Archive for January, 2008

Jan 27 2008

First Night at the Noir Festival

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Am hung over from unwise brandy after the Film Noir Festival at the beautiful Castro Theater last night. I must have missed the “please drink responsibly” warning on the label.

The movies were wonderful. It was, appropriately, a dark and stormy night. The theater was built in 1922 and has been restored to its full glory. When I arrived, the organist was playing the Wurlitzer organ on stage, which sinks out of sight when it’s time for the movie. It’s a movie palace, all right.

The movies were introduced by James Ellroy, one of the premier weirdos of our time and author of many books, including one on the Black Dahlia and one about his mother’s still unsolved murder, which took place when he was around 10 years old. He is a noir aficionado and helped to finance the restoration of the prints we saw last night. Both movies were written by Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted in the dark McCarthy era and whose name therefore does not appear in the credits. His grandson was also there.

I had never seen the first movie before, “The Prowler” from 1950. Attention-grabbing opening scene of Evelyn Keyes (Scarlett O’Hara’s little sister in “Gone with the Wind”) clutching a towel to her otherwise nude quite the figure and screaming as she catches sight of…The Prowler!!! She calls the police, one of whom is very taken with her and ends up being a homme fatale, as well as very possibly the original prowler. Ev really should close the blinds when she’s taking a bath. I think she learned her lesson.

I had seen the second, “Gun Crazy”, but it’s great to see it on a big screen in a beautiful place and enjoy the crowd’s reactions. The movie, released the same year, pairs a carnival sharpshooting lovely with a disillusioned WWII veteran on a crime spree.

Up next: “Conflict”, a Bogart rarity, on February 1, and “Night and the City”, with the luminous Gene Tierney, on February 3. Stay tuned!

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Jan 25 2008

Meet the Neighbors, Part Three

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I was chatting with my sister on the phone and minding my own business when I noticed an old man carrying a red plastic gas container coming up my front stairs. There’s a big window overlooking the stairs and porch, and the front door is mostly glass, so when I have the blinds open, it’s pretty much a two-way show. I can look out, and anyone who cares to peek past the giant camellia bush or come up the three front stairs can look in.

Since I rarely, if ever, do anything interesting to passersby or the police, this isn’t usually a problem. However, when strangers appear and start peering in, it is.

I told my sister about the unexpected visitor, and she told me (somewhat unnecessarily, but she tends to be protective of her older and sillier sister) not to let the guy in. Her view was that he was using the gas can scenario to get in the house. At this point, I had fled to the kitchen, making me temporarily invisible to Gas Can Man, though the TV and other stealables weren’t.

After a few minutes, I peeked out from my refuge and saw that my porch was once again weirdo-free. On further peeking, I noticed Gas Can Man shuffling away, presumably to scare someone else.

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Jan 24 2008

It’s Official

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Nothing makes you feel like you live somewhere more than getting a library card and registering to vote.

As soon as I started camping in my house, I did both. Registering to vote was the easier of the two, since it can be done on-line, whereas the library requires a personal appearance. And the ability to read maps. The Oakland Library site just shows you a map of where the libraries are and lets you figure it out, not easy for the map challenged*.

Imagine my delight when I learned that the closest library to me did not require freeway driving and was in the Dimond District. Like you, I assumed that it was a misspelling of my favorite word, but no. Apparently it is named for Hugh Dimond, who made his money in the Gold Rush (how appropriate!) and bought the land in the 1860’s.

However…the library has a policy whereby new patrons such as myself have to be on probation for six count ’em weeks. Though I didn’t have to report to a probation officer, I couldn’t request more than four books at a time or have more than two out at a time, which you can imagine was quite the hardship for a book addict like Me, especially because I didn’t find out about the request thing until I had requested the first four of my long list. If I’d known, I would have selected the ones with the fewest holds/shortest waiting periods.

And you know how I love to wait.

I am pleased to report that I successfully completed my probation, and now have a comfortable 24 books requested and three in transit, which is just the way I like it.

In case you’re wondering what I’ll be getting in the next few days:

The Almost Moon,by Alice Sebold (how I adored The Lovely Bones)

Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave, edited by Ellen Sussman

Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking,by Aoibheann Sweeney

While I was on probation, I picked up the following:

740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building, by Michael Gross
If I can’t be rich, I can read about those who are. And the real estate section of the New York Times is, after all, my porn.

