Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Cut Ups by William S. Burroughs

I was living in Seattle in 1991, a recent graduate from the University of Oregon. Patty, my friend, and I were living in a one-bedroom apartment on Capitol Hill. I believe it was on Summit Avenue, you know, just down the hill from that Safeway on Broadway.
One Friday night, we went to the showing of a few short films by William S. Burroughs. This was around the time of "Naked Lunch" and Burroughs was enjoying a resurgence of popularity. The films were showing in downtown Seattle, on Pine Street, I think, at a divey bar. We took the bus there, and, once there, got two mugs of Pabst at the bar before settling in to the "theater."
The theater was a back room of the bar, with big red booths.
Before we were allowed to watch the movie, however, we were subjected to a poem by Steven Jesse Bernstein. Not read by him, of course, as he was in jail or had been injured or something (he actually may have just died!). The person who read it, wearing his "poet" uniform, was trying to raise money to publish some of Berstein's poems. This poem was called "How I Met My Present Wife" and it involved some lewd acts I won't subject you to, but to suffice it to say that the poem involved Nixon's dead body, and there were several references to flatulence.
The poem was bad enough, but worse still were the audience members giving him the serious poetry nod and doing that "hmm"ing thing that drives me nuts. As I was suffering through this torture, I looked around and realized that all the doors, including the one we had entered through, were marked with little signs that said "This is NOT an exit."
Finally the movies started. I can't remember how many there were, maybe three, but one was "The Cut Ups." It involved a light machine, a man dressed as a doctor, and Burroughs intoning, over and over, "Does it seem to be persisting?"
For many months afterward, this was a little joke we had. If we were bored, or if a certain moment outlasted its entertainment value, Patty would turn to me and ask, in Burroughs' voice, "Does it seem to be persisting?"

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sugarhouse Curry

I must be crazy! I spent upwards of three hours cooking yesterday. I'm not sure why. I think when I woke up in the morning and saw the world covered in snow, the only thing that sounded right was Dal. So I made a masur dal (on left of plate, with cilantro). And then, (heading clockwise around the plate), Thoran, or Stir-Fried Shrimp, Kerala style. Below that is a homemade mango chutney, and to the right, Aloo Fulkoffi Torkarri (potato and cauliflower curry). All this cooking took place in stages, but still. The whole thing seems ridiculous. But won't, later, when we take out the leftovers and have our second of three meals from this one flurry of cooking. Maybe I'm not so crazy after all. (I hope my food photography catches up with my cooking. Soon.)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Conversations with Son

Perhaps it is his impending birthday (the big five), but Son has begun considering the practical aspects of existence lately.

Son: Mom, do I have to have a job?
Me: Well, most adults have jobs because they have to pay for things, like rent and food.
Son: Why don't some people have jobs?
Me: Well, sometimes people can't find jobs, or they quit their jobs, or they aren't working for other reasons.
Son: What's another possibility?

(later, when I was tucking him in bed)

Son: Mom, when I'm older, I might have to quit my job.
Me: Why?
Son: I might, I might.


Son: When I'm a pilot, I'm going to have a mustache, because it makes you look like a real pilot, like on the cartoons.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

R U 2 Cool?

Recent inquiries from certain quarters (who shall remain nameless) have converged with chronological events (the imminent approach of my 20th high school reunion) to make me pause and consider my status in high school. Was I cool then? Am I cool now?
I think the answer to both questions has to be No.
As proof, I offer the following anecdotes.
  1. In high school, I was on the debate team. I debated. With my sister.
  2. I had a certain army green jumpsuit that I wore with a scarf that was white with black polka dots in my hair. I used a curling iron to make my hair look like Madonna's.
  3. I had a red shirt with big black polka dots and puffy shoulders/sleeves that I wore with black knickers.
  4. I never had a boyfriend until my senior year (was it because of the knickers?).
  5. If I went to a dance, it was with my gay male friend. Or a friend who was a guy. Or I went with my female friends who also didn't have dates and we wore trench coats and we "crashed" the dance.
  6. The height of fun on Friday night was to go to JB's and eat french fries. Sometimes we got gravy with them.
  7. At one point, I had an asymmetrical hair cut and I wore eye shadow that went off my eyelids and down onto my face and ended in a colored star. A colored star.
  8. I had some earrings (my favorite) that were plastic square comic frames.
  9. I was threatened in the bathroom by a girl who scowled at me and said, "Are you from California?" (this was not a complement).
  10. I was in the National Honor Society.
  11. I was editor of my high school newspaper (The Rampage).
  12. Just today, a boy at Wild Oats called me "Ma'am."
  13. I have only purchased two new CDs in the past year.
  14. My idea of a fun Friday night is to put on my pajamas.
  15. I don't recognize the name of most popular music groups.
  16. I screamed at my son because he didn't like the letters I made for his birthday poster. (I ask you, is this cool?)
  17. If something's popular, I automatically dislike it on principle.
  18. My sophomore year of high school, a guy who liked me made out with my best friend from junior high after I left a party because I had to go home and type up my speech for the Debate Tournament the next day.
  19. My revenge? I left a McDonald's apple pie in her mailbox.
  20. The one time I did go to a dance with a boy who liked me, I asked him to take me home early. He told someone that the best thing about the date was that I had ordered the cheapest thing on the menu.
  21. I was once stuck over night in a pickup with a guy who liked me because he wanted to take me 4-wheeling. Once an hour we started the truck and ran the heater. Every hour, the radio played "Think of Laura" by Christopher Cross. I hate that song.
  22. I voted, along with the rest of the class, to have "Forever Young" by Alphaville play as we walked out of the gym after graduating.

