9.30.2008

URGENT NEWS



The second coming of Sarah Michelle Gellar!

It may not be Buffy, but also, that's okay because now we have Gossip Girl.




New York Judge Refuses to Tune TV to Lifetime in Order to get Project Runway Fix!

While I will always err on the side of those crazy Weinsteins, in this case I have to agree: PR belongs on Bravo.

9.25.2008

XOXO Gossip Girl (You Know I Love It)



A friend of mine suggested I use Handbrake to rip some DVDs onto my iPod for my sort-of long train trips into the city. I did so a few weeks ago and have been watching season 1 of Gossip Girl, which I've been hoping will fill the void in my heart left open by Veronica Mars. I've not been disappointed.

Under the watchful eyes of the ubiquitous Gossip Girl, voiced by Mars alum Kristen Bell, Manhattan's Upper East Side elite teenagers run amok, fuel scandal, and generally inspire tawdry mayhem wherever they go. It would have been easy for this show to resort to simple soap opera, and it sometimes does: two best friends fight over the same girl, for example. A tale as old as time.

As the season's progressed (I'm about halfway through), I've become more and more impressed with the show's mastery of subtle social nuance, how, like Veronica Mars, the writers have absolutely no fear of inverting the entire social order of the show. In fact, this seems to be its promise, that from week to week, the power plays and gossip mongering and falls from grace can and will affect anyone, often painfully so. More than that, though, Gossip Girl sets up a series of characters who resist caricature. The star jock has low test scores but a big, stupidly vulnerable heart—and a quick temper. The scheming bitch with the eating disorder stomps all the women around her but can't stand up to her vapid, damaged mother.

I think the roles are well-acted to boot. Blake Lively and Leighton Meester are the standouts, but everyone pulls their weight. I especially like the reluctant social climber Jenny, who isn't ashamed of her less financially savvy roots as she is worried about how to stay afloat amid the school of sharks. And there's a lot to love about Gossip Girl herself, with her succinct, devilishly sly bon mots punctuating each act of the episodes.

I suppose it's no surprise that I once asked my parents to send me to boarding school (no), although when they did almost send me to a private religious school, I resisted. Of course, my request came about six years after theirs. Thank God we didn't do either to each other.

Everyone loves a good comeback story almost as much as a good shaming. Gossip Girl's full of both in plentiful helpings.

9.24.2008

This Just In: They're Out

Clay Aiken's changing more than just his hair: he came out! His highlights were more shocking, I'd say, although the fact that he did come out at all is pretty surprising.

In a related story, millions of middle-aged women in small towns across America called each other sobbing.

In other news of the homosexual persuasion, Lindsay Lohan didn't-quite-confirm-but-clearly-didn't-deny being a same-sex-romantic-galpal-more-than-bff-possible-gf-hand-holding-card-carrying-member-of-the-U-Haul-Frequent-Mover-Club.

In a related story, Dina Lohan reportedly put all her eggs in daughter Ali Lohan's basket.

9.23.2008

From a Recent Conversation



"I'm encouraged by the process of book banning. As long as people want to ban books, it tells me they still recognize literature's ability to educate, to challenge, and to provoke."

I recently saw a display of banned books in a bookstore, with a small tag describing the book as banned for "social," "political," or "sexual" reasons. Below is a brief listing of commonly banned books I find surprising:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Cujo by Stephen King
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Separate Peace by John Knowles
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

9.22.2008

Arden in the Big City

Since moving to DC, Arden has decided that she, too, wants to climb the nonprofit career ladder.



Here she is seen in my office, where she's interning and assisting me on a few important chewing projects.

She's also a bit of a micromanager, wandering around the office to visit the staff to make sure they're doing they're work. Such a taskmaster!

9.18.2008

How to Please Me in Just a Few Easy Steps



The start of a new TV season is always a time of reflection for me as I contemplate what my time-wasting needs are and which shows will likely last long enough to earn my unfettered devotion.

I consider several factors when choosing my shows, because I hope we'll be together for a long time. It's like choosing a boyfriend. You want him to smell nice, to dress appropriately, to laugh at the right times, and most of all, you want him to look good in your apartment.

This week I'm celebrating the new TV season by cataloguing what I love about shows:

1. The main characters are in high school.
Applicable to: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl, 90210, Privileged
Although only my therapist can tell you for sure why I love a good high school show, I'm going to say that in terms of television, high school shows are fun for the way they act as a microcosm of the "adult world," what with everyone lying, cheating, stealing, plotting, and climbing their way to the top.

2. Competitive "reality" shows
Applicable to: Project Runway, Top Chef, America's Next Top Model, Top Design, Design Star, American Idol
I honestly love the creativity-based shows, like Runway and Top Chef. I recently received an email asking me to explain my love of Top Model. I can't necessarily, except to say that I enjoy the high camp factor, I do have an interest in fashion ("As this is a fashion magazine, an interest in fashion is crucial.") I think, unlike Survivor, the art-based shows are more focused on process than conflict, and I appreciate that too. Although I love a good model throw-down.

Come back for more tomorrow!

