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!]