Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Watchman has been set

Who's ready to talk about Go Set a Watchman? Anyone? Here, I'll start and then you throw your 2 cents in.

First, let's talk about the controversy. Some say Harper Lee did not authorize this publication, that she was hoodwinked by her conniving lawyer who was snooping around and found the manuscript and got great big dollar signs in her eyes. This may be true. It also may be true that Harper Lee is old and tired and thought, oh why not. Let them have it. My guess is that the truth lies, as it usually does, somewhere in the middle. But regardless, we have it now. And I'm going to throw it out there that it's the biggest thing to happen to American literature in our lifetime. So boycott it if you will (I've heard of several people who are) but we'll never know the truth and I couldn't pass it up.

Also, it's a good book. Even without any nostalgia attached to it, it's a good stand-alone book. It needs some editing. Apparently there was very little done to what they found. There are some rambling bits and arcane references that would have been smoothed over had a guiding hand been involved. But all in all, I enjoyed it very much. And how can you not be nostalgic about it? Nearly everyone we love is there.. Scout (now Jean Louise) is 26 and living in New York and comes home for two weeks to check in on Atticus who is old and rheumatic. Calpurnia, Jem, and Dill all show up in some form. There are several flashbacks that were just as charming as anything in Mockingbird. It was the flashbacks, in fact, that made it so clear why Lee's publishers declined this book and asked her to write something about Scout as a child. Her feistiness was much more appealing as a child then as an adult.

But it's her feistiness that propels the story along once she finds out that her dad is a racist. Yep, the hysterical reviews were right. Atticus is a racist. He says some really horrible shocking things. Things that truly turned my stomach. Although it is not any different from what any other white southern man in the 1950s was saying. Which makes this a much more realistic book then TKAM. I mentioned earlier that I was afraid I was going to have to think of Atticus as being from some alternate universe. Bizzaro Atticus. But that was not the case. He was the same sweet, patient, honorable man. The pain of his newly revealed beliefs was both compounded and eased by Scout feeling the exact same way as I did. Every generation changes perspective on social issues. Scout said plenty of things in the book that if said today would end up on the internet and get her fired. We're all flawed. 

So there you go. Let me know when I should schedule the book club. I'm dying to talk to people about this.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Old Lady Recommendations

I've really been old-ladying it up this summer. Watching a lot of documentaries while crocheting, that sort of thing.

Here's what I recently finished.


I made it because months ago I donated a doily for my ward's youth camp auction and then I forgot that I had donated it and didn't actually have one made. I was out of town for the auction but when I came back Katie said, "Someone bought your doily." Yeeps. So I whipped one up. And by "whipped" I mean I spent 4 months making it. The very last row with all those fiddly bits took 3 whole hours. But didn't it turn out lovely? And I don't want you to think that it's drudgery. I get a lot of joy from making beautiful things. But the fiddly bits are a beast. It has been handed over and a new one has been started. Because I'm 80 and need a crochet project at all times.

I would like to apologize for my foot in this picture. It was not intentional but I just don't feel like cropping it. It needs to be noted though because I am SO DONE with seeing feet in pictures. You guys, stop putting your feet in all your Instagram pictures. The trend needs to die and I am calling everyone to arms. I realize that trends are important sociological markers. People in the future will look back on these pictures and say, "Oh, this is from 2015. Look at the feet." But there are enough of them and it's time to move on. It would actually be a different story if you were to post a picture of your shoes and a caption that said, "Look at my cute shoes!" That would be something. But it's never that! The feet are never the subject. It's always an artisanal brownie or a mug of chai tea or a sand dollar with a seaweed leaf in the shape of a heart stuck to it AND the feet. I can barely handle thinking about how hard some people have to work to get shots like that. I wish I had saved this one picture I saw on Instagram that officially made me hate the trend. Some guy had artistically arranged his breakfast of a banana, a yogurt, and coffee on his hotel floor and took a picture of it with his bare feet next to it. All I could think of was, "You're about to eat food that has touched the hotel floor and your feet are like a millimeter away from it, Sicko!" This was the end for me.

