It's Friday. Movie Review Day.

"The only single redeeming value this film has is J. Lo's nipples piercing through her shirt in the scene in the hospital. "
This "review," if you can call it that, of the upcoming movie Gigli, starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, is pretty funny. Badly written, yes. But Ford Fairlane has a point. The storylines that Hollywood gets away with these days are....very entertaining.

And the NY Times seems to think that the new movie Sweet Home Alabama isn't the worst thing that's ever happened...but Salon does. I can't wait to see it!


I'm just as happy as the next guy to have cooler temperatures, but, as always, can't seem to actually make the transition out of summer. I just don't want to stop wearing sandals. This means that my toes are perpetually cold, and also, I seem vaguely inappropriately dressed at work these days. One of my co-workers came in the other day wearing knee-high black boots with six-inch stilleto heels. That's just not summer wear. I am trying to catch up with others, though; every day I resolve to lug my Doc Martens out of the closet and polish them up, but then I get home, look at the closet filled with daunting footwear, and decide to go another day without wearing socks. It's just too much work. Also, I can't seem to find feminine-looking normal shoes that meet my admittedly-unclear, but-very-high, standards for footwear, but I can always wear pretty sandals. It's just much less effort all around.

There's also a problem with turning the fan off in the bedroom. Well, we can turn it off fine in the morning, but at night, neither of us seems to be able to stop turning it on, despite the fact that is making the bedroom very, very cold. Last night I crawled, shaking and shivering, under the comforter, and accused my partner in sin of being addicted to fan noise. He immediately accused ME of being addicted to fan noise. Maybe tonight we will see who can fall asleep without the fan, and then we will know the truth.


The story of that young mother caught on tape apparently beating her kid [Warning: link to violent security footage] chilled me to the core. The tape itself shows something disturbing, and I don't just mean the specter of a child being punched in the head, which is awful enough. The fact that this woman was demonstrating horrible parenting in a parking lot, and as a result was quickly sought by law enforcement based solely on security camera footage, makes me think that our society is not under benign surveillance. Behavior in a parking lot was secretly recorded, and once that tape was posted in the Internet, a suspect was judged by a nation, based only on a possible interpretation of the footage. And this event is not being criticized in the mainstream media.

Yes, every parent who brutally attacks their own kid needs help, or worse, and yes, I'm glad that woman was caught on camera. But since surveillance cameras are primarily there to protect the store's owner from property damage, shouldn't the media frame the story with some measure of hesitance for the conveniently ubiquitous medium, instead of outright enthusiasm? This culture of watching used to, at least, have critics.


My favorite neighbor: As I was pulling out of my driveway this morning, I saw my neighbor, Tim, destroying a campaign sign that he'd yanked from our front yard. It was your run-of-the-mill campaign sign; loud colors on an unwieldy cardboard flagging for state treasurer, affixed with staples to the end of a long wooden spear. I think it might be the second one he's had to surgically remove from our lawn in the last week, because our landlord insists on posting them, repeatedly, in front of the four-apartment house we share. I think it's great to demonstrate political involvement, but not if you don't live there. I despise being spoken for just about as much as Tim does, but I'm a little less confident about crossing my landlord. Tim and I waved to each other as I pulled out, and I wished I could take him to work with me, where the owner of my office posts prominent lawn signs endorsing the republican candidate for governor.

In other news, my images of the warm and cozy winter to be passed in my new home were shattered this morning. NPR announced that heating oil costs would be up this year by 42%. Maybe it can still be warm and cozy if I learn to knit sweaters...or if we sleep near the stove...or maybe if we just have little bonfires in the living room. God knows we have enough campaign signs to burn.


As goes the weather, so shall I.
Feeling glad for the rain today, to distract others from my insomniac gaze. There's a nice dusky gray that covers my workplace this afternoon, and I lack sleep. The air is muggy and I feel muggy. I had a writing project slip away and then finally fall out from under me this weekend, and I reel a bit in response. There are other projects, I suppose. But there's an alienation that comes with this fly-away book, and the requisite self-doubt when you feel rejected. I find myself mostly wanting to be treated fairly, and with compassion. My whole weekend has me thinking about a move back to that from which I came. But is that just an automatic response to feeling lost? I'm tired of getting out my compass.


