31 August 2008

Lazy Lasagna

I have an odd relationship with the kitchen. My innate domestic torpor sort of expands from a general laze and malaise about keeping house (particularly as it relates to washing dishes and doing laundry) to a general ho hum here we go again at the stove. When I ask, "What am I going to make myself for dinner?" my ideas are usually nixed by the prospect of too many dishes to wash.

Baking is somewhat exempt. I like making cookies, but I will be the first to tell you that man does not live on cookies alone. Thus, the inconvenience of having to cook for oneself. I think this fallacy has something to do with the fact that I can reward myself with a freshly baked cookie after doing the dishes. I'm sure this incentive-based system will lead to type 2 diabetes, but it works for now.

Cooking also intersects with my decision making problems. I have no qualms with making a choice if it involves losing a limb or a life. But when it comes to decisions about everyday things, I couldn't care less. This means decision making about what I want to eat is very tedious.

I also resist things like structure and planning in the name of being ever spontaneous. This is fine, except when spontaneity gets expensive. Many people have a set of about 5 or 10 recipes they do over and over again. I'm not having any of that pie. I don't even like pie.

As a result of these bad habits, I do a lot of inventing in the kitchen. For example, tonight's dinner (marinating in the fridge) is the product of looking around at what I had and saying "molasses + bourbon + meat tenderizing mallet = delicious?" People who have eaten my cooking and lived to tell the tale say that the food tastes good. I am wary of this. I'm sure they're just being nice. I am of the opinion that food does not taste very good when you've prepared it for yourself. In case these people are not being nice because it is the thing to do in polite company, I am very glad that they've never asked for a recipe-- I typically don't have one.

Even though I don't like my own cooking, I will admit: products of my own invention are usually safer when I pull a "pffft. I know how to make that." I end up with crab cakes or sole amandine with lemon-caper sauce that might not taste like the original based-off recipe, but gets me fed nonetheless.

A couple of nights ago, I decided to cook some lasagna this way. Every time I complain about having to cook, some old gray-haired lady tells me to suck it up and put a lasagna in the freezer. I have never been a huge lasagna fan, even when I was a tiny Crowlet and ate nothing but noodles, cheese and the occasional spoonful of spaghetti sauce. My disdain for lasagna baffled Mama Crow. Back in the days of my picky eating, it seemed self-explanatory. I liked all of these things, but not when they were touching!

Lasagna sans recipe turned out to taste okay. It could stand to be saucier, but this can be solved with a jar of marinara. I took a gamble with how long it takes to bake this stuff, and it seems to have paid off. Everything tastes about how it should taste. Still, I think I'm not overly fond of lasagna. I had but a small piece yesterday evening. Ever since then, I can tell you where this brick has wedged itself in my digestive tract. This is even more foreboding because of the bigger brick of pasta in the freezer.

29 August 2008

pancakes and waffles

After waking up at an hour that would be deemed breakfast-worthy, I poured myself a bowl of cereal. This is when I realized that what I really wanted was a pancake or a waffle. Luckily, I found some videos to to satiate my craving.

Question: a fully weaponized waffle bike with a call to prayer public address system. There's some irony there, right?

I've always said that if I ever was in a position to have to create a gift registry for housewares, I'd only register for a nice set of knives. This is not true. I also want a waffle iron. I just don't need it attached to a bicycle.

On the pancake side of things, I think this guy is the cutest. Plus, he's a Hungry Jack connoisseur just like me.

Pull a chair up with a hyrup! I'm having pancakes for dinner tonight.

28 August 2008

Kim Crow on Kim Crow

In honor of my fake 100th post, I wanted to take the opportunity to re-introduce myself. I'm actually shy of the benchmark 100 posts thanks to the 24 drafts in my blogger queue. This post is part interview part stream of conscience and a whole lotta K. Crow.

Hi, Kim Crow. You look nice today.
Hi, Kim Crow. Thanks, same back atcha!

Isn't it a bit odd to interview yourself?
As I see it, I live alone and I'm therefore prone to long bouts of talking to myself out loud. Writing it all down seemed like the next logical step. Besides, people often ask me if I write like I speak or if I speak like I write. Maybe this will shed some light on the subject?

So do you write like you speak or speak like you write?
I'm not sure. When I write, I am definitely hearing the words in my head before I get them written or typed. As I speak, I sometimes let the $3 word slip out here and there and folks will give me a hard time about it because they can't just Google it to figure out what I'm talking about.

Why don't they just ask you what it means?
I wonder the same thing every time it happens.

When you first started crowcrastination, you wrote short stories 250 words or less. But over time you've moved away from the format. Why?

I began this blog as an attempt to look productive at a job where I had nothing to do. Limiting myself to this format seemed like a way to create effective boundaries between myself and the Internet at large. Eventually I found it to be very limiting from a personal standpoint.

How so?
Well, as a form, short stories are difficult. A plot has to work within its format. It also was a challenge to make sure my narrative made sense in such a short word count. I usually embrace a challenge, but this one felt like a burden. I stopped writing here for awhile.

So you were too much of a critic? What made you start up again?
Being too critical of myself is almost always my problem. I re-upped and started writing again after someone I respect stumbled across my blog and gave me a hard time. I changed the content to be more megalomaniacal. This seemed to bode well with the platform of blogging.

How do you feel about talking about yourself all the time?
It's like a giant slice of awkward cake. It doesn't feel quite right, but in the end it is so delicious.

Mmmm. Cake.

Don't get me started. This sort of over indulgence is what's made me lose and gain the same 25 lbs three times.

Well, cookies are your medium anyway. Care to share a favorite recipe or some baking tips?
Hmmm. I'll keep the recipes to myself for now. As for tips, I have 3:
  1. If the recipe calls for butter, use real butter.
  2. Don't skimp on the salt. Doctors say sodium is bad, but it does important things chemically to your cookies.
  3. Also, if you have the willpower, let your dough sit (refrigerated) overnight. The liquid in the eggs will soak up your flavors better. The dough will still be good for about 3 days.
I should add that tip #3 is a bad idea if you are like me and you often wonder if something has crawled up into your fridge and just died. If the fridge has a funk, the cookies will be funky.

