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Archive for December, 2010

Dispatches from California

Posted on December 31st, 2010 by annakjarzab

I’m really busy revising The Opposite of Hallelujah, so I don’t have time for a nice long rambling post about all the suburban things I’m doing in California, so instead I present you with pictures!

Got my hairs cut and my brows did:

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Mani-pedis with my sister:

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Read:

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Both brilliant.

Watched:

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Wore these socks:

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Took a lot of pictures of Val. She’s pretty old, so most pictures of her involve her reclining in some way.

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Obviously used Instagram a lot.

Currently reading:

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And that’s pretty much it. More when I finish revising Hallelujah. Have a happy New Year, y’all!

A night at the movies

Posted on December 20th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Ever since I heard about Black Swan I’ve wanted to see it, but I didn’t think anyone would go with me. That’s fine, because I don’t mind seeing movies alone, but I do find it hard to get motivated and usually just wait until they come out on DVD. But lo and behold, my friend Nikki wanted to see it too, so last night we went to the Lincoln Plaza theaters to watch it.

Okay, a few words about the Lincoln Plaza theaters. They’re on 64th and Broadway, right across from Lincoln Center, where the New York City Ballet, School of American Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and the Julliard School, among others, live and perform. It’s an indie/revival theater (I mean, for instance, there were signs on the ticket booth windows for Shoah, which was being shown in two sittings with a fifteen intermission) with a downscale look and lots of upscale clientele (ladies in minks, basically).

So you would think that people would know how to conduct themselves like civilized human beings! But that is not so. Lincoln Plaza has a couple of theaters, but none the size of those sprawling ones at the AMC up the street–these are small, intimate theaters with normal sized screens and about two hundred and fifty seats or whatever. Even though they were showing Black Swan about 10 times that day, our theater still filled up very quickly and space was limited. Nikki and I were early enough to get seats with no problem. The first indication that this was perhaps not the moviegoing experience we were hoping for was when a woman, trying to get to her seat on the other side of me, charged past me flinging her coat and bag and knocked our bucket of popcorn over so that half of it spilled right down the front of my sweater.

Then–oh, then. Just as the lights were going down and the previews started rolling, these two girls in puffy jackets entered the row about three rows in front of us, intending to sit in two empty seats in the center. The woman who was sitting next to the empty seats told them no, that she was saving them for people. The girls insisted that there were no other seats in the theater, that they had purchased tickets and were entitled to sit in the seats, which were not currently occupied by anyone. Now, if me and my friends had been the girls, we would’ve just said, “Okay, the seats are taken, let’s figure something else out” and walked away. But this was, as Nikki said, the perfect storm of two aggressive groups of people who would just not back down. The woman who was saving the seats stood up and began screaming at the girls that they couldn’t have the seats, her friends’ coats and bags were on them, etc. The girls shot back that the movie was starting and her friends weren’t there–thus, the seats were up for grabs and they were taking them.

The girls sat down in the empty seats and the woman yelled at them as she grabbed her friends’ things off them. She would not shut up about it, and when the man sitting behind her leaned forward and asked her to please shut up, she said, “Don’t you tell me what to do! And don’t you touch me! Don’t you touch me!” He wasn’t touching her that I could see.

A minute or so passed, and finally these supposed friends came barrelling down the right aisle. The woman loudly announced to them–while the movie was actually starting–that the girls had taken the seats, and one of the newly arrived friends cried, “Oh no they are not sitting in our seats! That is so disrespectful!” Let us not forget that at the moment this was happening, Natalie Portman was literally dancing on the screen–the movie was playing! And who is being disrespectful? TO EVERYONE ELSE IN THE THEATER. This latecomer charged through the aisle and, under the pretense of “looking for her coat”, which her friend had already removed from the seat, actually physically pushed the girl who was sitting in the seat out of the seat and proceeded to sit down in it!

