Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas

I don't think anyone will see this, but as I was just able to log on from the office for a change today, I thought I'd jot a quick holiday note. I am so thankful for all of the wonderful friends and family in my life--thank you all for all your expressions of care, generosity, humor, interest and sharing throughout 2007! You have made a very difficult year full of some terrific bright spots and made the dark spots a little less dense. I look forward to sharing 2008 with you.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Emotion & Music

Music is so visceral. Off and on all day at work I was experiencing these periods of physical anxiety--shoulders hunched and tense, moving stiffly, etc. I wasn't having any particularly anxious thought patterns and was going pretty much about my business normally. And in between those periods I would ease up, feel lighter and free-er. Well, I think it was one of the albums I had on nonpod rotation today. Today's selections included the only two KT Tunstall tracks I own (because they mentioned her on NPR this morning), an album called "Cake" by the Trash Can Sinatras and an Ali Farka Toure cd. KT Tunstall is clearly harmless and the Trash Can Sinatras are something like a 2000's version of Wham! It turns out Mr. Toure was really getting me down. On a casual listen to Ali Farka Toure I would never have realized the mood of his music was such a downer, but my body knows! Of course I have no idea what he is saying, but as I listen to it more clinically I realize that the melodies played out over the bongos and string instruments of Africa are deeply melancholy but not in the obvious drenched-in-minor-keys method of the American blues. This is something subtler and therefore somehow far more intense. It is the African blues. I don't think I want to have the blues, so I'll be taking that you out of the rotation for a while, Ali! But I must say, you really know what you're doing.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Remembering 1984

Okay, since I'm too blah and uninspired to have anything of my own to share, but don't want to leave my fan high & dry on her lunch hour, here is a little tidbit from youtube:

Spinal Tap at Live Earth


Friday, July 6, 2007

My Passive Aggressive Return to the Web

Hello, Suzanne! I'm back. But I don't have anything brilliant to share, so....

Here is a website for you. This link is directly to my favorite entry on this blog, but after you read it if you hit the "home" link at the top it will take you to the main page. I guess that was obvious. Hmmm.... does that count as passive aggressive?

Anyway, here it is:

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Birthday, Sooz!

Great friend with green eyes

Gabriel Byrne should be so lucky
I know I am blessed

I love you, Suzanne! I'm glad every day for our friendship--you are so understanding and supportive and just so damn much fun! Your voice brightens the most stressful work day and your presence makes the ickiest chores actually fun to do (like building shelves for my basement). Thanks for being here in St. Louis and letting me share your life!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, Steph-e-nanie!

Top ten things I love about my sister (with a couple things Suzanne loves about her thrown in):

10. She always does all the scary life things first, making them less scary when my turn comes. (Although watching her learn to ride a bike on our gravel street put me off bike riding for years!)

9. She's always willing to play geeky board and card games with me, especially if they're Lord of the Rings themed.

8. She always let Suzanne play the girly girls in our Peter Pan games.

7. She always has time and positive energy for me, even when her own energy is otherwise depleted!

6. She has as hard a time as I do making small decisions like what to have for lunch.

5. She smiles and laughs with us when we name being gullible after her.

4. "You go tell your mama!"

3. She LOVES new experiences and broadening her horizons, which broadens the horizons of everyone around her.

2. My big brother, Matt.

1. She's just SO generous and beautiful and loving and thoughtful!

I love you, Steph! Happy Birthday!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Haiku o' Thursday

russian music sites
tantalizing me with songs
but visa says nyet

Calvin moment

I am significant!!!!

But today is one of those days where it just doesn't feel that way looking out my 15th floor office building to an adjacent office building of floor after floor of lit offices with worker bees piddling away inside and a horizon with building upon building stretching out in all direcions after that one, each containing floors full of individuals working away (or not working away but writing on their blogs, etc.)...


Friday, May 18, 2007

Wisdom of the Masses

It has come up in several conversations lately and has been battering about in my brain lately how spoiled with technology we are these days and in particular how spoiled the Internet has made us (and me in particular). I LOVE the immediate gratification of having a pretty reliable answer to almost any question in the world at my fingerprints. As if the Library of Congress and all the wisdom of the ages are all at my disposal with generous cataloguing and indexing, too. imdb tells me anything I want to know about movies, allmusic about music (duh) and wikipedia starts a neverending journey of exploration into "facts" supplied by masses that somehow turn out to be mostly accurate.

