kinda though

A Pair Of Gross Oversimplifications 
(each containing a grain of truth)

1. Being stylish requires little more than having the patience to endlessly chase denim hemlines up and down, in and out, all while scrambling to pair them with "on-trend" shoes of the appropriate fucking heel height.

2. Everything I need to know about you, I know from how comfortable your dog's collar is. If you put your pet in a stiff, heavy leather collar because you think it looks better than something soft and pliable (such as nylon) - you are a terrible human being. 

tea: no cream, two sugars

I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel tonight, and I enjoyed it in a way I haven't enjoyed a Wes Anderson movie in a long, long time. It feels scandalous to admit, but the truth is, none of his subsequent films have charmed me nearly as much as Rushmore did. At least, not in the way they seem to charm everyone else.

It's actually been kind of lonely, this Anderson apathy of mine. I mean, you don't confess to something like that without garnering looks of shock, if not outright contempt. It's Wes Anderson, after all. He's a fucking genius, and the patron saint of indie film-loving creatives everywhere. How dare I.

Don't get me wrong. I really, really like his work. His stories are heartwarming and delightfully taut. The aesthetics of his set design and costume are utterly beguiling. Heck, I left Tenenbaums (and later, Moonrise Kingdom) wanting to redo my entire wardrobe in head-to-toe Anderson heroine chic. Natural fabrics to regulate my body temperature when adventuring! Muted brights to set off the glow of guarded optimism in my face! 

But watching his movies sometimes feels like eating a sleeve of Pepperidge Farm cookies. They are pure perfection, irresistible deliciousness...right up until the point that I've had too many and I have to shove them away, semi-disgusted. And just like the binge, no one can know about it. Because Anderson films are such lovingly appointed dollhouses that to criticize them is to be the bully who pooh poohs the playroom tea party. I don't wish to pooh pooh the tea party. It's a very lovely tea party, and I'm glad to have been invited. I'd just like my tea a mite stronger, please.

But back to Budapest. I haven't seen Anderson's complete works, but those I have, I personify thusly: Rushmore is the smart-alecky kid; Tenenbaums is the snarky graduate student; Life Aquatic is the eccentric uncle, and Moonrise Kingdom is the bookish teenager. These characterizations are meaningless, but they helped me figure out what Grand Budapest is, and why I liked it so much: it's the favored, playfully conspiring grandfather. The one I want all to myself for an afternoon of swapping tall tales.

Ironically, what I loved about Budapest is how it's both "so Anderson", and so not. All the usual themes are in place: the fight against injustice, innocence vs. experience, adolescent love, and the most interesting to me - the families we get vs. the ones we choose (the classmates of Rushmore, the boat crew of Life Aquatic, the scout troop of Moonrise Kingdom, the hotel staff of Budapest...). But it feels like Anderson is doing some things for the first time. Poking fun at himself, for one (my favorite instance of this being the hilariously campy degree to which the ski/sled scene action is sped up). And more significantly: getting his hands dirty. Really dirty, in fact.

There's violence in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Multiple murders and gruesome bodily dismemberment. Sure, it's funny - but darkly so. There's no on-screen sex, but sexuality is referenced frequently and unabashedly (there's even an allusion to prison rape!). The story is set against the backdrop of war.

There's a cat thrown out a window.

A cat. Thrown out a window.

Everything about it feels like Anderson, but evolved. More mature. More evenly balanced between light and dark, between creative abandon and directorial self-awareness. Even the Society of the Crossed Keys cameo montage feels less like a showy parade of celebrities (zomg! everyone wants to be in my movies!) and more like an acknowledging wink at an absurdly star-studded club (lol, everyone wants to be in my movies).

But you can't talk about what makes Budapest wonderful without talking about Ralph Fiennes's character, as conceived and as played. He's more fully fleshed out with imperfection and contradiction than any Anderson character I've yet to meet. In turns a scoundrel and a gentleman (occasionally at the same time), we never quite know how pure his intentions are. And that's okay, because he's written with such nuance that it seems unclear if he even knows. His ambivalence (which runs all the way down to his sexuality) is intriguing to his last bits of dialogue.

