the original kStyle blog.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Friday Fortune Cookie
Sneeze with valor; fart with fortitude.

Lucky Number: 69, baby!

Thursday, July 29, 2004

A Few Days Later...

Hoodsie cups are just wonderful, even without PMS, it turns out.

A Tail of Two Kitties

(Sorry…couldn’t resist.)

The kitten. Is. Cute. She’s skinny as can be, with huge ears and long legs and a long, skinny tail. She’s clumsy and attacks everything. But her greatest aspiration in life is to cuddle.

She’s loud. We leave her little black-and-white self in the bedroom alone, and her Siamese mother comes out in her voice. She meows, cries, and yodels. She tries to escape her confinement at every chance. Noah lurks outside her door, she tries to run out, and they meet: nose to nose. They sniff tentatively, kitten looks like she’s ready to Play! with Noah, Noah stares, then hisses, and then whines to us. This all happens within the seconds it takes one of the humans to scoop up kitten and return her to her chamber.

She enjoys, it seems, keeping us awake at night. She cried and cried when I went to bed, until I picked her up and let her on it, sternly admonishing her to lie down and go to sleep. Alas, walking on my face, purring, and licking the inside of my nose are much more fun. I put her back down. She cried. I ignored it. She figured out how to leap onto the bed.

Greg came to bed. She spent a good half hour walking over and between both of us, stopping to knead here and there. Finally I fell asleep. I awoke later, hot. Why was I hot? Kitten was sleeping on my neck, tucked under my chin. It was repulsively cute and quite uncomfortable.

She doesn’t take much interest in food, preferring instead trying to escape to explore the whole condo, cuddling, climbing everything, and playing with toys. We wish she would eat--skinny thing looks like a refugee, which I suppose she is, in a way.

Noah is coping. He looks downright huge compared to this tiny girl. We’re lavishing him with attention, toys, brushing, and praise. He’s a handsome, distinctive cat, as well as an honors student, anyone will tell you.

Names in the running:
Princess Spidermonkey (She’s loud and spider-like….and monkey-like…making her spidermonkey-like.)
Luna (As in, -tic?)
Charlotte (after the spider)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Suburbia: A wonderful life or world-wrecking hell? Discuss.
(Bonus points for nuance.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Mojo, Mojo, Mojo
I have to thank y'all for sending me such juicy job-hunting mojo! I have two interviews this Friday, AND a restaurant called me about waitressing (though now I'm thinking a lower-pressure office job is the better way to go). Keep sending me that magic, friends! I promise the good luck will explode in your own life.

Meanwhile, we're probably going to get a kitten to keep Noah, our older cat, company. He seems bored--a little friend might be just the thing. I met a couple of sweet little fur-and-energy-balls at the local shelter today, filled out the application, and placed a deposit to reserve one for 24 hours. Tomorrow, the boyfriend will meet the kitties and we shall choose.

President William Jefferson Clinton

Did anyone hear the man speak last night? What an orator! He was simply fantastic.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Although I'm fairly certain that I lack Eric's innate gift for these things, I'll do my best to keep the tradition alive this week.

1. Cats or dogs? Why?
2. Burgers or dogs? Why?
3. If you had a chance to name a planet or a new species of plant, what name would you choose and why? Bonus: Describe the planet or plant. (Too Wed. Writing Assignment? Sorry. Flying by the seat of my pants, here.)

Monday Questionnaire on Vacation Today

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I've been unable to put the requisite amount of thought into questions for this week. If kStyle or anyone else would like to take my place today, you're more than welcome. I promise to have good ones next week.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

And Now, a Word from Our Sponsors
I highly, highly recommend the web site So You Wanna for all of your questions about how to do anything. Lose weight, convert to Buddhism, cut a record--it's all there. I recommend you get the Google Toolbar, which blocks pop-up ads, before visiting. It's useful anyway.

For PMS sufferers: I've finally found a product that wipes out 99% of my PMS symptoms (despite earlier, slightly exaggerated post on my PMS woes). Check out Estroven PMS, which relieves both physical and emotional PMS symptoms and really works for me. It's a godsend.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Rain and Hair
It's raining this morning. I was disappointed yesterday when I heard it was to rain all weekend, but waking up to rain and a cool breeze is nice, utterly refreshing, a respite from the relentless humid still heat of the past two weeks.

