Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar Review

*Feeling the need to ride the fast-fading trend, review of the Oscars here. Complaints about the hosts, the show running way too long (I think I saw into the 22nd century while watching it), nominees robbed, winners deserving of it, Kirk Douglas better than the somnambulistic James Franco (Maybe Kirk Douglas should host next year), comments on fashions, wishing Anne Hathaway had done a striptease, thanking Yahweh it all ended.*

There. Done. Now we can get back to far more important things, like marveling at the new, much more surreal Charlie Sheen.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

From Tape to Tivo: Empty Nest Returns

I was 16 the last time "Empty Nest" aired in syndication in the United States. You want to know how far back that was? It was 2000. I lived in South Florida. I used VCR Plus to set up those 5 and 5:30 a.m. syndicated recordings. As big a fan of "The Golden Girls" that my dad is, that's how much I love "Empty Nest." In fact, as often as he watches "The Golden Girls" is as often as I would have watched "Empty Nest" if it had been released on DVD.

Now I found out just this morning that "Empty Nest" was acquired by Hallmark Channel and is airing right now in a 24-hour marathon. As soon as I read that, I turned on the Tivo, deleted most of the movies I had recorded (and added them to my Netflix queue), and set up for recording nearly all the episodes airing, save for the ones that repeat later into the evening. It's said that "Empty Nest" will join the regular schedule on Hallmark Channel some time in March, but no specific start date has been decided upon yet. Even so, I'm hoping that this somehow leads to a DVD release. My dad has all 7 seasons of "The Golden Girls" on DVD. I'd like to do the same for "Empty Nest."

Also, I just got home from a long day of errands (and wings at Wing Stop), and found that my share of the "Empty Nest" marathon (every episode from 10-something this morning when I first found out, to 8:30 p.m.) was 20 episodes. Bliss! Pure bliss! When it begins airing regularly on the Hallmark Channel, you bet I'll have it on as often as my dad has on "The Golden Girls." And I'll memorize the entire series just as well as he has that.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Farewell to a Library System

On March 14th, the County of Los Angeles is no longer allowing patrons of the Valencia, Newhall, and Canyon Country libraries of the Santa Clarita Valley to place holds on any items that would come from the libraries of the County, ahead of the City of Santa Clarita taking control of those three libraries on July 1, to ensure that nothing belonging to the County gets lost in the process.

I'm disappointed. The three libraries have a fair amount of books, but not always the ones I'm looking for. "Moon Over Madeline Island" is one reason I loved the County of Los Angeles library system. I usually bumped into books and took a chance on them. And that one was one of the most rewarding.

There's a lot that doesn't please me about this takeover, particularly the fact that a small corporate outfit on the east coast that specializes in running libraries will run these three libraries. No member of the City Council that made this decision owns a library card. Go figure. And the penchant for that kind of exploration is limited when the books are limited to those three libraries.

So I will miss many books. I will miss the copy of "Subways are for Sleeping" by Edmund G. Love from the Hawthorne branch that I didn't buy. I alternated between that one and the one I own, whichever library would ship it to the Valencia branch first. I will miss "The Music of Your Life" by John Rowell, even though the copy from Valencia is no longer there. I was prowling those shelves many years ago and, yes, bumped into it. I own my own copy, but it was so special that first time.

I won't quite miss the copy of "Travels with My Aunt" by Graham Greene, though I forgot which branch it came from. In that instance, it was more about the words than the book itself. The book was an important conduit, but the copy I bought off of and received some weeks ago is the one that will begin my long history with this story.

Two weeks ago, I returned a widescreen VHS copy of the movie "Travels with My Aunt" to the Valencia library, where it had come from, and I immediately put it back on hold on my card, figuring that the library would put it back on my holds shelf for me to pick up. They didn't. They took it out of circulation. Gone forever. It's why I bought a used copy off Amazon for $12.97. I hope it's been used carefully. I'll miss that copy because it's one of the few instances where I love both the book and the movie.