Sorry. That was an unintentional rant. But this is about how I'm a Very Old Woman. So on to my documentary recommendations!

No, no, wait. I have to first tell you about some article I recently saw about what faux pas people make when visiting London, or something like that and it was basically all of these people saying things like, "Don't talk so loud, and say 'please' and 'thank you' to everyone, and don't block traffic especially on the tube escalators, and don't hold people up because you're not prepared in the grocery line, and just don't be rude because we won't confront you about it but will seethe in silent indignation over it." It made all Londoners sound so wonderfully cranky that I felt an immediate kinship to them. Like I had finally found my people.  Would someone please pay for me to go to London? Thank you.

Okay, now for real, the doc recs. 

1. Honest Liar. About the Amazing Randi and his lifelong quest to defraud charlatans like faith-healers, psychics, metal benders, etc. There is an interesting twist. Plus you get some classic footage of 1980s faith healers. These guys are real cads but so entertaining.

2. Web Junkie. China has deemed internet addiction the biggest health problem in their country and they have reconditioning camps for teens. It's a comfort to know that petulant, disaffected teens aren't just in America. Also, ugh, video games.

3.  Tim's Vermeer. This tech mogul decides that he wants to figure out how 17th century Dutch artist Vermeer painted such detailed, photographic pieces. So he recreates Vermeer's studio and figures it out. Probably. We'll never know. But it seems like the most probable explanation (it basically just involves a mirror and whoa is it tedious.) and his dedication to the project is mesmerizing. And now I really want to try the technique.

4. What Happened. Miss Simone? About Nina Simone. She was just phenomenal. And tortured. There is so much good music in this one.

There, go forth and watch.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Go Set a Watchman on Your Teenage Girls

1. While I was walking in to Barnes and Noble to pick up Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman two teenage girls who were sitting outside on a bench called me over and asked if I would give them a ride home. You know the next person they ask would surely be a murderer so because I'm not I thought I'd do these girls a favor and save them from certain doom. I told them to wait 10 minutes and went in and got the book then drove them the 3 miles home. Who asks a total stranger for a ride? I am, and look like, a matronly aunt so I'm a safe bet. But those girls didn't know that. Look, I hate taking the bus and I don't know that it's any safer than asking some strange woman for a lift but come on.

2. Now let's talk about Go Set a Watchman.  I read the New York Times review last week and in a nutshell it said, "ATTICUS IS A RACIST!!! WOE, WOE TO US ALL!!!!" I think we can all agree that is tough to get past. So, I'm apprehensive. But this is a Major Literary Thing happening and I want to be a part of it. And I'm just flat out curious so I'm trying to not be sentimental about it. If necessary I'm going to convince myself that it is Bizzaro Atticus from an alternate universe, remembering that it was written before To Kill a Mockingbird so just calm down, Rachel. Anyway, let's convene the Rachel Says So Virtual Book Club in a few weeks and discuss it, okay?

3. Lindsay and I went to the Hollywood Bowl on Friday to swoon over Harry Connick Jr. I'd put it in my top 5 all-time favorite shows. It was just so much fun. Also, during intermission we heard a bit of a cheering ruckus going on in the section next to us. Word made it down that there was a wedding going on. And sure enough, there was a guy in a tux and a woman in a veil and they were, indeed, getting married. Is this not the most genius thing you've ever heard? It's so memorable and fun and you can tell everyone that Harry Connick Jr. sang at your wedding. Plus, it's cheap and beautiful and you don't have to buy flowers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Soap on a Rope

I live a relatively frugal life. I just don't like spending money on frivolous things. But I have one luxury: soap. Specifically from The Soap Kitchen in Pasadena. The scent is natural and light. They make it right there in the shop. It's owned and run by a woman who has named her dog Shea Butter. Plus, it makes my skin feel so soft and luxurious. And it's like $9 a bar. NINE DOLLARS. My Mormon pioneer ancestors are rolling in their graves. But I promise you that if any one of those dear women who crossed the plains could use this soap they would totally get it and give me their blessing.

