Thursday, April 27, 2006

Books of 2006 updated!

Have posted the rest of March's books and the start of April's books (since I'll be leaving the country again soon!)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Britney is pregnant again

This as reported at MSN as reported at Us Weekly.

Excellent news! Champagne all around! The ever-virile K-Fed will now have four kids, all under the age of four from two different women. Nice work for a 28-year-old, talentless, unattractive, smoking, partying loser.

Ah, memories of Australia

These four sweet American exchange students met me in my hostel in Tasmania. They were so tickled (well, fueled by wine, I'm sure!) that I was a college instructor that they demanded I go out with them.

(Note the 24-hour bakery in the background; that's the important landmark...24-hour meat pies!!!)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Blogger's Book Club -- Vile Bodies

The first selection for the BBC was Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. This was my first book by Waugh, which might be surprising as I'm a huge fan of high modern literature (Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises was, in fact, one of the primary reasons I became a writer). Waugh's novel is a satirical but often dark (as good satires are) exploration of the upper echelons of society, a part of society that seems inevitably doomed to extinction. The story is led by a poor, struggling, observant writer -- Adam Fenwick Symes -- who emerges, like Jake Barnes in Hemingway's novel, as the antiheroic hero of the novel. The center of the story is his up and down, on-again, off-again comedic romance (as opposed to romantic comedy) with his fiance Nina and their experiences with the smart set of society, a group of young, rich, and bored individuals who can't seem to find real fulfillment from life, not that they want to (largely due to being young, rich, and bored). Even though we know that Adam is doomed to be alone on a battle field, we find ourselves sympathetic with him, cheering for him in some ways, while at the same time rolling with laughter at his flailings.

Initially, I found myself getting lost in the story. There were too many characters and the somewhat disjointed prose made it easy to get lost. I found myself having to re-read the first few chapters just to keep up with what was taking place. But after awhile, largely due to the emergence of Adam as the main character, I found myself drawn to the story. The fast-paced prose seems to mirror the fast-pace of the characters, and the fragmentation of the prose -- in skipping from one scene to the next -- seems parallel to the fragmentation of life itself. Waugh does not seem as interested in delving into the psychology of individual characters (though each character is unique and believeable, most seem a "type" more than anything else) as he does with delving into the society itself. The antics are over the top, but this makes us accept their actions more easily; we are not looking for realism here but instead a fantasy of reality.

What seemed most interesting about the book is how it transcends time. While we could say that this type of society died in the early 20th century, its relevance today -- in terms of gossip and our obsession with celebrity -- seems profound. Could we not see Paris Hilton as the post-modern Nina and Kimberly Stewart as Agatha? Perhaps the Olsen twins and Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan could be the angels of the 21st century?

Travels With My Mother, Part One

Number of phone calls with my mom in the past 48 hours RE: Spain: 5
Number of hours spent convincing her that she needs to give herself more credit: 1.3
Number of hours spent trying to find a mom-friendly, budget-friendly hotel in Madrid: 4

We haven't even left yet, and I'm a bundle of stress. My mom is a very well-traveled lady; she's probably been to 15 different countries on 4 different continents, and yet she doesn't give herself any credit. She still sees herself as helpless, dependent, and incapable of doing anything. This kind of anxiety is something that runs in my family, so I can relate (on the phone the other night I had her brainstorm the worst-case scenario (well, she immediately said "death" but I had her be more realistic so she came up with not being able to find me in Madrid) and then we worked through how she'd deal with the worst-case scenario should it occur (check into the hotel, contact my brother, find me the next day if necessary)).

But even more than my family being a bunch of neurotic, anxious freaks (which we are) I find myself pondering Mothers in general and wondering how many of them are like mine: Totally capable, strong, independent, adventurous, intelligent beings who still see themselves as weak, vulnerable, incompetent, and incapable of doing anything without failing. They are the ones who got us ready for school and made it to their jobs on time and still managed to get dinner on the table; they are the ones who nurse dying relatives, who outlive their husbands and still keep going.

And yet, they (or at least she) are still confronting insecurities. I suppose it never goes away, even with age and experience. These insecurities she faces are the ones I face myself. But I suppose the difference is that as a child, unlike as an adult, I wasn't aware of her insecuries; she was only "Mom" and perhaps few of us give "Mom" permission to be "Human."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Sleeper Hit -- My Date With Drew

It's been kind of a stressful week (that's the short story) and I've been feeling kind of anti-social, probably because things have been so crazy with travel and life and are about to be crazy again with travel and life (and travel and life with my mother). So last night, I stopped by Blockbuster and saw, My Date With Drew on sale for only $4.99!

