Friday, January 30, 2009

Tim O'Brien

A few reasons Tim O'Brien is one of the best writers I've ever read.

(from July, July):

"The reunion dance had started only an hour ago, but already a good many of the dancers were tipsy, and most others were well along, and now the gossip was flowing and confessions were under way and old flames were being extinguished and rekindled under cardboard stars in the Darton Hall College gymnasium."

"'You and me, our whole dreamy generation. Used to be, we'd talk about the Geneva Accords, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Now it's down to liposuction and ex-husbands. Can't trust anybody over sixty.' Amy shook her head. For a few seconds she tapped her empty glass against the table. 'And you know the worst part? Here's the absolute worst part. Our old-fogy parents -- yours and mine, everybody's -- they didn't know jack about jack. Couldn't spell Hanoi if you spotted them the vowels. But one thing they did know, they knew damn well where we'd end up. They knew where all the roads go.'"

"It was a vicious summer: frantic music, frantic sex, chemicals in the sugar, felons in the White House, predators in public places, B-52s dropping death all over Southeast Asia. Jan Huebner expected the worst, and 1969 delivered."

"The war went on. People ate Raisin Bran. There were new orphans and widows and Gold Star mothers. Three thousand and twenty American soldiers died that summer, and more than seven thousand Vietnamese. People took aspirin for their headaches. People requested doggie bags at fancy restaurants. Dow Chemical made a killing. From sea to sea, along country roads, in great sleeping cities, there were petty jealousies and grocery lists and erotic fantasies and upset stomachs. The earth kept spinning. In the second week of August, Jan Huebner learned that one of her classmates at Darton Hall had been gravely wounded along a river called the Song Tra Ky. Another classmate now lived in Winnipeg, alone and afraid, nursing grudges that would harden into hatred over the coming decades. Elsewhere, in imagination or in fact, the nation's youth began converging on forty acres of farmland outside Woodstock, New York. Sharon Tate had been dead less than a week. Sanitation workers in Manhattan were sweeping up Neil Armstrong's ticker tape. But for Jan Huebner, as for most others, the summer of 1969 would later call to mind not headlines, nor global politics, not even a war, but small, modest memories of small, modest things: rumpled beds and ringing telephones and birthday cakes and dirty pictures and catchy tunes about everyday people. There was a fatal Ferris wheel accident in Oregon. There were Krazy Day sales on a thousand sun-drenched Main Streets. Jan Huebner met her husband. Summer ended, autumn came. Football season. Darton Hall lost its opener. And while people perished on the far side of the planet, other people had their teeth filled, and filed for divorce, and made love in parked cars. Freshman were oriented. The Mets were on a roll. Small, simple things, yes, but as in some great nationwide darkroom, the most ordinary human snapshots would be fixed in memory by the acidic wash of war -- the music, the lingo, the evening news."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Letters to my TV shows

Because my New Year's resolution is to be more social, I keep missing my TV shows, and I've been terrible at keeping up with them via DVR. But I do have a few thoughts I'd like to share...

1) Heroes. Don't even start with me, Heroes. You're kidding me, right? You are the boy who cried wolf. After your fantabulous first season and your completely crappy second season, you went running all over the place telling every reporter who would listen that you were going to be back on your game for season three and everyone was going to be amazed. I have one thing to say to you. Fail. And now you want us to believe you again? That volume 4 ("Fugitives") is going to be the best thing ever and we're all going to want to tune in every week even though you're on against 24, The Bachelor, One Tree Hill... uhh... Bromance?... Kyle XY?... a rerun of Wife Swap?... even that godforsaken Two and A Half Men -- I don't watch it, but clearly someone does, unless Nielsen himself is rigging the ratings -- need I go on? Give me a break. You've gotta prove yourself to me, Heroes, and you will be doing it via Netflix DVD after the season is finished. Nice try.

