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Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. ---- Harry Lime

Of Ghosts and LJ Celebrity Status!

Who knew that “Roosevelt” means “field of roses" in Dutch?

Pas moi.

It’s the kind of detail that might yield me a title since I’m back to playing with the Alice and Eleanor ghost story, and it still lacks both a Peter Quint – you devil! moment and a name. If I can think of a good title, maybe the Peter Quint – you devil! moment will materialize.

eleanor-roosevelt-at-the-home-of-her-mothers-parents-built-with-the-cash-of-her-irish-immigrant-great-grandparents-on-the-property-of-her-british-american-livingston-ancestors1


This is the house in Tivoli to which Eleanor Roosevelt was shipped off after her mother and brother succumbed to diphtheria in 1892. Oak Terrace, it was called; the home of her maternal grandmother, Mrs. Mary Livingston Ludlow Hall, by all accounts a scatter-brained but domineering woman. There is some evidence that Mrs. Ludlow Hall took Eleanor in to gain access to Eleanor’s inheritance.

Mrs. Hall was mad as a hatter apparently. She lived at Oak Terrace with her five surviving children, and she never completely forgave Anna, the beauty, for running off with Elliott Roosevelt (TR’s big brother) until Anna died. Her children, Eleanor’s aunts and uncles, were equally mad; Uncle Vallie (short for Valentine) in particular liked to get very drunk, sit at a second-floor window, and shoot his rifle at passers-by. (He invariably missed, though, because he was so pissed, he couldn’t shoot straight.)

Mrs. Ludlow Hall put a lock on Eleanor’s bedroom to keep Uncle Vallie out. (This is a record of historical fact.)

My story takes place in 1898 – four years after the death of Eleanor’s father and one year before she was shipped off to Lesbian Boarding School. Eleanor and Alice would both be 14.

I am inventing the visit from Alice Roosevelt, TR’s much-pampered, much-spoiled daughter.

(No such visit could ever have taken place, of course, since Mrs. Ludlow Hall loathed the Roosevelts and considered that Anna the Beauty -- a Livingston scion! -- had married beneath herself.)

During the course of the visit, Anna believes she's discovered the fact that Eleanor is being haunted by the ghost of her father. Her father is materializing through the medium of Uncle Vallie – and that is the way most ghosts manifest, in fact (I know, I know – you don’t believe in ghosts! But I do…)

Sidebar: It’s very rare that ghosts materialize as specters out of thin air. The most common ghostly manifestations are those that occur when you gape across a distance – 20 feet is ideal – and think, Oh, migawd! That’s [name of your favorite DEAD PERSON goes here] But it can’t be! And it isn’t because as you draw nearer, you realize, nah -- it’s just the garbage collector. But, at the same time, see, it is – the means of projection doesn’t necessarily invalidate the reality of the experience!

But I digress...

Anyway, Alice is determined to save Eleanor from the ghost of her father.

Eleanor does not particularly want to be saved.

Hijinx ensue!

I should note that Eleanor had a particularly slavish devotion to her father. On one of the few occasions that he showed up at Mrs. Ludlow Hall’s Manhattan residence to visit his daughter after her mother died, he was very drunk and traveling with a pack of fox terriers. He took Eleanor to the Knickerbocker Club, bade her wait with the doorman: Back in a jiffy! he told her. Eleanor waited for six hours before the kindly doorman took pity on her and brought her back to Mrs. Ludlow Hall. Eleanor did not want to go.

I have, of course, transposed this anecdote to Tivoli.

Anyway, this possession motif plays out over the course of the short story (or novella); and there is at least one sighting where Elliott does not channel through the medium of drunken Uncle Vallie but appears as this spectre doing that macabre puppeteer thing with his hands with the glorious scenery of the Hudson Valley spread out behind him ('cause, you know: I just heart landscape descriptions!)

And in the end, Alice saves Eleanor.

