To End or Not to End ...
I'm coming into the final chapters of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle with mixed emotions.
(You can continure reading this, there will be no spoilers)
On one hand, I can't wait to see how it all turns out. I learned more about the novel than I should have prior to reading the book (I really recommend you just pick up the novel and dive it without reading anything about it). I'm familiar with the story it's framed around (to say it's based on said story isn't really accurate ... there clearly are parallels, but there is so much more to it than a "retelling"). Since I know how the original story ends, I have an idea how Edgar's tale will unfold, but one never knows. That's why they call it poetic license, eh?
On the other hand, as much as I want to know how Mr Wroblewski wraps up his yarn, I don't want it to end. It's one of those books where I've found myself in a world of lovely, rich, complex characters and vivid landscapes (both physical and psychological) that I really don't want to leave it.
Honestly, it's got me fantasizing about moving to the country and raising dogs.
One good thing about finishing amazing novels is that you can always go back inside them. So after tonight, it will end up on the shelf next to the likes of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Saint Maybe, The Poisonwood Bible, A Home at the End of the World, Owen Meany, The Cider House Rules, and The Time Traveler's Wife.
Truth be told the list is a lot longer than that and, now that I think about it, I don't have copies of most of those anymore because I've handed them over to people saying, "you have to read this."
So go get your own copy of Edgar Sawtelle, 'cause I'll be wanting to revisit certain chapters again and again. There's nothing like a good novel to serve as a textbook on how to write one.
July 29, 2008
Tuesday 200 ó #87
He said he couldnít forgive me. Like I did anything wrong. You should have seen him Ö pushing me, right in the middle of XXL. I didnít do anything and he was totally pushing me, trying to get me kicked out of the club, telling everybody I was a weirdo. You know me, Iím no weirdo. Iím a normal guy. A weirdo? What the fuck? Heís so high school. Iím 36, I donít need this. But what if his friends think Iím a weirdo? No, I am over him. I built a bridge and crossed it like sixteen times, thatís how over him I am. I just want to be civil. You shouldíve seen him. Turning away when he sees me and then screaming Iím following him and I was like, fuck off, weíre in the same club, weíre going to see each other. Just be friendly. Iím not a weirdo. Whyís he say that? You should've been there. You were? Really? We talked? Last night? Youíre kidding. Alright, well Iím calling XXL to see if I was barred. Hey, will you talk to him for me? I am over him. Just tell him Iím not a weirdo. Ok, thanks. Bye.
:: :: ::
Stand Back Everyone, Something Here to See
For the next week or so, you can revisit my favorite interwebs thing right here (and it's even legal) ...
And if you've already watched it, go on ... watch it again. You know you want to.
Tag: dr horrible
July 27, 2008
Dreaming is Exhausting
I spent some time in an old dream last night. One that hadnít found its way into my REM cycle for a good long while. Itís of my favorites Ö the one where Iím in a play and I donít know my lines. Iíve had this dream before in various forms, but this time there were a couple of new twists. This time I had the bonus of not being able to find my script. So I had to scrounge around bookstores for a copy because I didnít want to borrow anyoneís copy (lest they find out that not only had I not memorized my script, but I had also misplaced it). I also wasnít quite sure which part I was playing. But somehow I wasnít fussed about that, caused Iíd narrowed it down to two roles and seemed to remember having played both parts before.
So at least I thought I knew what play I was in. Iíve done Eastern Standard twice before in non-dreamworld, playing both sides of the guppy-Peter / artsy-Drew couple (Drew in Cincinnati and Peter a couple years later in Houston). Back in dreamworld, I ended up in a used bookstore and found an overstuffed box of cards, not unlike The Relax Deck (one of my favorites), called The Zen of Procrastination.
And then I woke up a little panicky, feeling like Iíd overslept and was late for something. It took me a few minutes to orient myself, realize that it was 7:30am on a Sunday morning (Way. Too. Early.) and I really didnít have anywhere to be for about twenty-five hours.
So what the hellís that all about? When I crawled into bed last night (10:30 on a Saturday night Ö wheee, Iím an animal!) I had a sense of going into the Land of Overwhelm. I havenít visited that happy destination for a while, and really donít feel spending much time there, as it's pretty much a busman's holiday for neurotics.
