Thursday, February 24, 2005

What They Should Really Tell You about Your iPod.

  1. The belt clip doubles as a neat little headphone-cord winder.
  2. Yes, you have joined the white-headphone-wearing masses. Deal with it. Or get yourself a different pair of headphones.
  3. If you are a Windows user, you may well be unnerved by the incredible ease of the iPod and iTunes. This discomfort will be increased if you are a Protestant as well as a Windows user: You know that we are put on this earth to be perfected in suffering, and the simplicity of the software will seem uncomfortable, indeed unnatural, and not at all like God intended. You will gradually adjust to this feeling, however, and even come to treasure its faint scent of sin. It isn't called Apple for nothing.
  4. The iPod isolates and insulates. You lock yourself into the space between your earbuds. You listen to music you already know. It is safe, with all the blessings and dangers that that implies.
  5. The iPod disconnects music from mood or experience in ways that may make you uneasy at the beginning. Hit "Shuffle" and suddenly you are hearing "Peter Pan" by Patty Griffin -- a song you have always associated with darkness and sadness and held breath -- in the middle of a perfect sparkling Saturday afternoon, and you must expand your understanding of either the light in the song or the shadows of the day to make the two cohere. On the other hand, "Shuffle" can also create wonderful conjunctions you would never have seen yourself: Listen to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" in the middle of a big-box Lowe's Home Store surrounded by anxious wannabe suburbanites and see if you can manage not to smile.
  6. The iPod also allows you to connect music to mood or experience more perfectly than you sometimes need. If you're tired, depressed, and lonely after a long evening at work, do you really want to listen to the Dixie Chicks singing "Home"? Wouldn't it be better to go with Van Morrison bopping out "Jackie Wilson Said"? It is too damn easy to indulge your emotions with this thing.
  7. That is, if you can find the music to indulge them with, if the experience of overshooting the click wheel or having to run through all your albums to find Stevie Wonder at last or even merely analyzing your feelings to determine what music you need doesn't snap you out of the feeling itself.
  8. As demonstrated by #5-7, you can easily spend as much time thinking about how the music you're hearing connects to your non-headphones experience as you do actually listening to the music.
  9. If this happens, close your eyes. Listen. Breathe. That is why you have this in the first place: for the chance to hear the music, be the music, anywhere and everywhere.
  10. "For most of us, there is only the unattended
    Moment, the moment in and out of time,
    The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
    The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
    Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
    That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
    While the music lasts."

    Like that.
  11. And when the song is done, open your eyes, take out your headphones, and stop being safe.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Gates

I went to see the Gates with my friend Rachel on Saturday. People who complain that they aren't moved by them or don't understand them are missing the point, I think: The Gates aren't meant to be inherently emotional or hugely complex and intellectual. Rather they just are, like a mountain or a tree, and the meaning of them comes through interacting with them: walking underneath the frames, watching the material flap in the wind, admiring their curve along a pathway, taking pictures, smiling at strangers, experiencing the ebb and flow of park life through their steady lines. The meaning is also in the miracle of their sudden appearance in the park and the brevity of their duration. . . . For me they were like a visual representation of happiness or joy: a flame in the dark, a flower in the snow, pointless, untouchable, but deeply warm and gladdening. Thank you, Christo.

After Rachel and I walked through the park from Cherry Hill to 86th St., we had afternoon tea at the justly renowned Sarabeth's. And then I got a laugh out of this New York Times article: With $3.50 and a Dream, the 'Anti-Christo' Is Born. \

Announcements II

1. Gacked from my friend Nadia's LiveJournal, Fox News Channel is seeking a fact writer. Not a fact checker or a fact editor, mind you -- a fact WRITER. "Responsibilities include writing on-air facts and press conference quotes for daytime programming. . . . A successful candidate will have the ability to write in a concise, conversational and colorful style at an extremely fast pace. Fox News is an Equal Opportunity Employer."

I wonder what kind of political bias tests they run before they hire you. Word-association games, maybe, where they say "Donald Rumsfeld" and you say -- "God"? "Gerald Ford"? "automatic signing machine"? "Poetry"? Or maybe they put you on a blood-pressure monitor and hold up pictures of Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, Karl Rove, barbecue, foie gras, puppies, kittens, etc. to see what gets you going.

