note: i am a weenie. i saw maybe fifteen minutes of one of the alien movies when i was eight, and i'm still unable to think about sigourney weaver without getting upset. a camp counselor read me stephen king stories at some point in junior high; i continue to close all closet doors before going to sleep. i refuse to speak about jim henson's dark crystal, period.

that said, no one with the slightest tendency to clench at spooky things should see the ring - it's the scariest movie of all time. the premise is cheesy - watch an evil video and die in seven days - but that's just it: the first death is cliched and not at all disturbing, and i settled into my sticky theater seat thinking that the whole show would be silly. no, no. it's cruel and surreal and ultimately utterly unresolved. as we left, dozens of couples around us were fighting about coming to the movies: "let's go see "the ring", you said. jackass, jackass!"; "damn, i'm never watching television again. why'd you do this to me?". we had no reason at all - joe thought i wanted to go, and i thought he kept mentioning it because he was interested. that in itself is scary, as the film-in-the-film essentially lures random people to the VCR. so i had horrible nightmares, and when i jolted awake i had to convince joe to go to the bathroom and find me a sleeping pill; i was afraid to leave the bed.

why? because the director manages to scratch the surface of dozens of sinister archetypes, and the references are casual enough that if, say, you were a slightly paranoid viewer with a hyperactive subconscious, you'd be forced to fill the narrative gaps with personal fears. because i've seen maya deren and luis bunuel films, and the ring implies that their arty cacophony is evil, evil, evil. because i got used to hitchcocky, lovecraft-style felt-not-seen horror after an hour and forty-five minutes and was wholly unprepared for an explicit climax.

don't see the ring. if you have seen it, please tell me that it's amateurish and obvious and that i'm silly to fear my television. honestly - i need it.


the morning after a birthday can be more satisfying than the birthday itself. new reads are waiting for me - salman rushdie's fury, zadie smith's autograph man, lemony snicket: the unauthorized biography. the answering machine is full of good cheer, and it's socially acceptable to have cake for breakfast. in my thank-you note for friends who came to dinner, i get to tell valerie that my sister loves to see her, that my mother thinks grant is a catch. i wasn't very enthusiastic about turning twenty-four - i should be the great american something by now, or able to pay for my car insurance - but i woke up happy. hey.


for those of you who wonder about my brushes with mtv, sorority life's mara has joined my test prep course. and for those of you who wonder about state school student vocabularies - she's under the impression that unequivocal means 'special'.

my three-legged cat, on the other hand, has a fine grasp of language and fun; he vomited in three of joe's shoes this morning. this was calculated - they were five feet apart on the bedroom floor, and his aim was impeccable. one of the shoes was a camper, but the other two had "TO BOOT" printed on their insoles. three-legged cat means 'special'.



when i worked at a bookstore, i sold a cheap edition of don quixote to an earnest-looking high school student. our register wasn't registering very quickly, and the elderly man behind the student got a good look at what i was trying to sell; he was visibly relieved when the book left the store. i asked him about it, and he said

seventy-some years ago, don quixote landed him in the hospital with a horrible case of diphtheria. he'd gotten the book from the library, and the kid who'd borrowed it immediately before him had coughed all over the pages. he knew this because they ended up in the same room in the contamination ward; the other kid died. the old man had tried to read the rest of it many times since, and it panicked him; he was sorry to abandon cervantes, but that's how it goes.

i was cruelly mocked when i told my co-workers the story, but i did some diptheria research when i got home; turns out that it's quite possible for that sort of germ to linger in a book for several weeks. as for the likelihood of the whole thing - i've never seen someone look quite so devastated about, um, don quixote. i think i believe him.


joe and i were locked out of the apartment last night. to no one's surprise, my uncle wasn't around to come over and save us with his master key. i've had it to here with paying people to break me into my house, so i built a lock pick with a mineral water bottle and joe used it to get the door open. if you don't believe that, i can but say that i've read a lot of girl-detective novels and befriended a few locksmiths over the years.

1. Which is the mightiest?

2. Which has committed the most acts of staring?

3. Which tail will play hooky?

4. Which is:
a) The lawyer?
b) The doctor?
c) The theologian?
d) The world-wise?
e) The good-for-nothing?
f)The good-for-something?

5. Which is your favorite?

6. Which would make a good hairnet?

7. Which is good for a free meal?

8. Which would Goethe wear?

9. Which would Homer choose, if he came back to life?

(Questions for Further Study, from Fragments on Tails, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, 1783)

There is a theory of crying that tears are actually the body's way of releasing excess elements from the brain. There is a theory of dreaming that each one serves to mend something torn, like cells of new skin lining up to cover a hole. I'm not one to have dreams about flying, but last week we were thirty feet above the bay - this was where we went to discuss things, so that no matter what we decided it was only we two out there, and we'd have to fly back together. I'm not one to have dreams where animals can speak, but last night a weeping horse I'd been told to bridle wanted me to save him from being put down. We discussed what was left of his ability to take children for rides - how much trot, how much canter - but I just wasn't sure I could do it, having already bridled him and all. I was once very brave. Once I was very brave. I was very brave once. I boarded a plane before dawn. I carried all those heavy bags. I stayed up the whole night before folding the house into duffel bags. I took a curl from the base of your skull and opened the door to the rusty orange wagon and weighed those heavy duffel bags and smiled at the airport official. I boarded a tiny propeller plane and from a tiny window I watched you walk back to the rusty orange wagon. I watched the rusty orange wagon go whizzing by. They say the whole world is warming, but only by imperceptible degrees.

(lisa olstein)

in southern california, the santa ana winds are a gentler form of the gusters that tear through las vegas. they have the yeasty, benevolent heat of a laundry duct (yeah, i like the smell of hot lint; i also like the smell of gasoline). wind from the bay is a fine rain, really - like god is spitting when he talks, as a friend used to say. out here it's simply strong as hell. the school out back has been holding phys ed indoors - is lusty air bad? - so the redwoods at the end of the yard lack their customary knot of twelve-year-olds sharing a cigarette. van gogh or no, cypresses standing still are nothing like flames - they remind me of cemeteries in los angeles. whipping around in this weather, they're much better.