Sunday, February 28, 2010

Brain melting ...

I am in dire need of boyfriend saturation, couch burn, book binging and movie marathons. Every day this week -- I'd say month, but I let myself fake a hangover all day last Saturday -- has been a sun up to sun down go-go dance. Busy. Busy. I'm spent.

My parents are in town, which has been a good visit. Last night my mom and I went to the the-a-tahr, which left me feeling like I was trying to swallow a furry kiwi fruit. Plays make me cry, but instead of just going with it, I let my face contort and convulse and my chin quake like the mouth is about to pass an alien baby, and hope no one tries to give me CPR.

Today we had lunch at the Brewhouse, and brought along one of those fresh faced wholesome college students who already has her shit together, a friend of the family. At one point she said "blah blah screw that ..." and I thought "WOW! We can say that in front of my parents! Let me try it!"

My mom and I wandered through the bowels of Fitger's, and my dad trailed behind us quietly, veering off here and there to look at the Patterson collection at a small bookstore, trail maps in the back of an outdoors store. I tried on a sweater and wished I was wearing a bra.

They came over for dinner. I made orzo with white wine cream sauce, and let my mom handle roasting the chicken so I wouldn't have to be burdened by pesky hand washing and, more accurately, awkward giggles about poultry cavities. Chuck and my dad discussed how to fix a dishwasher, and what high definition TV looks like and optimal screen size.

And, the definition of awesome, Jodi, my favorite person I've never met, sent me a Minnesota Reads goodie box filled with books I haven't read but look like books I'd read, cute little Minnesota Reads pins and cards, and an issue of Poets & Writers with Jay McInerney on the cover. This deserves a post of its own because writing for Minnesota Reads is my favorite writing stunt that I do, and Minnesota Reads is my favorite site on the whole Internet. Confession: I click on it every day at exactly 10 a.m. when I know the latest post goes live. I'm a total Minnesota Reads psycho stalker.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Speaking of shouting out loud ...

One thing I just really enjoyed doing just now was downloading Shout Out Louds' new album Workat exactly 11 p.m. Central Time, the second it went from pre-order status to buy right this second status on Amazon.

I mean, I feel like I just scammed someone. It's still Monday here in Minnesota, suckahs! 

Obviously clicking on a link doesn't have the same super-fan cred as, what-say, standing outside of a record store with just my wisps of synthetic pink hair to keep me warm, to be the first one in line when the store opens. I'm not convinced that I'd have to hip check too many punk ass music heads to get to the goods first, anyway.

Swedish pop isn't for everyone. I like it because it sounds like it would taste delicious.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

The opposite of punk rock ...

Well, well, well. ... I certainly had a full week. I played myself in my radio theater debut. I saw Wilco for the second time. I got wrecked on cheap beer, and subsequently spent my first full day on the couch since moving to the new house. It was simply recreational. I didn't feel too bad at all. This gave me time to watch five episodes of Season 1 of LA Ink. I can't decide if I like it or hate it, but I do know that I am not at all punk rock.

In other news, here's what else I did this past week:

FOOD

Creamy Polenta with Sausage and Parmesan: Having never had polenta for the first 32ish years of my life, and then making it for myself for the first time, I just assumed that I knew what the heck I was doing and was master of all things corn meal. Then this story in the NYTs was like "DON'T BE AFRAID TO MAKE POLENTA, I KNOW IT SEEMS SUPER HARD BUT IT'S NOT SO BAD!" Wha? It has never seemed hard to me. Two plus two equals maybe I was making it wrong.

Well, I was skipping some steps, and wasn't all fragile-goo-goo-baby-risotto, and it wasn't coming out the consistency of sour cream. I think it is worth the stirring to have it come out the consistency of risotto. Anyway, then I put some sausage and onions and red peppers on top of it. Awesome.

MOVIES
Fame: This is obviously a kin of the 1980 film, but not a 100 percent remake. Partly because in 1980, Hollywood took a National Geographic approach to topless nudity, whereas these days it is more of a Readers Digest approach to topless nudity.