2) Lost. Okay, Lost -- I call uncle. Very clever. I am literally getting lost. Ha ha. You win. Don't get me wrong, I still love the format of the show, and I know you must be driving toward something because the show has a set end date, so I am hanging in there. But... to be honest, you started to lose me with all the time traveling that started in the fall. Why??? Was this part of the plan all along? Or is this a gimmick you are using to keep everyone confused? There's a difference between the kind of mystery you used to conjure and the kind you're creating this season. Because in my opinion the real mystery now is why on earth you decided to rely so heavily on time travel (first forward, then back, now all over the place?) this season. Did you just decide that whole island thing was played out? And now you're introducing new characters off the island? It's a bit much for me. I will keep watching -- but Lost, you are officially on notice.

3) 24. Yeah, don't get too conceited that I mentioned you above, 24. Because you are on thin ice with me as well. I have to give it to you - this season is much better than last season. (Last season was pathetic. I mean, honestly.) But where's the old adrenaline rush? You keep making the storylines so convoluted. I want action! I want adventure! I want Jack Bauer jumping off something and screaming "THERE'S NO TIME!!!!" And most importantly, I want Chloe. I know that 24 characters disappear faster than you can say terrorist attack. But Chloe is in this season, but not really in it. And that is really frustrating. (Why would you bother having an entire episode without her, if she is still in the cast??) And more than that, we are NOT fooled by this little bait-and-switch you are trying to pull with Janeane Garofalo. She is no Chloe, no matter how many irritated faces she makes. Smooth move, but no dice. However, I have to give you props for bringing back Tony. We all love Tony. Can you bring back Nina too? Now THAT would be a storyline. (You get more and more like The X-Files every day, 24. Pretty soon you're going to replace Jack Bauer with a one-armed Russian and expect us to all smile and stay tuned.)

4) The Office: You are essentially my hilarious best friend, and right now we are in a fight. Because you are half ass-ing it, and I don't appreciate that at all. Half of every episode is funny. Half. Which I can accept from a mediocre sitcom with a laugh track. But with you it used to be all hilarity all the time! What happened? I was downright pissed at you last season. This season is better, yes. But where's the old Office? Where's my season 2 cast? I still see it every week in Dwight. But what happened to some of the other characters? Angela getting with Andy? Come on. And Jim and Pam?! It's not even just that there's no sexual tension now that they are together. They aren't even the same characters anymore. Why are you doing this to me? Please step it up. You are still one of the best shows on TV... but I want my Thursday nights to be awesome again.

5) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: WHY aren't you back from hiatus?? You are seriously killing me. I feel like I'm being "punked out by a couple of hippies," as you say. It's making me sad. Please get off your bar stools and start writing some scripts so you can come back on the air, because right now you (and 30 Rock) are my saving grace.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


My friend send this film short to me today with the subject line: "Hope."

(Sorry that it's split into two parts, I'm not sure why. Also, if you want to watch it in better quality, there's a link to it on Facebook below.)

Watch on Facebook

Friday, January 23, 2009

Double Jeopardy?

Arrested Development quote of the day:

George Sr.: They cannot arrest a husband and wife for the same crime.
Michael: Yeah? I don't think that that's true, dad.
George Sr.: Really? I've got the worst (BLEEP) attorneys!

When does the movie come out? I can't wait. Canceling that show is still the worst decision that TV ever made.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Note from the Universe

This is the "Note from the Universe" that was in my inbox today. It's a good one:

When in doubt, Lisa, show up early. Think less. Feel more. Ask once. Give thanks often. Expect the best. Appreciate everything. Never give up. Make it fun. Lead. Invent. Regroup. Wink. Chill. Smile. And live as if your success was inevitable, and so it shall be.

Happy global domination,
The Universe

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I bought a new Strand bag this weekend, and on my way home, a woman in the elevator with me asked if I work there. I guess my love for Strand has exceeded any kind of normalcy. Regardless, the bag I bought is awesome. (Pic below.) Because it's a Lolita bag. And Lolita is one of my favorite books ever written. Why, you might ask? Read these three passages:

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style."

"My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three."

"I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita."