Of course I bought it.

I so love this movie. Brian Herzlinger is a guy who has had a crush on Drew Barrymore (who wouldn't) since the second grade, and when he wins $1,100 on a game show, he decides to make a documentary (along with some help from his friends) about an ordinary guy who tries to get a date with Drew Barrymore. You might think that he's a bit of a stalker, but that isn't the case at all. He is a nice and sincere man who is simply trying to take a risk to get to his dream. Which is, of course, quite a Drew Barrymore thing to do. The movie opens with a quote from Drew: If you don't take risks, you'll have a wasted soul, and in all honesty, I don't think the movie would work were it any other actress.

If you haven't seen it, find it. If you want a cheap copy, I can see if Blockbuster has any more for sale. It's one of those feel-good movies that feels good for a lot of good reasons: It's funny and honest and sad and reveals so much about passion and celebrity and ultimately, about being human. Check out Brian's website for more! (And no, I'm not going to tell you the "secret" ending. Oooohhh...does he get the date? or not?)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Must Love....Big Slabs of Beef????

One of the things that's most difficult about the life of the single gal is the vast landscape otherwise known as: The Supermarket. It's an unavoidable and pretty much every day errand for most people, but no matter how often I frequent it, I find myself wandering the aisles in a constant state of perplexity. One spends much of one's time looking for single-sized portions of common goods (I need two tablespoons of walnuts, not two cups; I need one stick of butter, not four (when am I ever going to use four sticks of butter?)) and she digs through piles of produce to find enough to make just one salad (eventually giving up on things like enormous stems of broccoli and heads of cauliflower). The fact is, many of us singles often cook (and eat) for one and we don't all have extra freezer space to store leftovers that we'll probably just throw away in the end (and I don't want to eat broccoli every day for a week and a half).

Today was a classic case: Last night, I decided I wanted to eat steak tonight. So I'm standing in the meat aisle (as opposed to the meat market) staring into the void, trying to find the smallest piece of steak I can and a package that only has one piece in it. The butcher finally comes out to ask if I need help. I hold up a package and say, "I'd like one steak, please. A small one."

He digs through the bin and holds one up. "Here's one."

It weighs, seriously, 23 ounces. "Er, no," I say. "A one-person steak. Can you give me one that's around six or seven ounces?"

He reluctantly disappears into the back and comes back out with my lonely little steak that I place in my hand-held basket next to my one banana, my three tablespoons of dried cherries, my two containers of yogurt, my bottle of pinot.

"You know, we're having a special on whole chickens," he says.

I can't decide if he's just doing his job or if he's being ironic or sarcastic. I decide on the latter. "What am I supposed to do with a whole chicken*?" I say.

"Try eating it," he says.

Now, I'll be the first to say that Must Love Dogs is a pretty pointless movie. But it embodies the moment so well when the always-delightful Diane Lane encounters her own butcher. He offers up the weekly chicken special (for only a few cents more she can get a whole chicken!), a handful of recipes, and tells her that she can just freeze the rest.

"I don't want a bunch of chicken sitting around in my freezer!" she screams at him.

Imagine: Those chicken bits, just staring at you from their haphazardly-wrapped tin foil coffins, a constant reminder as you shift past them to your pint of Haagen-Dazs, that you are, eternally, cooking for one.

*I mean this both metaphorically and literally. I wouldn't have a clue what to do with a whole chicken besides stick my head in it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Quote of the week

Because it's just too damn funny! From Jimmy Kimmel on Britney & K-Fed:

It occurred to me today that if they do, indeed, get divorced...Kevin, now known as K-Fed, will become FedEx.

Seems a bit excessive

So I just collected my mail for the past month, and there are 16 magazines awaiting my eager eye. SIXTEEN!

After sorting them into piles (fashion, entertainment, culture, New Yorkers that will never be read entirely) I've decided, First stop: Us Weekly for the past month (a lot of gossip to catch up on; what's a girl to do without her la Lohan/Jessica/Mr. Ick Cruise/Ms. Stick Richie fix?)

Sixteen. Is that too many?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More on Suri "aka Princess Pointy Nose Pickpocket" Cruise

From MSN:

One Down: World Awaits Pitt, Jolie's BabyApr 19, 4:19 PM EST
Jake Coyle Associated Press

One down, one to go. Now that
TomKitten has been born, the world still awaits the birth of another super baby: the expected child of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. It's a tabloid editor's dream of a doubleheader — it's a beautiful day, let's play two!