I could go on, but the point is, I'm happy to say the bloom is back on my Wes Anderson rose. In fact now I'm inspired to go back and catch up on what I've missed, if for no other reason than I'm curious to see when this evolution began. Bottom line: I would never want Anderson to lose his twee. I just want him to keep sharpening it. Sharp tools are always the most effective - even when all they're building is a dollhouse.

life, styled

Calm down, lifestyle photography subjects.

Look, I don't doubt that the smiles in your family cuddle puddle are real. I don't doubt that there's genuine love, despite there being an outsider wielding a $5k camera just inches away from everyone's faces.

But the minute you invite a professional photographer into your home, your business, your favorite "meaningful spot", you are turning that space into a stage. Artifice is built right into lifestyle photography. So maybe chill out with the manic laughter and props? Maybe just relax and interact normally? You can't spin emotion out of thin air, and it becomes rather silly when everyone knows you were prompted by a stranger, at a cost of several hundred dollars an hour, to emote on cue.

Photography that seeks to honestly capture what is truly there looks and feels a lot different than photography with something to prove.

Signed,
someone well versed in both kinds

stowaway

We should get a candle, I said, when you told me it was the first day of fall. Maybe you figured I didn't realize, because I lose track of things like that. Maybe you know fall floods me with an optimism that dips but doesn't really crash until the holidays hit, and you wanted to give me a boost. Or maybe it just made you happy to announce it, in the same way you love to say "Rabbit Rabbit" the first morning of every month.

We should get a candle, I said, and you smiled.

Yeah?

Yeah. To commemorate. Something scented and yummy, like pumpkin. It could be our new tradition, I went on. Picking out a fall candle. Then we could get duck fat fries. 

Yes, you said. I love it. Let's do it. And the next day I met you after work, at the shop. Candy sweet smells pouring out into the plaza. Bottles and jars with silly, sentimental flavors like "Sweater Weather" and "Tailgate". I showed you my favorite, almost sold out, and you mmmm'd appreciatively.

Or should we try to find something nicer looking? I wondered, frowning at the ugly orange wax and tacky label.

No, let's get it. You love it.

So we did. And we walked back home slowly, luxuriating in the coolish air. But we didn't get duck fat fries, because I wasn't up to it. And later that night it got worse, my thoughts twisted into black knots, as they do, until bedtime came and I couldn't sleep. So I crept out to the living room with my blanket and my pillow, and I shut the door carefully on the both of you, snoring almost imperceptibly in unison, a sound that keeps me alive more nights than you know.

And I watched a movie about broken people accepting themselves and finding love, a beautiful movie that should have lifted me up. But my thoughts were still twisted and black so it didn't. It made me feel worse, and more broken by comparison. Less lovable, less capable of accepting those parts of me that made me relate to them.

I tried to read, but the story hadn't pulled me in yet, so it couldn't compete with the blackness. I put the book aside and just sat, reminding myself that feelings are temporary visitors. But the visitors did a number on me in those small hours, and I let them. Idiot, they said, and I didn't correct them. Failure, they scoffed, and I didn't object. Loser, they sneered, and I only sighed.

Slivers of dawn framed the drawn blinds, but I didn't move until I heard the crows. (They make me think of fairy tales, I explained a few days ago, telling you about the early morning calls which you sleep through.) Only then did I return to the bedroom, climbing back in to your warmth and peace. I waited a little longer, listening to you, to Chaucer, to the birds outside. I pictured the eastern sky as it looked from our roof Saturday at six am when, again, I couldn't sleep. A streak of peachy pink watercolor behind the still-dark city.

Finally, I moved close up against you. Just enough pressure to let my presence sink into your sleepy subconscious, because I hate waking you unnecessarily. Slowly, you became aware of me. You stirred and took a deep breath, and I wondered what your first thought would be. Or if you were still dreaming and whether I was now in your dream. I rolled toward you then, because I knew you were coming to, and because I needed more. And you turned, and put your forehead against mine, and we didn't speak, and instead just enjoyed the wordless space of gentle coexistence that I know fills you up.

