is presumably challenging the pleats of Nick's perfectly pressed khakis, it's really not hot at all. Here's why:

Lobster is meat that is probably slathered in butter. The first time Alex puts this into her mouth and then removes it without chewing, she has probably sucked the butter off of the meat. The second time she does it, there is a good chance the meat has been rendered flavorless. The third time she does it, she's simply sucking her own spit off of the meat. And every subsequent time she does this, is likely only serving to enhance the fishiness of this creature of the sea.

I have to imagine that director Adrian Lyne -- who I am not at all surprised to learn also directed "9 1/2 Weeks" and "Lolita" -- said to Beals: "Make love to the lobster with your mouth."

A better option for this scene would have been a sexy food: strawberries, whipped cream, even a corn dog.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Now filed ...

I really thought I could scrap the past month and just start anew with my Weakly Reviews. But then I developed something like Owl Panic over the idea that I might want to know if I've seen this movie, read this book, etc. and there wouldn't be a record of it on my website. What a psycho. Granted, things have been lost in the interim. I've watched a ton of Lifetime Original Movies not posted here. I've also made some foods not listed here. But this is as close as I can get.

Here is what I've been up to for the past month in a half.

Chickpea Salad: Oh, crikies. I hate when I don't have a citation for my delicious vegan recipes. Unfortunately, I emailed this recipe to myself from who-knows-where. Anyway, it's a can of chickpeas,  onion, pickles, mustard, lemons, sunflower seeds. These things are all mixed together to make a sort of egg salad, minus the eggs plus the chickpeas. It was so great. Were I not such a lazy person, I would totes make this for lunch every day. (Subway is just so easy, you know?)



Poutine from Muddy Waters, Minneapolis: The first time Chuck told me about poutine I made the sort of yuck face that masked what I was really thinking: "I bet that would taste good if I was hung over." Then I became more and more poutine curious. So I've been on a mad hunt for poutine, which is featured prominently in the first chapter of the novel I'm writing. I put this on my Minneapolis to-do list alongside "spend a shitton of money at a legit comic book store" and managed to cross both items off my list. I got this at Muddy Waters. It deviates from the traditional Canadian dish by not using French Fries and adding an egg. Still, yum, yum yum. For the uninitiated: A lava of gravy is poured over a potato in order to melt the chunks of cheese curd.

One time we went to a hockey game. Through the magic of scalping, we landed front row seats! (And two young girls got enough money to probably have a decent night on the town!) The only downer: Pretty sure we ended up on TV with great gobs of Nacho Cheese on our face.
Life in a Day: The creators of this film collected A Day in the Life snippets from contributors around the world for this collage of videos representing a day in June 2010. It's fascinating in its different definitions of ordinariness: women in fields, a man's world bike tour, a young shoe shine boy making a few bucks. Meanwhile, a cow is killed, a goat's throat is slit, children are born and people are married. Twenty-one people die and 500 are injured at a music festival in Germany. I'm always fascinated by the mundane details of people's days and the way my mundane details bump up against your mundane details. This was really interesting. Streaming on Netflix.

Oslo, August 31st: Anders is nearing the end of his stint at a rehabilitation facility and has a day-pass to go to Oslo for a job interview. Along the way he meets up with some old friends -- including faces from his old party scene -- as he considers whether he wants to a) stay sober; b) stay alive. This Norwegian film really does well revealing the complexity of Ander's emotions.

A Scanner Darkly: Chuck just finished the book by Philip K. Dick, so we AP Englished the shit out of this by downloading the movie. It. Is. Awesome. It's semi-animated in a way that Robert Downey, Keanu Reeves and Woody Harrelson are all still recognizable. It's about a guy who is working undercover as part of an investigation into a super terrible drug.

Sleepwalk With Me: We saw this in the theater, which is pretty Whoa in itself. A comedian refuses to give his longtime girlfriend the commitment she wants. In the meantime, he's building a comedy career on the road and she is much of the fodder. This is all so freaking funny and insane and mostly true.

The Ward: This was part of some sort of Hey It's October, We Should Watch Something Scary. Except it was just kind of stupid. Woman in a haunted psychiatric ward with a bunch of other women with varying degrees of mental illness. But something weird is going on and people keep dying.

Rosewood Lane: This supposed to be scary movie stars a weird version of Rose McGowan's face and an evil, sort of other-worldly paperboy who is stalking her. The plot is thin and the characters are implausible. Like, neither the policemen nor her boyfriend -- hilariously named Barrett -- seem to care that this is happening. There is a lot of yelling at the victim.