9.17.2008

LOCUSPOINT v2.0

I want to extend a fond, overdue, and obsequious thanks to my friend and colleague John Sparrow, who just completed a comprehensive site upgrade for LOCUSPOINT!

The new version will be even easier for me to organize and update, has a cleaner look, and won't behave all wonky when I lay out pages.

You'll also note those pesky Seattle links are all pointing in the right directions now, so please, click away.

John, in honor of you, I share this today:

9.16.2008

Write Now, Write Away!

When I talk to people about my job and about being a writer in the same conversation, one question commonly comes up.

"Do you have time to write?" they ask. They ask with sincerity, because they want me to be writing, and they ask with trepidation, because they're afraid I'm not, and sometimes I think they ask with envy, because they can't always make time to write and don't wany anyone else to, either.

The truth is yes, I find time to write. It's not a lot of time and it's not frequent, but I write. I write in my blog, I write emails to my family (but, please note, I am admittedly the world's WORST email correspondent), sometimes I write poems, and I write a lot of garbage on Facebook that I probably shouldn't.

Also true is that I don't know how much other people write. By that, I really mean how often.

I don't keep a regular writing schedule because my schedule is already fairly unpredictible, despite the better efforts of my light OCD tendencies. I know that my most "creative hours" are between 5 pm and 7:30 pm, right when I'm walking Arden, making dinner, and rotting my brain with Nintendo (read: Nofriendo) games. (It's also the time immediately followed by Top Model, Project Runway, etc.)

When people ask me when I write because they think I don't have any time to write, I think back on graduate school.

I think back on working a live-in job, very reminiscent of being a governmental au pair in many ways, where I was paid to work 20 hours and worked upwards of 40 while going to school full time. And then the years following that job, while I was a full time student working three jobs (retail, teaching, online teaching). After graduation, I worked a minimum of two jobs, with some added freelance work mixed in, for the next two and a half years. Then, when I wasn't working two jobs, I was working full time while going back to graduate school full time.

I was also in two long relationships during these years, one of which was a live-in relationship with a man who was gone so often I wrote enough poems to fill two full books. My family moved to the state, my brother had kids, I launched an online poetry magazine, I blogged daily or almost daily, and I wrote grants for myself. I started working out five days a week. I continued to watch as much TV as I always had, and I traveled about once every two months.

If you don't want to write, you can find a lot of reasons not to do it. In fact, you probably shouldn't spend your time writing what with everything going on in your lives. I probably shouldn't. I should play with my dog more, I should cook more food, I should keep my apartment cleaner.

The silver lining is that the insanity of my life, combined with a hot online calendaring system and OCD, has turned me into an amazing time management master. I am more likely to write a poem when I sit down to do so than when I have two weeks of vacation with only "writing and reading" planned. I need the kind of chaos of this life and so I'm grateful for it. It points me toward things to write about, or, better, it encourages me to flee my own life and write about other people.

If you'd like to learn more about my time management secrets, come to my seminar.

9.15.2008

Tourism Begins at Home

I was mostly away from blogs this weekend while I entertained my father, who came to visit me for a few days.

He hadn't been to DC since the 50s, so on our agenda was doing a smidge of the monument thing. He especially wanted to see the Vietnam Memorial, having been a hair's breath away from being deployed when he was in the National Guard in the 60s. Some of the men he went to basic training with did end up going to Vietnam. Their names are on the wall.



Of all the DC monuments, this makes the most compelling argument toward remembrance. While other monuments seem to glorify or celebrate the achievements of war, the Wall's austere simplicity tells another story. The wave of names is overwhelming; to consider each life lost this way is a really devastating proposition.

You have to go below ground level to read the names, which are listed in the order the soliders were killed in the conflict. The wall is made of black stone polished to the point where, as easily as the names, you can see yourself in it. It is both funereal and self-reflective, asking the viewer to imagine her or himself among the names.

It is easy to dehumanize what is nameless; quite another proposition to have only names.

We did Lincoln, part of the National Mall, and in the end I think we walked about six miles.

The rest of the weekend was fun and pretty mellow; we saw Burn After Reading, ate at a lot of good restaurants, and drove out to the Eastern Shore for a day, where we experienced "The Crab Capital of the World." I thought that title belonged to Manzanita Hall at Arizona State University!

9.10.2008

90210 v2.0


This isn't your grandmother's Noxema ad!

I finally got around to watching my DVRed pilot episode of the 90210 rehash. I was actually very cringe-ready, having read some early reviews and, of course, fearing the worst about a crappy remake of a previously crappy show.

But I was pleasantly not disappointed. The first 10 minutes of the episode were atrocious, with wooden dialogue and cookie-cutter characters (most of whom never broke their molds in the 2-hour pilot). It wasn't until Jessica Walter showed up as the boozy, sharp-tongued grandmother that I felt comfortable with the show.

Producers are calling this version of the show "edgier," and they probably mean that the show:
> features a character who video blogs and who goes by the name "Silver"
> used the words "penis" and "vagina" in the first half hour
> implied that one of the characters was getting an on-campus, in-car bj
> didn't show Rob Estes without his top off until the very end
> required Shannen Doherty to smile--repeatedly.