And, oh god, I'm going to lose a slew of books by Quentin Crisp. Now I won't be able to check out "The Naked Civil Servant," "Resident Alien: The New York Diaries," "How to Go to the Movies," "Manners from Heaven," "How to Become a Virgin," and "Doing It With Style." No copies to be found in this valley, since it's relatively conservative. And even though I haven't checked it out in a long time, nor do I own a copy, I will miss "Lawnboy" by Paul Lisicky, a Florida-set novel that's available from only two libraries that aren't in this valley.

I could go on for pages and days, but it's too criminal to continue giving personal evidence that this move by the City Council is foolish beyond the capacity for foolishness. I am pleased to see, though, that the same hardcover copy of "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro that I checked out about a year after we moved here, the one that made it one of my favorite books, still remains at the Valencia library, and is currently checked out. I hope whoever is reading it feels the same way I do about it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Back to Madeline Island

Last week, I absolutely devoured "Moon Over Madeline Island" by Jay Gilbertson. I bumped into it while looking for Madeline books in the County of Los Angeles library catalog for my sister to read to our dogs. Instead of putting away a gallon-sized tub of Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream (which has the weighty sin of thick ribbons of fudge) like I used to when I was over 70 pounds heavier, I eat up books in much the same manner.

After finishing "Moon Over Madeline Island", I learned from the author's note to the reader in the back that Gilbertson had planned to continue the lives of these wonderful, wonderful characters. I found out that the sequel was called "Back to Madeline Island", was published in 2006, and the library system didn't have any copies. I wasn't going to hesitate in buying a copy, and I did, off of for $3.95 ($1 for the book, $2.95 for shipping).

I received it today and smiled big when I pulled it out of its packaging. I flipped through the pages, sensing something between two of them, and in the middle of the book, I found a bookmark someone had left behind. It's a painting of what looks like a modest English countryside, with muddy ground, a few small puddles in that ground, and a gate a little under halfway above the bottom of the bookmark. I looked at the back of the bookmark, found that it was "Printed in England" and was "Designed by Michele Emblem." As I've just gotten back on the computer after most of the day off it, I haven't yet Googled her name, but I'm impressed by this bookmark. I do wonder, though, if the former reader of "Back to Madeline Island" noticed the bookmark missing after they had given the book away by whatever means, and if they miss this bookmark. Nevertheless, it feels like a bookmark made just for this book and it's the one I'm using. I'm on page 135 at the moment, and this after finishing the last 300 pages of "My Life So Far", Jane Fonda's autobiography. I wasn't going to wait to start this, no matter how much I've already read today.

Edited to add at 10:20 p.m. - From what I can glean after Googling, the bookmark printer spelled Emblem's name wrong. Two "l's." And not a whole lot of information available about her other artwork or even this particular piece.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Are Those Cat Toys in Your Living Room or Are You Just Preparing to Lambast Men Again?

I don't have anything novel-size to say at the moment, but I did want to link to this in order to complain, and perhaps rightfully so:

Look, Ms. Hymowitz; if you'd look beyond your fucking statistics and your fucking stuck-up words, you'd find me. But thank god I'd never seek you. I know where the good women are. You're not one of them.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wow, This IS Serious.

I never doubted the seriousness or sanctity of marriage, as it is assumed to be. My parents are still married, still through the occasional rocky times, and as far back as I can tell, there has never been a divorce in the Aronsky line. And I've seen marriages in the movies and on television, getting out of them whatever is intended.

But I never really got the full-on "Whoa, this is heavy!" feeling from marriage more than last Sunday at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda.

We went there because one of my major goals in my life is to visit every presidential library in the nation. We've visited the Reagan Library many times, the first time for the exhibits and Air Force One, the other eight times for the view from the replica of the South Lawn of the White House. We haven't yet gone back to see the new renovations, but no doubt they've jacked up the ticket prices because of them, a lot of haute technology in those halls now.