And I haven't even started talking about the shopping. The convenience, the immense variety!

But I have a love-hate relationship with the biggest internet retailer I am usually in contact with (since I don't frequent ebay anymore)--Amazon. It's like reality television, I find myself bizarrely fascinated by some of the features and unable to resist them, but then often rather disgusted and annoyed after spending 1/2 an hour in such pursuits. In particular, what I'm talking about is the community. I absolutely love the idea of having tens or even hundreds of reviews of a given book or cd so easily available, as well as all kinds of shopping list ideas in the form of the "So You'd Like To..." and "Listmania!" lists. But the lists are almost always disappointing as a real tool for finding unknown treasures or broadening horizons. And the reviews can sometimes be actually personally upsetting to me in their polarized nature and vehement criticism often lacking any social empathy or consideration for others.

As with message boards, reviewers tend to lash out at writers of opinions opposed to their own in personal attacks rather than any thoughtful discourse on the actual subject matter. I am well aware that the nature of the internet lends itself to impersonalizing the other people we are communicating with and in the context of an review, in which your audience is technically other readers, not the reviewer whose opinions you disdain, it is easy to just speak openly with as violently offensive language as you might desire. Forget that WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY!!! The internet has created its own uber-society in which we can all be as rude and thoughtless as we like and never feel the consequences in our day-to-day "real" lives.

So even though I like to think I "get" it about a lot of the symptoms leading to this result, nevertheless the nature of the reviews evidencing sort of the lowest common denominator of our culture still makes me sad on occasion.

After my latest book club meeting last night, this morning I was reading some of the reviews of the book we discussed, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. And of course, the vast majority of reviews are either 5 stars or 1 star and each of the 1 star reviewers can't believe what idiots the 5 star reviewers are. And it made me sad.

Until it suddenly occurred to me that our book club discussion about the book had been really good and that is exaclty why I'm in a book club with the neat women I am and not with all the freakin' idiots posting reviews on :-) Maybe life (and the internet) isn't so bad.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dicktar!

Happy Birthday, Jason, love of my life!

I will miss you today and look forward to celebrating your advancing age this weekend. All those greeting card things like "you're not growing older, you're growing better" seem so right when applied to you!

I love you!

Vader vs. Mario - wha-wha-what???

This morning I read a poem in the UMSL literary magazine that published Jason's short story. It was a short one, maybe eight or ten lines, the gist of which was: Yah, I'm a geek, but don't laugh I'm not such a total super-geek, oh-but-wait, maybe I am a super-geek after all. Cute. But the last line of the poem (intended to show what a super-geek the poet maybe is after all) was along the lines of "I still haven't decided who would win in a duel between Darth Vader and Super Mario."


I am not afraid to admit that I am such a geek that not only do I have an opinion about this but have an opinion so strong that I am completely shocked the author would even use this comparison in his poem. I even wondered if it was ironic and actually he was trying to show that he only thinks he's a super-geek after all but really deep down he's not because if he was he would know that matchup is absolutely ludicrous.

I mean, Mario??? Against Darth Vader??? You've got to be kidding! I mean, maybe Mario could annoy Darth Vader into hyperventilating to death. So here, is my responsive haiku to that UMSL student:

plumber jumping pipes
blue overalls and hammer
yoda you are not

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

More lessons in usage

It is just completely Bitterman that every time I REALLY have to pee at the office, you know--I've put it off and put it off and taken one more phone call and done one more little e-mail before finally going across the office to the bathroom--the freakin' janitor guy is in there cleaning the ladies room!!!!!!!!


My choice is to walk around the beehive a bit, down a flight of stairs and around the beehive on that level to the ladies room on the next floor down, or to wait five minutes.

Again I say: Grrrr.

Arrrrrg! Ye scurvy dogs!

Pirate game of the week: Cannon Bods!

