Monday, December 31, 2007

Bookslut, November edition... belated.

How did I fail to post this? I just found it in my drafts... oops. Well, December and the eagerly-awaited year-end round-up coming soon.

An easy (for you) month: I only finished five books in November, and I've already blogged about two of them separately. We had:
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. More non-fiction that reads like fiction, my favorite kind. Another one for my Metaphors That Don't SuckTM File: "He had merely fallen face down across the bed, as though sleep were a weapon that had struck him from behind."

  • Burning Bright by John Steinbeck. I love theme-and-variations kinds of stories. This structure of the "Play in Story Form" was an interesting idea but hard to believe in as a new genre. This is a tiny book and yet it gets in deep and quickly, and still manages to keep being surprising. I really liked it.

  • The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. About this book I've said too much already.

  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

  • A Year in Van Nuys by Sandra Tsing Loh, also already blogged here.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Josh Heller style

So, each December I teach a workshop or two at a local Elderhostel. It's really fun for me because every year I get to go back and see all my old friends.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two words: Tino.


So, that link is to the blog of Diablo Cody, who wrote the unbelievably wonderful "Juno", of course. (Thanks to El Gigante for the link there.) She writes:

"To answer an increasingly common and much-welcomed question, yes-- the reference to "Tino" in Juno is absolutely a MSCL shout-out."


II. Also, by the way, I Am Legend Los Angeles on Christmas Morning. Driving down Ventura at 10am on Christmas Day? De. Ser. Ted. But no cgi gazelles.

III. RDB can't resist the urge to out-geek herself. Favorite day-appropriate joke? Why do mathematicians confuse Halloween and Christmas? Because OCT 31 = DEC 25 !

IV. I told you RDB was dorkier than you thought.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Judaism: from the folks that brought you the weekend.

Fabulous quotation of the day, from

"Judaism is the world's most obsessive-complusive book club. Every week, religous Jews read a portion or 'parsha' of the Hebrew Bible, so that at the end of a year we've read the whole thing. Then we start all over again."

Ok, well, it's TIED with egg salad. For now.

Yup. My most-commented-on posting to date was something I wholesale copied from another website, without adding any commentary at all. I fixed some typos (of course) and made a slightly self-deprecating title (of course), and y'all commented more on that than on ANYTHING ELSE I'VE WRITTEN.

love you too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Haunted Bookshop

Before we do the big November Bookslut BreakdownTM, let's spend a few moments with a chance encounter. I love to browse used bookstores, of course, and I usually end up buying 60 million things I hadn't exactly planned on buying... but there are many books floating about in my mind as things I intend someday to read, so if I find a used copy for some silly price, of course I'm gonna get it... I own many many books that I have not yet read, but that means that whenever I finish a book, I wander out into my living room/office/library and get to shop my own shelves for what to read next.

Anyway, I recently discovered the fabulous Iliad Bookstore and wandered in there and indeed bought 60 million books that I was delighted to find. Most of them were books I'd heard of, and things, like I said, that I already intended someday to read. But I did pick up one book that I'd never heard of, and which I took sort of on a whim. It was The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley.

Now, I'd heard of Christopher Morley only by having seen a quotation of his in some other book I read long ago; I'd never actually read a book of his. But I liked the quotation an awful lot, and it was very near to Halloween when this chance encounter took place, in a newly discovered dusty and wonderful bookshop, and by god the name of the book is The Haunted Bookshop! I had no choice.

"For paradise in the world to come is uncertain, but there is indeed a heaven on this earth, a heaven which we inhabit when we read a good book." he says on page 26. Clearly, I was in love.

Now, may I quote at you until you cry?
Let me tell you that the book business is different from other trades. People don't know they want books. I can just see by looking at you that your mind is ill for lack of books but you are blissfully unaware of it! People don't go to a bookseller until some serious mental accident or disease makes them aware of their danger. Then they come here. ... People need books, but they don't know they need them. Generally they are not aware that the books they need are in existence... I am not a dealer in merchandise but a specialist in adjusting the book to the human need. Between ourselves, there is no such thing, abstractly, as a 'good' book. A book is 'good' only when it meets some human hunger or refutes some human error. A book that is good for me would very likely be punk for you. My pleasure is to prescribe books for such patients as drop in here and are willing to tell me their symptoms. Some people have let their reading faculties decay so that all I can do is hold a post mortem on them. But most are still open to treatment. There is no one so grateful as the man to whom you have given just the book his soul needed and he never knew it. ... The world has been printing books for 450 years, and yet gunpowder still has a wider circulation. Never mind! Printer's ink is still the greater explosive; it will win.
"Her cheeks were cool and ruddy from the keen air, her face lit with the tranquil satisfaction of those who have sojourned in the comfortable city of Boston." --p38

Printer's ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries... When you read that book you can feel it blowing up your mind. It leaves you gasping, ill, nauseated--oh, it's not pleasant to feel some really pure intellect filtered into one's brain! It hurts! --p115
Check this one out and note that this book was published 90 years ago. 90!
"We had to beat [Country], yes, but the absurdity lies in the fact that we had to beat ourselves in doing it. The first thing you'll find, when the [X] gets to work, will be that we shall have to help [Country] onto her feet again so that she can be punished in an orderly way. We shall have to feed her and admit her to commerce so that she can pay her indemnities--we shall have to police her cities to prevent revolution from burning her up--and the upshot of it all will be that men will have fought the most terrible war in history, and endured nameless horrors, for the privilege of nursing their enemy back to health. If that isn't an absurdity, what is?" --p114
"All right," said the bookseller amiably. "Miss Chapman, you take the book up with you and read it in bed if you want to. Are you a librocubicularist?"
Titania looked a little scandalized.
"It's all right, my dear," said Helen. "He only means are you fond of reading in bed. I've been waiting to hear him work that word into the conversation. He made it up, and he's immensely proud of it."
"Reading in bed?" said Titania. "What a quaint idea! Does any one do it? It never occurred to me. I'm sure when I go to bed I'm far too sleepy to think of such a thing." --pg170
"But we are what we are, and Roger was even more so." --p172

Monday, December 17, 2007

This is funny; Or, RDB is dorkier than you realized.

Vocabulary lesson (Tom Kraemer)

I was visiting my brother's family recently, watching nieces and nephews chase their new kitten around. The kitten would escape pursuit by jumping up on the sill of an open window, and I warned them, "Hey, be careful kitty doesn't defenestrate herself!"

My brother, whom I consider well educated, asked me what the heck 'defenestrated' meant, so I told him to look it up. He produced a fairly thick paperback dictionary, flipped through it for a few seconds, and declared that it wasn't a real word.

I took the dictionary from him and looked, and sure enough there was no listing for 'defenestrate'. So, I threw it out the window.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

On Not Writing

What English-language poet has not at times rebelled against a language in which the suffix -s makes a noun plural and a verb singular? ---W H Auden

So, as I've mentioned before, people around me seem to think I'm meant to be a Writer. I myself haven't really believed this since around about the 6th grade, but at least a few of my friends are convinced I will someday write novels and lots of other people are always asking, "Do you write?" with an unmistakable tone of "You idiot, why aren't you Writing?"

Also as I've mentioned before, I recently went to see Ann Patchett, author of the fantastic memoir Truth & Beauty and the lovely novel Bel Canto, read from her new book Run. The reading part was great, but the Q&A that followed was even better, and one of the best bits was the story about this extremely humbling conversation she had with her stepson on the day she had completed both writing her latest novel and reading one by Henry James. "Oh, you finished the new book, that's cool," the son remarked. Then, "Wow!! You finished the James? That's great! Congratulations! What did you think?!" and on in this breathless excitement.

Why did the former accomplishment garner such lukewarm praise, such a muted response in comparison to the latter? "Consider how many people have read all of Wings of the Dove compared to how many have written a book," he told her. She had to admit he was right; in a way, it was a larger accomplishment to have been the consumer than the producer. In this instance, the consumers, the readers, were a far more elite group.

Smiling ruefully over this anecdote later that night is when I first happened on the snarky and wonderful 101 Reasons To Stop Writing. Messages from the universe, gentle reader?

