19 November 2007

A Festivus miracle.

This past Friday was spent as Fridays are meant to be spent: getting stressed out and then having fun in spite of oneself. I attended the celebration of young Robert's passage into his 23rd year. There were rites and feasting... and by "rites and feasting," I mean "tequila and quesadillas" in Cambridge. Spending time with Wheaties is always nice. One Eye (aka Emily) and I almost immediately regressed back into our symbiotic college-era relationship: she nearly made me snarf frozen margarita and I was her interpreter for the evening. A couple of gems: You made me laugh I was crying so hard! and everyone's favorite, I know that the alcohol is working... because I want to touch people. And a conversation between One Eye and I...

Alec: I have the phrase "a Festivus for the rest of us" stuck in my head. Do you know what I mean?
One Eye: "It's a Festivus miracle." "An aluminum pole - I find tinsel distracting." "WE WILL NOW HAVE THE AIRING OF THE GRIEVANCES!" ...[deadpan face] I have no idea what you're talking about.

After dinner, we headed to Good Times (the formal title of which is "Good Time Emporium.") Senior year, we were dropped off at Good Times as our surprise senior outing. And it was a surprise, alright. The picture above was taken during one of the "Ladies Wrestling Nights" (which no one in our party attended... to my knowledge), but I'm just including that to illustrate its unique atmosphere. What can I say - I went for the birthday boy.

I was rereading Josh Ritter's blog this morning. Obviously, the man can write. Poetry. Prose. What have you. It would be amazing if he wrote a book. Yes. Josh Ritter should write a book. I'm sending this persuasive message through the power of the internet: Josh Ritter - write a book. Anyway, I liked this excerpt from his time in San Francisco, in particular:

...I stepped out into the street, where, wonder of wonders, there didn't seem to be any street. My foot caught on some kind of pylon, and as I fell I noticed that I was falling on to the tram tracks. "How cheesy," I thought to myself. "Dead on the tram tracks." After all these songs about trains, to be wiped out by a train's cousin, no matter how iconic a landmark of San Francisco it is, would be a back-handed irony. I waited for just a moment to get my breath and thankfully there was no tram close by. I got up and dusted myself off and started stating the obvious to passerby as people do when they do things like inexplicably fall. "I fell," I say to a group of Japanese tourists as they cross in the cross walk all around me.

I laughed. And not just because of the irony (though it's rather compelling), but rather because everyone has done something like that. We've all inexplicably explained ourselves to a group of Japanese tourists, literally or figuratively speaking.

For better or for worse, one of my most visceral memories from Firenze was slipping off one of their notoriously steep and slickly worn sidewalks on my way to class, and not predictably, falling all the way down and meeting the cobblestones, but rather, swooping towards the earth in a bizarre serpentine fashion, only to swoop right back up again like a stunt plane at a 4th of July air show while no part of me, other than my feet, touched the (questionably clean) streets of Florence, Italy. I was being followed by a group of young Italian men who laughed at me and earth-bound flight. The irony was that these laughing, grown men were all sporting mullets, tight acid-washed jeans and fanny packs, circa 1987.

But as I fell, I expelled one of the weirdest noises I think I've ever made. And this noise could only be described as a yelp.

Every time I think of that incident, it reminds me of Dave Eggers' "They Learned to Yelp" (here in The Guardian) from his collection of short stories, How We Are Hungry. It's one of my favorites from that collection. It's a relatively strong collection of work, and while I'm not a huge fan of short stories as a rule, I recommend it.

I met Dave Eggers very briefly at a book signing at Brown University this past summer. He was promoting his new book, What is the What? with Achak Deng, the Sudanese refugee whose life the story is based on - an "as told to" situation. Mr. Deng was cheerful and beaming as he signed my copy, happy to do so, and slipped it over Mr. Egger's side of the table. I should say that I really enjoy Dave Egger's work. He's one of my favorite contemporary writers, if not my favorite, and his other projects (McSweeney's and 826 National) are wonderful. Grass roots-ilicious. But I hate those 2 second book signings. You want to tell someone what their work means to you, that you hope they get half as much joy in creating it as you do devouring it... but you're there, with your name Sharpie'd on a post-it note so they doesn't even have to ask how to spell it, and you're left feeling like a jackass because all you managed to blurt out was "you're an amazing storyteller..." though I did sound less of an idiot than the girl in front of me, so I'm glad of that. ("You could get your Masters here at Brown!" He could also get a really good piece of pizza down the street, but that's not why he's here, either.) He smiled and thanked me like he hadn't heard that 6,000 times, and I left Brown's ironically hideous art building with a personalized copy of my least favorite Dave Eggers book (my qualms with the text stem from something that perhaps I'll explain at another time.) You just want to say, "I'm cooler than I'm coming across. Let's get a piece of pizza and I'll tell you my 'yelp' story. Complete with near-reenactment."