I played it twice before I finally figured out that you have to hit the same kind of pirate you are shooting! Doh!

Enjoy, Suzanne!

Professor Bollinger

Jason is actually a teacher now.

He started teaching his first solo-taught college class on Monday. After two days he is already gaining confidence and excitement about it. And it's not even a favorite topic of his. It's a condensed 4-week undergraduate philosophy course called Language & Logic. It involves Venn diagrams and disintegrating arguments and such.

I am so happy for him I can't see straight--and sort of holding my breath to see if the pleasure and excitement will stick. I hope so.

I am hoping to get a chance in a week or two to go sit in on a class if he doesn't mind, but thought I'd best wait until he was into the groove so as not to make him nervous or mess with "the groove".

Wednesday stuff

Bob Barker is retiring! Can he DO that??? Will The Price Is Right go on? And is it coincidence that this is happening at essentially the same time as Jerry Falwell dying????

Seriously, though, it does seem sort of weird--like the passing of an era. Another reminder that I am, in fact, aging. That I'm not 16 anymore. No matter how much I still feel like it inside and no matter how similar my interior monologue....scratch that....dialogue is to the 16-year-old me. I still have to constantly remind myself to focus and that it doesn't matter when people say hurtful things and that yes, work does have to come first. Or at least not last.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007



We not want tribbles. We does want kitties.

Check out this LOLTREK version of the original Star Trek tribbles episode.


I have issues.

Okay, I know. This is a really big surprise to those of you who know me. Ha!

But really, while I really LIKE people and enjoy hanging out with people and meeting new awesome people, I just have no patience of all the not so awesome people in the world. My sister is (now, as an adult) this bizarrely friendly person who likes all different kinds of people and has immense patience for anyone with at least some redeeming qualities. Would that I were so sweet.

In particular, I have no patience for our super-sweet neighbor, Willie.

Jason, whom I generally think of as not overly generous to people he doesn't know well, is just so sweet and nice to her. Willie is an older African-American Jehovah's witness, who, as with many older folks, just wants someone to listen to her talk. But we don't really want to hear about Jehovah's plan for us or what the Kingdom Hall says is the true word of God this week. However, as she is older and our yards are quite small, Jason mows her lawn every single time he mows ours. And this is a woman with a good deal of family who are often around, and I expect one of them would do it for her, but to Jason it is just nothing to do it in exchange for the good karma he feels when he does.

So in return, every single time Jason mows her lawn, Willie brings us a homebaked treat. She makes the most AMAZING pound cake ever. And according to Jason a pretty darn good sweet potato pie, too (I don't care for SPP so I'm no judge).

Jason did the yard work on Sunday this week and last night Willie brought over some applie pie for him and said she still planned to bring us some oatmeal raisin cookies, too. So sweet.

And yet, I still always sort of have this dread when I see her that I'm going to be stuck having to talk with her for a while and listen to her and I'd really rather do whatever I was doing or was planning to do.

I think I should work on that.

Lessons in Usage

It is completely and totally Bitterman that now that the sun is shining bright and it looks absolutely gorgeous outside, I am not only at work but also sick with a sinus infection or similar thing generating lots and lots of snot, congestion, runny nose and a very bad sore throat. Grrr!!! I feel completely drained and don't even want to see the feaking sun shining on the streets outside my office window.

So for those of you who were wondering whenever you say to yourself "It just figures" or "Murphy's Law" the correct terminology for what you're feeling is BITTERMAN!

Monday, April 30, 2007

April Flowers

Here are Jason's spring plantings in our flower box so far this year:

Lookin' good! I can't wait for the rose bush to start blooming.


Here is a picture of Beezus in her natural habitat. What can I say? When she's not knocking things off of surfaces, she likes to sleep in the bathroom sink. So what?

And here is a picture of Ramona on squirrel patrol.

They are both diligent in their daily duties and we couldn't be prouder.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More Murphese

"Bitterman" - adj: a result or incident seeming particularly tailored to be the opposite of a desired result or incident; the correct term for the so-called "ironic" occurrences in the Alanis Morissette song. Origin: American men from the state of Iowa disposed to wounding of Murphy women's egos.