But in the course of that redemption, Alice and Eleanor develop a hearty dislike for one another, which remains with them throughout the course of their exceedingly long and political lives.

###

In other news, my little temper tantrum yesterday somehow propelled this obscure journal to fourth place in the LJ rankings, even beating out Brad Pitts’ urine tests! (Awl right!)

election


I figure the ranking was due to all those NSA operatives poring over the juxtaposition of Town Center Mall and AK47 in the opening sentences and wondering, Threat? Not threat? Huh...

Off to get my hair cut. It’s pretty fuckin’ ratty.
Yesterday was not a very good day.

I felt myself growing insane with rage. Really! If someone had helicoptered me into the Town Center Mall with an AK47, I would have gone on a shooting rampage.

I don’t get why I’m so angry, though.

I suppose it has something to do with the fact that I loathe both candidates and that, therefore, it is impossible for me to get caught up in the massive tides of warm and fuzzy partisanship that are turning the country into a competing pair of sports franchises as the election approaches.

I feel so left out.

I feel like nobody is paying any attention to me-e-e-e-e!

I want to verbally eviscerate everyone on every social media platform that was ever invented or will ever be invented! I want to melt through their computer screens, materialize in their living rooms, and ram their faces into their 42-inch television screens. Maybe howl.

See, fuckers? What I think matters!

I’m not so irrelevant!

This is not a good feeling, and I don’t know how to get rid of it.

Since I don’t have enough cash to hop the next plane to Bratislava, I probably should spend the next 48 hours at the movies. But a Blair Witch reboot? Bridget Jones’s Baby? Ugh.

At this point, it’s like, Get the fucking election over with, all right? I don’t care who wins. Whoever it is, I’m not gonna like it.

###

I find myself in these kinds of moods – Well. Not frequently. But frequently enough.

One of the reasons I’ve always been drawn to astrology, even though I know the sun does not go round the earth, is because really, it’s the only method of self-analysis that’s ever been able to explain these kinds of moods to me.

I’m an Aries sun. Aries, the Zodiacal sign of Fools rush in and make bad jokes where angels fear to tread.

But my rising sign, my persona, the public face I project is Libra: Like me please! Don’t say harsh things to me. Ewwwww! I stepped in some controversy, and it’s stinking up the room!

Meanwhile, my moon sign, the seat of my emotions, is Scorpio, the constellation of sex, death, and investigative reporting! It’s kinda like I have X-ray vision. I see other people’s secrets. It’s rare that I know someone for more than half an hour without compiling a detailed, illustrated map in my head of all their emotional trigger points.

Three inner motivations with very different imperatives. I want you to LUV me, but at the same time, I want you to sit still while I do a xylophone performance, playing Moon Over Alabama on all your most intimate fears. Off-key! No popcorn! PLUS you need to clap!

Oy!

No wonder I’m the most repulsive person on the planet, and nobody cares if I live or die, right?

###
In other news, once fall (finally) got underway, it proceeded apace:


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Somewhere near the end of the documentary Weiner, the film’s director asks the candidate why the press has been so hard on him.

“I lied to them,” says Weiner. Then he makes a face. “And I have a funny name.”

It’s this unusual combination of cluelessness and self-awareness that makes this exercise in cinema verité so fascinating to watch.

Anthony Weiner is the former seven-term Congressperson from Queens’ own Kew Gardens nabe who rather famously one night in 2011 sexted a picture of his, uh, weiner to the wrong person thereby giving the headline writers at the New York Post a field day that went on and on and on for weeks: Weiner’s Rise and Fall! Tip of the Weiner! Weiner Pulls Out! Etc.

There’s a lot of evidence that Weiner was, in fact, set up by conservative factions associated with Andrew Breitbart in the same way that pedophile stings are set up by the FBI. I mean, yes, they capitalized on Weiner’s overweening (or should that be overweining) narcissism, but the “women” he was sexting to were, in fact, operatives.