I loved the Nixon Library because it felt like there was more substance than staging, as it is at the Reagan Library. Everything that is meant to be at the Nixon Library to explain his life and presidency is there. The house in which he was born is there. The helicopter he took off in from the White House lawn at the end of his presidency is there. There is a campaign car from when he ran for the Senate, and correspondence from himself to various figures, the most interesting being a letter to Ray Kroc of McDonalds, complimenting him on the experience he had in going to one. My sister loved the space section, being a space nut, especially the space suit seen at the beginning of the route one takes to get through the museum, right in front of a flat-screen TV showing a video of First Lady Pat Nixon thanking China for the loaning of two panda bears for the Washington Zoo. I loved seeing Nixon's New Jersey office, the desk and cabinet shelves stacked with books. Yesterday, I e-mailed the president of the Nixon Foundation, asking if anyone had ever compiled Nixon's reading list. I want a copy. However, I was disappointed by the emptiness of the Watergate exhibit. Not that they were ignoring that important aspect of Nixon's history (Just try going to the Reagan Library and asking where the Iran-Contra section is), but it felt a little depressed. All of the flat-screen TVs in that section were not on, and I was disappointed because I had hoped to see his resignation speech in full. I liked seeing a bit of the Kennedy/Nixon debate early on in the museum, but I was anticipating that.

The centerpiece of the library appears to be a full replica of the White House East Room, where various concert events and prestigious gatherings were held. It was roped off for a wedding. At first, I thought that whoever decided to have a wedding there was probably into the history of Nixon. But then, who the heck would not want to have a wedding or wedding party in that replica? After all, Tricia Nixon had been married in that vast room at the White House. And from the little I could see, it's astonishing in its detail.

We were at the helicopter, talking to the volunteer docent there, who it turns out had served in the Marines, therefore his justified bias in proclaiming Marine pilots to be the best, better than the Army. I'm not sure of any of that, since I've never served in any branch of the military, but I get the impression that Marine pilots appear to be sharply honed machines, who know not only every aspect of the craft they operate, but every single defense scenario, every single reason to defend what belongs to them and the government. I liked this older gentleman, especially because on a nearby bench, there was a water bottle that belonged to him, as well as a book, "Kennedy & Nixon" by Christopher Matthews (not that one). I told him that in my job, as a part-time substitute campus supervisor, there is some downtime, too, and I love my job for partly the same reason. I recommended to him 31 Days by Barry Werth, about the 31 days after Nixon's resignation, when Ford had to get used to being president very quickly, and all the events within those days. This man was not only articulate in conversation, but also genial. And it didn't feel like an act, as you might find at Disneyland.

During our conversation, the bride and groom of this wedding party came down the sidewalk to the helicopter to take pictures, followed along by two photographers hired for this event. We got out of their way, out of the shot, stood to the side, and continued talking. They left, and took pictures near Nixon's birthplace. I decided it was time to get going, and thanked the docent for his time and talk about books. The bride and groom finished posing for those photos near the house, and we were right behind them. I looked at the groom in the tux, and the bride in this silk white dress, and I thought to myself, looking at the woman from behind, "This really is serious. This is a person, and the man next to her is a person, and they're going to join together in a new life. My god." If ever I find another devoted bibliophile, I'd probably do the same, but wow. This is real. This is serious business.

Later, as I was rooting through the museum store, picking out bookmarks to buy, a United States word seek book, a 1968 campaign book about Spiro Agnew (I know absolutely nothing about him beyond his Greek heritage and his resignation as vice president for tax evasion, and I want to know more), and two bags of the freeze-dried astronaut ice cream for Meridith, Meridith had gone outside, just outside of one of the doors to re-enter the museum, and was watching the procession of the guests to the chairs on the lawn facing the reflecting pool. The ceremony was about to begin. We stayed as the reverend or whoever gave his speech, and as the soon-to-be married couple recited their written vows to each other, and repeated after the high holy authority the well-known words, and I stood there, my hands folded over my bag of souvenirs, and, surprising to me, my head bowed. I looked up, but I was mainly thinking about all of this while looking respectful should anyone from the party see my sister and I from far away. My sister was leaning against one of the columns in front of me, watching, but I was thinking about how this is really something. This is not a life event to treat flippantly. As near as I can tell, this must be the result of true love.

Now, I know there are divorces in this country and there are squabbles in marriages, sometimes dark and nasty ones. And having no experience with marriage, my view could readily be idealistic. But there's something to all this. There is this day, and the couple, and their friends and family, and these vows to be joined together in holy matrimony. That is the ultimate commitment, and something truly beautiful. I hope to find that beauty in my own life, in that connection feeling so natural, that we wonder why it took so long to find.