Hell, as that single searing jaunt through the Mojave Desert in the middle of July in a Renault Le Car sans AC attested, would be hot.

Under general heat advisory, Floyd and I hunker down inside next to the single chugging window unit. We maintain a cooler distance than usual, minimizing unnecessary activity. Larger mass of water consumption is notable on both our parts.

Lesson of the day: when the hot, grim, viral apocalypse descends, warlord kings will command access to clean, fresh water.

Which only makes the entire sold-out state of Michigan’s surrounding lakes so doom-drenched. Our largest Great Lake, so deeply voluminous and stormy clear– expendable in the name of commerce and industry.


I have American History X out from Netflix. I’ve ordered it for some reason (Ed Norton), having recalled it (Ed Norton) as brilliant (Ed Norton) if nigh-unbearably grim, which today I think perhaps I should forego, for all the (sigh) Ed Norton.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

It’s not often these days that I find myself eagerly awaiting a film’s release– a few too many hype-amplified disappointments over the years. Part of me is in fact hesitant to invest too much emotionally in the expectation of an hour and half’s spectatorship, regardless ultimately of even liking the film or not– but the truth is, I’m hooked here, frankly. I’m barbed and wriggling and gluttonous for the sharpest tang in my gut, and come August 26, by golly, I’ll be hitting the multiplex to take in this summer’s release of Guillermo Del Toro’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

Once upon a time I was a little sister– that is, a-lot-littler younger sibling to a couple of big brothers and one older sister, all of whom I gazed wide-eyed upon as very local celebrities.

The brothers early on marched off long-haired and guitar-playing to boarding school (an institution whose distance was marked indelibly by the elder, a cyclist of some long distance repute, who spent one endless summer vacation riding home across the states, sleeping in ditches en route).

The sister ohso-far-outpaced me in knowledge of grownup things, as evidenced by her flaunting of simultaneous 9th grade boyfriends, the dreamy dueling Dirk and Doug, unseen but imagined during eavesdropped telephone conversations from our parents’ bedroom phone extension (the trick of mute by pressing diagonal buttons gleaned off an elementary schoolmate with her own older sister).

These siblings ultimately served for me as the factotums of fashion, opinion, and an entire scope of worldly reference I could only most laggingly and hazily begin to grasp from five years’ trailing shadow.

My sister of the shiny silky turquoise-and-rust landscape-printed disco shirts with long pointy collars and pearlized buttons halfway-fastened typically ruled the central broadcast medium, a squat, olive-green-screened solid state megalith whose channels switched with an audible ker-thunk and before which I’d sit cross-legged afternoons after school, soaking up episodes of I Love Lucy and Gilligan’s Island. This same sophisticated sister was occasionally left in outright charge in the event of unavailable adult supervision–so it was doubtless under this babysitting regime that in the Halloween month of 1973 my psyche encountered and was forevermore seared by demons in the basement who target a family’s little daughter and drag her to hell in the middle of the night.

I must date to this cinematic event my lingering distaste for cellars. Sent on occasion by my mom to fetch some dinner fixin’ from the basement meat locker, I’d stand at the head of the stairs, switch on the overhead bulb via its stiff punch-button wallplate forged in a manual era, and teeter on the brink of descending those wooden steps so spookily illuminated, bracing myself. Finally, taking a long and fortifying breath, I’d plunge and clatter down, speedwalk across the green-glazed cement-floored laundry room, fumble for the slippery freezer key where it twisted on its hook, fit it into place with many mutters, casting all the while rapid glances toward the webby recesses of furnace gloom, grapple out whatever packet of peas or chops was required, re-lock the thing as fast as trembling digits would allow, and turn and race back up the stairs, convinced a hoard of dark-spawned demons trailed in swift pursuit.

Worse, my childhood bedroom featured a small storage closet beneath the eaves, which, due to some fluke of old house settling or cross-draft, tended to inch open incrementally in the night, however firmly I’d shut the thing at bedtime. Convinced small monsters had architected a secret passageway up from the basement through it, I finally thieved a minuscule padlock from my dad’s workbench and fastened it locked shut, empty and echoing my full panorama of fertile nightmares.

Why in the name of all things salutary, you may well ask, would I wish now to revisit the seed of all these lurking terrors? Some perversity no doubt compels me without rationality toward this newest installment of terror, wrought on the current occasion by a most devious wizard who gave us Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. In point of fact and on closer inspection I notice that Guillermo Del Toro’s film credit leaves out directing, is strictly for writing and producing, so I half expect the result to be some B-grade Katie Holmes goth grotesquerie– but if the possibility of revisiting the root of gripping childhood terror exists, I’m bound for the theater come August and may find there a final resting place for creeping, fabricated specters of a kid’s imagination. Or maybe I’ll only succeed in renewing my age-old fear of basements.

Easy A

this fun a literary/pop culture mashup is streaming now on netflix. it’s a wittily scripted riff on high school ethics sprouting from an assigned reading (dvd watching) of hawthorne and double-stepping across the screen with quippily literary repartee and an essentially humane dynamic of individual dilemma, decision, and resolution.

revelatory lead emma stone (appearing in more and more films right now, and apparently enjoying her very well deserved place in the sun at the moment) smokes and boasts a neat set of pipes to boot.

nyt dismissed it as ultimately puritanical and second to clueless, but that’s kind of movie review overkill. plus it has cool trompe l’oeil titles.

