Thursday, March 5, 2009

Double Happiness

TWO bits of happiness to share today.

First, via Cheerio Road, I learned that Leonard Cohen's recent New York City performance is available for free from NPR's All Songs Considered. You can catch it here. Enjoy!

Second, Critter and I caught the movie Synecdoche, New York tonight. It is unambiguously a Charlie Kaufman story (the first he's directed himself, though)... gorgeous and strange and brilliant. We loved it, but opinions will vary, depending on one's taste for bold fusions of pathos and absurdity. We laughed uncomfortably through the first half, and then Critter pretty much wept through the entire second half (and he is so cute when he cries). As my favorite band sings, "What a beautiful piece of heartache this has all turned out to be."

Oh... and here's a poorly hidden bonus happiness.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spreadin' The Love

I love reading Neil Gaiman's journal. Partly it's fun to see inside his world, but mostly it's that almost every single day he digs up some strange treasure from the Internet and lays it at my feet. I had a cat that used to do something like that, except with mouse entrails. Same difference, though.

So that's what I want to do for awhile... at least for a month. Every day or so, I'll share one thing that is making me happy.

Today I'm happy that I'm losing some weight. We're only talking about a few pounds, but these are the persistent pounds I picked up seven years ago, when I turned thirty. It was like, "You're thirty? Happy birthday! Here's your love handles."

The key to my recent success has been self-honesty about the calorie deficit between how much I eat and how much I actually exercise. Instead of the weight-lifting of my youth, I now focus on yoga. It's been great for my flexibility and back health, but it doesn't burn nearly as many calories. That's fine... but it means that I shouldn't eat like I used to. Recently I started using an iPhone application called Lose It! to track what I eat and how I exercise. The program is free and dead simple (the two key feature of most great portable apps), but it's really been doing the trick for me. I feel best about my weight when I am at 153 pounds, and right now I'm at 155.4 and falling. At the current rate, I'll probably be back to 153 pounds in another week or so.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Free Etta

Pssst! You... yeah, you.

If you're a Writers on Writing listener, then you know that Barbara ends just about every radio broadcast with Etta James' torch song "I'd Rather Go Blind."

For a limited time Amazon is giving that song away FREE as part of the digital EP Chess Records Black History Month. Nab it while you still can...


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Yet Another Brilliant Dan Simmons Novel

On the way to and from Cleveland this weekend, Critter picked up the audio book edition of Dan Simmons' new novel Drood.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

In brief, Dan Simmons sets out to solve Charles Dickens' unfinished masterpiece The Mystery of Edwin Drood, although in this case, the mystery is not so much the unfinished ending as it is why the novel went unfinished. If you've read any Dan Simmons, then you know that his "thing" is imaginitively weaving classical literature and history into his fiction (and if you haven't ready any Dan Simmons, then please stop reading this blog and just pick something off the bookstore shelf at random, or, if not at random, then just read Hyperion). In construction, Drood is very much like Simmons' prior novel The Terror in that he takes the known facts of the last 5 years of Dickens' life, and uses them as a skaffolding upon which to build a deeply disturbing story. Drood is in the form of a fictional memoir of those five years, as written by Dickens real-life close friend and collaborator, Wilkie Collins. The resulting novel is a bit like Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus by way of David Cronenberg's film adaptation of Naked Lunch. More than that, I shall not say.

I had never heard of Wilkie Collins (Critter had, of course), but one of the many advantages of living in sin with a literature teacher is that tonight I'll be reading a hard bound collection of Victorian fiction that includes Collins' short story "A Terribly Strange Bed." This is a particular delight for me, as I recently learned that the Terribly Strange Bed is now located at a quaint bed and breakfast in the Shambles district of Chicago.

(Incidentally, for those of you who do not have a library lined with cherry bookshelves, each filled to over-flowing with literature of every stripe, I suppose you could just read the story here. Seriously, though... consider shagging a literary professional.)

I should also say that Simon Prebble's reading of the novel is superb. One of the key plot elements of the story is the series of theatrical readings that Dickens performed immediately prior to his death. Dickens was famed for being able to personify his characters in voice and action, and Prebble shows a similar skill at presenting the many characters in the novel.