06.20.11: the dirty dozen, part I

01 on wednesday we saw measure for measure in central park; it was considerably more renaissance-glam (alexander-mcqueen-esque leather breastplates for the hos! a tech crew of gimp-devils!*) than the pared-down mobile unit version i saw last fall, though it retained carson elrod, my favorite member of the mobile company. can carson elrod be rearranged to spell i am lord voldemort?** anything can happen in repertory theatre. after the show i texted an entry to the number on a flyer in our measure for measure playbills and won tickets to all's well that ends well, so we'll be back in the park this friday. all of the shakespeare in my pockets! call me a hoarder if you like. i don't even care.

02 in digging around for information on the KGB's cold-war-era locomotive-based mobile headquarters in order to send a note on dinner plans for this thursday, i ended up on wikipedia's russian political jokes page.

- Why are the meatballs cube-shaped?
- Perestroika! (restructuring)
- Why are they undercooked?
- Uskoreniye! (acceleration)
- Why are they bitten?
- Gospriyomka! (state approval)
- Why are you telling me all this so brazenly?
- Glasnost! (openness)

there's a subsection, "geriatric intermezzo," especially for jokes about the communist party leadership's escalating decrepitude ("Why did Brezhnev go abroad, and Andropov did not? Because Brezhnev ran on batteries, but Andropov needed an outlet."). it is a fine page.

03 my current subway reading is the 115th granta, on "the f word" (feminism); today's essay is "aftermath," by novelist rachel cusk.*** she's a working mother, and writes that
I read somewhere that a space station is always slowly falling back to Earth, and that every few months or so a rocket has to be sent to push it back out again. In rather the same way, a woman is forever dragged at by an imperceptible force of biological conformism: her life is relentlessly iterative; it requires energy to keep her in orbit. Year after year she'll do it, but if one year the rocket doesn't come then down she'll go.
it's an arresting way describe one's own position; i will never be a working mother, but i know a thing or two about biological conformism, and i think every woman knows the disorienting weightlessness of another woman suddenly in or out of her own orbit, wherever it is. off she shot. here she comes. it does feel like gravity, deep in your gut.

04 my sunday-afternoon-and-nightstand reading, in turn, is david foster wallace's the pale king. an orphaned copy was actually placed in my hands, so i perched it atop my files and squinted at it as i drank my morning coffee for a week or so. i broke down and started reading it on a midnight train ride from the office late last week; i was so work-dazed and ill-rested that i greeted the dust jacket photo as though it were a person. when a sentence exploded across four pages, i flipped back to the jacket: hi. i'm a long way from finishing, and i don't yet know if i'll be interested in talking about the pale king here when i do**** - but i know already that i don't regret the read. i've lacked him.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 have you any shakespeare-related crushes?

02 gamboling gimp-devils! are you on board?

03 do you tend to win things?

04 does this whole communists-on-a-train thing ring a bell with you?

05 how do you deal with mice in the kremlin?

06 have you read any rachel cusk? does that quote make you feel funny?

07 would you be interested in talking about the pale king at some point?

08 what are you reading? is it making you happy?

*our fellow theatregoers were less fond of the gimp-devils, but they served a purpose: as director david esbjornson noted, literalizing evil on earth in his staging of the play makes isabella's refusal to sacrifice her soul for her brother's life more plausible. also they were all witchy and slick.

**in re anagrams, mind you. as far as i know he has no beef with harry potter.

***"not exactly a poster child for domesticity," as one book critic describes her.

****THUNDERTOME is not for the pale king.


esb said...

i don't believe i've ever won anything.

finished the hunger games pretty quickly. it was an engrossing read. now i have to wait for the damn library to deliver me the other two books...

LPC said...

01 - Bill Hurt, as Hamlet. 1979.
02 - Anything that gambols is good by me.
03 - Define win.
04 - My sister spent a summer in Leningrad, when it was Leningrad, so, yes.
05 - Very teeny anti-ballistic missiles. That's what we were afraid of back in the day.
06 - No. Yes, because I wonder about the specifics.
07 - I tried to read it but I couldn't. But I like to hear you talk about anything at all.
08 - It is so bad I can't even tell you what it's called or I'd turn to ash like a vampire in the sun.

kidchamp said...

i hunted for hunger games at penn station when we were heading down to washington last weekend; no luck, so i ended up with a visit from the goon squad instead (since you and naurnie had praised it so highly). 

kidchamp said...

the specifics of the "aftermath" excerpt are a rather bracing series of paragraphs about deciding to be a working mother. here are the ones that precede the bit i posted:

A few of these working-mother friends of mine have taken the occasional domestic furlough, usually in the early years of parenthood. Like wanted criminals finally run to ground, they surrender with their hands up; yes, it was all too much, too unworkable, the running hither and thither, the guilt, the pressure at work, the pressure at home, the question of why - if you were never going to see them - you went to the trouble of having children in the first place. So they decide to stay at home for a year or two and even things up a bit, like the cake mixture the recipe tells you to divide between two tins, of which there always seems to be more in one than the other. Their husbands also work, live in the same houses and parent the same children, yet don't seem to experience quite the same measure of conflict. In fact, sometimes they actually look like they're better at being working parents than women are - insufferable male superiority!