Speaking of funky, you often talk about how your computer is acting strange.
True. I think it has either asthma or a seizure disorder. It has fits that interrupt my life many, many times per day.

Can you gauge your level of frustration?

On each occurrence, I'd say it's somewhere between opening up the tinfoil/lotus leaves only to find that the sticky rice has been dyed blue and the realization that you've let your favorite bra go through the dryer.

This doesn't seem too bad..

The resentment builds and compounds when it happens 30 times per day. Plus, my laptop has to be plugged into the wall and now relies on a mouse and keyboard to be useful. It's a desktop in a laptop's body. I'd really like to put it in a home.

Once you threatened to drop kick it, did you ever really abuse it in this way?

No, I thought about it, and it seemed like a bad idea.

Like the time you and your friends were inebriated and decided to reenact the mixed martial arts in Ong-bak Thai Warrior?


What should your readers do when your computer finally goes kaputska?

They should read other blogs. My friend's blogs are mostly listed in my links. I'd also recommend White Whine (a daily complaint made by a white person), the Sixeyes mp3 blog, Flip Flop Flying for expatriate artist and travel writing, or fourfour. I've followed fourfour for years now. It's a perennial favorite.

Why do you like these blogs?

I think that good blogs cover just a handful of topics, but covers them well. All of these blogs have a focus that mine sometimes lacks.

Do you think about changing the content of your blog?

Constantly. For one thing, I'd love to add an audio element-- maybe weekly music mixes or the occasional radio drama. I also wonder about how much I should reveal here. The posts in which I've poured out my heart and soul aren't received in a way that I can really, accurately gauge the response.

You're speaking of course of your posts on depression.

Yes, to some extent. It's not really surprising. Most people react to depression this way, even if they've had experience with it themselves. But I can almost always tell who's been depressed by their response. It's like migraines sufferers. People with migraines know the difference between a migraine and a bad headache. Those with depression know the difference between depression and a string of bad days. It's frustrating when people that suffer bad headaches claim to have a migraine, but if it helps them understand the pain I guess it's a good thing. Same goes for depression.

Is there anything that's off limits on your blog?

I will not write openly about my friends without their permission. I will not discuss why I can no longer listen to Jimi Hendrix. My humor can be on the offensive side, and I try to limit that so I'm not misconstrued. Also, I am trying very hard to discuss my professional life on a more theoretical level.

Where are you at, professionally?
I'm at a point in my career (or lack thereof) where I need some lessons in how to market myself and my services as a dramaturg better. I could also use a terminal degree in theatre. In general, I'd really like to have some health insurance.

Where do you hope to be?

I am essentially a knowledge worker in a creative field. For me, success isn't about the volume of finished products or a dollar amount. I think I'll feel most satisfied professionally when I'm comfortable with the quality of my work, and I am in a position where I feel secure enough to branch out and help others operate at the top of their game. Something I'm very good at that I don't often have the opportunity to do is connecting creative people with one another. I think I have a knack for pairing people with mutually beneficial talents. Plus, it makes me feel good.

Maybe you should move to Los Angeles and become a producer...

As a Bay Area native I am naturally skeptical of all things Los Angeles.

You're from the Bay Area but people always think you're from somewhere else. What's their damage?
I dunno. When I lived on the east coast, people always thought I was from Vermont because I have a sort of hippy element that doesn't jive with the mid-Atlantic region. I found east coasters have a hard time thinking west of the Mississippi. Native Portlanders know that I'm not one of them, but they are few and far between these days. Portlanders in general tend to assume that I'm an anonymous Elsewhere. Folks from the Bay Area either know where I was born and raised or don't feel the need to talk to me.

The Bay Area's a big place. What part are you from?

The south end. North of Steinbeck Country. Technically, it's the tenth largest city in the US.

Do you know the way?
Yes I do, Dionne. Just follow the Interstates until you come to something that looks like suburbia's wet dream.

How do you like living in Portland?
I think the honeymoon phase is over. I love this town, but its atmosphere makes me prone to laziness. Something also makes me feel like I'm not firmly rooted here. Even though I've lived here for years now, I drive or walk around and I don't have that sense of the uber familiar. It's also not nearly coastal enough for my tastes.

It might not be coastal, but it's at the confluence of 2 rivers! Surely this could satisfy your want for water.
A wise woman once told me, "Never get a pet turtle when what you really want is a kitten." Likewise, don't live in a river city when you really want to have zero resale value to your car because all the salt water has made it a rusty barrel of bolts.

You should write a book about the young woman and the sea.
I'd rather go tidepooling and write a book about something else.

Like what?
From a personal standpoint, I'm not sure if I'm ready to write one. I always thought of myself as sensitive but not at all fragile. I'm coming to realize that I am really very delicate. Over the past year I went over the edge, I fell to pieces, and I waited for someone to pick me up again even though I see myself as a strong, independent, self-aware woman. If I wrote a book today it would have to do with this experience. It would probably ask questions that I don't have answers to yet. Like, in the light of disaster, how much of this idea of strength/independence is a ruse? It would also deal with perception vs. reality and more latent aspects of personality.

Sounds risky.
I'm not afraid of swimming in murkier waters, I just don't like to jump in and initiate things.

Speaking of initiating things, I think this post inaugural in the sense that you've used your entire name on crowcrastination...
That's not my entire name. Not according to my parents or the government. Still, that's what most people call me. First and last. As if it's one word.

If you don't mind me saying so, it's a little close to a rather dodgy element in American history.

Nah, it's totally different. My name is fun, concise, alliterative.

What would happen if your name started with a J instead of a K?

Mama Crow would never let that happen. I have a cousin Jim, but he's not on the Crow side of things. Ironically, now that cousin #4 is gone, my entire generation has a name that begins with either a J or a K. How curious.

Anyway, you seem to have a thing for crows.
Not just crows. I also like ravens, hummingbirds and peregrine falcons.