Nabokov is a genius. I highly recommend this book. Don't be dismayed by its dubious subject matter. If you can get past it, it's worth the read - if only for the prose.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
- President Abraham Lincoln
Inaugural address, March 4, 1865

Monday, January 19, 2009


"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Grey Lady

I just washed newsprint off my hands, recovering from my latest bout with Saturday's New York Times. Hands down the best paper of the week for those in NYC, because we get the NYT Magazine and the Book Review a day early, jammed in the middle of the thick stack of Saturday goodness.

This love for the weekend NYT is making me sad at the moment, thanks to the hard-to-ignore decline of the newspaper industry.

Why does someone so technologically savvy care, you might ask? Because today I learned about the potential cease-fire in Gaza, the heroes of the Miracle on the Hudson and the play-by-play of the day's events, why Will Ferrell decided to take on W on Broadway, how the producers of Lost keep track of the storylines, how a Ponzi scheme from the early '90s is tied to Madoff, the controversy surrounding Andrew Wyeth, why people are throwing eggs and rocks in Lithuania, how black men portrayed on film may have opened doors for Obama, what's happening with Gitmo, how two stars from Weeds are faring on the stage, why the US might be accused of war crimes, which books Caroline Kennedy is most famous for and how her father took on Gov. Wallace over integration... honestly I could go on and on.

Don't get me wrong, I love love love the internet. But it never would have been able to hold my attention on solely the news for this long. I would have been distracted by emails, tweets, ims, ads, wandering thoughts, who knows what. And I would have ended up wasting half the day without realizing where it went, instead of consciously spending it learning valuable information from trusted sources, in order to become a smarter and a more interesting person. It could just be my personal undisciplined surfing habits, yes, but I really don't think so. There's something about reading online that is amazing and convenient and so completely easy, and also incredibly distraction-filled and not fulfilling.

I wouldn't trade for anything. But at the same time, I can't spend more than about a half hour reading on Slate without ending up searching for song lyrics, checking my work email, or Facebook stalking.

I never want my internet taken away from me. It's the best invention ever. But I never want my newspapers taken from me either. Can't we all just get along?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Christina's World

As some of you may know, although I love the arts, I have never been that big of an "art" fan (in terms of paintings, sculptures, etc). I hated art class, and art teachers were never very thrilled by me either.

But a piece of today's news piqued my interest - Andrew Wyeth died today. Of course, until today, I didn't know who Andrew Wyeth was. So why did the news catch my eye? This was the headline: "Andrew Wyeth, 'Christina's World' painter, dies."

Christina's World sounded fascinating to me, so I looked it up. Here's a copy of the painting:

Apparently, Christina was Wyeth's neighbor. She was a strong, independent woman who suffered from polio. And this was her world.

That is so moving to me.

Of course, I just read that this is a famous painting and I apparently live under a rock. But paintings like this make me regret not being more interested in art. Maybe a trip to the museum is due.

"With watercolour, you can pick up the atmosphere, the temperature, the sound of snow shifting through the trees or over the ice of a small pond or against a windowpane. Watercolour perfectly expresses the free side of my nature." - Andrew Wyeth

Thursday, January 15, 2009


A few things I love today:

1) My guitar. Yes. You heard it right. I'm still learning, and I can only play a few songs so far, but it's the best.

2) Crossword puzzles. Obsessed. Always.

3) "True Colors" by Cindi Lauper.

4) My heater. It's freaking cold out there.

5) The pilot who safely landed that plane in the Hudson River, a couple blocks away from my work. I want him as a personal pilot for all of my future flights. (Also, this article from Slate explaining bird strikes and water landings.)

6) This website: "F*** you, penguin."

7) Books, books and more books. I know, old news. Books are always my favorite thing ever. Well, so be it.

8) Tina Fey.

And that rounds out my list for the day. Not a very thrilling post, but true nonetheless.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Smarter planet

The new campaign. I love it.

To see more like this:

To learn more: Smarter Planet

And another cool vid:

Click to see more like this

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Quotable: Rain rain rain edition

It just keeps raining around here. Which inspired me to listen to one of my favorite songs this morning. "Box of Rain" by Grateful Dead...

Walk into splintered sunlight;
Inch your way through dead dreams to another land.
Maybe you're tired and broken;
Your tongue is twisted -
With words half spoken and thoughts unclear...
What do you want me to do, to do for you, to see you through?
A box of rain will ease the pain, and love will see you through.