Maybe I'm having a little pre-school anxiety. Not pre-school as in the precursor to kindergarten way, but rather some nocturnal angst swirling about in my subconscious a couple months before grad school starts?
What else could I be worried about not being ready for? Hmm, let's see Ö Coming up with some new lesson plans for work? Saving for retirement? Making enough money to save for retirement? Having a career from which I can retire? Double-checking and signing off on a story that got chosen for an anthology before the August deadline (oh, I could do that today)? Taxes? Getting back into a regular meditation practice? Committing to writing a novel and feeling just a tad daunted by that? Choosing shows to see in Edinburgh in two weeks? Losing these extra ten pounds before Sitges in a month? Finding a gift for my brother-in-lawís 40th? Organizing this little hovel of an office so that it feels like a creative sanctuary rather than a catch-all for all the other rooms in the flat?
Keeping up getting back on track with my self-imposed goal of writing 500 new words a day (not inventing new words, like sprogthoid, flibjabbing, or emylangthen, but actually scribbling something that could pass for creative writing)? Remembering to breathe?
Nah, it was probably just dream.
Now then, where did I put that Relax Deck?
July 24, 2008
Nothing Will Come of Nothing
Can you think of two more ill-equipped actresses to play his daughters?
And we breathe. And hope that Johnny Depp is the fool, James McAvoy is Edgar and ... oh, I don't know, who's gonna be Edmund?
Is Alan Rickman too old to be Kent?
Please enter your casting choices in the comments box.
July 23, 2008
Always Look on the Bright Side of .... splat
After spending an hour and a half trapped in the lift (with no Diet Coke man to retrieve me) I got a call from Larry asking if I'd been freed yet, since he left his keys in the flat and was locked out. How lucky was he that I was rescued?
I met him at our local Italian place, which was mildly abuzz what with the dead person lying in the road a block away. Seems someone got hit by a taxi before either of us arrived. I've always said this was the most pedestrian unfriendly city I've ever lived in. And this was a fairly quiet street.
Anyway, we had some dinner and a bottle of wine. Heading back home, Larry walked up to one of the attending policemen (there were several hanging about, everything still cordoned off, corpse gone, a few pieces of cloth left on the street) and said, "Dead cat?"
The policeman nodded and said, "close."
So, yes, I guess there are a few worse things than being stuck in an elevator ...
One could be a policeman and have to put up with smart-ass comments from Canadians who have no respect for the
I could have gotten run over by a taxi (and then had someone make smart-ass comments about it).
I could be a certain taxi driver who had to go home tonight and answer the question, "Hi honey, how was your day?"
I could be the policeman who had to make the call to the unfortunate pedestrian's next of kin (actually, if that was my job, I'd totally have the taxi driver make the call).
I could have been stuck in the lift with someone else, or a group of people (not sure what would have been worse ... teachers or a bunch of students who barely spoke English and/or suffered from claustrophobia).
Here's a question for you: who (individual or group) would be your biggest nightmare to be stuck in an elevator with?
July 18, 2008
The idea is simple. You sign up, request an address or two (you can have five outbound cards traveling at any one time), send that person a postcard, and then wait for someone to send you one.
Now I'm very excited to see where I'll get my cards from.
But, Bob, isn't this just another means of procrastinating on your writing?
Nay! I say nay to that! I've decided to make a little creative project out of it. When I receive a card, I'll use whatever picture is on it to inspire a piece of flash fiction. I've also told the sender that if they want to include any details for their specific postcard-story, to include them in the message.
We'll see what happens.
In the meantime my student arrived and as we discussed weekend plans she decided it was going to be too cold in England. She and her friend were jonesing for some warmth, so we went online (filling out web forms in English is a practical skill) and booked them a flight to Istanbul.
Today's vocabulary word turned out to be imprompu.
July 17, 2008
Words and Music (or Books and Videos)
I'm rarely evangelical about anything entertainment-oriented. Well, except for maybe [title of show] and August: Osage County.
Taste is subjective, to be sure. One man's Clueless might be another person's America's Next Top Model (l love one, hate the other ... you decide). But two things have snuck into my radar that I really think are worth your while.