There are very few aspects of my life that are real honest to goodness Woman of Elegant Leisure status, but my soap is. I don't buy fancy clothes, I get most of my books from the library now instead of buying them. That article in the New York times about the conditions that nail salon girls work under shamed me enough to stop getting cheap pedicures which now means I get zero pedicures. I don't take extravagant vacations and we don't have cable. I live a very simple and inexpensive life. So I'm just going to keep on driving out to Pasadena to get my $9 bar of soap because it makes me feel like the Queen of England.

Related: I have a vague recollection of reading about the Queen's daily schedule and it included a morning bath with the same brand of soap and receiving a fresh bar each day. I want to say it was Yardley of London's rose soap, which I thought was weird because you can buy that at CVS for maybe $3. But this is after she is woken up by her maid who brings her tea and biscuits to eat in bed which is in a castle. Her life is not without luxury even if her soap is cheap. And also, what happens to the used soap each day? Doled out to the peasants waiting at the gates?

Also related: Have you hear of Royal Warrants? I just learned about this. It's where the royal family gives a seal of approval to a company they like and use. Yardley of London has a few. But so does Tabasco Sauce. No joke. Do you think that Her Majesty enjoys a little Tabasco on her eggs in the morning? I am a Tapatio girl myself but these are just the many things we can discuss when I eventually meet her. Soap and hot sauce. (Silent prayer: Please let me someday talk hot sauce with the Queen of England. Amen.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

A World of Pure Imagination

The Music Center is not having any summer sing-alongs this year. Naturally, I am outraged and have already sent a strongly worded letter informing them that they have ruined summer. I live for those sing-alongs! When I took the Art Society on our LA adventure a few weeks ago we went to the Disney Concert Hall and while the kids ran around like hooligans banging sticks on handrails I sat in the outdoor amphitheater where so many summer nights were spent singing and dancing and watching Mock Turtleneck Guy really get into it. Woe to lost summer fun!

But, on the cheerier side, the city is full of fun things to do. Namely: a viewing of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the Orpheum Theater in downtown LA, which the sisters and I attended last week. You guys, this theater is a stunner. A real show-stopper. It is so grand inside. It's like the Julie Andrews of theaters. And they have the original Wurlitzer organ from 1926. You know I really love a Wurlitzer. The lobby was amazing, the ceilings and chandeliers were gorgeous. There is a lounge downstairs with dark wood paneling and cushy chairs and a fireplace and you can totally imagine the swanky folks coming down for a smoke at intermission. There was also an elevator that had to be manually run. History, right?

Do you know what's great about watching a movie like that in a beautiful place? Everyone is thrilled to be there. They laugh loudly at all the great lines and clap when Charlie finds the golden ticket. I mean, it's like we didn't even know he was going to get it. "You did it Charlie! What absolute luck." "Did Grandpa Joe just get out of bed? It's a miracle!" "I can't believe Augustus fell into the chocolate! What a doofus." "Why did they drink that fizzy lifting drink?! Why?!" That's how excited we were. All that velvet kind of gets to you.

But there was one person not thrilled to be there. The kid sitting in front of me. That kid was bored out of his mind. He could not sit still. In fact, at one point he leaned over to his sister (okay, like every 3 minutes) and said, "I can't sit still!" And then I leaned over to my sister and said, "These kids are driving me crazy." Violet turning into a blueberry couldn't even distract him from his quest to be the Most Fidgety Boy in All the Land. So a lot of my view was obstructed by his moppy head. I felt bad for the kid. Clearly his mom misjudged the event. Although, what exactly about an old, weird film from the 70s in a regal old theater preceded by a discussion with the director's adult children moderated by an NPR host beginning at 8:30 pm with tickets costing $20 each screams your 8 year old ADD son? Don't subject your kid to such a thing! And don't subject the freakishly short woman sitting behind him to such a thing either! (Parents, don't get cranky with me. Remember that I'm a childless spinster with Opinions. Also, I am not wrong about this.)