Some time this week, being that time of year, I'm sure my dad will hold the annual viewing of John Candy's opus, "Planes Trains and Automobiles." I remember the moment I found out Eryn's dad did the same thing. It was then that I knew we would be friends for a long time.

I did not see "No Country for Old Men," as I have been dying to, but thanks to a loud Starbucks employee this morning, I now know how it ends. I'll still see it, but talk about rubbing it in my face. But I revisited "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" this weekend. I somehow always manage to forget exactly how amazing that movie is. I always say it one of my favorites, but it still gets me every time I watch it. It's beautifully shot and directed; the writing is different and new, but not, for lack of a better word, polarizing. Strange and wonderful. My kind of movie.

"I wish I had stayed, too. Now I wish I had stayed. I wish I had done a lot of things. I wish I had... I wish I had stayed. I do."

Have a Happy Planes Trains and Automobiles day and may your babies not come out siiiideways.

09 November 2007

Pop-Tarts? Oh no--what do you do with the Pop-Tarts?!

I'm getting over quite a knock-out of a cold, meaning this long weekend is probably going to be spent somewhat conservatively. But one thing I really want to do is go see No Country for Old Men. It now takes movie-going precedence over the new Wes Anderson flick and American Gangster. Superficially, the most disturbing thing about it might be Javier Bardem's hair ("the haircut suggests a lost Beatle from hell"), especially since he is normally a rather god-like Spaniard. But the film itself looks like a great thriller--a stripped down, back-to-basics exercise in good movie-making. And Jeebus knows we could use more of those.

While confined to my room on one of my sick days this week, I realized, a full month later, that The Cake Sale was released. I am pleased. The whole album is streamed here and also available from iTunes. Lisa Hannigan's "Last Leaf", Glen Hansard's "Too Many People," and of course Josh Ritter's "Vapour Trail," are all phenomenal little pieces of aural wonderment. "Last Leaf" is simply gorgeous--really moving and the vocals are surprisingly assertive. After seeing Lisa Hannigan perform live with Damien Rice, I have a lot more respect for her--her voice was just as wonderful live as in-studio--she even nailed the opera vocals from "Eskimo Friend," which you may remember as being pretty epic. While I'm glad that she's branched off to do her own thing, I do hope that her creative relationship with Damien Rice hasn't completely dissolved--they make a good team. "Vapour Trail" (written by a member of Bell X1, hence "vapor" with the excess Brit-born "u"), is a warming, simple tune with a great sing-along-in-an-Irish-pub type chorus. And Glen Hansard (aka the long-lost Irish brother of Rachel's bf Mark), is quickly becoming a favorite musician of mine. I was never super crazy about the Frames (though to be fair, I've had only limited exposure to their stuff), but this solo/Marketa Irglova stuff he's been putting out has been really compelling.

I'm going to really nerd it up and say that "30 Rock" last night was, hands down, one of the best episodes yet. It was only after seeing the entire cast gathered together (along with a Harlem Globetrotter) that you realize that has never really happened before. I wish I could remember an especially hilarious line from last night's show, but they all spilled out of my head while I was convulsively laughing.

To round out this pinpoint of a microcosm of an informal post of contemporary culture, I'm currently reading The History of Love, written by Nicole Krauss, wife of one of my favorite writers, Jonathan Safran-Foer. If you had peeled the cover off, I would have guessed that it was written by JSF himself. Their prose is so similar, it's kind of"creepy," as my mom said. It has the same two-person narrative as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close--one young, one old. It's riddled with Eastern European culture and Yiddish like Everything is Illuminated and the plot is also bound to a past tragedy. It utilizes the same sort of humor and form that he does... I haven't finished it yet, so I'll wait to see if it really is eerily similar to JSF's writing... But it really is.

04 November 2007

Through the windows of midnight, moonfoam and silver.

This photo is Rachel standing on a cliff walk in Ireland, 3 years ago. I wish I were still there.

Yesterday, I got a haircut. The woman caught the comb on my cartilage loop-earring and pulled out the ball bearing. It was lost to the salon floor. I have yet to buy a new one.

The haircut, though desparately needed, is to be considered average.

Also, I'm getting a cold. I swear by Zicam products, but they really need to create something that doesn't taste like metal butt.

The clocks have changed and the weather has turned. And much like changing wardrobe accoutrements to withstand winter, my music has taken a turn for the wintry. Sigur Ros, The Stills, Travis (mostly 12 Memories), Keane, Blur, Massive Attack, and Interpol now dominate many of my playlists. But then there's the warm drag of fingers over acoustic strings and the minor chords of a cold piano. Enter: David Gray, Nick Drake, Josh Ritter, Damien Rice, Jeff Buckley.

To illustrate my point, here's the very talented, very bobble-headed David Gray, singing one of my favorites, "Shine." Enjoy.