And here's what I did that you don't know: there in the stillness, in the semi-dark, my eyes shut tight - I passed it over to you. I reached in and pulled it from my chest, bruised and dirty from so much kicking, and I passed it over to you for a day of safe-keeping. Just one day. Because I knew I could, because I knew that when I was ready to be gentler with it, I could take it back from you none the worse for wear.

Afterward, I turned away, finally giving in to exhaustion. You wrapped yourself around me and your hand found mine, and I marveled at the way your fist stayed clasped around my thumb even as you drifted back into sleep. Was it unconscious? A reflex? Did some part of you know to keep vigil, to keep holding some piece of me tight and safe? I can't sleep tangled up like that but I couldn't bring myself to disturb you again. So instead I just lay unmoving and pictured the street below, readying itself for the day. Bread trucks and laundry service vans filling up the loading zones. The serious-faced husband carting supplies from his car to the tiny lunch counter his quiet wife runs alone, cooking up batches of curry and beef bulgogi that sell out every day. The freight elevator descending with a mechanical groan into the sidewalk, stacked high with crates of whiskey for the pub below. Bustle. Faces tired or friendly. All of it familiar in the best way.

And then the alarm, and you have to get ready.

I'm fading, quickly, mercifully, so you let me be except for a soft kiss on my cheek once you're showered and shod. Messenger bag. Light fall coat. And a stowaway you don't know about, taking a break from me, hitching a ride with you for the day.


5 songs you might not abhor

1. Crosseyed by Bad Veins, which you might not abhor if you like The Strokes (or at least Julian Casablancas).



2. The House by Air Traffic Controller, which you might not abhor if you like Tokyo Police Club and/or Grouplove.



3. Tretan by Teen Daze, which you might not abhor if you like Washed Out.



4. Treatment of the Sun by The Pass, which you might not abhor if you like Two Door Cinema Club.



5. What by BRONCHO, which you might not abhor if you like The Ramones.

aint nobody got time for that (except me)

As previously threatened, I have assembled and posted the full set of LobbyEllies. Pretty sure I'm breaking the record for most selfies on a single page. Wondering if I can add that achievement to my LinkedIn.



Mock see the full set here!

PPRL: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (winner, 2014)

(Simplifying my approach to PPRL reviews. Just gonna write up my thoughts. No more synopses, excerpts, or vocab. Those bits felt too much like homework.)

---


I didn't know what I was getting myself into with The Goldfinch. Mason recommended it to me (well, "I'd be curious what you think of it" was what he actually said), and I plowed through the unrelentingly graphic opening scene without putting the iPad down once. Ah, I thought. So that's a taste of what that might be like. Horrific to know. But I wasn't actually hooked - like, claws-deep hooked - until Theo got to Vegas and I met Boris. By the end I found myself almost wishing Boris had been the protagonist.

The Goldfinch is an imperfect book, as I'm the last and least important to point out. I don't know if editing styles have changed dramatically unbeknownst to me, but repetition of an unusual, five-dollar word twice in one paragraph seems like something that shouldn't occur in Pulitzer-winning novels. And I agree with the bit of criticism quoted in the Vanity Fair article about some of the characters being rather stock, rather predictable and cliche. However, some are characters whose company I really didn't want to quit. I could have handled much, much more of Hobie and Pippa - and much less of Xandra and Kitsey.

Worst of all though, I loathed Theo by the end of the story. He was an inept, foolish, self-pitying, selfish mess whose failed attempt at suicide left me feeling nothing. As did the entire ending, which droned on and on and on to a miserable conclusion.

However, wow can Tartt tease out a theme* and keep a story moving. Lots of dialogue and fast-paced action kept me utterly intrigued (and Terence, too; he'd ask for plot updates every night) up until she lost me on the confusing, belabored, and unnecessarily complicated backstory about Horst et al. (Didn't follow. Didn't care.) Shortcomings aside, I really did find the writing strikingly beautiful at times. I highlighted many passages to revisit, per Steven Pinker's excellent advice. I do wish the novel finished more strongly - or at least on a more positive note - but I can't resent the place Tartt arrived at too badly, since I quite enjoyed the majority of the ride.