I was disappointed that the stereotypically-dreamy boy with the angelic singing voice locked lips with the heroine at the end of the episode instead of being revealed to be getting his own after-hours bj from the boys' phys ed teacher, if you know what I mean. Are we so over the gays that having a gay on your show means you're not "edgy" anymore?

I'm hopeful that the adopted kid will come out, or maybe the son of the porn producer. Or maybe (God willing) Rob Estes!


Who likes them foxy and mean?

I'll keep watching for a while, although I admit there are many fall shows competing for my monogamous attention. Stay tuned to see how these kids fare with me.

9.09.2008

On LOCUSPOINT: Clarifying and expanding

From Eduardo:

The "Phoenix" installment of LOCUSPOINT is up and running. Go have a read. Notice anything? Each contributor has an MFA from ASU or works for ASU. This installment isn't about Phoenix poets. It's about ASU MFA poets and the ASU MFA program. That's not a bad thing. I do like Sean Nevin's work, and Christopher Burawa's translations leave me wanting more work by Jóhann Hjálmarsson. Hey, I just noticed Burawa's bio doesn't mention his MFA, but I believe he holds an MFA from ASU.

I guess all the worthwhile poets in the Phoenix area have ties to Tempe. This narrow focus is disappointing. Especially after reading Charles Jensen's introduction in which he mentions the arts community in Phoenix is "rapidly developing."

If Jensen is only interested in the work of MFA poets then he should've enlarged the scope of this installment to include University of Arizona MFA poets. Why? Because the University of Arizona produces much better poets. Period. ASU is just beginning to catch up to the Tucson program.

Hey, nothing is perfect. And Jensen is bringing attention to some good work. I was just hoping to see work by non-ASU poets. But hey, Jensen is fighting the good fight. All I can do is bitch and moan.

Boy, I'm never going to be invited to the ASU Writers Conference now.


From me:
Hi Eduardo,

Thanks for your thoughtful critique of LOCUSPOINT, and for linking to it here. Just be reminded that no edition of LOCUSPOINT ever seeks to be "definitive" of a time or place, but is designed to be a subjective snapshot of an editor's perception of place. If you look back at other editions, no one ever makes sweeping claims to summarize an entire city or region in seven poets; to event attempt to do so is an exercise in futility.

When I edited Phoenix, I chose work by poets I knew best, people with whom I interacted on a daily basis. Since my professional life centered around ASU, that's where my focus was. It's not to say that another poet would choose the same work; I'd expect the opposite.

And, to wit, all the poets in this edition actually do have ties to the Phoenix literary community in a broader sense: all work in arts administrative positions either on a local or national level, and two of them have work that is based in Phoenix.

Just thoughts for you.

* * * *

And to clarify: each editor is allowed to choose if they edit a city proper or a metro area. They choose their own region. I chose the whole metro.

* * * *

I guess I should expect responses like this. The dominant critical mode in literature has been to reject subjectivity. It's why responses to anthologies often read editorial assumptions and intent from the dichotomy of inclusion/exclusion.

When I think about criticism, I think a lot about something Jeannine Hall Gailey wrote in her blog some time back. Jeannine wrote about, to paraphrase, the impulse to write "sweeping criticism," criticism that categorizes (in effect, limits) readings rather than expands them or allows for multiple and even competing readings.

9.08.2008

Rock You Like a Hurricane

I had a "rocking" Saturday for a few reasons:

First, the Open House event at The Writer's Center was a rockin' success! It was so well publicized even Tropical Storm Hanna decided to stop by...for the entire day. Despite the torrential rain and water-soaked streets, we had about 130 people come by to chat with our instructors, staff, and board.

Before the festivities got started, though, Hanna was inspiring a few staff members here to start humming the Scorpions' classic jam "Rock You Like a Hurricane."

"Uh..." I said. "Have you ever listened to the lyrics to that song?"

"No, I just know the chorus."

"Well, it's not about weather," I said. "Let's just say the weather is a euphemism."

Such is life.

* * * * *


That evening, a friend invited me to a Rock Band party out in Alexandria. I'm sure you've heard of Rock Band, the popular, collaborative alternative to Guitar Hero, in which four bandmates play drums, bass, guitar, or take vocals as they recreate some of today and yesterday's greatest rock hits.

The party was a competitive Rock Band situation, so we were encouraged to come early, form our band, and practice. My band, the Fuzzy Widgets, featured Nora on drums, Jamie on bass, Graham on lead guitar, and I took vocals.

Our first setlist included a song we chose and a song selected by our opposing team. We chose Radiohead's "Creep," they chose All American Reject's "Dirty Little Secret." We crushed that team on both songs.

In the second round, we ended up choosing Oasis's "Wonderwall," which we did rock out to, and the other team chose the same band's "Live Forever," which I love. The other team was very good, though, and played on difficulty levels higher than ours, so they scored more points...and we were knocked out of competitive play.

I had so much fun, though, that I went out and got Rock Band on Sunday afternoon. I'm happy to report that my percussion skills are coming along nicely.

But honestly, I still see myself as the lead singer. Don't you?