I highlighted my own hair last night. Mostly it looks good, but I put a little too much highlighter near my face and crown, and I have a bright yellow chunk or two. It is little consolation that chunky, unnatural highlights are "in", because I've always thought that looked stupid. Oh well, my hair grows fast, and if I pull it back just so, it mostly hides the offending patches.

Enjoy your weekends, everyone. Go on and dance in the rain.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The PMS Diaries

9:30 AM. I’m resisting the Hoodsie ice cream cups that I know are sitting in the freezer, leftovers from our company picnic. Oh, but that cool, smooth ice cream sliding down my throat would sure feel good…

10:45 AM. I crack, waiting for a fax to go through. I grab a Hoodsie and take it back to my cubicle-lair. It was delicious. I want more.

2:30 PM. Hormones have weakened me. I am a slave to the Hoodsie cup, my filling and nutritious lunch no longer able to stave off the craziness of womanhood. I attack.

2:45 PM. Like a satisfied cat, I lick my lips, the empty Hoodsie container next to me.

4:30 PM. Arriving home, I remember the Pepperidge Farms coconut cream cake sitting, squat and delicious, in the freezer. I have a small slice. Delicious.

5 PM. Several cumulative slivers of cake later, like an overstuffed Godzilla, I require a nap.

6 PM. I arise and yawn, refreshed. Reflecting that I've consumed a few extra calories today, I head for the gym.

6:30 PM. I chose yoga over my usual workout because my neck has been stiff ever since Wednesday's cobra nightmare.

6:45 PM. This teacher is HARD.

7 PM. Yet another downward-facing dog for yet another five seconds? Who IS this woman? That's not a tan, is it...No, no, she's probably Middle Eastern. A terrorist! A terrorist come to fatigue American muscles so that we will be defenseless and weak when they attack the gym at 7:30! I hate her.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

All the World's a Stage
Twice yesterday I found myself thinking, This seems like a play. It doesn't seem quite real, but it is.

The first time was at the company softball game. Granted, it was sweltering hot and too humid even to swelter properly, and I was getting a little mushy headed from being out in the sun. (Side note: The third and final time I went up to bat, I was so dazed that it took me a moment to figure out which side of homeplate was which. I had briefly considered declining my turn at bat, but, reassured by the presence of 3 EMT's on my team, I pressed my luck. So I might faint; in what better company could I do so?)  At one point in the game, my teammates began talking like people in a baseball play right before the musical number. Those familiar with 42nd Street should read this in the same cadence as the dialogue before the opening number, the audition scene. You know, "Julian Marsh is doin' a show!" "Hey Frances, didja hear? Julian Marsh is doin' a show!" "Foist audition comin' up tamarrow!" Cue tap dancing.

At the softball game, it went something like this.
"Step back from the plate!"
"Ya call that a pitch?"
"Hey, look at her hit!"
"Here comes Bill--he's a Southpaw!"
"Watch out!"
"Ooh, fly ball!"

The second theater moment occurred at an old hippie dance space a friend brought me to. For the last 36 years, this community has been gathering in a church hall to crate a "safe movement space". As someone who loves dancing but hates personal space invasion, this was right up my alley. The hall was illuminated by Christmas lights stretched across the floor at the room's perimeter. Artwork from a display at the hall was pressed up against two walls, satirical statues of our president eerily staring at us while we danced. The center of the room had a sacred-feeling centerpiece: beautiful dark pink roses in a large glass vase surrounded by bowls of grapes and white candles arranged atop a light blue cloth. The deejay spinned a mix of Latin, Celtic, pop, techno, and Afro-inspired tunes. And the people were right out of central casting. Earthy probable hippies commingled with young ravers and skinny white men in African costume-- people from across several age groups and races and ethnicities. The dance ranged from hip club-style dance to "contact improv" (you know, people rolling over each other in that modern dance way) to ballroom to gymnastic to tap and Afro-inspired (uh, okay, that last one was me). Halfway through we sat in a circle, turned the music off and the lights on, and the facilitator, a fit African-American man, talked about the community, invited us new folks to introduce ourselves, and called for announcements. This was the part that felt almost scripted. There is a free world folk festival in Lowell this weekend, one man announced. A young woman was selling her car. One of the Caucasians dressed in African cloth announced an African drumming festival. Another man invited us to see the Hugging Mother in Rhode Island this weekend. The facilitator told us that a couple of dance regulars just had a baby. Then we got up and did a group circle dance holding hands, lights still on, before the lights went off again and we returned to our individual dance worlds.