What's up next on crowcrastination?
Either a story about dropping my keys in the dumpster, or an account of why I believe the Asian Mafia is real. Maybe some wisecracks about my name. Or something else entirely. I never know what I'm going to cook up here.

One last question. If you could be a tree, what type of tree would you be?
A cypress.

25 August 2008

Wodehouse Woes

O Wooster, Bertie Wooster! Where the hell did you go, Bertram Wooster?
Deny thy borrower and return to me,
Or, if thou wilt not, at least send me Jeeves,
And I'll no longer be a raving bitch about all the books I've lost.

With apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, but this is a real tragedy. My entire Wodehouse collection has gone astray! I am kneeling down like the Infant Samuel at prayer in hopes of its safe return. How could I have let these books out of my sight? As Bertie Wooster might say, "the imagination boggles."

To end this series on ex-books, I turn to the catalyst for the creation of the entire List. Indeed, sir, it was my search for my P.G. Wodehouse books which first alerted me to the fact that my scruples need some fine tuning in the borrower/lender relationship department.

A couple weeks ago I had an urge to spend my afternoon with the idle rich-- a Wodehouse specialty. I looked over my shelves to no avail. I walked up to the library and paid $23.75 in library fines (an occupational hazard of the irresponsible dramaturg) before I realized that this branch had just one Wodehouse in its stacks and it did not include the antics of my two favorite characters. It was about golf. I read one of the stories, but it was not as amusing as anything involving Aunt Agatha or a silver cow creamer.

I even stepped into the little bookshop around the corner to see if I could get my hands on a copy. But this tiny (but excellent) source only had Carry On, Jeeves on hand. This is a collection of short stories concerning Jeeves and Wooster. But I was in the mood for a novel. And, being that I just paid a large fee to the library, I wasn't about to settle for anything less than a full Wodehousian novel.

I've long been besotted with the Jeeves and Wooster crew. I first read their exploits when I was quite young. My sister, eight years my elder, often passed along her literary leftovers. Being the reverent-yet-obnoxious younger sibling, I would badger her for the books she was reading incessantly, even if the books weren't entirely age appropriate for me.

Unlike many of J's books, I thought Wooster and Jeeves were actually funny. They also didn't make me ask her questions like, "Why are the pigs calling each other 'Comrade'?" My sister was wise enough not to justify such queries with a response Instead, she would narrow her eyes, glaring acerbically through her thick, barely fluttering eyelashes. This is a trick I am still trying to learn today because it looks so cool and is highly effective. (Even with years of practice, I am not having much luck.)

Perhaps because of my introduction to this literary duo, I feel as if there is almost an allegorical correlation between the gentleman and his valet and myself and my sister. She is my Jeeves; I am her Bertie Wooster. While we were growing up, I was continuously concocting these impulsive schemes. She would sit back, half amused by my antics but very much operating her own more wisely constructed plots.

As our age gap has leveled out, I am less prone to such antics and J rarely needs to bail me out of whatever predicament I have fallen into. Besides, my Libran need for balance has caused me to embrace my latent Jeeves-like qualities. Or, maybe I've never been quite so feckless as Bertie but I really want the correlation to jive.

In any case, I've come to appreciate the Wooster and Jeeves novels on different terms over the years. I can think of few writers that equal Wodehouse's dexterous use of a structured comedy. Very little is off limits when it comes to his satire-- from British Gentleman's social clubs (The Drones) to fascism (Spode's Black Shorts). To add a cherry to the sundae, Wodehouse's playful and buoyant command of language is a sheer delight to read.

And this is precisely why I loaned these books out in the first place. Each borrower has an affinity for comedy, either written or performed. As much as I laugh when I'm around them, I find that lacking my Wodehouse novels is no laughing matter. Further absence of these books might lead me to do something brash like buying a terrarium and a new pet newt (to be named Gussie Fink-Nottle). Without further delay:

By Jeeves! (a final fragment in a long list of books)
The Code of the Woosters

Right Ho, Jeeves

The Inimitable Jeeves

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

Perhaps those friends I've loaned my Wodehouse books are too busy reading Aunt Dahlia's magazine, Milady's Boudoir? But I say enough with this witch hunt. As a thank you for sloughing through this series, I'll leave you with the some clips from the Jeeves and Wooster television series. It's not quite the same as the books, but my raging crush on Stephen Fry makes up for that.

Jeeves makes his acquaintance and one of his famous hangover cures.

Jeeves offers Bertie some musical direction.

22 August 2008

Post 10a ends with a subtle threat

This post will make more sense if you've been reading the series 10 rants about my ex-books. Parts #1, #2, #3, #4 , #5, #6 ,#7, #8 and #9 contain relevant squawking. Part #10 has yet to be written.

As we approach the end of the Ex-Libris List, I wanted to take a brief foray into Tangentland. There's no actual list in this post, just a story that relates to the list. It has more to do with the end of the series than the middle of it, hence jumping ahead to name it 10a.

A funny thing happened when I was bumbling around Powell's yesterday with my friend Jesse.

A note to non-Portlanders: Powell's is Portland's epic bookstore. It is several stories high and takes up an entire city block. First time visitors experience a real WOW factor. Eventually you learn the lay of the land, or you've adopted Portland's special brand of jadedness, or you're in a bad mood because it's been drizzling for 200 days straight and you walk into Powell's and think, "Get me to the Blue/Rose/Pearl Rooms because I need a book on x/y/z." Or, more likely, "Get me to the Purple Room because I need a toilet."

I hadn't been to Powell's in ages, despite the fact that I've been touting it here on the blogosphere by linking every single title on the list to the store's site. Before I even set foot in the store I get a, "That's weird," notion buzzing around my brain because I am spotting books from the list EVERYWHERE-- they're in the windows, on display tables, on the featured shelves at the end of the rows and rows of books. I think I could literally shake the shelves and the entire contents of the list fall to my feet.

My reaction to this was a muddied one. At first I felt bad for obviously having fallen prey to marketing ploys at bookstores over the years. Then I just shouldered it off figuring that I had good taste in books, and so what if that also meant that I was keeping apace with the trends.

