March 4th, 2014

_The End of Your Life Book Club_, Will Schwalbe

This was the Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name) book club selection for February. We all thought it was quite good, and it spawned fairly good discussion as well. Schwalbe has a very brick-by-brick style of writing: a lot of details, and it seems a bit dull and mundane, until you realize (duh, kinda Buddhist) that that really is what life is, the details.

Does the world need another description of a bunch of books? Always! Does the world need another paean to a mother by an adult gay son? Sure! I could wish Mom hadn't had such a deep commitment to Not Dying and more Acceptance, but she really isn't that kind of person and that made her an amazing force for good. I could wish that her son showed a better understanding of the deep pain that she caused him (not on purpose), but he probably has enough trouble experiencing it, and it came through pretty clearly anyway. For a book that revolves around literary fiction and palliative oncology -- two things I don't much care for -- it was absolutely incredible. And a good read regardless. YMMV.

Also, we learn that if you want to actually get through Thomas Mann's _Joseph and His Brothers_, ritalin really helps. Explains a lot, actually.

_Hot Stuff_, Alice Echols (kindle)

Subtitled Disco and the Remaking of American Culture

I've been reading this on and off for a few weeks, and really enjoying the whole process. I went slow partly because of interruptions (February vacation week, a houseguest) and partly because I was spending a lot of time on YouTube watching videos of the songs mentioned along the way and occasionally buying albums over on iTunes. In the middle of it all, the Grammys happened with Daft Punk, and partway through I realized that Pharrell did the soundtracks (or large chunks of them) for the Despicable Me movies. The conclusion (disco has finally returned under its own name) was thus no surprise to me.

Echols takes mostly chronological approach, but will occasionally jump ahead to finish telling the story of a group or artist (notably with the members of Labelle). She provides her own opinion of music, what audience it found then and later, critical commentary on it then and later, and also the interaction of music and disco culture with mainstream culture and identity politics. She has a deft hand with difficult material: it would be extremely easy for a feminist author covering many of the men-only venues to be a whole lot less sympathetic (I know I would be).

It's an eye-opening read, for someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and was almost entirely ignorant of all of this, other than what filtered through anti-disco screeds in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines while growing up JW. It would probably be an eye-opening read for someone who grew up in a more normal environment as well.

Also, _tons_ of fun listening to a lot of fantastic music with a context to help make sense of it other than, wow, that is hook-y.

Daily Activities Include: renting on iTunes, a whole lot of convos with disney

Yesterday, I rented Thor: the Dark World on iTunes. I figured there was a really good chance I'd actually watch it, because my other plan for the day involved spending time on hold with Disney, attempting to have my nieces removed from my My Disney Experience account and moved to their father's account. I'd been working on this for weeks (I think maybe 3 previous calls? Or 2?). Their father had worked on it as well and been told it wasn't possible. Various people had promised to fix it and I had decided the real problem was over at DVC and had a plan for how to fix it. Amazingly, the plan worked (call DVC first, and the My Disney Experience people second), and I got someone so committed to resolving the problem that she actually worked through all the stuff I thought would take subsequent calls. But I did spend a bunch of time on hold three times (two separate calls) and thus got through most of the movie; I finished watching it, including the mid- and post- credit scenes before the kids got home.

I think this is my first iTunes rental; I figured I wasn't ever going to watch it a second time and no one else was likely to, either. I feel roughly the same way about all Marvel movies: they run long, and aren't funny enough. Altho the bit where Jane gets the cell phone call on that other world, finds the car keys (and shoes) and gets Thor and herself back to earth, then drives off in the busted up Volvo is really hilarious. I know there is a risk of doing too much of that, and not taking the story seriously enough and just being camp, but I feel like there's a sweet spot in the middle somewhere.

My walking partner's dog has not been happy about walking in the cold, so our walks have been cut short, but today, I had a lovely long walk with my friend A. in Groton after we had breakfast.

Mysterious Mail

I received a mysterious letter! It was addressed in red ink, by hand -- in cursive! The return address was on the back, below the flap -- no name, unfamiliar address in Renton which investigation revealed to be a UPS Store.

The lined, yellow page inside read, in whole:

"Dear [my first name]


My name is Eric Taylor

I would like to


your condo at
in Seattle

Please call me at

[phone number]


Other than a left side Dear and a right side Thanks Eric, everything else is mostly centered, but cursive, red ink throughout.

So that looks weird. It looks like one of those marketing things trying desperately to look like not-marketing. But hey, I'll call and see if I can get Mr. Taylor to spit out a number. Alas, Mr. Taylor doesn't answer his phone and I go to voice mail/message machine. This makes me more suspicious, so I search on the [address], which finds me this:

I found his corporation data at the WA SOS page (incorporated 2011), which lists an address in Burien, which my husband characterized as a residential area but with an indication of some sort of dance business.

Hmmm. I didn't want to leave a message. But I now had his email. I'll let you know if I hear back from Mr. Taylor. I think he has this idea I'm an absentee owner with no mortgage, who would be all too happy to unload the property at an unreasonably low price, based on what he extracted from public property records. Little does he know. I am now entertaining the idea of listing a Make Me Move price. A really ludicrous Make Me Move price.