The first is free on the interwebs, but only around until Sunday. So hurry, or you'll have to do what they hope you will and buy it from iTunes. It only will take a few minutes out of your life (unless you replay it over and over, like, erm, some people I know). Just go watch. The less you know the better. Then come back and find out about something that's a little bit more of an investment.
Fun, right? Can't wait for Act III.
The second recommendation is a novel. I'm not sure how I found out about it -- I reckon I saw something in The New York Times or on a book blog and I ordered it from The Book Depository (which is brilliant). Anyway, it's a book called The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and it's stealing my heart. I said so long to A Farewell to Arms last weekend (ugh, finally ... three down, four to go) and was getting ready to start Shame, but then this hefty tome came in the mail. I said to myself, "self, why not give yourself a break from the 'required reading' tree and crawl on out onto an elective branch." And since I'm ahead of the Lit.Ra.Chure game and it's always good to know what makes a modern bestseller, I curled up with Edgar.
I think it's amazing. It's already getting all kinds of press, so read it now before it gets too built up in the bookgroup/booklist hype machine. There's nothing worse than overly high expectations to kill a good story. I think with this book (as with Dr. Horrible), the less you know the better. Just let the words and the characters take you away. I'm a hundred pages in and can't wait to see how it all unfurls.
Oh, and if you have a good dog to sit by your side while you're reading it, well all the better.
July 16, 2008
Speaking of Table Manners
I think there are some things one is not meant to see and/or hear (or perhaps blog about?).
I was in The Box yesterday, having a leisurely lunch and apparently not minding my own business. When I go there in the afternoon(which I often do if I've got a decent break between classes) I sometimes read, I sometimes write, and I sometimes just peoplewatch, listening for snippets of dialogue or situations to toss into some kind of storytelling stewpot.
It's not eavesdropping, it's character research. Don't judge. Any writing book will back me up on this.
Anyway, prior to nail-polish girl, there was a family of four sitting at the same table corner table, which was only a couple feet away from mine. At first I thought it was two lesbians and their kids (a boy and a girl, aged about 9 and 7), which wasn't much of a stretch given that The Box is pretty much a gay bar/cafe and the women looked more than granola-ish. Turns out mom was with her mom (who had gray spikey hair and fabulous dangly hippy earrings) and they were from Laguna Beach.
They first caught my attention when the boy started coughing. It was one of those choking coughs that you dread hearing when you've worked in restaurants. A Heimlich during the lunch rush is never a good thing.
I looked up and the kid seemed to have recovered quickly. His face hung over the table, parallel to his plate of a half-eaten burger and chips. A sliver of drool hung out of his mouth, reaching down towards a pool of ketchup.
His mom looked at him, more disgusted than worried.
"What?" he said, a little out of breath. "I was choking." His face was flushed, his eyes were watering, and he looked more than a little embarrassed.
His mom starting to laugh. I don't know why she found it so funny, but the fact she was laughing at his gagging and subsequent spittle upset him even more. He looked around. I averted my glance. He started to cry. Ah yes, I remember that old formula of pre-adolescent emotions: embarassment + ridicule = tears (which of course leads to more embarrassment).
Poor over-sensitive kid, and then his mom brings him to a gay bar for lunch. Bless, I thought, and scribbled a vague memory of being teased at a school cafeteria lunchtable into my jounal.
I went back to my note-taking and picked at my salad.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the mom make the wide-eyed, oh-shit-I-just-remembered-something face. You know the one ... when the light bulb goes off and you've just twigged, realizing you left the tap running in the bathtub, or that it's your day to meet with the court-appointed custodian while picking up the kids from soccer practice, or that you forgot to set your Sky+ (TiVo) to record the season finale of Lost and it's coming on in ten minutes.
"I've got to change my ..." she said out loud, at one of those rare moments when the rest of the dining room had suddenly gone silent.
She looked straight across the table to the lesbian-coiffed grandma and mouthed something.
Who knew that "I've got my period" was so easy to lip read? I sort of felt like I'd invaded her privacy, but then again ... why wouldn't she have just excused herself and said she had to go to the loo?
Of course, I was hooked into the scene by now, and as she reached down for her purse she said, out loud, "I forgot to do it this morning." And then she headed downstairs to the ladies.
And my writerly mind thinks, okay, she's grabbing her purse because she needs a tampon and she's telling her mom that she forgot to change it this morning.