Julian Marsh is doin' a show!


Friday Fortune Cookie
Do not expect a colander to hold water.




A Tour Through Dreamland

I’m Michael Jackson’s therapist. We’re all living in big white tents, the ones used for functions, in a grassy field, though I think Michael himself lives in a gracious, rustic wooden house on the site. It’s like a big day camp/corporate outing center. Poor Michael never did molest any children, I learned as his therapist. He genuinely likes children, but mostly he wants to meet women by being a dad. Women have trouble seeing the real Michael through all the fame, money, and celebrity, and he needs ways to connect with them on a human level. In fact, he made himself look feminine so that women would relate to him. All the adopting and plastic surgery were ways of saying, I’m human, too, and lonely. Turns out I’m a damn good therapist. I got skillz.

I’m walking around a pool. It turns out I’m pregnant.

I woke up with gas.

I’m in a science class dealing with worms. Worms are gross. These look like tapeworms, long and flat and white, but they aren’t intestinal. The teacher (wearing a white lab coat) doesn’t understand why I don’t want to touch the worms. They just gross me out, I explain. He assures me that they’re harmless and perhaps even friendly. I touch them. They crawl onto the back of my neck and attach there. I tell the teacher and ask him to remove them, but he reassures me they’re harmless and maybe even good for me.

They hurt, though. Trying to pull them off myself, I run into my boss, who helps me remove them. They’ve grown fat with my blood. She helps me remove two. The third one turns out to be a cobra, which has latched its venomous fangs right around my vertebral column. I rush to the hospital, where it’s someone else who had the cobra poison in his neck. The doctors and I perform acupuncture to keep the venom from spreading into the CNS.

I woke up with a stiff neck.

I need to stop eating before bed.

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Finish this poem! Keep these four lines in it, but feel free to split them up or rearrange their oder. Make it as long or as short as you like. I'll add my own ending to the comments tomorrow.

I spied a tribe of river people
'Neath the Harvest Moon;
A young, lean fiddler lead their dance
Atop the highest dune.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Gimme Mojo
I've been busting my ass to put out resumes and cover letters, but my only bite has been from a recruiter. (Which is good, mind you, but my phone should be ringing off the hook.) I'm not seeking advice or encouragement or resume tips from y'all, but I would appreciate it if you'd shoot some good landing-a-great-job vibes my way. All your good wishes will return tenfold.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I'm scary-busy lately, and so cannot offer much in the way of delightful, enlightening commentary on this here swim through life. I promise a good Wednesday Writing Assignment, though, so be sure to check back.

Gettin' No Love
Alas, this web page looks so naked and vulnerable without her banner ads. What did we do wrong, Google? Not enough visitors?Too many obituaries? How have we fallen from grace, how have we lost the warm light of your advertisements? Are we no longer worthy to sell your kitchen knives, your discount prescription drugs, your records and CDs and movie tickets and shoe shine kits and herbs and free commenting?
Why have you forsaken us? WHY? WHY? WHY?

Monday Questionnaire

1. Name a "classic" work of literature that you will likely never read.

2. What is the last new word you learned, and what is the definition?

3. Tell us something interesting that happened to you at a school dance.


Friday, July 16, 2004

The Walk-In Freezer

You could store meat, entire herds of butchered cattle, in my office today. I feel like a modern Dickens character: Please, Sir, could you turn down the A/C? My hands are too cold to type.

PAULA DANZIGER (1944-2004)

Is anyone else here familiar with her work? The Cat Ate My Gymsuit? There's a Bat in Bunk Five? The Pistachio Prescription? Can You SueYoure Parents for Malpractice? Remember Me to Harold Square?