2. I am pleased to announce two recent awards for Arthur A. Levine Books. First, Ana Juan has won the 2005 Ezra Jack Keats Award for Illustration for her book The Night Eater -- a book we would consider gorgeous even if we hadn't published it. Second, Kate Constable's The Singer of All Songs has been recognized by the ALA's Amelia Bloomer Project, which honors books with strong female role models and quality feminist content. Congratulations Ana and Kate!

3. I am also pleased to announce that the New York Carleton Club won the 2005 Carleton Nationwide Alumni Trivia Challenge held yesterday! We clinched the victory in the fourth round thanks to solid contributions from club co-chair Hiro Oshima and an unknown young alum who knew that "Sam Fujiyama" was the sidekick on the medical show "Quincy." (Ah, the benefits of a liberal-arts education.) A good time was had by all.

4. Valentine's Day may be over, but the pleasures of "Master and Commander" Valentine's Day cards never cease: To view To send

Happy President's Day, everyone!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Greetings to all who found this blog through Jeremiah's Five Bucks to Friday -- an excellent blog and webcomic I commend to all who did not find this blog through FBtF. I hope everyone is having a good week.

A few announcements:

1. My dear Park Slope United Methodist Church is having a Book Sale next Saturday, February 26, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The church is at the corner of 6th Ave. and 8th St. in Park Slope. This is always a really fabulous event, as the people are friendly, the selection wide-ranging, and the books cheap ($2 for hardcovers, I think) -- everyone in the neighborhood should check it out. If you'd like to donate some old volumes for a good cause, let me know in the comments and I will gladly tell you where and when.

2. It turns out Rice to Riches -- the wonderfully futuristic rice-pudding shop in Soho where I have taken many a New York visitor -- is operated entirely on funds from an illegal sports gambling ring. This continues the trend of beloved institutions in my life becoming associated with organized crime, as I learned late last month that my first employer out of high school, the tiny little CassTel phone company in Peculiar, Mo., was funded by the Gambino crime family. (Woo-hoo! I'm a moll!) Anyway, I really hope they don't close Rice to Riches; not only does it overwhelm you with only-in-New York-iness in its specialization and expense, it is excellent, excellent rice pudding, and one of the few places where you can exercise creativity in your dessert selections since you get to make up cool combinations. And if it's ever revealed that Hampton Chutney Company is actually owned by the Gottis, I am abandoning all faith in mankind.

3. In the trivia department, I bought a new shower curtain. This counts as Announcement-worthy news because it is the first major decorating change I have made in my apartment since, um, 2002 (a new bookshelf and filing cabinet notwithstanding). Yes, we at Brooklyn Arden believe strongly in the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of home decor. Martha would weep.

Monday, February 14, 2005

On Love.

I thought a lot about the poem I wanted to post here for Valentine's Day -- what would best express my current thinking on love and its perils and pleasures. John Donne, Sharon Olds, Stevie Wonder, Barbara Crooker, and many others write purely of how love feels and what it means, or bring up different aspects of the experience worthy of celebration. But in the end, for true love, for individuality, for faith and steadiness and simplicity, I come back to these two. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Sonnet 116
by William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
Oh no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


They Can't Take That Away from Me
lyrics by Ira Gershwin

The way you wear your hat
The way you sip your tea
The memory of all that
No, no, they can't take that away from me

The way your smile just gleams
The way you sing off key
The way you haunt my dreams
No, no, they can't take that away from me

We may never, never meet again
On the bumpy road to love
Still I'll always, always
Keep the memory of

The way you hold your knife
The way we danced till three
The way you changed my life
No, no, they can't take that away from me
No, they can't take that away from me

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Things That Make Me Happy (An Ongoing List)

  • The F train coming out of the tunnel and up the curve on the approach to the Smith & 9th St. subway station
  • My Polarfleece feather boa
  • Paper clips
  • McVitie's, Moon Pies, Thin Mints, s'mores, Oatmeal Creme Pies, brownies, Twix bars
  • The words "pants" and "popemobile"
  • The fact that the word "popemobile" is in the Oxford English Dictionary
  • Twinings Earl Grey with milk
  • My gleaming red cordless phone
  • Chai lattes
  • Swedish Fish
  • Mail

Thursday, February 10, 2005

No Strings Attached

Someone in my building is kind enough to have a wireless connection, so thanks to my lovely new computer (now named Dellawhere), this is being posted . . . THROUGH THE AIR! Such marvelous and interesting times we live in.

