Wednesday, December 24, 2014


I love this holiday because it celebrates two of my very favorite things: driving in traffic and shopping for stuff. Hoho. Some of my funniest xmases were spent with John Graham ages ago. One year we were both so broke that I wrapped up a library book as his gift, which he had to return when it was due two weeks later. Another time we were so thoroughly in denial that we neglected to buy any groceries until it was too late and the stores were all closed; dinner that night was a bbq chicken breast (shared) and some minute rice. Luckily he always had a giant bottle of Clan MacGregor hanging around.

"At home Moominmamma had dug out the verandah with a shovel and laid out life-belts, aspirin, Moominpappa's old gun, and some warm compresses. One had to be prepared."

-- from "The Fir Tree," a story by Tove Jansson, in which a stressed-out Hemulen wakes the Moomin family from their winter hibernation to warn them that "Christmas is coming!"

Anyway. Tonight will be fun! I'm going to the Hull house in Salem to hang out with Zach and his adorable family. And tomorrow I'll crawl back under the covers and resume my happy hibernation. :)

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Today is the first day of winter (so I hear). I think one of my winter projects might be to design myself a course in Tove Jansson. I love the Moomins of course (who doesn't) and have read and loved one or two of her other books (The Summer Book is classic and the best-known; I read it this summer, in fact, in Sweden, getting ready to visit the archipelago with my dad - but it would be an excellent thing to read in the mean old winter, too). But now there's a new biography out and a bunch of reissues of her stories and novels, so I think I might dive into that.

This essay is reinforcing my inclination.
Much of both Art in Nature and Travelling Light deals with the problem of art, and more specifically, with the problems of artists. Jansson’s characters are cursed to carry the same two souls within their breasts that she carried within hers: they desperately want to be alone, but equally desperately want to experience human connection. 
I didn't see anyone all weekend and it was great. You can't do that all the time but now and then it's nice to have a few days to tunnel in to whatever it is you want to tunnel into. (Not that I'm pretending to be any kind of artist, I didn't mean it that way; basically I just don't have a job.) I like time alone. I don't get lonely unless there's a specific person I'm lonely about. (And then I see people and realize how much I've missed them and how weird I am in company, suddenly.) Plus I've been reading a lot, several books all at once, and it feels like being wrapped up in blankets of words. Very cozy. The weather is hideous but it's ideal for that.

I'm cat-sitting at a friend's house, which I love to do: you get a lot of the fun of travel without the inconvenience of actually being away from home. It's just a slight displacement, same view different angle. (This friend happens to live in the middle of Portland's Sandwich Heaven, or one of them, so apologies if pictures of food appear here in the future. I'll try not to.) It also always makes me tidy up and rearrange my whole apartment. There. That's better!

Anyway, the thing I like most about Tove Jansson is the glorious rage of her tiniest people, and how she never allows it to be mocked, at least not in a mean way. That - the solemn respect for unnameable, ineffectual, absurdly childish but profoundly real fury - complemented by the supernatural calm and wisdom of the people who are a little more grown, that's what I like best. The territory between Little My and Snufkin is vast, and I'm pretty happy at either end.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

bad behavior/good excuses

A possibly relevant thing from this article / interview with Kelly Link in Gigantic, which is great in its entirety and might even get me to watch The Vampire Diaries one day:

Look, think about how gossip works. What are the best stories? When you're telling stories, you're telling stories about people who have made a really poor choice, who do or say the kind of thing we all know you shouldn't. In fiction, at least, there's a kind of cathartic, discomfiting joy—a pain/pleasure—in people behaving badly. 
So I don't know, maybe I just want to be a good story one day. It's healthier, though, and longer-lasting, to let the girl in the story do all the bad things, and for me just to write them down from here, where it's safe.

(I just finished reading Kelly Link's new book of short stories, is what brought that up. She's one of my favorites.)

In very closely related news, I watched a little movie called Happy Christmas recently. The trailer makes it seem bleaker than it is, as if everyone in it is kind of horrible, or too flawed to pull for. Like Young Adult (which I loved, but oof, harsh). But it's not, really; it's very sweet. Sad, but realistic, and not conclusively sad in the end. I used to hate Joe Swanberg's movies because nothing ever happened in them; my theory is that he was trying to show the way young people these days avoid conflict or confrontation of any kind, squirming away from it at all costs. Admirable mission, but frustrating to watch (for me, anyway). But he no longer avoids painful discussions, he dives right in and it turns out he's great at that.

Anyway. Fun for the holidays!

Also the other night I saw this crazy thing, which - OMG. Why Don't You Play in Hell?, it's called. It's pretty fantastic. A crazy love song to film and art and the urge to die to make something meaningful, and what a waste that is (or is it?), or, alternatively, what a badass way to live forever. Plenty of ultraviolence, great screen faces, and extremely fabulous costumes all around.

And an unrelated side note: my friend David Walker had a release party yesterday for his kick-ass new comic book about Shaft (you know, the black private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks), and along with that, he screened Shaft's Big Score (1972), and I'm like 95% sure that at one point in the movie, the sexy race-car driver named Rita said, "Anything with a stick shift is my meat." And that wasn't even close to the best line. Good stuff, and I totally plan on bringing back "it's my meat" as an expression of enthusiasm/proficiency.

But now I'm back in reading mode, so I might talk about something other than movies here next time, in case you all were getting bored (Karl). :)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

spooky action at a distance

Everyone's doing their Top 7 movies of the year, etc., but to save time I'll just tell you my very favorite, the movie that made me the most swoony and obsessive: Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive. I would live in it.

And it's not even the only movie this year in which dancing saves the day!

There were lots of others I loved, same as anyone: Edge of Tomorrow, Under the Skin (!), Guardians of the Galaxy. Locke. Interstellar. A screening of The Darjeeling Limited at the NW Film Center. But I didn't see much this year, for whatever reason. Picky, busy, gone a lot. Anyhow, if you like music or Detroit or romance or luscious fabric of any kind, or Tom Hiddleston or Tilda Swinton, or dancing, you'll want to see Only Lovers.

(This song just came on, which is what reminded me)

Another thing I loved that has a great soundtrack: The Knick. Check that out too.

p.s. Oh and Snowpiercer and Grand Budapest Hotel. :)

p.p.s. AND I can't believe I forgot about this one! Most fun movie in ages:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


I meant to write something half-serious today, but then I got distracted by Tom Hardy-on-a-stick:

Looks like it might require beer. :)

Anyhow, now that I'm distracted, here's another one I'm pretty excited to see:

Lot going on there.

[deleted scene]

I should go. No doubt I'll have something more interesting to say on Sunday, if I keep to the schedule which BY THE WAY is not likely, let alone obligatory, god forbid expected. Don't get your hopes up. Imagine a life consisting mostly of disappointments, with occasional misleading breaks for either treats or total disasters. This here glob won't seem so bad, in context. It's, like, preparing you for the future, for what's in store. Unreliability. What's your favorite pop song? Imagine waking up next to someone. Over and over. Even just the one time, actually. That's the whole thing. It's what we think we want. Do we want it though really? What happens then?

Well, I should go.

p.s. It might be useful to know that I've been reading a book of monster love stories - you know, people falling in love with monsters, and vice versa. Kind of in a weird headspace. :)

Sunday, December 07, 2014


The other night I told somebody that if I had my way, from Halloween to Valentine's Day I would probably curl up and hide. It's the cheerful party season. I'd like to stay home but I don't want to wake up in the spring with no friends. Also whenever I do venture out, I have a nice time. So I'm not really complaining. But to work as well as play requires an unsexy strategy: moderation. 

"Lagom" is a Swedish word meaning just the right amount - not too much, not too little. A national character summarized in one word of advice. If it's written on my hand I can't claim to forget about it. (Not such a big deal with coffee, maybe, but you get the idea.) Sticking with lagom is important because otherwise, very quickly, the situation slides over into all play and no work. I mean, who wouldn't rather just chill?