Well, but then I post a nothing post about *not* posting in response to someone messaging me "why don't you write in your blog anymore" and I immediately get five comments urging me to keep writing. Mixed messages from the universe, then, my five gentle readers.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On Not Posting

I. RDB takes a sabbatical.
A. But why?
B. No one knows.
C. Not even RDB herself.

II. RDB has posts lined up in her head, but doesn't post them.
A. But why not?
B. No one knows.
C. Not even RDB herself.

III. For example?
A. Another post about signs, possibly being environmental and recycling the title "Signs and Portents; or, The Importance of Signs" to include:

1. Fantastic local Egg Salad: there is a sign on Ventura Boulevard at Pierce College that advertises a fun fall thing they have there every year, a maze. Made out of corn. IT'S A MAIZE MAZE. OH YES.
2. There is a sign on Burbank Boulevard that says, I kid you not, "We buy dental gold." Um, OUCH??? EW??? UGH??? Worst and scariest sign ever.

B. A post about writing and about not writing, to include a link to 101 Reasons to Stop Writing and that story about Ann Patchett I never told.

C. A post about how I don't do a lot of community-service type things, but I strongly believe in donating blood and did so today, for THE THIRD TIME THIS YEAR. I AM AMAZING. BOW DOWN TO ME AND MY WONDERFULNESS. Or don't, but give blood yourself instead, before 2007 is up. Check out the many convenient options at Give Life.

D. A post about how I hated "Knocked Up" and "SuperBad", whether I want to admit it or not, but how I COMPLETELY FUCKING LOVED "Juno". I want the soundtrack NOW. What do you mean, it isn't out until January? WTF??

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Close to home, so to speak.

Sitting in my cafe (admit it it's a bagel place) (but I don't eat bagels) (it's called "NY Bagel & Cafe". It's a cafe! They serve coffee!) (but I don't drink coffee) on Van Nuys Blvd, reading A Year in Van Nuys by Sandra Tsing Loh. I can't get my bluetooth keyboard (hand-me-down) to connect to my fancy Treo (hand-me-down), so I take out my notebook to write in, as usual. I read the following line (p198):
"I am not even packing a (crutch of the literati/crack cocaine of the chronically self-involved) Writing Journal."
Wow. Ouch. Wow.
And this:
"How about your friend Jolene?" Ben shoots back. "The Blocked Novelist/actress/lyricist/playwright/whatever. Maybe she should move to New York."
"Actually," I say, "Jolene originally came from New York--or perhaps the word is fled."
"And now she lives in Santa Monica. Practically rent-free."
"Exactly. A musical based on Los Angeles bohemian life would be called not Rent but Rent Control."
Wait a minute. I originally came from New York. My apartment is under rent control. Wow. Ouch.

Oh God, now this. Page 215. I actually clasp my hand over my mouth when I read this, here in the cafe bagel place on Van Nuys. She rants on and on about the life of a writer and how it is drudgery and not romantic and absolutely soul-sucking and ends with:
"Do you guys hear me? I've had purer 'highs' off paying my bills with Quicken!"
"'Quicken!' they murmur. Apparently they like Quicken too."

WOW. OUCH. RDB, this is your life. A quick look at statistics from the past six months or so of my journal, in which I write nightly (see "chronically self-involved", above) -

Number of instances of the word sex: 2

Number of instances of the word Quicken: 19

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Typing With Fingernails; in which RDB Tries to Catch Up

So, due to some strange quirk of the time-space continuum, it appears to be the middle of November. Past that, even, the third week, Erev Thanksgiving. What is strangest about this phenomenon is that RDB appears to have missed the ending of October and the beginning of November all together and is beginning to feel she will never catch up. Perhaps it's because she stayed home from work sick on Halloween, the official demarcation? Perhaps it's because Novembers have not been so good for her in recent years so she hopes to avoid the month altogether, preferring a sort of alternate-reality extra-long October month of denial?

Well. Here we are, Thanksgiving break (thank god) and a few days at home with nearly no plans, after an entirely crazy seven-days of Big Events and Running Around. Last week I was in San Jose for a conference and flew home back home back to LAX on Saturday afternoon, took the shuttle service back to Van Nuys to my car, and went straight to Orange County for rehearsal for a show with my dance company. I drove down with my friend Scot, who drove while I napped. I woke up at some point to say: Where am I, on the plane? No, wait, am I on the bus? No, wait, am I driving? Scot cracked up; I fell immediately back asleep.

That's the sort of November we've had so far, and perhaps that's why we feel the way we do, slightly disconnected from everything. The way insomnia is described in Fight Club which I, appropriately, stayed up until 3:30 this morning to read: the distance, the copy of a copy of a copy that reality somehow becomes sometimes. When you aren't sure where you are, it isn't so hard to become confused about when you are.

Anyway, it does still somehow appear to be the middle of November. I'm not sure when that happened, but it did. Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bookslut, October edition.

So, in case it wasn't already clear, I like to read. And I keep a sort of bookblog elsewhere on the web, but I've really been wanting to record my progress and post my small commentaries here as well. I just can't quite figure out how to work that into the stream of this blog... for now, I've decided to post just this one post about the six books I finished in the month of October.

A note about the hyperlinks to book titles - I do that "Amazon Associates" thing, which means that if you click on one of my links to get to and then buy anything, not necessarily the book I linked to, I get a small kick-back from the money you spend. It's a FABULOUS way to let me know you're out there reading - please click-through from one of my links whenever you want to buy something from Amazon!
  • I'm Not the New Me by Wendy Mcclure
    This is written by the girl who writes Pound and who found and annotated those hilarious Weight Watchers cards. SO damn funny. The book was great, especially if you happen to be all obsessed with a) blogging b) weight loss and c) dating. Hello, my life.

  • A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
    I can't believe how fantastically wonderful this book is. And it's non-fiction. I'm nuts for non-fiction that reads so much like fiction. And it's pretty fantastic to almost know someone in it; I can't remember actually meeting "Billion-Dollar" Charlie Nesson, but I know his daughter and I have fantastic memories of his house - I've referred to it as my dream house for years - and they mention the house itself in the book... twice! Ah, our little brushes with greatness. No, seriously, read this book.

  • Run by Ann Patchett
    I went to see Ann Patchett read from this book and it was loooooovely! First of all, Ann herself was absolutely lovely, self-assured and comfortable and sweet and funny and quick and incredibly likeable. She walked into the reading room a few minutes before she was scheduled to start and announced that she might as well sign some books right then, so the wait wouldn't be as long afterward. People immediately start to grab their books and get up from their chairs to go to the table, but she quickly waved her hands: "No, that's ok, I'll come to you." And she spent the next five minutes or so walking around the room, perching on empty chairs and signing books, until it was time to begin.

    I was pretty amazed at how many stories she told. First she just talked, and her little anecdotes were very nicely contained short stories, and then later when people asked questions, her answers were also nicely-packaged little gifts. [More on this to come]

  • Exile and The Kingdom by Albert Camus
    I love Camus and I really love this from McSweeneys. And I love how Camus can write about nothing and make you love it, this beautiful, beautiful nothing. Sometimes Italo Calvino strikes me the same way.
    In this collection is "The Artist at Work" in which is the fabulous line: "'History shows,' he would say, 'that the less people read, the more books they buy.'" With these ever-bigger Barnes and Nobleses and other big-box-book-stores and yet the seemingly ever-diminishing numbers of actual readers, this seems sadly, absurdly true, no?

  • Wild At Heart by Barry Gifford
    A book club called "Nobody Reads In LA"? FABULOUS. First rule of book club: don't talk about book club. See you next month, Chuck.

  • Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
    Here's the lesson: correct economics depends on a wide view, not a narrow one. One must look at all the far-ranging effects of a policy on all groups in a system, not just on the immediate or local effects. One must trace the consequences on all groups. That's it. He says it many times, many different ways, and using lots of different concrete examples of the fallacies that are strongly believed due to the failure to apply this rule of wide perspective. Pretty damn readable and comprehensible for an economics book, for a non-economicsy girl like myself. What's cute about this book is that it was first written in 1946 and my edition was revised for 1979 and the author talks about having hope that we may still learn from our mistakes and may still save ourselves from economic ruin in various ways (social security policy, rent control, etc)... but just as he must have been dismayed to see that not so much had changed for the better from '46 to '79, I'm willing to bet things wouldn't look much different to him today either, nearly 30 more years later. But the hope is just so cute: "There is a real promise that public policy may be reversed before the damage from existing measures and trends has become irreparable." Hee hee!
    More serious cuteness is the way this guy waxes poetic... while discussing economics. On page 171 he writes:
    Yet the ardor for inflation never dies. It would almost seem as if no country is capable of profiting from the experience of another and no generation of learning from the sufferings of its forebears. Each generation and country follows the same mirage. Each grasps for the same Dead Sea fruit that turns to dust and ashes in its mouth. For it is the nature of inflation to give birth to a thousand illusions.
    He later calls inflation "the opium of the people." Who knew economics could be so cute?