Just a box of rain - wind and water -
Believe it if you need it, if you don't just pass it on.
Sun and shower - wind and rain -
In and out the window, like a moth before a flame.

It's just a box of rain - I don't know who put it there -
Believe it if you need it, or leave it if you dare.
But it's just a box of rain - or a ribbon for your hair -
Such a long long time to be gone, and a short time to be there.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Clutterly love

I cleaned over the weekend. And yet. I just got home for the night, and I'm sitting in my living room looking at the following scattered about:

- Dry laundry that was previously wet laundry hanging up to dry
- One book lying on my sofa, open (there's another one waiting for me on my nightstand to read in about 5 minutes)
- 5 magazines, 5 coffee table books and the collective writings of Chomsky sitting on my coffee table
- Also on my coffee table - two crossword puzzle books, a crossword puzzle dictionary, one pencil, two pens, two ponytail holders, six bobby pins, incense, potpourri, vitamins, a candle, matches, coasters, and guitar picks
- Underneath my coffee table: about 20 crossword puzzle books, and a newspaper
- A basket full of two things: books about Ogilvy, and Game Cube controllers
- My statistics books from Fordham underneath my desk because I have nowhere to put them but don't want to throw them out
- A shelf full of CD cases and caseless CDs; DVD books so heavy to lift they're sitting on the floor; and TV-on-DVD cases framing my TV
- A million books in all my bookshelves, crying out to me to buy just one more bookcase so I can fill that one up too
- Mail all over my kitchen table
- My guitar, lying on my recliner, waiting to be picked up

And those are just the things catching my eye in my living room. Maybe my clean apartment is more of an organized mess. I need another weekend so I can clean again. But I fear I just never noticed that "clean" to me consists of all these very "Lisa" objects surrounding me with their clutterly love. Alas, such is life.


"Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops."
- Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-five

Sunday, January 4, 2009


One of my favorite poems...

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you
will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

"Spring and Fall: To a Young Child"
Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Butterfly Effect

"You can't change who people are without destroying who they once were." - The Butterfly Effect

Last night, thanks to Netflix, I watched The Butterfly Effect, starring Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart. I'm sure this will be an unpopular opinion with my overly opinionated reader base, but I really really liked it.


I watched the Director's Cut instead of the Theatrical Release. What I did not realize until I finished the film and watched the special features is that the Director's Cut has a very different ending than the movie you all might have seen.

I have to say that after watching the theater-release ending, I wonder whether I would have a different impression of this movie if I hadn't watched the Director's Cut first. The Director's Cut ends the way the script was initially written and the way the story was intended to end, and although it's much less "Hollywood" than the theatrical release (and much more grim and unusual), it's so much more in line with the rest of the film. Frankly although some people were shocked by the Director's Cut ending, I was shocked when I watched the ending shown in theaters. Based on the interviews in the special features, the original script seems to be what intrigued the cast and crew. It's interesting to see how the movie was sanitized in order to be backed by major studios. I understand why, but I have to say that the ending as it was initially intended to be asks bigger questions and makes more sense to me, even in its absurdity.

I generally tend to like the grittier, more powerful storylines and endings, so you shouldn't be surprised that I liked this one, as bizarre as it is. Because this ending is the difference between an unrealistic movie about going back in time to change the past, and a film that explores themes like destiny, genetic psychosis and sacrifice, while asking bigger questions, like what if you had never been born... or what if you were never supposed to be born at all.

Would I have thought the movie was stupid if my first impression of it was what was shown in theaters and on DVD before the Director's Cut was released? Unlike Evan in the film, I can't go back and change it - so I guess I'll never know.


(In case you saw the film already but haven't seen both endings, I've included them below for your viewing pleasure. Sorry about the subtitles. If you haven't watched it yet, SPOILER ALERT! But seriously I don't recommend watching the endings if you haven't seen the movie - first of all because if you ever are going to see the movie, this will ruin it, and secondly because they'll be totally out of context for you.)

Theatrical ending:

Director's Cut ending: