Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dead Moms--The New Lewis Black?

Here I am, wallowing in the meat and cheese filled week that is my vacation at home in Iowa. Last October, an old friend of mine opened a fantastic, cheap barbeque place in town. This month, he added fantastic, cheap beer to his menu. Suffice it to say, I've spent most of my week huddled over buckets of fried mushrooms and steaming piles of pulled pork, which is only a short, metaphorical hop from the way I spent the better part of my late teens. Nudge nudge, wink wink. How I love you, The Midwest!

The only misstep came this evening, when, lured by the promise of cheap martinis, my mother decided we should have a Girls Night Out. We'd start at The Vine for happy hour and gossip. Once drunk, we'd take in a light comedy and round out our evening laughing hysterically as my mother's minivan wove us home through the dark, cold night.

Our friend Jill came prepared with print-outs of all the local movie listings. It being Iowa, our options were limited, but I'd been hearing good buzz about this new romantic comedy The Family Stone. When I suggested it, Jill nodded in agreement and my mother (on her second martini) said, "It's got Sarah Jessica Horseface, from Sex and the City. She's good." Our fourth Girl, Marion, was easily convinced and so a unanimous decision was made.

What we knew about the movie beforehand was this: An uptight, conservative girl (played by SJH) goes to the home of her boyfriend's liberal family (the eponymous Stones) to meet them for the first time over Christmas. Hilarious hijinx ensues.


About a half hour into the movie, just as I'm thinking about how my mom kind of looks like Diane Keaton, the Stone family's hell-raising matriarch, we are told that poor Diane has inoperable breast cancer and from the way the music swells, and her husband stares stoically into the distance, it becomes clear that she will be dead before the last credits role. Hah hah, isn't that funny? Couldn't you just keel over from the comedic brilliance of that little tidbit?

If I could have actually kicked my head with my boot, I would have. Sitting on one side of me is my mom, whose own mother told her, over Thanksgiving dinner in 1992, that she was dying of inoperable breast cancer. Sitting on the other side is Jill, whose mother died suddenly, five weeks ago. Are you kidding me, Sycamore Theatres 10?

In the end we were laughing, but mostly because we always laugh together, and the situation was just so ridiculous, and plus, you know, the booze.

But still I shake my fist at the marketing crew responsible. Really guys, what were you thinking? If we present this tear-orgy as a comedy, and release it over the holidays, we're sure to make a few million American families feel really...depressed? I think for my Mom's New Year's party I'll throw on a copy of Dancer In the Dark and see if we can squeeze a few chuckles out of it before we turn on the oven and take turns sticking our heads inside.

But really everyone, Happy New Year. I'll see you in ought six.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dictator? I Hardly Know Her!

I have shared my fears with some of you that the second Bush administration has begun to smell a bit fascist. But it's hard to talk about the F-word without sounding like a raving lunatic, or like I'm comparing Bush to Hitler, which I am not. However, some of America's most well-respected publications are asking questions about the erosion of our rights as U.S. citizens. The current administration has been really great at controlling the media to their advantage. Here are some recent articles that slipped through the cracks:

This weekend the Boston Globe examines the re-release of Sinclair Lewis's scathing political satire, It Can't Happen Here. Just try to read the book without making comparisons to the W. regime.

Also this weekend, the New York Times tells us the government is spying on citizens. Note that the story was supposed to be published a year ago but was not, at request of the government, and now that it has published, it's buried in the Washington section of the Times. Hmm.

Finally, for those of you who missed it in Harper's this fall, here is one of editor Lewis Lapham's last columns before he announced his retirement in November. (via Organic Consumers)

Are we so comfortable with our idea of America, with our own patriotic myths and legends and heroes that we don't notice, or worse care, when these myths are used to keep us docile? If you're against the war, you're against the troops and that's unpatriotic. If you're against our government spying on it's own, then you're a friend to terrorists. If you question this administration, you are clearly a gay drug-sniffing commie and gay drug-sniffing commies aren't what America is all about. No, apparently these days America is all about keeping your mouth shut and reading your celebrity weeklies and letting the people in power step all over your rights as an American because that's clearly the only thing keeping us all from being blown to Kingdom Come by angry brown people.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My old boss died last weekend. She was an amazing woman and a great mentor. She used to take me out to lunch and tell stories about what publishing was like in its heyday. She had to fight her parents to go to college when they wanted to send her to secretarial school. Then she became one of the first women to run a publishing house. She was kind, funny, smart and tough. At the service, her daughter told the story of her pregnant mother running ten blocks to the hospital after she'd gone into labor.

Read more about her here. She was a neat lady and will be missed.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Heart-Broken by "Brokeback"

But in a good way. See "Brokeback Mountain." The movie is very faithful to the story and manages to capture the bleak and haunting loneliness of the story, even while Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana have expanded the film to narrate the lives of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist after they leave their oasis on the mountain. Heath Ledger gives an absolutely astonishing performance that is the definition of nuance. He is the movie--so subtle and affecting that every twitch of his eye and quiet cowboy grunt had my heart in a vise. This is probably the best celluloid love story I've ever seen. Seriously--everything else I can think of seems fake and over-acted in comparison. But be prepared. This sucker will tear your heart out.

Update: I saw the movie again. It was even better the second time. Also, I re-read "Brokeback Mountain" and it's amazing how much of the dialogue and details come directly from a 15 page short story. Maybe this is why movies based on novels are often disappointing--there's an attempt to cover too much material in too little time, to shove it all in there, whereas there's more breathing room with a short.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Librarian on the Lam

I just got a call from a detective in Missouri--a local librarian defrauded her employers of $85,000 (so far--they're still counting) by writing checks to book sellers with whom the library had accounts, then cashing them herself and keeping the money. Apparently, one of the fraudulent checks was made out to my company.

The detective, Ed, sounded like an old-fashioned, no-nonsense gumshoe. He called me ma'am in a way that was very much to my liking. I tried to give him just the facts to show my appreciation.

Personally, I like the visual of some frowning, owly, support-hosed Marion the Librarian running away to a foreign beach resort with someone else's money; only to spend her days sweet-talking tenured professors out of their 401Ks.

Watch your back, dear criminal librarian. After all, you've got such a long way to go, to make it to the border of Mexico. You better ride, ride, ride like the wind.