Thursday, March 31, 2011

Looking to western skies

As many of our friends and family already know, Joker and I are planning to move to Colorado this summer.  It's a beautiful place to raise our girls, his work has given him an outstanding opportunity out there, it's closer to my family (including Aunt Jessie who's back in Denver herself!) and the Bug and the Bunny are young enough to make the transition seamlessly.  The cat is now out of the bag at my office as well (or rather, it was forcefully expunged from the bag by a rather indiscreet colleague), so no need to keep it a secret here any longer.

Colorado folks, looking forward to seeing more of you!  New York, Philly and Connecticut friends, we will miss you dearly... and hope to entertain you out west!
So many times I've looked to western skies
Nowhere I go is quite the same
As that sweet home waiting for me
At the end of the day
Details and progress to follow... impending job search, moving logistics... exciting times, these!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the debut novel by Susanna Clarke, and what a triumph it is!  It's an 850-page behemoth that so completely nails the characters, the pacing and the plot it never grows old.  I've described it as a psuedo-historical Harry Potter for adults, meets Jane Austen, meets Infinite Jest, with a little The Master and Margarita thrown in for good measure.  You're probably asking yourself something along the lines of, "How does that possibly make any sense?"  Well, I will tell you.

It's about magic (this is the Potter part).  And it's set in the early 1800s (Austen, with "surprize" and "chuse" and other old-fashioned English-isms).  And there are lots and lots of footnotes - some rather lengthy - citing all these made-up historical texts (about magic) (David Foster Wallace, of course).  And there's a supernatural dude (in this case, a fairy) who totally wreaks havoc on things (Master and Margarita). 

Gilbert Norrell believes himself to be the only practicing magician left in England.  In fact, he has taken great pains to ensure this continues to be true, buying up all the magical texts he can find and squiring them away in his library and discouraging non-practicing (or "theoretical") magicians from continuing to call themselves such.  When he determines the time is right, he leaves his York estate to move to London where he offers his magical skills to assist England in its war with Napoleoon, this in an effort to bring magic back to England.

Meanwhile and elsewhere in England, the young man Jonathan Strange has been thoroughly unable to find a profession with which he can stick for more than a short period of time.  A bizarre encounter with a seemingly insane vagrant leads him to believe he is the second of England's magicians, and he pursues the profession with elan.  He seeks out Norrell, convinces the older man to take him as his apprentice and begins his formal magical education.

Mayhem is introduced into the book in the form of the gentleman with thistle-down hair, a fairy who develops strong and unexplained attachments with a couple of English humans, and despises anyone who gets in the way of his goals... the two English magicians in particular.

The book is imaginative, sarcastic and funny, impeccably written and one of the greatest reading pleasures I've enjoyed in years.  I could not recommend it highly enough, and I only hope I didn't spoil anything by my vague description above.  Do yourself a favor and read this book.

Next up: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson, winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize and a gift from my brother.  I'm also reading the manga Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hiyao Miyazaki, the creative genius behind Spirited Away and other wonderful films.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chatty, chatty bang-bang

I was given a hard time the other day about not giving enough updates on what the Bunny's been up to.  So, in an effort to remedy that, here's a little catch-up.

...She's becoming super communicative, which is a little surprising since her vocabulary consists solely of the words "mama," "dada," "happy," "up," "uh-oh," "yeah!" (always said that enthusiastically) and "no."  She answers questions, provided the answer is one of the aforementioned words.  And she's got an unexpectedly deep little voice. 

...She's a huge eater (with the chubby cheeks and round belly to prove it).  She loves fruit (grapes, bananas, berries, melon) and quite a few vegetables (notably members of the squash family, which seems odd).  She gobbles up pasta, bread, pancakes, couscous like it's her last meal.  She's not so big on meat, but I suppose that'll come eventually.

...She loves to dance, and she's got a better spin move than I did when Joker and I met. 

...Which should probably be taken with a grain of salt given she toddles around like a drunken sailor.

...She has a cute little head of curly hair, and I have not a clue how to style it.  When I comb it, she kinda resembles Art Garfunkel circa Bridge over Troubled Water.  So I just let it fluff out, and figure eventually the path will become clear.

...She adores - and emulates - everything her big sister does.  It's pretty awesome.  They love to hug and kiss, though I am at a loss as to why, in a house filled with toys, they always have to have the same one. 

...At 16 months, she remains as sweet a baby as you could ever hope to find.  She rarely cries, she loves to cuddle, she is admittedly just a so-so sleeper (goes down easy, but we rarely get to sleep straight through the night) and she makes us all laugh. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

A visit to Baltimore

Just after finishing a show that depicted the absolute worst of Baltimore, I had the good fortune to go there myself and see the good side of that city.  I met a few of my college girlfriends for a get-away weekend, and we ate great food (especially crabs), went to a totally strange art museum, saw the harbors and docks and drank way too much.  Totally fun time!  And Baltimore is a really pretty city with a nice downtown, plenty of live music and friendly people.

If you haven't heard of the American Visionary Art Museum (I had not), you should totally check it out.  Totally cool building, and it's full of crazy weird stuff. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Wire

Joker and I just watched finished watching the five-season HBO series The Wire.  It is fantastic.  It might be the best show ever created, and it earned constant critical praise during its run.  The series is a gritty, realistic portrait of inner-city Baltimore, with a large ensemble cast that includes the police, drug gangs, the dock workers, lawyers, politicians and the press.  Each season focuses on a specific area of Baltimore crime, with several storylines continuing through two or more seasons.  I cannot strongly enough suggest you watch it, if you haven't already.  Here are a few reflections on the series:

...There are two single characters with incredible arcs over the five seasons: Bubbles and Omar Little.  We meet Bubbles as a homeless heroin addict and police informant, see him truly hit rock bottom a couple of years later, and after a few bumps in the road he finishes the series having inspired a journalist to do his best reporting, and is on a clean path that'll allow for reconciliation with his sister.  Omar is a homosexual street vigilante who metes his own brand of justice with a sawed-off shotgun.  I can't say his story ends particularly optimistically, but his character is probably the most memorable of the series.

...Every character is seriously flawed (with the arguable exception of Prezbo).  The heroes are not clear-cut heroes; many of the villains have sympathetic qualities, and have endured such shitty circumstances you understand where they're coming from.  Cops cross the line.  Teamsters cross the line.  Politicians cross the line.  Jimmy McNulty, a cop who's essentially the main character, is a total scumbag... but somehow, despite that, I rooted for him through the end.  These characters are not my friends the way the Scooby Gang is, but they make for rich and compelling television.

...Baltimore sure looks like a shit hole.

...Drugs are bad.  Real bad.  And drug dealers?  The lowest of the low.

...The kids break my heart.  Season 4 focuses on four young friends: "corner kids" who are on the precipice of being dragged into the gangster life.  They waver between trying to stay in school and getting involved in dealing, while saddled with crappy, abusive and sometimes homeless families.  They are all good kids, they each end up drawing a different lot, and there's frankly not a lot of hope to go around.  In other seasons, kids commit murder, they beat up homeless guys, they do bad stuff.  And the circumstances that drive these kids to do what they do make my heart ache.

Without putting any more spoilers out there, I can only say that if you have never watched this series, you should.  It's as good as TV - or as any entertainment I've seen - gets.