However, my old anxieties kicked into overdrive and I ended up with this clamor of disparaging noise in my head. My internal monologue went a little like this:
Everyone thinks I'm a big liar. people are reading this list and thinking that I just came here to Powell's and picked out 87 titles from the recommended reading shelves. Not so! I owned these books. People borrowed them from me. I COULD NAME NAMES. I could implicate people. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrgh!
When I mentioned this to Jesse he said, "Crow, I think naming names is generally a good idea."


In the long run, I just don't think naming names is my style. But for the record: If you borrowed my stuff, I know who you are and I'm judging you silently from afar.

21 August 2008

Take a Picture, It Will Last Longer

This post is the penultimate part of a series of 10 rants about my ex-books. Parts #1 and #2 will help to set the scene. Parts #3, #4 , #5, #6 ,#7 and #8 contain relevant squawking. The end is in sight!

Ask me for my favorite book lovers haunt -- a place to enjoy reading a book, or a place to browse/buy books. I can rattle off several in the various metropolises I have called home. For a far-afield example, after picking up a title at Kenny's Bookshop, one might need to head over to Banana Phoblacht to escape Galway's gales and indulge in one of the best hot chocolates I've had in my life.

I just learned that one such haven for books (in another one of my former homes) has closed. Candida's World of Books shut its doors this February. Though I learned of its demise some six months after the fact, I still felt a great sense of loss. This bookstore was a gem.

Candida's was a half a block away from my workplace in Washington, DC. I spent many a lunch break and a good chunk of my paycheck there. After toiling away (at a place where we unabashedly created as much drama off stage as we put on stage), it was nice to have a place like this to decompress from a stressful day. I liked my job a lot, but having Candida's as a nearby crutch made it livable.

Candida's was truly a World of Books. It could have been described as a travel bookstore, but that wouldn't be quite accurate. Travelogues, maps and guidebooks were offered in abundance. It was a place to stop in if you wanted to pick up a a replacement copy of
501 Russian Verbs along with a photo journal of Thailand, an introduction to South African diamond mining, a novel written in Portuguese, Italian erotica, a shiny new copy of The Master and Margarita, a children's book about passports, and a hitchhiker's account of his journey from Bratislava to Bucharest.

Candida and her staff were extremely knowledgeable, and could provide really excellent recommendations. Say you're a big Haruki Murakami fan, but you're in the mood for a classic. Candida's staff might pluck the Japanese classic Wild Geese by Ogai Mori from the shelf. I've seldom had bookshops that have come up with suggestions so quickly and so reliably.

I have always loved to travel (perhaps more than I love books or, dare I say it, theatre) and I've kept a list of places I would like to visit since I was a little girl. Iran has been on that list for many, many years, despite the fact that as an American I am supposed to believe that I will be burned at the stake upon entering the country. (Lies!) At the time I was frequenting Candida's, I was
also reading up on Iran. Reading Lolita in Tehran was a relatively new and popular title at the time, and I came into Candida's one day complaining that I found it to be a disappointment. Candida of course had the perfect suggestion: Persepolis and Persepolis 2.

I began to read the first one on the ride home on the Metro. I lived at the end of the line, so I had a lengthy trip home. I finished the book, unaware that the entire train had disembarked. I sat alone sobbing for this
sad-yet-affirming book had stirred me so much. A conductor finally came through and had to ask me to leave.

By the time I left the train, I had missed my bus, and I had over a 90 minute wait for the next one. This gave me more than enough time to read the second. I cried the whole bus ride home. Over the next week, I re-read this pair of books at least a dozen of times.

After my introduction to Persepolis,** I ditched the Iran phase and went through a graphic novels phase. I read all the big titles of the genre. Like many others, I'm not particularly fond of the term graphic novel, and it's true that this list isn't solely graphic novels. Ergo...

Picture Books

The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey

Y: The Last Man #01 by Pia Guerra and Brian K. Vaughan

Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir by Graham Roumieu***

Persepolis by
Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi

Blankets by Craig Thompson

*Buy local and/or support the little guy!

**No, I have not seen the Persepolis movie. Yes, I would very much like to see it, so please invite me over to watch it already.

***If you haven't returned the Bigfoot book because you're still laughing, I understand. However, as a fee for having absconded with my book for so long, the courteous thing to do is to return my book along with its BRAND NEW SEQUEL, Bigfoot: I Not Dead.

18 August 2008

Onto the Classics

This post is part #8 in a series of 10 rants about my ex-books. Parts #1 and #2 will help to set the scene. Parts #3, #4 , #5, #6 and #7 contain relevant squawking. Those keeping up with the series should note that I bought a new keyboard because I got so fed up trying to type the last post without a space bar.

This is an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman set. It is a classic.

Connoisseurs of mid-century modern furniture design will tell you there is no finer specimen than the original. Its lines and proportions are perfect. The manufacture and materials are of such high quality that there is no possible substitute. People love this chair. People love this chair enough to have it tattooed on their forearm.

The thing about classics is that people are always trying to reproduce, re-imagine or generally riff on the original. In capitalist speak: people like, people buy, people demand more, people accept cheaper knock off, people are disappointed. Well.. those familiar with the original are disappointed.

Imagine you walk into an office and to have a serious conversation with someone. They offer you a place to sit, and it happens to be an Eames Lounge Chair. You sit down and close your eyes as you cozy up against the leather. Inhale, exhale. Open your eyes. You're in another chair. One that is very similar to the one you were just in but with a few "improvements" and "updates." So instead of sitting a timeless specimen, you're left in a leather lounger that screams 1994. Now tell me: are you going to be able to have a serious conversation with the person that list likely responsible for the switcheroo? Would you trust someone implicitly with such a flawed design aesthetic?

No? You wouldn't? Well shame on you for being so shallow. And shame on me for stringing you along. That really wasn't very nice of me.

Classics are classics for a reason. We can easily identify them because they stand out as innovators and as archetypes. In many ways, our collection of classic books becomes the barometer on which we gauge our critical response for that which follows. A classic can help us decide what is good and bad about what we've read or written. It can become a placeholder in a literary evolution.