St. Elmo's Fire: I think I said enough about this movie here.

Blue Velvet: This is a fun movie to think about. I like to imagine that David Lynch woke up one day and said: "What would happen if a sort of naive young man stumbled upon an ear in the middle of a field between his house and the hospital where his father was being treated." The next thing Lynch knows, he's got a character huffing from an oxygen mask and this kid is straddling a really Aw, Shucks life and a seedy underworld filled with violent sex and cops gone bad. 

The Grey: This movie about Liam Neeson punching wolves has now become a unit of measure in our house. As in, "This movie is at least half as bad as 'The Grey,' which makes it the second-worst movie I've ever seen." -- Chuck, watching Lifetime

Rid of Me: Chrissie told me I had to see this. She told me that she dry heaved during one of the first scenes of this little indie flick now streaming on Netflix. I ended up falling madly in love with the movie. A happy couple moves back to the dude's hometown, where his old high school friends embrace him but don't really get his wife. She ends up making all these terrible faux pas and it's all like using ink to get wine out of the carpet. Great things unfold. 

The Five-Year Engagement: Oh God. I hate Jason Segel. I think I used to like him, but now he strikes me as a one-off. Like a discount actor. Like someone who looks like a different actor, but isn't that actor. Anyway, this a movie about a couple that gets engaged, but keeps postponing the wedding and all this stuff. I guess I didn't mind it. I laughed out loud a few times, admittedly at things Jason Segel said. Maybe I don't hate him. See how I just worked through my feelings? 

Katy Perry The Movie: Part of me: I am just madly in love with Katy Perry. I think she's just so adorable. This is an MTV documentary about her last tour which includes interviews with people close to her. As you'll recall, this was the tour of riding on pink clouds and spinning breast plates and all sorts of Candy Land imagery. This was also the newlywed tour, though by the end of it things are splitsville with Russell Brand, who I think is a nightmare. There is this great scene way into her tour where she is just writhing with exhaustion and pain and her keepers are like "should we cancel the show, or is she going to get off this table and get it done?" Soon enough she's vertical, wiping off her face, composing herself and she performs. During the show thousands of fans chant in Portuguese "We love you Katy" and she starts crying on stage, totally moved by the experience. 

Moonrise Kingdom: Cripes. If this isn't adorable. But you already know that. Wes Anderson's story about a kid who goes rogue from scout camp and his lovable lady sidekick. So great. 


Family of the Year: This is my new favorite band. It reminds me of Camera Obscura, New Pornographers, etc. Stream this shit on Spotify. You won't regret it.

The Best American Short Stories 2011: I gave myself an assignment: One short story from The Best American Short Stories 2011 per night. My theory is that if I’m not doing, I should be reading so that when I do do, I’ll be that much more well-read. See also: Another way in which I justify my procrastination.
The best you can hope for in an anthology of short stories is that it is at least 50 percent readable and that you walk away from it with a) some ideas about structure, content, story arc and dialogue and b) an interest in a new-to-you writer. BASS, curated by Geraldine Brooks, totally succeeds. Full review here

Triburbia: A Novel by Karl Tao Greenfeld: This book was meant to be a palate cleanser. Books, blerg. My attention span was rotting at the edges and I needed something, but the something was undefinable so I didn’t know where to look. Then Amazon recommended Karl Taro Greenfeld’s debut novel and a copy from the library just happened to be on the kitchen table, my boyfriend’s spontaneous nab from a few weeks earlier.
And, whoa.
There are few pleasures as great as going into a book cold, save for the plot summary inside the cover. Especially when the story pushes its boot into your chest and is, gulp, good. When you finish the first chapter, look at the cover and think “Can this possibly be?” Read another chapter and admit Greenfeld is really doing a bang-up job here. Although, admittedly, it loses steam at about halfway through. But those first few chapters say: “Hi. I’m Karl Taro Greenfeld. And I’m going to entertain you with my deft storytelling skillz.” Full review here

Awkward and Definition: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag (High School Chronicles of Ariel Schrag) by Ariel Schrag: Nothing amps the saturation levels of my vanilla teen years like a coming-of-age collection of comics by someone similarly aged who knew what strawberry bidis were as a ninth grader. Me, age 37, Googling. A: Something to smoke.
Ariel Schrag’s collection Awkward and Definition is the story of her ninth and tenth grade years at Berkeley High School in California. Themes include music, her crushes — both male and female, a rotating cast of friends and makeout partners and the sort of dramatics that occur with teenagers on the loose. This collection is just so cool and her life is this wide-open independent world, light on the fun-suck of supervision. In fact, every time a parent enters a panel I had this “Oh no you’re going to get busted for smoking pot!” panic, obviously some sort of residual fear of authority from my own life, which never came to fruition. Full review here