Is this something that actually slips one's mind? And if it is, is it something you tell people you've forgotten or is it one of those little secrets you keep to yourself?
I think I might have visibly shuddered.
All right. Fine. Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'm becoming an old Gladys Kravitz fussbudget. Maybe I need to start paying less attention to other people and worry about my own manners (which clearly are impeccable) and possible hangups about bodily functions and personal hygiene. Maybe I need to re-read my copies of those enlightening children's classics Madeline Gets a Meal and a Manicure and Everybody's Mom Menstruates.
Or maybe people need to remember they're in public and there are certain things that one doesn't do or talk about at a public luncheon table.
And then I finished my salad, closed my journal, and proceeded to floss while I waited for the bill.
July 15, 2008
Tuesday 200 ó #86
When he opened the door, he couldn't recall how he knew her. What was her name again? Rachel Teaserman? Teeman? Oh yeah, Elly's kindergarten teacher.
When she walked through the door, she didn't know what to say. She made strange small talk. Memories from the first time they'd met.
A parent-teacher conference. He shared custody back then. They came from the same hometown. Her dad was a Cubs fan too. He raised parakeets. It wasn't Elly's fault the bird escaped from the cage. Elly was always so helpful. Tidying up the classroom. Making sure the birds were fed. Flitting around the room like a hummingbird. Elly shared her teacher's "quirk" ó being terrified to ride in the back.
Back seats were for cages.
Elly wanted to see where they were going. She swore she rode shotgun with her mom. The bird flew out of the window. Elly reached after it. Tweet, screech, crunch. It happened so fast.
When he closed the door, Rachel begged his forgiveness.
Elly would've been sixteen tomorrow. Old enough for a driver's license.
Rachel hasn't driven since. A decade later, she's still begging. Every day he locks her in the cage. Maybe he'll forgive her tomorrow.
:: :: ::
My Finger's Off the Pulse
While I'm twiddling with today's 200, I have a couple of questions for you ...
What do *you* call the digit on the outside edge of your hand, the one furthest away from your thumb? (Apparently there are regional variations and I'd never heard one of them until last night.)
When, if ever, is it appropriate, while having lunch with your girlfriend and waiting for your salads to arrive, to sit at a restaurant table (indoors) and paint your fingernails? (I witnessed this event during lunch this afternoon).
Thanks in advance for playing. Your insights are most welcome.
July 14, 2008
The Science of Stretching
You can call me Uncle Joe today, as I'm a movin' kind of slow.
Several weeks ago, we were shopping for inspiration at the London Marathon Store. I picked up a postcard for an introductory session for a 2-hour stretching/massage therapy, then handed it over to Larry, as his trainer says he needs to be more "bendy." Surprisingly, he scheduled an appointment. Unsuprisingly, he cancelled and rescheduled because work got in the way. When he decided to reschedule a second time, I took the slot because I love a good massage and could use a home stretching routine ... an added bonus to the introductory session.
So I met Graeme yesterday, who by all accounts looks like a perfectly reasonable, mild-mannered chap. This was before I realized he's an ultra-long distance runner (he's got a 1,000+ km run scheduled this year). Surely people who run ultra-marathons have a different concept of pain compared to we mere mortals who occasionally hobble through 26.2 miles.
Needless to say, I got much more than I bargained for. The Meridian Flexibility System was not just a series of simple stretches. It was pretty much like going to the gym for a bit of resistance training combined with a fairly rigorous yoga class. Have you ever had a Thai Massage? It's amazing. I liken it to going to yoga, but the therapist does all the work for you. This was like Thai Massage, but I did at least half of the work ... using Graeme as resistance. A pushme-pullyou Thai Massage. We only went through eight of the sixteen stretches (because "you'll be here all day if I teach them all to you"), focusing on hamstrings, quads and glutes.
The subsequent massage, which he called "mashing", wasn't like anything I'd ever had before. Sometimes sitting, sometimes standing, he used the balls, insteps and heels of his feet to literaly mash my muscles, breaking down the fascia (which sounds a bit like fascism to me ... clearly not a good thing) and scar tissue. He promises that as my muscles become more sponge-like and less rubbery, they will not be as
painful tender even though he'll be applying more pressure.