Let me let you in on a little secret, I don't like all of the so-called classics. I've sloughed through many of them just so I can snicker a little harder at all the literary references that keep popping up hither and thither. For example, though I do like Steinbeck, I'd rather pull my teeth out than read In Dubious Battle or Grapes of Wrath again. I think it's important to dislike certain books. I think it is often easier to articulate what I do not like. From these criticisms, I can paint a clearer portrait of what I do like.

Here is my list of Classic Literature gone AWOL. I like these. I miss having them in my private library. I know many readers find the classics boring or dissatisfying. As it stands, a majority of this list is from the 20th century and may therefore be easier to tackle than Edmund Spencer's The Faerie Queene.

It's a Classic...

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Middlemarch by Geroge Eliot

The Sun Also Rises by Earnest Hemingway

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Dubliners by James Joyce

Ulysses by James Joyce

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck*

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Slaughterhouse Five
by Kurt Vonnegut

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Useless Fact: in Ireland the title of James Joyce's book (and Irish national treasure) Ulysses is pronounced YOO-li-seis whereas in America we say ewe-LI-seez.

*If you're wary of a classics list, start here.

And now for the gents...

This post is part #7 in a series of 10 rants about my ex-books. Parts #1 and #2 will help to set the scene. Parts #3, #4 , #5 and #6 contain relevant squawking.

I won't be giving these gentleman an adequate introduction. The broken space bar on my laptop is proving to be more obnoxious than the missing Y and arrow keys. I removed the space bar key so I didn't have to typelikethis (the other keys were lost thanks to dropping my Shakespeare anthology on my computer...twice). Now I can't get the damn thing back on. Without the space bar, I need to hit this tiny sensor and that can only (painstakingly) be done using my right index finger.

It's too bad that this fragment of The List has so little introduction. There are so many enjoyable reads, both heady and hysterical (sometimes simultaneously). Can you tell that my infatuations tend to be literary?

Modern Fiction by Men

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

by Ian McEwan

Black Dogs by Ian McEwan

Saturday by Ian McEwan

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje (technically an autobiography, but reads like fiction and it's Ondaatje for crying out loud)

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins

Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

Cinnamon Gardens by Shyam Selvadurai

16 August 2008





15 August 2008

Standing Apart

This post is part #6 in a series of 10 rants about my ex-books. Parts #1 and #2 will help to set the scene. Parts #3, #4 and #5 contain relevant squawking.

I met up with a friend this afternoon who is a borrower of my books, but not a reader of my blog. When she asked what I was up to, I told her that I was busy writing and obsessing about my missing books.

"I think I have one of them," she said. I thought she was probably right.

We finished our iced teas and dropped by her home to grab the novel. When we got to her bookcase, I spotted the title almost immediately, Zadie Smith's name in a familiar white typeset.

"It was really good," she said, handing me Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants.

Mildly surprised, I accepted the book (one of my most enjoyable reads of the past year). "Oh! I thought you were returning On Beauty," I said.

"Is that yours, too?" It was, according to the name on the inside cover.

A funny thing happened once these books were returned. I no longer really cared about the list. I didn't feel as incredulous about the shear number of books that had made their way out of my home. I didn't want them back solely on the principle that they were mine, dammit, all mine!

Even though I liked both of these books very much, I knew wasn't going to re-read them any time soon. I didn't really need to have two more books to decorate the shelf. In fact, the only enjoyment I got from having the books returned was the opportunity to have a discussion with someone whose opinion mattered to me.

Driving home, I debated about whether to abandon this series altogether. Its scale felt too epic, and this development sort of extinguished the flame that was propelling my little paper blogger boat. Eventually I decided to finish the series because at this point I really need to have the accomplishment of seeing a project through to the end.

I looked over the fraction of the list that had these two titles, Modern Fiction by Women. My notes for how to introduce the section were sparse, "Ladies First" scratched out in the margin. Loosely scrawled on the bottom of the page was a messy lament, "Shouldn't have to distinguish... these ladies stand apart."

Modern Fiction by Women was made up of nine titles. They ranged from the vivacious and picante Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel to The Map of Love, Ahdaf Soueif's sprawling but intricate exploration of romantic love in Egypt at the turn of two centuries.

One title, however, stands apart from the books on list. I mean the entire list because it is probably one of my favorite books of all time, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.

O! Kind borrower, please return this book. Or at least let me know if I need to buy a new one! It's the only one I really want back...

Dramatis Personae Non Gratae

This post is part #5 in a series of 10 rants about my ex-books. Parts #1 and #2 will help to set the scene. Parts #3 and #4 contain relevant squawking.

This section of The Ex-Libris List reads like a syllabus for the average undergraduate theatre history course. Probably because I acquired most of these texts because they were course requisites in a class I took somewhere or another. In any case, it makes me feel like I should hurry up and get a Ph.D. Then I could (maybe) get a job teaching these classes. So I can have nice things. Like health insurance.

All you theater folks, please note: Prior to assembling this list, I checked to make sure I didn't have a copy hidden somewhere. I rummaged through the stack of plays stashed on the top shelf of my closet. I have a feeling you know the type-- Xeroxed, binder clipped and coffee stained.

For visual interest, I am offering a photo from a production during my undergraduate days. The production was of a monstrosity not worth mentioning. I dare you to play Spot the Crow.

The List, Part V
The Oresteia by Aeschylus

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee

Lear by Edward Bond

Four Plays by Anton Chekhov

Plays 2 by Caryl Churchill

by Michael Frayn

The Complete Plays by Sarah Kane

The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh

Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O'Neill

Betrayal by Harold Pinter

A Woman Alone and Other Plays by Franca Rame and Dario Fo

Machinal by Sophie Treadwell

How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

And just like that we're halfway through!

14 August 2008

Shorter is Better

This post is part #4 in a series of 10 rants about my ex-books. Parts #1 and #2 will help to set the scene. Part #3 contains relevant squawking.

While I was living in Galway, I took a brief weekender to the City of Cork. I spend an evening in a pub where I met a salty older gentleman who claimed it was his life's work to continue Ireland's long literary tradition. I bought a poem from him in exchange for a pint.

