malibu

"Wanna go to Malibu?" he suggests, when he sees the Santa Monica exit choked off with traffic.

"Sure. Why not." It's only another ten minutes further, and I'm happy just to sit in the passenger's seat and gaze out the window.  

We've driven to the coast on a whim, because it's a pretty Sunday afternoon and we're already out and about. We're already out because we've just finished a reconnaissance mission to check out the venue for a New Year's Eve event we're considering. Tickets are pricey; I don't want to commit until I approve of the place in person. I want to wear the floor-length chiffon gown that sees action maybe twice a year (Valentine's Day being its other night out), and I'm hoping for an event that's fun but also a bit glamorous. Two-thousand fifteen seems like a year worth dressing up to greet.

The recon mission is mostly a bust, though. The venue doors are locked tight, not a soul in sight. Peering in through stately (if dusty) doors, all we can see is the sweeping staircase just inside the entrance. Rather fancy looking, I have to say. I'm just about sold. 

Walking back to the car a slice of low winter sun hits my face. The crisp cold feels like an invitation to play, and back inside a stuffy apartment is the last place I want to be. "Let's go somewhere," I say. Like Chaucer, I'm asking to be walked. I need stimulation and fresh air. If I don't get out of downtown every so often, if I don't refresh my eyes with the sight of trees or sand or just different buildings, moodiness sets in and the loft starts to feel like The Stanley Hotel. Terence gets it, and obliges, nodding. "Let's go to the beach."

The beach it is.

---

There's a seafood shack a little ways past Pepperdine on the PCH that I like. The food is overpriced and nothing spectacular, but I don't go for the food. I go because it sits opposite a movie-scenic bluff, over crashing waves and aimed at sunsets that never disappoint. There's only outdoor seating and it's chilly even in summer, but sourdough bread bowls of clam chowder help with that. So does hot apple cider, which they're serving today.

Terence orders a fish sandwich, and I get fried clam strips (along with the bread bowl) so he can try those, too. They come in a red and white paper tray and are never fully rinsed of sand. The occasional bite of grit doesn't bother me, though. Neither does the cold, which is bracing. We pull up our hoods and huddle close, and I glance furtively at the other patrons. I once sat a few tables over from the kid that played Draco Malfoy, and I've seen both a Ferrari and an Aston Martin in the parking lot. 

Malibu isn't what I imagined it would be, before I moved to California. Or maybe it is, and I just haven't seen the parts of it that would match my expectations. It's beautiful but largely inaccessible. All the best parts are closed off to tourists, which I guess is how it should be, considering what it costs to live there. 

When we drive back after sundown, I marvel at how tightly packed together the homes are. Not a single sliver of space in between them through which to see the beach. Like a finger wagging at me: nuh uh, not for your eyes, outsider. I picture clean, wide stretches of sand below sharply dropping cliffs. Living rooms with massive picture windows through which the contentedly rich or the creatively tortured watch the peaceful sea. I wonder what they think about while they enjoy that view, and if they, too, sometimes pine to get away.  

By the time the houses open up enough to see in between, we're past the prime real estate. I crane around in my seat, but it's too dark to make anything out. Malibu keeps its secrets another day. 









unsubscribe


ellien Christmas

Ellien's log, stardate 201412.24

11pm

I have successfully infiltrated a dwelling in a populous, temperate region of Earth, coordinates 34.0500° N, 118.2500° W. My stated mission is to observe and document the behavior of a typical adult human female during the annual celebration Earthlings refer to as "Christmas." However, I also hope to gain a deeper understanding of the more specific socioclassification blogger, a bizarre subset with whose psychological expressions I have long been personally fascinated.

Ellien's log, stardate 201412.25

8am

My host body awakens. Thanks to the 24-hour Sub-Wernickian Mind Meld I initiated upon arrival, she is unable to detect my cerebral thought-tap. I note a number of interesting physiological conditions, recorded below:

  • Stress. Immediately upon waking, subject becomes aware of the various tasks she must accomplish over the next several hours, some of which she feels trepidation toward. Subject visualizes herself in various chaotic situations involving burnt food, bored guests, and other scenarios unpleasant to humans.
  • Withdrawal. Subject manifests a clear and urgent need for caffeine.
  • Excitement. As suggested by our observations, the Christmas holiday induces a mild euphoria among humans, perhaps due to the increasingly frenetic rate at which they consume the sugary liquified foodstuff identified as eggnog. I also suspect this effect is triggered by auditory cues, particularly those involving the incessantly broadcast seasonal soundmix, one arrangement of which seems to be permanently lodged in the subject's brainstem. 
9am

Subject and mate engage in gift exchange ritual. There is much bodily contact and high-pitched verbalization. Interestingly, I detect a slight undercurrent of negative emotion in subject's brainwaves.

10am

Subject has removed herself to private quarters. Neural pathways have overloaded and temporarily blocked the thought-tap; however, I am able to shift 30% of the mind meld to the subject's temporal lobe, where several dozen memories have come loose and are now flooding the brain. Subject is experiencing a vast array of feelings which are challenging her ability to remain upright. (Note: I believe this is what is known as a breakdown, a phenomenon hypothesized by our scientists but as yet unobserved.)