    I also recently read this article and like how they summarize a piece of what the book is saying very nicely here: "The make-work bias is best illustrated by a story, perhaps apocryphal, of an economist who visits China under Mao Zedong. He sees hundreds of workers building a dam with shovels. He asks: 'Why don't they use a mechanical digger?' 'That would put people out of work,' replies the foreman. 'Oh,' says the economist, 'I thought you were making a dam. If it's jobs you want, take away their shovels and give them spoons.'

Friday, November 2, 2007

On Cursing; Or, Counterrevolutionary Fucktards!

Here's the unadorned truth: I have a potty mouth. I curse. I don't sling creative and inventive invectives, I don't use any special or non-run-of-the-mill curses, and I don't curse at all around children. (Fortunate, since I work with kids. Something inside the curse-machine just shuts off when in their presence except in verrrrrrrrrrrry rare occasions.)

I am not particularly proud of this.

However, because of the underage-shut-off valve, it does not particularly worry me. I haven't spent any time trying to break myself of the habit, and I don't think I'm a bad person because I curse. I do, however, have respect for people who don't curse and who are effective at emphasizing their emotion or their point when speaking without resorting to curses. And yet.

Oddly enough, at the same time, I've lately found times when I respect people or institutions more when they curse. I was speaking to a professional person yesterday in a professional setting and I kind of loved it that he used the word fucking. I was reading New York Magazine yesterday and I kind of loved it that they're willing to print the phrase "counterrevolutionary fucktards." It's soooometimes kind of sexy when a guy uses the word fucking to emphasize his point, if it's something he feels strongly about.

Yeah, so what the fuck am I saying? I'm saying, "I respect you for not cursing, unless I respect you for cursing." Fascinating, huh? Well, shut the fuck up. It's my fucking blog and I can post about whatever fucking navel-gazing self-absorbed observations I feel like posting about.

I only lose respect for you if you say "swear" instead of "curse". Come on, where the fuck did you grow up?

[CWID: Image courtesy of Thank you!]

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"The world is perverse, but it could be worse." [0]

My friend Cotton recently (by which I mean, nearly a year ago), blogged about a non-glowing (that's an RDB-style understatement, in case you aren't yet familiar) review he was surprised to find in the first few pages of a book he was reading by Iain Banks. He asks the questions you'd ask: did someone with a conscience feel the need to warn the unsuspecting reader? Was the idea that potential readers would be so intrigued by the bad reviews that they'd be more likely to read the book? Equal time? Truth in advertising? etc.

One option that I considered that Cotton didn't mention was that it was actually an accident that those reviews were included in final printing, after maybe being in drafts as a spoof or a joke or whatever, and accidentally not having been removed.

I'm telling you this fascinating story because I just had reason to ask these questions myself. I read the fabulous Harper's Magazine and this month's issue includes an ad for the new book by Jonathan Franzen, The Discomfort Zone. Is the text in the image too small to read? The second review says, "[A] total lack of humor... perverse" and the fourth says, "Odious... incredibly annoying."

So, what's the deal? Is it a gimmick to catch my attention (it did)? Is it an inside joke style review, given the title and subject of the book? My theory of the mistaken inclusion is ruled out by the fact of this being one small clear ad, not pages of filler reviews that no one reads. Why'd they do it? Was it Franzen's idea? More importantly, have you bought me this book yet? I loved The Corrections.

[0] From the poem "Sonnet for Minimalists" by Mona Van Duyn.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Lights Out LA; Or, RDB is unclear on the concept

Tonight is Lights Out L.A., when everyone is supposed to go dark for an hour to show what a huge difference in saving energy one small concerted effort can make. It's 4pm and I don't even know where I'll be or what I'll be doing at 8pm, so I can plan to participate but I have no idea what that will mean. Am I supposed to sit in my apartment in the dark? I have no trouble with a "TVs Off L.A." plan, since my TV is never on... but it's hard to read in the dark. I suppose I can blog in the dark - does "lights out" mean "computers off" too?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I. Want. This.

Wow. A bookcave. A bookcase with a little nook for you to climb into and read. How is it that no one else thought of this before? How is that I don't have one of these? Wow.

But can my books all be blue, instead of pink? I kind of hate pink.

(By the way, I found this by way of moonrat who calls herself a "bookwench". You probably know by now that I call myself a "bookslut", so the question is, What is the difference between us? What are the philosophical and social implications of choosing one label over the other? Why does she get paid to read books and I don't? Why or why not? If so, as what?
Yeah - both her blogs are cool, so check them out if you're a bookwhore too.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Two words: I'm not that clever.

There is a certain kind of totally-formulaic dumb joke that gets me EVERY TIME.

I'm telling you this because I recently saw it on "The Office" (yes, I don't have a TV, but I can rent DVDs). The guy says:
One word, two syllables: "demarcation."

Ha! Similarly, that thing Dave Barry does all the time:
But then the major oil-producing nations Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Texas got all snotty and formed an organization called OPEC, which stands for "North Atlantic Treaty Organization."

and yet a third variation, which also works for me:
Schick... has announced that it's coming out with a new razor that has... FOUR BLADES. Yes! It will be called the "Quattro," which is Italian for "more expensive."

We also need to give serious thought to the issue of radicchio. I don't know about you, but I hate it when I order a salad, and instead of some nice, green lettuce, I get these scrawny sprigs of radicchio, which is Italian for "tastes so bad that even a starving goat spits it out."

Ha! God, I'm easy. But why is it always Italian?

Monday, October 8, 2007

I still don't get the bit about the "Tina Turner trees"

Everybody has his thing. I mean to say: there are so many people, and so many things, and each one has his own. Early on a Sunday morning at the Santa Monica Pier, earlier than the tourists and the hot dogs and the shopping bags, there is the man doing tai chi and the woman doing yoga. There is the group on the uneven parallel bars and the fat white lady running up and down the wooden steps in time to the barked commands of the big, big black man with the whistle. There are the bikes, the rollerblades, the recumbents. There are almost no skateboards; they come later in the day. There are the treasure-seekers, the metal-detectors, the diviners. There is the man lifting weights - how has he gotten them here? There are the gymnasts and the boxers and the sit-uppers and the push-uppers and the pull-uppers. I mean to say: there are the sitters-up and the pushers-up and the pullers-up. And today, there is a lost, lonely girl, walking slowly, thinking quickly, wanting much. I mean to say: today there is me.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Holy Cow.

  • Phil Rizzuto died a month or so ago. This is interesting news because not just do I know that he's the guy who does the pseudo-sports-announcing in "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" but I also actually own the book O Holy Cow!: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto which has his real broadcast comments written in verse form and it rules. Bye, Phil.

  • Um, this blog ALSO says "blah blah blog". And here I thought I was so original! Ok, time for the Official Google Test:
    Results 1 - 10 of about 335,000 for "blah blah blog". (0.08 seconds)
    335,000. Damn.

  • How bad do I want to see/be a part of/at least hang out with The Rock Bottom Remainders? Read the Quotations section. LOVE IT.

  • Nice bumper sticker: "At least we're winning the war on the environment."

  • In case you were wondering about car insurance companies: Mercury Insurance SUCKS ASS. Geico rules.

  • Quotation of the week:
    "Night, I have discovered, has a faintly bitter taste, caused by its large ingredient of Unattained Possibility."
    --Christopher Morley in John Mistletoe (according to p198 of Sixpence House)

  • What is it with emotional attachment to clothes? I almost NEVER wear t-shirts anymore but I have huuuuuge stacks of them that I can't get rid of because of some kind of crazy nostalgia. T-shirts, folks. WTF?

  • The Falling Sand Game is kind of fantastic. It's considered the Best Time Waster on The Best of Everything blog, which is in itself an ok time waster but not as good as the same guy's blog Thinking the Lions which I quite like. [Hey, he commented on egg salad! Woo-hoo!]

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Top Six Reasons I Love Yoga

...specifically, Dario's Mixed-Level Flow class at Annie's Yoga:

0. "Feel how wonderful it is to be in your eskin." Dario has an accent, but you don't notice it that often. Words that start with 's' do sometimes acquire an extra vowel sound at the beginning, like in the espeech of many eSpanish espeakers, and I love it, both the reminder to feel good in my skin (why should we need reminding of this?? God!) and the particular cadence of it with Dario's accent.