But, regardless of the poor monkey in front of me, it was a blast. Can you believe that Charlie got the whole factory? 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Das Boot

For the first time in the 8 years that I've had this blog I accidentally hit "publish" on a barely-begun post. And I didn't realize for days until someone commented with a "What?" So, sorry about that. But here's what I was going to say:

If you're on a luxury ocean liner that has been torpedoed by a U-boat you put your life vest on pronto! I just read Dead Wake about the sinking of the Lusitania and guys, do me a favor and get the heck off that ship. Chances are the life boats will be gummed up somehow and some crazed old man is going to shove you off anyway so you have a better chance of just jumping overboard and swimming for your life. Or waiting for the few manageable life boats to launch and catching a ride with them once you're both in the water. Just get away from that boat, okay. Don't be a dummy. Many people on her were like, "Hmm, was that a torpedo that just struck us? La la la. This boat won't sink. It's unsinkable! We're just going to float to shore. Who needs a life vest? I sure don't." Who in the world thinks that their boat with a gaping hole in the starboard bow is not going to sink? Now, granted, they don't always. Several ships have survived torpedoes. But for the love of all that is good in the world, don't risk it!

Here's something to cheer you up and give you hope should you find yourself in similar straits: three people were actually sucked into the funnels as she went down but the cold water hitting the hot coals created a bit of a steamy explosion and it SHOT THEM BACK OUT INTO THE DRINK. All three survived and told the same story and were covered in oily soot as proof.

So, great book. I find if somewhat difficult reading non-fiction that I know the ending to. Like, I knew that she was going to sink and I just kept waiting for it to happen. But when it did I wanted it to be over because oh, it was horrible. And riveting. You'll learn so much about submarines and maritime customs and German warfare (read: sneaky and conniving and low. Captain von Trapp (the real one, although I clearly pictured Christopher Plummer) is quoted in the book as saying how cowardly he felt captaining a u-boat and asked to be transferred. What a hero.) And for a brief time you'll wish that you were strolling the deck of the Queen Mary II. In peaceful times, of course.

In other news, we did, in fact pass the 8 year mark last week for this slice of heaven. Happy anniversary to me and you and this silly little blog.  I so appreciate that you still read and laugh with me.

Monday, June 15, 2015

My new all-fruit (ice cream) diet

1. I'm in an ice cream-making mood. I have strawberry balsamic chilling right now and I have some apricots that I want to use. What would taste good with apricots? Maybe ginger? This seems like a smart way to get more fruits into my diet. You're all welcome to come over and share. 

2. My sprained finger is still wonky. Like, typing this hurts but I can manage because the k, i, and comma aren't too common. I've been wearing a splint for 10 days now and the swelling is still just as bad but I've gotten emails from both the doctor and the radiologist saying there are no breaks or tears so I've determined that it's cancer and I'm dying. Farewell.

3. You should watch "Antarctica: A Year on Ice" on Netflix if only to really make you love where you live. Which is not Antarctica. I am totally fascinated by people who choose to live there. Particularly over the winter. That seems like a hellish nightmare. No sun for four months and below zero temps and no Target and you can't leave. But people do it. And, minus the ability to handle temperatures below 50 degrees, they seem like my kind of people. The social loner type. They like people, they just don't want to be around people too much. There's a scene where the new crop of summer folks start arriving and the winter-overs hide out in their rooms because they're overwhelmed. Like I haven't done that before. 

4. It was an Art Society Weekend. We needed to squeeze some fun in before they headed off for their summer in Utah. I took the older kids and their cousin for an LA adventure on Friday and then took Sammy on a date on Saturday since she was too little for LA and then I had them all over to swim afterwards to give Heather some time to breathe and pack. These kids are just too much.

Samantha is the perfect date. All she wanted was ice cream and a trip to Funky Town (the dollar store).

We did many things in LA but we finished at the splash pad in Grand Park. Highlight of their day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I only mean it for some of you

Things I've told people who have asked how I sprained my middle finger because the actual story is both complicated and boring:

1. Road rage
2. Gravity
3. A rumble
4. Bear fight
5. Nun-chucking accident
6. Running from the law

Not a single person has said, "No really. How?" Which is just terrific.