Eventually the girls gave up and left (after being physically ejected from the seats, what more was there for them to do than to start a fight, which even they were smart enough to know was a bad idea) and I have no idea what happened to them. There were some half-hearted threats of calling the cops, which would’ve been the dumbest think in the history of the world–and note that not once during this whole fracas did the people who actually administrate the theater come in to intervene.

But that wasn’t the only rude/bizarre bit of behavior we saw (just the most entertaining and dramatic). In the middle of the movie, this girl a row in front of me and a few seats to the right was texting and the girl sitting behind her kept punching the back of her chair to get her to stop texting! I was appalled. I mean, yes, the light from the phone was annoying, and what are you doing texting during a movie–not just texting, but, like, surfing the Internet?–but it wasn’t in any way distracting from my enjoyment of the movie. It was no reason for the woman behind her to punch her chair repeatedly until she stopped!

Long-winded story, I know, but I just could not believe the nerve of some people. This is a nice part of town, in a movie theater; it’s not the freaking roller derby! Behave yourselves! New Yorkers have a reputation of being a little rough around the edges, but in my experience most people are pretty nice, or at the very least completely apathetic. I’m not surprised to see people pick a fight in a theater, but yet I am, if that makes any sense. Is it weird that I expect adults to behave like adults and not like monsters?

Happy Christmas everybody! Oh, and if you were wondering what I thought of Black Swan–that shit be weird. Maybe I’ll post about it later in the week. I need to process.

Progress

Posted on December 16th, 2010 by annakjarzab

I don’t remember the last time I talked in depth about what’s going on in the writing realm of my life these days, and I’m too lazy to go through the archives to figure it out, so let’s just say it’s been a while? This does not mean, however, that I haven’t been working! In August/September/October, I was busy writing The Opposite of Hallelujah, or rather rewriting it, and then rewriting it again, since I wrote most of the novel last fall while I was waiting on editorial feedback on The Disasterscript Of Which We No Longer Speak. Was that dramatic enough for you? I might be having a dramatic writer day.

Anyway! I got notes from Joanna and Danielle a week ago or so on OoH (or, as we’re calling it in our emails, Hallelujah, because “Ooh!” is sort of a weird acronym), and I plan to really dive into them this weekend, once all the holiday partying and dining and gift buying is over and I have time to really think about how I’m going to dive into this revision. Thankfully, J & D were very positive about this manuscript, and think that all it needs is some fine tuning, mostly having to do with deepening some characters and adding crucial details to the back story. I also have this annoying habit of preferring to let dialogue stand on its own without too much explication from the character about what they’re saying, which I actually do think is important, sometimes, letting the reader interpret things as they will. But my editorial notes usually have a bit about providing more explication for certain things that are said, which I also think is important, but which I nearly always have to go back and add in later. It’s a tic of mine, writing straight dialogue. Maybe I should look into a sideline in script writing/play writing. Just kidding! I don’t need more jobs.

In a way, this is good news; it means the plot is solid and so is the writing, which I think is the main challenge for a lot of writers, and can be a big challenge for me, too. I was lucky in that the plot for this book fell together quite easily in comparison to books that have come before it, and books that are threatening to come after it, all of which were/are huge messy disasterscripts that gave/give me nightmares. But this one emerged pretty organically, which I totally appreciate! But deepening can be it’s own kind of difficult. It’s not just about adding more detail, it’s about adding the right amount and kind of detail to make a character really sing. J & D gave me a great place to start, and more than once I was like, “That’s such a great idea, I never thought of that!” I’m excited to write those parts. But there are parts on which I disagree about certain things, or not absolutely disagree but am not finding the solution to the problem to be particularly easy, and am having a real block. I keep turning little things over in my mind and thinking, how can I do this so that it works for everybody, including myself? In this way, you can agonize over a single scene or paragraph or line of dialogue or sentence or word, even, for days. Fine tuning can sometimes be a lot more work than reworking a narrative, if only because the changes are “smaller” so it’s easier to obsess over them.

