Friday, July 29, 2005

It's Friday I'M SO IN LOVE

In case you missed her recent interview in W magazine, here's your weekly dose of Scientology shenanigans, courtesy of the actress formerly known as Katie Holmes:
"From the moment I met him," she continues, "it just felt like I'd known him forever. I was blown away. He's the most incredible man. He's so generous and kind, and he helps so many people, and, um, he makes me laugh like I've never laughed, and he's a great friend.…"

This is how the conversation begins; this is also how it continues, and how it ends. No question can do much to change its course.

Do you worry that this might be a rebound romance for either of you?

"I've never met anyone like Tom," Holmes replies, her beautiful green eyes focused on nothing in particular.

Do you ever wonder whether this is just a honeymoon phase?

"Tom and I will always be in our honeymoon phase."

Did you learn anything in your previous relationship (five years with actor Chris Klein, which came to an end when they called off their engagement this past winter) that has been a benefit to this one?

"Chris and I care about each other and we're still friends. Tom is the most incredible man in the world."

Do you feel that, with more relationship experience, you get better at resolving conflicts?

"Meeting Tom—I'm just exhilarated. He makes me laugh, we have fun, we understand each other, everything is so aligned. I feel so lucky and so—like I've been given such a gift, such a gift, you know?" She pauses. "And it's just really amazing."

I especially like the ending:
"...He is the most loving, generous man who… first of all, he wants to help people. He doesn't put pressure on people. He is the kindest, smartest, most adoring man. It's a pleasure and a privilege to be with him."

As if that weren't already perfectly clear, just then a security guard lumbers into the dressing room and presents Holmes with a giant silver box tied in a thick purple ribbon. A small crowd gathers to watch her gleefully tear open the package and pluck out a Chanel diamond necklace—a gift, naturally, from Cruise. "He's my man! He's my man!" she screams, then jumps up on her chair to do an impression of her fiancé's now-famous sofa shtick from Oprah.

People begin to cheer. "This is your moment!" cries the manicurist.

"I can do splits too," Holmes says, jumping down and splaying herself across the floor. On that note, I suggest, we should probably get the photo shoot started.

"On that note," she replies, "I love him."

Tickets Money Passport!

Enough pussy-footing around, says I! Enough complacency and toenail clipping of a summer's night! Enough packing ennui! It's time for an attitude adjustment as Dad would say. We've got an overseas move to do. Let's roll up the sleeves and chomp on our cigar and do the damn thing. Let's immunize and itemize and minimize! Let's remember that some time ago, in a freak seizure of organization and proactivity, we made a To Do list!

Quoth the To Do List:

Things to Buy
  • carbon monoxide detector
  • ant bait
  • roach killer
  • mosquito repellent
  • freezer bags
  • salsa
  • bandannas (red)
  • TX flag
  • TX t-shirts
  • bluebonnet potpourri
Don't forget to Pack
  • screwdrivers
  • TX flag!
Oh yes. This all bodes very, very well. From the looks of things I'm off to irritate a whole new continent with my Texas imperialism and bring the Final Solution to their pest population. Happy trails to me!

(p.s. to Lauren: if you don't know the reference in the post title I'm disowning you.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I'm a STAR

Ebay has kindly notified me that, with 50 positive feedbacks to my credit, I have earned a blue star. Furthermore, they have provided me with a blue star certificate to commemorate my achievement.

While the adult in me is mortified at having to notice that I've haggled crap 50 times, the 9-year-old in me is searching frantically for a fridge and a magnet.

Missed the Boat Movie Reviews

And now, another exciting installment of SueAndNotU's "Missed the Boat Movie Reviews!" Still catching up on your 2003 Oscar Nominees? Just now renting the Summer Blockbuster of 02? Join my club.

Up this week: Million Dollar Baby

I suppose I should mention that this will have spoilers aplenty, and I don't have any neat "behind the fold" tricks up my sleeve, but really, is there anybody but me who still hasn't seen it? And so: an overlong review of a movie you've all already forgotten.

I'm afraid I must start by disagreeing with those of you dear friends who found this movie cliched. With all due respect. My first thought at the close of the movie was: everyone who thought this was a cliched story was looking at the wrong story. I'm cocky like that.

