Monday, August 29, 2011

My Elderly Thoughts

It's been over a year since I've posted. I've been really busy. I got a new job, we bought an apartment, I got sidetracked with shiny objects and so on.

Since I'm a year older, I thought I'd share some of my recent thoughts, which have become more and more of the elderly nature. I should be panicked about some of these but I've become mushy-brained and sedate from work, home renovating and other dull adult concepts.

My Elderly Thoughts

1) I remember when those jeans were in style last time -- and I hated them then.

2) You'd have to pay me a tidy sum to get me to eat one of those giant Pixi Stix.

3) You know who's nice? Our guy at State Farm.

4) That person has an awful lot of tattoos on her neck.

5) In my day, people got their tongues pierced. No one seems to do that anymore.

6) I'm really enjoying this New Yorker article about Rin Tin Tin.

7) It would have to be an amazing concert for me to remain standing for three hours after a long day of work. Like Tom Waits singing to me from a cloud of cotton candy while I'm on Ecstasy amazing.

8) Ugh, who wants to schlep out that far? And for what?

9) Luxury vinyl tile is just like marble but it's just so much easier to keep clean.

10) I recommend scrambled eggs after dental implant surgery.

11) What are all these teens listening to on on their iPods? Is it Ke$ha?

12) Tyler the Creator is no Ol' Dirty Bastard, I'll say that much.

13) Remember when kids played with Silly Putty? Maybe that's the problem.

14) I don't know, I think I like the other Miss Marple better.

15) Sweet, you bought Listerine!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Notes on 'Meh'

See, I wasn't wasting my life watching all those episodes of "The Simpsons".

This was fun to write.

NYRB Classic Review #1: "A Way of Life Like Any Other" by Darcy O'Brien

If you know me, you know I love the books from the New York Review Books press. They are, for the most part, wonderful books gone out of print, books never before translated into English and, in general: Nearly Lost Classics.

I love the clean, sharp, consistent cover design, clear font and that they are all around the same price. And no hardcovers. I hate hardcover books.

For every ten NYRB books I've read, there have only been a few I haven't totally gone nuts for. I can truly say that of all of the books that have moved me in the last 5 years, 80 percent of them have been NYRB press books. I'm not shilling for them, I swear.

Therefore I am going to attempt to read and review all the of books that the press has put out. This is quite a challenge because there are quite a few. But I will review the books I've already read and offer some background if I can.

# 1 - "A Way of Life Like Any Other" by Darcy O'Brien

I found this book in 2002, when Coliseum Books on 57th St. was closing. They didn't have much merchandise left but I spotted this and decided to judge the book by its cover. I've always been attracted to book covers with swimming pools on them.

I read it in one sitting and then re-read it and then pronounced it my favorite book of all time.

I'll supply the NYRB synopsis:

"The hero of Darcy O’Brien’s A Way of Life, Like Any Other is a child of Hollywood, and once his life was a glittery dream. His father starred in Westerns. His mother was a goddess of the silver screen. The family enjoyed the high life on their estate, Casa Fiesta. But his parents’ careers have crashed since then, and their marriage has broken up too.

Lovesick and sex-crazed, the mother sets out on an intercontinental quest for the right—or wrong—man, while her mild-mannered but manipulative former husband clings to his memories in California. And their teenage son? How he struggles both to keep faith with his family and to get by himself, and what in the end he must do to break free, makes for a classic coming-of-age story."

O'Brien coyly denied that this extremely funny and sharp book is based on his own life. His own father, silent film star George O'Brien, appeared in countless Westerns, working with F.W. Murnau, John Ford and countless other. O'Brien's mother was the film and stage star Marguerite Churchill.

The details about high and low life in Hollywood are perfection: The ludicrous parties, the heart attacks, the deals, the anti-Semitism and the big Jewish money, the gambling, the boredom, the beauty, the sex, the melodrama, the dwindling fan mail... O'Brien nails it all. It's also about loss: Loss of money, loss of prestige, loss of fame, loss of family, loss of innocence, loss of faith.