1pm

Party preparations begin. Subject, in a near-manic state, assembles and cooks a variety of foodstuffs. Mate assists nervously. Alcoholic beverages are consumed and subject eases considerably, though occasionally still emitting verbal imprecations and expressing regret about decision to host assembly in own habitat.

4pm

A pair bond of two adult humans arrive at the dwelling. Subject and mate greet the pair bond and another gift exchange occurs. Beverages are prepared, distributed, and consumed repeatedly.

6pm

A second pair bond arrives. There are now six adult humans and one animal in the home. The four pair bonded outsiders engage sociably with subject's mate. Subject appears withdrawn and uncomfortable, and often repairs to food preparation area alone. (Later analysis shows a correlation between spikes in thought pattern and certain phrases uttered by pair-bonded outsiders, including "moving" and "San Francisco".) Additional beverages are distributed and consumed.

8pm

A ritual of some kind is conducted, involving a large, rectangular cardboard tablet and multicolor totems which are moved across the tablet incrementally. Laughter increases in frequency and intensity. Subject's thought-tap flows with increasingly positive feelings. Multiple bottles of reddish-purple fermented juice are consumed.

9pm

The store of reddish-purple fermented juice depleted, subject offers others a pale yellow version, similarly packaged. They assent emphatically. "You guys want me to rinse your glasses first?" she asks. "Oh god no," one replies. "Yeah, don't care at all," says another. Subject nods. "You are my people," she says.

10pm

All remaining bottles of fermented juice have now been consumed. Chilled bottles of fermented grain are produced from a sealed metal storage container.

10:15pm

Thought-tap becoming hazy and difficult to access. Suspect correlation to consumption of fermented juice and grain.

11:00pm

All stores of fermented beverages depleted, group decides to remove from dwelling and relocate to nearby sky cave. Short journey to sky cave filled with animated conversation and raucous laughter.

11:05pm

Sub-Wernickian Mind Meld has now expired. Remaining observations compiled externally. Submitting preliminary report to Control, withdrawing from host body and returning to mothership for full debriefing within the hour.

















you scratch your back, I'll scratch your back

Me: "Listen kid, I'm just gonna give it to you straight. You can't have the toys until you wear the sweater."

Chaucer: "...."

Me: "I know, I know. It's pretty bad. Look, I don't make the rules, okay? I just play by them. I'm a blogger. I have certain expectations to meet. And you, well, you're the youngest, cutest thing living in my home. Which means it falls on you to wear something ridiculous and be paraded around in front of strangers for their amusement and my gratification. Do you understand?"

Chaucer: "...."

Me: "Alright listen, just five minutes. Just long enough to take a few snapshots. But they need to be quality shots, no horsing around making them blurry or we're gonna have to do them again. Then you can go to sleep, forget all about it, and in the morning you'll have a boatload of brand new stuffies to destroy."

Chaucer: "...."

Me: "Thanks, buddy. You're the best."

"...."

"Yo, T. You see what's she's doing to me, bro? Help me out here, man. This isn't cool."

"Is she done? Tell me when she's done. I can't even look at her right now."

"What sweater?"

NOTES:

No, I did not actually go out and buy that thing. Terence had an ugly sweater party to attend, and this was the funniest and cheapest option he found. (It won the contest, too.) I'm pretty sure the only reason Chaucer let me wrangle him into it was that it smelled like his BroDog.

Chaucer's 2014 Christmas Haul and toys' current states of repair:

1 Kong Wubba (intact)
1 8/10 TuffScale medium-sized Tuffy Brand pig (intact)
1 stuffing-free squeaky fox (seams ripped and squeakers crushed)
1 small teddy bear (eyes torn out within five minutes)
1 plush Viking Duck (helmet stitching breached, stuffing partially removed)

He's on break from chewy toys since he absolutely demolishes them (Mastiffs have the strongest bite force of all domestic dogs), working them down to tiny bits that he then ingests. No bueno.

---

My First Hosted Christmas was a smashed smashing success about which I shall post forthwith! Hope all who celebrate the day had a great one.

Holiday Headlines in DTLA

I'm kicking it into high gear (read: panic mode) right about now, as I have volunteered to host a small Misfit Christmas for a few friends but have yet to decide WTF to cook, how to serve it, and what other entertainments we should provide. So I'mma sign off for a few days of preparation, celebration, and recovery. In the meantime I leave you with this wee offering:

Christmas Miracle! Downtown Couple Fit Tree, Mastiff, and Several Drunken Adults In Tiny Loft Apartment; No Fires or Deaths Ensue

Seven Year Old Dog Experiences Snow For First Time, Declares it "NBD" 

Financial District Hanukkah Display Increased In Size By Seven Percent, Moved to Dedicated Peninsula 


String Lights Add Festive Element to 7th Street's Homeless Quarter


Area Hipster Covets Giant Corporate Lobby Christmas Tree Scarf 


Polished Hotel Floors Reflect Guests' Already-Abandoned New Year's Resolutions 

---

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and that this week brings you lots of whatever you need most.