Yes, there is the tried-and-true story of a plucky young fighter who rises to greatness when she finds somebody who believes in her. But this isn't really the story that we're seeing. It's a backdrop. And Eastwood, he doesn't ever pretend that you might not know the story arc of the boxing bit. It's like a blues song: the chord progression never changes, you know exactly what to expect, but within that strict framework, what can you make happen? What can you show us? How can you surprise us?

And I maintain that the actual story, the story that unfolds against the backdrop of boxing training and competitions, the story of Frankie the unredeemed and Maggie the unwanted is brilliantly rendered. There aren't any cheap shortcuts here. There are no Liv Tylers touching the screen and moaning "Daddy!" designed to make you cry. The emotional impact is absolutely earned.

What would the cliche have looked like? Well, for one thing, Maggie would not have wanted to die. She'd have relied on her inner strength, she would have gone back to college as Frankie suggested, she would have taken that fighter metaphor and turned life into her new title fight. And we'd all have felt much more comfortable and content in our illusion that those we love who are dying or are in pain have solace and faith and strength enough to see them through. But she's had enough, she's watching her body die in front of her eyes, she knows she's only staying alive for Frankie's benefit, and she doesn't desire to live that way.

What would have been another cliche? Frankie's daughter would have returned his letters at the end, right when he needed her to. Or he would have taken his experience with Maggie as a sign that he needed to reconcile with his daughter, and he'd set out to find her, and through this, he'd find a purpose and peace. But Eastwood does not allow Frankie to be redeemed. As the priest warned him: if you do this thing, you will be destroyed. And that's just what happens, Frankie leaves the movie unredeemed, unsanctified, emptied. Just like Maggie, he was allowed a brief window of something like happiness, but that simply ends, and it is not enough to bless the rest of a lifetime: how could it be? Like a characters says in The Hours: "I thought, so, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And, of course, there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn't the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment - right then."

At the end, he retreats to that roadside diner with the lemon pie in a conscious echo of the Yeats poem he'd been reading earlier: the Lake Isle of Innisfree. But we shouldn't mistake this for solace or contentment. Frankie has simply checked out of life. In the Yeats poem the Isle of Innisfree is the liminal space between the living and the dead, between reality and a fairy world: it is not a refuge within life, it is a negation of life.

A brief tangent: one thing that's struck me about the reality TV genre is its indulgence of our desire for every scrap of knowledge about people, and our expectation that this will be fulfilled. When a movie ends, we may wonder: what happened to those characters? When reality shows end, we wonder the same, and they indulge us with follow-up specials, and "where are they now?" snippets. When we wonder, "how did she feel when he dumped her?" we're treated to recaps of emotion and thought. Full disclosure. Nothing is withheld from us. Million Dollar Baby does not allow us this invasion. We never learn, for example, what great sin Frankie commited to drive his daughter away, to compel him to church every day for 23 years, the sin that puts that devastating look of stoic despair on his face when he's left Maggie's hospital and he returns home to find another returned letter under the door. He's a private man, and we just don't get to know. I respect this.

There was one part of the movie that I did find overdone, and that was Maggie's hillbilly family. It was not a subtle portrait, and I think it could have achieved the same point with a lighter touch. But I'm willing to forgive a good deal for the memory of Clint Eastwood's face on that doorstep, staring down at that letter, when there are creases on his inner cheek that are so deep and nearly look like the lines you draw under a clown's eyes.

Kriston tells me that there was a mini-scandal from the right when this movie came out because it supportedly supported euthanasia. Good God, once again the benefits of a liberal arts education are necessary. Context, you idiots! The man is destroyed, and this is glorifying euthanasia? How about showing the fucking difficult choices that exist in life and that there are no simple answers? Besides, we had welfare queens and that ought to compensate somewhere. Overall though, I took away a stern message against Botox injections. Did you see Clint Eastwood's face? It was like a painting. Can you imagine if it was all taut and smooth and immobile?

I think this a strange tone to end on—Botox and all—but like Clint Eastwood, my post has failed to find purpose or redemption.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

When we first started dating, back in the Mesozoic era, Kriston asked me a question which I've since come to understand is a litmus-test question, and which I failed miserably.