I struggled to keep track of the characters, especially since they didn't align with the characters from the original.

All of those touchy 80s topics were glossed over: No illiteracy, no "painful coming to grips with one's homosexuality," no pill-popping comedian ruining his relationships, no abortion. The almost suicide attempt of a thwarted student is more dramatic, though.

There was a brief shout-out to body image issues where a dancer accuses her teacher of not appreciating her work because she isn't an emaciated Diet Coke drinker. The teacher -- Lillith Crane, actually -- defends herself and says something like "I talk about body image issues all the time! You know that! Besides, I want to keep you in my class. Forget about how I wanted to get rid of you before you accused me of encouraging anorexia."

It is clear to me that the audience of this film in 1980 didn't have a sense of humor; Nor did the target audience in 2009.

"Sherlock Holmes" directed by Rachel Goldenberg: (Oddly enough I cannot confirm that this film exists).

A Serious Man Coen Bros. investigate topics broached in "American Beauty" in a way that is that weird kind of funny where a real laugh doesn't ever break the surface, but you know deep down that it is good.

READING
A Free Life (Vintage International) by Ha Jin: As I just clicked on Goodreads’ four-star rating for Ha Jin’s super long novel,  I couldn’t help but wonder about the countless number of stars I would have awarded it if something had actually happened in the book. I mean, I already “really liked it” in the book review website’s parlance. With a little drama or conflict, I probably would have needed a solar system to convey my enthusiasm.

Full review here


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bear x-ing ...

















I was leaving the Wilco show last night at the DECC. (Awesome. Thanks for asking.) I was totally in a hurry, scurrying like a common street rat through the skyway and got held up by security making a human chain in front of a group of hippies.

We had to wait for two real life bears that were being escorted like prisoners to a service elevator.

This is one of those things that just sounds funnier than it actually was. "Sorry I'm late. I get held up by two bears that were waiting for an elevator."

But the best part was when they let us through and two red-eyed 20 somethings said to me:

"Did you see bears, too? Or was that just us?"

Dear Internet ...

















Sometimes a girl just wants to drink. (This is my drinking face.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Elementary, my dear Watson ...

When Chuck told me that we had gotten "Sherlock Holmes" from Netflix, I was all "Wha? Already? Isn't that still in theaters?" And he was all "Guess not," fanning the little red envelope of entertainment.

So last night we slipped into fancy pants, arm wrestled for the cozy corner of our almost V-shaped couch, and yanked the Steve Urkel sleeping bag into the optimal position of ironic 1990s comfort. But when the movie started, I was a little confused:

"I thought Johnny Depp was in this," I said to Chuck.
"Nah. He's in 'Alice in Wonderland,'" he answered, which seemed like a satisfying answer at the time. Of course I would get those two films confused.

I couldn't remember if people hated or liked "Sherlock Holmes," so in the opening scene when giant serpent arms pirate a ship in the middle of the ocean, and later when a cartoonish dinosaur hopped into the frame, I just went with it. Holmes and his doctor friend continued on their quest to follow monster tracks through the countryside, and we laughed. Oh how we laughed.

That's when Chuck realized we were watching "Holmes," not "Sherlock Holmes." The former being billed as a mock-buster, the latter starring Robert Downey, Jr. That preview for a movie about a woman from Mars, starring Traci Lords, was starting to make sense.

So ... "Holmes" is pretty comical. Robots. Dinosaurs. A man removes his mask and says to Sherlock "Helllooo, brother." When Chuck tweeted this, I laughed so hard that I cried.

 
This all reminded me of a time when Fannie and I were in high school and we decided to go to the Galleria for an international film festival. "Il Postino" was playing. Even attempting this kind of high culture in high school was laughable. I mean, we hung out at Baker's Square. We weren't like edgy teens these days with their impractical bangs draped like beaded curtains over their eyeballs.

