Adrienne Furness's Blog, page 16
September 24, 2012
“This happens. This is something that happens.”
-Stanley in Magnolia
There are multiple scenes in The Master in which characters sit across from one another, focusing in, unblinking, asking basic questions: “What is your name? What is your name? What is your name?” This is what Paul Thomas Anderson has been doing throughout his filmmaking career, sitting across from audiences and asking us to see human beings we might let our eyes slide over in the real world.
But Anderson has us trapped in a movie theater, and he dares us to look.
Some people get up and walk out. That has happened at almost every Anderson picture I’ve seen, including The Master.
I found the film both engrossing and difficult to watch. Anderson shines a light on self-destruction, and I don’t think he’s come up with a sadder character than Freddie Quell. Anderson gives us just enough information to understand some of why Freddie finds himself addled with alcohol and friendless, but, unlike so many films about addicts, he doesn’t pity him or make excuses for him. Freddie is violent and selfish and not in the slightest bit charming, and when Peggy tells Lancaster that Freddie is going to ruin them, I knew she was telling the truth.
And I didn’t want them to send him away.
Lancaster is less aggressively self-destructive than Freddie, but in some ways he’s just more polished. Anderson doesn’t hand the audience a guide for how to watch his movie (bless him), but Lancaster is little more than a con artist, saying things he doesn’t believe, manipulating people, and living off others’ hard work and generosity. It is clear throughout the movie that’s he’s always on the edge of being exposed and losing the illusion of a life that he’s created. And what’s under that polish? A man who enjoys drinking drinks spiked with paint thinner as much as Freddie does.
But I didn’t want to see him fail either.
The way these two characters intersect and connect and what their mutual affection does for each of them is an amazing thing to watch. Freddie isn’t redeemed, but he grows, just a bit. One of the saddest and most beautiful moments in the film is when he’s handing out fliers in Phoenix, starting out in his earnest but still Freddie way but slowly emulating Clark, becoming more effective. He’s just trying so darned hard. Lancaster begins to see the limits of his power and stretches to do better, even though the confines of what his pride will allow are damning. Again, though, because he loves Freddie, he is trying. In the end, Lancaster doesn’t want Freddie to heal completely, or even significantly, and Freddie doesn’t want to do any real work to heal. This becomes a blot that is ruining them both.
It’s heartbreaking and real and raw. Adding to this, of course, is the realism of the film itself–the way it’s shot makes the humans look human. The performances by Phoenix and Hoffman are authoritative. I knew Hoffman had this in him, but Phoenix is a surprise. Any soundtrack that includes some Ella Fitzgerald is all right with me, and the desert scenes are some of the most gorgeous Anderson’s given us. (Does they beat the raining frogs in Magnolia? No way. Never.)
This movie made me pay attention, and it made me uncomfortable. Ever since I left the theater, I’ve been thinking about things I don’t really want to think about, and I have to thank Anderson for that. He didn’t disappoint me.
September 23, 2012
Some of my colleagues at HPL have figured out that I find getting rid of stuff we aren’t using deeply fulfilling, so Kristen came to me one day and asked if we could start using these as scrap paper:
I said yes, of course, but I’d never seen a date due slip like that before and find it charming.
While she was at it, Kristen found five boxes of blank catalog cards:
They’re made with that amazing old non-acidy paper and don’t look at all like they’ve been sitting around as long as they have. I have a box of them on my desk right now. I’ve used a few cards for scrap paper so far, but mostly I just like them being there because they’re awesome and make me feel all librarian-y.
It was Cathy who found a stash of old pencils, including these ones from the 1998 summer reading program:
Cathy has proven to be supportive of both my desire to declutter our staff areas and rid the world of golf pencils. Most of the staff has been, although some of them laugh when they see me on my daily pencil-sharpening rounds. That’s one of my favorite parts of the day, though, and it’s useful. I get to see and hear what’s going on all over the building, and usually a patron or staff member will see me and ask me a question or talk to me. I was going to say it’s all part of my devious plot to take over the world, but, really, it’s just part of my sensible plan to run the library.
Because several parties have been making fun of my difficulties with HPL’s telephone system, I thought I’d take a picture of the buttons on the phone:
See the one in the middle? That’s the transfer button, but every time I hit it I think, “OFF WITH HER HEAD!” Consequently, I am reluctant to transfer calls. (Also, a lot of people don’t have phones at their desks or they aren’t at their desks, so it’s no use to transfer calls to them anyway.) The RED BUTTON OF DEATH really puts people on hold. Those buttons in the top row? I have no freaking idea what any of them do. I’ve tried not to need them.
If you’re lucky, one of these days I’ll take a photo of our Batphone.
September 22, 2012
This week, I read Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, which included this letter I’d never read from her column. The letter made me weep, and Strayed’s response made me weep, and I feel compelled to share it with all of you.
In the twisty way life works, Liz is the one who convinced me to read Tiny Beautiful Things even though I felt like I’d probably read most of the columns online already (which turned out not to be true), and the day I started Tiny Beautiful Things was also the day I finally got to read Liz’s new book, Think Big, which is fantastic. I feel like I should read it out loud to the staff every morning before we open the library to get us all psyched up. It’s that kind of book.