Icky winter is the best time of year for writing, but it's also the hardest in which to crawl out from under the covers if nobody is making you do that. This Chuck Wendig thing is a few weeks old but pretty fun, and useful. Mainly, for me, it's just a question of doing what you say you want to do. I think I'll unplug my Netflix account this week, just for a little while; it's so much easier to watch something than to make something. One of my favorite kids' books was a Frog & Toad story in which they experiment with the concept of "willpower," which in this case meant wrapping up the extra cookies in a box inside a box inside a box, tying the box up with string and stashing it way up high on the very top of the fridge, hard to reach without a step-ladder.

I think it might work.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


One of the 15 different books I'm currently half-reading is Wanderlust: A History of Walking, by Rebecca Solnit. I've just started, but already I have to quote a few passages for you:

Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors -- home, car, gym, office, shops -- disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.

Nice, right? Here's another one:

As a member of the self-employed whose time saved by technology can be lavished on daydreams and meanders, I know these things have their uses, and use them -- a truck, a computer, a modem -- myself, but I fear their false urgency, their call to speed, their insistence that travel is less important than arrival. I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness.
Of course, there is such a thing as too slow. This time of year I have a huge appetite for reading, but I read so slowly, it's agonizing. And I sleep too much. Can't get anything done. I just keep making lists of new books I want to read. :)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

glamour and revenge

"It came to me then that dressing badly could be seen, in a way, as a form of disinformation, a form, almost, of psychological weapon." - Lydia Millet, Mermaids in Paradise

Man, Lydia Millet gets me. :)

(My interview with her went up earlier this month - she was extremely cool.) 

Anyhow. Alert readers may recall our noble mission from last week: 
The new Plan begins as a laser-focused deprogramming regime, to be enacted thus: you (I) must watch all of the Very Worst of the Romantic movies offered through Netflix instant streaming, or as many as you can until you barf.
Well, it went swimmingly, right down to the barf. I didn't make it through very many movies, but I learned a thing or two about love. (Can't remember any of it, sad to report, except that for best results you should probably be called Jennifer.) The irritating thing is that these movies, even the very bad ones, have full access to the little marionette strings attached to my emotions. Girl and boy meet; exit brain stage left. All the movie-love myths bleed over into real life, too, even though they are mostly really gross myths and I obviously know better than to believe in them. It's embarrassing, like finding out that someone has secretly gotten you hooked on some weird drug and is now using it to control your behavior.

(This is nothing new, of course: movies rely on emotional manipulation; it's one of the things we like best about them. But the bad ones operate more like those old AT&T commercials, and when you succumb to a thing like that, against your will, you feel icky and weak.)

Anyhow, I'm sure I didn't manage to deprogram myself in a single evening, but I might have become annoyed enough to embrace and enjoy Winter Hermit Mode for the next month or so while I finish writing this frustrating thing I've been writing forever and ever.

Fingers crossed.

Best part of the whole deal might be the mean, scoldy tone Netflix has adopted: Because you were silly enough to watch '13 Going on 30,' you will be punished and mocked by the following suggestions...'Revenge of the Bridesmaids'...'Beauty & the Briefcase'....etc.

So. Onward!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Well, I didn't say *which* Wednesday, now did I?

(Or wait. Actually I guess I said every Wednesday. And Sunday. Well, that proves my point, though, still.)

Anyway. Further efforts toward a comforting routine. Which really is an effort to seize time, grab it and stop it, to prevent important things from slipping through your fingertips - whether they're things you want to do or make or things you need to know, see, read, hear, etc. I have felt recently that I miss a lot. Also that I'm incredibly slow as a reader, and also as a viewer of dumb TV and as an absorber generally of facts and truths about the world. There is just so much more of everything. (Do you remember Antonia's Line? when they're riding that fat horse, and the kid - under the spell of the old nihilist, The Finger - says something like, Isn't it a pity that nothing exists, and the mom says Well, that's why there's so much. It's Schopenhauer, somehow, I think.) (Although I saw that movie a very long time ago and am notoriously unreliable on philosophy.)