Things that are difficult to do with a splinted finger other than the obvious ones:

1. Turning my steering wheel without turning on my wipers
2. Not inadvertently flipping people off

Sorry everyone.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dial M for Murder

Well, I've just spent the last 2 hours in an internet wormhole. It started, as things often do, with Sam Maloof - world renown woodworker and native son of Chino. He made his home and workshop in Rancho Cucamonga but it was later moved to Alta Loma, at the very top of Carnelian, when the 210 freeway was extended. I actually think that's when I first heard about him, when an article ran in some newspaper back in the 90s about what they were going to do with his home because it was on the National Register of Historic Places. And then he was on the PBS show "Craft in America" and gosh I love that show. I love things that are beautiful, functional, and handmade and I love people who just say, you know what, I'm going to make artsy metal gates for the rest of my life so there!

Anyway, Sam Maloof. My dad and I went up to his home for a tour. He's been dead for a few years but his apprentices still run the workshop and his home has been turned into a museum. And folks, you should visit. His pieces are amazing and you can touch all of them, which is always my one true wish in a museum. Here, look. (The website doesn't show the prices but we saw the price list at the showroom and his famous rocker is $28,000. Start saving your shekels, kids.) We were on the tour with several other people including some Brits and a couple of women who seemed to be having a religious experience. They capital-L Loved that tour. And at the end, when we got to sit in one of his chairs, they kind of floated above it and closed their eyes and rubbed the arms and sighed. In their defense, it was a really comfortable wooded chair. And I don't say that lightly because most chairs are uncomfortable for me due to my Freakishly Short Leg Syndrome.

So here's where I veered off tonight. The Maloof Home is in the same neighborhood where a murder happened back in 1964. A woman drove her husband's black VW bug, with her husband taking a self-medicated nap in the back, into the wash and lit it on fire (local friends, it's where Banyan and Sapphire meet.) The place is nothing but houses now but back then it was all lemon groves so the car burned for an hour before she eventually went for help and claimed it was an accident. I know about this grizzly bit of local history because Joan Didion wrote about it and the ensuing trial in her essay Some Dreamers of the Golden DreamI came across it several years ago at the same time I was attending church in a building just a few blocks south of it on Sapphire. It was a weird experience reading an essay written in a different time by a famous author and seeing street names that were familiar to me. And now every time I'm up that way I think of that murder and that essay. But I also think of church and the friends who live there and the lovely display of Christmas lights the neighborhood puts on each year. I wonder if they know about the murder.

I reread it tonight (it's long and juicy). And that's where the wormhole began. Because then I read an essay about the essay. And then an essay written by the daughter of the couple. All of it tragic. And now my mind is filled with intrigue and murder and I'm going to have to watch an episode of Parks and Rec before bed to put the Blue Bird of Happiness back in the old heart. You guys, don't murder your husband, okay? No good will come of it.

But do go to the Maloof House.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

That flower crown is going to make you look so old!

Well, that was a good run. I've lost the ability to write. It's gone. Gone! My one talent, frittered away.

I shouldn't be so dramatic. This happens from time to time. In fact, I know you can find very similar posts to this one if you go back a ways. Normally I just have to write garbage for a few months and then it comes back, like a flowering weed sprouting out of a crack in the asphalt. But for now, I'm stuck.

As usual, I will now list things I have started writing about and then deleted because how much do I love you (too much):

1. The freckles on my eyelids
2. The state of my office windows after the kids have pressed their hands and faces against them.
3. Twice-baked potatoes
4. The license plate I saw this morning - NYYJTR2 (Yankees drool!)(But Jeter is great) (There, I said it.)
5. Bumper stickers I would not put on my car
6. What is the evolutionary reason behind fast-growing fingernails?

Oh, geez. I've lost it.

But here's something pointless that I was going to write at length about but will now simply give an abbreviated commentary:  flower crowns.

Have you noticed that they're everywhere? Particularly in bridal parties. And while I think there's something a little sweet about them, and I've seen a few that I think look lovely, I'm convinced they're really going to date us. Like, they're going to become this generation's version of this:

Pray that the weed sprouts soon.