Saturday, August 16, 2008

Meet the New Blog, Same as the Old Blog

Come by and visit us at our new home!

Thank you so much for all your support.


The Readers

Monday, June 23, 2008

Reconstruction in Progress

We will return shortly with a brand-new look and URL.

It's summer...what the heck are you doing inside?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

NBLB at The Airport

This entry was written during a layover in San Francisco Airport, which explains all the travel-related content. I could’ve posted this right away if not for the fact that the WiFi situation at SFO wasn’t so blatantly sucky. (Obviously I miss the free WiFi in Honolulu and Portland – heh.)

Just finished reading: It’s Called A Breakup Because It’s Broken – the book written by that guy from He’s Just Not That Into You. Yeah, I was supposed to catch up on my Mayle and Coelho and McEwan, but I thought that a frothy self-help book about separation anxieties should send the appropriate “don’t talk to me, I’m sleep-deprived” message to any prospective seatmates. (As if the coffee-stained inflatable neck pillow covered in cat hair wasn’t enough…) Not to mention that the advice and dating horror stories are funny as all get-out.

Speaking of prospective seatmates: No, I have not met that Sudoku-toting twin to Gerard Butler at all – and the closest I may have been to doing so must have been that one guy in the Detroit-SFO leg who I swear could be the missing link between Hugh Laurie (aesthetically) and Howdy Doody (vocally), who was reading The World Is Flat while patiently enduring the cute but noisy (and obviously unrelated) baby next to him. Luckily for him, he came armed with $3 Twizzlers, which said baby chewed on with reckless abandon.

Currently reading: This month’s edition of Real Simple, which promises “Easy Organizing: 99 Affordable Ideas” and “35 great summer reads.” (Still haven’t gotten around to reading either article, however.) Was tempted by O (with Oprah promising a similar review of summer reads) and Allure (Reader’s Awards for makeup, yes; Jessica Alba, meh) – but, hey, shows you where my priorities are right now.

(Postscript: Yeah, way to go, Real Simple, for putting authors together to recommend summer reads. Liz Gilbert’s recs are a gas, as are Sophie Kinsella's… but will somebody please serve Danielle Steel a tall glass of Shut Up? Or at least send her to the same Catholic parish where Anne Rice got her conversion, because I don’t think Joel Osteen is curing D. of her dullness problem.)

Buyer’s remorse: I really should have bought American Gods as a parting gift for Scribe as soon as I saw it selling for $4 on paperback at Mac’s Backs, but apparently it got snapped up while I wasn’t looking. ;) I also regret passing up Sammy’s Hill at Applewood Books… although, to be fair, I thought they’d be selling it for cheaper at Mac’s and Half-Price Books anyway, since it’s been out for years and Kristin Gore already wrote a sequel since then. (The Sammy books, however, will end up in my Must Borrow list -- next to Mort by Terry Pratchett.)

Buyer’s remorse, part 2: Four words – Powell’s City of Books. Apparently the main branch in Portland (OR) has four floors’ worth of books on sale. If I ever decide to spend more than 5 hours in Portland outside of PDX, I am SO going there.

Nicest airport employee: The clerk at SFO’s Aviator Bookstore actually saved my butt when I realized I left my Ziploc of liquid items at her cashier stand. “I was looking for you,” she told me as she handed the baggy to me. Score!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For Those of You Scoring At Home: Truths, Dares, and Consequences

Grab a blanket, sister, we’ll make smoke signals
Bring in some new blood
It feels like we’re alone
Grab a blanket, brother, so we don’t catch cold
from one another
Oh, I wonder if we’re stuck in Rome

- Nickel Creek, "When in Rome"

I know it's kind of weird for an apolitical centrist like me to wring my hands over a man who's old enough to be my father - but that's to be expected, isn't it? I mean, how on earth does a guy go from coming up with the SportsCenter catchphrases of my generation to becoming famous for, as the subtitle of Truth and Consequences suggests, "Special Comments on The Bush Administration's War on American Values" ? More so, how does he get off on willingly playing the role of liberal pariah in an ocean of conservative talking heads?

I mean, I get the comparisons to Howard Beale - I can't even watch those clips of Countdown without throwing my fingers over my eyes, as if that would protect me from the blistering content of every newscast. I get that he's just as confused as I am over the turn of events - that a regular person like him or me should care about yellowcake uranium or Valerie Plame, but not in the shoddy, sloppy way that these stories have been shown by all the major news channels.

And, hello: I know that Keith Olbermann graduated from Cornell. It's one of those factoids I'm supposed to know about him, as a fangirl - no different from knowing that, say, he once rushed home late from Shea Stadium and ended up faceplanting against a subway car, resulting in a permanent loss of depth perception that has rendered him unable to drive for the rest of his life.

(...What? He did admit it once before, on-air.)