There’s also the fact that some huge percentage of the American public itself sexts regularly. Sexting has become a routine part of American courtship behaviors. Every technology, after all, from the printing press on has been fueled by the very human desire to promulgate pornography. (Well, okay. Maybe not the cotton gin.) And after Bill Clinton and JFK, why should it come as any revelation that some politicians like anonymous sex? Does that fact have anything to do with their talent as politicians? At a time when Kris Jenner launched a commercial and cultural takeover of the world’s media outlets by releasing a sex tape starring her own daughter, how can anybody get bent out of shape by a remarkably tame photo of a pair of boxer shorts with a bulge?

###

The documentary charts the rise and fall of Weiner’s 2013 New York City mayoral campaign.

I have no idea whether Weiner would have been a good mayor or a bad mayor, but certainly DiBlasio has been a disaster, and until the second scandal broke, Weiner was running considerably ahead of DiBlasio in the polls.

In the year between Weiner’s resignation from Congress and his run for Congress, Weiner had sexted with a lot of women. (I’m thinking maybe he should find another hobby.) And one of the women he’d sexted with – improbably named Sydney Leathers – decided to leverage her connection with him to launch a career as a porn star.

When this story broke, Weiner was toast – although again, I had to wonder why exactly? It wasn’t like he was texting while campaigning.

The film then becomes a fascinating montage of damage control, optics manipulation, confrontations the candidate allows himself to get baited into, and glimpses into the domestic life Weiner shares with his wife and his son. Weiner refuses to drop out of the mayoral primary but ends up getting less than 5% of the total vote.

I dunno. I would probably have voted for him if I’d been registered as a Democrat and lived in New York. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s brash, has singularly poor impulse control. But I kinda liked him. And I couldn’t help thinking that if hadn’t had such a remarkably Dickensian name that turned everything into a bad pun, he might have been able to – uh – rise above all the tsuris.

###

I’ve often thought that the best gift any parent can give a child is the name “John Smith,” regardless of that child’s gender.

In this age of relentless spying and tracking, ironically, the only way you can have any kind of privacy is by becoming absolutely ubiquitous and transparent.

The documentary Weiner begins with a simple epigram from Marshall MacLuhan: The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.

If Anthony Weiner had not been named Anthony Weiner, could he have saved his career? That lens the media focused on him would have been so much less intense.

But with a last name like “Weiner” and a sex scandal, there’s not a whole lot of damage control you can do.

###

c23de5ea56af432dbed30b40c71a8668 The movie is also interesting because it gives us so many unguarded glimpses of Mrs. Weiner a/k/a Huma Abedin, the soon-to-be-Presidentially-anointed Hillary Clinton’s top political aide.

Abedin is a remarkably beautiful woman with an amazing talent for holding her own counsel and exquisite taste in clothes. I would die for this dress.

The most unlikely people always seem to end up together, which is why analyzing couples is so much fun. On the surface, a relationship between the funny, cocky, self-effacing and ill-advised former Congressperson and the guarded, stealthy, protocol-conscious aide-de-camp seems very improbable.

But I have a theory about that.

I think the deepest partnerships occur between people who can say No for one another. In other words, you love the person who can say No to the people, things and situations that for one reason or another, you’re incapable of saying No to yourself.

Thus Huma is Anthony’s way of saying No to wayward frat-boy behavior and Anthony is Huma’s way of saying No to total repression.

The marriage will last.

Why wouldn’t it?

More Words

I've been entertaining myself today by playing around with the stuff I did for NaNoMo. I have no idea what, if anything, I'll do with it, but its voice is noticeably different from most of the stuff I write, so I'm intrigued. I think partly that's because if I'm writing about Henry Miller and June, then I channel Miller to some degree and some of these descriptions do feel very Miller-esque to me (although my mind was completely empty while I was writing.) Of course, I'm a big fan of paragraphs, and Henry Miller was not.

DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU'RE UNDER 18, OR YOU PREFER TO AVOID SEXUALLY EXPLICIT PROSE.