1. "This moment here and now is for you and you alone."

2. "Open your eyes, from bottom to top." My first thought the first time I heard this was, "What other way is there to open one's eyes?"
But then eventually I slowed my crazy brain enough to slo-o-owly open my eyes, so I could really feel the bottom-to-topness of it, and it's fantastic, especially when you are opening your eyes to a dimly lit yoga studio, looking at yourself in the mirror sitting cross-legged like a yogi. I think of the Southern Oracle from "The Never-Ending Story" every time! Only, in a calm, meditative way, not in a "Run Atreyu, Run!" kind of way (that link takes you to a video clip of just that bit of the movie!).

3. "You brought yourself here, you did the work, the credit is all yours."

4. a) "Deep, conscious, luxious breathing."
    b) "Lubricate the pose with your breath."
Ok, yes, I'm not sure what exactly is meant by this word luxious which may or may not actually exist... but I think of it as a mix of "luscious" and "luxurious" and the idea that my breath can be luscious and luxurious... yum! So great. Lubrication? My breath can lubricate motion? Amazing, Dario, amazing.

5. "Watch your eyes." I love language. I love that you can say a construction like this which on paper would be so clearly meaningless, and yet it can make sense. I love that not only *can* you say it and make sense, but Dario *does* say it, at the end of every class, after the lights-dimmed "final relaxation" stage, before he turns the normal lights back on. It's sweet of him to warn us, and it's even more than sweet of him to remind me, at the end of yoga class, that I love language.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it. --- P.J. O'Rourke

So, there are two definitions of cynical, as I understand the word. I used to just know your basic one, the meaning of this word that basically makes it a synonym for pessimist, or vaguely "suspicious or distrustful, especially of people's motives". But I learned the political meaning from an ex-boyfriend and this is a much subtler shade that I've found hard to articulate. I recently read the following definition in this article in New York magazine:

In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, a seminal social-science book that’s a de facto primer on effective political communication, sociologist Erving Goffman gives a great deal of thought to how people show themselves to the world, viewing all forms of human interaction as a kind of managed drama. "When the individual has no belief in his own act and no ultimate concern with the beliefs of his audience," he writes, "we may call him cynical..."

and I think that does a good job of articulating the political definition, what you mean when you say that Bush or the GOP or the RWNM are cynical.

Why did we go through that exercise in defining our terms? Because I am cynical (classic definition) enough to believe that the aforementioned Current Administration is cynical (new definition) enough to have the endgame for the war in Iraq all figured out NOT to maximize stability in the Middle East, NOT to minimize lives lost, NOT to best smooth the transition to a self-governing democratic power, but instead to maximize political gain in an election year. By which I mean: I listened to a lot of General Petraeus' report and I listened to a lot of commentary on that report and I've read a lot of different opinions on pull-out strategies and things. And people talk about shit like "staying the course" vs. "bring our boys home" vs. "the surge has been successful" vs. "the surge has been a failure" vs. blah blah blah and you know what?

I don't think that what the Bush Administration will do vis-a-vis sending troops there or bringing troops home has anything at all to do with the actual current on-the-ground situation. I think it has to do with next year's ELECTIONS AND THAT'S IT.

I think that the administration has a detailed plan to "bring our boys home" on a schedule that is precisely calculated to maximize voter approval and nothing else. I think that troops will start being sent home in greater and greater numbers as the elections get closer simply because that will make voters happy, (while ending the war and/or bringing them home now would cause an upswing in popularity that won't last long enough to maximize outcome at the polls). Right now Bush can keep saying we're staying the course and doing whatever is necessary for victory blahblahblah and then in six months say "you see, we stayed when it was right to stay even against pressure not to stay, and NOW that it's the right to leave we're going to leave"... we're so strong, we believe in what's right not just what the crazy liberals are pressuring us to do, we know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.... see how great we are, we're bringing the boys home now because now is the right time... and all of this to MAXIMIZE VOTES, almost completely without regard for what is actually happening in Iraq. That's what I think is going to happen.

It's perfect. What can liberals or Democrats say when they get what they want, what they called for? "Thanks, Mr. Bush," meekly? How can they complain when that happens? The rug will have been swept out from under their righteous indignation, the Republicans who stuck by Bush even when inside they were doubting can put on their smuggest faces and their I-knew-it-all-along buttons and our next president will be More Of The Same, leaving the Democrats wide-eyed in the dust crying, "How did this happen?"...


[editor's notes: a) i almost never write or talk about politics, so don't expect much like this, thank god and b) i wrote this two weeks ago and didn't post it because i had already posted six things that day or whatever and c) since then i've only become more convinced there is a strategy for pull-out on an election schedule, not a war/life/peace schedule. i'm very nearly cynical enough to believe some kind of terrorist or war event is actually scheduled to occur or be allowed to occur to maximize political gain in the presidential race, but i'm scared to admit that. maybe there's a terrorist plot that the administration already knows about but is letting go on longer so that they can swoop in and save us at a more politically opportune time? that way no one has to actually die for it, specifically... ok, enough, back to your irregularly scheduled doses of the vagaries of the life of RDB.]

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Donate your frequent flyer miles HERE!!!

Oh man. Have I ever wanted to still be on the East Coast more? If you know me, you know I have one or two minor obsessions. No, ASIDE from ice cream, thank you. Have you seen my profile icon? Have you seen my watch? My apartment?

The whole love of Wonder Woman began for me with Lynda Carter. There is no other. Please please please don't you want to buy me a plane ticket?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

iDaven, uDaven, we-all-Daven for... oh boy.

Wow. WOW! Wow. Check out the iDaven for iPod. This is for real, my friendschaverim.
With iDaven, there's no need to carry a spare Siddur with you for those Mincha moments – just open your iPod and pray! No need to search your purse for a bentcher – you've got your iPod! Sitting in the plane, Tefilat HaDerech is a breeze - read it on your iPod!
I love it.

It wouldn't be as fantastic as the ChaiPod except that that's a spoof; this is a Real Product for Real Jews! Awesome.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oh, the irony!

You may have noticed, depending on what browser you use, when you were last here, if ever, and how observant you are, that this blog has a little helicopter as its "favicon", ever since last week. I was reading someone else's blog that I like and noticed that her favicon wasn't the usual white-B-on-orange-background icon of every other Blogger page and it was instantly clear that if she could change hers, then I had to change mine. So I googled to find some code and the right place to stick it and viewed the page source of a couple of good pages that used favicons, because that's how you learn things about html and xml, by mooching, and I tried for a very short time to design my own icon and gave up on that pretty quickly, and then just decided I'd find one that I liked and steal it. Because that's how you do things on the web, by mooching.

What's so ironic about stealing a helicopter favicon? The page I stole it from is about favicons. Really - here's the post from

Monday, September 24, 2007


Hey, you know that old Fandango trailer, the one from the Land Before Paper Bag Puppets, the one where the guy is trying to weasel his way into a sold-out movie with such clever lines as "I work for Mr. Fandango" and "There's a wild Fandango loose, in the theater. Rraaahh!" ? You know that one?

I want that one.

It's from 2001 or something, so it's not on youtube. What, something exists which isn't on youtube? Well, here's hoping one of you is a better googler than me or whatever, because I WANT THAT TRAILER.

And I've wanted it for a long time. Witness, if you will, the following email exchange, and note the dates on it. Impressive, no?

A query!
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 14:03:12 -0500
From: <RDB's work address, back in the day>
Subject: there's a wild fandango loose... in the theater

Hello. This is a ridiculous message but...
We LOVE the fandango commercial. Is it anywhere on the web that we can download it? We LOVE it. It's ridiculous. All day long.. "rah!". Please can you post the commercial somewhere that we can get it, or send it to me, or something?
thank you.
A reply!
Subject: RE: there's a wild fandango loose... in the theater
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 15:06:21 -0800
From: "SL" <**>

My name is SL and I'm with Thanks for the positive feedback. I'm glad to hear that you like our Mr. Fandango commercial. We actually get quite a few similar requests to post this commercial on our web site for our customers to view.

Unfortunately, we do not have the rights to distribute this commercial digitally. When commercials, tv shows, and films are created, many people involved in the creation of the content reserve the right to determine how the content can be distributed. In this way, actors, directors, etc. ensure that they are fairly compensated for their work and ultimately have more control of how their work is used. We were only given the rights to distribute the commercial for viewing in theaters.

Thanks again for your interest and be on the lookout for a new Fandango commercial.


You have to like this woman for replying at all, even if the message was a little condescending, but you have to LOVE her for closing with ...rah!