Merry merry, happy happy, ho ho ho.

do not read

Anger is a little red book that, no matter how many times I tuck it away on the highest shelf, I find in my back pocket the next day. Whether I open it or not doesn't matter; I know the story by heart anyway.

12.21.14

Some date nights are what you do because you love one another, and you love one another's company, and because you have the time to share it. They are the evenings carved out of busy schedules, prioritized over personal time, or housework - pursuits selfish or selfless that can eat your life if you let them. Some dates nights feel cut, measured, and portioned. Which is not to say that they're not great. But some date nights, nice as they are, just fill a few hours between days.

Some date nights, however, fill the space between two people - space that sometimes builds up inevitably, despite the best of intentions. Because misunderstanding and impatience and a host of other things conspire to worm their way into that space.

Some date nights are how the street looks after a storm, clean and glinting with light. They're laughing until you cry, logging a dozen new inside jokes, and remembering why relationships are worth the hard fucking work. They're (for instance) a subway ride to K-town for barbecue and not caring that you have to wait an hour for a table, and then another half an hour for the train back home. They're not caring because something has shifted and you're back in that awesome, easy place, and because this date night could last a week and probably not stop being fun. Some date nights are makeup sex with your clothes on.

And you don't understand it, not even close, but you're glad for it anyway.









no idea

Two stories, then some music.

STORY ONE

The first music festival I ever went to was Bonnaroo, in 2012. My boyfriend at the time had gotten two tickets and planned the trip, for himself and an as-yet unchosen guest, before we'd even met. He'd been wanting to go for years and so had decided to go ahead and get two passes, and worry later about who he'd take. When things started to get serious between us, he invited me to join him.  "What's Bonnaroo?" I remember asking. I'd had no idea. 

Not long after I accepted his invitation, my dad got sick, then quickly died, and everything sort of went belly-up. I was a mess, handling everything on my own, alone in suburban Florida with nary a clue how to deal with the complicated estate that had been dropped into my lap. 

Those first two months were an emotional hell for me, overwhelming to the point of suffocation. And one of the things that kept me going was the thought of Bonnaroo. I was too busy with the estate to research the festival, to try and figure out what I was in for. But it loomed on the horizon like a promise, like oxygen to a drowning person. 

In terms of attendance, Bonnaroo is pretty big, with some 80k people attending. (Big, that is, relative to US festivals: UK's Glastonbury Festival gets around 175k.) Those that attend, particularly those that attend repeatedly, are less music fans than pilgrims making a sacred, yearly journey to their happiest place on Earth. I didn't realize how big a deal Bonnaroo was until I was smack in the middle of a 700-acre farm, surrounded by swarms of sweaty, ecstatic music lovers, plunged headlong into four straight 15 hour days of - well, of everything that a music festival is. Talk about baptism by fire.  

On the very first morning, on the shuttle ride from the hotel to the festival, we chatted up a pair of girls seated behind us. They were impossibly young, and positively buzzing with excitement. At nineteen years old, they were already Bonnaroo veterans. And they were music fans of a caliber that puts most of the 40-somethings I know to shame. They knew their shit. 

One of the girls was a massive Red Hot Chili Peppers devotee, which when I heard I sort of inwardly scoffed at, thinking she was much too young to know them that well. But no. It was soon obvious from the one-upping between her and my boyfriend (another big RHCP fan) that she was legit. Encyclopedic knowledge of the band, their repertoire, their instruments, and their personal lives type legit.  

The girls left a huge impression on me and not just because of their musical prowess. There was something about them that, at first glance, suggested mismatch (one was extremely pretty, perfectly made up, and outfitted in her closet's skimpiest offerings while the other, a plain girl, was comfortably chill in old clothes and not a drop of makeup) - but anyone could see how tight they were. I got the impression they'd been besties from grade school, and Bonnaroo was an experience they continued to commit to together despite the different paths they'd taken up. I envied and admired their connection. 

To this day I can see their faces clearly. Absolutely aglow with anticipation. Their energy infected me in the best way, setting me up with expectations so high only Bonnaroo could meet them. Because it does. And it did. 

In a funny quirk of fate, we happened to ride on the shuttle home with those same girls, the last night of the festival. We quickly fell to sharing stories and comparing notes on performances, and my boyfriend asked the Chili Peppers fan what she'd thought of the show. The other girl laughed, knowing what her best friend was about to say, which was what she'd probably been saying nonstop for the two days prior. 

"I can't," said the girl, her face suddenly serious. She shook her head at my boyfriend, putting up a hand as if to defend herself against too much emotion. "I'm not ready to talk about it." 

We laughed at her dramatic reply, but there was something in her expression that intrigued me, something deeper and more knowing than could be touched by our teasing. It was as if she'd tasted something none of us had, and she couldn't begin to explain what it had been like. 

A few months later, watching Explosions In The Sky perform at Outside Lands, alone and enraptured in a way I'd never felt in my life, I understood exactly what that girl had meant. 