This isn't at all erotic, but it uses sexual imagery with that Miller-esque sense of the grotesque.

Hidden for lengthCollapse )
Still in the throes of relentless activity. Upside is that I feel just like Maria in West Side Story, twittering around on my toes; trilling, I feel pretty! slightly off-key. Downside is that I tend to lose purchase of my own thoughts if I don’t spend at least a couple of hours every day sitting in a corner with my eyes unfocused. Maybe that’s some metabolic equivalent of mediation? Dunno. Anyway, I can feel my attention span growing shorter and shorter and shorter.

I am having fun, though.

###

Like, for instance, I had a totally terrific birthday weekend. L took me out for lunch at CIA’s excellent French restaurant where I had one of the most fabulous meals I’ve ever eaten: deconstructed pineapple upside down cake and BLTs as amuses bouches; a chestnut soup; a grilled dorade that actually, yes, melted in my mouth; Mimosas with mint; and a deconstructed lemon bar, which the restaurant comped (without being asked.)



Afterwards, I drove out to Rhinebeck and wandered around that quaint little town for an hour or so. Carmel on the Hudson, right? Scored a trio of exotic eaux de Cologne at a little tchatche shoppe that was going out of business plus a remaindered copy of Little Failure at the surprisingly good indie bookstore. (I’m a beeeg Gary Shteyngart fan.) Went to see Noah Baumback’s While We’re Young. (Five-word review: All About Eve Meets Williamsburg.)

Next day, accompanied Seraphina to Harlem for Ayana’s Natural Hair Expo. Almost bailed on that ‘cause you know – natural hair, not a White Girl thing. Plus my eyes needed unfocusing.

Very glad I didn’t, though, because I had the best time, not necessarily at the Expo itself (which was very badly organized though I walked away with an enormous number of samples, which now, of course, White Girl Hair or no White Girl Hair, I’ve got to try) but just hanging out with Seraphina in Harlem on a glorious, glorious day.



We sat on a stoop in the radiant sunlight waiting for the fashion show to begin and just gabbed about everything – childhoods, families, hopes and dreams. Talk fest continued over lunch at Sylvia’s and after the show, when we spent several hours shopping along 125th Street.

Back in my day, 125th Street – particularly its intersection with Lenox Avenue a/k/a Malcolm X Boulevard – was the heart of the riot zone.

Today, though, it’s one huge shopping mall.

Seraphina is looking to get out of the social services business and into the hair business, so after the fashion show, she carted me into half a dozen or so of the hair emporiums lining the Ave, and I scored five boxes of that cheap, cheap, cheap Revlon 112 Colorsilk Luminista, which is the only hair dye evah to turn my locks the deep aubergine I adore, and which, sadly, is not being manufactured anymore, so whenever I go anywhere, one of my quests – like finding the Holy Grail or that winning Lotto ticket – is to hit up every pharmacy in a five-mile radius in the hopes of hunting down a single box.

On the Metro-North ride home, we were surrounded by all sorts of bizarre people having bizarre conversations, which drove us into absolute hysterics. Don’t think I’ve lost it that hard since Susan and I got booted out of a Tai Kwon Do dojo 30 or so years ago for laughing hysterically through Master Bliss’s lecture on rising chi.

So much fun.

###

This is the final week of taxes, so I’m doing a lot of work in the Tax-Aide brigade, too.

Yesterday, for example, I had this client who brought in an oversized Manila envelope bursting at the seams with receipts, which he obviously expected me to organize. I mean, no shit – there were at least 200 of them. And they were all donations to Brother Parsley Jack’s Christian Brigade or Sister Amy Lordpraiser’s Hallelujah Life Mission. The absolute dregs of the TV evangelical channels, in other words.

He was a sweet little guy who obviously meant well, which is why I didn’t tell him to organize the damn things himself. He’d retired from some state job – probably as a janitor at some high school or something – and that pension combined with his Social Security gave him a rather substantial retirement income for a single man living alone in a mobile home park.