"Cow" - n: a stack of hay.

"Cow with raincoat" - n: a stack of hay wrapped in a tarp or other weather protectant binding.

"Haystack" - n: a domestic bovine animal commonly seen in farm pastures along midwestern highways.

"Sooz, Suz, Gunky, Sisco" - proper n: She Who Shall Not Miss Neither Book Fair Nor Opportunity To Purchase A Baby Afghan Pattern Book.

"George Baha Doodah Fred" and "Fred Baha Doodah George" - proper n: Cuddly puppy stuffed animals ideally suited to befriend the tortured younger sisters of elder Murphy terrorists.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Poor Poor Beezus

My cat is insane. Perfect, some say. But insane nonetheless.

This weekend our house was besieged by a calico cat that has moved into the neighborhood apparently with plans to terrorize the local house-cat population by teasing and taunting them through the newly open windows of homeowners enjoying the wonderful spring weather we are currently experiencing. This cat (which has a lot of squirrel-like tendencies) enjoys hanging out on the brick exterior windowsills in front of our open windows and laughing at our poor housebound pets.

Saturday morning we were awakened by Ramona's caterwhauling (get it?) at the top of her lungs, hissing, batting at the screen and generally freaking out at the calico cat's (henceforth to be termed "Lucifer's") presence. Not long afterward, a full on war erupted between the highly agitated Ramona and her sister, Beezus. And ever since, Beezus has been experiencing flashbacks and hallucinations during which, apparently, Ramona becomes Lucifer--an evil invader in her own home threatening her very existence. Beezus, therefore, has taken to wailing and hissing at Ramona when she approaches, which occasionally erupts, in turn, into a volcanic struggle for their lives.

As Ramona was here a year or two before Beezus, who has never known a day of life without Ramona around, it's pretty tough to figure out why she suddenly sees Ramona as an outsider. Suzanne says it's probably Early Onset Kitty Alzheimer's. Prayers are welcome.

Murphese: A Dictionary

"Doody Moos" - The 60's-70's rock band known to others as The Moody Blues.

"Nonpod" - Any mp3 player not manufactured by the evil geniuses at Apple. Also sometimes referred to as "Beloved" or "My Precious."

"Oop Doops" - Fruit Loops. Yum!

"Gorga Hunk" - See Gabriel Byrne, Kiefer Sutherland, et al.

Additional contributions forthcoming and comments with further additions welcome!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Haiku for Herkimer

Pretzels from Aldi
Cube prairie dogs sniff the air
Flatulence wafts on

For Suzanne

Because she hates it when I don't post anything for a week.

So here's something. It's a link. To a website. Where you can hear outtakes from Gary Busey's recordings for a GPS device that gives you driving directions.


Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Berry Blues

What is it about Manu Chao that just makes me smile and gets my head nodding and butt wiggling whenever he comes on the nonpod?

He might be saying "the married blues". Or "the buried blues". I don't know. But it sounds like "the berry blues" to me. And no matter what the words are it doesn't sound like any kind of blues I know. It sounds like a light rain while the sun is still shining in Jamaica.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Reading Log

I have had this habit lately of not being satisfied with just reading one book at a time. I thought it was a bad habit and was frustrated with myself--missing the teenager who would open a book and pour over it for a couple days straight until finished and then proceed to do the same with the next book.

Well, now, instead of trying to force myself back to that, I'm trying a new tactic to make myself less dissatisfied with the new way of being. Instead of reading any 3 books at the same time, I'm now reading one classic, one non-fiction and one fiction book. I started Faulkner's As I Lay Dying on Saturday. I didn't like Faulkner in college, but as I'm more mature now and As I Lay Dying is rather short, I thought I'd go for it, and likely would be glad I did. Well, I'm already glad. This guy's really good! I'm just trying to get in 10 or more pages a day on that one, and it is so short it will go by quickly and that'll be one more book I really want to have read in my lifetime checked off! ;-)

I just started my current non-fiction book on Sunday--The Great Deluge about the week of Hurricane Katrina. Definitely fascinating so far. I'm taking it easy on that one, too, just wanting to get in maybe 10 or 15 pages a day.

