January, 2009

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Your musical recommendations for today…

This year-old Hawksley Workman concert from CBC is not the best live performance I’ve ever heard from him; however, it’s the best one that’s streaming for free on the internet (and it’s pretty damn great even with the disclaimers). My only real complaint is that they’ve clearly scissored out a ton of his famously surreal between-songs banter (he’s a bit like Robyn Hitchcock, if Hitchcock were less about insects and eyeballs and more about chocolate and puppies), but hey, clearly they had a length to come in under so here you have it.

The following YouTube video is here for a different reason. I could totally find better footage/audio of Duke Special for you, even streaming free, but that material would not provide the additional pleasures of staring at the screen throughout, thinking, “Why is this happening? In this place? There must be a backstory that makes sense… oh, wait, I think I have it – no, no that doesn’t work.” (There are five more parts to the story if you find that you enjoy the game as much as I did, or if you’re just digging the concert.)

(I feel as if I should hold an “explain this video” contest, but we all know I’d forget to put the prize in the mail. Feel free to play anyway!)

Elizabeth B., Mammogram Professional

Guess what time it was last week?

First mammogram time!

Frankly, I was annoyed more than anything; I’m in zero cancer risk groups, and I have a longstanding theory – which there’s quite a lot of evidence behind by now – that while I am enormously susceptible to diseases that make you WISH you were dead, I will never get one that stands a chance of actually killing me. This is not hubris but wistfulness, if you’ve read correctly.

So if I come back here and tell you the test was positive, you can feel free to laugh at me. I realize it will seem inappropriate, but do it anyway. I’ll have earned it.

I had heard that it was going to hurt, a lot. It probably did, actually, but not nearly as much as I thought. Or it WOULDN’T HAVE…

For the uninitiated, they basically smash your boobs flat between two flat plates, from several angles, and take a picture. While things were being “positioned” for the shot from the side, I noticed but did not comment on one of those plates poking into my collarbone.

Women who are one or more years younger than I: If you notice? Comment on. If you don’t, see, you end up with one of your bones being smashed between two big heavy things with a crapload of pressure behind them. This sucks.

But not QUITE as much as my Extremely Meek Childhood Self making an unwelcome reappearance and reacting as such: “Oh, that hurts. Well, it’ll only be another second or two; I don’t think the bone will break. I just won’t say anything.”

Oh, Extremely Meek Childhood Self. You suck SO HARD. Although I suppose it would have been an amusing conversation piece, to come out of a routine medical test in a cast. Ha ha ha.

The other thing I noticed, which is quite minor compared to the whole bone-crushing potential, is that it was the weirdest and most awkward use of hospital gowns ever. You put it on tied in the front (which in this particular model didn’t, you know, work) and then do all this elaborate removing and folding and tucking to expose the current patient. Then you cover that side up and do the whole routine over again.


Nobody has ever accused me of being an exhibitionist.

But honestly, if you’ve already got one bosom out in the open air, is it really more traumatic to have ‘em both on temporary display? My vote: No. Perhaps you could fill out a little card about whether you prefer increased exposure to uncomfortable contortion?

I hope we have all learned something today. I know I probably haven’t.

Too much thinking.

It’s been quite a hectic week here in my skull. How are all you lovely people out there? Good? Great!

I’ve been trying to plan a local-area relocation, which in our case is far more complicated than it should ever be for anyone, even HITLER. R. and I always have a bit of an adventure, as between us we have a mindboggling lists of Must-Haves and Must-Not-Haves for a new apartment, everything from a big kitchen to no wool carpet to being at least a mile from the freeway (note to out-of-towners: we have A LOT of freeways) to having a guarantee that there have never been pets in the unit (allergies) to being in an urban neighborhood where you can walk to stuff… and can that all be within our budget, please?

Because W. is 4, we have to add to the mix: Is there a decent preschool we can afford that has an immediate opening, and is the school district decent because oh my lord I don’t want to move again in a year?

I looked up the symptoms of fibromyalgia recently, and one that made me laugh (chronic pain gives you a weird sense of humor) was “inability to multitask.” Funny because: yes, exactly, but it never occurred to me that was a symptom of anything. I should be specific here: under normal circumstances, I am a genius multitasker, the person who can be given 20 tasks and 20 deadlines and keep your company together by also remembering all the stuff you forgot that wasn’t even my job. So inability to multitask, for me, might mean I’m working at a normal-people level (I’m not really sure, I haven’t done a focus group on it or anything). My point – there is one, and related to the paragraphs before even! – is that this process is apparently one higher than the number of tasks I can handle. Because if you’ve ever watched an engine struggle to spark and then die? I have that exact feeling in my head.