We ran into my friend Nora's parents before the film. They had just come from "Il Postino," and I felt very ho-hum worldly telling them that we were going to see it, too. I mean, this was a movie you had to read, right? (Later in my life Nora's dad asked me if I read and Proust and I had no idea who the hell he was talking about, beyond the fact that I had stuffed some Proust onto the shelves at Barnes & Noble. He also didn't think that the oysters at my restaurant were very hot. I always liked Nora's dad and considered him a wealth of knowledge about things that happen outside of Rochester, Minn.)

Fannie and I went into the theater, crouched into our seats and started watching this dark film about a woman who makes caskets when she isn't busy trying to fall in love. Or something. "Il Postino" was hilarious!

With about 20 minutes left in the film, Fannie whispered: "There is still another character that we haven't seen yet."

She had seen an interview with him on something.

I nodded. We waited. What a trick! Saving the star for the final moments of a film. Foreign movies ... so neat!

I sat there. Thought a second. And said:

"Wait. Are we sure this is 'Il Postino'? I mean, isn't that about a postman or something?"
Fannie thought for a second.
"And isn't it in Italian?" she added.
"What language is this?" I asked her.
"I think it's German," she said.

So I have no idea what we saw that day, but it was pretty good.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shroom shroom ...

My parents are coming to town at the end of the month, which is perfect because I had honed the house tour schtick to the point where it could only be better if I was wired like a fitting room attendant at Old Navy. But it has been at least a week. I've probably gotten rusty.

Ma Pista sent me an email today asking if we wanted any of my dead grandpa's furniture, if they should bring the pickup truck, if my dad needs to be prepared to show plumber cleavage ... She went on to express excitement that we would be able to make dinner at the house. Usually we end up turning their visit into a tour of Duluth dining. I'm not sure my mom is over the time we took her to Chester Creek Cafe twice in two days, then snickered when she ordered the GBLT sandwich.(It's a BLT with guacamole, not a BLT with a parade).

"I have a killer spinach and mushroom lasagna recipe. We can chop up the mushrooms so they don't bother you," she wrote.

I thought she was kidding. I actually saw that line, crinkled my face into my best imitation of a gassy math teacher, and continued reading, expecting to find some sort of el oh el that would acknowledge that I haven't hated mushrooms for the past what-say 34 years because, as the sentence suggests, they are too big. Woman: I don't even like Cream of Mushroom soup. I have some fancy schmancy Truffle Oil in my bookcase (you have your makeshift pantry, I'll have mine) that I'm saving to use to induce barfing the next time I accidentally mistake Windex for PowerAde.

It's not that I haven't tried: One time my mom filled an entire crockpot with butter, a packet of ranch dressing, and so much fungus that the slow cooker had to be washed out with Lotrimin. Those mushrooms, or rather butter vessels, were good enough to eat. I am also not opposed to a sliver of sliced raw mushroom, the likes of which are found in a salad bar.

A Portabella mushroom would kill me.
I do like saying "Shittake."
I can't even "pick the mushrooms off" a pizza. The essence has been baked into the pie.

And it is exactly that essence that would ruin the lasagna. 

I like gross things. I love oysters. I used to enjoy eating crayfish, particularly the part where you suck out the brain and can totally feel it's little feelers tickling your throat. Pork rinds, pickled turkey gizzards, multiple White Castle burgers in one sitting. But I will not eat mushrooms, even ones that are chopped up so they don't bother me, in lasagna. Nope.

* She was fine with this, and said we could substitute sausage.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Matzo, matzo ma'am ...

Mostly, this sleep mask reminds me of my first training bra. ... Anyway, that photo was never meant to be for public consumption. It's just one of those virtual post cards I sent to Chuck while he was at work on Saturday night. But then I was like ... Meh. I need to show the world this Green Hornet costume.  

In other news, here is how I spent the past week:

FOOD


Matzo Ball Soup: So this was very exciting because I'd never eaten a matzo ball, nor have I made a veggie broth before. My favorite part is where the matzo ball goes from a golf ball to a tennis ball. Super good. And what the heck do you do with a bunch of veggies that have been simmering in water for two hours? does this fall under the universal "serve with Parmesan cheese and black pepper" umbrella? Anyway, so then we had ...