I had a really hard time picking a "regular" book this time around after finishing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I spent days perusing a bunch of books on my shelves that I haven't read yet. I finally settled on Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance about India in the 1970's. We'll see if it works for me or not.

New Stuff This Week

Received my Zooba book-of-the-month last night: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. He wrote The Remains of the Day, which I loved. I also have his novel The Unconsoled on my shelf, and have had for a couple years, but have never started. I think the sheer length of that one intimidates me these days. But I'd already started a couple other books and have a book club book still to read this month, so this one will go on the shelf until it hits the spot.

I also got a few new albums last night, so I'm listening to those today--yay! Elliott Yamin (I know, but I really LIKED him!), Panda Bear (this one is more for Jason than me--supposed to be a bit experimental) and The Bird and the Bee (which I heard about on NPR a month or so ago and have been thinking about getting ever since--I think going to be a bit Iron & Wine-ish). They're on the nonpod queue today along with the new Arcade Fire album which I actually got a while ago but haven't properly attended to yet.

Happy Wednesday to me!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Oh, and I almost forgot

Our new tenants paid their rent on the 1st day of the month yesterday!!! And they didn't complain about anything or ask for anything to be fixed.

I love them.

They can crank the house music any time they want.


Mmmm....Downy fresh!

I love my clean clothes!!! I did laundry most of the day Saturday and Sunday. Just about every piece of clothing I actually wear at all, most of our towels and about two-thirds of the clothes Jason wears at all. And I finished the whole thing last night--matched socks, put everything away, the whole bit!

This morning when I woke up, lo and behold, I had all kinds of tops to pick from to go with my suit and could just grab a fresh PAIR of socks out of the drawer without hunting and pecking about and changing my mind about what color suit to wear based on what socks I was able to find. It was wonderful. Now if only I would keep this up....

Next on my organization list is to go through the back of Jason's closet and throw away the clothes that are back there that I haven't worn (and the ones he hasn't worn) for a couple of years. I already was able to take our suitcases to the basement now that I have the supercool shelves down there to store things on. This whole organization thing is finally starting to shape up.

Friday, March 30, 2007


I totally do NOT get Brian Wilson's album SMiLE. Admittedly, I have absolutely NO understanding of the 40 years' anticipation and while I really love Pet Sounds I'm not sure I see Wilson's songbuilding as evidencing the greatest technical genius of our age. But this album just strikes me as a bit odd. It's like the redheaded VERY YOUNG stepchild of Pet Sounds. It has the feel of a children's album--funny sounds, silly hooks and the occasional just weird-feeling song. I'm just not sure why the world should listen to this. D+

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Well, in fact, I did finish this novel last night. And I cried. It really touched me.

I feel less and less secure in the weight of my own authority as a literature critic as the years go by, so I frankly am not sure this book is a great book that everyone will love. All I know is that it moved me, and although I didn't start that way, I ended up at the end of the book with great sympathy for every main character in the book.

I browsed a few of the reviews of this book and I am not sure the criticisms some readers have are unearned. I can see why some might feel that almost any fictional account based in part in the events of September 11 would be exploitive. And I can understand why some readers would find Jonathan Safran Foer's prose pretentious.

But I didn't feel either of those things. Frankly, I loved his quirky style and the literary tricks he used throughout the book to make it not just a novel, not just prose, but sometimes poetry and scrapbook and in the end, an experience all its own. And I never stopped wanting to finish it, which is the real joy of this book for me. YAY! A

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Grins for The Weepies

The Weepies totally rock! Of course, my cousin Suzanne and sister Stephanie could not be wrong, but today I am getting a real listen to the two Weepies albums I have and they really are great. It may be inappropriate to say they "totally rock" since they have a moderately low-key sound, like a slightly happier Hem or Iron & Wine. If I thought anyone would be reading this and take my advice, I'd say to run right out and get their record Say I Am You and listen to "Gotta Have You". I give The Weepies an A- overall and an A for that record in particular!

Hi, Sisco!

This post is just for you, Suzanne! Sit back and soak in the entertainment...

*background music starting up*

"There's barkin' at the kitchen
yellin' in the hall
ringin' at the doorbell
poundin' on the wall..."