So hey, it’s a good thing I have some things to do this weekend! Saturday night, my friend Michele and I are going to the Greg Proops Chat Show at Largo. This monthly live talk show is pretty much my favorite thing happening in Los Angeles, and yes, I say that with the full awareness that 50 amazing things are happening within the city limits at any given time. There’s comedy, music, and of course, chat; the guests that have been announced so far for Saturday are Margaret Cho and Andy Richter. I know, pretty cool, huh?

For years now, I have had a secret dream: to leave and return to Largo within 12 hours. That weirdly specific fantasy will become reality on Sunday, for the venue is presenting its first children’s concert at 11am, and lucky for me I have a child. The groundbreaking artist in question will be Justin Roberts, who my kid likes, which puts him on a list of maybe 4-5 children’s recording artists, because my boy, he likes the big people’s music (so far, anyway). Those people usually play past his bedtime. Or are dead. Anyway, I’m not hugely familiar with Mr. Roberts’ oeuvre, but I have liked what I’ve heard, and kids’ music tends to separate into good and evil pretty quickly.

I’m hoping this leads to more family shows; until now, McCabe’s has been the best bet in town, but I think – while I don’t want to endorse a series that doesn’t technically exist yet – Largo would be better. For one thing, although I’m quite certain nobody has ever gone to Largo purely out of a desire to sit in their comfy, comfy chairs, they’re still a few steps up from McCabe’s folding jobbies; I am old and broken-down and this matters to me. But not as much as this: McCabe’s books some seriously great people, but if you see a kids’ show with an artist you’ve never heard of, you can’t really go confident that they’ll be great too. I learned this lesson up close, and quite frankly I still don’t want to talk about it. I really, really, really don’t think a Largo series would be like that. So bring your kids if you’ve got ‘em, because this could be the start of something really cool.

Wouldn’t it be great if the next time I posted I’d found an apartment and moved and gotten the kid in school stuff ? Like, in 3 days? Yeah, I don’t think it’ll happen either. Wish me luck!

Looking forward

It was a strange day today. The first crisis came when the year-end wrap-up I’d been working on for two days turned out to have been autosaving a very, very early version (I am 99% sure that rather than being a WordPress problem, it involved my pathetic AT&T internet connection, which disconnects itself every 5 minutes or so). It was totally comprehensive and multimedia, too.

After that I got lost for over half an hour trying to get to the local Trader Joe’s, somehow badly strained my right shoulder getting out of the car (I am aware this makes no sense), had a borderline panic attack based on too many people + forgotten shopping list, and on the way home, almost mowed down a waiter in a crosswalk.

So once home, I thought I’ll bake some potatoes, that’s easy enough. And the handle fell off the oven door.

I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that all this mischief and borderline catastrophe was caused by a gremlin. A gremlin who came to bring us these glad tidings: “STOP FREAKING THINKING ABOUT 2008!”

That gremlin is correct. Even though my essay was about the good things the year brought, I kept finding myself drifting into angry rants about the OTHER stuff. Before 2008, I was not even capable of angry rants. It was only the second-worst year of my life, but the first worst was merely crushingly sad – no rage. I used to wish I was capable of getting pissed off, but now I’d like a refund on that, thanks.

So it’s time to forget that and talk about what’s coming.

I have one official New Year’s Resolution, which is one more than I usually have: Attempt to do 90% less this year, and do the remaining 10% really well. I know – it’s a good one, right? You can totally borrow it.

That said, here’s some stuff I’d LIKE to accomplish this year:

Actually post to this blog regularly now that it’s all fresh and sparkly.

Move back to LA proper (this is almost a done deal).

I would like to start a massive cult-of-personality movement around Senator Russ Feingold. I didn’t know you could do that with politicians who weren’t dictators, but now that that glass ceiling’s been busted: This guy’s brilliant, charming, funny, handsome AND has rock-solid progressive ideals that he actually – get this – stands by. Join me?

Get a smart phone of some kind. The time has come.