I read pretty much every Paula Danziger novel pretty much a hundred times between the ages of nine and fourteen. And again after that: in fact I just read "Harold Square" three months ago, after coming across it serendipitously on a shelf in my bedroom.

Danziger wrote funny, unpretentious novels for teenagers. She always wrote in the present tense, which I caught onto early, and which, though sometimes an affectation, gave her books an immediacy others lacked. She was fond of puns. The fathers in her books, particularly those from the seventies, were often distant, and the mothers often tried too hard. (Sometimes so did Danziger. But we can at least say this: she never wrote a boring novel.)

Her heroes and heroines, mostly heroines, were
honest and direct, and in fact one might say her recurring theme was the attempt by honest, direct people to get along in a world that doesn't prize either of those things. "The Cat Ate My Gymsuit," her first and still most famous novel, though not her best, set the tone for all of that, and Danziger kept it going for over thirty years. She was the real deal.

She died of a heart attack last week at age 59. I'll miss her.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Friday Fortune Cookie
Every creature shall smile upon you. Except for mosquitoes; they're just bitches.
Learn Portuguese!
picadeiro = circus ring

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Wednesday Writing Assignment

We all know the drill
capture a moment's essence--
five, seven, then five.

I've written many a silly haiku in my day. One of my favorites:

The Greeks loved columns
put them on lots of temples
back in the day, yo.

There's a lot to be said, however, for beautiful haiku. I don't think I've ever created one myself, so I'll share from The Essential Haiku, ed. Hass.

First, a Basho haiku:

The winter storm
hid in the bamboo grove
and quieted away.

A Buson:

Brushing flies
from the sick girl in the palaquin--
how hot it is!

And, an Issa:

Napping at midday
I hear the song of planters
and feel ashamed of myself.

There are certain haiku rules, like each haiku must reference the season...But do what you will. Share a silly one or a pretty one, or a pretty silly one, of your own devising.

Now you write haiku
Wednesday Writing Assignment
simple elegance.

What's in a Name?

"Maria" was briefly in the running for my first name. It was rejected on account of my last name: they almost rhyme and, together, the name would be too ethnic. I was to have a whole set of English-Irish-French genes in addition to my Portuguese ones, and moreover, my parents wanted to steer my life clear of discrimination.

When I became interested in my mysterious Portuguese heritage, in these people with their olive complexions and "sh" sounds ending words, I rather coveted the name Maria. I don't look especially Portuguese--my coloring hails mostly from the maternal side--and I felt like a pretender. In Portuguese class I took the name "Mena," the cute shortened form of "Filomena", a rather stuffy name we learned was my grandmother's given name only upon looking at government papers after she died. The woman who lived as Pheobe died, strangely, as Filomena.

The worry of anti-Portuguese discrimination isn't an issue now, the way it was in my grandparents' and maybe my parents' time. But now I find myself living in an area with many newly arrived Brazilians, generally a nice, upstanding group of people. The locals, for some unfathomable reason, often take issue with the influx of our neighbors from Brazil. I find myself understanding my folks' point about discrimination--a Portuguese name is easily a Brazilian name--and, as I'm applying for jobs, I'm very glad that my name isn't Maria.

Monday, July 12, 2004

A Story About Ed

Ed was my first intake during my homeless shelter internship. It was quickly clear that Ed was psychotic. When I inquired about "physical ailments", his clear voice lamented that he had laryngitis. I asked whether he had laryngitis right now or chronic laryngitis, and Ed replied by pointing to a puffy doll of a black-clad witch with orange yarn hair: "She writes down what I'm thinking because I can't say it."

Ed couldn't tell me whether he was a veteran because the Vietcong might hunt him down. After a moment's thought, I assured him that our records were confidential and even if the Vietcong found the shelter, we'd never reveal his whereabouts. More comfortable, Ed revealed that he was, in fact, a veteran. I checked the "yes" box and made a note that he was too young to have served in Vietnam.

Towards the end of his intake, Ed said that he suffered from diabetes and hadn't had insulin in weeks. We called an ambulance, which rushed him to the hospital. Upon Ed's return that evening, the EMT told us that Ed did not have diabetes; severe schizophrenia was his only disease.