So: can you find it for me? You win my undying love and gratitude.

(Yes, I realize that the people who'd be willing to go through any serious effort to find this for me are the same people who already have my undying love and gratitude. So what they get is... um... Coldstone's, my treat? A comparable reward, I think.)

Friday, September 21, 2007

"If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

I have just (and I mean just) read A Man Without A Country by Kurt Vonnegut. I found it accidentally today in a used book store (which bookstore I also found accidentally today) and brought it home and then sat down and read it. And loved it. And having just finished it and closed it and glanced at the back (I almost never do this before reading a book, only afterward) I see now that the New York Times Book Review says that reading it is "like sitting down on the couch for a long chat with an old friend."

I'd have to agree.

I'm not even the biggest Vonnegut-head; it's not that I liked it because I am crazy about every book he ever wrote, though I know there are many people out there that do feel that way. It's actually been quite a long while since I read one of his novels.

Anyway, it's a very quick easy read, in the sense that it doesn't have a lot of pages and the printing is very big, plus there are illustrations and Vonnegut doesn't use a lot of long words. But it's good, and I guess what "good" means to me in this context is that it gave me a lot of things to think about and caused me to jump up out of my chair once or twice, and I sure love that feeling.

It's the Eve of Yom Kippur, often said to be the holiest day of the year in Judaism. (I may even go to temple tonight, on my own, for services, something that hasn't happened in... oh, ever.)
Therefore, the quotation I'll give you tonight from KV is religious in nature, sort of:
For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break! (p98)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

But it's different from just anything meta...

I love all the egg salads you guys put in the comments. Awesome! Keep going!
I encountered a new one today myself:
When you buy stamps online, the post office charges you shipping. Yes indeed.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Egg Salad: a game

So my friends and I used to play a game we called "Egg Salad", and here's how it goes: you try to find things that are new things but are really just combinations of one item and another form of that same item. What is egg salad? It is eggs plus mayonnaise. What is mayonnaise? Eggs! So egg salad is eggs + eggs.

Other basic food examples are things like cucumber salad, which is usually cucumber (and yogurt) sauce on cucumbers. Or ice cream with whipped cream on top. Buttered croissant? Or... well, I can't think of many right now, but you can, and you'll tell them to me in comments.

Anyway, the game got extended to include metaphorical or more figurative things. One of my all-time favorites was this: my ex-boyfriend came running to tell me that he got dental floss stuck between his teeth.

In 2004, I wrote him email to explain that I had just washed my drying rack for dishes. Now that it's clean but wet, I asked, what do I do with it?

He tried karaoke once, in an egg salad kind of way: the song he sang was by Milli Vanilli. (This is kind of reverse-egg salad. It should have been lip-synching, not karaoke, right?)

McSweeney's once had a pretty good one: Thumb

I'm mentioning this now because I just bought a bag of chip clips, you know, those little plastic clips that you use to hold plastic bags of potato chips and the like closed. I think you see where I'm going with this... I used a chip clip to close up a bag of chip clips:

(See how much fun this can be? Get this meme in your head and it will occur to you at extremely odd moments... which you then immediately need to tell me about.)

Look at that! I post this post and then am wasting time reading some new blog I happened on today that I like and the guy has a PERFECT example of egg salad, a really nice one. He has a task to do, a (in his words) "Herculean task". He needs to throw away a garbage can. Oh, the beauty of good egg salad.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Go. To. Bed.         Now.

Seriously? Am I seriously up this late AGAIN for no reason? Ok, am I seriously up this late again reading everything Lore Sjöberg's ever written? I mean, it's not like he's new to me, I was all over Brunching Shuttlecocks way back when. I already *know* Lore Brand Comics, folks, this isn't news. Why am I still awake? Oh, he has six other sites? Great. And I need to read this "Bad Gods" one for sixty zillion hours? Great. For example: The Battle for the Feminist Bookstore

In unrelated news:

Madeleine L'Engle has died. Sigh.

Also, here's more from The New Yorker: Has a remote Amazonian tribe upended our understanding of language? Is Pirahã "a 'severe counterexample' to the theory of universal grammar"? And how funny is the bit about how they enjoyed watching "King Kong"?

Tip of the hat to Philip Greenspun's blog for the link.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Los Angeles, I'm yours.

So, I haven't lived in Los Angeles for even three years yet, but I think I've done pretty well at getting around and doing all the famous LA *stuff*. Let's take an accounting, because Lord knows how much I love lists:

As of last week (thanks, Scot!), I've been to the Hollywood Bowl four times, and I even performed there once (in SummerSounds!). I have not yet been to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

I've seen one concert at the Kodak Theatre (Shlomo Artzi and Shalom Chanoch) and I'VE PERFORMED THERE YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH (with Keshet Chaim, opening the show for the Idan Raichel Project concert.)

I've been to movies at the ArcLight (and Universal CityWalk), but not yet at the Chinese or the El Capitan or the Egyptian or the Silent Movie Theatre...

I've seen three shows at UCLA's Royce Hall, none of which I had to pay for. Twice I won tickets to dance performances (one FANTASTIC flamenco show and one pretty lame fusiony modern thing) from KPCC, and the third time my date had won the tickets on K-Mozart.

I saw Wicked at the Pantages, but so far I haven't been to the Ahmanson, the Ford, the Greek, the Mark Taper Forum or the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I *clearly* need to go to more shows. I have been to see the Groundlings.

I've been to Universal Studios, Disneyland, and twice to Magic Mountain. I feel comfortable not even bothering to put California Adventure on my list, from what I've heard. I have fantastic memories of Knott's Berry Farm from when I was a kid, but I haven't been there in over a decade. I've been to the Magic Castle!

I saw Michael Penn and Patton Oswalt at the Largo.

Hell, I was here for hardly a year before I ended up dancing on TV: WEEDS season two, episode six. The creator of the show wrote Israeli dancing into the episode because of me. If that's not a good I-moved-to-LA story, I don't know what is.

I've been to a Dodgers game and a Kings game. I went to a UCLA game at the Rose Bowl (but haven't been to the Tournament of Roses yet). Still to see: Clippers, Angels, Lakers... Galaxy? Sparks?

I've been to the Getty (actually, I did that once before moving here, but also once since. Dying to go to the Getty Villa in Malibu. I've been to the Craft and Folk Art Museum, and I saw the Magritte exhibit at LACMA. Nearly went in to the La Brea Tar Pits, but then didn't. Haven't been to the Autry yet.

I've hiked in Griffith Park and Topanga Canyon, but not nearly enough. I haven't been to the Observatory yet, but I really want to go. Also have not been to the Watts Towers yet.

*I've* spent a day on Catalina; have you? I'VE RIDDEN THE SUBWAY! (Turns out it's not just an urban legend that we have one. Who knew?)

The most true proof that I live here now? I've been a member of Bodies in Motion, World Gym, Barry's Bootcamp, and now, 24 Hour Fitness. Sigh.

I love it here; I'm lonely here.
(And I clearly need to spend more time near CalTech, because MY INNER GEEK IS STARVING FOR COMPANY.)

(Seems only appropriate at this point to give a quick shout-out to MetroBlogging LA.)

Friday, September 7, 2007

I swear, Ira Flatow = Alan Alda. Listen to that voice!

I'm a little bit baffled by a segment on Science Friday this week. (God, what could be geekier than "Science Friday"? It's not just science-on-the-radio, it's you're-listening-to-the-radio-on-Friday-night-because-you-have-no-life. And you're listening to SCIENCE. Wow.)

Here's what the piece was about, according to the show's website:
"Ira talks with author Alan Weisman about what the world might be like if humans were suddenly to disappear from the planet. Would a human-free Earth be more environmentally friendly? Would a sudden removal of humans disrupt the planet's ecosystems still more? In his book The World Without Us (St. Martin's Press, 2007), Weisman says that in as little as two days without human intervention, the New York City subway system would be flooded -- and in as little as a year after a mass human disappearance, every nuclear power plant on Earth would have run out of coolant and failed or melted down. How long would it take the planet to heal itself after humans left?"

Now, this sounds mostly reasonable; certainly the bare question of "what happens to the Earth without us" is interesting and the answers seem to be interesting as well. What I don't totally don't understand are the judgments about how the planet would be "better off" without humans, or how the planet would "heal itself", implying we make it sick, or what "more environmentally friendly" from the above blurb can possibly mean.

