Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Treasure Island

I recently read Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island with the idea that I might be able to recommend it to my niece and nephew in a couple years when they start reading books. For a so-called "children's classic," this thing had a bigger pile-up of corpses than the end of Hamlet. I was appalled. Granted, where pirates are concerned, I should have expected as much, but I thought for the "all ages" crowd there would be more emphasis on the adventure of the treasure hunt and less emphasis on the drunken, violent behavior of the pirates. I was completely wrong. Even Long John Silver with his peg leg and cute parrot turned out to be a double-dealing thug. Like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island isn't really a children's book. It portrays the adult world as treacherous and dangerous at every turn. Whether this is something you would want to expose your kids to at an early age is debatable. My third grade teacher read Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" to our class and not only did I never forget it, but it probably single-handedly turned me into a lifelong reader (and I seriously doubt a third grade teacher would be able to get away with that today). On second thought, maybe this extremely violent, ripping yarn is just what kids need. (A note to parents: Treasure Island contains lots of nautical terms that left this landlubber scratching his head a lot of the time. Be prepared to answer questions like "What's a bowsprit?" or "What's the lee-side?" or "What's the forecastle?" or "What's the after-deck?" or "What's a jib?" etc.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Best Song of the Year

Synecdoche, New York isn't for everybody (it lost me toward the end), but it did include enough good bits to keep me watching. For those who may not make it to the finish, here is one of the better bits, a eulogy delivered by a priest that builds almost as if it were a song:

Everything is more complicated than you think
You only see a tenth of what is true
There are a million little strings attached to every choice you make
You can destroy your life every time you choose
But maybe you won't know for twenty years
And you may never ever trace it to its source
And you only get one chance to play it out
Just try and figure out your own divorce
And they say there is no fate, but there is
It's what you create
And even though the world goes on for eons and eons
You are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a second
Most of your time is spent being dead or not yet born
But while alive you wait in vain
Wasting years for a phone call or a letter or a look
From someone or something to make it all right
And it never comes
Or it seems to, but it doesn't really
So you spend your time in vague regret
Or vaguer hope that something good will come along
Something that will make you feel connected
Something to make you feel whole
Something to make you feel loved
And the truth is
I feel so angry
And the truth is
I feel so fucking sad
And the truth is
I felt so fucking hurt for so fucking long
And for just as long I've been pretending I'm OK
Just to get along
Just for...I don't know why
Maybe because no one wants to hear about my misery
Because they have their own
Fuck everybody

Thursday, March 26, 2009


This morning, on the bus into work, I overheard a man calling everyone he knew on his cell phone to inform them that four people had died in a fire in a building that he had moved out of "less than a month ago." Strangely, this gave me hope. He was very specfic in his details: three women and one man had died in the fire. Although he kept saying how "sad" the news was, you could tell he was also very excited to be able to share this story with anyone who would listen (I'm sure that if he didn't have a cell phone he would have turned to me, a complete stranger, and filled me in on his brush with death). As it turns out, he had been badly misinformed. There had indeed been a fire, but no one had died (one man, the only person in the building at the time, is in critical condition). Strangely, this left me feeling less than hopeful.

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