Ed's words remained with me these years, their bizarreness etching them deep into my brain. But he said one thing, one little thing that, although technically false, was the truest thing he could have revealed about himself. When I first asked whether he needed insulin, he sorrowfully replied, "There's not enough insulin in the whole world."

Surveying my desk at work today, my heavy heart murmured, "There aren't enough paperclips in the whole world."


1. Name a sound that you find absolutely unbearable.

2. What is the worst stylistic decision you've ever made concerning your own appearance?

3. During what decade of American history would you most like to have lived?

Sunday, July 11, 2004

On a Happier Note

After the hospital visit yesterday, I met up with a long-lost friend. We studied in Greece together, often wandering around Athens and chatting away. Yesterday we subconsciously replicated our old times as best we could in Boston: wandering around the North End, munching in Italian pastries, and chat-chat-chatting away. Our afternoon was imbued with that great feeling of picking up just where we left off. Of course, we caught up in the last five years: I was in Santa Fe, she was in Germany, I spent time in California, she traveled through Europe a bit more, we both slept with foreigners, she has shortened her first name to something glamorous and easier to pronounce...You know, the usual. We had a tremendous time and plan to meet again soon.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

The Visit

Artemis' eyes were open today. Her fever has broken, her color looks good, and her arms aren't as contracted. I was hoping this meant the coma was almost over, but a little internet research just now showed me otherwise. She doesn't respond to stimuli, that's the thing. Maybe she can hear us and see us--she does seem to look at us while we're talking--but no one knows where she is in there.

Her parents were there this time, and her brother, which made it hard. You can see how hard it is for them. They are so sad, so devastated. Her father has always been cheerful and well-groomed. His eyes are so sad and foggy and stubble has overgrown his chin and jaw. Her mother was sorrowful, eyes downcast, the corners of her mouth turned down, unable to lift. Her brother acted cheerful, the strong one, but I could see the tears right behind his eyes, if you know what I mean.

Even in a coma, Artemis is beautiful. She has these haunting eyes, a little brown, a little gold, a tiny bit green. They fluttered open and shut, and she yawned a lot. I can imagine this whole ordeal has been exhausting for her. It is too much for these good people to bear. Too much sorrow.

Another Visit

I'll be going to visit Artemis again today. It's interesting, this coma thing. In movies, they show people in comas just lying flat, make-up done, not moving. In real life, a coma looks different. My friend looks like she's in a fitful nap: rapid eye movement; her fingers and feet twitch; she sighs a lot. I like to think she's sighing with impatience at her coma.

It's the first time I've ever seem Artemis without her hair done. We might have to lie about that on the off chance that she wakes up: Oh no, your hair looked gorgeous the whole time. We don't know how you do it. Sadly, it turns out that muscles contract in a coma--I don't know why--so her arms and shoulders are stiff and immobile. I did a little Shiatsu on Artemis, hoping it wasn't illegal to practice on a coma patient without my lisence, and she seemed to respond. She let out a deep siiiiggggggggggghhhhhh when I touched one tsubo on her hand as I worked my way down the meridian. I went back to that point, and sure enough, she siiiiiiigggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhed again.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Friday Fortune Cookie

Joy lies next to the taquitos in frozen foods, aisle 7.
Lucky number: 7.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Austen Update

I'm not making much headway in Pride and Prejudice. I'm not in the flow of Austen's style yet, and David Sedaris keeps distracting me with his delightful essays.

To give you a better idea of what Ms. Austen is up against, I'll treat you to a characteristically witty and poignant sample of Mr. Sedaris' writing, from his book Me Talk Pretty One Day :

A week after putting her to sleep, I received Neil's ashes in a forest green can. She'd never expressed any great interest in the outdoors, so I scattered her remains on the carpet and then vacuumed her back up. The cat's death struck me as the end of an era. It was, of course, the end of her era, but with the death of a pet there's always that urge to string black crepe over an entire ten- or twenty-year period. The end of my safe college life, the last of my thirty-inch waist, my faltering relationship with my first real boyfriend: I cried for it all and wondered why so few songs were written about cats.