Are you entertained yet????



"Knock knock"


"Knock knock"


Okay, you're not going for that. Crud. I got nuttin'. ;-)

But I love you!!! Thanks for checking in here and being interested in new posts!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Jason and Frankie were watching Scrubs when I came home last night. The guest star sick-person-of-the-episode was a graying black man, and the second I saw him I said, "Hey, that's Isaac!"

Frankie and Jason both responded with "Who?"

"You know, Isaac, from The Love Boat?" I said, rather puzzled that they hadn't understood me immediately.

"Who is?"

"The sick guy!"

"That's not Isaac," said Jason, who accusing me of disagreeing with HIM all the time, if you can believe THAT.

I was all over it.

"Yes it is."

"No it isn't."

"I bet you."

"Bet me what?"

"I bet you a million dollars that's Isaac from The Love Boat."

Jason looks at Frankie, who shrugs helpfully. "Okay."

I grab the laptop immediately and try IMDB. I couldn't find the guest star information for every episode there, but after asking Jason to check the tv listings to identify the episode I found a site full of detailed information on every episode of Scrubs. And guess what?? Yep. Ted Lange, who played Isaac on The Love Boat, guest stars in the episode My New Coat.


What is more fun than being right and owed a million dollars????

Bacon, Cheese and Beer Dog--Oh my!

I promise you that I am completely aware this "recipe" would disgust most normal people. But I am not a normal people. I am my father's daughter (please, Dad, be with me on this one). Fair warning--the ingredients are: 1 hot dog, 1 slice of thick-cut bacon, 1 can of spray cheese and 1 can of dark beer. And a deep fat fryer.


Check it out here if you have the guts....

Monday, March 19, 2007

Jamaica Sinead?

I got on a Sinead O'Connor acquisition kick about six months ago and acquired several of her albums which I have played several times each, but to which I had not yet really listened. Finally I have given her reggae album from 2005, Throw Down Your Arms, a bit of attention and I have to say I think it is really good. It has a surprisingly traditional reggae feel, at least to one of my admittedly little experience in the genre--knowing only the most famous of famous albums here in the U.S. and what we heard during our one week vacation in Jamaica over a year ago. Her voice and style of delivery blend extremely well with the rhythm and mddle-volume style of reggae. My favorite song (at least after the first couple of listens) is called Vampire and exhorts the loyalty of the true rastaman who does not gamble or drink the rum, but has instead been sent by Jah Jah to catch the vampire. How much fun is that???

I'm a Junkie

Let it just be said that I told Jason that I changed my mind and didn't need to go to the bookstore on the way home after all. "I'm neutral on it", I said. But apparently my original suggestion had wormed its way into his imagination, as he drove right past our exit and on to the Brentwood Borders. Oh, darn. So I began my process of variously picking up books, determining to buy them, then being convinced by my financial conscience to put it back. This is vaguely what the conversation in my mind is like:

"Do you really need that?"


"Are you going to read it right away?"

"Well, no, I am reading that other book right now and then I'll probably move on to the next book club book..."

"Exactly. You can always buy it later."

(Sadly) "I guess..."

I did that for several books and 45 minutes or so.

Then I saw it. The new George Saunders collection of short stories out in paperback finally! The voice of my financial conscience didn't even utter a sigh. This clearly was one I had to purchase. Well, guess what, that paved the way for two more books I couldn't seem to find good argument against buying right away. At that point and before picking up the fourth book (I was seriously considering Nabokov's Pale Fire but managed to talk myself out of it since I haven't even opened the new translation of Lolita that I bought a while back, which, by the way, my sister also purchased unbeknownst to me but DID not only start but finish already), I decided I'd better find Jason and see if we could get out of there.

And sure enough, he didn't buy one book.

Luckily for my nagging financial conscience which was beginning to speak up again, the cashier reassured me.

CASHIER: Do you have your Borders Re--William Gass!

ME: Yep.

I'm not sure if I was confirming that I did indeed have my Borders Rewards card or that I was indeed buying a William Gass book.

