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Showing posts from December, 2009

tops of 2009

I’ve never been big on predicting the Oscars, an exercise which seems more like political analysis than art criticism. And while I read lots of contemporary literature, I rarely read books in the year they’re published—that means paying for hardbacks, since the library queue for new books is always long. So my “best of” lists are the lists of a semi-hermit, culturally speaking. At least, they’re more a reflection of where I am (thinking about babies and circuses, loving realism despite my hunger for whimsical slippage) than where the culture is. But hey, whose aren’t? So without further ado, here’s where I was in 2009. Where were you? My ten favorite books of 2009: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez A Million Nightingales by Susan Straight Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham The Final Confession of Mabel Stark by Robert Hough Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun by Wafaa Bilal The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngo

the next best thing to being rescued by village children

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So, my 2010 New Year’s resolution is to be less anxious. I know you’re supposed to make concrete resolutions (AK resolved to track all the books she reads on Goodreads ), but this feels like a resolution whose time has come. To get a tiny bit more specific: I resolve not to conflate worry ( oh-my-god-I-might-have-cancer ) with preparation (hey-why-don’t-I-make-a-doctor’s-appointment). It’s still 2009, but I got to practice not freaking out when AK’s car overheated on the way home from San Luis Obispo , where we spent an otherwise fun post-Christmas weekend. Of course we were on one of the few really desolate stretches of the 101. When it became clear we weren’t going to make it to a gas station, we turned onto a dirt road that led to something called the El Camino Winery. I put on my best not-freaking-out voice, which never fools AK. We contemplated our options, and AK called AAA. My friend Jody once found himself in Guatemala without a place to stay. He curled up by the side of the

a first helping of family

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Since my sister bought a house, I think she has been slowly turning into Martha Stewart. It started years ago with themed gift wrapping, but now she’s hosting family dinners at her place, whereas I’m still mostly of the mindset that the grownups should take care of that shit. It’s my job to show up and eat. So last night I showed up and ate at my sister’s house, along with my dad, his girlfriend Susan, my pseudo-grandma and pseudo-uncle (we’re very Rent when it comes to valuing chosen family as greater than or equal to biological, but with less performance art and more complaining about The Kids Today). My uncle ’s favorite topics are television and food, so I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when a conversation that was ever so briefly about feminism and the forms that countercultural movements have taken throughout history quickly turned into a conversation about how 1) Mae West was so ahead of her time and 2) my uncle ate some amaaaazing brie with toasted pine nuts and butt

the giant imaginative pit

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Yesterday morning, around 10 a.m. at Café de Leche , I typed the last word of the first draft of the aforementioned circus novel (it was “air”). Do you like how dramatic I tried to make that sound, what with the time stamp and all? AK was reminding me that it’s important to celebrate, so even though my first thought was more like Fuck, I better get to work than Yay, me! , I’m trying to be more yay-me after the fact. Because even four hundred pages of nonsense is still four hundred pages, right? So what if the circusy part of the novel fizzles out midway and it becomes more of a cruise ship/runaway/mermaid novel? So what if I forgot that one of my main characters is a musician, and he never plays music after chapter four? So what if the draft is full of forced life lessons and out-of-the-blue epiphanies that don’t even mean that much to me , because my 12th grade English teacher was a stickler for books having themes? The last novel (the one that I’m juuust starting to send to agent

rockin' one room away from the christmas tree

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AK and I decided to host a holiday party this past weekend because 1) all our friends go out of town for the holidays, and we get kind of stir-crazy, so we decided to front-load the season with extra socializing; 2) we wanted an excuse to decorate and bake, even though we're more Sandra Lee than Martha Stewart; and 3) we bought a new chair and we thought it needed a big debut. Or maybe we bought the chair because we were having a party. Hard to say, but here's how it all went down. AK decked our halls with boughs of a tiny Italian Stone Pine. I baked my much-blogged-about sweet potato pie (with store-bought crust). AK baked cookies while we watched an amazing movie called The Exiles , a fictional but documentary- esque movie about Native Americans living on Bunker Hill in the late 1950s. Really, it deserves a post of its own, but this is a party post, so I'll just direct you here . After (or, actually, before) AK and I had a brief debate about whether the cats would ge