My American companion did not approve. She shot me dirty, disapproving looks that said, "How could I dare to interact with the local color!" and, "Didn't I know I was being had?"

Sure I did. Part of the fun of buying him the pint was being in on the game. Ultimately, I think I got the better end of the bargain. He got a pint of Murphy's. I had my very own six word poem, Questions to Ask of Samuel Beckett, written on a beer mat. I also had a story to tell for years to come thrown in free of charge.

On a totally unrelated note, I found a heart on the sidewalk that night while walking back to the hostel. It was no longer beating, and I think it used to belong to a sheep.

Poetry has always been very close to my (very much still beating) heart. Rolling the tape back to my childhood, I fondly recall that poems made for excellent bedtime stories. Cuing up to the days of Crow-In-Elementary-School, it was poetry that first helped me to bumble through a curriculum I wasn't sure I fit into. Mostly, I liked going to school, but I struggled a little bit.

I saw school as an infringement on prime daydreaming hours. By second grade, my favorite in-class pastimes of driving my pencil around my desk like a car or staring out the window lost in thought were deemed inappropriate behavior. Meanwhile, I thought timed arithmetic drills were a waste of time. It wasn't that I couldn't keep up. Quite the opposite. I found classroom life to be slow and colorless in comparison to the world inside my head.

That year, I failed my writing competency examination. I probably took one look at the test and decided that it wasn't worthy of my concentration. As a result of failing the exam, I was given additional writing assignments throughout the year and in the summer leading up to third grade. These assignments had a line quota, but no rules about how much space I was supposed to take up within a line.

"Can I write poems?" I asked Mama Crow. I wanted to write poems because they were shorter. I thought they were better because I could put my thoughts into a string of words, divide those words into 15 or however many lines I needed to complete the assignment and hurry back to daydreaming. Plus poems by nature did not have to make sense so long as you could explain yourself. I thought poems were easier. Mama Crow thought I was a weirdo.

Coincidentally, second grade was my favorite grade. I think my teacher still hangs my spider poem on the wall during her arachnids unit.

I don't think it's at all surprising that I first flirted with bending the rules through poetry. I think poets have been doing this for centuries. I think poetry identifies language as a system. By recognizing it as such, we play with its parameters as a way to explore the best and the worst of our ideas, our feelings and our society. Poetry, therefore, is not some forum for pedestals and elitism. It says, "I have a heart and a gut and a brain and a body and it is a joy to express my experience in the formation of words."

The best and worst part of owning poetry collections is that you end up with some old, raggedy copy of a book called The Collected Works of... The plasticine tape holding cover on is losing its battle. The pages are yellowed and smell of age. Favorite poems are falling out, making pages become their own bookmarks. Poetry collection are both anonymous and loved. For this reason I know I am missing several collections from three of my favorite poets, Federico García Lorca, Allen Ginsberg, and Pablo Neruda, but I don't know the exact titles.

Sadly, I'm almost certain I've lost these books to a case of sticky fingers. I think I know the culprit and I've decided it's time to change my perception of things. He did not borrow without asking; I have unwittingly invested in his edification.

Lo Mismo

This warmed my cold and flinty heart.

(Watch on a larger screen here.)

Books that Require a Colon

This post is part #3 in a series of 10 rants about my ex-books. Posts #1 and #2 will help to set the scene.

Yesterday, as I was compiling my long list into 8 shorter lists, I realized something-- there's really only a handful of books that I want back badly enough that I would be willing to buy them again. This is a good thing. If I were to buy the entire list back, the sum total of the retail value would probably be the equivalent to a semester of schooling at a public university. Or a lengthy vacation trip to Iran (a place I really want to travel to because of reading some of the books on The List).

I also aware that I am going to have to let go of the idea of getting any of these books back. Many of these books have been out of my possession for years. And, if I recall some of the borrowers correctly, I've scattered books across several time zones and potentially across several continents.

I set about dividing the list into sets by considering what shelves I would keep them on. I have 3 bookcases, and they are designated as follows:
  • Fiction: Read and Partially Read
  • Theatre: The Only One that is Alphabetized
  • Miscellaneous: Reference, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Short Stories, Unread Fiction
Today's posts will focus on the last shelf. Without further ado...

Non-Fiction: Books that Require a Colon in the Title

Full disclosure: I typically don't read non-fiction for kicks. Most of the non-fiction I read is limited to the work I have done as a dramaturg. This means I will go through stints in which I attempt to read all I can on subjects like Leningrad, 1942. This sort of subject-oriented binging requires a bit of detox, and I steer clear of all things factual.

As I was putting this list together, I noted the heavy reliance on the Title:Subtitle format. I also noticed that there was a really transparent theme in the titles. The titles suggest that these books are dangerous and sexy. This is all marketing. At least one of the "dangerous" books is quite dull.

Of the seven books on this listette, I am hankering for just two of these titles to be returned. One, Musicophilia, because it was borrowed before I had a chance to read it. The other was a gift. I bet you can guess which one.

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram

Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier

Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices by Andrew Dalby

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt

Musicophilia: Tales of Music & the Brain by Oliver Sachs

Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies & Jays by Candace Savage

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife

13 August 2008

Ex Libris: The List

It seems my last post about the unknown whereabouts of a significant chunk of my book collection has caused a silent stir. While one very tempting suggestion made its way to my comments, the clamor created by my complaint was mostly voiced in my email inbox.

Image: Paul Béliveau

One literature hoarder wrote to me, saying that she did not want to comment in public because the disclosure of her guilt to the Internet at large is a little intimidating. She thinks maybe she is hoarding some of my books, but she's shy and she's not exactly sure which books of mine she has borrowed. She accused me of making her "feel busted for a crime I didn't know I was committing," and then requested that I post the Ex-Libris List here so she could scan her shelves and return my missing materials.

I looked over the email. Then I looked over my list. Then I looked at the part of the email where my comrade suggested that she didn't want to be exposed as a book thief on the Internet. Then I looked over the list again. Oddly, I felt like I didn't want this list to be exposed. I thought that, somehow, some huge part of me would be revealed through its contents.