Took me an hour and a half to organize his receipts. They totaled something like $14,000.

At first, I was outraged. Wondered if I should call the Dutchess County Social Services hotline and report this as elder abuse.

Then I thought, Hey! It’s no business of yours how this gentleman chooses to spend his money.

Are these nonprofits to which he’s donating money complete scams?

Sure.

But then, so’s Hillary Clinton’s contribution pitch webpage.

Of course, I would prefer it if he was donating $14,000 to cancer research.

But, you know. I don’t get to make decisions for other people on how they spend their money.

###

I’ve also been reading RTT’s novel-in-progress. He sent me the first 120 pages.

It’s good. The kid has a natural sense of rhythm, momentum. That’s something you can’t be taught – you’re either born with it, or you’re not. Sure, it has issues. It’s gonna require a lot of line editing and some serious plot tweaking and reorganization of the info flow to the reader if RTT wants to snag an agent. But that’s stuff that can be fixed in a subsequent draft.

A rhythm problem can’t be fixed, ever. A rhythm problem means the person writing what you’re reading doesn’t know how to tell a story.

I was gonna tell RTT how great it was regardless of how great it was – I am his Mom, after all – but I was very happy that I could say it and mean it. I was really impressed.

So You Wanna Be a LAWYER!

In exciting meine DNA über alles news, Max has now gotten into five law schools and has cracked U.S. News & World Report's much-vaunted Top Ten.

He is going to be able to put me into a very expensive Home For Embarrassing Mothers.

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End of the Year Meme

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?

Attended the Coney Island Mermaid parade.

Began collecting my various retirement trust funds. Should keep the pusskers in Friskies and me in goofy socks for the next 25 years or so – God willin’ and inflation don’t rise. (It will, of course.)

Visited an uncle I never knew I had. Tremendously nice guy. But there came that moment when I told him the story of Ted’s life and Ted’s kids, and he literally flinched because his father had been a very good father to him, but, of course, his father’s mistreatment of Ted turned Ted into a sociopath, ruined eight lives, you might say. It was a lot for a tremendously nice guy to take in.

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 2014's Resolutions:

Never make New Years’ resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Nope.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes. Lucius in March; Rik – in October some time?

Neither death was unexpected. Both men had been in ill health for quite some time.

I was out of touch with both when they died. That didn’t matter. Long ago, they’d both been elected to permanent seats on the Advisory Board deep in my corpus callosum.

Initially, Lucius was one of my instructors at Clarion West. A very, very brilliant writer who never lived up to his promise: in part, because he never had the patience to tackle long-form fiction; in part, because there was such a huge disconnect between his writerly persona and his everyday life personality. If you met him, you might think he was one of the Duck Dynasty. His best known works are probably Life During Wartime and the Dragon Griaule cycle.

His best piece of writerly advice to me? “You always wanna bring it full circle, repeat the shit you say in the first paragraphs in the last paragraphs, you know? I don’t know why, but that always knocks ‘em dead.”

Sometime in the ‘90s, when Lucius was having serious IRS troubles, I invited him to move in with my family. This turned into a year and a half residency – rather longer than I had anticipated. Hijinks ensued. I should write about them some day.

We fell out during a 2007 trip to Europe. Lucius apparently had been nurturing a crush on me for many years; I won’t pretend I didn’t know about the crush and didn’t play to it on occasion when my ego needed bolstering. But I had no intention of sleeping with him, and he got really pissed at me as a result.

He was tremendously supportive of me as a writer, was constantly exhorting me to abandon my marriage and children and just do it. “You must be cruel-l-l-l,” he’d cackle, trilling his R’s.

He also shared my obsession with reality TV, so we spent many hours in deep telephonic communion together, annotating Survivor cycles – me from my bed in Monterey, him from his desk in Washington. Sadly, future generations of anthropologists will not have access to our hilarious discourse unless they learn to decode electrical signals that even now are wafting their way to Alpha Centauri.