(Sedaris has a shiny new book out, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, but there are about 10 gazillion holds at the library, and we can't afford hardcover right now.)

Art Inspires Art

I know the movie reviews are Eric's job, so I'm not going to review the movie per se. Guaranteed spoiler-free.

A painting inspires a novel inspires a film. Yes, we're talking about the much talked-about Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Vermeer's painting is beautiful and mysterious. It unlocks something in the girl's guarded heart, but we don't know exactly what it unlocks, or why it's there. Tracey Chevalier sees this unlocked emotion and crafts a beautiful story around it: The young lady Griet, whose father has been blinded in a kiln accident, becomes a maid in the Vermeer home. Her wages won't be much, but will provide cheese and bread for her family. In the painter's home, Griet grapples with homesickness, a terrible child named Cornelia, Tanneke, her difficult fellow maid, and Vermeer's entitled, emotional, ever-pregnant wife, Catharina. We see Griet's shrewdness, her cleverness, in dealing with this forces, and also her naivete in her crush on the artist. Chevalier's book is written in rich tones, every word carefully chosen to paint a picturesque story. I enjoyed the novel tremendously. I didn't loveloveloveLOVE it as much as some of my friends--I prefer a lighter style, a little more humor--but it is a gorgeous, well-crafted piece of writing, hard to put down, and I heartily recommend it.

The film is likewise gorgeous. Every shot a tableau reminiscent of a Vermeer painting. Chevalier's story is, of course, altered somewhat to suit the screen. I prefer the original arc myself; they rather hacked the ending. The pacing is a little slow, and Griet (Scarlett Johansson) loses some of her shrewdness in her transition to the screen, becoming a shuddering leaf, while Colin Firth plays a lurking Vermeer, creepier and less handsome than I had imagined. Likewise, the slow cinematography left no room for Griet's homesickness or her alliance with one of Vermeer's daughters. The movie, however, expertly contrasts the refinement of the masters' world with the garbage and dirt of the maids'. The film is beautiful and I recommend seeing it, if only for the feast of visuals, but had the film come first, I fear there would be no novel or painting.


We found a hidden jewel of a camping place. I'd tell you more about it, but I'd like it to remain hidden. (No offense, you're all lovely people.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Belated but Still Happy

Our Lah gained another year of life on July 3. Lah, you're a fantastic gal and I wish you beautifully fantastic health and many more years of happiness. Love you!

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Since kStyle is out experiencing the natural world, I guess I'll take up this week's Wednesday Writing Assignment.

So. High school.

I learned a lot of completely irrelevant things in high school. I have yet to use any of the combinations of numbers and letters and funny symbols I learned in calculus. My first college English professor told us to start hating the five-paragraph essay, because it's completely the wrong way to write a paper. Chemistry was fun (sometimes), but I've forgotten everything I memorized about the Periodic Table of Elements. I've forgotten most of what I've memorized, actually, which sort of defeats the purpose. I wish I'd taken more art classes.

But did I learn anything worthwhile? I must have; we all must have. Surely high school wasn't a complete waste of time. So my question is, What did you really learn in high school? I'm most interested in academics, but you can talk about some of your more abstract lessons, too.

(PS. What's the difference between the Monday Questionnaire and the Wednesday Writing Assignment? I'm afraid that I'm coming up with Wed. questions that could easily be Mon. questions, too, which I'd rather avoid.)

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


...a day late and a question short, since yesterday was the Fourth of July Sort-Of, and the week is brief:

1. With what song would you most like to serenade someone? If you have serenaded someone already and would like to share, please do. But also tell us which one is next on your playlist.

2. On what political issue, however strongly you feel about it, have you most recently had either a change of heart, or some feeling that you might one day change your mind about it? What are you politically ambivalent about, even if just a little?

