Thursday, December 15, 2011

I get all my life advice from pop songs

Watching SNL over the weekend, I was exposed for the first time to Robyn and this song. Yes, I know, I live under a rock. A rock with a Radiohead-themed Pandora station. Watch the video if you want to see someone wearing what appears to be the shrunken pelt of Muppet dancing even worse than me, but I want to talk for a moment about the song. It's called "Call Your Girlfriend," and according to Pitchfork, it's a "soaringly tuneful electro-pop ballad" with Robyn "tell[ing] her boyfriend exactly how to break it off with the other woman to inflict the least emotional damage."

Sure. So I listened to the song several times after I first heard it, because apparently a soaringly tuneful electro-pop ballad really hits the spot right now. I was really enjoying the lyrics like "Call your girlfriend/ It's time you had the talk/Give your reasons/Say it's not her fault," and it took me 3-4 listens before I realized the actual scenario was that Robyn was the new woman. Before that, I just heard it as a song full of helpful life advice, as if this particular Swedish pop star is just honestly invested in seeing other people end relationships with grace and maturity. I was so tickled by the idea of a Top 40 pop song about something other than the singer's own heartaches that I instantly started of thinking of other sorts of solid life advice that could make great songs in this genre of "pop music for responsible grown-ups":

Wash The Dishes (..."it's time you took your turn")
Stop Speeding ("'s time to obey the law")
Stand Up Straight ("'s time to see a chiropractor")
Pull Yourself Together ("'s time you dealt with your issues")

And, of course, Call Your Mother ("it's time she heard from you").

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm giving thanks I survived Thanksgiving

We drove down to Southern California for Thanksgiving: a day and a half in Riverside, two days in Irvine, and a day in San Diego. It feels like we (okay, Mike) spent most of the vacation driving, but it was worth it: we hung out with family, ate impressive amounts of decadent food, and even did some hiking. Also, this was the first Thanksgiving I spent with my nuclear family since 2003, so that was lovely. All in all, it was good.

Except for when our muffler fell off.

It was midnight and we were driving away from my aunt's house when we heard a funny dragging noise and then, just a minute or two later, a loud thud. We all jumped out to investigate and I took a picture, of course. That's the muffler, rusted clean through.

We didn't feel like getting it fixed right then, so we did the drive back from San Diego with no muffler. The car had been noisy for a long time (that's the thing about a rusty muffler, you see), so that wasn't a problem. I was worried about the carbon monoxide issue, though--would it kill us and HOW WOULD WE KNOW?!?

(I know with most newer cars there's not really as big a risk, but my dad had a friend who died of carbon monoxide poisoning, many years ago, so I'm probably more paranoid than the average bear about this.)

So I'm sitting in the car, six hours into the drive back, and fretting more and more about carbon monoxide, so much so that I finally decide to look up the symptoms. Here's the list I find:
  • Irritability
  • Headache 
  • Loss of focus
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Claustrophobia
  • Unexplained panic
I read the list of symptoms and realize I have every. single. one. of. them. I am going to die! Quick, quick, roll down the windows! And then I realize I was premenstrual (irritability), under-rested (headache), working on something really boring (loss of focus), eating only pretzels and Bugles (nausea), while sitting (shortness of breath) in a car (claustrophobia) that might be killing me silently (unexplained panic). Oh.

How clever of carbon monoxide, generated by a car, to mimic so precisely the exact symptoms of a road trip!

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Poker Face", the early drafts

P-p-p-poker face, p-p-poker face
(Mum mum mum mah)
P-p-p-poker face, p-p-poker face
(Mum mum mum mah)

I won't tell you that I love you

Kiss or hug you
Cause I'm... 

Shakin' with my bacon?
Doing kegels with my bagel?
Feeling awful about my waffle?
Wanting to boast about my toast?

Bluffin' with my muffin
I'm not lying I'm just stunnin' with my love-glue-gunning

Saturday, November 05, 2011

And that's why you always leave a note

I was just looking through the draft posts in my queue--I've started far more blog entries than I've finished, alas--when I came across one called "Note To Self."  The entire draft was the following three lines:

Remember that time I set off the fire alarm in the HBLL?
Make up and out
Why should the hippo be denied the intimacy of the modern dental experience?

I can vaguely remember what each thing referred to--I accidentally set off the fire alarm in BYU's library once; "make up and out" is a great example of syllepsis, one of my favorite figures of speech; and the line about the hippo is something I once wrote down and then found, three years later, unable to figure out why--but I can't remember for the life of me what the connection between the three was, or why the draft was a "note to self."  Man, I really wish I had finished that post.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Abyssinia, I'll be seein' ya

What I've just read: The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, a novel about an Ethiopian immigrant in Washington, D.C., and Beneath the Lion's Gaze, a novel about an Ethiopian family during the political turmoil of the 1970s. Oh, and a series of long Wikipedia articles about Haile Selassie, the Derg, and Ge'ez.