Marriage has been on my mind recently. In part, this is because I am thinking alot about the future, and I wonder where something as abstract and unwieldy as marriage fits in, or even if it ever does. Does it really matter? Is it something you can plan for? Are you allowed to think about having children, practically, and not think about marriage? I always imagined it as something that should occur naturally, over time, and reveal itself in the love of two people. Isn't it like looking at riverwater glinting in the sun and then noticing, suddenly, fish under the surface?

In truth, though, it was my recent weekend in Missouri, spent mourning and burying my grandfather, that really spurred this on. As I sat in the front pew of the funeral home between my mother and my boyfriend, waiting for the funeral to begin, I whispered urgently to first her, and then him, about where he should be sitting. After all, only family should sit in the very front pew, said the church. But what is family? I looked anxiously past my brother and father to my grandmother, who sat pensively at the end of the pew, unreadable. "Neither of us want to cause discomfort here," I told my mom. "Go with your gut instinct," she said. "I don't have a gut instinct on this," I whispered back. "He's happy to sit behind me if that's what we should do, and that's OK with me. It's just that he drove 1,260 miles with me to be here, and it would be nice if he could hold my hand." "Then I think he should sit with us!" she said. "I'm sure that's what Dad would say. Let me ask him." She leaned over to my father and exchanged whispers with him. Dan and I glanced at each other. Then she leaned back to me. "We want him to stay," she said, "And Grandma might not agree, but Dad doesn't think that she cares enough to give this attention right now."

And so it was decided that he would stay.

Since we were still waiting for the preacher to come out, I began wondering aloud what a ratification by the state might mean to my grandparents. "I mean, really," I said, "what's the big deal?" My mom and boyfriend both looked at me, mildly alarmed. "We could do it right here," I suggested. "There's plenty of family, and there's a preacher, and there's flowers." "Cedar, don't toy with me," said my mom, who has consistently advised me against any rash decision about marriage."Really, Mom," I said. "We could get married right over there, by the body. And then everyone could be happy!" My boyfriend, with his head in his hands, began to moan almost inaudibly. "Mom, I think Dan just proposed," I said. She started to giggle. We had to stop laughing when the preacher took the pulpit, and when he began sermonizing about fornication, I knew there was going to be trouble.

Isn't there some perversion about demanding that marriage be the standard for recognizing the value of a relationship? Since the line that's drawn in this church is almost entirely a sexual one, then a wedding becomes a spectacle for voyeurs, because they can be sure that sex is going to happen. After all, they get so mad when there's sex that they aren't sure of, or can't prove is happening, as in our case. The last few decades of this country's culture have been marked by a fight against the intense need to control the sexuality of other people, and sometimes to deny it. "He shouldn't be sleeping with her," my grandmother recently said to my mom about us, as if I had no role in the relationship.

My own parents are immersed in a long and passionate marriage, and I have watched closely as it ebbs and flows in and out of love and anger. I have always believed that people get married, in part, because the prospect of death was too much to face alone. Life is puckered with the dark and scary. Bruce Springsteen sings, "There'll be things you don't even see coming, that'll send you like a baby crawling back home." I know that I want an anchored haven, a stable place to crawl back to, something that has the power to rejuvenate all of those involved in it. And there's no shortage of involvement; every marriage seems heavily populated with parents (dead or alive), with the possibility of future children, and with the ghosts of past lovers. But so does every relationship. Without being forced to think about it by my grandparents, to me, marriage just remains a mysterious structure that some people apply to themselves. In the end, I know what makes up a family.


I recommend this listing of reader's responses to a Salon article about forbidden thoughts concerning September 11. Where are the feelings that are not patriotic, or grief-stricken, or generous?
Here are a couple:
"There's always been a joke among African-Americans about black folks and white folks during a disaster. My father was quick to point out a black woman who had managed to get out of the towers when she was actually on a floor above where the plane hit and she was still trying to get out of downtown when the reporter stopped her.

The fact that tons of white people just stood there near the towers looking before they fell cracked him up. It confirmed the stereotype of white folks never thinking anything is ever going to happen to them. And since black people are used to fucked-up crap happening to them all the time they were trying to get the hell out of there.