But a man commits no particular heresy against his sex by being a good father, and working is part of what a good father does. The working mother, on the other hand, is traducing her role in the founding myths of civilization on a daily basis - no wonder she's a little harassed. She's trying to defy her own deep-seated relationship with gravity. 

Amanda said...

01 Several.
02 They made me nervous, as you know. I maintain that those of us raised by evangelicals have already had evil on earth literalized quite a lot more than necessary.
03 Until recently, I would have said no.
04 Nope.
05 By singing, generally.
06 Nope. It upset me, if that's what you mean by "funny."
07 Perhaps.
08 The House of Arden. No, but the endpapers are marvelous.

Milkmaid's dumb friend said...

01: Pete Postlethwaite as Friar Laurence in Romeo + Juliet.  03: I always wanted to win a cakewalk, but alas… 05: Only semi-related joke I know is the Orwell “Where’s the omelet?” joke. 06: American Woman Space Stations spent 40 million dollars designing a pen to work in zero gravity.  You know what Russian Woman Space Stations did?  She used a pencil.  07: Please to be doing that (homage). 08: Re-reading some Wonder Boys in anticipation.  Please be nice when you get around to it.  He’s not my favorite author or anything but one beautiful signature Kidchamp kick in the teeth and he may decide to indefinitely continue not writing any stupid-fun books.

kidchamp said...

01 listen, that full-back ink was hot; PP is my daguerrotype boyfriend. (i really wanted to keep liking baz luhrmann after that movie - punctuation in titles, also hot - but i think r + j might have been a beautiful fluke. good god, moulin rouge!)
03 you will probably beat me at arm wrestling someday. i've mostly resigned myself to this. 
08 spoiler: i really loved wonder boys, which problematized my subsequent relationship with the ask.

g said...

01 possibly.
02 they strike me as silly, more than anything.
03 i enjoy winning.
04 yep.
05 penicillin.  wait, was that not a euphemism?
06 nope.  um.
07 i should probably read it before doing so, but probably.
08 several things, with varying levels of enjoyment.

enjelani said...

01 i had a thing for Benvolio when i was in high school. i went for the dull sensible types.
02 wait, tech = gimp-devils? hell yes. (sorry)
03 strictly a runner-up/honorable mention sort.
04 no, but that is a fine page.
05 i'm suddenly reminded of Frederick by Leo Lionni. funny, that story was one of my favorites as a child; i find the lesson insufferable now. (partly why i'm back to wearing a clip-on badge these days.)
06 no, but now i want a copy of Granta.
07 as LPC said: "I like to hear you talk about anything at all." oh! and i heard this on the radio late last night.

08 hunting down a copy of Ben Fountain's Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. also, any thoughts on Jose Saramago?

kidchamp said...

what a fine staged reading that must have been, E! i've not read saramago (i've not read any portuguese authors, i think, which is something i need to fix), but i look forward to your report. onward and artward!

(paul and jacob, thoughts on saramago?)

megan said...

1) Prince Hal
2) Gimp like in Pulp Fiction or camp craft? I prefer to imagine the latter.
3) I just won a bag of groceries at the Hyvee. I briefly thought this would be groceries of my choice, but of course it was a preassembled bag of stuff like a can of Manwich. Winning is still fun.
4) Wait, what?
5) I dunno, tell me.
6) Uhhmm. I find it discomfiting, sure. I deal with my new "working mother" label by not reading about it. It's just too goddamn depressing and I don't have time for more hand-wringing. I would argue with: "the question of why - if you were never going to see them - you went to the trouble of having children in the first place." If that's the case, why get married? Or have a pet?
7) I must admit, I could barely get through the excerpt in the New Yorker. Maybe you could say something encouraging about it? It appears that you could.
8) Cutting For Stone I've been surprised by how much I like it, though it has the air of older lady book club about it.

kidchamp said...

2) the former, alas.

4) it's something to the effect of how instead of sticking to a brick-and-mortar HQ, some soviet bodies would get together on trains and just ride around all the time. i can find nothing to support this. 

5) put up a sign saying COLLECTIVE FARM. then half the mice will starve and the others will run away.

6) i admit that being in the middle of extreme biological decisions of my own makes me more susceptible to lady-related imagery sets. i'd avoid cusk at a cocktail party, but i'm intrigued by the way she talks about space (the paragraphs i included here in the comments aren't as interesting to me).

on babies, spouses, pets, i've got rather strong feelings about marriage v. work and certain kinds of pets; i wouldn't have a long-distance marriage or a job which claimed most of my time and/or head space, and i wouldn't have, say, a dog (the cats, though thrilled to see us when we get home, appear to have reasonably stimulating non-lauren-and-joe-related lives). those parameters are specific to my personality type, of course; with apologies to tolstoy, every happy family is happy in its own way. 

jacob said...

i'm afraid i cannot repay your confidence in me. i have not read any saramago. my iberian reading experience begins and ends with cervantes and javier marias. though i will take this opportunity to plug a heart so white - it's set in oxford! how can you resist?

06 even though i read the essay and megan didn't, i agree with her take. also, the biological determinism aspect of the essay made me uncomfortable. still, easier to get through than that hemon baby cancer essay in the new yorker. jesus christ.

08 swamplandia, as you know. making me very excited for our visit to SW florida this fall.

LPC said...

Ah, OK. I was the other way around. Had to work, didn't want to, carried it off, wished I hadn't.