Rik was Annie’s husband, and the only person in the House of Usher who actually saw what my childhood was doing to me and tried to make amends. They divorced, but Rik was very conscientious about maintaining the relationship.

Rik is the reason I went to college. If it had been up to my blood relatives, I would have dropped out of high school, and that would have been that. I would have spent some years living in a trailer park. Maybe my scientific aptitude would have found some expression in efforts at methamphetamine production, though not at the Walter White level. I’m pretty sure I’d be dead now.

Of course, I had a crush on Rik – he was extraordinarily beautiful in his younger days with eyes the exact color of the ocean on a day when the marine layer hangs at a thousand feet reach. He may have harbored some incestuous fantasies of his own. When he was a young assistant professor, he serially dated a number of my female friends.

His most important piece of advice to me? “In every situation, you have three options. You can say yes, you can say no, or you can simply walk away.”

I got married for the first time in the backyard of Rik’s Spruce Street house. On Rik’s advice, Bill and I eschewed lawyers for our divorce, and I didn’t ask for child support. Instead, I told Bill to fly Max down to Tustin once a month so that they could continue to maintain a real father/son relationship and to cover Max’s college costs. Since Max ended up getting a free ride at Deep Springs and a lot of financial support from Stanford, I’d say Bill ended up getting the best of that particular deal.

Rik’s father Jacinto was a high-ranking scientific muckety muck during World War II, so in some essential sense, Rik was living in the long shadow of his father – a fact that I didn’t realize until I was middle-aged. Jay was demented when I knew him – Alzheimer’s or some such. Jay had been such a bastard when his faculties were intact that his various caretakers – Rik and his wife Hazel – delighted in being caustic toward him (though they never actually mistreated him.)

The dementia turned out to be hereditary. Rik was finally officially diagnosed with it a couple of years ago.

We fell out over a number of different things. At a certain point, Rik became tired of functioning in loco parentis -- the age difference between us wasn’t actually all that great. He disapproved of a number of decisions I made (starting with hooking up with Ben), and, of course, he was right: They were horrifyingly bad decisions. At one time, we’d been quite intimate, but we gradually drifted apart.

Rik was finally diagnosed after he began behaving inappropriately in various public and private places. I loaned Max out to Alicia and Janet (Rik’s second wife) to help corral Rik upon occasion.

The final fissure came about as a result of my mother’s will. She’d made Rik her executor. In 2012, eleven years after her death, Robin turned 18 and it came time to distribute her bequest to him. Robin needed this as part of his college money. Robin was being his usual un-diligent self in following up on this, so I wrote to Alicia’s husband – who was managing the account – to try and expedite the process. Rik wrote me a scathing letter back, accusing me of trying to steal Robin’s college money. I was justifiably outraged.

I didn’t give a fuck when Rik died. Truth be told? I still don’t give a fuck. Burn in hell, Rik! I think to myself. However… The more enlightened part of me realizes that (a) I owe a great deal to Rik and (b) that awful letter was probably written by Rik’s dementia. So I’m going to go to Rik’s memorial service in California this coming May.


5. What countries did you visit?

None.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

A completed manuscript. Or two.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

November 27. Thanksgiving Day! Which I spent with my two boys in New Mexico.



8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Shedding the angst. I’m quite content with my little life these days.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Well, the Vista residency crashed and burned. Entirely not my fault.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

That thing that happened with my wrist a week or so back. My wrist is back to normal now. I still don’t know how that happened, though, and I’m curious abut it.

My ongoing autoimmune disease, which makes me feel like a leper in the warmer months.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The car.


12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Max. As always.

Linda.

BB (who is just the world’s most terrific friend.)

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Nobody’s, really.