On Tuesday, Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise — a.k.a. TomKat — welcomed into the world their first child together, a daughter named Suri, which by some translations means "princess" or "red rose."

Meanwhile, Jolie is nearing the end of her pregnancy as she and Pitt lay low in the southwest African country of Namibia. Us Weekly readers and genealogists alike crouch with bated breath for the coming of what could be the human race's most beautiful spawn.

With two of the biggest celebrity births in decades occurring in such proximity, the questions abound. Will the two babies forever be linked? If they wrestled, who would win? Will Suri and the as-yet-born Brangelina Baby eventually ascend to rule us like dictators? Or will they merely run the U.N. and the Church of Scientology, respectively?

"They will probably go down as a marker of our generation for the saturation point of this celebrity obsession," says Corynne Steindler, the editor of gossip blog Jossip. "Had they been born on the same day or even the same week, I don't even know if the weekly (magazines) could handle it," she says.

Of course, the naming of celebrity babies has become it's own arms race of sorts, with each star parent trying to find a yet more obscure moniker. Suri joins a pantheon of Apple, Lourdes and Phinnaeus.

Pitt and Jolie have said they may give their child a Namibian name, which could certainly rival the exotic quality of "Suri" — which actually may not be as beautiful in meaning as it sounds.

Bruce Lansky, a "baby name guru" and author of "100,000+ Baby Names," says it means "pointy nose" in Todas, a language spoken by a Southern India tribe.

Though he suspects Suri will enjoy the unique name when she's older, she may be annoyed by teasing classmates.

"Typically, Hollywood parents are thinking about themselves," says Lansky. "They're sort of playing, `Aren't I cool to think of this cool name.'"

Many expect the two couples to take very different approaches to raising their children in the spotlight. While Cruise and Holmes have been exceedingly public in their relationship, Jolie and Pitt have guarded their privacy and shrouded Jolie's pregnancy in secrecy.

"Some react to it by protecting their children and providing cocoons around their children," says Janice Wood, an associate professor at the University of Northern Florida who specializes in child development. "And some want their children to grow up with a pretty good idea of what their parents are and what comes with being a celebrity."

Wood says neither way is necessarily better than the other.

"What I tell parents," Wood says, "is always put yourself in your child's shoes."

Though, in the case of Suri's parents, they might want to avoid putting themselves in Suri's pockets. According to News Scotsman, Suri "also means pickpocket in Japanese."

About a Snob

I've really been on a Nick Hornby trip these past few weeks. So you can imagine my delight when, while stocking up on used books at Aardvark's this afternoon, I came across About A Boy for only $6.50. However, there was one glaring problem: The Cover.

Yes folks, that's right. It was a movie poster cover. And if there's one thing I hate (am embarrassed by, more precisely) it's a book with a movie poster cover.

It sounds contradictory and ridiculous, I know. I'm a self-proclaimed movie and book whore, so why be humiliated when the two great tastes get together? (Kinda like Reeses!) There's nothing different about the words in the two copies. The story's the same. I even liked the movie, really liked it, in fact (Toni Collette and all). So why even care? I should get cool points just for reading such a cool book!

But as I hesitantly plopped my money down on the counter (actually my credit books later!) and made my way over to Cafe Du Soleil for a goat cheese, pesto, and red pepper sandwich (yum), I found myself going out of my way to hide poor Hugh's sneering face from the rest of the world as if the funky-dressed clientele would mock me for reading it only after the fact.

I am truly truly truly pathetically neurotic, aren't I?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Stork has arrived...

The egg has hatched...

The aliens have landed...

Baby TomKat (aka: Suri) has arrived. No word on whether or not Katie screamed: "Get me the %$^@*# out of here!!!! Get your &%&#^$&@# hands off of me you psycho-freak-fiance!" May the gods (are there gods?) of scientology help that child not be a total looney.

Monday, April 17, 2006

For those not lucky enough to know him...

Here's Superdog (aka: Jake Barnes):

Oh, Holy Mother of Shoe.

Is this what I think it is?

A Manolo Blahnik OUTLET STORE in Madrid, Spain?????

Julia. Where are you????

An excellent welcome back

Last night, a big group of friends and I went to the Berkeley Rep Theater and saw Rita Moreno (Yes, THE RITA MORENO!!!) in Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie. Okay, we all know that Williams is my favorite playwright, but RITA MORENO!!!!! The woman is brilliant. (I'd seen her before in 2004's Master Class as Maria Callas, perhaps one of the finest live performances I've ever seen.) In fact, the entire cast is brilliant. Williams's words, of course, are timeless; the staging was subtle and elegant; the themes of fragile illusions shattered by the fist of harsh reality are universal. By the end of the evening, I was literally trembling in my seat, too moved to even cry.