Of course I spotted a few African-Americans looking lost. My dad just said that they've been around white people too damn long. Real black folks run.
-- Name withheld"

"2001 was a great year for me; I hated the twin towers and I hated the Taliban and now they're both gone!
-- Lesbian feminist from Greenwich Village"
I am reading on Saturday, the 21st, at the Brattle Theater. I may not be reading much; I may read two small paragraphs which I have written; but I will be reading nonetheless. Perhaps, to beef up my time on stage, I could read aloud from McSweeney's content that I have not written, like this, for instance, although I'm not sure I know how to pronounce ( N[R] Ar, where R = iPr, Ar = 3,5-dimethylphenyl ).

I am skipping the requisite moments of silence today, but I can feel the inward pull of reflection. A year ago today I was just turning on NPR. I knew something big was going to happen that day, even before waking up. For peace of mind, I'd taken an HIV test and the results were due September 11. Though my chances of having the disease were slim to none, I had nothing but anxiety about it. When the towers fell, I suddenly understood that being alive with an illness would at least mean being alive. I was grateful before I got the results, and grateful after I got the results, which were negative. I felt like I'd hit a 'reset' button on my sexual life. Walking home from the doctor's office with my friend Liz, we stumbled on memorial services and lit candles on people's stoops. We got burritos and watched CNN. Four days later, I went to a party with her, and in an instant I met my boyfriend.


Preacher stands in front of an ornate false-chrome casket, his belly hanging broadly over the cinch of his belt. "Marriage is an institution of God!" he yells, surrounded by sprays of flowers that seem out of place in the darkness of a stale funeral home. "The sinners are the fornicators and adulterers! I feel for the people who aren't prepared for heaven when the time comes!" I squeezed my boyfriend's hand tightly. We'd been living together for two and a half months when my grandfather died, and we drove 1260 miles to get to the rural farmtown in southeast Missouri where they were preparing his body for the funeral.

The day after the funeral, as my boyfriend cleaned and organized my grandfather's tool shed--a job no one else could bear to do--I tended to my grandmother's lawn, fuming about the frenzied sermon that seemed almost solely directed at us. When I first fell in love with Dan, my grandparents reacted with a mixture of uncertainty and nervousness. I couldn't understand why; I was 25 years old, after five years single I was in a serious and loving relationship, and I was very happy. They hadn't met him, but during our phone conversations, it was clear that they didn't want to hear about him too much. When we moved in together after nine months of dating, they sternly let me know that they disapproved. "We believe in marriage," said my grandmother coldly on the phone. "So do I!" I said. I explained that I believed in it so much that I refused to rush into it, and that, though we were both highly independent adults, it was great that both sets of our parents were approving--to the point of being celebratory--about our living arrangement, and that (perhaps, most importantly?) I was very happy. I had just gotten my Master's degree and landed a plum job, and I felt that I had been living in a very directed and self-aware way for several years. For them to turn against me because I was in love, despite not being any less responsible, seemed utterly baffling.

Even in the midst of my grandmother's grief, she struggled to address Dan directly. She almost never said his name, or looked at him for very long. I wondered repeatedly how this mild-mannered young Ph.D. student who was respectfully and quietly offering emotional support to her once-beloved granddaughter could possibly offend her. And I felt great shame. I wanted her to value me beyond the rhetoric of her religion, and learn to value Dan, as well. But she refused.

My parents, thinking that staying at my grandmother's house would simply be too stressful for us, rented us a room at the local Ramada Inn. Each night in Sikeston, after tending to the things that needed to be done around the house, after mingling with the members of this hateful church (which forbade women from speaking at the funeral), after sitting on the floor looking through album after album of weathered pictures of my father as a child, we would return to our hotel room and collapse, exhausted and overwhelmed.

I feel grief, and I feel shame. I wish Dan had gotten to meet my grandfather. But only as I knew him, stubbornly-- warm and laughing when I was a little girl, happy just to see me, protective and never one to discipline. Taking me out for sundaes and teaching our family dog tricks. The two of them tickling me until I shrieked with delight. They were the only extended family I had that was visibly committed to me, so much so that they would drive for two days to see me, and then spend every waking moment in play with me. I derailed that commitment just by living my life in the best and most wonderful way I could imagine, and when my grandfather died, he died with a disappointment in me that I still can't understand.


Just one bit for today.
"Local residents worry meanwhile that government Web sites have become too easy an antidote for boredom."
...and other interesting information on the rollercoaster ride otherwise known as the Cincinnati clerk's office. Their solution to the Internet's public/private tension? Post everything.