The question was this: "If some aliens came and offered to take you away with them and show you their galaxy and you could see the wonders of this universe that no human has ever seen, but you have to leave all your friends and family behind and never return to Earth, would you do it? For our purposes, we assume the aliens are benign."

I said, "Nah."

"But wait!" he pressed. "Are you seriously going to sit there and tell me you could pass up seeing a dual-star system?!?"

"Mm-hmm," I assented easily, unaware that this, as with most subsequent bizarre conversations in our relationship, had something to do with a deep-seated Star Wars fetish.

I'm not sure if I ever recovered, in his eyes, my position back on the pedestal after belly-flopping off it with my response to that question. When we revisited this conversation last night, he said that my response means I lack the gusto for adventure and discovery. I said, well, I'm moving to Tbilisi next month.

And here's something odd about that: I'm not the least bit anxious. I've got 17 more work days until I leave my job. Most of my worldly possessions are crammed floor-to-ceiling in a climate controlled U-Haul storage space. I should be waking up with night terrors about credit cards I anticipate forgetting to cancel and addresses I will forget to forward. I should be shivering in cold sweats because I have no place to live once I arrive and I don't speak the language and despite repeated attempts at chicken-scratching my name, I can't even read their incomprehensible alphabet.

But I'm cool as a cucumber, boys and girls.

I'm not sharing this out of bravado or out of some misguided conviction that I could blow the Scientologists' Stress Tests so out of the water that they'd make me a new deity in their pantheon. I'm sharing this because I think something's wrong with me. That's right, my only real concern with my impending overseas move is that I'm not worried enough.

Maybe it's a matter of time, and in two weeks you will witness my mental disintegration in real time and my blog will be overrun with psychotic grafitti. Or maybe I'll be cool up until my arrival, and there I will stand on the tarmac at the airport at 2am thinking, "Oh shit. Did I turn off the stove?" And maybe modern technology is smoothing the culture shock of the move, as I bring all my photos and music helpfully stored on my computer, my Sex and the City and Kieslowski DVDs lovingly packed within, and an industrial-size can of Raid standing in for a distant bug-thwomping boyfriend.

Whatever. The dual-star system will have to wait. I've got Qazbegi to conquer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Faux Real

Below you will find the only circumstance in which I would sport one of those annoying Louis Vuitton multi-colored things that have proliferated unchecked via street kiosks through our cities these past few summers. It's not 50 EUR funny, but pretty funny nevertheless.

Monday, July 18, 2005

What Would Sue Do

On my walk home from work, I came across this little girl, maybe about ten years old, absolutely screaming her ever-loving head off. She was screaming because some man was dragging her into a car. She was fighting like crazy and what she was screaming was, "I don't like you, I don't like you, I hate you." The man was well dressed in a business suit, presumably just left the office. Sitting on the ramshackle stoop from whence the girl was wrangled was a woman, perhaps her mother, and another little girl. Poor; not well-dressed like the man. The woman was yelling for her to stop crying and to be quiet, and the man was wrestling her all the way across the street while she never let up her screaming.

The presence of the mother-figure, the little sister-figure, the nice suit of the man, and my own reluctance to deal with terrible possibilities, led me to conclude that this was the daughter of divorced parents who is being picked up for a week with Dad. And if this is the case, he was surely mortified because I was passing right through this little scene and he knew exactly what I was thinking.

I didn't think there was anything I could say or do, and it was most likely a tantrum-y kid, but man do I hate the spectacle of a little girl being forced into a car by a man. So I wrote down his plates and told the police. Really hope it's nothing. Still a little unsettled.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

My Summer Vacashun

On my summer vacation, I visited the city of Austin, TX. Austin is the capital of Texas, which is the 28th state to join the union. Texas' state flower is the Bluebonnet and its nickname is the Lone Star State. In my opinion, Austin is a very fun and beautiful city!

In Austin, you can have breakfast in many places, even sitting outside! The average high temperature in Austin in July is 95 degrees. Ow, that's hot! When you have breakfast in Austin, they will bring you chips and salsa before you even order. How funny! Also, they put fans and lights in the trees even though you are outside. Austin is a very silly city.