Blueberry Crumble: Yeah. It looks like Violet Beauregarde popped a zit all over our kitchen. But this was good, simple, not great. Fine. And dessert, so yum.

MOVIES
Ordinary People: This angst-filled family drama presents an interesting question: Does a young Donald Sutherland deserve the same consideration as a fantasy dinner guest as the Donald Sutherland of late? Because the Donald Sutherland from "Dirty Sexy Money" could have had the head of the table (where he can more easily shoot disapproving looks at Belinda Carlisle), whereas I'm seeing a smaller role for him as a younger man. Perhaps a seat close to where the spare meat platter is stored so people can be like "Hey! Young Donald Sutherland! Pass me some more of that duck!"

Fame (1980): This film about kids at a performing arts high school that spawned the TV show (and a 2009 remake) is ripe with everyone's favorite '80s topics, including, but not limited to: An up and coming dancer ... who is illiterate; A young actor abandoned by his high-falootin' actress mother ... and he's gay; A saucy multi-medium artist, both a singer and dancer and actress, who wants to make a name for herself ... and she ends up falling for the old "I'm a director and I want you in my film come over to my apartment and I'll take videos of you. Could you take your shirt off? I want a Mediterranean vibe." So, this was all background research so that I could watch the remake. Which I did. Stay tuned ... 

BOOKS
Where the God of Love Hangs Out: Fiction by Amy Bloom: Okay, I finished this book like two weeks ago, and still haven't written a review of it. And, actually, I've been plodding along in the same old same old book since I finished it. So apparently I'm off my book mojo. Suffice to say, this one rocked my socks and I'm much more short story curious, than a short story kind of girl. Eventually I'll review it. And that review will appear here.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Penny pincher ...

I was not on site for the following incident, although I know the players well and so feel confident telling the following tale based on the way the events were relayed to me, and filling in the blanks with how I hope and believe things unfolded. 

Today Chuck visited his dad, a 70-something who was probably wearing the same thing as Chuck at the time. Maybe his hoodie was a different color, and that hoodie probably didn't have custom holes through which one can thread iPod ear buds. Chuck invited him to come over and see the new place, and Mr. Chuck said he would stop by after his nap -- and bring his small streamlined white puff of dog, Penny.

"That's fine," Chuck told him. "Although, I'm not sure Toonses has ever seen another animal before, so ..."
 [Later Chuck told me that he thought this would be a bad idea. He also thought it would be pretty funny.]
 
That's not necessarily true, that Toonses hasn't ever seen another animal, but close. About six or seven years ago I was living in this rickety old apartment where the closest thing to insulation were the pita chip-sized flecks of lead paint littering the floor.One winter afternoon on my way out into the world, I slammed the back door too hard and it bounced back open without me noticing. When I got home in the middle of the night, the entire back of the house was wide open and the temperature inside had dipped to just below cryogenics. There was a foreign cat hanging out in my computer room, obviously staking his claim of all things AOL and Limewire; Toonses was hiding in my bedroom with a particularly narc-y look on his face, all but pointing a paw at the other cat and stuttering about how "... and thenStripe chewed through the chord of the alarm clock and ate an entire family pack of the Colonel's Original Recipe!"

We got rid of the foreign cat that day, but Toonses lived on in my mind as an animal that is a bit of a, well, pussy.

So that didn't happen today. As soon as Penny pranced into the room, Toonses went into his defensive crouch. And when Penny sampled Toonsie's Iams all hell broke loose. Toonses' growling drowned out Penny's yapping. He climbed onto his hind legs and boxed the puppy's ears and clawed at this eyes. He nipped and bayed, and frankly scared the crap out of Penny, who had to be locked in the bathroom for her own protection.

I was told that if Toonses had front claws, blood would have spilled.