Find a new job as a proofreader. I did it for years, then I did other stuff for years, and you know what? I should’ve stuck with my first idea. I’m absurdly good at it and I find it weirdly satisfying. What more can you ask from a day job?

Build a long-planned website (this is what I was test driving Joomla for) that’s a hub for information on feeding people with dietary restrictions, targeted to people who only have to do it occasionally and don’t want to stock up on specialty ingredients or become experts. The goal is to show people it’s not that big a deal; out there on the internets I’ve heard people ranting up a storm because some asshole with a severe food allergy is coming over for lunch, ya know? The holdup is that I can’t come up with a good name. My latest idea was Feeding the Masses but one hates to get too Biblical.

Oh, right: Do something about my health.

Also, I want to tell you what was cool in 2008 – shh! Really fast!

The above people and projects should, by the way, not be associated in any way with the horror that was 2008. They existed on a plane above it.

So what are you planning to be up to this year?

The perils of abandoned drafts

I’ve been cleaning out old drafts that were brought over from the MT blog; most of them were crap like “Does it show up when I do this?”

One, though, had me curious. It was entitled “The Zoo: Things I Have Learned” and began:

The first attempt to go to the zoo was on Easter Sunday. The theory was that it was a major holiday, and one that people spend with their families eating ham and disturbing “salads,” so it would be sparsely attended at best.

This was when I learned that despite having moved to California nearly 20 years ago, I still occasionally make plans based on assumptions based on my upbringing as a white chick from the Northeast. Because as it turns out, the zoo was jammed to can’t-get-near-it proportions; clearly, the hottest spot in town, followed closely by the many nearby offshoots of Griffith Park, which were packed with people who’d brought their upsetting springtime cuisine out for picnics. It looked like it’d be a lot more fun that way, actually. Semipredictable weather is a beautiful thing.

Then there was a little nubbin about how the kid who never napped DID nap, which was clearly leading to a whole big story, but didn’t.

So it’s rattling around the back of my brain now. What did I learn from not being able to go to the zoo? Was it something that would change the way I live my life? If so: Have I internalized it, or merely forgotten it?

I’ll probably never know. The lesson here: Finish your blog posts, kiddies.

Also, I’m rather happy with the phrase “upsetting springtime cuisine.”

Joe Henry Concert Video in Paradiso

A much, much earlier post on this blog bemoaned my inability to find online video that would properly convey the spellbinding loveliness of the Joe Henry concert I had just attended. Because the internet is magical, a friend who had not seen that entry pre-relaunch (pre-relaunch? should that just be ‘launch’?) has now alerted me to the existence of just such a thing.

Click below for spellbinding loveliness, and lots of it.

Joe Henry Concert Video in Paradiso – Main Hall – Free on Fabchannel.com.

Donald E. Westlake

Yesterday, my husband finished rereading Donald E. Westlake’s “What’s The Worst That Could Happen?” Saturday, I’d picked up a reissue of Westlake’s long-out-of-print “Somebody Owes Me Money,” which I started reading today.

So naturally, there’s been a lot of Westlake-related conversation around the house.

I wondered, for instance, why he doesn’t seem to be a household name. In the unfortunately segregated-in-bookstores crime-fiction genre, he’s massive, but I personally haven’t met anyone who wasn’t pretty heavily into that genre who knew who he was. Which is unfortunate, because he’s one of the best writers I’ve ever read. Unbelievably funny (you know all those internet acronyms, like Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Ass Off With Tears Rolling Down My Cheeks and Sudden Difficulty Breathing? Many of Westlake’s novels bring those to life), and with a gift for plotting that often makes whoever I read next seem as if they’re working in crayon.

And I don’t know if I said this out loud or merely thought it, but my brain definitely formed the thought, “I’m going to be incredibly bummed out when he dies.”

And my next Twitter check informed me that, in fact, he had.


So instead of JUST being incredibly bummed out, I thought I’d put some energy into encouraging you, if you haven’t already, to read his books. He’s written so many that it’s hard to come up with a starting place; my personal favorites, Drowned Hopes and Dancing Aztecs, are both out of print. So I’m just gonna go with: Buy the first title from the Dortmunder series you can find.

Really. You’ll thank me. I love being thanked.

RIP, Donald E. Westlake, 1933-2008. You’ll be missed, sir.