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Ira Glass on Journalism

An excerpt from his excellent 2000 commencement address to UC Berkeley's journalism school:

The thing I would say to you is that it is the surprising moments that often tell you more than everything else. And I am often surprised, myself, that the part of the media that is supposedly going out and documenting reality, us, the journalists that the newspapers and the TV programs and radio programs have so few surprises, and in fact, are almost built on an aesthetic that won't allow for surprise. When is the last time that you saw an ABC correspondent say, in the middle of an interview, "No, you're kidding! No, that is so interesting. I never thought of it that way. No." This will never happen because there is a kind of seen-it-all quality, you can't admit that you didn't know, that is taking up the brain space where normal curiosity should be. I believe that is a failure of craft, because, reading the stories that come out of this, or watching the stories that come out of this, what it does is it makes it seem we live in a world without surprises, without moments where we go, "Well, that is amazing. That is amazing and better than I ever imagined." These journalists, I believe, make the world seem smaller than it is. Theirs is a crabbed tiny vision of what the world is. And it's an inaccurate vision of the world. We live in a world that includes surprises. That is inaccurate. We are inaccurate. It is inaccurate reporting.

Hungry for more? Go here.

How Rude of Me

Ann has redesigned her own web site with a fresh new look. Go visit her there. Go on, now. She'll be happy to see you.

Friday, July 02, 2004


Here's our friend Artemis. I'm going to see her tomorrow in the hospital. She won't know I'm there, but maybe she will, somehow.

Thanks to Ann for sending me the link.

Marlon Brando (1924-2004)

It seems that over the holiday weekend we'll be seeing quite a lot of clips from a few great movies. We'll see Vito Corleone, and Stanley
Kowalski, of course, and Terry Malloy from "On the Waterfront." And we'll hear about how Marlon Brando changed screen acting forever,
which he did, and we'll hear about how he became such a curious and eccentric figure, which he did.

What I hope we don't hear, though, is that the Method--the style of acting derived from Stanislavsky and popularized in the U.S. by Lee
Strasberg, and epitomized by Brando--somehow represents the pinnacle of the dramatic art.

Because, really, the Method is horseshit, and Marlon Brando was a genius who didn't need crackpot, cultish ideas for his genius to be
evident. The Method likes to point to him, and to DeNiro and a few others, as evidence of its superiority, but most of them would have been
fine without it, maybe better. The Method took credit for someone who succeeded not because of it, but despite it.

Brando was a creature of terrific skill and beauty, of mystery and talent that is rarer than most anything. But the idea that what a Real Actor
does is try to feel what the character is feeling, to immerse himself in a fictional experience in order to create "truth," is nonsense and always
has been. The purpose of the Method is primarily to allow self-indulgent actors the opportunity to call their self-indulgence Art, because
any attempt to feel an emotion other than what one really feels is doomed to failure. The Method ignored this reality, and it ignored the
greater truth that dramatic meaning is not the actor's responsibility but the writer's.

One cannot act what the story means. One can only act the story.

I don't know whether Brando knew that or not, but either way we are hardly the worse for it. We have "Streetcar" and "Waterfront" and
"The Godfather," as well as lesser films such as "Guys and Dolls" and "Julius Caesar," and the uneven "Apocalypse Now," and the actor's
later, idiosyncratic, often very funny work in movies such as "Don Juan DeMarco" and "The Score."

He looked like he was having a good time in that one, his last picture. And I admired him for refusing to take direction from Frank Oz, whom
he regarded as something of a hack. And I like what I read once about him, that in every film his first two takes of his first scene were
always a test of the director: in the first take, he would phone it in, and in the second, he would really act. If the director couldn't tell the
difference, Brando phoned it in the rest of the movie.

Part of the result of this is that we have only three, maybe four, great Brando movies, instead of the twenty or thirty we may feel we
deserved. But no matter. There is what is, and though Brando might perhaps not be as missed as he would have been, had he not declined
into self-indulgence and a wee bit of madness, we must still respect what there was of him. What he deigned to show us.

It might be more politic to say this after a few weeks have passed, but I don't think Brando was good for acting, or for movies. I think he
gave too many young actors tacit permission to think it was their job, their duty, their obligation to pretend they could do the impossible, at
the expense of the work. The result is that the screen and the stage today have too much preening, too much self-regard, and not enough

Of course this isn't Brando's fault really. But on a day when I've already heard three people on television talk about how much more "real"
acting is because of Brando, it's hard not to wonder what modern acting could have become if Marlon Brando had become a bricklayer.