I ask you, am I not the un-coolest of the un-cool?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Rock AND Roll

I know I'm getting old, because watching the Grammy's last night I found myself thinking something like "kids these days." This was in response to the ridiculous marching band performance with Kayne West and Jamie Foxx.
In contrast, Sir Paul McCartney's performance of "Helter Skelter" gave me goosebumps, as did Springsteen's "Devil & Dust" which he ended with a mumbled, "Bring 'em home." I was impressed by Kelly Clarkson's voice, though her song was a prom theme waiting for the prom.
And though Sleepy E claims Mariah is a real person, I've never been a fan of her music, so I can't say I'm sad she didn't win.
But I'm continually impressed by U2, whom I fell in love with way back in the '80s, when they were political. I still love them. How can you not love Bono and a man named The Edge?
I'm looking forward to catching up on "American Idol." I now feel like part of the mainstream, as American Idol is always in the top ten of the Nielsen ratings. Plus I saw that Paula Abdul is going to be on a Dr. Phil special, and since I'm following "American Idol" I feel like I should care. The commercial showed Paula crying. That seems good!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Middlebrow and I saw "Brokeback Mountain" last night with our friends Sylvia and Don.
Even though I was prepared for it to be incredibly sad, I was not prepared for it to be simultaneously aesthetically beautiful and emotionally devastating. I was surprised by how early I started crying, and how much I cried. I thought I could see where it was going the first time Jack sees Ennis, but I was shocked by the ending, and by the sheer rawness of the entire film. There were so many uncomfortable scenes, that were uncomfortable for so many reasons.
I definitely think this movie will win for cinematography. And I think Heath Ledger will be hard to beat. In any other year, Phillip Seymour Hoffman would be the hands down winner. But Ledger's restrained performance is just unbeatable. Same for the movie overall. I think seeing "Brokeback Mountain" explains why "Walk the Line" wasn't even nominated. "Walk" is a great film, don't get me wrong, I loved it, but compared to the emotional landscape of "Brokeback Mountain," I just don't think any other film can compete. The story's complexity, the difficulty of the characters' lives, the brilliance of all the performances: "Brokeback Mountain" is the whole package.
I predict Ang Lee will win for Best Director, and the movie will win for Best Picture. It may win for best Adapted Screenplay as well. And Cinematography. And Heath will win. I think Jake has a good shot at Best Supporting. I forget who else is nominated.
I have yet to see "Crash" or "Munich" which I understand are good films, but I can't imagine they could be better than "Brokeback Mountain."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

On the Fly

I have a lot of anxiety about my Introduction to Imaginative Writing class this semester. Mostly it revolves around my ever-present feelings of inadequacy and my inability to make an outline before I step into the class. And, the idea that they won't talk. However, my resolution to break them into small groups has worked quite well so far. Today, we talked and talked about, what else?, dialogue. We had Ann Beattie's " The Burning House" as our subject. It has gems of dialogue like "I love the way you pour cream in a pan." Usually I leave 20 minutes at the end for a writing exercise for them to do while I check their notebooks. Today we just kept talking until there were only five minutes left. So my "teach on the fly" (which is basically my MO) method just keeps working. And, by the way, I did have a brief outline/subject list cribbed from Janet Burroway.
Re: Sleepy E's praise for my blog silence: I wish I could say it means I've been writing up a storm elsewhere. It does, sort of, mean that, I realized as I began blogging intending to say I haven't been writing. I started an essay entitled "What I'm Not Reading" and I wrote a poem, "A Mother Peruses the Dictionary." And I've been writing little "singles" based on lines from Wilco songs. So, ha to me!, I have, unbeknownst to myself, been writing. It's teaching the writing class. I write with them, do the exercises. I'm a person who really responds to assignments.
So here I go: I must go workout and then write 500 words. Now go!