14. Where did most of your money go?

In addition to the usual upkeep and maintenance expenses incurred by housing, food, phone, and transportation? Robin, I’d have to say. And I was happy to be in a financial situation where I could give him that support.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Nothing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

Fiona Apple’s Container:

I was screaming into the canyon
At the moment of my death
The echo I created
Outlasted my last breath
My voice it made an avalanche
And buried a man I never knew
And when he died his widowed bride
Met your daddy and they made you

I have only one thing to do and that’s
To be the wave that I am and then
Sink back into the ocean
Sink back into the ocean
Sink back into the ocean

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

Happier.

ii. thinner or fatter?

Fatter!

iii. richer or poorer?

Richer!

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Serious writing. Exercising.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Wasting time.

20. How will you be spending New Years?

Still trying to drum up plans for New Years Eve. New Years Day, I’m going to an open house.

22. Did you fall in love in 2010?

I don’t think I’m capable of falling in love anymore. It takes a certain willing suspension of disbelief, you know?

23. What was your favorite TV program?

I really, really liked Black Mirror. Foyle’s War – which takes on such a nice LeCarre spin after V-Day. Oh, and of course, the ever kinky-and-yet-corny Criminal Minds.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Nope.

25. What was the best book you read?

Well, I’d have to say the book I enjoyed the most – but I wouldn’t describe it necessarily as a good book – was Nancy Horan’s Under the Wide and Starry Sky.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Fiona Apple.

27. What did you want and get?

A car.

28. What did you want and not get?

A surprisingly fulfilling year, so I’d have to answer N/A.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

John Michael McDonagh's Calvary.

Distant runners up: Birdman, What Maisie Knew.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 62. Can’t remember what I did.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

My year was pretty satisfying. Discovering some relative I never knew I had had died and left me a huge portfolio of high-performing tech stocks might have made it more satisfying. I’m not sure.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

Bag Lady. Let’s face it. Despite having worked in the fashion industry, fashion has always been a foreign concept to me. I'm happiest in uniforms.

33. What kept you sane?

Having an independent income.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Hmmmm… Maybe Bruce Willis? But only Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys and The Sixth Sense.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

Student loans.

36. Who did you miss?

Susan. Marybeth. Abe. Oddly enough, Lucius.

37. Who was the best new person you met?

Linda.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Money isn’t important. Unless you don’t have any.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

See Fiona Apple above.

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12 Monkeys



My own all-time favorite Christmas movie is 12 Monkeys, a dystopian fantasy about the end of civilization as we know it and an attempt to rectify the mistakes that led up to that end. Bruce Willis plays a convict given the chance to redeem himself by traveling into the past to investigate the origins of a plague that’s wiped out most of mankind, forcing the few survivors to huddle underground.

Never been a big Terry Gilliam fan. Brazil? Clunky. The Fisher King? Maudlin. The Monty Python ouevre? Spotty.

Problem with most of Gilliam’s work for me is that you’re always being fed two separate streams of information, the visual and the narrative, and Gilliam often seems to be struggling to find synergy or syncretism between the two. In 12 Monkeys, though, possibly because Gilliam is working from someone else’s script or possibly because one of the film's underlying themes is the unreliability of all remembered information, this approach works. Even the irrelevant becomes relevant.

The movie never changes, Cole tells Kathryn. It can’t change. But every time you see it, it seems different because you’re different. You see different things.

The film’s climactic scene takes place during the Philadelphia Christmas shopping rush in 1996. The holiday might seem incidental to the perceptual puzzle, except that nothing is incidental in this movie. The viewer has to pay close attention at all times, which is almost impossible to do in a single viewing. 12 Monkeys has to be seen at least twice to appreciate the world-building that went into it. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, and it still amazes me.

One of the key strengths of 12 Monkeys is Bruce Willis’s performance. He plays Cole, the convict, as a simple, poignant Everyman, shyness and brutality in conflict, and it’s the acting highlight of his career. He is just superb. Madeleine Stowe is also excellent in the role of a kidnap victim called upon to be terrified but also magnetized in some essential way that disputes the core tenets of the Stockholm Syndrome.