Edie: Girl on Fire, by David Weisman and Melissa Painter
Purportedly the true story of Warhol muse, style icon and all around 60’s It Girl Edie Sedgwick.

The Sweet Birds of Gorham
Out of print; Truman Capote, whose writing I adore, always said it was his favorite book.

It occurs to me that I should perhaps review the many books I read. Any thoughts? Hit me at speakall@earthlink.net. You’re registered to vote, too.

*You know how it took me practically no time to buy the car when faced with not having one? It took me approximately the same amount of time to get a GPS to tell me where to go. I now have an unreasonable fear of the word “recalculating”.

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Jan 20 2008

I’ll Say

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I came across this cartoon while catching up on my backlog of New Yorkers. All I could think was, “Tonight, and pretty much every night.” Most days, too, in my case.

Fun factoid: the artist, Bruce Eric Kaplan (aka BEK) wrote several episodes of the incomparable Six Feet Under and was Executive Producer during the show’s final season.

Not all that surprising, is it?

Up next: Suzy’s Library Adventures!

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Jan 17 2008

Cheese-a-palooza

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The land of the free and the home of the Sharks.

Besides the legendary Neal’s Yard cheese, I have recently indulged in some truly Velveeta (or possibly Cheez Whiz) moments.

Last Saturday, I headed down to San Jose to watch the Sharks in action. The Sharks lose no opportunity to joke about their name (or maybe they’re not joking). They skate onto the ice through a giant shark’s head. The head gets hoisted into the rafters, still in sight, because every time they score a goal, besides the traditional horn honking, dry ice floats out of the shark’s mouth in a huge mist, like in a horror movie (or a heavy metal ballad). Before they even come out, the scoreboard “fills” with water, using stunning graphics and convincing water sounds, before informing you that you’re in the Shark Tank. Get it? Also, every time the Sharks had an advantage, they’d play the Jaws music and their fans would make snapping motions with their arms.

Add in the quite scary nachos with actual Velveeta being consumed around you, throw in an $8 beer or two, and you have a truly cheesy experience.

And I can say that I do in fact know the way to San Jose.

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Devo in action.

On Tuesday, I went to see Devo play at MacWorld Blast, which as far as I can tell is a big budget office party given by Microsoft. My friend R had obtained tickets through convoluted means. When I finally met up with him outside the historic Warfield Theater on one of the skankier stretches of Market Street, the line extended around the block, so of course I immediately wanted to leave, especially after I told R I was having a bad day and he actually asked me “What were your challenges today?”

Really? Seriously?

Fortunately for him, at that point the line started moving and the rest of the night was too loud for conversation. I think I’m now officially old, because:

  • The first time I saw Devo was on Saturday Night Live, which I was watching with my chronically insomniac mother (who had very good taste in music right until the end. She may have been the only 73 year old who liked Blackalicious). On further Googling, I learned that this historic event took place in 1978. Even the most math-challenged among us (Me!) can tell that was thirty years ago.
  • I felt assaulted by the bright lights and literally ear-smashing volume, and I was partially deaf for a full 24 hours afterwards.
  • The Devo guys are either graying, balding, or both. But they are in amazing shape, leaping around and on and off their knees for two hours. The lead singer was particularly manic that night. I’ve met him twice, once in New York, and once in LA, and I didn’t know what to say. But I never do.

I couldn’t help noticing that most of the crowd was recording the concert on their cell phones, and at least a third of them were iPhones. All the little screens held up in the darkness reminded me of how people used to hold up lighters.

When I left the theater, a stripper handed me a card for the Crazy Horse and asked me if I wanted to go to a strip club. Because, really, who doesn’t after watching Devo? It’s only logical.

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Jan 13 2008

Meet the Neighbors, Part Deux

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It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. Personally, I was glad to wake up to the sunlight after a week of rain, but we’re supposed to be all thankful for the rain and tell each other how glad we are to get it, how much we need it, etc., while the weather people on the news keep telling us “The storm door is open”. For some reason, that expression annoys me out of all proportion and for no particular reason.

Anyway…I ventured out to inspect the be-Juned featherbed and see if it had aired out sufficiently and whether the Nature’s Miracle was miraculous as advertised (it was – I think). While cautiously sniffing the featherbed, I noticed a guy in the backyard of the house behind mine, the house whose back door light is always on, day and night.