I'm a bit dubious about that, but he did promise I'd be a little stiff today, so he seems to be a man of his word. To say I'm crippled might be stretching (see what I did there?) the truth (although I am genetically predispositioned to hyperbole), but walking downstairs out of my flat this morning hearkened memories of the days after really long runs.
I'll definetly go back to see him. He scored me on my flexibility, assessing where my weak points (and strong points, if I actually had any) were and will be sending me a summary along with some "do these at home" exercises. On subsequent visits, we'll be able to see where I'm getting more bendy and where I might need more work. Oh, and there are apparently intermediate and advanced levels of the stretches as well. I'm still at the early beginner stage.
If you're around London and are at all interested in flexibility or holistic therapies, you really should give it a go. Not only will you get a good workout, but you end up with a thorough understanding of what you're doing and why you're doing it. And it's always good to reacquaint yourself with your muscles ... what do you mean I can put that there and hold it in that position? ... think how much more fun you'll be
in bed at parties.
July 13, 2008
Stabbed with Words
We're having a typical Sunday morning of coffee and newspaper reading, switching back and forth between BBC and Sky, hearing about all the stabbings and knife crime, and being a little entertained how eager everyone is to bury Mrs Thatcher.
So now I'm thinking about registering some new domain names ...
He says he means well. I say he's just well mean.
Ah, love's a funny thing.
July 11, 2008
I signed up for Hillary "give me money now" e-mail list way back when, mainly to see what she had to say during the battan death march to the Democratic Convention.
The most recent one (yup, they're still coming) has an extra added bonus. For just fifty bucks American (that's like what, ten quid?), you too can have a commemorative "I threw money at a millionaire and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" t-shirt.
It's not the shirt that simultaneously amuses and irks me so much, it's the fact that the design was the WINNER of a contest. It makes one wonder what the other entries looked like (if in fact there were any).
My fellow blogicans, I hereby make the following promise: if you give me $50, I will give you something infinitely more attractive to wear under your pantsuit.
Now then, where did I put that stack of Bob's Yer Uncle "show me on the doll where the bad man touched you" tees?
July 10, 2008
The Invisible Ink in My Thought Bubbles
Here are some of the things I haven't said (out loud) today ...
You know Princess, if you'd just step into that two feet of empty space ahead of you in the carriage, the man you're glaring at might not keep bumping into you and your ill-fitting poly-blend Primark dress.
My my my, Mr. Business Commuter, you are incredibly handsome. It's not everyone who can sport a package like that in pinstriped suit trousers. How about we both call in sick and spend the morning back at my house?
Oh please do shut up. We don't care about whether or not your BFF's boyfriend may or may not have flirted with you after doing shots at Tiger Tiger this weekend.
Really? You've been standing in this slower-than-molasses-in-January queue for nearly ten minutes and now that they've FINALLY made your latte, you decide to fumble through your purse for change? No, it's okay. We all woke up this morning hoping we could wait for you. Oh, and it's a shame you don't have any mirrors in your house.
You might want to think about having more than two barristas during the pre-work rush hour.
If you're so effing miserable teaching here, why don't you move back to Australia and quit trying to destroy any inkling of joy the rest of us might find in our work?
I've had a wee crush on you for about a year now and you're looking especially fit today ... what do you say we sneak into the first aid room and play seven minutes in heaven?
You really do enjoy being a victim, don't you?Oh wait, I did say that. Just about ten mintues ago. To a teacher who was complaining how unfair it was that my student didn't show today and there weren't any adminstrative stand-by tasks for me to do.
Gee, the day's not even half-over yet.
July 9, 2008
So Much Money, So Little Ambition
It's a new week and I've got three new one-to-one students, each of them delightful. I guess I'm either really lucky to get so many good students or just haven't been teaching long enough to be jaded by everyone.
The two guys in the afternoon each came to me after working with one of my colleagues. They're fairly low level and I'd been warned by their previous teacher about how difficult they were, and how much stress they were causing said instructor if and when they showed up. Oddly enough, I asked each of them what they wanted out of the class and how I could help them. They seem really happy with what we're doing now and have been showing up right on time. Oh, and they're learning a bit and I can see their self-confidence increasing.
