Friday, October 24, 2008

Support your local independent bookstore
My favorite is Kepler's in Menlo Park, an amazing place that I love to death. The only problem is that I can't ever get out of there without spending close to a hundred bucks. I had occasion to wander through today before having lunch with a dear friend (thanks, Foreigner, it was great!) and, once again, I walked out $80 lighter and several books heavier.

Being there, though, reminded me of the simple pleasure of wandering through a bookstore. Aside from the next book group selection, I had no specific books in mind. And yet I found 5 other books that intrigued or enticed me in some way. And the joy of finding new books is amplified when I think that I'm supporting a local, independent bookseller. Considering that I worked in chain bookstores throughout high school and college (B. Daltons, Waldenbooks, Brentanos) I suppose it seems odd that I'm such a champion of independents, but I love them. I love booksellers who actually read and love books. Who write recommendations that show they have the same warped affinity for words that I have. Who have those quirky titles you don't even know you want, and would never find if all you did was visit (nothing against Amazon, I give them a lot of business too). But it's those tables full of wonderful new discoveries that get me every time. And that's what independents do better than anyone else -- they take the trouble to find unloved treasures. They give attention to local writers. They sell the books that you're not going to find on the "New Fiction" shelf at your local B & N.

So do yourself a favor and visit your favorite local independent bookstore. Drop some cash. Keep them in business. And make yourself SO happy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Facing your fears
With Halloween fast approaching (and what are you giving out this year?) we seem to be surrounded by ghosts and other things that go the proverbial bump in the night. Last night, TCM had a Val Lewton film festival, including my favorites of his movies I Walked With a Zombie.

But all these TV specials on the paranormal and scary movie nights have got me thinking about fear. I know that I joke about being terrified by Celine Dion, but that's not what really scares me. Like most people, I have my share of phobias (not too crazy about heights. I'm OK in tall buildings, I just don't like heights I might fall from, like being on a ladder) and my share of things that just cause me stress (I hate going to parties where I only know 1 or 2 people).

I remember when The Blair Witch Project came out and everyone was saying how scary it was. I was a combination of bored and car sick. I think that's because scary movies really only work if they tap into some sort of fear that you have. I don't have a fear of being lost in the woods -- because when the fuck am I ever going to go into the woods? So the whole "trapped and hunted" thing just didn't get to me. But I give it points because it tried to have a scary premise, and didn't base its whole fame on "boo scares" (things jumping out at you unexpectedly) or on being just gross. I haven't seen many modern horror films because I really don't want to spend 90 minutes looking at exploding spleens.

It's interesting that some people are terrified by one thing that doesn't faze another. For instance, I have no problem speaking in public, being on stage, or generally making an ass out of myself publicly. And yet I know many people for whom this would be a pee-inducing fear. I'm also not afraid of spiders and snakes (aside from my hatred - not fear - of ants). But (and this is weird, I know) I find certain types of flowers (especially little ones) to be creepy. Don't ask me to explain it, I can't. It's not a fear, I just think they're gross. I don't want to touch or get near them. And dead flowers are the worst. Husband knows never to give me flowers because either they'll creep me out when they're still fresh, or I'll throw them out days before they wilt because I don't want dead flowers hanging around. Totally irrational, I know, but there it is.

I do, however, have certain legitimate fears. For example, I'm terrified that in the upcoming election McCain will win and we'll have 4 more years of incompetence, compounded by the Queen of the Idiots - Palin. I also fear that Prop 8 will pass and Californians will outlaw same-sex marriage. I am not, however, afraid of ghosts. I think I might have even seen one, once. Or maybe I just like to believe I did because I find the idea of ghosts to be kinda cool.

I'm not afraid of being chased into a dark basement by a serial killer (because who, in California, has a basement?) but I am afraid that I will never own my own home -- which is the one thing I've always wanted. I don't fear mummies, zombies, werewolves, vampires, or other undead demons, but I am afraid of not living up to my potential. When my first marriage broke up, and I found myself single (and, apparently, completely unattractive to the opposite sex) I was afraid of being lonely for the rest of my life. Not alone, because I was OK alone....but lonely. Since I'm not really close to my family I would often find myself by myself on my birthday or other occasions and it sucked. But then I met Husband and my life changed completely.

But I still have odd, irrational fears that, while completely unexplainable, are real to me. For example, because I feel we'll never be able to afford a house here, I have this terrible fear of ending up broke, living in a dilapidated Airstream on the edge of the Mojave Desert. No, really, I do. I have a fear that my brain will erode if I stop reading and learning all the time, so I find myself picking up books or watching documentaries on things that might not necessarily interest me just so I can do something more productive than watch I Love Lucy or read a cheesy romance novel. I worry that I'm not a good enough friend, that the people I love won't know how much they mean to me -- even though I try to tell them because I know how fragile life is and how important it is to tell people how you feel. I'm afraid that I don't do enough for the world at large, that I'm not making a big enough difference -- either monetarily or through volunteering. And I fear that the world is falling apart because more people aren't even trying -- that we'll lose our polar bears and our rain forests, that we'll keep killing each other in the name of religion, that we'll keep dying of starvation, AIDS, and genocide. That while the majority of solvent Americans are still counting their stock options and driving their Hummers, the rest of the world is in crisis and in need of us to open our hearts and our wallets.

But, after all this gloom, I find consolation where we started -- in old horror movies. Movies that aren't scary in the lest, but so much fun. Movies with the aforementioned zombies and mummies that demand a dark room and popcorn. The kind of good, escapist, pleasure that they don't seem to make anymore. You can keep your knife-wielding-psychotic-killers-in-a-sorority-house films. I'll take Boris Karloff anytime.

Feel free to share your fears. After all, I fessed up to little flowers.

CD Pick of the Week: Lila Downs
One of my top 3 of 2008 (so far). Lila Downs Shake Away.The delicious Mexican-American-Mixtec singer dishes up yet another seriously good release. There’s fire and fun in equal blends with a solid band and great material, everything from mystical folk-based tunes to political commentaries to covers of songs such as “Black Magic Woman.” Great guest stars. In English and Spanish. This one rocks, folks, and it’s fabulously good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Meanwhile, back in Kosovo
What did we do before YouTube? This one cracked me up.