In Austin, music is a very important pasttime. Austin's nickname is the "Live Music Capital of the World," which is a whole lot of music!! They will even name bars after favorite musicians. There once was a musician named Johnny Cash and he is very popular in Austin, so they took a chainsaw shop and turned into a tribute bar to Johnny Cash. I want a tribute bar one day!

When it gets very hot in Austin, you can go swimming in a place called Barton Springs. It is like a giant swimming pool, except it's real lake water and the bottom is rocks and it's all slippery with moss. It stays the same temperature all year round and it was really cold! Brrr!

Austin is a silly city not just because they hang funny things from trees, but because there are really funny people there! Just sitting in the grass by Barton Springs was a man who made big funny hats, and a strange man with long hair playing an instrument, and a dirty man with curly hair doing funny stretchy poses! Ha ha! I laughed a whole lot.

The city of Austin has 26.2% Hispanics, and my Dad says it's probably even more because we can't count them all! This means a lot of really yummy food from the Land of Mexico. Ow, it was hot!

And they say everything is bigger in Texas. This is also true for the pretty yellow drink that makes Mommy yell funny things.

Finally, I learned about economics. Different things can cost different when you go to another city! In the city of Austin, it's that things cost less. Sometimes they cost so much less that people start to act very silly! But that's okay because Austin is a silly place.

This man said that a pitcher is LOTS more than a pint, and in Washington, DC, a pint (the smaller one) costs as much as a WHOLE PITCHER (the bigger one) does in Austin! And then he started acting kind of strange and so I went away.

In conclusion, I had a very fun time in Austin, Texas. One day, maybe you can go there too!!

Maid of Dishonor

When I was down in Dallas, I had to go to a dress fitting, seeing as how I'm Maid of Honor in Clarissa's upcoming nuptials. And let me tell you, nothing says classy wedding like a strap-on pregnancy belly in the Bridesmart dressing room.

So what's a gal to do? Glowing, I tell ya.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Princess Unbridled

Only one day of tutorials from Matty, and my photography has already hit the big time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My kingdom for a camera cord

Well, I just drove in from Austin and boy are my arms tired!

I still need a day or two to come off my joy overload from our whirlwind tour through Never-Neverland before I start the vacation show-and-tell. I was sorely tempted to chain myself to the breakfast taco place this morning because I knew that when I sopped up the last little greasy drip of carne guisada, we'd have to hit the road and leave. Also, all my stories require photographic evidence (don't worry comrades! not those photos!) and my cord is in D.C. So Austin tales will have to wait.

Instead, I'll turn my attention to my favorite part of DC: crack-dealin' Joe, upon whose activities I've received urgent new intelligence. Recent sightings suggest that our audacious hero has scored himself a girlfriend! Or so I gather from the reporting of my friend, who was passing by Joe's house as, per usual, somebody was pounding on the door hollering his name. And when the door-opened, it wasn't Joe at all! No, indeed! It was a woman answering, standing buck-naked, with a broom in hand. You know, maybe Joe's taking his cues from Neil Young these days, and the good Lord knows that that man needs a maid. Still, it just warms my crusty old bitter heart to see that Joe can find freaky love at his ripe old age.

Friday, July 08, 2005

In memoriam

It is not comfortable to be an inhabitant of this globe. It never has been, except for brief periods.

This is how Rebecca West, in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which I've only just begun and which I expect will accompany me on and off over the better part of the next year, introduces the atrocities suffered by the Croats in their long, sad history.

But yesterday being yesterday, it instead had me thinking of London. And how the unnecessary suffering and the cruelness of arbitrary death are all of a piece with the world's bloody history of torture and pillage and woe.

Were I to go down into the market-place, armed with the powers of witchcraft, and take a peasant by the shoulders and whisper to him, "In your lifetime, have you known peace?" wait for his answer, shake his shoulders and transform him into his father, and ask him the same question, and transform him in his turn to his father, I would never hear the word "Yes," if I carried my questioning of the dead back for a thousand years. I would always hear, "No, there was fear, there were our enemies without, our rulers within, there was prison, there was torture, there was violent death."