So I decided not to share.

Fast forward a few hours, and I receive another request for the list from a potential book borrower. I looked over the email and I looked over the list. I knew one thing for certain: it was going to take me a long time to type it all up.

This is a list of books that I wanted to share with people, and that I liked well enough to get back. I decided other book lovers might like to take a gander as well. Or, all three of my semi-regular readers might come across a title and say, "I loved that book, too!"

So I decided to share.

Now, I'm going on a minor tangent here. I keep attempting to beat my inner dramaturg to death. Mostly this is because professional doctor types keep telling me that my career is a detriment to my health. The trouble is, my inner dramaturg is sort of a bruiser and therefore not easily subdued. Once I think I've got it good and pulpy, it bites at my ankles letting me know that it has something to say. Then we usually end up having a conversation that goes like this:
KC: (clenching my Achilles.) Yow! I did not let you out of your cage.

ID: Dude, I just want to say that I think your list idea is a good one, but I'm wondering if you've thought about presenting it in smaller chunks?

KC: Fuck you. I don't want your help. Nobody does.

ID: Hey, man. I'm not here to stir some shit in your soup. I'm just saying that I've seen the list and I think there are some distinct genres popping out. I feel like your blogs readers might potentially be overwhelmed by one long list.

KC: You dare criticize me, thou lowly beast? No one tells The Great Crowcrastinator what to do! Particularly not in such namby-pamby, passive-aggressive fashion.

ID: Look, breaking the list up will create several opportunities for doing what you do best. You break it up a little bit, and you can go to town with your cutesy little idiosyncratic anecdotes. It'll be fan-fuckin-tastic.

KC: Really?

ID: Yeah.

KC: Are you sure?

ID: We can flesh one out together. See how it goes.

KC: Ooooh. Actually, we can't.

ID: Why not?

KC: We lost our funding. You're going to have to go back to your cage.


KC: Hey, uh... thanks.

ID: You're welcome, Sunshine.

KC: Now don't come back until you can help me get my rent paid!

So, the Ex-Libris List will be posted in 8 parts beginning tomorrow. Buckle your seatbelts, kiddos.

12 August 2008

Ex Libris

One day, years ago, my friend's boyfriend came over to my apartment. I had liked this kid, and by the time he came around for a visit I knew him well enough to know that he was critical of everything. When he looked around apparently skeptical of my tastes, I wasn't surprised.

He heaved a large sigh and said, annoyed, "I thought you'd have more books."

I narrowed my eyes and glared at him in a way that suggested that he'd just bought himself a first class ticket on the Ex-Lovers' Express. "I am a very close acquaintance of the library," I sneered.

It should be noted that I only sneer when I am lying. While this visit did occur at about the same time as I was frequenting the library to read (and ogle) the Griffin and Sabine series, I was hardly depending on it for my reading materials. Truth be told, my personal library was not proportional to my love for books. For reasons I still can't quite put a finger on, I was a little sensitive about the subject.

Now, years later, I am more settled in Portland. That jerkwad boyfriend has been my friend's ex-boyfriend for many, many cycles of the moon. These days, I own more shelves, but I do not own many more books. I've read a ton of books since then that I've deemed worthy of being a keeper. Books I might actually read again. Books which were effective enough to not get sold back to Powell's for some mad money. Books that made me feel good just by looking at their spines and silently reminiscing about the good times we once had together.

So where do these books go?

It has to do with this habit of mine. If I like a book, I want everyone I know to read the book, too. I loan books out. I forget to whom I've loaned my books, so I never ask for them back. I know some of them have been read, but I'm not sure that I ever specified that I expected it to be returned.

Occasionally this comes back to bite me in the ass. Like when I want to read an old favorite. Or when I am trying to remember a particular passage that is bumbling precariously through my mind. Or when I am trying to do some dramaturgical research and my source is AWOL. Or when my life just would feel better in the company of Bertie Wooster and his gentleman's personal gentleman, Jeeves.

Today I finally sat down and compiled a list of books that are now former books. My ex-books, if you will. And these are just the titles I can remember-- I am certain there are a few strays that I've forgotten about. I'm not going to disclose a number, because that would make me feel a little slutty. I will admit that I would need another shelf to hold them all in the rare instance that the entire contents of the list are returned to me. A tall shelf.

07 August 2008

Dnt Wnt 2 Txt

I've got a lot of gripes in me, but few can compare to the one I have against text messaging. Yeah I'm supposed to be all hip and with the times or whatever, but I really resent this technology. Text messaging. Booo! I hate it.

The problem only seems to be getting worse. Several of my friends use text as their preferred method of correspondence. Sometimes I return their texts with a phone call. I know this drives at least one of them absolutely batshit crazy. She won't answer, but instead sends me another message to decode: "@Work. Ur 2 return txt w/ txt. Told you x 1000."

I usually respond to this by leaving her an inappropriate voicemail message. If she had actually told me 1000 times already, she should know better.

I don't know how much I can delve into how irksome I find this text messaging phenom. I'm feeling anxious just thinking about texting. My teeth are clenched, my stomach flutters. Something does not feel quite right.

And it's not right. I shouldn't have to take the time to send 6 or 7 text messages to express what could be covered in a 30 second phone call. It takes me forever to hunt and peck with my thumbs. I did not spend painstaking hours on my Dad's Smith-Corona so I could sit, staring cross-eyed at my telephone. I did not spend countless afternoons hanging out with Mavis Beacon so that I might read a 60 character message that I have to respond to without the crutch of my darling QWERTY.

I think my biggest grudge against text messaging is that it combines two things that I don't like very much: telephones and maintaining visual interest. Phones have never been my thing. I spend more of my time listening to TV than actually watching it. Why would I want to devote 100% of my concentration to my telephone? It makes my skin crawl.

06 August 2008

KC Love, Birthday Edition

I was going to make a mix tape for my friend Kurt in honor of his birthday. "I want a disco themed birthday," Kurt sousedly admitted last weekend sometime between eating s'mores pancakes and asking me for all my thoughts on God, magazine editing and Stephen Hawking at 5 AM. It was a little late to plan a disco party, but it gave me plenty of time to tinker out a mix tape.

