Archive for July, 2011

Today in Highly Recommended

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

This memoir by Darin Strauss: Half a Life.

Gorgeous sentences, profoundly emotionally honest, and absolutely committed to saying the true thing, no matter how bleak or unflattering. It has the kind of integrity that serves as a foil for all those memoirs caught up in the act of image management.


Now I’m about 50 pages into this novel, and it’s fantastic. Warm and wry at the same time. With a talking dog! Every time the narrator returns home after being out, the dog says, “I thought you were dead.” Naturally.

And finally, here’s a sweet, silly movie that deserved more love than it got: Cedar Rapids. It was the perfect birthday-afternoon entertainment, paired with chocolate-chip cookies and lemon bars.

Special bonus info: Anne Heche can act!

Rattie Photo Sesh!

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

We’re heading to Mendocino for my birthday (Facebook me your love on July 26). In the meantime, here’s some cuteness to tide you over.

Bedding Bag

Bedding Bags

Melanie on the bags of bedding. Please may she never decide to chew through one of these.

Shoe Nibble

Shoe Nibble

Melanie loves toes—fingers and toes—because they’re nibble-ready. Here, obviously, she has encountered an obstacle.

The View from On High

The View from On High

The only way I can prevent Melanie from squiggling off of me is to get her up high. (Either that, or allow her to nibble my fingers and toes. See previous.)

Sorry about the blurry. I took these photos myself, people. While I was rat-wrangling.

Crawing into the Jacket

Crawling into the Jacket

Both rats feel safe inside clothing and tend to burrow into my fleece jackets. Sometimes I have to remove the jacket to get them out.

As you can see, no Michelle. She’s still a hide-and-seek kind of a rat. And always will be, I imagine.

Happy week! See you on the other side.


Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Last night, thanks to an invitation from C and J (hearts!), we did this.

I had heard an excerpt from a Mortified show on This American Life, and while it was funny, I worried that the piece was an exception and that the in-person franchise would be haphazard and hit-or-miss.


The show was extremely well culled, edited, and produced. Every piece was hilarious. The delivery was perfect.

And in a stroke of genius, there was an improv hip-hop band to instantly recast every reading in song. I loved that, both because the songs gave us more time to be with the material and because they did so in a compassionate way. They felt like a gift to the readers, in return for their generous vulnerability.

(And it made me want to be a part of the show, to see what the band would do with my high-school material.)

What I loved most about the evening was the spirit of comradeship and compassion. We were there to love, even as we howled. What I learned years ago when doing the Rosen Method felt very much alive in the space, and that is this: When people are vulnerable, they are lovable. Everybody. Period.


Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Last night John dreamed he was running an applesauce factory, and all the pipes were half-pipes, like aqueducts, and applesauce was spilling everywhere.


Of Gods and Men

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Beautiful, deeply searching, radically compassionate, and devastating movie.

Still feeling weepy about it.


Dare to Dream

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

In our house, it’s sort of a running joke/trope/topic of some rue that while I tend to have dark, violent, and/or emotionally fraught dreams, John sails through dreamland in sunny weather. A typical post-sleep check in:

M: I dreamed that I was backed against a wall in an alley, and there was a man hobbling toward me with a knife, and he kept getting closer, and I knew he was going to kill me.

J: I’m sorry, Sweetie. I dreamed that I was riding my bike through a field of orange poppies.

Next day:

M: I dreamed that I had to return to college to do it all again, and the dorms were stuffed to the ceiling with mattresses so I couldn’t breathe, and when I finally extricated myself there was nowhere else to live, so I was maybe going to have to sleep in the graveyard.

J: I’m sorry, Sweetie. I dreamed that I slid down a rainbow and landed in a bed of puppies.

Next day:

M: I dreamed that the Holocaust was happening again, only in America so there was nowhere to hide.

J: Wow, Sweetie. That sucks. I dreamed that you and I were holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” in a hammock made of marshmallows.

You get the point.

So last night, in the middle of the night when John cried out in his sleep, I rolled over to check on him.

M: Sweetie, are you okay?

J: Mm-hm.

M: Were you having a bad dream?

J: No, not really. It was about spread sheets.

M: Seriously? Spread sheets? You cried out!

J: I was trying to get this one piece of data into the sheet, and it wouldn’t go.

M: It wouldn’t go?

J: There was nowhere to put it. It was really hard.

M: Wow.

J: Yeah.

M: I’m so glad you’re okay.

J: Thanks.

M: We almost lost you there.

J: Mm-hm.

M: I love you, Sweetie.

J: Love you, too.

At Long Last, Crazy Monkey!

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Remember Brave Chicken?

Close readers will remember that Brave Chicken is married to Crazy Monkey, who until recently—very recently indeed!—had not been rendered into felt. Now, that sad situation has been rectified, as we introduce . . . Crazy Monkey!

Handsome and Alert

Handsome and Alert

He’s a looker, huh? Here he is on his dining room perch.



And here’s a top view.

Top o' the Monkey

Top o' the Monkey

Here we see him join forces with the Angry Woman Army.

In the Jungle

In the Jungle

And here he does editorial.



Finally, I thought you might enjoy a look at Crazy Monkey and Brave Chicken together, locked in loving embrace. Yes, CM’s arms are adjustable, as are his legs. Check out that look o’ love he’s got, despite Brave Chicken’s zombie space-out. Aw, Crazy Monkey. You’re a real heart-melter.

The Look of Love

The Look of Love

And who’s that silly brunette hiding in the back?

Self Portrait


Maybe next time I’ll get John into the photo, and all signifieds will be represented with their signifiers.

Weekend Culture Round-Up

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

We watched two movies, and I finished a book.

1) Let It Rain (Parlez-Moi de la Pluie). Agn├Ęs Jaoui, you of the compassionate and clear Look at Me, please explain. Neither John nor I could begin to determine what you are trying to say in this film.

2) Into the Wild. I did not expect to like this movie. In recent years, Sean Penn seems to have lost his sense of humor, if ever he had one—Didn’t he, though? Fast Times?—and I expected a mawkish sensibility. But it’s lovely and moving and surprising in its sensitivity. I could have done without the Jena Malone voiceover, or at least I want it to have been less written. But I was otherwise drawn in, particularly by McCandless’s entrapment.

Somehow when I read Krakauer’s first piece about the story in The New Yorker, lo those many moons ago*, I had the idea that McCandless was agnostic on the question of his own life and wanted to disappear and/or extinguish himself when he set out.

I suppose he may have, but the movie takes the view that what he wanted was independence. Penn is generous in allowing him this wish and then later presenting him with the terrible reality of having to actually fulfill it, as opposed to going just far enough towards it to back away, having learned a lesson. It’s very, very sad.

*I haven’t yet read the book. Plan to, next.

3) Howard’s End. I had never read Forster, and he’s hilarious! Why does nobody say that about him? Or at least, I hadn’t ever heard it.

But I need to discuss the ending with someone. As in, is it a scathingly icy condemnation of the sisters and their ability to sit pretty in a situation essentially enabled by Bast’s death? Or is Forster really allowing them a happy ending?

And has Mr. Wilcox been redeemed, or at least pardoned? Because if so, ew.