What I'm reading right now: Eating the Flowers of Paradise, a travelogue about a trip through Ethiopia and Yemen in search of qat.

What I'm going to read next: Cutting for Stone, a novel set in India, Ethiopia and New York.

My grandma always said that pleasure has three parts: looking forward to it, experiencing it, and remembering it. From my recent reading habits, you can guess I've got a trip to Ethiopia coming up (in late December/early January, just in time for Orthodox Christmas). I don't know what the actual experience or the memories will be like, but I'm thoroughly enjoying the anticipation.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Phony King of England

These past few weeks I've been rediscovering some old loves--blogging, I guess, but also Modest Mouse and Sharon Kay Penman's historical fiction and cottage cheese. I could eat cottage cheese all day long. When I was little and my family went out to eat at Ruby Tuesday (we were high-class people, clearly), I would order the salad bar and then load a plate full of cherry tomatoes and cottage cheese. Yum.

The biggest rediscovery, though, is audiobooks, specifically a little site called Librivox: free audiobooks in the public domain, read by volunteers. It neatly combines my love of reading, multitasking, and free things, with a tiny dash of the ridiculous, since the volunteers are often trying to practice their English: with Librivox, I used to listen to The Portrait of a Lady read by someone with a heavy Chinese accent while I ran endless miles training for a half marathon. Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.

Fast forward to now. I have a whole shelf of books I've bought but never read, and since Mike is obsessed with seeing the "finished" stack grow, I've promised that I'll actually work on my shelf. (It needs no more description, in this house: "my shelf" is enough.) Since I haven't been reading as much this year due to a certain New Year's resolution, Librivox is a great way to catch up on my backlog and, little by little, clear the shelf.

So I'm listening to Ivanhoe, a book I bought at 13 and have been meaning to read ever since, and I have to say, I'm a little surprised at how entertaining it is, considering how many times I've started and rejected it in the past. The prose is pretty florid, but there's a decent adventure story under all the 19th century romanticism, and besides, who can resist a good Robin Hood reference? I didn't know before how many of the current Robin Hood legends came from Ivanhoe, and I was pleasantly surprised to suddenly be hearing the old stories about Prince John and King Richard the Lionheart and Robin of Locksley trouncing all challengers in a shooting contest. I found myself picturing the scenes in my mind's eye, more than I usually do: Prince John, wily and incompetent, with his crown falling down around his eyes; King Richard, big, bluff, blond, and lionlike; Robin Hood, a brilliant archer but somewhat wobbly on his long, spindly legs...

Wait. Spindly legs? Lions? Prince John's crown falling over his ears? As it turns out, all of my images of the Robin Hood story are taken straight from Disney.  Not that that's a bad thing: Disney's version is a lot funnier than Sir Walter Scott's, and I have to admit to mild disappointment when Ivanhoe's tournament scene didn't end with rhino guards running wild. That scene always cracks me up. 

(A note on the video, if you click through: it's in Danish. This is partly because it's the best version I could find, and partly because of a game that I got from my friend Alea, where you try to find clips from Disney in their "original" language. You know--The Jungle Book in the original Hindi.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the original French. Hercules in Greek, Mulan in Chinese, Pocahontas in Algonquian. I couldn't find Robin Hood in Early Middle English, so Danish, being the original homeland of the Jutes, will have to suffice.)

So there I am, listening to Ivanhoe via Librivox and imagining one of my favorite childhood movies. It's like a smorgasbord of old loves! Next time I'll throw in some cottage cheese as a snack.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I'm not dead. I feel fine. I feel happy!

I'm still alive, and I still, in some sense, have a blog, though I have to admit I was a little surprised when my Blogger login credentials worked.

(That is, until I remembered that I can just use my Google account. See how long it's been since I've blogged?)

It seems like every blog I check in on these days is dead or dying. Maybe that's the way of the world, but it makes me a little sad. Reading back through some of my old posts, I think--oh yeah, this was fun. So let's keep doing it, ok?

Outside my window right now is a neighbor shouting, "Where are you?" She repeated it several times, louder and slower each time, until she finally spelled it out: Where W-H-E-R-E are A-R-E you Y-O-U? I hope she learns where her interlocutor is, because I'd like to go to bed soon.

So where am I? We're living in North Oakland these days, not far from where I lived when I wrote this post. Unfortunately, we're on the wrong side of the tracks through an already transitional neighborhood, which means lots of noise. Noise and pot smoke. But hey, rent is cheap, and who doesn't love a contact high on a Saturday night?