CASHIER: This is a great book--Ooh! (That upon seeing my third selection, Dhalgren by Sam Delaney.) Are you a lit major?

ME: No. *pause* Well, I WAS a lit major. I'm well past that age now, but I just can't seem to help myself sometimes.

CASHIER: I thought so; these are really great books. (A pause followed as she took my credit card and began to bag the books and then, in a very heartfelt tone looking at me happily, she offered) Your selections have just made my day!

So there, stupid voice of frugality! I win!

Friday, March 16, 2007

I Ask You

Can Signalization really be a word?????

Book Club Round Up

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards - I REALLY enjoyed book club last night. It is always spiritually rejuvenating to me to spend time in this group of such beautiful women whom I just grow to love and admire more as the years (years already!) go by. Our discussion was a pretty lively one, though I'm left not sure how many of us enjoyed the book. But I do know that all of us really disliked most of the key characters in this book. I don't know about them, but I really did not like this book at all and was glad when it was over and I could move on. But I loved the book club meeting about it last night, which leaves me with a much better "taste in my mouth" about the book, and talking about it definitely pointed out to me some things that were more artfully done in the novel than I'd realized and made me appreciate it more. I think I end up giving it a... C+

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bush's Judges' Legacy

I just read the opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court in Philip Morris USA v. Williams decided on February 20th of this year. It's a tobacco case out of Oregon by the family of a single smoker, Jesse Williams, not a class action case. Yet the jury awarded $79.5 million in punitive damages (along with the $821,000 ordinary compensatory damages). The Oregon Supreme Court upheld the verdict. And I find myself very disturbed by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to reverse the damages award. While Philip Morris would have liked the Court to rule that the award was simply inherently way too big ("grossly excessive") and reverse for that reason, it did not go that far. Instead, the Court used what they called "procedural" grounds to reverse the award.

The decision was a close one, 5-4, with both of our new appointees siding in the majority along with Breyer, Kennedy and Souter. Justices Stevens, Thomas, Ginsburg and Scalia dissented.

The gist of the Court's holding is this: a jury may not punish a defendant for harm caused to others than the plaintiff(s) in the case at hand. The Court acknowledges that this holding is an extension of prior case law which did not previously explicitly state this.

The Court's opinion seems rational until the dissent provides a little more background on the particular facts of the case. The Due Process Clause, in the Court's opinion makes it unconstitutional for a defendant to be punished for harm caused to plaintiffs which it did not have the opportunity to cross-examine, present evidence of contributory negligence by, etc. Perfectly rational.

Except in the context of punitive damages awards which are inherently meant to punish a defendant. The Court expressly agrees that a plaintiff may present evidence of harm by the defendant to others in a like manner as that caused to the plaintiff in order to show how "reprehensible" the conduct of the defendant was, and the jury may award damages based on this level of reprehensibility in the defendant's conduct. But the jury, the Court says, is to base its punitive damages only on punishment of the defendant for the reprehensible conduct toward and injury of the plaintiff--not other non-parties. At least one dissenting judge takes issue with this entire concept, preferring to permit a jury to take into consideration harm to others when awarding punitive damages. But the concept does seem a rational one in light of a generous due process interpretation and I am not horrified by the idea inherently.

But the other dissenting justices give us a little more information about the case at hand, and hence my frustration is born!

Justice Ginsburg's opinion states that prior U.S. Supreme Court cases had already made it clear that a jury is properly instructed to consider the extent of harm suffered by others as a measure of reprehensibility, not to mete out punishment for injuries in fact sustained by non-parties. Ginsburg argues that the Oregon court followed this precedent and vacation of it's judgment is unwarranted, and I couldn't agree with her more based on the additional information on the case she provides. In particular, Philip Morris preserved no objection at trial with respect to this issue, therefore the issue was not properly before the Oregon Supreme Court and is not properly preserved for appeal before the United States Supreme Court either.