---

* BONUS CONTENT: PAPER TOPIC UP FOR GRABS 

Are you a college student who's been assigned a term paper on The Goldfinch? Did you not pay attention during class discussions, and are you now stuck for a topic? Perhaps you were fucking around on social media instead, because you are young and immature and careless with other people's money.

Well hey slacker, it's your lucky day. Below are some of my disjointed, undeveloped thoughts on the theme of provenance in The Goldfinch. Obviously I'm biased towards my own genius, but I think correctly nurtured they could make for a pretty decent essay. So feel free. I originally wrote them for my readers, but since it occurs to me that I can't stop them from being used elsehow, you have my blessing - provided you use these ideas as a starting point only. Don't copy, don't even paraphrase. (You do NOT want plagiarism on your school record, really takes the shine off an already useless English degree.)

In fact, don't actually read what I wrote below. Just give yourself the prompt: What role does provenance play in The Goldfinch? Could the concept be applied to people, too? 

Seriously, stop reading now and go back to Snapchatting or whatever your kind does these days. Godspeed, net-sourcing coed!

---

One of the foremost considerations in the acquisition and sale of art and antiques is provenance, i.e. where, and in whose hands, something has been. Determining provenance is part of the authentication process; in order to establish that, say, a painting legitimately hails from the 17th century, it helps to know who's been looking after it. Great pain is taken to track these records of ownership for the same reason great pain is taken in the care of their subjects - fine art and genuine antiques are precious. Case in point: virtually every character in the novel down to the Eurotrash thugs knows how valuable The Goldfinch is, and spares nothing to keep it safe and sound.

Now, contrast this with Theo's "provenance". Where he's been, where he goes, where he ends up. The degree to which his would-be caretakers go to avoid "acquiring" him. His grandparents want nothing to do with him, and his father is at best reluctant to accept the role himself. In what ways does Theo's journey from home to home and place to place mirror that of the painting? How is it different?

To extend the metaphor, what constitutes Theo's "verso"? What are the emotional markings he collects over the years? His mother's love? His father's indifference? Hobie's influence and friendship? Compare the nicks and imperfections of The Goldfinch with Theo's psychological scars and wounds.

water, logged

Here's a fun exercise. Write an abstract of the metaphorapolooza that is Water Gravity I mean All is Lost, seeing how many words/expressions you can employ that are figuratively apt...as well as being literal descriptions of action that occurs in the film. It's exactly the sort of thing David Brooks was talking about in this New York Times piece (that we can barely get through a conversation without resorting to metaphor).

I highlighted mine in Indian Ocean blue.

Our Man is coasting through life, no longer in his prime but still plenty capable of weathering storms. Along comes Misfortune, blindsiding him, breaching his security. In order to overcome this challenge, he must identify, explore, and find a way to untangle himself from it. Our Man shores up the hole left behind, but the damage is catastrophic. He can barely stay afloat. And just when he gets his head above water, forces beyond his control take him for a tumble. His cries for help go unanswered. Our Man salvages what he can before letting go of what threatens to drown him. Adrift, subject to the tides of fortune, he must learn new skills - including new ways of seeing the world - in order to survive. Broken and battered, humbled at the hands of nature, he is invisible to those who could help him. Only when he is willing to give up everything can he be saved.

Yep. I actually just did that.

If you need me, I'll be over here cooing reassuringly to my diploma. That's right, precious. Professor looks after us. Professor wouldn't hurt us. Liberal artses degrees aren't useless. Sneaky little counselorses! Wicked, tricksy, false! 

in which some fucks, admittedly, were given

POP QUIZ! 

Why does your blogmistress insist on showcasing the contents of her nostrils in photographs? 

a) The nostrils are the windows to the soul, everyone NOSE that haw haw noses are funnnnnny! Ewwww boogers and snot is it almost time for recess?? I want my juice box!

b) She figured out she looks at least six months younger from that angle. Seven when flash is used.

c) Ellie is actually a soothsayer named Nostrildamus. Her predictions for the future are tattooed on the inside of her septum. (Control+ to zoom.)

d) She's trying to put the coke rumors to rest. 

e) Honestly I'm just glad she's wearing some fucking clothes, okay?? 

f) She found some great quotes on a Pinterest board and really took them to nose heart:






And then a couple that seem pretty good as they are...