I'm still at working at my unnamed Internet company, and it's still fantastic. Not just the perks and benefits, though those are pretty great, or even the people--awesome, every last one--but the work! I moved to a different role at the company about six months ago, and now I'm an internet payments fraud analyst. Doesn't that sound like a real job? It totally does, and so corporate, too. Who would have thought I'd enjoy any sort of corporate work? Not me. And yet I still wake up excited every morning for the problems I'm going to tackle that day. I'm like a recruiting informercial or something, but I swear I'm not joking. Clearly, I'm not leaving it for law school anytime soon.

I'm still married, and it's still fantastic. You know, just to make sure I don't rave about my job more than my marriage. Marriage has its own perks and benefits, I guess, though it's pretty hard to beat three gourmet meals a day.

Not much has really changed for me in the last, oh, year or so, and in general I just feel far more boring than I used to be. I still read a lot. I've convinced Mike that traveling is a good thing (we just went to Singapore and Indonesia, and we're planning a trip to Ethiopia this winter) and he's convinced me that I can tolerate backpacking. (The California coast is beautiful, so much so that it's almost--dare I say it?--worth hiking!) I'm not an early morning seminary teacher anymore, thank goodness, though my new calling comes with its own irritations. (Meetings, meetings, meetings! I'm definitely not corporate enough yet to enjoy endless meetings.)

So that's me. What about you?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

All I Really Need to Know I Learned From "Clueless"

  • Old people can be so sweet.
  • Don't date a man who dresses better than you. What would you bring to the relationship?
  • That Polonius guy, not Hamlet, said "To thine own self be true."
  • Sitting with your legs crossed towards someone is an unequivocal sex invite.
  • Street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking but not necessarily misogynistic undertones.
  • Don't bother learning to park--everywhere you go has valet.
  • Anything you can do to draw attention to your mouth is good.
  • It is one thing to spark up a doobie and get laced at parties, but it is quite another to be fried all day.
  • It does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty.
  • 'Tis a far far better thing doing stuff for other people.
  • Do a lap before you commit to a location.
  • As if!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Which is the Chinese zodiac Year of the Bookworm?

Lots happened to me in 2010--I got a job, for one, though I think we've already been over that--but I'm pretty sure I will always remember it as the year of reading. I typically read about 120 books a year, so it's not like 2010 was the year I learned to read for fun or anything, but still, having a job did wonders for my reading time, and my 2 hour daily commute certainly didn't hurt. (I read new book every day for the first two months at my job, a reading pace that eventually had me looking around for new hobbies.)

After that introduction you're probably expecting some amazing stat about books completed, but really, I only finished 150 books in 2010, and I didn't even come close to completing my life goal of reading every novel that has ever won a Booker prize. (29 down, 15 to go.) I did, however, complete my goal of reading every single article in every single issue of my year's subscription to
The New Yorker, which, frankly, was exhausting: it's a weekly magazine. Weekly!

(On the plus side, I can add "I read a New Yorker article about that once" to my list of most-spoken phrases; whenever I say it now, Mike just laughs and replies, "Of course you did.")

I can't name a favorite New Yorker article, besides "anything by Anthony Lane or Adam Gopnik," but since I keep a list of all the books I read, I thought it would be fun to look back at what I've read and play favorites; plus, I'm obsessed with end-of-year lists and wanted to clutter the internet with my own version...even if it doesn't happen until February. Without further ado, then, I give you the best books I read in 2010, with no particular order to the lists, as that would be too hard.

Fiction Top 10
Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell
Sacred Hunger, by Barry Unsworth
A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall
The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver
A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain, by Robert Olen Butler
The Believers, by Zoe Heller
March, by Geraldine Brooks

Fiction Honorable Mentions

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, by Geoff Dyer

Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris

The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
Cloudsplitter, by Russell Banks

Non-Fiction Top 10

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain

Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

The Big Short, by Michael Lewis
Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine
Bonk, by Mary Roach
Complications, by Atul Gawande

Manhood for Amateurs, by Michael Chabon

Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers

John Adams, by David McCullough

Non-Fiction Honorable Mentions

The Wisdom of Whores, by Elizabeth Pisani

The White Man’s Burden, by William Easterly

How Women Got Their Curves, by David Barash and Judith Lipton

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Yeah, I Guess

I secretly love it when the New York Times describes my life.

Or do I secretly hate it?

Either way, this article is clearly me, drifting off to Facebook. (In my defense, I have to keep myself in a job, right?)

My apologies, dear readers. Someday I will blog again, I swear.