To this day I can't talk about that performance without shaking my head, getting the chills, and being close to tears. I could write volumes about why it was such an intense experience for me, but here are the broad strokes: my dad had just died. my boyfriend and I had broken up. I was jobless and parentless and more lost than I'd ever imagined I could be...but listening to Explosions play feet from where I stood, I knew I was going to be okay. I believed in myself. I felt the full weight of my potential and independence and self-love, and I knew, despite everything I'd gone through, that I was going to be okay

Every time I hear Explosions now, I'm instantly transported back to that place - which isn't necessarily a good thing. That's a lot of feeling for, say, a Sunday run. Thanks to how incredibly affected I was by seeing them live, I now have to designate special times to listen to my favorite band. I know. Fucking weird. Listening to them is like drinking the strongest wine in the world - intoxicating and dangerous. Small sips are better.

STORY TWO

Last month at a party I fell into conversation with a woman about music, politics, social media, and books. When I asked who her favorite author was, she paused, took a breath, and cocked her head at me as if deciding something. "Well," she started slowly, "It's Charles Dickens." 

"Nice!" I exclaimed, partly because I was impressed at how heavy a name she'd dropped, and partly to smoke-bomb my own ignorance, since I am so embarrassingly unfamiliar with his work. "What are the best three of his books to read?" I asked.

The woman smiled sort of sheepishly. "That's the thing. I've only read two of his novels. I'm saving the rest."

"What, you mean like...rationing them?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "Exactly. Crazy huh. I only read one every five years."

"No," I said. "I think that's actually sort of brilliant." We were interrupted by someone then and the subject got dropped, but I couldn't stop thinking about what she'd said, and how when I was younger I had a similar inclination towards John Irving and Margaret Atwood. Fear of consuming the best stuff too quickly, and being left hungry for a long time afterward.

A few days after the party, I was messing around on Spotify and came across a playlist with a number of tracks from an interestingly-titled band. Curious, I clicked play. Five seconds into the song, my jaw dropped. Ten seconds in, I clicked on the band's bio, frowning in confusion. Thirty seconds in, I clicked the pause button and sat back in my chair, rattled.

The music I'd started listening to and stopped so abruptly was so similar to Explosions In The Sky that at first I thought I'd misread something, or had stumbled upon a track of theirs that I didn't know. But no. I wasn't listening to EITS. It was another band, guitar-heavy, epic, swelling, instrumental music like EITS's - but not EITS.

I Googled them, needing to know immediately whether they were still actively producing. And touring. And if so, when I could see them. That's what thirty seconds of their music had done to me: made me frantic, excited to hear more but terrified to fall in love with something unattainable. 

They are an actively producing band. They are touring. They are accessible. Like EITS, they are a post-rock group from Texas (yr blogmistress, who prides herself on a decent bit of music knowledge, hadn't even realized post-rock as a genre existed), and they are my Christmas present from the universe.

And I am rationing them, because simple pleasures. One song at a time, soaked up and digested like something rare and exquisite, all the while anticipating the experience of seeing them live and feeling the indescribable joy I felt two and a half years ago in a park in San Francisco. Because apparently, post-rock is my jam.

I'd had no idea. 

fuck yeah, garland, in nineteen easy steps

Do you find yourself with extra time on your hands this holiday season? Are you casting about for things to do on these long, lazy winter evenings?

Well it's your lucky day because tonight I'm sharing my awesome Fuck Yeah, Garland tutorial, guaranteed to kill at least an hour. Two if you drink your way through it. Ready??

1. Purchase several bags of the most adorable needle felted, multicolor mini pom poms you can find. What's that? Needle felting is so 2005? Fuck you. Whimsy has no expiration date. Never mind buying in bulk online, there is nothing twee about saving money. Try to find the small, expensive bags of pom poms sold in art supply stores or interior design boutiques. Lose receipt immediately upon purchase.

2. Shove pom poms in a drawer and forget about them for 1-2 years. 

3. Retrieve pom poms and place in a highly visible area of your home (for instance the key tray or your refrigerator's vegetable crisper). Avoid studiously for 2-3 weeks.

4. Empty bags onto a clean, smooth surface such as your dining table or desk, which probably has plenty of room because it isn't covered by, say, several coffee-stained pages from the manuscript of your first novel.

5. Sort by color and/or size, like so:

fuck yeah garland


6. Stop and congratulate yourself on how fucking twee this vignette is. Instagram that shit, immediately. Go on, I'll wait. 

7. Here's where it gets tricky! In order to evenly distribute the various size pom poms throughout the garland, you'll need to do some math to determine placement. Do this math.

8. Line pom poms up accordingly, like so:

muppet free castration clinic


9. Find some thread somewhere. What do you mean you don't have thread? You're a grown ass woman, how you can you not even have a basic sewing kit?? No, dental floss isn't going to work Ellie. Well it probably would but Jesus Christ.

10. Run to Rite Aid for a sewing kit. 

11. Now for the fun part - threading the garland!

12. Okay well first you have to thread the needle, lol. 

13. Shit. Is your boyfriend or anyone with better eyesight around? No?

14. That's okay. You can do this. It's not like the ability to thread a needle is some test of your vitality or whatever, haha. If you fail it doesn't mean you're like...old...