There is nothing as amazing as good live theater.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Jet Lag Woes

I always wonder if these No Jet Lag remedies work because we all know that Jet Lag is an ongoing hangover without the benefits of the party! (Well, the party is the travel, no doubt, so I'm not complaining.) Landed about 24-hours ago, oh-so-exhausted but oh-so-happy from my travels in Australia. Now, even after 11 hours of sleep, my head feels like it's a merry-go-round set on overdrive.

Hopefully I'll be able to get my pictures developed before I leave for Spain in two weeks (rough life, isn't it? please don't hate me) so I can share some more with y'all! (No hot holiday romances, FYI; sorry to disappoint because I know that's what all of you were anticipating from me...)

Okay, folks. Back to reality! (Rather: Back to bed!)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Who Knew?

When you get bumped from your fight because damn United airlines overbooked your flight by almost 50 people (!!!) and you get put up in some airport hotel for the night and re-booked for the following day with an upgrade to Business Class for the first time in your get access to this groovy little rich-person's lounge area with complimentary (the rich don't use the term, "free") internet, telephone, television, and refreshments -- including as much champagne as you can drink!

It's a whole new little world I never knew existed.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Simply Divine

One moment.

You know how there are those lists of 100 (or 1,000 or 10,000 or a million) things you must do before you die? At the top of the list -- or at the top of my list, anyway -- reads: Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.

I have to say that exploring it today outside of Cairns might just be one of the most divinely beautiful experiences of my life (this from a woman who isn't much of a believer in anything divine). I can't describe it, explain it, even really remember it (and I have no pictures outside of my mind). It's just wow and more wow. I'm not much of an ocean gal, having grown up at the base of the Rocky Mountains where huge bodies of water were nonexistent, but like so many people, the oceanic world is filled with such mystery and intrigue, and I feel damn lucky to have been able to glimpse even a microcosm of it today.

Like I should thank the fish who were kind enough to share it with me. Because in some way, I think they would understand.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

And they call me a world traveller?

I am the biggest fucking idiot. I arrive at the Melbourne airport, still exhausted from last night...and as I'm standing there in line, I notice that there isn't a flight listed for Cairns.

I take out my itinerary and notice that I was supposed to have gone to the airport YESTERDAY. I can't even use alcohol as an excuse, just my own damn stupidity.

$250 later (and a whole host of totally non-sympathetic and borderline rude Virgin Blue workers) I now have 5 hours to sit on my ass in the airport and have entirely lost my entire plan for seeing the area surrounding Cairns.

Fuckity fuck fuck fuck.

Reason #4839271 to get a camera phone

For when you're out bar-hopping with friends in Melbourne and you crash a bachelor party and wind up at a bar at 3:00 a.m. with one of your friends (who shall remain nameless, but it should be pointed out that this "friend" does not in any way refer to this particular blogger nor does she refer to anyone associated with "My Muse") doing a lapdance in the middle of the bar.

Sounds like a pretty darn good reason to me...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

For the fashionistas

Because y'all thought I had sold out on you with all of this hiking and roadtripping and grungy lifestyle I've been leading these past few weeks.

In Melbourne today, I just spent WAY TOO MUCH MONEY on a crushed velvet, pink, cropped, 3/4 sleeves jacket. Because there are so many places to wear a crushed velvet, pink, cropped, 3/4 sleeves jacket, right?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Great Ocean Road in Pictures!

Luckily, T has a great digital camera and is a fantastic photographer. These photos are all courtesy of her great eye! Here's the link for the rest!

We're in Kangaroo Land now! Me right before T and I climbed down to the base of Erskine Falls. (This is not anywhere near where T almost ran over a kangaroo, but that, fortunately, was not caught on film!)

We're also in koala land. This was my first koala. I've named him "Frank."

A fantastic shot of the historically famous Cape Otway lighthouse.

Gorgeous ocean views near the 12 Apostles.

One of my favorites! The waves and the sky and the clouds and the sublime rock formations all come together at the 12 Apostles.

More of the 12 Apostles.

A rock formation called a "bridge" at the 12 Apostles.

Okay, this one is pathetic, but it's me taking a bath while watching Love Actually. We thought it was hilarious that I could see the television at our B & B from the bathtub, but I suppose not everyone will!