What I don't get, however, is why on earth he has made this - the whole "liberal-voice-in-the-wasteland" role he's playing for MSNBC - his particular cross to bear.

Reading the written, transcripted versions of his anti-Bush jeremiads in Truth and Consequences still doesn't make them any less vitriolic. Most times he sounds too much like Captain Ahab, casting his net too far and too wide to bring down the bloated old Republican beast - and, in case you've had doubts about his objectivity, he even tears down a few Democrats in the process as well. Sometimes he sounds like the people I knew in college - the ones who were so fired up by their idealism that they're always on the verge of totally diving off the deep end.

And sometimes, even when I know that he could be on to something, I fear that, unfortunately, he has fallen off the deep end. Which is where the hand-wringing begins, and I find myself muttering, as Mary has done in The Passion of the Christ: "When, where, how... will [y]ou choose to be delivered of this?"

But then, there are moments when the harpoons do hit the target where it truly hurts.

Consider, for example, the devastating introduction, where he starts with the announcement of David Bloom's death, and subsequently sought comfort - as he only knew how - in a baseball game, "where I could dial back the pain through the simple ritual of folding up my scorecard and then filing out of the ballpark to the subway." Consider his prefaces to the first Special Comment on Katrina - which, in retrospect, was actually buried in the hype by Anderson Cooper's no less subtle emotional response - and his speech at the very site of Ground Zero on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Consider, even, this blistering critique of a speech delivered by Newt Gingrich (really!) in, of all places, an event celebrating the First Amendment:
What a dark place your world must be, Mr. Gingrich, where the way to save America is to destroy America. I will awaken every day of my life thankful that I am not with you in that dark place.

And I will awaken every day of my life thankful that you are entitled to tell me about it. And that you are entitled to show me what an evil idea it represents, and what a cynical mind. And that you are entitled to do all that, thanks to the very freedoms you seek to suffocate.

Come to think of it, for all the sound and fury about the Special Comment, what I appreciate the most about Keith Olbermann - and, if Truth and Consequences is an indication, what I fear he might lose - are those moments when he realizes that he doesn't have to play the prophet. He does, after all, note "the unavoidable symbolism provided by the reality that [Mr. Gingrich] answers to the name 'Newt.' " His skewering of Rudy Giuliani is prefaced with a hilariously dishy story of "America's Mayor" introducing him at the banquet by promptly forgetting his name. He even admits that he includes camera placement and blocking to the list of considerations for his Special Comments.

Perhaps my own favorite moment of Truth and Consequences, however, happens to be the one that tells the most about Keith Olbermann, the person: the preface where he talks about his own fake-anthrax scare, which began with an envelope and a letter covered in "grainy, shiny, powdery stuff" - and ends, one sleepless night later, with Hazmat suits, decontaminant showers, widespread police investigations, and a maliciously gossipy piece on Page Six of the New York Post that threatened, if anything else, to expose him as the hysterical ninny - even though the culprit's arrest, a few days later, revealed that similar letters had been sent to his fellow "demagogues" David Letterman and Jon Stewart.

Amidst the gallows humor and the possibility that the suspect was a loser who "lived in his mom's basement and thought Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and Katherine Harris were the three hottest women in America," there are glimpses of humanity. He's worrying over his girlfriend, who was about to move in with him "into the very room where the powder had spilled..." (And here's the part where I sigh in relief, knowing that my longtime brain-crush has finally fallen in love - who woulda thunk it?) He's worrying about his neighbors, and whether or not they too may have been contaminated if the powder was, indeed, what he thought it was, even as he hoped that "nearly all the contents" of the envelope had been sealed and remained intact in the Ziploc bag where he'd sealed it: "But nearly, of course, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and threatening letters with white powder in them."

(Ironically, this anthrax scare "nearly" echoes, in my mind, another life-changing event for a TV personality: David Letterman's coronary bypass. Knowing how that bypass affected Dave, however, I can't help but wonder if there are plans to get cracking on bringing about an Olberspawn...)

Somehow, lest any one of us - even Keith himself - would actually believe all the quasi-Messianic comparisons to Howard Beale, the words of Oliver Cromwell continue to ring true:

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

Love Letters from Strange Men

First up, from MSN and the Associated Press: That book from the Sex and the City movie, with all the love letters? Nonexistent.

The closest text in the real world apparently is "Love Letters of Great Men and Women: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day," first released in the 1920s and reissued last year by Kessinger Publishing, which specializes in bringing back old works.


Enough readers have been directed to the Kessinger anthology [...] that it ranked No. 134 on on Tuesday afternoon.

Personally, I'd prefer to just point you in the direction of Beethoven's original love letter to the "Immortal Beloved"... or, better yet, to a DVD of Immortal Beloved, which I still think is a brilliantly gorgeous movie.
Also, as somebody who watched Sex and the City with The Scribe last weekend, I beseech you: If you're going to plan that over-the-top wedding anyway - especially if there's a high chance of betrayal by your intended - pleeeaaaase don't do it at your local public library. Thank you.


