Archive for Musings

Form and face

I don’t really tend to think of myself as having a ‘type’ when it comes to men.  Sure I say tall, dark and handsome, but anything is tall next to my five feet.  Besides, blondes aren’t bad all the time, and it’s a matter of fact that I have a lifelong crush on redheads.

Still… there are some basic figures that stick in my head, and I don’t even fully realize it.

Take, for example, Eric Dane:

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Mr. Dane is quite possibly the prettiest male speciman on television at the moment.  Ever since we first saw McSteamy on Grey’s, though, he reminded me of someone, and I just couldn’t figure out who.  And no, I don’t mean the other Dr. Mark Sloan, though I have always wondered if Shonda named him after the Dick Van Dyke character.

There was just something in those chiseled features, that sparkle in his eye—oh, the sparkle in his eye—his overall slim but very well taken care of physique.  It all reminded me very much of someone, but I could never put my finger on a name.newmarj1

Until tonight.  I happened to come across Turner Classic Movies‘ presentation of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers tonight, which was one of my absolute favorite films to watch as a kid, and not long after I settled in to watch—there he was.  Benjamin Pontipee.

Benjamin was the second oldest of the Pontipee brothers (of course, if you recall the alphabetic names) and here he is with the breathtakingly beautiful Julie Newmar.  Benjamin about ties with Russ Tamblyn’s Gideon as my favorite, so far as the younger brothers go—Howard Keel, of course, is in a category unto himself.

In reality, he was Jeff Richards, apparently a baseball player before his short-lived acting career.  I’ve never seen him as anything other than Benjamin Pontipee, but he and Julie Newmar certainly made an impression on me so far as physical beauty go.  Eric Dane might not quite look like him, but they have a very similar physique, and way of holding themselves, not to mention that quirk of a smile, and again, something in the eyes.

In any case, I’ve solved the puzzle for myself.  I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed watching that old musical.  Back when they hired people who could sing to sing, and people who could dance, to dance.  And what dancing!  The musical is coming back nowadays, albeit a little slowly, but I don’t think we’ll ever see the kind of choreography they used to have.  And that’s okay.  But I’ll never regret having seen the way musicals used to be.

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Simply Dido

One of my Christmas presents this year was Dido’s latest album, Safe Trip Home, and I was happy to receive it.  Listening to it the last couple of weeks, made me want to write up a little bit of a tribute to her, my love story with Dido, I suppose you could call it.

I have a sort of inborn tendency to resist new music.  Or, not resist it so much as to just put off investing in a full album by an artist I’m unfamiliar with.  It’s Nietzsche’s premise that “one can never hear new music well,” or some variation of it.  Also, for me to listen to a new album, I need an uninterrupted sphere of time, so that I can absorb the sound a bit, and that can be hard for me to come by.  So, naturally, I really could have known Dido a bit longer than I have.

My first introduction to her was that her song “Here With Me” from the album No Angel was the theme song for the TV show Roswell, which I was more than addicted to as a teen.  I loved the song itself, but when my older brother—who worked at the now defunct Sam Goody’s at the time—mentioned he had the advance copy of the CD… I treated it as an “oh that’s nice.”  I was still a song-by-song music listener, and I probably couldn’t have named you full album titles of more than a very small handful of artists.

Dido was in fact one of the first to change that.  I finally took my brother up on the offer of borrowing the CD, and being the emo, romantic-tendency-filled teenager that I was… well, it was love, sure and fast.

(Roswell introduced me to a lot of fantastic music, as it happens.  I’d recommend checking out the DVD’s for that single purpose, except for the fact that by a cruel trick of fate tight-fistedness—named Jason Katims—most of the more exceptional music didn’t make it onto the DVD’s.  Do look it up on Hulu or the like, though!)

Ahem.  Dido’s dare I say soulful, ephemeral voice, matched up with songs that were by turn despondent (“Isobel,” “Honestly OK”), self-satisfied (“I’m No Angel,” “Thank You”) and cleverly caustic (“Hunter,” “Don’t Think of Me”), there was always something in the album that drew me back to it, and I was listening to No Angel Advance a good long while—months, if not a whole year—before I got over that “honeymoon phase” with the album of wanting to hear it again and again and again.  It was, in fact, the very first burned CD I ever had.  My brother made a copy for me, and I was delighted.  I would sit listening to the music, reading the liner notes about how she stole a recorder as a kid and finagled her way into music school, wondered at the number of instruments she could play, figured out (back when it was a sort-of-secret) that her last name must be Armstrong because R. had to be her brother, right?  And tried to understand the half-whispered backtracks to some of the songs.  “When I was a child I used to dream about things… my mother had, a house, a family… and… I used to think that dreams would come true…”

And then… came ” Stan.”  A track that I admit I still haven’t heard all the way through.  Eminem does a little sampling and suddenly, kaboom!  Everyone knows who Dido is.  Or at least, they’ve heard “Thank You” so many times on the radio that it’s gotten nauseating.  Sigh.