The Oatmeal always makes me laugh, but this week, it made me laugh and cry at the same time.
It was a laughing and crying kind of a week.
Also this week, I learned that the plural of papyrus is papyri.
So far today, I’ve been reading and writing instead of taking a shower or cleaning my house. I’ve also been working on getting ready for this two-part webinar on homeschooling I’m teaching in a few weeks. A girl maybe can’t do everything, but I’m doing quite a lot. And I’ll probably take a shower. Eventually.
September 20, 2012
“They’re teaching us they’re, there, and their. And your and you’re. I learned those in Kindergarten. I mean, I messed up there and their until maybe I was in second grade, but the one with the apostrophe? How do people not know that?”
September 19, 2012
September 17, 2012
I was going to brew my second cup of coffee this morning when I noticed that Anne was standing in the middle of the work room with a strange look on her face, and everyone was looking at her.
“What?” I said.
“There’s a chipmunk in the children’s room,” she said.
“Let me put my coffee down,” I said.
So we went out and, indeed, there was the chipmunk, running around. I figured I could call someone, but at this point the library was open, and I was thinking it might take a long time for someone to come. In the meantime, we’d lose track of the chipmunk or, worse, he would be running around freaking out patrons, biting people, and pooping on everything. I thought, Oh, heck, I might as well try to catch him.
That’s when we lost sight of him.
Next thing you know, Anne’s pacing, Kristen’s prowling with a broom, and I’m crawling around on the floor with a box.
Ellen said, “We’ve got to get a picture! I can just imagine what you’re going to write about this on your blog!”
And I said, “I am totally writing the entry in my head right now.”
Then chaos ensued. We caught sight of the chipmunk, and he ran into the local history corner, which has a bunch of filing cabinets for him to hide behind. Somehow while we were trying to flush him out, he got by us, which we learned about when we heard someone shout over by the teen area.
That’s when I started chasing the chipmunk, running all around the library with that box in my hands, ready to pounce.
You maybe don’t know this, but chipmunks run fast.
I can, too, when I’m motivated, even if I am wearing a skirt and my strappy Dansko sandals. Chasing that chipmunk is probably the most fun I’ve had since I started working at HPL. There is joy in letting go and just kind of full-on chasing something, and it was funny watching the staff and patrons all react–to the chipmunk, to me and my box, to Kristen and her broom, to the whole situation.
Of course, the chipmunk wound up running back into the local history area.
This is when Virginia entered the scene, and between her and Kristen, they managed to flush the chipmunk out, and I threw the box over him. Then Kristen got a flat box that we slid underneath, and I took the trapped chipmunk outside and let him go.
He was super-cute. I felt badly for him, he was so clearly terrified. He had no idea what he was getting into when he came into HPL.
After that, we all went back to work. I wrote a couple emails and made a new draft of the 2013 budget proposal.
Just a typical Monday morning at HPL.
September 16, 2012
I’m getting ready for an open house today (by listening to fun. and blogging while the vacuum cleaner sits unused in the middle of the living room) and feeling kind of like that peddler in Caps for Sale! who couldn’t manage to sell even one cap. Since burying St. Joseph in the back yard has done nothing to help sell my house (even though I promised him I’d dig him up when it sold), Tammy has taken matters into her own hands and made cinnamon rolls that I am currently baking to make the house smell like a place you should buy.
Also, as I’ve mentioned, if nothing else, I will have the pleasure of eating the cinnamon rolls. Tammy’s are excellent, even without the glaze, although she says she’s going to make that, too.
If this doesn’t work, I’m going to start researching voodoo rituals. I’m too busy to learn an entirely different belief system, so I’m going to need a quick, Cliff notes version. If you know of any, do let me know in the comments.
I guess someone’s going to need to run the vacuum cleaner. Probably me.
September 15, 2012
So not only am I in charge of a library and my life, but now, if you irritate me, I can use one of these post-its I found today to shut down your elevator.
You’ve been warned.
September 13, 2012
Tonight I made the Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl out of Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Baked has become a cookbook I wouldn’t want to be without. I’ve written about Lewis and Renato’s cheesecake recipe, which is a bit fussy but delicious. My go-to recipe out of the book is the Lemon Lemon Loaf, which I’ve made dozens of times, but I still have a hard time not overeating it every time I make it. It is very lemon-y, and the glaze is made with lemon juice and powdered sugar, and it like a perfect thing with the way it’s just a wee bit almost crunchy and there’s all that sour and sweet living together. I’ve had great success with the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf and the Raspberry Crumb Breakfast Bar (which I almost made for tomorrow instead), too.
So, anyway, now the coffee cake is cooling and it and I are just kind of staring at each other when the other one isn’t looking, shifting our eyes away when we think we might get caught. It’s the swirl that makes this cake–sugar, cinnamon, and dark chocolate. Being a coffee cake, of course, there is crunchy stuff on the top, in this case made with butter, brown sugar, and pecans.
I don’t know how I’m managing not to eat it right this minute except I made this to bring to the full staff meeting at HPL tomorrow morning, and it would be weird to show up with a piece missing. Or half the cake. One great thing about Baked (or not so great, depending on your perspective) is that the recipes all make enough to feed a crowd, and a crowd we are at HPL.
Probably I should just go to bed.