Speaking of love letters from strange men - albeit a different kind of "love" letter altogether:

I just started reading Truth and Consequences yesterday. Oddly enough, it also coincided with the day of my first baseball game ever - Indians vs. Twins with the Scribes (and Mr. Scribe's mom) at Progressive Field.

First impressions - of the book, not the baseball game: The introductory chapter, where Keith Olbermann goes to the stadium after finding out about David Bloom's death in Iraq? Devastating. The rest... well, it is a compilation of his blistering Special Comments from his MSNBC show (prior to the one delivered above), so the great bulk of it would be familiar to Olberfans and news junkies alike - but I, personally, am more interested in the post-fact prefaces that he writes at the beginning of each chapter, which I think gives more insight into the workings of the man's brain. He's a twisted number, all right... but an insanely talented one, which makes the whole deal more frustrating.

Of course, I'm speaking as somebody who thinks Keith Olbermann would make a brilliant real-life analog of Mr. Big. But that's a discussion I'm saving for the full review. ;)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Portrait of An Artist as a Young Woman: Anita Amirrezvani's The Blood of Flowers

First there wasn't and then there was. Before God no one was.

Under the brilliant reign of Shah Abbas the Great, Iran flourished, its minarets casting long shadows over busy bazaars filled with peoples from every civilized point of the world, mullahs calling out prayers above a gorgeous mix of cultures, swirling like the intricate knots in its celebrated carpets, the objects inspiring Anita Amirrezvani's Scheherazade of colors and patterns, a talented, dangerously impulsive narrator without a name, a simple village girl who must adapt to the temptations and glories of the Shah's capital Isfahan in the early 1600s.

The novel begins with a curse from the sky. A comet streaks through her village, leaving cosmic destruction in its wake. It seems our heroine is destined for ruin...but she defies the stars at every turn, to the dismay of her passive, traditional mother. This is a kohl-rimmed peek into a jeweled world of women's rivalries, hopes and dreams, veiled struggles in a male-dominated society. Left without a father protector, the young girl and her mother must throw themselves at the feet of a wealthy relative, dependent on his charity and the malicious schemes of his wife. Traditions trapped and protected women - from the sensual mystery created by chadors; to marriage contracts that brought impoverished brides into temporary sigheh unions in exchange for money. We see all sorts of women: our ambitious heroine, her long-suffering mother, her greedy aunt Godiyeh, her pampered cousins, and the sad, steely Naheed, her best friend and surprising rival for one man's capricious affections. It was not easy being a girl, whatever station in life. Especially one as determined as our narrator, who longed to take her place among the celebrated carpet designers employed by the Shah himself.

There are a lot of obstacles - most created by our impatient heroine, whose desperate need to be free of an unwanted marriage contract costs her the comforts of her uncle's home. Sometimes I wanted to cheer her on...and many times, I wanted to throw the book across the room in frustration over her foolishness. I felt like a parent watching over a headstrong daughter - she had to make her mistakes to succeed...but what mistakes! What tangles she creates with such horrible decisions! As she realizes how her actions prevented her from realizing her full potential as an artist, our heroine's bad luck star fades into the deep indigo of the desert sky. She learns to accept who she is.

I will never inscribe my name in a carpet like the masters in the royal rug workshop who are honored for their great skill. I will never learn to knot a man's eye so precisely it looks real, nor design rugs with layers of patterns so intricate that they could confound the greatest of mathematicians. But I have devised designs of my own, which people will cherish for years to come. When they sit on one of my carpets, their hips touching the earth, their back elongated, the crown of their head lifted toward the sky, they will be soothed, refreshed, transformed. My heart will touch theirs and we will be as one, even I am dust, even though they will never know my name.

Tradition provides the loom, her mother's stories as yarns of experience. But only her nimble fingers, her own efforts, could create the designs, the tiny knots holding her life together. It was her choice, in the end, to be happy. The story ends within another story, and we have no picture of her hand in hand with a handsome suitor - a traditional happy ending. Instead, we have a clear vision of an artist finally coming into her own.

I could not guess what fate promised me, but I knew I would strive to make a good life...I thought of my father, and his love coursed through me like a river. As I began to fall asleep, I could hear him giving me advice. He said, "Put your faith in God, but always fasten your camel's leg."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

We'll Cross the Bridge When We Get There...

...but until we can gather more content while I'm still here in Cleveland, enjoy this real-time video of a now-familiar sight along the Flats of the Cuyahoga River.

(BTW: The Scribe did take me to Coventry Library and Mac's Backs in her Cleveland Heights neighborhood. It was AWESOME. We also found some breathtaking Annie Leibovitz books at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and are about to make a pilgrimage to the Cleveland Public Library soon. Also, there may be a vlog and a possible page redesign in the future.)