Sunday, November 28, 2010

List: Suggested Names for Future SyFy Channel Disaster Movies

Meteor Smoosh

Super Duper Nova

Asteroid vs. Serial Killer

The Moon Is Falling Apart!

Does It Seem Windy?

Lava Pop



9.1: A Big One

Crikey, It's Hot

Poem: Reading Arabic

This week we read the words aloud,
their meaning less important
than the work of glottal stops
and vagaries of breath and tongue.
Our teacher translates gently:
Bahyd, eggs. Jhutheth, corpses.
Bass, enough. Nine-to-five words.

If you stare at a letter–say, yaa’
long enough, it winds away
from sound and word, curls
into a quiet shape:
the shell of a snail, or the spin
of creekwater as it winds down
into the pipe beneath the street.

Bowls of letters swell and taper,
chambers fill, half-fill with air.
Body-shaped words fall prone
in sleep, or sit with a cup of tea
on a bench in the marketplace,
pressed in quiet gossip
among a row of ample women.

(appeared in Faultline, 2001)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

DVD Review: Lost in Austen

Over the years, I’ve become a reluctant fan of Pride and Prejudice in all its incarnations. I say “reluctant” because, on the surface, it’s a fluffy romance, the prototype of a jillion stories of star-crossed-lovers. (But oh, underneath—such depth, wit, and barbed social commentary.) So I was surprised to find that I’d missed this four-part BBC miniseries when it aired in 2008. But that’s what Netflix is for.

Lost in Austen’s premise is simple: Hip urbanite Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper) finds that she’s mysteriously swapped places with Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of her favorite novel, Pride and Prejudice, via a little door in her shower. In an echo of Peggy Sue Got Married, Amanda can’t quite believe that she’s been transported to the early 19th century, but she can’t get back and has to muddle through the next few weeks in the strangely familiar setting of the novel she knows so well. (Elizabeth, meanwhile, is marooned in 21st-century London.)

Stranded in the Bennets’ house, Amanda finds that the plot of Pride and Prejudice is just getting underway: New neighbor Mr. Bingley pays his first visit and soon introduces his brooding friend, Mr. Darcy (Elliot Cowan). Amanda, plopped down in Georgian England with her pageboy haircut, leather jacket, and lip gloss, claims that she’s “a friend of Elizabeth’s from Hammersmith,” which the family seems to think is explanation enough.

Amanda looks on in wonder as her favorite novel unfolds, but there’s a problem: Elizabeth isn’t there to meet Mr. Darcy at the first fateful ball. And that flaw in the plot sets other flaws in motion: Bingley falls in love with Amanda, not Jane; Jane, not Charlotte, is wooed by the creepy Mr. Collins; Charlotte threatens to chuck it all and move to Africa; and Darcy has about as much charm as an ingrown toenail. Amanda tries and tries to get the plot back on track, but her schemes spin off more chaotic results. Before long, it’s a mess—not at all what Jane Austen wanted, as Amanda keeps thinking. And how will she ever get Elizabeth back to the 19th century, where she can marry Darcy and complete the story?

The best part about Lost in Austen is that it transcends the parody genre, although it’s funny throughout. At some point, you (and Amanda) have to just throw out the plot of Pride and Prejudice; this story has become a different animal, and old characters begin taking on new dimensions: There’s much more to Mr. Wickham than meets the eye, Mrs. Bennet (Alex Kingston) displays a backbone she never had in the book, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh cheats at cards. Even modern Amanda, who seems made out of snark, shows another side when the question becomes her own destiny and happiness. In the end, she has to write her own novel—as we all do, one way or another.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

List: Plausible but Untrue Explanations for Why I Named My Cat “Iniki”

Named for a Finnish hockey star I once slept with, except I was really drunk, so it might have been that guy from Dallas.

Lakota Sioux for “able to locate and step on lymph nodes.”

Named for the Pacific island on which I did all the brave humanitarian work depicted in the Lifetime movie about me, from which I made diddly—well, four thousand dollars.

Named after my Uncle/Aunt Iniki, who was much more cool after the surgery.

Named for Thor Heyersen’s boat.

It’s almost “Bikini” spelled backwards, except that “Inikib” would have sounded weird, and just calling her “Bikini” would have brought up Barbie connotations. All a reminder of my half-assed “environmentalist” phase.

Can’t spell “Inky.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Poem: Convertible Women

Convertible women
know how to knot
the scarves that dance
off the racks.
Their hair laps
in ribbons at the nape
of their necks.

They have friends
with names like Nat
and Barb who swing
slightly on the turns
and suck their passenger-
seat cigarettes
with sage indifference.

Convertible women
meet the wind
and bend it around
their opaque
They split the air
like red bullets.

All the brown hard-top lives
could flip
and still have something
to save them.
Convertible women
stick their necks
right out.

The wind escorts them
through the stop sign, past
the Chinese take-out
and the carpet emporium
and all the way out
to the dream roads, just them
and sound and sky.

(appeared in Free-Wheeling: Poems About Cars)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

List: Most Alarming Things to Cats

Dishwasher (fill cycle)

Vacuum cleaner

Electric guitar

Man riding lawnmower down middle of street

Whistling tea kettle

Three-legged dog ringing doorbell, pretending to be flower-delivery person, then massacring cats inside

Garbage truck backing up street

Veterinarians running amok with giant Q-tips

Raccoons at back door