I know I'm sometimes naive, but one has to wonder if it's not better to teach the students what they want to know (functional language, how to get by in situations appropriate to their individual worlds back home, etc.) rather than feed them the rote lessons one's been using for the past fifteen years ... because "that's the way I've always done it and I know best."
On the other hand, some teachers aren't as lucky as me when it comes to students. One of my colleagues was trying to come up with a bespoke lesson plan for a beautiful, fairly advanced young woman who may or may not be here to enjoy London's nightlife while staying in the country on an educational visa.
Teacher: What do you use English for at home?
Student: Oh, not much.
Teacher: Okay ... what do you want to do in the next five years once you're out of university and speaking English more fluently? What are your dreams?
Student: *sigh* I don't need dreams. I have money.
Someday, when I have lots of money, I'll see if there's a proportional decrease in my dreams.
I'm betting that's not gonna happen.
July 7, 2008
Here Come the Winners
I'm sure it was just me, but what with all that grunting and groaning and moaning and whimpering ... did anyone else wonder what young Rafa would sound like off the courts and in the sack?
Really? I was the only one?
Every morning on the way to school I pick up a copy of that bastion of journalistic integrity otherwise known as the Metro. I get it not so much for the news, but because there's usually an article or two that are written to a level that my students can read, comprehend and discuss. Today I was greeted with not one, but two images of what some might describe as the joy of a well-fought athletic victory. Others might just call it the countenance of climax.
I don't care so much for the race car guy, but a knees-up bicep boy? Well, gosh. Esta muy bueno, no?
July 6, 2008
Selling Duran to "The Man"
You might have guessed from Thursday night's twitters that I went to the Duran Duran concert. I kind of thought I'd be the oldest person there (aside from Simon, Nick and John), but once again I was mistaken. The older I get, the more wrong I seem to be.
I was never a huge DD fan, but I do remember playing a bunch of their songs from albums one and two on my radio show ("You're listening to the High Bob* show on WUSO, 89.1 FM, Springfield Ohio, ten watts of commercial free power.")
That said, I really enjoyed the show ... especially the predictably nostalgic stuff like "Girls on Film", "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Rio." Also interesting was how many of the songs I recognized (and knew the lyrics to) even though I didn't think I knew that much Duran Duran.
They seem to looking for a niche to fit into, our boys from the eighties do. Where to go when New Romanticism isn't salable? A little Kraftwerkian electronica? A little rapolisciouness (which I so didn't care for, and probably wouldn't have even *if* it was being performed by Timbaland ... big surprise there)?
If the new stuff doesn't work out, I have a suggestion. Why not go ahead and sell out? Surely all that Botox (hi Simon) and bleach can't be cheap. I think there are some corporate clients who would be happy to co-opt old hits ...
With a simple lyric change "Planet Earth" could do wonders for a popular website ... "Bop bop bop bop bop bop bop bop, this is Google Earth."
Surely the folks at Levonelle might raise their market share with "Save a Prayer"'s melodic reminder to "save it for the morning after."
Keeping with pharmaceuticals, there's bound to be a reflux "Reflex" remix in the cards, right?
It's really a wonder I didn't have a brighter career in marketing/branding, isn't it?
:: :: ::
* "Hi, Bob" was a very popular drinking game back in my Wittenberg days. The premise was simple, you watch The Bob Newhart Show and whenever anyone says "Bob" you drink. Whenever anyone says "Hi, Bob" you finish your drink and start another. I remember one particularly grueling episode which had something to do with an Emily-less Thanksgiving when all of his friends came over, each one saying "Hi Bob" as they walked into the apartment. The episode itself was hilarious, as Bob, Jerry, Elliot and Howard all ended up as drunk as (if not drunker than) we did.
July 5, 2008
oh my goodness what with all the teaching and pilates and swimming and visits from bloggers who were friends before blogging was invented and duran duran concerts and birthday celebrations and setting up my new toy and my other new toy and trying to reconfigure my home wi-fi network (WEP, WPA, waaaaah) I haven't blogged since the posting the scary lady picture but now I have to meet the prodigal friend for the Pride Parade and then lure him back to Walthamstow (Walthamstow? I know!) for a surprise welcome home bbq (but he won't read this till after the event so I'm clear) so I really don't have time to write a proper post
and we're off again ....