I think

vanilla sky was a good moment for tom cruise. when he was with penelope cruz on the world promotional circuit for the film. when it was cruise and cruz. when he was pre-really-super-crazy. just flirting with it.


in honor of the woo woo big night in hollywood– a random selection of sarah’s recent rental faves.

#1: michael clayton. damn, damn, damn good.

and then, because I am a chick and confess it, yes, I do like chick flix: feast of love. morgan freeman really has that sage narrator thing down pat.

and finally, because all things even remotely dealing with jane austen must be observed (with one hideous exception): the jane austen book club and becoming jane. oh, that dreamy james mcavoy.

sarah recommends…

partly in response to electric firefly’s recommendations in honor of Upcoming Unnamed Romantic Holiday and partly because I’ve been in a movie renting phase again, I’d like to offer up a recommendation of my own.

In the Land of Women. I sort of dislike posting trailers because too often they spoil the surprises and good stuff– I love it when I go in to a movie knowing and expecting virtually nothing and am swept up into the reality it creates– I also think that trailers are a very specific medium separate from and wholly different from the feature-length films they supposedly represent, such is the power of editing and pacing. this movie is not what the trailers would seem to sell it as, a romantic comedy– it’s a lot more thoughtful and quirky and therefore, I think, lovable than that. the strengths are really good writing, superb pacing, and beautiful performances, even if you may or may not have preconceptions about meg ryan from her previous roles. and, really, what’s not to love about adam brody?

I wish I could recommend more than this, but really a lot of what I’ve watched recently has just sort of slid right off the plate of my consciousness. I liked Fracture, even though it’s pretty formulaic, because how could a movie with ryan gosling and anthony hopkins be anything but watchable? but frankly it’s thin. the rube goldberg devices are nifty, though. I tried to watch 300 and had to shut it off about ten minutes in, which I virtually never do– somehow the same types of artifices and over-the-top-ness that I adore in Sin City, here just felt way off the mark and immensely irritating to me. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix was… I won’t even say enjoyable because poor Harry is just being set up to grapple with one impossible situation and set of condemnation and misunderstandings after another, and it just kind of feels like a gulag to me. if you want fantasy The Golden Compass is far more multifaceted and compelling, for my money.


“now give me.” “a lot of.” “wow, yeah, you need.”

preoccuppied out of sleeping by the documentary I watched earlier today, born rich by jamie johnson– heir to the johnson & johnson fortune, who made a project out of interviewing his inner circle friends about the unmentionable word. fascinating. depressing. surprising (particularly seeing a young man I actually know on the screen, being interviewed, and whom I did not realize–perhaps simply because I’d never stopped to think about it, but more likely due to that hushed characteristic of the wealth– belonged to that echelon).

and what interesting timing in my own life to be watching this and considering specie in its most phenomenal form. because I am currently and most personally, and have been for the main of the last few months (certainly not the first such period), chronically short of cash. as in, thank goodness for overdraft protection. as in, frequently unable to scrape together change to buy cigarettes. as in, raised with plenty and yet unpossessed of the tools to either manage or create. compelling, humbling, and generous lessons from life.

because if I hadn’t had to go through this, lightly bottom out, as it were, I probably never would have found occasion or means to confront the kernel of disfunction. the shame. the anxiety and apotheosis.

raised patently upper middle class but consistently with an air of just-hanging-on-by-the-hair-of-our-chinny-chin-chins (one that was indelible if quite likely manufactured), I reached post-college adulthood and the first lesson out of the gate: “um, what the fuck do I do now?” as in, how do I provide for myself adequately, capably, and maturely. and all these years later, the answer continues largely murky– only just, and through most-embarrassing-insolvency, beginning to come clear: manage it. look it in the eye, at last, and count it, make an accounting of it. somehow this, seemingly indispensable, part of the equation never made it into the original construct.

and consequently my siblings and I have all suffered our financial throes. none of us is especially good with lettuce. no, let me amend that. we are, all four of us, notably bad, characteristically and spectacularly unadept where the almighty dollar is concerned. we spend it, and that seems to be the extent of our literacy on the subject. so some of us have been fortunate in our choices of spouses, helpmeets to assist and offset our clan debility. and some of us have not. this one of us at least sits with her own incapacity on a daily and geometrically compounding basis, and finally comes to understand the white devil in her blood. attains its name if not the ability to command it, just yet.

and those kids on the video screen. those most elderly and ignorant and urbane kids you’ll ever see– their lives cast and commanded by the dollar sign. so deeply enculturated by it, by money. by money alone–how weird that is. well, of course not money alone, of course as well all its addenda of privilege. but money primarily, money nominally if widely unspokenly, money essentially. fascinating, as I said, and dreadful. deeply depressing– not for want of it, not in envy of that privilege, the shiny clubs, the tailored hair– no no– only pity. yeah, that’s what I said. what awful creatures of an all-consuming master, what a pitiable state of being.

and then I realize this boon: that I was never so rich, and there is, in this, hope for me yet.

also, I should add this: good for you, young mr. johnson. for daring to venture through the passage where the rest, your cohort, your elders (your own father) quailed at the prospect of entry. forbade discussion as strict taboo. leveraged the law, outright suing you for the hubris of the breach. and still you persevered, cracked that tight nut right open and laid the contents out for the world to consider– yourself not least of all. and I sincerely hope it may do you the greatest good.