15. Thread the needle. Oh, almost. Try again. So close! Okay well that wasn't close at all. Probably put the wine down until you're done with this step. Are you sure you don't need contacts? I mean I know you wear glasses for reading and night driving but maybe you should consider--okay okay, I'll shut up. Did you get it yet? Try cutting it and licking the end. Stop cursing. Stop cursing in French, you're not even pronouncing the words right. 

16. HOLY SHIT YOU DID IT.

17. Knot one end of the thread neatly with some kind of fancy, non-fraying knot. Maybe there's a YouTube video or something.

18. Thread garland.

19. Sit back and admire your handiwork!



Don't forget to share your creation with friends, who'll probably be too impressed/jealous to offer the praise it merits.


---

**IMPORTANT**

  • Fuck Yeah, Garland is not intended for children, adults with self-respect, or dogs. 
  • Fuck Yeah, Garland is not machine washable.  
  • Fuck Yeah, Garland is for external use only. 
  • If Fuck Yeah, Garland comes apart during use, probably just call the cat over and let it go to town. 

seven things I am aware of as the year comes to an end

1. If a tree falls in the forest and no one was there to document it, it still made a sound. 

Quitting Instagram turned out to be a surprisingly educational experience for me. When I took away that push-button validation, it got weirdly...quiet. And in that quiet I had plenty of time and space to consider why and how I document my life. What my motives are, what if anything I'm trying to show - to prove - to myself and to others. I got honest with myself about some of my longstanding insecurities, particular those surrounding friendships and what has, pathetically, persisted as a never-ending need to prove I have them.

I went through some shit growing up, with friends. And not-friends. And frenemies. Some awful, awful shit that launched me into adulthood frantic to fix that part of my life. And I do feel miles away from where I was, as recently as my twenties. But I certainly don't need to fuck with the precious, mysterious thing that is friendship by making it any more of a spectacle than it already is here on overshariquent.

Not being able to announce, immediately, HEY GUESS WHAT I HAD DRINKS WITH MY FRIEND KERRY, WHO LIKES ME, BECAUSE SHE IS MY FRIEND, BECAUSE I HAVE FRIENDS is really good for me. It took some getting used to, because I was so warped by the Insta-machine that not documenting my good times made them feel, at first, somehow less real. But eventually I was able to just chill and let go of the need to SHOW and TELL, and I know I became a better friend for it. More present and relaxed and engaged. Less distracted by the need to Make Sure and Get a 'Gram Out of It! Nowadays I don't even blog about every "bloggable" thing I do. I'm just doing things and enjoying them, like a normal fucking person. Imagine that.

Whether or not I blog it or Instagram it or Twitter it - the good moment happened. That's the thing to remember.

2. Reading fiction makes me a better person. 

My reading habits aren't what they used to be, but I'm fighting to earn back my bookworm badge. It isn't always easy to find time, and distractions abound. But when I do make the effort to plunge into a novel, to persevere until I feel its hooks sink gloriously into me, I marvel at myself. Psst, dummy! How can you forget how good this feels? How can you not want to do this ALL THE TIME? 

A good book occupies my thoughts and distracts me from the annoyances of daily life, making me less irritable. Even when I put it down, the back burner of my brain has something more satisfying to chew on than whether or not I should reorganize the spice cabinet. Fictional characters feel like temporary friends, and the (often epic) challenges they face smack some perspective into me.

I feel more open-minded and cheerful when I'm reading fiction, and I suspect I'm more pleasant to be around. It leaves me feeling peaceful and thoughtful, which probably primes me for more loving and engaging interaction with the people I care about. Compared to how I often feel after an hour or two on the internet (depleted, agitated), that's a very welcome change.

3. Being precious with things wastes them. 

For as long as I can remember, I've had the notion that "good" things need to be reserved for special occasions. It's only now starting to dawn on me how crazy this, because I'm looking back at the last few decades of my life and realizing how little I've utilized some of those good things. The expensive, the rare, the treasured and beloved. The "good" china. My "nice" sweaters. For a while after I bought it, I even avoided sitting on my own sofa, because I didn't want the cushions to wear out.

It's all fine and good to value your belongings, but what's the real value of something that you don't even use? When you think about it, disuse is about the saddest fate you can assign to some material thing. I mean, if you were a thing, wouldn't you want to be used and loved and appreciated to your fullest extent? Would you want to sit collecting dust in a cabinet, or in a jewelry box, or on a closet shelf? Wouldn't you revel in being taken out and given a chance to shine?

Losing my parents unexpectedly in quick(ish) succession has absolutely driven into me that life. is. short. Embrace what you've got here and now because you never know when it'll be gone.

4. Crowding out the bad is easier than cutting it out.

I first came across this concept in Hungry For Change, a food documentary espousing an approach to diet and exercise from a place of health and self-love, vs. one of deprivation and self-recrimination. And it was sort of revelatory for me, because it absolutely did work. When I stopped focusing on restricting bad foods and concentrated instead on slowly integrating in better ones, my life changed. And yeah that's dramatic, but it's true. I have never felt so consistently healthy as I have the past year, and that, I believe, is due to what I've added to my diet (which in turn has crowded out some of the worse stuff). It's easier not to fixate on avoiding unhealthy choices (thoughts which veritably consumed my food-disordered twenties) when they've been upstaged by healthy ones.