And this thinking threatened to depress me until I considered how, in this modern world with atrocities continuing apace, we have decided that this brutish condition is not acceptable. The murderers and the tyrants continue to murder, but now there's more than a mother's crying to oppose the status quo; there's the moral force of nations guided by the precepts of liberalism which champion individual man and condemn his indiscriminate murder. And this is an important break with history, whether it proves to be a blip or a revolution. And even when this moral voice doesn't reach the pitch it should, when we mumble dismay at slaughter in Africa for example, it's an indictment of our hypocrisy, our failure to live up to our ideals, and not an indictment of those ideals.

So I thought, even while we mourn London, Madrid, Darfur, and remain powerless to stop countless others that will follow, we'll still have broken with our bloody inheritance because our ideas are better; we do not accept these violent deaths. When the rock falls down the mountain, we dig in shoulders and start pushing it back up again.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Stay Sweet!

There is no treasure I could unearth more glorious than my sixth grade journals. There is overwrought human drama, there is tragedy, there is despair, there is untold ecstacy, there is, my friends, a bust chart. A lying bust chart, I might add. Ain't no way I was pushing 34 in sixth grade; at that time my training bra, not so much lingerie as a sad exercise in wishful thinking, featured two little billowing triangles of non-contoured cotton that had no business billowing. They were like, pockets for my chest, where I might store things, like erasers or loose change.

And the diary, well, I can't decide if I should be revolted at the mindless little ninny writing this tripe, or rumple her troublesome hair sympathetically. Only thing to do is publicly humiliate and her in a fashion that would no doubt have sent her into black spirals of suicidal door slamming and poetry-writing-through-dry-heaves.

A selection follows from the inauguration of the diary, all underlines and number of exclamation marks faithful to the original.

Sunday October, 28 1990
Diary Entry #1

Dear Diary:

Friday Ginger got spayed. Now she’s got these awful stiches sticking out of her. I am in 6th grade and about to have my 1st boyfriend. One year ago, I thought he was a total dweeb! Now we are practically drooling over each other!


Saturday November 3, 1990
Diary Entry #2

Dear Diary,

Yesterday, Evan and I touched heads! He was helping me with math, and I looked up and I found myself staring into his eyes! My face must have been a strawberry!! I should be working on my mythology report right now but it’s too boring.

There’s a party tonight at LG’s house and Evan will be there. L likes Evan a lot, but Evan likes me.


Tuesday November 6, 1990
Diary Entry #3

Dear Diary,

I can’t believe it!!!! Evan went to the party alright. And he fell in love with some tramp from McGlauphlin!! He’s totally forgotten me! I can’t look in his face anymore because I’ll give myself away. I don’t even know if I like him. If I knew I would feel worse. But I have a plan. Since so many people like me, whoever asks me first gets me. [A tactic that continues to serve me handsomely.] That way Evan will see what a fool he’s been. If he asks me, I’ll say, “No!! You had your chance! Second in line can’t work! I really cared about you, and you blew it!”

Miserably yours,

cont’d #3
I’ve got to stop the tough guy routine. Evan just broke my heart. My first broken heart. It hurts so much. I don’t know if I love him. I know that if I did love him, I would be in constant torture because he hates me. We must be fools, we must be crazy – there’s no communication. We’re just not talking – there’s too much to stay. Should we stop this love from dying – or just let it go? I’ve never wanted something so much and been killed. Yes, killed. My love for boys is dead. I’m not immune and never will be.

Wednesday January 16, 1991
Diary Entry #4

Dear Diary,

Something has happened today that I will never forget. The war has started.

Sunday March 31, 1991
Diary Entry #5
Dear Diary,

The war is long since over. We beat Saddam’s butt! Anyway, the other night I spent the night with Lisa Ann. We did each other’s make-up and hair. It was awesome! I still like Evan but he’s all Stefanie. I die a hundred times each time he utters her name. But Casey likes me! The notes he used to write are coming back. And I’m doing an awesome job of flirting w/ him. I like him as a friend and would go w/ him – but I don’t love him.