moments in the woods

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1. i’ll be where it’s lonely Other than the occasional texting dialogue , I don’t blog much about my 16-year-old mentee, whom I’ll call Liana. Partly because, even though our official mentor/mentee relationship ended when she left her group home and reunited with her mom, it seems like bad protocol. Partly because her life is hers. Partly because the world is full of do-gooder writers working with “troubled teens” and then writing about them. But our unofficial mentor/mentee relationship is now becoming even more unofficial, because in a couple of weeks, she’ll be moving to the mountains in the northern reaches of L.A. County. “If you Google ‘Indian Museum,’ you can see the town we’re near and how lonely it looks,” she said. “And then if you follow the map like twenty or thirty more minutes up into the mountains, it gets really lonely. That’s where I’ll be.” Suddenly it felt wrong to let a year and a half of weekly-ish drinks as Coffee Bean and McDonalds—and the occasional movie ,

peace in all its unglamorous realness

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I felt terribly grown up this afternoon because I got something notarized. After Googling “notary find,” I notary found. I went to a tall office building with a panoramic view of the city and waited while a woman wearing business-y pants stamped my photocopied ID. Look at me, I thought, doing things that, just one Google search ago, I didn’t know how to do! Seriously, I can put off shit like this—meaning stuff I’m ever so vaguely confused about—for ages as a result of said confusion. In general, I have not been feeling terribly grown up this week. First, I saw The Hurt Locker , which reminded me why I’m not capable of being in the military. I mean, besides being gay and flat-footed and, increasingly, old (which is not to be confused with grown up). Remember how when Saving Private Ryan came out, everyone was all, This movie really depicts war in all its unglamorous realness. At the time I just thought, This movie has a really lame framing device. But despite knowing nothing abo

what i read in november (and watched last night)

Last night AK, Pedro, Stephen, Maria, Calvin and I gathered for Movie Night, an intentionally less formal undertaking than Book Club, which is probably why we've only managed to do it twice this year. The first time we watched The Curse of the Were-Rabbit , and some of us fell asleep despite the undeniable greatness of Wallace and Gromit . So we decided to start the Favorites Series, beginning with Maria's all-time favorite, Dirty Dancing . I hadn't seen it since I was 11 or 12, and it was a blur of images in my mind, one of which was Bonnie pausing the VCR when Patrick Swayze wrinkles his nose in the final dance number. "My friends always hit pause then too!" AK said. "I never got it." "I know," I said. "Jennifer Grey is much cuter." It was really the perfect Movie Night movie, in that it was equal parts campy and good. Some film school class should study how two dance movies (say, Dirty Dancing and Center Stage ) can have all th

and jesus said: girls have cooties

Some questions: So, when you say you’re a “rough rider,” you mean you’re into wearing your socks gangsta-style and sampling police sirens, but not hugging girls in a way that might cause you to brush up against fully-clothed boobies? Just checking. ~2:10: Ooh, burn , Angelina Jolie! You know it’s not cool to buy babies from developing countries. Here’s a better idea: Just send some good old-fashioned missionaries! ~2:15: Wait, what about the democratic shift in congress? And how does it relate to hugging? Are you shouting “Repub” in the background? I’m confused, because you just said that Obama was a fist-bumping, non-hugging role model. Although…Republicans are more likely to promote abstinence-only education. Those slutty Dems are always encouraging kids to put on body condoms (known as “clothing”) and front hug anyone who buys them a drink. ~2:56: Oh, man, I wish gay marriage was legal so I could front hug all day long. Is that how babies are made? ~3:25: Check out those red-hoodie