I'm so kind of ... proud of him. And, yes, because he is a vicious dog-killer. Also because he protected his territory. And for as much as I don't necessarily like cats, I'm totally not feeling little dogs. Anyway, we've taken to calling Toonses "Rocky" tonight. And when he was getting a little chatty, Chuck looked at him and said: "Yeah, yeah. We know. You fought today."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Greatest hits from the disgusting files ...

This is not at all an accurate representation of how I spent my past week. But here it is anyway:

FOODS

Swiss Cheese Pie: Chuck has all these crazy old school cookbooks of great hilarity that I've gotten a better look at since we moved. This recipe comes from "Vegetarian Gourmet Cookery," from 1975. I like to think this was written at a time when vegetarian cooking wasn't so much about health as it was about finding ways to eliminate the animal from one's diet. So of course this recipe book is packed with all sorts of whack meals teaming with 101 forms of fat: butter, cheese, cream ... Guaranteeing that everything is going to taste super awesome. Including this one, which has a pie crust comprised of 36 Zestas and butter, and a filling made of butter, onions, eggs, Swiss cheese, sour cream. It's amazing. The poor cable guy was here as it was cooking, and he told me it smelled like his mom's homemade potato soup (???), but he was in a bit of a tizzy over it. I imagine he went home and grudgingly scarfed down a Totino's Pizza.

Chili Cheese Sausage Dip: So this is the most disgusting kind of awesome ever. We had some people over on Saturday night and I had promised snacks. So I threw two pounds of Velveeta into a crock pot with 2 pounds of Italian sausage and some tomatoes and Pace Picante sauce and waited for the magic to happen. And magic did happen, my friends. It was one of those things where you can't think about what you are eating, or your organs might just seize up.

Trust me. You don't want to see a photo of this one. 

BOOKS
A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by Paul Theroux: One of the best things about reading "A Dead Hand," is diving face-first into sixty-something writer Paul Theroux's scenes of epic tantric massages, then flipping to the author's bio on the dust jacket and giggling about how that man wrote these scenes. Full review will be here.


MOVIES
Whip It I would have rather seen this film about roller derby from the gritty perspective of Juliette Lewis's character.And also: Just once I would like to see Ellen Page admit that her acting influence is Darlene from "Roseanne."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Whippet. Whippet good ...


It's the word "mallomar" that really prompts my tongue for a special treat. A few weeks ago, I had no idea what this cookie was, but I knew I wanted to try one because it sounds amazing.

Mallomar.

I'm no Latin major, but to me this suggested a cookie with marshmallows. And hopefully chocolate. I did some unofficial research (Wikipedia) and learned that:

* These are a seasonal treat, as the marshmallow aspect melts in warm weather making the dessert tricky to store.

* A large percentage of Mallomars are sold in NYC.

I began a hunt for these cookies at our local grocery stores and came up empty. I could find things that had chocolate, marshmallows and a cookie base but nothing that went by the name Mallomar. There is nothing sexy about the name Pinwheels, which seemed to be the closest thing I could find locally.

Since moving to a new neighborhood, we have a new local grocery store that is one hundred fifty flavors of awesome. Don't get me started on the samples they had yesterday, but suffice to say I've never known a chunk of meat to melt like butter. And that is when my tongue exploded. Anyway, this store has something called Whippets, which are seemingly a Canadian take on the Mallomar with a name appealing enough for me to take them for a test drive. Verdict: Pretty freakin' good.

On Thursday night we went to our local strip mall for a pedestrian dinner for two. Afterward, I considered the dessert menu and I couldn't really find anything that was super exciting. Chuck reminded me that we had Whippets at home, so when the server came back and asked if we wanted to order anything I said "Nah. We're just going to go home and have some Whippets."

Of course to our young server, this meant something different than "Canada's take on a special cookie." This means getting all crunk from huffing off cans of Whip Cream, and then making homemade tattoos of anarchy signs with a ball point pen. Just like you've seen on Nightline and Intervention.