Unfortunately, my computer is sputtering today in a way that suggests that I must ambulate towards the computer hospital. The mix is not going to happen, despite the fact that I have assembled a track list that includes disco strongholds like Gloria Gaynor's Never Can Say Goodbye as well as some kitschy favorites like Barbara Acklin's I'll Bake Me a Man.

Instead, I offer a Crowcrastination birthday tribute to the how now in my brown cow. Like a mixtape, it probably has as much to do with the giver as the receiver... but that's what friends are for, no? Anyway... may I present:

10 Reasons Why My Psychiatrist Says We Have an Inappropriate Relationship

10 Reasons Why KC Love Won't Quit

  1. I made that valentine for Kurt ages ago and he still keeps it tacked on his bedroom door.
  2. Kurt once told me that his Mom had a glass eye. I believed him until he told me she also had no legs.
  3. Kurt has absconded with my copy of Bridget Jones's Diary (a.k.a. BJD) over 2 years ago and I am only a little bit bitter.
  4. Kurt used to light my hair on fire, strand by strand. Despite my threats, he still has his nads.
  5. He is the reason why my default karaoke song is Wuthering Heights.
  6. Once we traipsed around San Francisco doing touristy things. I was so excited to get to show him around the city, I almost got a speeding ticket on my way up from San Jose.
  7. Kurt will totally reinact this Laurie Anderson performance for my amusement if I ask him. (And Kurt, this is me asking.)
  8. Kurt is a good companion on road trips, if only because he knows all the words to the songs on the oldies radio station.
  9. I knew the two of us would be friends when I gave him a kitten as a gift in an improv in the first week of acting class and he was so excited that I thought he might shit his pants.
  10. I knew we would be friends for life when I was having a mad at the world moment and decided I was going to go live in a cave. He gave me permission to go live in a cave, but only if he could live in a cardboard box outside my cave.

I can't remember what I was mad about, but I do know that there is always a spot for Kurt's carboard box wherever I may be.

05 August 2008

For the Honor of Grayskull!

Little known secret: I've always wanted to wield a broadsword, and hold it aloft so that I might shout She-Ra's battle cry, "For the honor of Grayskull!" Of course, I would expect a similarly shimmery transformation like that of the pansy-ass Princess Adora to inter-galactic Mistress of the Universe, She-Ra.

Luckily, Marvel.com has a Create Your Own Superhero feature. Of course I made a Crow-esque version of She-Ra.

So like watch the fuck out, Evil Forces of Horde!

03 August 2008

Window Kitty

My Quel surprise! moment of the weekend came to me in feline form. It should be noted that I am something of a cat whisperer. I don't even look for kitty company when I'm out for a stroll. They come to me, look up and say, "Hey, why are you not scratching me behind my ears already?" and I am more than happy to oblige.

This weekend I did about 7 or 8 minutes of housekeeping. When one lives in 500 square feet, this short chunk of time can make a big impact. One of the things I decided to do was vacuum the window sill. I even took out the fan in the kitchen window so I could get all the goodies lodged underneath.

But I got distracted on the way to the closet to pick up the Dust Buster From Hell, and I ended up capitulating to my narcissism in the bathroom for a few minutes. To my credit, this was not the narcissism of the practice your princess wave variety. It was more akin to recreational flossing. Sans floss. I wrap things up and grab my handheld vacuum.

So I'm sucking up the gunk in the window frame when I hear-- just barely over the squeals of Dust Buster from Hell-- the unmistakable sound of claws on hardwood. I look over to the left to see a very large, very scared kitty zipping out from underneath my bed. My first thought was, "Kitty, don't be a dumbass. Under the bed is the best hiding from vacuum spot in here." Then I remembered that I do not own a cat.

Seeing an unfamiliar kitty break into your home warms your heart in a way that no other sort of intruder possibly could. If you like cats, that is. I happen to like cats a lot. I like cats in a way that has permitted me to know how to meow in the pluperfect subjunctive tense. This is a story for another time.

But I can't own a cat thanks to a clause in my lease and some gnarly allergies I developed a few years ago. This is a cruel twist of fate. Everyone who comes over to my house tells me that the only thing missing is a kitty. As a retort, I offer that there are several dozen kitties on the Kitty Collage tacked up on the refrigerator even though I am well aware that two-dimensional inanimate cats don't make up for a real one.

So, I have a strange kitty in my house uninvited. He obviously came in through the kitchen window when I was not looking. Window Kitty was on an adventure. He wasn't interested in attention. I didn't offer him any food, so I don't know if he was hungry. He was interested in treading over every square inch of my apartment, including the pile of laundry on the floor of the closet. I followed him closely because I do not own a litter box. Eventually, my itchy, drippy eyes and nose get the best of me so I picked him up and put him back out the window.

I went about my business after kicking the kitty out. But he came back not 10 minutes later with a very insistent claws on glass (think rapid fire nails on chalkboard). I let him back in and I ask him where he comes from. He just ignores me. He's too busy setting up his forwarding address for his new vacation digs. He finds a wayward hair tie and plays with it, still not wanting much attention. I take a Claritin, and put on a movie. Kitty joins me on the couch for a cat nap. I know this is a mistake, but I am enjoying the TV on DVD thing a little too much.

Window Kitty is well groomed, extremely well fed and lacking of one identifying collar. I know he's got an owner somewhere. He obviously likes people when there are no elasticy hair ties to abuse. I'm guessing that he's from the neighborhood and just pussyfooting around in uncharted territory. It should be harmless, right?

No. I take him out, this time out the front door of the building even though I risk being seen by the apartment managers and other residents with a contraband cat. "Goodbye, Window Kitty!" I say. He looks up at me with a distinct, "This was not part of my plan," grimace. C'est la vie, Kitty.

To tie up this story, kitty returned right when I was headed for bed. He meowed at all of my windows. He scratched on the glass. He did this all night long. When I was able to sleep, I dreamt of kitties in my apartment. Just not of that particular kitty in my apartment.