I've actually wondered about this for decades, since I was in elementary school and there was a "Save the Earth" campaign. Now, I TOTALLY understand that people have a particular impact on the Earth and that we are and have been changing its temperature, rainfall, climate patterns, etc. I am not at all skeptical about global warming; I understand about the hole in the ozone layer; I understand about depleting resources and introducing all kinds of specific chemicals into the environment and cutting down trees and all of these things. ANNNNNNNNND I understand that what we are doing and have done is making the Earth less habitable for humans. WTF does that have to do with the absolute "health" of the planet?? It's clear that there's a particular balance of chemicals and water and temperatures that need to be present to make a planet hospitable to human beings and other life forms that we know and love, but who says that that balance is "good" for the planet? IT'S GOOD FOR US. THAT'S IT. Isn't it? What am I missing?

If "Save the Earth" is shorthand for "Save the Earth in its current state because we need it that way to live comfortably on it" then I accept that and have no beef. But. BUT! But what about this "would the planet heal itself", thing? There are other planets out there. They don't have the same climates as our planet. They're still *fine*, as far as they're concerned, aren't they? They're not inherently unstable or about to break apart or somehow "sick", are they? They just don't support human life. Let's say that if we were to continue polluting/depleting/etc exactly as we are now, in some number of years Earth will get hot and there won't be any water, and living things won't be supported, and let's say Earth becomes exactly like Mars. I know that's bad for US, but how is it bad for EARTH? WTF does Earth care?

"Would a human-free Earth be more environmentally friendly?"

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY TO WHOM?? If the message is something along the lines of "without humans, it would take x years to return to a state of perfectness for supporting humans", who gives a shit, on account of that whole WITHOUT HUMANS part?

I'm confused.

(But damn, I also learned from this show that the wild form of the regular old carrots we know and love is Queen Anne's Lace, a beautiful flower that I remember growing near my Grandmother's house in Queens. Carrots! Who knew?)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Jews live in the city; the Israelis live in the Valley.

Just saw the following on Simple To Remember and thought it was interesting (if a few years old):

Metropolitan Tel Aviv, with 2.5 million Jews, is the world's largest Jewish city. It is followed by New York, with 1.9 million, Haifa 655,000, Los Angeles 621,000, Jerusalem 570,000, and southeast Florida 514,000.

Which is to say, in RDB-centric terms, that outside of Israel, the world's three largest Jewish cities are NY, LA, and SE Florida. I have lived in four places in my life; those are three of them.

No you don't.

Does anyone actually throw spaghetti against a wall to see if it's done? I mean, *actually throw* it? Come on, now.

The definition of yo-yo dieting?

Have you ever heard of the Johnson Upday Downday Diet?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Hapworth 3, 2007

I've never really been a newspaper reader, a fact that has brought me varying levels of embarrassment over the years. Now that I listen to NPR for hours every day, I have no problem with my non-newspaper habits. I also have never subscribed to the New Yorker, although I spent many years living with various people who did, so I got to read it a lot. Now I subscribe to Harper's Magazine, and that's enough for me, thank you; it's monthly and it's dense, and if I attempted to read a weekly or a daily or probably even an additional monthly, I'd never read anything else. I much prefer to continue my book habit as it currently stands.

Anyway, so since I've never read any newspaper regularly, I've of course never read The New York Times regularly, though I've also lived with subscribers to that on and off for many years. For a while, I was very into the Sunday New York Times Magazine, and a lazy Sunday morning spent reading it. I used to joke that I didn't have to read the whole thing; the game was to find the inevitable reference to J D Salinger and then I could stop. Honestly, it was *always* there. Always. Once it was on the very last page, in the crossword puzzle, but it was there.

So, a friend of mine has read New York magazine for years, and every time I look at that one, I sort of sigh and wish that I read it (and that I still lived in New York). It seems to be just my flavor of humor and pseudo-intellectualness and snarkiness and artsiness and well, perhaps if I did live in NY, I'd subscribe. This friend visited me here in LA recently and left behind a few issues for me to read. I was just now finishing up one of them, having enjoyed it but still feeling relieved that I didn't have to do it every week. I felt a sense of total freedom to page very quickly through and past all the "this week in NY" listings, since a) it's from about two months ago and b) I'm not in NY... and then there it was: a call-out box entitled "A Perfect Day for Bananafish". Do *all* publications with NY in their names have to contain a Salinger reference?? Does this really happen every week in this one too? Do I get to play the game again with the other three issues she left me? Oh, the joy :)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Don't read this title.

Did I really just post a blog post about what lame-ass thing I cooked for dinner? I'm sorry. To redeem myself, I offer these:

a) Walk Score. See how walkable your neighborhood is. Got this one from Neon Specs - thanks!

b) Index card art. Some I like are here and this one and that one.

I reaaaaaally want to go to the LA County Fair - wanna go with?? And maybe even the West Hollywood Book Fair, which is September 30th. What time should I pick you up?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What, me cook?!

Yeah yeah, you all got stuck on that "I cooked dinner" line in Monday's post. The thing is: I did, in fact, cook dinner. When I was in Boston, I stayed with some friends (abnormally good cooks, as it happens) who went to the fishmonger's, bought some scallops, and made them for dinner the night I stayed with them. They were soooooo good and it looked soooooo easy! So at the supermarket the other day, I thought, I could do that: and I did. Well, sort of. I did buy some fish, and I did cook it and eat it for dinner. I won't say it was, you know, good or anything, but it was at least... edible.

I cooked dinner AGAIN tonight, you'll be shocked to learn. It actually was really delicious, too, you'll be even more shocked to learn. Of course, it was a lot easier than fish; it was pasta. It's hard to screw up pasta. BUT, it was whole-wheat pasta, and I had this great sundried-tomato-and-olive tomato sauce and I added in a bag of frozen okra/tomatoes/onions/peppers, and I added in turkey meatballs, and this may sound like lame-o faux-cooking to you, but this is big news for me. It was GOOD! And I didn't eat the whole thing at once, either, which is always a danger when I cook.

Good thing, too: I used the *whole* box of pasta and the *whole* bag of veggies and the *whole* can of sauce and the *whole* box of turkey, so added up that's 2520 calories and 51 grams of fat. Two or three meals for sure, but am I really supposed to eat this for FIVE or SIX meals?

God, is this exactly the sort of post NO ONE WANTS TO READ? Is this a post of the "I got up and turned off my alarm and brushed my teeth. Then I deliberated: the red shirt or the blue shirt? In the end I settled on the green..." sort?? Sheesh.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Ideal Day. The Idle Day? The Idyll... with an idol?

If you spend any amount of time in my brain, you know that I devote large portions of it to the question of How To Live My Life, and what that really means is How To Spend My Time, which is to say... scheduling. God I spend a lot of time on scheduling.

There are a number of good reasons for this (and that number is: zero. I always, always want to say that when I hear someone use the phrase "there are a number of x"... what a dumb phrase.) There are a number of good reasons for this, chief among them that I have four jobs and if I didn't devote some mental cycles to scheduling, I'd never be in the right place at the right time with the right equipment and I'd soon no longer have four jobs. Another reason is that my Ideal Day is the Idle Day, meaning that without a schedule (and often, a task list), I'd kind of never do anything... aside from, you know: read, sleep, and eat. Mmmmm....

But there are millions of things I want to do (aka "everything") and so I spend lots of time thinking about how to spend my time. Yes, probably I should spend less time thinking/planning/preparing and more time doing, but that doesn't come naturally to me. I'm good at the part of scheduling that requires juggling jobs and writing things down on calendars and Outlook. What I'm always thinking about is how to spend the rest of my time, my so-called "free" time. For example: a few of the things I most want to do when I'm not working are 0) write 1) learn Hebrew 2) do yoga / run / work out / take dance classes and 3)correspond more with people, like write letters, send birthday cards, make phone calls.

We interrupt this blog post to stick out our tongue at everyone who has something to say on the subject of our inability to make phone calls. THPPFFT! as Bill the Cat would say.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled self-absorbed out-loud musings.

So last year I had a lot of unstructured time, and I wondered constantly about the best way to fit those things into my life. Should I spend 10:00-11:00 writing, and then 11:00-12:00 on letters and phone calls and then 1:00-2:00 on Hebrew, every "free" day? Or should it be more like this: Mondays - write. Tuesdays - Hebrew. Wednesdays - correspondence. Always I come up with possibilities like this; always Life comes along and gets in the way, and instead of writing at 10am, I sleep in, and then instead of doing whatever at 12, I go for a walk and read my book in the sun, and then at 2 so-and-so calls me up and I go over to her house to hang out, and in the end I'm up very late at night, having done none or nearly none of what I planned, and before going to sleep I resolve that the next day will be different.