Which is why I’m glad I have so much time ahead of me in California to just work. I love going to Chicago for Christmas, and I’m sad not to be doing that this year, but also when I’m Chicago I have a lot of stuff to do, lots of family and friends to visit, lots of activities. In California, I only have a few friends I keep in touch with, like Shannel, who reads this blog (p.s. I’m really excited to see you over the holidays)! And I have no family outside of my immediate family. As you know, all of my hometown close friends all live in New York, so I see them a lot as it is and anyways only Kim is going to be home for Christmas. So there’ll be a lot more breathing room. I actually can spend days hunkered down in my room, or at the kitchen table, with a red pen and a can of Diet Coke, and work diligently without distraction or feeling cramped and crowded, as I usually do in my own apartment.

I’m really looking forward to revising Hallelujah, actually. I do love this book a lot and I’m proud of the way it came together. I can’t wait to tell you guys more about it (like, um, what it’s about), but for some reason I’m becoming more and more superstitious in my old age and I don’t want to say anything about it until my editor gives it the thumbs up. So hopefully that will happen in January and then I can post some kind of synopsis!

Will someone put the Duchess’s hair out?

Posted on December 15th, 2010 by annakjarzab

So last night I watched The Duchess. You remember The Duchess? It came out this year (I think…?) and it starred the Period Piece Wonder, Kiera Knightley, Voldemort himself Ralph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper (who will never be attractive to me ever, even ripped or in a wig or not in a wig), and lots of children because OMG so many children in this movie! People had a lot of children back then, especially when they were randomly having quasi-polygamous marriages and/or affairs every five seconds. The good old days!

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Anyway, if you don’t know, The Duchess is about Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, who lived at approximately the same time as Marie Antoinette, was friends with her, and had a lot in common with her (fashion, gambling, a famously tabloidesque lifestyle, complete ridiculousness when it comes to money in general), but the movie doesn’t touch on that at all, which is really too bad, but it had a lot of wigs to set on fire, so we have to forgive it. So many wigs, so little time! There were a lot of wigs in this movie, ALMOST as many wigs as children, plus if you count the Whigs who were in this movie, the number goes up, so. I can tell this “review” is already getting out of hand.

Georgiana (pronounced George-AY-na, because I don’t know why; when I first heard it, I was like, “Hm, that actor is pronouncing it weird,” but then they all pronounced it weird, when they weren’t just flat out calling her “G”, so that’s that, I guess) was married at a very early age (17, which is actually not that young for back then, seeing as Marie Antoinette was married to Louis when she was fourteen) to the cold, boring Duke of Devonshire. The Duke is unimpressed with his wife and more interested in his dogs, especially when Georgiana only manages to have two daughters (not counting the daughter that he fathered with a maid that she then had to take care of!) and no sons. He is not happy about this, as evidenced by the fact that they traveled in different carriages that one time, and also that he decides that Georgiana’s best friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster, who has been tossed out of her house and kept away from her children by her abusive husband and now lives with them, is going to be his second wife–not just his mistress, but basically ANOTHER WIFE! Georgiana is mad for about five seconds, but then gets over it, because she’d really like to take a second husband–Charles Gray (EARL GRAY, like the tea), who is a Whig politician who hopes to be Prime Minister some day. This is where Dominic Cooper comes in, completely unconvincing as a politician, a Prime Minister candidate, a person living in the 1780s, or a man you would ever want to have an affair with ever. The Duke, as you can imagine, is hypocritically NOT ON BOARD with this plan, but then he tells her that if she gives him a son she can do as she pleases. FAMOUS LAST LIES!