Going back home means, inevitably, running into former high school classmates. This is why you must always take care to look your best even if running to the grocery store. We're all heinous gossip hounds, myself indubitably included, and we pounce on any morsel of news like Karl Rove on inappropriate rhetorical devices. You don't want one of those bitches to catch sight of you balancing an armload of beef jerky in the local Albertsons so she can run back to her gaggle and announce that she saw Susan the other day, and you know, she's looking a little chunky these days; must be all the Velveeta she had in that cart.

I wasn't really expecting any encounters, though, when I visited my brother's bar as it's mostly a hangout for undocumented migrant workers and the women who love them. But turns out, the new girl he had to train that night? Well, Molly and I go back to Elementary. Molly's not one of those bitches, but Molly's had a tough few years since high school. She pulled up a stool and the guts, they were spilled rapidly, and in detail.

What Molly has been up to:
1. Married
2. Knocked Up (or probably, switch those)
3. Divorced
4. Cocaine addiction
5. Rehab
6. Alcohol addiction
7. Rehab
8. Hired by my brother
9. Son starting preschool

What Susan has been up to:
1. Shopping
2. Barbecuing every blessed weekend
3. Generally whooping up extended adolescence

This makes for an awkward conversation. I knew that any second, she might ask me what it is that I do, and then I'd have to perform the verbal gymnastics necessary to gracefully arc the conversation from cocaine benders to democracy promotion, all while Rico off to my right mimed masturbating motions in order to make my brother laugh. So really, can we all just take a moment and praise the Good Lord in heaven for Tom Cruise, the Blessed Saint of Harmonious Conversation Topics.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Aye, There's the Rib

Another trip to Texas, another satisfying round of Roast the Yankee Traitor.

This one, I blame entirely on my sister.

Lauren no longer has need of her car, and wanted to get it down to Texas for safekeeping. I needed to go to Texas, and so it came about that I should drive her car from D.C. down to the motherland. All well and good, except for the small matter of the little bumper sticker on the rear that says "Pedophiles are People Too!" Or if you want to be literal about it, says "Texas Democrat."


Now, this plays very well in D.C., where the bumper sticker was first affixed. In D.C., it signifies that one is the right sort of people. But take this back to North Texas, and well, I'm just glad I've not yet been run off the road. But it's not road rage I fear.

The Uncles came over for the barbecue, bearing brushy Texas moustaches, Wrangler gear, a cooler full of smoked babyback ribs, and unwavering skepticism in my latest plans to move to Tbilisi for a year. I've been practicing various angles and perfecting the exact spin that will convince them that this is a good decision. But we don't even get there, because we've got the matter of the bumper sticker to settle.

Uncle has parked right behind the offending car, busts into the house with arms full of cooler, drops onto the kitchen floor and squares off with me.

"You sure know how to strain fam'ly relations, don't you?" He starts pulling down the fingers of one hand with the other, to count off my offenses one by one, perhaps in order of odiousness, perhaps not: "Yankee. Russia. Democrat. That's a nice thing about being young; you can make foolish choices. But when you get older and get wise you're going to figure out that the democrats don't know a damn thing that they're talkin about."

When your principles are tried, the true mettle of man shows itself. And that is why, sorry to say Lauren, I sold you down the river before I took a full breath.

"It's Lauren's car! I just drove it down! My bumper sticker just says "On Earth as it is in Austin!"

"Wut's that?"

"On Earth as it is in Austin!"

"That's good."

"And you know, she's in New York now! New York City!" I shook my head as the rest scowled and nodded distastefully. She's lost to us. Where did we go wrong? Who brought extra barbecue sauce?

I hate to do it, dear, but the man had smoked babybacks and I'll sell out you and the dems for a bite of sweet tender pork and confrontation aversion any day of the week. I just kept my face stuffed and nodded serenely as we discussed the various woes of modern America, and how only pedophiles are allowed to have rights, and you can molest children all you want, you just can't pray about it. I didn't even pause to marvel at the power of these democrats: protecting pedophiles, blocking prayer, succeeding in their perfidious agenda on all possible fronts without holding any detectable iota of political power. I just chewed my ribs and swallowed my tea, and bided my time until I could change the subject to Tom Cruise and we could all agree again.