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. :)