So Georgiana gives him a son and she assumes that then she should be able to conduct her life however she pleases. Her sister-wife, Elizabeth, gets Gray to come over and give G the business, and they have an affair until the Duke finds out and is, again, and not surprisingly, NOT ON BOARD. He threatens that if she doesn’t stop seeing Gray he’ll destroy Gray’s political career and also keep her children away from her as long as he lives and breathes. First she picks Gray, but then quickly decides that’s crazy and picks her kids, ending her affair with Gray, but not before SHE BEARS HIS ILLEGITIMATE CHILD in some drafty house in France or whatever and is forced to give it away to Gray’s parents who raise her as Gray’s sister. Fabulous! Royals are so good at family values, you guys, it’s amazing we don’t still have more monarchies.

There’s a softball “bittersweet” ending and the obligatory biopic text-on-screen informing us that Gray did eventually become Prime Minister, Georgiana died early (48) and with her blessing her sister-wife became the only wife (a.k.a. the new Duchess of Devonshire), and that Georgiana visited her illegitimate daughter Eliza in secret (which, from perusing the Wikipedia page, seems to be kind of not true? Since Eliza didn’t know G was her mother until after G was dead? But why quibble).

This movie was problematic for so many reasons. I’m not Dr. Biopic or anything, but I think they’re supposed to, like, explore the character and internal struggles of the people they’re biopicking* instead of basically presenting a time line of sadsauce moments in their life and going LOOK HOW SAD and also how many wigs can we set on fire? Because guys:

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This was the point where I thought, “Okay, this movie is hella stupid.”

Say whatever you want about the Sophia Coppola Marie Antoinette that I love so much, but that movie had style, man. It was pretty and silly and interesting and vibrant and fun to watch. This was just a tableau of Kiera Knightley in some dresses and wigs (only some of which were set on fire!) making constipated expressions that were supposed to denote anguish. I mean, yes, it sounds like G got screwed in many ways (especially the marriage department, because woof), as women tended to do back then, but also she had a pretty sweet life. She was crazy rich and it wasn’t like Dominic Cooper Gray was her only lover, she went to tons of parties and hobnobbed with the elite, and she got to wear a lot of cool dresses and wigs (only some of which were set on fire!). I’m not trying to be unsympathetic here, but if you’re going to call the movie The Duchess, perhaps you should spend more time exploring who she really was on a deeper level than you do on telling us the Duke really really loved his dogs. We get it! He thinks his dogs are the best! Fair enough, dogs are awesome. But it’s really not the focal point of the movie, or it shouldn’t be, unless you changed the movie title to The Duke and His Dogs, in which case go for it, but I doubt anyone would pay to see that movie.

I think probably Georgiana was a lot of fun, to be honest, and they don’t show that at all. Despite how grotesquely rich and out of touch she was, given how she was also so political, people loved her! She had lots of friends and was very popular, but the only nod to the fact that G was the life of the party was: A. When sister-wife Elizabeth (pre-sister-wifedom) tells Gray (pre-affair) that “The Duke is the only person not in love with his wife,” and B. when her wig gets set on fire (do I have to tell you that she was drunk at the time? Well, she was). Did she never have fun? Wasn’t she maybe a little bit vain? Why was she so political and how instrumental was she in actually getting people elected? I just don’t buy this presentation of Georgiana as this Ultimate Tragic Female, in the way that I don’t buy Marie Antoinette as one, though I certainly understand that not everything in her life (especially that bit at the end) was easy.

The Duchess isn’t really a bad movie, it’s just not a very good one. Like The Other Boleyn Girl, it seems to serve only to give us a lot of pretty period outfits to look at, which is nice and all, I appreciate that, but if it can’t be deep, it should be fun, and it was neither. Still, it’s available on Netflix Watch Instantly, so if you have a spare two hours and need something to put on in the background while you’re sorting laundry, it’s a pretty decent option. Or you could watch Penelope, which is also on Watch Instantly and stars James McAvoy and which I also watched last night, for the eleventy billionth time (exact number). You know what The Duchess could’ve used? James McAvoy.

*Not a word.