How many times can one resolve that Tomorrow Will Be Different? Ha!

Now honestly, I don't mind all that much, if I have indeed spent a day sleeping in, going for a walk and reading my book in the sun, and then hanging out with a friend. That's a damn good day. It's more the time I spend doing nothing, or somehow putzing around, or refreshing facebook 80 times a minute... how do I spend so much time doing... nothing? I don't know.

Because I am very good at always being where I'm "supposed" to be when "supposed to" includes the world outside of my head, I use that as often as possible. I see that I never just sit down with my Hebrew books and get my learning on, so I sign up for (and pre-pay for - always a strong motivator for me) Hebrew classes in some adult-ed program, and then I *have* to go and I do go. I don't always spend enough out-of-class time studying, I don't always do my homework in a timely fashion, but at the very least I show up to class. So I'm usually in good shape with a particular activity if I can basically move it from the "free time" category to the "structured time" category, if I can stick it in Outlook and label it recurring. Part of the success of that is that other people are, if not depending on me, then at last expecting me. Another part is, as I've said, the fear of losing money that I've already paid. So that strategy works for certain kinds of things, like studying Hebrew. How do you do that for returning-email-time??

Wow, I've gone far afield today from the topic about which I intended to write. This has gone on entirely too long. What I really meant to say was this: I had a good day, if not an altogether exciting or inspirational one.
I got up early, and was out the door a little after 7am. (ungodly early, in my opinion, but I'm still on EST so it wasn't too painful) (I needed to be Somewhere Important at 8, and I was. I'm rarely late for job-related events.)

After the job-related portion of the day ended, I ran a number (and that number is...) of errands that I had planned to do: I got my car washed, I went to the post office, I got my eyebrows waxed. (TMI? Ha!)

Then a friend *did* call and invite me to come over for dinner, and I accepted, even though it meant throwing over my plans to go to the gym, cook dinner, and do more prep work for the rest of this week.

Here's where it gets crazy: a few minutes later, I called back and said I'd changed my mind. Instead of going over there, I WENT TO THE GYM, COOKED DINNER, AND DID MORE PREP WORK FOR THIS WEEK.

Well, and spent entirely too long on this entirely-too-long post.

Does it feel good to have had that sort of a day? It does, though it's lonelier than having seen my friends, and it's getting late at night and because I have spent this long writing, I haven't done nearly as much work as I could have / should have done. But still: perhaps this should be the Plan for Mondays...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Home Sweet Home: summary style

Well, a whirlwind of East Coast experiences behind me once again. Spent ten days; saw about a zillion old friends. Visited old locales that haunt my memories (Levittown!) checked out some places I'd never been before (Coney Island!). Met a great many babies and babies-to-be. In close proximity, got to dip my nose into the lives of so many people living their lives differently from one another... these just bought a 200-acre farm in New Hampshire; these are spending their free time canning fruit and freezing vegetables so they can live on only locally-grown food all year long even though they live in cold cold Boston; this one is going back to school as an undergrad at age 34; this one is younger than I am and is a successful lawyer who also happens to have a artistic/creative outlet in dancing, the output of which alone would be a successful career for someone employed in dance. These have grown or growing kids and 9-to-5 jobs and spend their free time fixing up their houses and enjoying the American dream, each in their own special way. This one is eight months pregnant, that one had a little boy two weeks ago, these just had their daughter on their son's first birthday.

And then there's me, constantly absorbed in the question of How To Live. And meanwhile, living.

And as always, wanting.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

NY state of mind

A quickie - I'm in New York and Boston for the next ten days, visiting everyone I've ever known. Do we have plans yet? I'm not bringing my laptop (ouch!!) but I should have occasional access to computers so... look for east coast updates when I can, or big bunch o' stories when I get back.

thanks for reading! seriously.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The tagline of Tatsu is "fly at the speed of fear".

So, if you're following along at home, you know that I'm at camp, the summer's almost over, and that I'm somehow really into trying new things. So the day after the horseback ride was Magic Mountain/earthquake day, and the day after that I went on my first-ever mountain biking ride. It wasn't too intense of a ride, but it was reallllllly fun and I got to go to new places in camp that I hadn't seen before (i.e. the breathtakingly unexciting and disappointing old well) and I really enjoyed it. The craziest part was the downhill way-back (as opposed to the huff-and-puff uphill way-there) and going uncontrollably fast over a former creek bed which is now all rocks. All I could do was hold on for dear life and hope I kept going on the trail and didn't fall off - gritted teeth, slotted eyes, held breath... love it! Why? Why do we love this, and roller coasters, and fear-as-fun?

Reinhold Messner, the world's most accomplished mountain climber, gave an interview in the November 2006 National Geographic. “Without the possibility of death,” says Messner, “adventure is not possible.”

Think that's it?

(On the last bit of the bike ride, I did something else for the first time ever, something I've sort of been trying to do for weeks: I rode with no hands! Well, I still technically had hands, but I didn't use them to hold on while I rode. It was really easy on the camp's mountain bike, even though I hadn't been able to do it at all on my own bike. I'm kinda thinking maybe it's time to upgrade from my $30 Target special. Whatcha think? And if I am gonna spend a little more for a Real Bike, what kind? How much? From where? Help!)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Coasters and other earth-shaking news

What if you were riding a roller coaster, and there was an earthquake while you were on it, like at some crazy high scary moment??

I know, this is a crazy question and would be a crazy coincidence if it happened, what are the chances, etc. Except... well, I live in California now, and I went to Six Flags Magic Mountain last night and went on SUPERAMAZINGSCARYAWESOME roller coasters, and then there was an earthquake.


First of all: last night was definitely in keeping with the do-what-you're-afraid-of theme, because while I like roller coasters, I'm no crazy fearless do-em-all kind. But I was with a whole bunch of people, and we were all having a really great time, and I had a buddy to hold my hand, and... well, check it out: Colossus (great classic wooden one to getcha started...clickclickclick on the incline....) and then Scream (oh, I did indeed. This one was great.) and then Batman (um, kind of sucked. Skip it.) And then... WOW: I rode GOLIATH. Wow. And then.

And then.
And then roller coastering changed for me forever. I rode Tatsu and let me tell you, it is a new genre of roller coaster. The website says this is "the tallest, fastest and longest flying coaster on Earth." You gotta try this shit. You will never come closer to actually flying than this thing. It's unbelievable. It's amazing. I almost cried.

And if the park weren't closed by that time, I would have ridden it again. And again. Wow.

So, yeah, and then I got back to camp and was checking my email and there was an earthquake. And apparently, although it was absolutely the first real earthquake I ever felt in my entire life, it was only a minor aftershock of a quake in Chatsworth. (Wow: just added the link above to the reuters article about the quake, and it totally mentions my favorite thing about the Valley, as documented here previously. Love it!)

What a day.

Hope all my bookcases are home are still standing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Practice what you preach, Or, why Scared Is Ok.

I have a lot to say on the subject of doing stuff you're afraid of. The bottom line is: I believe in it. I think being scared is good and healthy, and going ahead and doing stuff even though you're afraid of it is also (often) good and healthy. Being scared is only not ok if it stops you from doing stuff, from living, from trying new things. Camp always makes me think about this, and inspires me a little, because I spend a lot of time encouraging kids to try new activities or to do things they are scared of. I think I never say, "Don't be afraid." I just say, "It's ok to be afraid, but do it anyway." And then someone asks me if I want to climb the tower or go on a horseback ride, and what can I do but accept?

The result: my butt is going to be very sore, and I've seen yet more bits of our amazing 3,000-acre property that I never saw before. Love it.

Hooray for camp.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads...

a) I know, I've been falling behind on the posting. Ten days to go until I'm outta camp, yeah!! Deep thoughts to come.

b) I know, you've already read this, because I'm the one out of the loop. But in case you haven't, this article about class distinctions as mirrored by Myspace and Facebook is pretty interesting.

c) I played "trading lessons" again on Tuesday; I taught the Lion a dance and he gave me an army-style workout... so now I can't move and everything hurts. Ouch! Also got into the batting cage again and hit some slightly faster balls. Love it!! Really want to spend more time in there and see how fast I can hit. Doubly inspired after reading Shoeless Joe last weekend on the plane ride to and from New York.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

'cause I believe in trading lessons...