It was hard not to notice him, since he was beating on the back door and screaming, quite the little monologue:

“Open the door, bitch! Open the damn door!”

Pause while guy looks at door, which looks back. At this point, I noticed that the light was out for once.

Guy resumes pounding door, with added attraction of kicking it:

“Open the damn door! I know you in there! I know it!”

Second intermission. Guy gives it one more try:

“Stop doin’ all that damn oxycotin ‘n’ sleepin’ all damn day. Then you can answer the damn door. Damn!”

And on the Lord’s Day, too.

One final kick, and he lopes off across her back yard. I found it slightly surprising that he closed the gate behind him as he muttered away.

I am definitely not in Pacific Heights anymore.

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Jan 12 2008

The Bad and the Beautiful

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Oh, my. I am certainly crabulous today.

Last night, I was punished for unpacking by June. You guessed it: she expressed her horror at my doing something housework-esque by peeing on the bed. As if unpacking boxes wasn’t punishment enough in itself. It’s truly amazing how much liquid can come out of one skinny little kitten, let me tell you. So I hauled the sodden featherbed and linens off the bed – how she managed to include some of the pillows in her displeasure is beyond me – and washed what I could. The featherbed has been sprayed with Nature’s Miracle, and here’s hoping for one.

Now that the kittens have passed the 6 month mark, they’ve really kicked the naughtiness up a notch. Or three. They’ve been extremely successful in their search and destroy missions, and their escaping skills would make Houdini jealous. One evening this week, June escaped twice: once, she was under the car and had to be prodded out with a broom (Finally! An actual use for it!), and the second time, she ran into the Mexicans’ flowerbed and thought she was invisible. Of course, it was cold and raining, but she didn’t seem to mind. I did.

I wonder if I can get a nanny to teach these wayward girls to behave. A really mean one, like the Mary Poppins in the books. Or maybe reform school.

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Jan 09 2008

Desperation Delicacies

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While I was in the city to admire Joseph Cornell’s amazing work, I decided to visit the old neighborhood and pick up some delicacies and delightfuls which are unavailable in Siberia by the Bay. Besides not actually being San Francisco, having to drive nearly everywhere, and the shopping cart people, the worst thing is the near-total lack of Suzy-standard take out and delivery in my immediate neighborhood.

In the month or so I have lived here, I have had the worst pizza and Chinese food of my long life. Seriously. And shocking in an area with such noted Chinese and Italian communities. In my desperation for decent pizza not made by Me, I drove to Berkeley to pick up one from Zachary’s. Zachary’s has starred reviews in the Zagat Guide and the New York Times, and folks far and wide proclaim its fabulosity, but I hated it.

They’re famous for their deep dish pizza, which I dislike, preferring the more refined thin crust. I ordered a thin crust, but the toppings had been shovelled on (I actually removed some of the cheese) and it was like eating a casserole with your hands. Add in the metallic sauce ordinaire and you have yet another pricey addition to my green bin.

~shudder~

So you can’t blame me for getting a real pizza, with house-made sauce and handmade, properly blistered crust from dear old reliable Victor’s. Though you could, and probably should, blame me for picking up:

  • Some Neal’s Yard Marlborough Cheddar at what used to be Leonard’s but is now Cheese Plus. Good, sharp cheddar is as hard to find as decent pizza and Chinese food in my area.
  • My favorite old fashioned doughnuts (only two!) at Bob’s Doughnuts, which happen to be the best doughnuts in the world. If you’ve only had factory doughnuts like Krispy Kreme, you don’t know what you’re missing. Bonus: there’s always a crazy person or three providing free street theater in or near Bob’s. If you’re visiting San Francisco, go off your diet it and check it. Suzy says.

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Jan 08 2008

Strange But True

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My hair looked like a Muppet’s when I woke up this morning.

My email inbox contained one of those cute chain letters with photos of sleeping kitties and kiddies. Imagine my surprise when I recognized one of the pictures as one I originally posted on my blog three years ago, almost to the day.

So someone found that old post, clicked on the link, copied the picture, and included it on some massive chain mail message. Go figure. The photo was taken in Prague in the 1960’s by my friend’s uncle, who gave me the scanned photo on disk as well as a hard copy, since I found it so charming, so I know its true origin.