To listen to these television folks, you would think that what actors do is Suffer, or Struggle, and that everything else is just the petty
basics. But the basics are acting.

Because actors--the ones who do want to act--read the script, they get the lines right, they hit their mark. They play their own fear rather
than the character's. They risk things, but they do it on the stage or in front of the camera, not in their living rooms under the pretense of
"rehearsal." They don't program themselves for the impossible. They do not think about a nonexistent "character arc" or "story arc," these
artifically imposed elements of dramaturgy. They do not think about what the character feels or thinks, because they realize there is no
character. There are only words on a page. Acting is the illusion of character. We will believe a man is a king if he wears a crown, talks like a
king, sits on a throne, and gives us no reason to doubt him. The actor does not need to "feel" anything, and why Brando convinced himself
otherwise, I can't say. I'll leave it to the biographers.

But none of this is to suggest that acting is easy or ignoble. Indeed there is likely nothing harder or more profound. But since Strasberg,
and since Brando, it all went a different way, and somewhere it became less about words on a page and more about "How would the guy
I'm playing drink a milkshake?"

If the answer is anything other than "He'd pick up the glass, bring it to his mouth, and tilt," then that's the unfortunate side of what Brando
did for acting.

But the fortunate side is all on DVD, and it's hard not to be in awe, even after everything. Awe is really the only proper response. Awe, and
then measured consideration. I can't imagine that Marlon Brando, with his fierce devotion to the integrity of the work, would expect from
us anything less.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Friday Fortune Cookie

Beware of swans.


Sugar cravings
Fatigue even after a good night's sleep
Fatigue after moderate exercise
Memory loss
Mood swings
Foggy thinking

Yes, it's a good thing I have vacation next week. I'm not sure how much I'll be checking in here.

America the Beautiful

It's almost July 4. I love Independence Day. I love fireworks and picnics and parades, and every year my family has a huge party and we all swim and grill and chat, and it's even more fun than Christmas because no one has SAD.

But I also love Independence Day because, hokey or silly or zealot Republican as it may sound, I love America. She's one motherfucker of a great land.

In the July 4 spirit, here is a partial list of American Things I Love, in no particular order. Please add your own if so inspired.

The Bill of Rights, Constitution, and Declaration of Independence
The Civil Rights Act, 40 years old this summer! Happy birthday!
Wide streets
National parks
Tap dance
John Philip Souza marches
Star Wars
stand up comedy
egg rolls and fortune cookies (invented in San Francisco, I hear)
San Francisco
New England
New England foliage
New Mexico (whadda state!)
Old mill towns
Old fishing towns
Colonial architecture
Federalist architecture
Historical reenactment sites (you know, Williamsburg, Plymouth Plantation)
Theme parks! What could be more freakin' American!
Churches (though Italy has some great ones, too.)
Chocolate chip cookies
Peanuts, peanut butter, and so on
Broadway musicals
Earnest over-enthusiasm (Europeans hate that)
Abstract expressionism
Great animation (Disney, Warner Bros., Pixar, Dreamworks...)
This American Life
Self-criticism (The United States is always trying to improve itself. Don't tell me otherwise.)
Free public schools
Reality TV
Music television
Miss Manners
William Carlos Williams
Robert Frost
Emily Dickinson
Adam Gopnik
Amy Tan
Hip hop
Saturday Night Live
Great pop music (like Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder)

Man! I'm getting tired! Maybe more later!!

Letter to the Neighbors

Queridos vizinhos:

Os nossos nomes sao kStyle e G. Moramos no apartamento 5-5. Tenemos prazer em encontrar voces.

(Falo e escribo so poucinho portugues. Desculpavam a minha gramatica.)

Por favor, andavam mais leve no apartamento? Quando voces andam pesado, faz muito ruizo aqui. E dificil dormir as vezes.

Muito obrigado.

kStyle e G.

Anatomy Poetry

Your kiss sets my lingual nerve tingling,
Vestibulocochlear spinning,
Oh, you're like vertigo--
Meniere's never felt so good.
I got you under my skin
In the subcutaneous fat.
Your touch lights up my dorsal horn--the afferent one, baby--
My synapses get wet with acetylcolene
To caress your face.