So i'm back at camp for a month already (and more than a month to go) and that means i'm out of the world in a way that no one really believes - the president could have a heart attack and we may not hear about it until we get out in august - my mom told me the other day that she was sick and i asked if she took the day off from work and she informed me that it was sunday, i'd never have known - i live in a universe that's vaguely lord-of-the-flies, i'm literally one of the oldest staff members, the most common age of staff member is 19 and i hang out with them and sometimes fit in and sometimes soooooo not - and it's strange and out of my world and yet also back to my world, in a way, since it's now my fourth summer here, in this environment, with these people, my second in this very room... and it all blends together but it doesn't, some things are so different in character year to year, like the precise flavor of my loneliness, always a little different. and the ideas of What Summer Should Be and how i could spend this special gift of out-of-world time that i have, vs the reality of What Summer Is and Becomes and Fails to Be, always there knocking on the door...

Hey, I did two new fabulous things today!

I hit some balls in the batting cage, which wasn't just the first time I hit balls in a batting cage from a pitching machine but the first time in recorded history that I hit any moving ball with a bat ever. I mean, I can remember once playing tee-ball in elementary school and THAT'S IT. Never a pitched ball that I can remember. Wow. I didn't suck, either. Wonder if I'll be sore in weird places tomorrow just 'cause it's a new movement and that's what always happens.

Also: I learned a basic samba rhythm and got to play it on a flamenco drum, the cajón. The fingers on my left hand are already starting to swell. Yeah!

Monday, July 2, 2007


LibraryThing. I'll never get to sleep. Cotton, I blame you.

My God, I have an author cloud of my own. I will NEVER get to bed.

Man, the unsuggestions are hysterical.

For more book-geek fun, check out a few of these spine stories also.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Only at camp.

This actually happened last summer, but I'm living in the same room so I was reminded of it on my way in tonight:

From the doorstep of my room at camp, one looks down onto the tennis court and basketball courts...

Ok, quick digression because it's too fabulous not to mention: like most things at Jew Camps everywhere, nearly every square foot of my camp is named after someone who donated the money to make that spot happen. For many many years, Judge Joseph Wapner and his wife Mickey have been patrons and supporters of the Institute that houses my camp. They gave the money for the courts. They are... the People's courts. Ohhhhh yes.

So: from the doorstep of my room at camp, one looks down onto the tennis court and basketball courts and one evening I stepped out of my room and did just that. There, under the basketball hoop, were some staff members hanging out during their free time. One was sitting on the ground with her computer, using the wireless internet signal from the office. A few others were sitting on the ground a few feet away, learning how to light a fire using a bow drill.

Wireless internet/fire without a match. Only at camp.

Except, I broke three nails doing it.

So, I was in the dining hall for breakfast at 8:20 this morning, as every day. And between then and now (5pm), I've had exactly three (non-consecutive) hours during which I was not teaching dancing somewhere or eating lunch back in the dining hall. In those three hours, I did not once come back to my room, though I could have. I didn't sleep or read or eat. During the first free hour, I played (and learned) frisbee. During the second hour, I joined a bunk for their mountain biking ride. During the third hour, I played frisbee.

Who is this and what has happened to RDB? More on this later 'cuz this is serious.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"Miss, I found out for you what the soup du jour is. It's 'the soup of the day'."

I'm in the town where I work, out on lunch break, looking for the local post office so I can turn in my temporary mail-forwarding form and buy some forever stamps (how romantic of a name!). I'm driving, and I call toll-free assistance and get the 800 number for USPS. I call them:

Me: Hi! I'm trying to find the nearest post office but I don't know what zipcode I'm in.
P.O. guy: Then I can't help you, I'm sorry. Have a good day.
Me: Wait, I can't just give you the name of the city and state?
P.O.: No, I need a zipcode.
Me: Ok, well, then, I need to find a zipcode.
P.O.: Ok, what's the city and state?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Like, written with a PEN. On PAPER.

If you know me in Real Life (or "meatspace", as some would have it, but that kind of grosses me out), you probably know that I'm about to leave for sleep-away camp. Which MEANS, clearly, that you need to haul out the stationery and the stickers and send me at least ONE hand-written snail-mail old-school tear-it-open LETTER between now and August 12th. If you don't know the address, check out my eponymous website. Hope your summer is as fun and crazy as mine! Deep breath...

(No, this doesn't mean I for sure won't be posting until August 12th. I've gotten a little bit addicted to this, so it'll probably continue. That does NOT relieve you of your above-mentioned obligations :)

(No, you dope, to *work* at sleep-away camp. I am, hard as it is to believe, no longer 16 :)

For example

So I got these fabulously glamorous acrylic nails and a french manicure. (This, from a girl who refuses to wear make-up? Welcome to Contradiction City, population: me.) And they're pretty long and pretty impressive. And a Kindergartener says to me, in the way that only a six-year-old can, when life is still simple and every word has its clear and obvious opposite:

"Wow! Your nails are pretty! Are they real or are they pretend?"

Monday, June 11, 2007

"The best tour I took was with a group of radical reference librarians in town for the Anarchist Bookfair in Golden Gate Park."

"The question of accessibility is a question of invitation: will individuals feel
invited to participate in and contribute to a democratic culture or will they live
in a world where most content is corporate-owned and -provided? The
promise of the Internet-as-Alexandria is more than the roiling plenitude of
information. It's the ability of individuals to choreograph that information
in idiosyncratic ways, the hope that individuals might feel invited by the
gravitational pull of a broad and open commons to "rip, mix, and burn"-to curate. This new sort of curator, in effect, is one definition of blogger: an amateur experimental librarian for the Internet, the curator of (in blogger/writer Cory Doctorow's phrase) a digital Wunderkammer,
a private informational
choreographer who has made her alignments public."

I love Harper's Magazine.


So, what do you think of the banner? BESIDES that it's too big; I already know that.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Monday, June 4, 2007

the meta-post

So, the thing is, I'm not sure why I started this blog, or why I somehow feel like I should blog, or what exactly is the Point of All This. The blogs that I like are those of real-life friends (I should say, for one in particular, those of real-life fiends!) of mine or those that are pretty specifically and intelligently about a particular topic. So, why should anyone read *my* blog? What do I have to say? Why do you care?

Ok, if you're my friend, maybe you care because you care about me. But still, if I go on and on about nothing, even you can get bored, right?

And what do *I* get out of this? It's not like I specifically need a place to put my daily thoughts and activities; I already have that and it's called my journal and I write in it nearly every single goddamn day without missing any days except in cases of extreme trauma or extreme exhaustion. (In the latter cases, I almost always make up for it the following day. In the former case... well, I broke up with him and eventually got over the block, more or less.)

I have considered a few different aims, or themes, or raisin-duh-etres for this blog, as follows:
0) I sort of started this around the time I started thinking more seriously of writing fiction, so I thought maybe this would be a good place to post bits of that and see what y'all thought (see this post, for example.) But I haven't really been doing that, and none of you posted on *that* particular posting anyway.
1) I already post my quick thoughts on each book that I read, elsewhere on the web, and I thought about expanding that a bit, since I also like to learn new vocabulary from what I've read, keep track of what I recommend, remember quotations from the books, etc... but it's not clear that I need a new place to do that, separate from where I already do it, and I'm clearly not up to reproducing the effort in two places, since I often fall behind in the one place...
2) I am a teacher, and I learn a lot from teaching. Sometimes I think my focus here ought to be recording my thoughts about teaching, since there are lots of days that I lose sight of my so-called "teaching philosophy" or days that I'm not the best teacher I can be, and maybe recording my daily ideas/triumphs/failures/illuminations about all that could be helpful to myself for remembering and possibly even helpful to others. Plus my students say damned funny things sometimes and I've considered the latest-best-kid-ism theme.
3) I believe the original or truest definition of the blog thing was not "here are my musings" or "here are my pictures" or "here's my diary" but "here's a link to something I found somewhere else on the web that you should see, and also here's my original and insightful commentary on that thing". So I've considered doing *that*, but who am I kidding? There are umptimillion people doing that better than I could... I hardly even surf!

Basically, so far this blog is still totally unformed and camp is imminent which means either: you won't hear anything from me for the next nine weeks and then I'll start all over or not, OR, this'll continue to be an unfocused mash of all of those things until a particular urge gets stronger and it becomes Something Real. In the meantime, if you *are* reading, I hope you'll comment and let me know what you think, because I am clearly casting about alone here :)

AND: Dude who claims to be the BoMD: reveal thyself! I'm tired of waiting :)