"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans."
- usually attributed to John Lennon, but actually first coined by Allen Saunders.
That sure as hell has been true for me this year.
Here it is: my wife asked for a divorce July 1. We are still working out the legal, financial and other stuff, but for all practical purposes, I'm suddenly single again. Yay.
I've kept it as mum as possible, but a co-worker just outright asked when she noticed I don't wear a ring anymore. The other day she remarked how it seems to her that this seems to be a current trend (anecdotally): wives divorcing husbands after several years, and not based on anything other than "I don't want to be married anymore." Several of my buddies and a couple guys from work have been or are going through this, too, so having her confirm what I'd already been thinking was strangely comforting. I'm considering forming a club, and of course we'll have to have t-shirts. An informal poll has already ruled out "Kicked to the Curb," so the hunt for a pithy club motto continues for now.
In addition, around that time (July) I had a massive outbreak of psoriasis (the liver thing is "cirrhosis" and not related, to head off the oft-asked question), so I was covered in scary-looking red welts. Children in the checkout line would stare and tug at their mom's clothing to point me out. The dermatologist tried everything in her arsenal and finally recommended really hardcore drugs reserved for cancer patients and tried-everything-else arthritis patients, both which came with the dire warning that they essentially shut off your immune system, so if you catch something ... I opted for remaining a rash rave. (A couple months later, she found a cream which did the job of making me mostly human again.)
Then, one of my best buddies ever died suddenly of a heart attack. I talked about this in my last post, but let me tell you how I found out:
So, there I was, about a week after my wife's announcement, sitting out front of the house (as red as the devil from my psoriasis) watching my 8-year-old bomb around on her bike, sipping cold, frothy comfort. My friends and neighbors from my social group all began to pour down the block, all of them stopping to ask if I was coming to the party. (Some also asking what the hell had happened with the red skin and all, one smart-ass inquiring if I had enough butter to handle the situation.) I said I hadn't heard of a party. (Not everyone gets invited to all the parties as sometimes the host wants to keep it small, so I just assumed I'd not been invited to this one.) Some of them said they'd seen me on the email. So, I went inside to see if I'd missed a memo, as they say. While hunting for the invite, I came across an email from a mutual friend that my buddy had died. And sure enough, I'd been invited (though the original invite was to meet everyone in downtown Denver, which is over an hour away and an expensive pain in the ass, so I usually send my regrets - but they had changed it at the last minute to their house). The guy throwing the party knocked on the door as I was reading the email about my buddy and gave me a kind rash of shit for not coming to his party and I'd better get my ass down there.
No one yet knew about the divorce, I was fresh in the shock of losing a close friend, many hadn't seen my lovely new crimson upholstering, and there I was getting me and my daughter ready for a party. Luckily it was a beautiful day, everyone was in high spirits, and my cartoon-character appearance (or "mid-transition to super-hero" appearance, your pick) allowed for a great foil to not have to broach the other two sad topics. Smokey Robinson songs bonging in my head helped get me through as well, with Bob Dylan taking a few turns.
The next day, I was doing my usual Saturday morning surfing (does anyone call it that anymore?), and I found this:
Laugh. Thought I'd die.
This has been my personal motto thus far this year.
Well, enough of that shite. Time to keep going.
My fiction consumption continues to trail non-fiction, but read a couple I enjoyed the hell out of.
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is the sequel to The Shining, though only in the sense that any episode of a TV show is the sequel to another. It's not remotely scary, as The Shining was. I had to stop reading that thing when I was alone after the sun was down, for crying out loud. But King has addressed the totally not scary thing in many recent interviews with typical self-effacing aplomb. (Short version, and I paraphrase: it was easy to scare you when you were 15, but now you're a jaded old fart, what's a guy to do?) When you're past that it's just (some of) the characters from the first book and it's not scary, it's fun. (It will not covert anyone who's not a King, fan, though.)
Another good one I read sometime this summer and really liked was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Get me with a good twist and you have me forever. This book is so twisty you begin to feel like Dorothy moments before she squashes a witch with her house. At least twice the perspective on the events change so drastically it's like discovering you're in the Matrix or Inception or both at the same time, and while someone less guileless than I might see the twists coming, I had the true joy of: holy shite I didn't expect that! And the ending; oh, the ending. When you read the Amazon comments so many fret and fume over it. Google will turn up large discussions over it. Personally, it made me grin. I didn't see it coming either because stories like this don't end this way. So good on Gillian Flynn. (They're already filming the flick starring Batman, er, Ben Affleck, so read it before it's in a theatre near you.)
Donald Fagen decided to shock the world again, but not with wondrous glossy instant classic tunes, but a quasi-autobiography! Not much of a surprise, but he's a funny, erudite writer! Music fans will enjoy, and for Steely Dan and Donald fans, this is a must-read.
Jack Nicholson was the subject of a new bio by Marc Eliot (who has a spotty record in his chosen profession, fwiw). Turns out Jack is a guy who struggles with being fat and bald. In the meantime, he's made some great flicks. This bio just reaffirmed what most of the bios I've read about artists (and most people): they never feel they are successful, that they're never where they want to be, and that they don't have what they want. So, even Jack Nicholson has had many dark tea-times of the soul. And scads of pussy.
Linda Ronstadt's autobiography was long on her thoughts about music and singing (and she makes it interesting), but not more than a sentence about her boyfriends and lovers. So: fail. In Jack's bio and Rod Stewart's autobio, while most of the time prurient details are left out, at least we get an occasional name. And not even all of them, just the greatest hits (heh heh). So, the woman who famously supposedly didn't marry George Lucas doesn't even use the name "George" in the entire book. When I mentioned this to two of the female librarians when I returned the the book, they both gave me the WTF? reaction. We'll have to leave it to someone else to provide this story.