Strange charm

Posted on December 6th, 2010 by annakjarzab

So for a couple of years now I’ve been really fascinated by physics, especially theoretical physics, cosmology and astronomy. As a kid I was, like, THE WORST at math, but I was kind of okay at science, provided that it didn’t require any math. Now, of course, all science requires math at some point, especially physics, which is why I really like theoretical physics because that’s mostly a lot of sitting around thinking up possible solutions to problems that may or may not have any basis in fact or evidence to support them. Even theoretical physics eventually has to be backed up by mathematical equations, even if these mathematical equations turn out to be false, but hey! I’m not a real theoretical physicist so that doesn’t need to concern me.

Anyway, what I’ve gleaned from my many years of continued reading about theoretical physics, cosmology and astronomy is that A. the universe is so awesome we have no idea just how awesome it really is and probably never will, and B. it’s really hard to understand most of the universe’s mysteries unless you are very dogged, patient, and focused because some of the most interesting things about the world that we live in act contrary to the expectations we have based on our own common sense. As Michio Kaku, author of such awesome books like Physics of the Impossible, Parallel Worlds and Hyperspace has written:

“Our common sense does not represent reality. We are the oddballs of the universe. We inhabit an unusual piece of real estate, where temperatures, densities, and velocities are quite mild…our common sense evolved in a highly unusual, obscure part of the universe, Earth; it is not surprising that ourĀ  common sense fails to grasp the true universe. The problem lies not in relativity but in assuming that our common sense represents reality.”

Just before that passage he was explaining how monumental Einstein’s theory of general relativity is and how it pretty much toppled Newton’s theory of gravity because Newton’s theory was based on what we could see and experience and Einstein’s theory was based on what is really going on in the universe. BUT, Einstein’s theory kind of breaks down when you get to the subatomic level, because particles don’t behave quite as one might expect them to, to the point where even observing them at all can affect the outcome and it’s impossible to know with real certainty all properties of a particle at any single point in time and space.

This is where my retention and comprehension of physics sort of breaks down, at this quantum level, which is why I was delighted to discover this rather catchy and educational video/song by Hank Green about quarks. Enjoy.

The Big Freeze

Posted on December 3rd, 2010 by annakjarzab

Newsflash: I’m old. In a month and a half, I turn 27. Today I threw my back out at work and had to lay down on the floor in order to feel some semblance of comfort for a limited period of time before I had to suck it up and go back to my torturous death chair so that I could actually work for a while. My coworker Adrian passed by my office and was like, “Um…should I call someone?” Oh, no, I’m just down here counting the ceiling tiles, I’ll be fine. Look, a bulb in my overhead light is out! Good thing I came down here to check out the view.

Ugh. Whoever said thirty was the new twenty and forty was the new thirty and whatever else they’re saying to sell fashion magazines in these Days When Print Is Dead obviously never factored GENETICS into the equation. We don’t just get to wake up and say, “Forty is the new thirty!” because evolution will laugh in our face and then tell us that forty is the new thirty-eight, we’ve still got 500,000 years to go before it’s the new thirty-six, so shut up and go try on those mom jeans. Actually, just kidding, my mom wears nice jeans, and she looks about ten years younger than she really is. Speaking of genetics, I hope that happens to me, too.

That doesn’t fix my stupid back. Neither did the Advil I took, or the Subway sandwich I had for lunch, although truthfully only one of those was supposed to get rid of some of the pain–the other one was just delicious.

If you thought I was going to have a point, I don’t! This is just one of those navel-gazey posts all successful bloggers tell you not to write in their Blogging 101 seminars. “Blogging 101 seminars.” That’s the kind of stuff our descendants are going to look back on when our universe is dying a slow, agonizing heat death (sorry, I’m reading theoretical physics again) and think, “Maybe if we’d spent a little less time on that we’d have figured out how to save our species, but oh well.” See also: Craigslist Missed Connections, World of Warcraft, and the Palin family. And: jeggings.

Your moment of zen

Posted on December 3rd, 2010 by annakjarzab

Presented without comment, just because it’s Friday.

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