"Oh. Okay. Whoa," the server said.
"No, no, not that," I said. "They're cookies!"
"I was gonna say," he said. "You were being pretty casual about it. I was kinda like 'I can't believe you're telling me this.'"

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Toonses and a case of faked disapproval ...

Last night we transported Toonses across town to our new digs. This is exactly as glamorous as it sounds, especially if your idea of glamour is having a 30 pound fuzz pot evacuate his bladder all over the front seat of your car. (Thankfully my car already reeks, so one more stench is just a drop of water in a very toxic ocean.)

This was a 2-person job: one to hold the spread eagle feline doing his best impersonation of a cartoon cat on life 8 who leaps from a tall building, one person to zip the travel tent over Toonsers' catfro.

He crooned Barry White's greatest grunts for the entire 16 minute drive. But I could tell his heart wasn't in it. I could see his little rodent mug through a screen in the tent, and he looked ... bored? Like he knew he was supposed to be all "I hate cars! Change sucks! I want to watch figure skating!" And so he tried to vocally muster his standard level of disdain, meanwhile metaphorically looking at his watch and yawning.

I was stunned at my own ability to tune out his bitching, contrived as it was, and decided maybe I could have been a high school teacher after all.

Back at the house I gave him an abbreviated tour. Straight to the spot in the laundry room where he will delicately lay his precious turds. Fun fact: Toonses is extremely regular. A few of you could learn a thing or two from him.

Toonses took immediate offense to the basement. I'm guessing that is where a few dogs used to live, and our little diva likes to feel special. He clawed at the walls and my running pants, he growled. It was all noted. But when push came to shove, there was some telltale clumpage in his litterbox this morning. So he must like the basement more than he likes crossing his legs and waddling toward a kidney infection. Or, for that matter, potty training himself.

Toonses skulked the perimeter of the house, tested each step for it's nap potential, and settled for awhile in our big phat closet. In the apartment, we never let Toons into the bedroom. And whenever he snuck in, we let him know he was an asshole by taking away his favorite feather boa. But the trauma, half assed as it was, of the move earned him a bit of leniency last night. I let him hang out wherever he was happy.

When I went to bed he was splayed out like a bear skin rug in the hallway. He barged through the bedroom door a few minutes later and ran an 800 meter back and forth along the base of the wall. Eventually I fell asleep, but woke again at 6 a.m. to him skittering around the room, his back claws clicking on the hard wood floors. He sounded like a Gremlin. Or a typing pool. Or an impatient cosmotologist, tapping a table with hot pink tips.

I considered shoving Toonses back into his travel tent and taking him back to the apartment.

A few hours later Chuck came home and found all the bedroom doors and the linen closet open. The way he described it, it sounded like the After School Special: Junkie Cat.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Half-assed attempt at continuity ...

Oh! Snap. Here's what I did last week:

MAKING FOOD

Polenta Pizza: I've totally made this before, but the recipe begs for repeating. Especially since I used what I learned last time to make a far superior pie. This one had prosciutto, onions, garlic, tomatoes (see the little burns? Those are tomatoes) and mozzarella. This is so yum and so fun to make. God bless polenta.

READING
Summertime by JM Coetzee: The character John Coetzee, as written about in a fictionish like sorta memoir, is socially awkward, not a real man, does not emit any sort of sexual vibe, and was never a great writer embraced by the collective.

"Summertime," by JM Coetzee is delivered as a novel with an alternative story form. Vincent, an English biographer, is conducting interviews with people who knew Coetzee in the early 1970s when he was living in a ramshackle place with his father in South Africa and teaching English. Vincent is trying to eke out anecdotes from the subjects that get to the root of Coetzee as a person for a biography that he concedes that few will read. By this time, the fictional John has died in Australia. Instead Vincent gets a handful of reluctant interviewees who confess that they barely knew the man and didn't necessarily like him.

Full review will be here. Spoiler: I liked it, but had to have my brain on the right setting to enjoy it.

TUBE
Is anyone else watching Caprica? My goodness. Big love.