This idea has worked in other areas of my life, too. I'm as addicted to my phone as the next person, and much as I try to cut back on screen time, it's difficult. So rather than continuing to just rebuke myself for making poor choices (tap tap on Safari, oh look here I am surfing TimeWastersAnonymous AGAIN...tap tap on some shopping app, oh look here I am being a materialistic asshole AGAIN), I've added in some good choices. Duolingo. An awesome, super simple flashcard app for (NERD ALERT!) learning new words I've picked up while reading. I also only recently realized that I can save web pages, such as to news sites (or my blahg), to my home screen. But - and this is where the crowding out comes in - in order to do so, some other apps had to give up their prime real estate. Result: when I reflexively grab my phone in a free moment, it's that much easier to choose curiosity or creativity over mindlessness.

5. Curiosity and creativity are muscles that have to be worked. 

Sometimes I criticize myself for not being more up on current events, for not reading more articles, for not being better in touch with popular culture or knowing more quirky, interesting things about the natural world. The thing is, curiosity comes naturally to children, I think, partly because they have so little else on their plates. And since learning is so empowering, it becomes addictive. But the older we get and the more we have demanding our time and attention, the harder it is to keep this habit of learning up. It takes more effort to read the whole Times piece, for instance, and not just glance at the tweeted summary. But I think that just like any other habit, it can be strengthened. So rather than beat myself up for not knowing ALL THE THINGS, I accept that I can only know some - and even knowing those will take work. But educating myself about one issue is such a confidence booster that it feels less daunting to move on to another, and so forth.

Same thing with creativity. I believe writer's block exists, but I also know that forcing myself to sit down and create content sometimes produces the best stuff. No fairies are going to flutter down to my fingertips and take over. There's plenty of inspiration to be found in the world, but no magical muses. And the more I flex my creative muscles, the stronger they are and the braver I am about breaking out my guns. Even for silly stuff the point of which begins and ends with my own amusement. 

6. Good enough is a great stopping point for me.

A few months ago, Terence and I were checking out at the grocery store when a magazine caught my eye: Domino (a home decor magazine that was wildly popular but inexplicably retired in its prime). I was obsessed with Domino back in the day. I subscribed and saved every issue, only giving them up with great difficulty when I got married and wanted to pare down.

Anyway, when I saw the glossy cover on the rack, I audibly gasped. "What?" Terence asked.

I pointed. "My favorite magazine ever. Well, after Jane. I had no idea it was back!"

Terence grabbed a copy off the shelf and tossed it on top of our items, assuming from my reaction that I'd want one.

"No!" I exclaimed, shaking my head vehemently. "I can't." He didn't understand. "I'll want to redecorate our entire place," I explained. It's too much."

"Too much" is a place I can go to, too easily, and be too dissatisfied...and too spendy. Too much is Apartment Therapy and Pinterest and Domino. Where my home is concerned, I've learned that comfortable, organized, and welcoming to friends are good enough. I could make myself insane (and broke) trying to make it the most OMGstylish and amazing space ever, but that way madness lies.

Accepting its imperfection frees me up to better enjoy the home I've already got vs. obsessing over some future-perfect version of it that may never exist.

7. I want to be a fisherman.

A few weeks ago I told Terence about an interesting website I'd stumbled across. The Center for a New American Dream's tagline is "More of What Matters" and it sponsors initiatives having to do with things like community collaborations (sharing resources, strengthening regional food systems) and post-consumerist culture (better work/life balance, protecting kids from the marketing machine - even an alternative giving registry where experiences take the place of material goods).

But most exciting to me is their "Redefining the Dream" program, which is about what you'd imagine, and has a number of thought-provoking resource pages exploring the capital B Big questions (how much is enough? what really matters in this life? how fulfilling can an earn-and-spend existence be?) that, the older I get, the more I ponder.

Anyway, when I told Terence about it, he told me the story of the rich man and the fisherman, which I'd never heard. There are several versions of it floating around, but I like this one best. And if you're too pooped to click over, in a nutshell it's a story about a businessman who's too blind to see that the best things in life are free. (I'm not doing it justice though, because it's a powerful little tale and you really should read it because wow is it some food for thought.)

I've known a lot of rich men in my life and a handful of fishermen, and I've seen what it means to be each. I'm pretty sure which I'd rather be.  

PPRL: The Fixer, by Bernard Malamud (winner, 1967)

Remember the over the top satirical anti-Semitism in Borat? Jews as egg-laying, shapeshifting cockroaches? It's brilliant and satisfying to watch, because it so ruthlessly skewers the grossly bigoted, the xenophobic and the racist. But what it's easy to forget when the film ends and the lights come back on is the fact that such notions (Jews are evil, Jews are monsters, Jews are inferior) are deeply rooted in terrifying pockets of actual, living history.

The Fixer gives a glimpse of one such pocket. So if you're shopping for a good tsarist Russia-era novel about the horrors of early twentieth century anti-Semitism, pick it up!