It was on the downward slope of all this that Life For Rent came out, and then again we had the radio single, “White Flag,” which was fantastic… but again, overplayed.  It put me off the album as a whole for a while.  Admittedly after I had a mini-obsession over the song myself.  What?  I was still a teenager, and like so many I adopted “White Flag” as an anthem towards an obviously dead relationship.  (A sentiment I’m glad to say is long over.)

My sister bought Life For Rent, though, and so I borrowed it.  I wasn’t very enamored with the first three tracks (“White Flag” which of course I’d heard, “Stoned” and the title song) but then… oh, a jewel.  “Mary’s in India.”  A definite story-song with a delicious twist at the end (sort of a softer, more justifiable version of Rilo Kiley’s “Does He Love You?”).  And there were intermittent other jewels as well, “See You When You’re 40,” a definite “I’m done with you” song, and my favorite, “Sand in My Shoes,” which is the complete opposite.   The final song and the hidden track (which my sister, after owning the album for months, had never heard, amazingly) are wonderful, too.

But for a while Dido became sort of synonymous with “whiny British girl singer,” at least here.  Personally I could never pretend indifference for long, though.  The truth was, she was a gateway drug for me to many, many other interesting types of female artists—Emiliana Torrini, Imogen Heap, Regina Spektor, just to name a few.

And in retrospect, I’m glad that it takes the woman so long to record an album, because now that Safe Trip Home is out, she’s almost fallen off of the popular radar.  I’ve heard “Look No Further” on the radio, but not ad nauseum, really only once or twice, and I’ve seen no big hullabaloo made about the album itself, which wasn’t entirely true about Life For Rent.   Not that I’ve been looking for it, either, but still.

The CD as a whole is still fairly new to me, and I don’t have a formed opinion on every song as yet, but it’s a very easy album to listen.  Not as hard as No Angel, but that’s understandable, considering it’s a decade later in her life.  There’s a melancholy to the album, but it’s not a hopeless or extreme one, and the song “The Day Before the Day,” about her father’s death, is very subtle and all the better for it.  This album feels as if Dido, who I’ve loved in her many forms, has come into her own, as weak and cliché as those words might be.  Nothing here is trying to be pop, or trying to be anything, it’s simply Dido, and it’s very good.

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The Tail of Emily Windsnap

Nothing like a good old-fashioned mermaid story to break up the Austen, hm?

I admit, I’ve been eyeing The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler for some time now. Mostly because… well, it’s such a pretty book. It’s middle-grade, and I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by the storyline, but it was an altogether enjoyable book. Partially, again, because it is so very pretty. It’s not just the cover that’s pretty, but there are little black-and-white underwater vignette watercolors all through the book, in between chapters and sections of chapters alike, and it gives the book an all-around motif that’s really enjoyable. While it’s true that the best of stories can be read scrolling through a no-frills .html document, this book is a prime example of how influential packaging really can be.

Not to say that it’s a bad book by its own standards—Emily is a pretty delightful character, and her mermaid friend Shona even more so. The story is a little wackier than I expected, and the kid-parent relationship is a little thin (really, what parent never takes their kid’s view into account, even if it feels that way?) but all in all it was a lot of fun to read, and had a nice ending. There are two more books so far in the Emily Windsnap series, and I’m definitely interested enough to keep reading, and the descriptive parts about undersea life and surroundings were very well done.

This makes book #48 of 2008. I don’t know at this rate that I can finish two more in two and a half days (or rather, I’m 99% sure I can’t) but it easily beats the 31 I managed to read in 2008. In a couple days I’ll post my whole list, slightly annotated. It’s not too impressive, but it’ll do. Despite my failure, I’ve tentatively made a slightly higher goal of 52 books in 52 weeks next year. What can I say, I aim for improvement. 😉

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Before the storm?

The house is uncommonly quiet today, especially considering the fact that it’s three more sleeps ’til Christmas.  Part of it has to do with the weather—very gray, very cold, fairly rainy.  I’ve still got a lot to do myself, though.  There are a couple of presents I’ve yet to wrap, and one or two that I still have to make, which is a problem, but not an insurmountable one, I don’t think.

Still, it would be a mistake to let my guard down, I’m feeling.  We have guests to prepare for, a wedding to go to, possibly a reunion to attend, cheesecakes to make and I still have those last few blasted books to finish for my 50 Books Initiative.

That said… the quiet today has been nice.
Hope the holidays are going well (and a little more organized!) for all of you!

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Badges of honor

I have a blister on my finger from writing today.  Not writing, writing… I’ve been addressing envelopes for dad.  But this kind of proves how little writing I’ve been doing lately, at least by hand.  Because I’ve had a callous on that finger for as long as I can remember.

I feel a little displaced by this.  True, a good part of it is that I’m not in school anymore, scribbling down notes, or doing in-class essays (which I kind of miss, oddly?  The essays, not the notes).  And it’s also that I have a computer open to me more than before.  But, I don’t know… that callous was such a part of me.  I hold my pen tight, too, so generally in my past there’s been a flat angle on the top of my thumb that doesn’t make sense until you see me writing.  And that’s gone too.  I didn’t notice either of those things until tonight, and I don’t know what to make of them.  I sort of want them back, as if it’s going to happen overnight, this sometimes-ugly callous and oddly flat plane on my thumb.  It’s like looking down and realizing you’ve lost your wedding ring or something.  Something that defines you.