Why, I can't help but ask, was the Court willing in this case to reach outside the bounds of the case as postured when the trial court entered its judgment? Why, when so often the Court is pleased to avoid such issues by strictly enforcing procedural limits on parties' attempted appeals? Could it be that the Court wanted to vacate a $79.5 million judgment against Philip Morris? I love the Supreme Court and want to think this is crazy conspiracy theorist talk, but I can't explain this case any other way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Song Round Up

"I Will Follow You Into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie - I've been thinking that I just don't get it about Death Cab for Cutie. But this morning I adore this song. It is just soft guitar accompaniment to the singing of a simple melody--one of those we-will-be-together-even-unto-death-regardless-what-lies-there-waiting kind of songs. Sort of 15-year-old lyrics, but soft, pretty and in accompaniment with some of the stuff Jason and I have spent a lot of time talking about lately is just perfect. A

Friday, March 9, 2007

Ships & Drips

Check out the BareNakedCruisers photo from Ships & Dip. No, Steph, Matt, Jason and I are not there. So don't be afraid to get out your magnifying glass and enjoy!

Song Round Up

"Not That Dumb" by Suddenly, Tammy! - History: There's a Suddenly, Tammy! song that I have absolutely adored for years, so a few months ago I finally obtained this entire album to see if the rest of their stuff is any good. The Song: I really like it. I think Jen Harlin would like it. Sort of jangle pop feel. About being frustrated with life. Representative line: "I just finished braiding my hair. My head's been red all day." B+

"Mocking Bird" by Megan Slankard - History: From Suzanne. The Song: Slightly bluesy guitar groove feel like Melissa Etheridge. Some interesting voice touches between verses like Laura Love. I like it. Representative line: "If I were a mocking bird I'd fly all around to the top of the world and never come down." B

"Beautiful" by Paul Simon - History: All Paul Simon albums are worth owning, right? The Song: I don't know. I have to say, I'm just not thrilled. Definitely has that Paul Simon slightly Graceland-y Groove-y vibe. But other than that I just don't get it. C

To Jason

I love you.

It seems so inadequate. Such tiny little words to express so much. I love you.

Our connection is my lifeblood. You bring my life grace, humor and elegance. And let's not forget meaning.

Heloise wrote to Abelard "Let me have a faithful account of all that concerns you; I would know everything, be it ever so unfortunate. Perhaps by mingling my sighs with yours I may make your sufferings less, for it is said that all sorrows divided are made lighter."

You need not suffer alone. It's something you taught me.

I love you.

Jonathan Safran Foer snags me

I rushed out of the house last night with my husband with the vague idea that I could end up having quite a bit of time to kill with little available entertainment that evening. The book I picked up to solve this potential tragedy was Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

I had previously started his debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated, perhaps a year or more ago, and though I remember liking it, for some reason I stopped about halfway through and never went back. So I had been eyeing ELaIC at the bookstore ever since it hit paperback but too guilty to buy it since I'd never even finished the other one! I just gave in to buying it a few days earlier this week.

EII fell victim to one of my recent neuroses: for the past few years I have had a difficult time finishing books. I still love books and love reading, but for some reason I always find myself much hungrier to open a new book than to pick up the one I've already started. I probably start 4 or 5 books for every 1 book I actually finish. And I only finish as many books as I do because of a rigid determination to finish books selected for my two book clubs and a lot of rushed reading the day before those meetings. In my own mind I call this "disease" of mine RADD (Reading Attention Deficit Disorder). You know, because it amuses me.

Half the books I do finish are selections for the two book clubs to which I belong. The other half are RADDicillin. After reading 80 pages of ELaIC last night, it was already clear that it is definitely RADDicillin. I am completely enraptured with the main character, a sad and precocious nine-year-old named Oskar whose father was killed in the twin towers on 9/11. Some of the elements that make him so compelling I suspect if I repeated here out of the context of the book would seem trite and/or so overly quirky that they are almost desparate author attempts to make Oskar unique. Oskar plays Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" on the tambourine and describes when he feels sad as wearing "heavy boots." And Oskar is very sad since his father's death. The author's voice, though, through Oskar and Oskar's father (as Oskar remembers him) speaks of so much to which I relate and not only that, but to which I feel my husband would relate and somehow makes me feel closer to him though he has not read the novel and likely never will.

I bet you dimes to donuts that I finish ELaIC and do so within a few days. Thanks, Mr. Foer.