** end general interest portion of post **

Some Quotes As Jumping-Off Points for Discussion, Paper-Writing, and General Consideration

"She had stopped before a huge wooden crucifix at the side of the road, crossed herself, and then slowly sinking to her knees, began to hit her head against the dark ground."

- Discuss the intersection of superstition and religion in the novel. Consider the racist mythologies invented and disseminated by anti-Semitic, Christian Russians. How do they reflect on their perpetuators and what are the consequences of those wives tales?

"Yakov considered dismounting, knocking on a strange door and begging for a night's lodging."

- In what ways does The Fixer resemble a fable or folkloric tale? Consider stock characters and tropes such as old men/women, the stubborn horse, the ferryman, the ghosts who visit Yakov in his dreams, never-ending misfortune and the miscarriage of justice, etc. 

"Nobody can burn an idea even if they burn the man." 

- How does self-education and reflection help Yakov transcend limitations (of the shtetl, of his socioeconomic class, and later, in prison, of his anguished mental state)? How much can knowledge be his salvation and how much does it curse him?

"Something that unexpectedly bothered him was that he was no longer using his tools." 

- Consider the concept of tools in the story, both as literal devices and metaphorical representations. How do they reflect Yakov's very strong value of self-reliance? How have they helped him build his life and how have they constrained him?

"Being born a Jew meant being vulnerable to history, including its worst errors."

- How does the idea of fate play into Yakov's story? What about free will? Consider this quote: "We're all in history, that's sure, but some are more than others. Jews more than some." How does history inform the future, and shape it? At what point is a man's destiny out of his hands thanks to the actions of other men who've gone before him?

"Those who persecute the innocent were themselves never free."

"Well good luck and no hard feelings, Berezhinsky said uneasily. 'Duty is duty. The prisoner's the prisoner and the guard's the guard.'"

- Explain how the antagonists of The Fixer aren't any more free than Yakov. Consider the very limiting hierarchal structures of both his country and the jail he languishes in. How is the macrocosm of Russia's class system mirrored by the microcosm of the prison?

"What it amounts to, Little Father, is that whether you wanted it or not you had your chance; in fact many chances, but the best you could give us with all good intentions is the poorest and most reactionary state in Europe."

- What is the significance of the ending scene between Yakov and Nicholas the Second? What is the subtext of their discussion, and of their relationship? (Man to man? ruler to subject? Christian to Jew? Christian to freethinker?)

"Your poor boy is a hemophiliac, something missing in the blood."

- Malamud deliberately includes this bit of history in the scene between Yakov and the tsar. Unpack the declaration, considering what implications Yakov could be making about Nicholas's politics, his character, his religion, etc.

dog shaming

Wow, I really did not expect this:



I wrapped his presents and set them on the coffee table temporarily, but he knew they were off limits, and he never messes with stuff behind my back, ever. I'm actually shocked.

He'd been whining about them from the minute I walked in the door and set the PetCo bag on the counter. I think pet toy manufacturers infuse everything with some identifying scent, because even if I come home with four Target bags and a single dog toy buried in them somewhere, Chaucer will sniff it out.

Anyway, if you think he's pouty in that picture you should see him now, after being scolded and having had the toy taken away. Ridiculous.

p.s. Hand to god this is exactly how I found him. No photo styling here. Well, except for the note.

spooner gets verified

I'm working on a mega post about some of the things I've learned this year, but I want to take my time with it and make sure I don't come across preachy, because lord knows I can be preachy.

In the meantime, please to enjoy this ridiculous thing I made the other day when I couldn't sleep:



This is your blogmistress, people. This is the shit she amuses herself with in the dead of night.

I understand if you no longer want to see me. I promise I'll delete your number.

holiday groove

There's a club downtown I really, really dislike going to, which is frustrating since it's so conveniently close and gets such great talent. But events are way oversold, making for a miserably crowded dance floor, VIP tickets (which are the only way to escape the crush of the main floor) are laughably overpriced, and there's virtually no seating. After a horrible experience there a few months ago, I swore I'd never go back.

I've been there twice in the past two weeks. Resolve is not my strong suit.

One notable exception was last Thursday, when we were looking for something fun to do while some friends were in town for the night. The club was holding its annual Holiday Groove - bring an unwrapped toy and get free admission. Admission is normally $30 so that is not too shabby a deal. And when we found out The Crystal Method would be there? Done and done.

Holy crap, what an awesome time. Half the fun we had was drunkenly picking out toys at Wallgreens beforehand. I opted for the Hello Kitty Sparkle Tote Bag with Keychain and Markers, because if fashion blogs have taught me anything (they haven't), it's that accessories are the key to a successful capsule wardrobe. (Picture a third-grader sweating her capsule, sucking thoughtfully on a juice box as she stares down a closet full of Oshkosh. Do I really need three pairs of Freshly Picked moccasins? Yeah, I totally do.)

And hats, of course hats. Because zany.

"Who's Ellie?"

I demand to see this Santa's certificate of authenticity! 
And now for a wholly unnecessary (read: sappy and personal) explanation of the next photo.

