Showing posts from December, 2013

a number of things that have my number: tops of 2013

Earlier this year, AK and I saw Frances Ha . I thought it was a charming, funny, wise movie, but AK really loved it—to the point that she was almost embarrassed. It had her number! It knew her soul! I feel a little bit that way about Enlightened , which we’re now semi-binge watching the first season of. At first I thought that Amy’s (Laura Dern) story would be about discovering that New Age mumbo jumbo couldn’t bring her inner peace. We, the audience, would get to laugh at self-help books and yuppie meditation retreats as Amy slowly learned that enlightenment was a useless dangling carrot, and that her real work lay elsewhere. Like Amy, I usually have ONE MORE THING to say. Luckily creator Mike White and Laura Dern don’t take the easy route, turning the show into a big joke about Whole Foods. Amy’s brand of enlightenment is real and internally generated. But linking ideals and nirvana moments with the ugly challenges of life is the hard part, and the center of the show. I

ghosts of chrismas past

The other day at the gym, A Very Kardashian Kristmas was playing. Or, if that wasn’t the title and spelling, it should have been. All the Kardashians and Jenners and their significant others wore fluffy bathrobes and shiny, ironed-and-curled hair, including Bruce. (I think the rumors that he wants to become a woman are probably untrue and definitely gender-variant-phobic in a variety of ways. But he really is looking more ladylike lately.)  The camera zoomed in on giant nutcrackers and flickering candles whenever one of them got particularly boring, which was a lot. They exchanged gifts. Kim would open something like Apple TV, and one of the others would exclaim, “But Kim, you could buy every show on Apple TV!” But at least there's divorce and rehab in this scene. So they're just like us after all. And just in case that doesn’t convey the true meaning of Christmas, they also watched old home videos—the girls in matching velvet dresses, Kim with no collagen in her l

o holy night of sunflower seeds on a paper plate

Last weekend we went to a holiday party for the clinic where AK is interning, which means almost everything about the party was top secret for reasons relating to the intricate traditions of psychoanalysis. Can I say that I got a nice scarf in the white-elephant gift exchange? I don’t even know. Can I say that the host’s house was super posh, in a way that was one part early California mission, one part Buddhist monastery? The host herself was wearing a non-sheer version of the dress below, and we had a good time. Hands on. Last night we went to a party for Razorcake , the punk rock magazine editor Todd Taylor invited me to contribute to after I met him at my reading with Sean Carswell in June. It had never occurred to me that I could write for such a publication, because one time in seventh grade I wrapped embroidery thread in Rastafarian colors around tiny braids in my hair, was asked what reggae bands I liked and had no answer. I’ve been very careful about being a pose

there isn’t any other tale to tell

This is a blog about art and how it threads through my life—how it echoes and provokes, baffles and annoys, lifts me up and saves me over and over. I know you probably thought it was a blog about cancer and my bad attitude toward, well, many things. I’m teaching an undergrad writing workshop right now, in which my students and I read “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin. It’s kind of the story of the ant and the grasshopper, as told by someone with sympathy for both of them. The ant—the older of two brothers—narrates. He teaches high school in a rough Harlem neighborhood, where he’s survived by keeping his head down and working hard. His brother Sonny is a jazz musician with a drug problem that lands him in jail for a time. Jacob Lawrence's Cafe Comedian. The older brother doesn’t get why Sonny needs to escape into the oblivion of heroin or the cryptic notes of non-Louis-Armstrong-style jazz until his own daughter dies of polio. Then his brother’s music becomes a kind

acting up

AK and I saw Dallas Buyers Club Sunday night, meaning I marked World AIDS Day by passively absorbing information about AIDS in an entertaining format. Because I’m an activist like that. I think it’s the first AIDS movie I’ve seen since Bio 40: AIDS and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases, a life sciences GE I took as a pass/fail my senior year at UCLA. Every Friday was an optional class devoted to watching movies about AIDS: Longtime Companion , And the Band Played On , Philadelphia . Longtime Companion: The movie that made me realize I really like Blondie's "The Tide Is High." We were required to volunteer with AIDS organizations, so I worked with PAWS (which helped HIV+ people keep their pets) and Project Angel Food . Movies and community work—that’s my kind of science class. (A big part of the class was devoted to epidemiology too, which I actually found fascinating—a combo of history and science—and I would totally be an epidemiologist today if I weren’t a h