I had my book group over for dinner last night, and we discussed Laurie Halse Anderson's fabulous new novel Prom and ate pancakes. The pancakes were universally acclaimed, so I thought I would post the recipe (taken from another book for youngish readers, Deborah Hopkinson's delightful Fannie in the Kitchen, illustrated by Nancy Farmer):

Fannie Farmer's Famous Griddle Cakes

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1 egg
2 cups milk
2 tbsp melted butter

In a large bowl, mix and sift dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg, add milk, and pour this slowly on the dry mixture. Beat everything together thoroughly and add the butter. Drop by spoonfuls (I use a soup ladle) on a greased hot griddle. When one side is puffed full of bubbles in the center and cooked on the edges, turn and cook on the other side. Serve with butter, syrup, and whatever toppings you choose.

I would also like to report that I am happy to play e-scrabble with anyone who would care to challenge me. Anyone? Anyone?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Five Good Links

A poem by Raymond Carver: Happiness
An excellent recipe, mentioned below: Cranberry chicken
The Llama Song
The brand-new Arthur A. Levine Books website

The 2005 Resolution List, Annotated

TO DO IN 2005

Live deeply, joyfully, passionately, and well.

Cook a proper dinner for a friend once a month.
I made cranberry chicken for Ben on January 31 and I'm having my book group over for pancakes this Tuesday. . . . March-December is still open, though, so if you'd like to invite yourself over, I'm happy to cook!
Spend three minutes cleaning before going to bed.
Keep a plant alive all year.
My new plant is a philodendron named Philomena Loveday. So far, so good.
Save one thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars.
Run at least three miles once a week.
Send more mail.
When I got my beloved new filing cabinet and I was organizing all the notes and letters from friends I've saved over the years, I decided I wanted to send more mail too.
No excuses, no fear.

Watch a sunrise and a sunset.
Go rock climbing and kayaking.

Rock climbing was on last year's list and I never did it, and the city offers free kayaking lessons on the Hudson piers in the summer.
Picnic and play Scrabble in Bryant Park.
I've wanted to do this for years.
Visit Montauk Point.
The Exploration Resolution for the year to the northeast tip of Long Island, to parallel my 2004 trip to Breezy Point (one of the southwesternmost points of Long Island).
Touch toes with ease.
Rewrite and submit “Falling in Love” talk to a magazine.
This is my talk about how finding a publisher is like falling in love: an arduous but rewarding process where you try to find the right match.
Write a bad novel.
Try four new cuisines.
I've already had Austrian, and I have Filipino, Russian, and Senegalese in my sights.
Learn to knit/crochet.
Negative capability.

The Iliad
The Brothers Karamazov
Daniel Deronda
Midnight’s Children

Friday, February 04, 2005

Today is the two-year anniversary of my last post to this blog: February 4, 2003. I am reinvigorating it now because I seem to have gotten in the habit of writing out various thoughts and observations and I don't want to lose that pleasure. As E. M. Forster says, "I know what I think when I see what I say," and so I shall see what I say, huzzah.

Today is also the two-year anniversary of the death of my grandmother: Carol Jean Sadler, 1937-2003. In honor of her, a poem. She was a great fan of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and also quite fond of talking about her high school boyfriends, so the text is not as inappropriate as it appears. My grandmother also bought me the laptop I've used the last four and a half years, and this is my first night with the lovely new laptop I've bought myself, so the timing of this message seems appropriate as well.

Life of late has mostly consisted of work: reading manuscripts; reviewing production passes of The Legend of the Wandering King, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, and the Book-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named; and arranging a reception at the Swedish consulate for my beautiful, beautiful Red Bird. I got to go to a reception at the consulate last night for the author Henning Mankell, and afterward to a screening of a movie based on his latest novel, Before the Frost. The movie was a little like "CSI: Sweden," but the characterizations were interesting, so I think I should like to read more of Mr. Mankell's work. Plus I had interesting conversations with a Swedish translator, a nice young jacket designer for Knopf, and Andre Schiffrin -- and I will leave it to my readers to suppose which of those contacts I found most delightful. :-)