May We Be Forgiven: A Novel by A.M. Homes This novel was so super disappointing. Hijinks. Chaos. Farce. Long narrative trips to comedic situations that aren’t very comedic. It all amounts to a painfully tedious story with a self-conscious wacky for the sake of wackiness to it. Cue the scene where Harry puts a full coffee cup on top of his car, realizes he has just seen Don DeLillo and (clarinet music) Harry ends up with coffee all over his windshield. Of. Course.
It is plot-heavy, with a large cast of characters and their individual quirks to keep track of. Episodes start and then fizzle, or go on and on and on well beyond the point of interest, if there is one. Full review here

The Infinite Wait by Julia Wertz: Julia Wertz’s collection The Infinite Wait and Other Stories is a series of three longer pieces where she considers 1) the litany of shit jobs she’s held, 2) her diagnosis of Systemic Lupus at age 20, 3) the public library and the reading spaces and books that shaped her. The three-pack follows Drinking at the Movies, which is told in quick-hit short bursts of misanthropic comedy and focuses on a year in her life after the big cross country move, but occasionally dips back and mentions things that appear in the stories of her new collection. For the most part, the re-tread works. Especially if both books — and I’d imagine her “Fart Party” stuff, too — is all read at around the same time. The gaps you don’t realize exist in one tend to get filled in the other book and it becomes a bit like piecing together a person’s life puzzle. Full review here.

Malarky by Anakana Schofield: Ankana Schofield’s debut novel Malarky is told in 20 non-chronological periods in Our Woman’s life. It seems to be a post-complacency awakening toward empathy and a larger world view. She’s living in rural Ireland and married to a chilly, awful, maybe attractive man who counts on her for his creature comforts and the occasional screw. They have three children: Two girls that are barely mentioned and Our Woman’s pride, Jimmy, who she was seen getting all up in a neighbor boy down by the barn. This is not information that is going to sit well with Our Woman’s husband, Himself, and she asks Jimmy to keep it quiet and not be bringing boys around the house. Full review here.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel by Jonathan Evison: This is one of those novels that plays out in Hipstamatic in your head as you read. Benjamin Benjamin is bumbling along, still second-guessing every second of the day his children Piper and Jodi died tragically -- while on his watch -- and unwilling to sign the official paperwork and let his wife fly free with her new NPR-loving boyfriend. He struggles at first to find common ground with his employer, Trev, who has muscular dystrophy. But eventually they settle into a routine that includes waffles for breakfast, lots of The Weather Channel, and an on-going recitation of funny-named sexual acts, a running gag that sounds like something Chuck Palahniuk would cook up. They also begin a project identifying quirky road-side attractions and color-coding them with push pins on a giant map. Full review here.

Lucky by Gabrielle Bell: I also read this one by Gabrielle Bell. It's a nice look at what she can do and who she is, but it doesn't pack the punch that her latest collection, "Voyeurs," does.

Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell: And here it is, part of Bell’s The Voyeurs, a collection of her dear diary-style comics, including some that have appeared on her website and published by Minneapolis-based Uncivilized Books. The whole collection has a sort of through-the-peepholeness, or maybe more like microscope, as Bell creates memoir-like short stories that reveal curiosities about the world and herself. I think I’ve called her this before, but Gabrielle Bell is the the quintessential old-school confessional blogger as cartoonist and her work is generally pieces about things that happen around her in the course of a day — whether real or real at the root then heightened with imaginary, sometimes supernatural, outcomes.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran: This British columnist wants women to stop shaving their coots, but she doesn't think you need to taste your own menstrual blood. Feminism! This book is a riot. And I've cited it in like four conversations since I read it. Full review will be here.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel by Carol Rifka Brunt: This is a great coming-of-age story about a young girl whose favorite uncle has AIDS and is dying. It's set in 1987 and includes all these great 1987-isms. After her uncle dies, June becomes besties with her uncles former lover, a man her family hates and refers to as a murderer. Whatever, I can't do this justice here. But it's a great story. Full review will be here.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novelby Robin Sloan: This is a super fun novel that includes cults and cloaks and old-school tomes as well as Google, codes and a 3D boob industry. Super fun! Full review will be here.

Chuck and I are rich in photos that look exactly like this one.