Friday, March 30, 2007

SMiLE???

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 Amazon.com 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????

No?

Hmmm....

"Knock knock"

*pause*

"Knock knock"

*pause*

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

Aaaayyy!!!

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.

Hah!!!!!

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.

Uh-oh!

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?"

"Yes."

"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.