This is probably a very strange entry, and my apologies, but it’s difficult for me to explain just how odd this feeling is.  Like something’s gone that I didn’t notice until now.  I’m not talking about my will to write, or even my desire to write.  It’s nothing that drastic, if it were, I would have noticed.  It’s that feeling of having so many words in my head that I can’t get them down fast enough.  Cramping my hand up over nearly-illegible lines that I probably won’t ever read again.

A big part of it is the academics, because I’ll find whole notebooks full of stuff I only half-remember writing.  But still, it feels odd.  It’s surprising to me that I hadn’t noticed its absence before, and of course it’s all I can think about now, so I keep looking back and expecting it to be there somehow.  Strangely enough, that callous was a bit like a badge of honor, as if it were proof that I was a writer, just like the ink stains proved it for Jo March.  Like scarred-up feet for dancers, or stretch marks for mothers.  Battlescars, even.  Some physical mark to say, I’ve done that, I’ve lived it.  I’ve got to re-earn my badge now.  And in a way, that’s kind of good.  It’s time.

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Everyone has a story

It’s nearly midnight and I’m settling down to write.  Not even write, exactly, more type up something that I wrote a couple of weeks ago.  The holiday season is not exactly conducive to active creativity.

What it has been good for, though, is making connections with people.  I went to  an early Christmas dinner at my church this week, and at the table with us sat an elderly lady named Dorris, who’s 81, and spends her time “taking care of the elderly.”  I’ve known this lady was a gem for a while now, but I rarely get to talk to her except for a dinners like this, and while she may not look like much, she has some fascinating stories to tell.

I knew already that she’d been a nun her entire adult life, had even grown up in a Catholic abbey.  What I did not know is that she was sent there as a child to be “hushed up,” because she was the product of one of her father’s illicit affairs.  Scandalous!

What I love about listening to this woman is that she’s so matter-of-fact in the way she talks about her life.  Every fact is a fact, and nothing more, and there’s something incredibly powerful in that.  I wonder sometimes if I try too hard to tell my audience what to feel, rather than simply let them feel it for themselves.  I think about the economy of language quite often, but the economy of emotion is something that sneaks up on me.  I forget about it.

Dorris is a good story-teller, though, and she does it without too many words, or too much hype.  I think that’s something that’s slowly being lost in the world of today’s literature.  Everyone wants a book they can sell the movie rights for, that’ll end up being a blockbuster.  A Twilight, if you will.  Or more rightfully, a Harry Potter, perhaps.

There’s nothing wrong with blockbusters.  But there’s something to be said for little old ladies with matter-of-fact details.  Something to be said for the everyday person.  That’s who the audience is, after all.  Everyday people.  I worry a bit, for future readers, if all they can read is the fantastic, the larger-than-life, because if we forget to value real-world circumstances, otherworldly ones will end up falling in on themselves.

And now it’s late, and I’ve gotten caught up, and I don’t know if I’ll do that typing-up tonight after all.  Staying up nights wouldn’t be such a problem if I didn’t enjoy getting up early, now would it?

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The compulsory…

The sky started clouding over around 3:30 this afternoon, and I started to think maybe it was time to graduate from my Blogger account. I don’t know if those two are correlated at all, but they’re certainly both true. I’ve been eyeing WordPress for a while, as it always seems to look just a tad more professional, somehow, and so here I am.

It’s getting cold here in California. Of course, it’s California, so that’s about as relative as you can get, but it’s heading towards sock season for me, and that’s saying something, as eleven or so months out of the year, I can’t stand to wear socks, but at the moment they sound very nice… I should go find some.

Intentions for this blog—to write well. That’s the gist of it, really. I’ve been indulging in informal blogs far too much, and it’s making me sloppy, I think. I love the world of Livejournal, and the community sense there, but it’s not where I write well, and Blogger could have been that place, but I could never really take it seriously as such. I don’t know what it was exactly, maybe just the rounded edges that seem to prevail there. Friendly, yes, but I’m looking for something a little sharper. Clean lines.

I think this will also be the place for me to start a new project I’m thinking of. An entirely online free read, in the form of an ongoing epistolary “novel,” presented in blog format. I’m really looking forward to this, and it will give readers a chance to get to see some of my writing, and hopefully garner some interest. The thing that I’ve always loved about the blog format in general is the capability of feedback, and direct contact with readers, and I’m hoping to utilize that here. Or rather, not here, precisely. You’ll be hearing more about this soon, be sure of that.

This will be a way for me to get the epistolary bug out of my system in a more or less harmless way, also, which is definitely a plus. I think everyone wants to write an epistolary novel at some point or other in their lives, restrictive as they can be. But maybe that’s the enticement, the economy of language. It sure is for bloggers. Or at least, should be.

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