On the other hand, this is a holiday, or rather, a holiday weekend, or week, I guess, technically, and I have now become distracted about movies. So now there's a new Plan.

The new Plan begins as a laser-focused deprogramming regime, to be enacted thus: you (I) must watch all of the Very Worst of the Romantic movies offered through Netflix instant streaming, or as many as you can until you barf.

(It's only how the Plan starts. After a while, you can forget, and watch whatever you want.)

Fingers crossed, everyone! :)

With any luck, I'll survive to report on the results here later.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

a routine check

I love reading about people's daily routines. Maybe all self-employed people have this feeling. It's almost a fetish, for me, and I assume its power comes at least in part from the fun fact that when you've imagined yourself doing something, your brain is pretty well convinced you did it. So reading about other people's routines can give you the satisfaction of having established a routine of your own without having to actually, you know, stick to a routine. Because that's hard.

Or maybe not. But for whatever reason, the day-in-the-life thing is catnip to me. I once subscribed to Harper's Bazaar strictly because of those hilarious, fantastical hour-by-hour reckonings they did with famous people. ("At 10am my assistant brings me a green smoothie from Balthazar for 2pm I nap with my pug, Narciso, before we each get an organic diamond-powder facial and a toe rub, then it's off to another branding meeting....")

But mostly I like to hear about what other writers do. (Joe Hill wrote a good one recently - and he seems to get an awful lot of work done. I'm just saying.) (Also somewhere not long ago I read a quote from David Mitchell saying the trick for him is to rush to the writing, first thing in the morning.)

When I hear authors and normal people say things like "On Tuesdays I do this," or "Every Saturday we go here," or "Thursdays we have pea soup with ham and pancakes," what I feel is almost indistinguishable from romantic longing. Ohhhhh. Pea soup, every Thursday. *sigh*

What's behind this, I wonder? Maybe it's a grass-is-greener scenario; when everything is scripted, you want spontaneity, and as ever the reverse is equally true. It's very satisfying as a freelancer to be working on something and not have that usually-constant nagging feeling that you should really be working on something else. Also, order itself is pleasing. Expectations met.

But most days what I feel like instead is a bankrupt or amnesiac painter facing a blank white canvas.

It's so freeing! You can put anything on there.

ANYTHING. Wherever.

Take your time.

Oh that line, between freeing and paralyzing. It's such a faint little line.

Last month I was in Colorado, and for about two weeks I was in charge of my parents' little homestead, and as you might imagine, the caretaking of the homestead dictates a certain daily routine. (They wrote it down for me.)

I woke up early, wrote nonsense until it got light out, then bundled up and went outside.

Let the squawky chickens out, check for eggs, throw last night's scraps at them and fill their feeder.

(One of the little thrills every day was that the stupid chickens were just so damn happy to get out of their hutch in the morning, exactly as happy as they were to go back into it at night.)

Then you walk over to the barn and turn on the water pump for the horses' water tank. (There's a series of hoses already puzzled together.) Open the barn doors, feed the wild kitties (who are at least as ecstatic to see me as the chickens were), check their water. Throw some hay to the fat furry ponies (ditto).

Call the horses in from the field and put hay cubes into their feeders, six cubes per horse plus one extra helping because they fight and play musical chairs. Pet them just because, and peek at their legs to make sure the clumsy ones haven't walked through any barbed-wire fencing or anything.

Go back up and turn off the water pump before their tank overflows. (Except for that one time.) Open the door to the greenhouse, dodge the wasps and pick whatever tomatoes are ready. Feed the dogs, then take them for a walk out back.

In the evening, close up all the open doors and feed everybody again.

It's soothing, right? Knowing just what to do and when and what's at stake. I like it and long for it on some weird primal level. It's why I like being on deadline. Partly because it's easier: the massive relief of not having to figure out what you ought to be doing every damn minute of every day. So nice to have that already decided and laid out for you. Following instructions can be quite relaxing.

I think I'm starting to repeat myself. So anyway, here's the part where I should say, OK folks (hi Karl!), with that in mind, I will now be updating this glob every Sunday and Wednesday forever, like clockwork.