The title of the email is “tired”, and apparently it’s still making the rounds. The net can be a strange place. Can Six Degrees of Suzy be far behind?

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Jan 06 2008

You Have to Be Kidding Me

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Joseph Cornell: Taglioni’s Jewel Casket, 1940

You will be amazed to learn that I didn’t unpack the boxes, or tidy up. A stunningly beautiful (and informative) New Year’s card from a kind reader informs me that house tidying is to be completed by January 1, according to Hogmanay tradition. So that ship has sailed. Unless she means January 1, 2009. That might be do-able. Maybe. If I can train the kittens to put things away instead of messing them up, which, like me, seems to be their forte.

Leaving the kittens to figure it out, and the boxes to unpack themselves, I skipped into the city to catch the Joseph Cornell exhibit at MOMA on its last day. I meant to go both Friday and Saturday, but the storms kept me cowering inside as the wind and rain beat down. On the bright side, I had finally mowed the lawn* the day before the storms hit (and I do mean hit). On the other hand, the power kept going out on Friday and I realized how unprepared I am now for emergencies. I used to have a whole kit and everything.

I took advantage of the lull in the storm to venture across the bridge. The exhibit was predictably packed, notably with San Francisco Snoots, who were too busy appraising each other’s outfits to bother looking much at the artwork, and with uncontrolled and/or howling children, being bargained with by their beleagured parents.

If amusement parks can have signs which say, “You have to be this tall to take this ride”, can’t art museums? I mean, come on. Amusements parks’ whole raison d’?tre is to attract kids and possibly make them sick while simultaneously parting their parents from their hard-earned money. Art museums, to the best of my knowledge, are not. So institute a “5 years old or older” rule and let the rest of us enjoy the beauty in peace. If the kid’s being dragged around slobbering and screaming in its mother’s arms, it ain’t working up a sweat with art appreciation, believe me.

Don’t even get me started on the whole “If you’re good, you get a cookie” thing. Kids don’t need choices and bribery, they need rules. They’re good in public because that’s what their parents expect. End of story.

And end of rant.

The exhibit was fascinating, spanning Cornell’s entire working life from approximately 1931 until his death in 1972. The boxes, of course, are his most famous medium, but there were also collages and film. My favorites were:

  • A small black box with a white pipe in the shape of a bird’s foot, with irregular, flat glass disks floating above it, silkscreened with white images of seashells;
  • A tiny box with his favorite deep blue glass over it, containing a collage with a hand and silver doll’s plate, knife and fork; and
  • A breathtaking series of collages of nudes. Surprising for someone so notoriously chaste (he lived with his mother and brother, who suffered from cerebral palsy, his entire life), but that purity of vision and love of beauty make them truly special. He saw the same beauty in these women as he did in the stars or other natural phenomena.

*The last time I mowed a lawn, I was 15. I used to quite enjoy it. On this particular occasion, I was unwisely barefoot and managed to electrocute myself. I still remember my heart slowing and the difficulty of pulling my hands from the electric field of the handle. I ran into the house sobbing about how I almost died. My father looked up and asked mildly, “Did you turn off the lawnmower?”

Like I’d touch that instrument of almost death after finally getting free of it! Dad went outside and turned it off. Nothing happened to him. I didn’t mow another lawn for 30 years.

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Jan 01 2008

Boxing Day

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Happy new year, everyone! Hope it’s a joyful and sparkly one.

I think my resolution had better be to unpack all those boxes before another year rolls around. There must be some logical math-type equation to explain the packing-unpacking mystery of the boxes. When I was packing, it seemed that no matter how much stuff I stuffed into boxes, there was still more stuff to be stuffed. Now that I?m unpacking, it seems that no matter how many boxes I unpack, there are still more awaiting my ministrations. Downsizing has its down side. I can’t help wishing for I Dream of Jeannie* to magically appear and blink the whole mess away. And whip up a martini while she?s at it.

*When I was a kid, I always wanted to hang out in Jeannie’s bottle, with all the velvet and the sparkliness. Come to think of it, I still do. Fun fact: Jeannie’s bottle was not created for the show. It was actually a special Christmas 1964 Jim Beam liquor decanter containing ‘Beam’s Choice’ bourbon whiskey.

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