I will give you the first paragraph:

"I would not change the beginning for anything. I had an electric car, a starched white nanny, a pony, a bed modeled after that of Napoleon's son, and I was baptized by the Archbishop of the dioscese. I wore hats and sucked on a little pipe. I was the darling of the ranch, pleasing everyone. One day I was sunning myself on the patio, lying on the yellow and blue tiles, when a bee stung me on my bare fanny. The response to my screams was wonderful. Servants everywhere, my mother giving orders. Don Enrique applied an old Indian remedy and my father took me down to the beach to let the salt water do its work. Oh, what a world it was! Was there ever an ass so pampered as mine?"

Many will draw comparisons to Nathaniel West's "The Day of the Locust" but only because both novels take place in Hollywood and have angry dwarves in them. But I like O'Brien's much better.

L.A. residents take note: If the cover art looks familiar, it's because it hangs in the cafe in Fred Segal in West Hollywood. I saw it with my own eyes and was filled with joy.

It was the perfect cover for this fantastic book: Bright, sunny and absurd.

For more on Darcy O'Brien's varied and too brief career, here's his 1998 obit from the New York Times.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Note on Patricia Neal in Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd"

The actress Patricia Neal died yesterday at the age of 84. To toast this amazing but somewhat-forgotten star, I recommend this classic film:
"A Face in the Crowd" (1957) is possibly the most bitter, toxic indictment of human cruelty, avarice, celebrity, corruption and yes, the public's willingness to be duped by charisma and folksiness (sound familiar?) ever filmed. It is grotesque, darkly funny and also terrifying.

You may not have seen this film but you will see its influences. "Simpsons" fans will remember the episode when Krusty gets kancelled? When Gabbo (and later Kent Brockman) gets caught on air calling his kid fans "Little SOBS", that is a tribute to this film.

Also, you will never look at Andy Griffith the same way after you watch this.
A final note: Neal had an affair with Gary Cooper, married Roald Dahl, lost both her children to horrifying tragedy, had three strokes while in her 40's, and continued to act.

She died of lung cancer, a tragedy, but man, she had a great, sexy voice.

And enjoy this clip...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Get Cheered Up With 'Sita Sings the Blues'

The most adorable telling of a sacred Indian text ever.

I'd heard of "Sita Sings the Blues" but never actually watched it. I was in an an epic bad mood this weekend and my husband put this on in an effort to take the edge of my crankiness.

And it worked! By God, it melted my heart, like when Mr. Burns gets his teddy bear Bobo back.

Watch this 3 min clip!

If you've never seen it, watch it. Watch it just for the Monkey Dance. Or for the amazing musical soundtrack by 1920's-1930's jazz singer Annette Hanshaw.

And since the artist was ensnared in a copyright nightmare, she made it public and it's free!

If it doesn't brighten your Monday, you're an even crankier jerk than I am.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nearly Done with the Trujillo Trilogy

Well, there may be more than just a trilogy, but as far as this gringa knows, the three iconic books that attempt to portray the soul crushing carnage that Dominicans suffered under the dictator Trujillo.

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

The intrigue, the ins and outs and who hid the bodies during the final days of Trujillo in the early 1960s. A study of the man himself: An incontinent blowhard with true God complex. I never thought about the the role the U.S. played in the Dominican Republic in the Kennedy, anti-Castro times. Fascinating stuff.

In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

The tragic tale of the sainted Mirabal sisters who fought back, were jailed and then executed by Trujillo's men. A beautifully told story, from the memories of the one Mirabal sister who lived and the overwhelming legacy she must live with.

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

It supposedly took Diaz 10 years to write this book. And goddamn him because he makes it read so easy. This book takes us to Paterson, NJ to Washington Height, to Santa Domingo. It's a mother-daughter tale. It's a gotta-get-laid tale. It's a political terror story. It's a prison horror story. It's a fat kid's story. It's a story for those who like comic books and sci fi. It's one of the best books I've ever read. I read it in one sitting and read the last 5 pages again and again, not wanting it to end.

Any more Trujillo tales worth reading? I'll take any old horrific dictator that has inspired masterful writing...

Oh, and in case you were wondering if that new guy Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo (the guy that replaced Jason Newsted, I think) is not related to the Dominican dictator. I was curious, I Googled it... I think he's off the hook.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Catchphrases that rotate through my head

Somebody call OSHA!

That guy looks like Ron Kuby.

I wouldn't let my worst enemy take a shit in that bathroom.

Let's not hug it out.

My inner ear hurts.

I wish this had peyote in it.

I wish I could talk but I need to go buy more cat food.

You have selected: Spanking the Monkey! Rated R!