Perhaps our favorite moment at Coachella this year was during Bastille's set, when we just sort of clung to one another and swayed blissfully while they played Pompeii. We were right outside the tent, the sun was starting to set, a breeze was kicking up, and we were surrounded by thousands of ecstatically happy fans singing along. Since then, whenever we're out and Pompeii (or some version of it) comes on, we kinda freak out, get all goofy, and sing it to one another. Gross, I know. 

Well, some DJ started a mix of Pompeii while I was in the bathroom, and I came flying back upstairs, basically shoving through people like YO DIS MY JAM I GOTSTA GET TO MY BOY MOVE OUT DA WAY (no not really, I am not an asshole), and when I got back to the group I saw Terence craning his head around trying to find me, and my heart went KABOOM, it was so damn sweet. So I get right in front of him and start belting out the words, waiting for him to see I'm back. And when he turned around and saw me, the most amazing, knowing expression came on his face like, Yep, and I erupted into laughter because it was just so perfect. 

And my friend Dennis, who is brilliant at catching moments like that (he got all the best shots on 80s night), caught it:


So yeah, that pic. All the happies in that pic.


The Crystal Method was a bit of a bust (only half the duo was there, and he didn't play any of the old school stuff I was hoping to hear), but we had a blast nonetheless, dancing ourselves stupid and staying out much later than school nighters should stay out. Though I'm sure that's obvious from the wasted-looking elves above. 

They are some much beloved wasted-looking elves, that's for damn sure.

PPRL: The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields (winner, 1995)

I consider myself a decent enough writer, but man do I ever freeze up in the face of a book review. I just cannot distill several plot points down into a few paragraphs that also summarize a novel's writing style, narrative structure, etc. Doing so bores me to tears, and I'm sure it bores everyone else, too. I know I'm not saying anything different than anyone else has on, say, Goodreads.

What I can do is identify themes, big juicy themes best suited to deeper academic exploration essays - that's still a lot of fun for me. Vive la English major I guess. So in the interest of better enjoying my Pulitzer Prize Reading List Challenge (and no longer having to dread writing the concomitant reviews), I'm changing things up! From now on my responses to the novels will just be a few writing prompts - whatever jumped out at me during my reading, as subjects that might be interesting to write about, longform. And now without further ado, I present

Ellie's Suggested Discussion Topics For The Stone Diaries, Gladly Offered To Anyone For Whom They May Be of Use

1. Explore the role of the natural world in the novel. Discuss the interplay of stone vs. flower, and what each represents (hard vs. soft? dead vs. living? masculine vs. feminine?). Compare and contrast the qualities of resiliency/permanency (such as with Cuyler's stone, his quarrying and carving) and transience/renewal (such as with Daisy's garden and flowering perennials). What are the implications of mining vs. planting, both literally and figuratively? Consider the "planting" of family roots, and the "mining" of genealogical history, such as when Daisy and Victoria visit the Orkney Islands. How do their respective desires to "dig up" bones (actual fossils, in Victoria's case, and to find the grave of Magnus Flett, in Daisy's case) reflect the novel's theme of growth vs. decay?

2. Discuss the theme of sexuality in The Stone Diaries. What are some of the ways it is expressed (or repressed) by the novel's characters? Consider Barker's brief flash of pedophiliac attraction to young Daisy (note the Lolita allusion re: using the tip of the tongue to remove something from her eye), or the sensual attraction Clarentine Flett feels towards Mercy Goodwill, or even Daisy's limited, Ladies Home Journal-guided experience of sex (and what her incuriosity/apathy means). How do the images of stone and flower play into the theme of sexuality? (Consider for example Cuyler's marital ardor, and the tower he later constructs as a dedication to his dead wife. What are the implications of redirecting that sexual energy into a phallic but coldly impotent structure?)

quick bragging sesh

So this is kinda fun. I know someone on tomorrow night's episode of The Newsroom. So do you.

It's this guy:


Crazy cool, right?? There's a preview here, if you wanna check it out. Feel free to point at the screen and yell to your significant other/pets, "HEY I KNOW THAT DUDE! HE BANGS MY FAVORITE* BLOGGER!"

The episode was shot this summer and while he couldn't say anything at the time (thus neither could I), it was a mega-exciting few days around here, oh man. Emails with the HBO letterhead, a costume fitting at the studio, and lots of other OMG moments (for me, that is; Terence was cool as a cucumber about the whole thing).

I saved a screenshot of the text when he found out, because adorbs:


And I did know it, because when we were practicing lines his deliveries were perfect and I could just see it, yanno? We watched some clips before his audition and even though I was only vaguely familiar with the show, I could totally visualize him in the scene. Okay well maybe I'm just super cheerleader girlfriend, but WHATEVER, he did it!

When he got home that night I was out, but I had left him a goofy little walk of fame star taped on the floor of our entranceway, along with a card:


It was such an awesome experience for him and he's had to wait ages for the episode to finally air, so please forgive my gushing. Acting can be such a rough racket, and it's nice to see his perseverance and great attitude pay off. 

Anyway, that's the cool bit of news I wanted to share with the Elliequent army. Small, fierce, and now with 67% more cable television cred!

---

*YMMV

Spooner goes shopping


For my favorite rager. Black Friday without you is just...black.