Without these two performances, 12 Monkeys would be a less entertaining, standard issue Luc Besson movie about the colorful -- or colorless – future.

Throughout 12 Monkeys, Cole faces the paradox of his own death – a philosophical conundrum apparently inspired by a short French film called La Jetée. His death is revealed to him in a series of memories, which he thinks are a bizarre, reoccurring dream. He sees his older self die as a 10-year-old boy in an airport, watching the police gun down a crazy psychotic – who, unbeknownst, is the older version of himself, a philosophical DO-loop, an existential perpetual motion machine from which there can never be any escape. He doesn’t recognize his older self, he can’t recognize his older self, but the Madeleine Stowe character, who knows about the dream, recognizes him and there passes between them a moment that’s so complex and passionate and moving that it makes me shiver every time I see the movie.

I watched 12 Monkeys again last night. I’m still in hyperspace. Just very teary and – here comes my buzz word again – porous.

I’m writing a time travel story, so possibly this material is even more poignant for me than usual. Dunno. Sometimes I just feel like life is so fragile, and the most beautiful flowers grow in junkyards where no one ever thinks to look.



In other news, life continues to be good. On Sunday, I met up with A to see the Matisse cutouts at MOMA – they were interesting, but did make me ponder the whole function of art as a non-fungible commodity. I could make these cutouts! In fact, I have made these cutouts. I couldn’t, on the other hand, make One: Number 31, 1950, which actually has an extraordinary amount of composition behind its chaos.

Then I sat through the last two classes of tax training. Studying federal and New York State tax codes is a lot like studying Torah or the Qur’an. Or possibly the Upanishads. Just a huge amount of arcane information that makes no logical sense whatsoever but illuminates the bizarreness of the culture that cobbled them together. The codes dealing with the implementation of Obamacare are particularly arcane, and I predict a lot of crash-and-burn around the Affordable Care Act come next April 15th.

LJ Idol: Week 30: Critical Hit

Fifty thousand people sat in the vast arcade of the great glass tower at the top of the world, watching Muldaur protect Asterask from the invading legions of the Mialtrice.

Muldaur chewed gum and listened to hip-hop while his fingers moved over the console keyboard. They moved quickly – a speed freak’s rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, a charmingly archaic piece that no one outside the Institute for Antiquarian Music had listened to for half a century.

Like corn on the cob
Don’t slob on the job


What’s corn on the cob? Muldaur wondered, but the thought cost him. Instantly the giant relief map of Asterask projected on the uber-dome flickered and shifted. A cascade of sparkling red points dominated the dark continent on the left side of the map.

Fuck! thought Muldaur.

A collective gasp emerged from 50,000 throats.

Crunch time, Muldaur told himself. He pulled off his ear buds. His left hand clicked the mouse furiously, dispatching Raffers to guerilla up on the Mialtrice invasion to the west, strengthening the infrastructure of mining and manufacturing operations to the east, moving workers away from the green agricultural lands of the south. The Mialtrice were not collectivists; the notion of suicide attackers who might sacrifice their own lives for the communal good was alien to them. Correctly timed, this could be the pull-ahead.

In the end, the strategy worked. Precisely two hours and fourteen minutes into the game, Muldaur succeeded in surrounding the Mialtrice Dominatrix. She quietly imploded, and the red dots on the giant map pulsated and swirled, flashing out one by one.

Applause from 50,000 spectators sounds something like the waves of a Category 5 hurricane breaking against a beach.

The first video jockey to corner Muldaur backstage was a cisgender female with yellow hair and large, pillowy breasts. She positioned herself so the front of her breasts in their thin ruby-colored chamois covering brushed lightly against the back of Muldaur’s neck.

“You did it!” she declared hoarsely.

“I guess,” said Muldaur mildly.

“But – I mean – no one has everHow do you feel?

“Okay,” said Muldaur. “I guess. Hey. Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure!”

“I mean, it’s a little embarrassing, but –“

“Anything!”

“Do you know what a corn cob is?”

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