Some other media brought Chuck Klosterman to my attention, and I discovered a new favorite writer. I tried an older book of his and felt is was somewhat dated and filled with the musings of a young man adrift in the detritus of that stage of life (which all of us guys do, I'm not disparaging it; also, the journey of young men seems to differ enough from that of young women so I'm being specific to my gender in that judgement).
Then I got his latest, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined), and found it much more to my liking. Best of all his writing has improved dramatically. One of my singular joys in life is finding a writer who gets exponentially better. His regular article "The Ethicist" is found here.
His premise is "The villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least." If that intrigues, check out the book. I agree with most of his points, but it's still more of a philosophical exploration of the notion of evil. I contend that The People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck grapples with the reality of evil in a more concrete fashion.
I picked up The Girl With No Name: The Incredible True Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys by Lynne Barrett-Lee and Marina Chapman due to the title alone, thinking this had to be BS. But Edgar Rice Burroughs was apparently prescient, because the story plays out like the beginning of Tarzan, down to the detail of her trying to use vines to move through the jungle (she was too heavy). The first-person perspective of this story makes it so gripping, because she addresses what it was like to live without language, or even think in language, for much of her young life. Her attempts to rescue herself are heartbreaking. The part about "grandpa" monkey saving her from poisoning was the highlight for me. And, of course, as a father, the thought of a 5-year-old fending for herself in the jungles of South America just breaks my heart.
This article, Chick Lit vs. Dude Lit, springs off the supposed snark-fest this year between chick and dude authors for a few smiles at everyone's expense.
You may have noticed I don't talk about sports much, and that's because I'm utterly lacking the sports gene. Perhaps because of that, when my taxes go to sport franchises, I experience what wingnuts report feeling when they believe their taxes are going to "takers," as they call them in their tea-bagger, Ayn Randian (,deeply fucked up and cruel) view of the world (except mine re sports franchises is based on facts). This week as I've Christmas shopped, I've had to go to some stores that are included in the taxing area for the Denver's "Sports Authority Field at Mile High" stadium, so the sales taxes nearly double. (We had a perfectly good, and even famous, stadium called "Mile High Stadium" when I moved to Colorado, but the Broncos, like all the other football teams around the nation, hinted they would leave if we didn't build them a new stadium. Those who know about these things claimed the stadium was in great shape and would've lasted for decades to come, but the owner had sold all the private boxes and wanted to reap those dividends again, so presto a new sports stadium.)
Then I read this (via kottke.org). Talk about pissed for days. Every time I think about this, my mind goes into a Lewis Black rant.
TLD: Lewis Black hangs out a lot with one of the funniest comediennes around: Kathleen Madigan, who's Gone Madigan is not to be missed. If you have Netflix streaming, it's on there. Another gem on Netflix is Iliza Shlesinger: War Paint. My daughter and I laughed and laughed. She's made all of her friends watch it. After reading the tax thing above, these should talk you back from the ledge.
In music my latest favorite discovery is an album from 2008: Carolina Liar Coming to Terms. It's one of those rare, not-a-bad-song-on-it albums. Click the Grooveshark link on the sidebar to the right and check it out yourself.
I also dig this trance-tastic EP by Tei Shi, Saudade (which means this). The music and video site Gorilla vs. Bear is a great source of new tunes, for honest and true. Their monthly mixes are free, awesome, and always come with a track listing so if you need to free up a song for a mix CD (with Audacity), you can find the track and extract.
Another great music site is portable.tv's music site. Their list of the best songs of 2013 is eclectic, snob-free, and pretty good. NPR has a best album list, but I've not gotten through it myself as yet. I love how they have the recommender holding the album in the picture - strangely charming.
And here's your Christmas(/Hanukkah/Festivus) present (that I found on portable.tv's list above), the beautiful long jam: Kurt Vile's "Wakin on a Pretty Day". (Right-click on the link on the page to download.) Portable.tv's comment on the song is dead-on and hilarious: "There’s a 90% chance that every guy with Jesus hair and headphones is listening to this right now." (I have Jesus hair at the moment. And headphones.)
The two movies that I will carry in memory from this year, and probably on my DVD rack, are Gravity and Frozen. While I loved the two end of the world movies, and waded through the disappointment (and sheer boredom) of the long-awaited Ender's Game, Gravity and Frozen are the classics that will emerge from this year.
Gravity in particular was one of those movie experiences I jones for. I don't think I took a deep breath throughout. The eyes got sweaty a couple times. My eldest said the same thing. This movie blew my mind and touched my heart without my permission. It's now in my personal top 10.
Don't read this until you see Gravity, but here's some insight on how it was made. Also for viewing after, the other side of the distress call, directed by the director's son (who co-wrote the movie).
If you don't have kids as a reason to go see Frozen, borrow some, or just bring a bunch of buddies who will endure the slight embarrassment of grown-ups going by themselves. When the Ice Queen belts her "I want" song (voiced by Idina Menzel of green Wicked fame), I got goosebumps on top of my chills (which you get when watching a movie set in deep winter). And, like most, I loved the twist.
I don't watch a lot of broadcast TV anymore, and when I do, I skip over the 20 minute commercial breaks, therefore I missed this:
Which I was directed to after watching this: [which was removed, and the Jimmy Fallon show on NBC didn't post it as a highlight....the mind boggles]
Replacement link: Lip-Sync Off With Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Guitar friends and neighbors, this is awesome:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!