But that will probably not come true, because as much as I love the idea of order and routine, in fact the charm of a rigorous schedule for me is mainly abstract. Like ten percent of my day is predictable almost all of the time. And I am super dedicated! to that ten percent. The rest is ?

But hey maybe! Check back on Wednesday. :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Well, here's one of the things I've been up to lately: a long interview with David Mitchell, about his new book, The Bone Clocks. BookPage even let me have extra room (!) but still there were a few things that didn't fit - for example, Mitchell talked about what goes into naming his characters. "Synesthetically, names have colors and their own musicalities," he explained, and you wouldn't want "too many blue names next to each other." So if, say, "Michael is blue, Peter is red, David’s green, William’s yellow - they need to be spaced out, otherwise they sort of blend into each other." And then on top of that, "For my immortal characters, they kind of need a name that they might’ve chosen or that is in a way a miniature poem. Some names stick to the eyeball well. Benedict sticks, it’s stickier than Ben. You won’t be forgetting that character. These are all factors that come into play when christening a character. And I was really grateful for the 'replace' facility on my Mac."

Most of our conversation, though, was about aging and death and how much fun those are.

(For my next trick I get to interview Lydia Millet!)

In other news, it is 90 degrees here. So there isn't much other news.

Also I'm writing about Sweden (still!) for Lonely Planet. And a sizable hunk of the book is due Friday, so I'd better get back to that. But hey, there you go: an update.

(Hi Karl!)

Friday, July 11, 2014

I promise I'm updating this thing, behind the scenes, for reals. Stay alert!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

olden tymes

Wow, time flies, y'all. My very first motorcycle race was seven years ago today: April Fool's, 2007. (I crashed.)

It isn't even "Throwback Thursday" but what the heck: how about a brief episode of gazing toward the past in wonderment and/or confusion. Motorcycle racing! What a weird thing to do. Lately I've been pondering whether to keep my tiny vintage racebike for possible future use or just go ahead and admit that I'm not really a racy gal.

(Sort of a moot point this year, due to current lack of steady income. But - never say never, etc.)

The thing is, I am not fast; I started out slow that first year and have never kept at it consistently enough to improve much. The last time I competed was in 2011, and I think I only did two races that year.

And -- like everyone, probably -- I don't really like being bad at things in public, unless it's funny.

But it could be funny! Maybe. Or it could just embarrass everyone. Or I could get better at it! Hard to say.

Racing is very exciting; it's an excellent way to improve your riding; and best of all, it works as kind of a laboratory for testing yourself against your own fear and bad habits.

But to do it properly requires dedication. It costs money (not tons, but some). It helps if you're mechanically inclined (I am the opposite). And I'm kind of a chicken, which as I've mentioned makes me slow, which means that my standard role on the track is "obstacle to dodge."

(I also know it doesn't help to go around talking about how slow you are if you want to go faster. I do not embrace my chicken identity! It's just kind of a nervous tic at this point, another bad habit.)

Anyhow. For olde tymes' sake I dug up from the archives a couple of race-day reports, just for fun. Also found these two blog posts I wrote for WW back when that sort of thing was still happening.

(obstacle being very politely dodged)

Anyhow. The first race at PIR this season is April 12 & 13. You should go! It's fun to watch. Lots of my pals and clubmates will be on the track.

Now back to work. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 10, 2014


Working on a thing. This might be relevant, or at least probably useful to keep in mind:

The hipster represents what can happen to middle class whites, particularly, and to all elites, generally, when they focus on the struggles for their own pleasures and luxuries -- seeing these as daring and confrontational -- rather than asking what makes their sort of people entitled to them, who else suffers for their pleasures, and where their "rebellion" adjoins social struggles that should obligate anybody who hates authority.
-- from the excellent and now kind of old n+1 book What Was the Hipster?, which I'm finally getting around to reading, along with a whole bunch of other stuff I've been meaning to read for ages...

Also working on a makeover of this here glob, because I am also now kind of old, and reading the tiny white-on-black type hurts my tired eyes. More news to come. Stay alert!