Sorry for the massive triple by-post in your inbox, subscribers. I guess I'm uncorked.

---

(quotes all pulled from here and here)

promises, promises

This blog has been a big pile of suck lately, and for that I am sorry. I've been in the grips of my semi-annual internet identity crisis (wherein I strongly consider wiping clean my entire online presence - to the best of my ability anyway - before remembering how addicted I am and plodding forth once again). Also reading a lot.

In the interest of getting back on track (because I am happiest when blogging regularly), I submit for your silent judgment these Potential Upcoming Post Topics, some of which I may even follow through on!

1. Music I've Been Into Lately That Some of You May Not Abhor (yeah I know I promised this on the last round of promises, but this promise is seventy-five percent more promisey!)

2. So You Think You Want A 125+ lb Drool Machine (seven years in, I have a pretty good idea of what it's like to raise an English Mastiff - info that may be useful to someone considering one of their own).

3. A less snarky, more thorough consideration of hate reading, because I have many a thought and feel about it.

4. My "review" of The Goldfinch, which I've just finished and about which I am conflicted.

5. The collected Lobby Ellies so far (I've kept them going just for fun, post-Instagram, and compiled they're kind of a hoot, so hey why not, manna from heaven for my detractors that is FOR SHORE).

6. At least one allegorical piece, if I can think of something that/someone who warrants tethering. I very much miss doing this sort of writing, it's far and away my favorite...but these pieces are always inspired by some conflict I experience (whether internal or external). And it's been a while since something has bothered me enough to write one, I guess? Try harder, cruel world! Wound me! Do it for art's sake!

7. Gravity has got to be the most overrated movie of the past five years, holy hell was that some awful writing. I mean yes, of course the special effects were spectacular, but that dialogue?? Are you kidding me with that shit?? (okay sorry, not a post topic, just something I needed to get off my chest).

treats and threats

The keyboard cat still has my tongue, though I am cajoling it variously with treats and threats. In the meantime, some recent word swags that are interesting, I know, to none but their subjects. Indulge me? A year earns me a bit of mushiness, I think?







hi from the hallway

Inspiration feels to me like freely roaming an empty palace. Dozens of rooms, each representing some idea or piece of writing seeded in my brain - each a quiet space where I'm creatively capable. I can walk into any chamber I choose and the words will come easily.

When I'm blocked, it's like being trapped inside that palace, though with every door locked. I can't do anything but pace the hallways, shut in but shut out, stuck in the frustrating place between possibility and flow.

year one

A year ago tonight I went on a first date with someone who, every day since, has shown me more love, affection, support, sweetness, patience and understanding than I ever could have dreamed of finding in one person. Lucky doesn't even come close to describing how I feel. Lucky is just a shadow of my gratitude, which gets filled in to bursting every day with the laughter and light Terence has brought into my life - even when I forget to tell him, which is entirely too often.

I have much more to say to him privately, if I can get it out without blubbering into our anniversary dinner. But I don't think he'll mind my sharing something I made just now, to celebrate and commemorate the time we've spent together so far. It's basically a three minute explanation of where I am when I'm not around here. Personally I think it constitutes a pretty solid excuse, but I don't know. I could be under some kind of spell from staring at that damn dimple for the past hour and a half.



Thanks loads to everyone who's cheered us on this far. It's really nice to be able to share this milestone in a place where I haven't always had the happiest things to share.

Happy weekend, weirdos.

cute dog is cute

House sitting for friends, who challenged us to make their cats dog-friendly while they were on vacation. Chaucer was an angel, keeping to a sit-stay and letting this kitty check him out at her own pace (the other one stayed under the bed). But once they got familiar, he was just too excited and kept trying to play with her like another dog. She was fearless and dominant and awesome, but I didn't want to keep stressing out the more fearful cat, so we stopped bringing him over. 50% success rate.



Movie night. Somebody didn't want to get off the blankets we'd all been cuddling on and go to bed. Somebody pulled a serious pout face about the situation.



Can't even deal with him sometimes, I really can't.