Monday, June 26, 2006

Holy Shit, It's July! Horoscope, anyone?

Brian Francis divines:

ARIES: A moment of hesitation is appropriate at the start of such an important new cycle, where you have most definitely arrived. You may feel a need to balance out your life at the same time balance is precisely the most difficult thing to attain. At the heart of your situation is an emotional matter to sort out, and circumstances are fortunately allowing you some time for retreat and contemplation of what seems like subject matter from the distant past, but really is affecting you in the present place and time. This is not a matter of breaking free, but rather one of making peace with yourself. There will be plenty of time to explore and put this to work in the long run through creative expression, and you'll surely have your moments in the coming weeks where you have to get something out. Just don't forget that that subtle inner level is the place where the healing takes place.

It's time to think big. How big? Big as you like, whatever that means to you. All rules are suspended on matters of scale, proportion, size, and effort as relates to results. Practical concerns take third or fourth place. What now matters is that you consistently apply one thing to any goal or necessity you may have: imagination. The reason the rules are all on hold -- and may well remain that way for a while -- is that creativity is the answer to everything. Creativity is love applied to a specific circumstance, whether it's a house to build, a photo exhibit or making sure your kid gets into the college he or she wants (and paying for it). It's not about how hard you work, but rather, how well you tap into the inner source of cosmic intelligence that is far greater than the whole drama we live here on the physical plane, and for whom this whole dog and pony show is so much watercolor.

VIRGO: You may feel it's time to reactivate an old social network that can be enormously helpful to you at this time in your life. It turns out that the people who took the best care of you in the past have something new to offer, as you aspire to make one of your most important dreams come true. That you're even willing to consider this is a rather large shift of attitude from your sense, not so long ago, that only the worst possibilities were likely. We may well ask what was keeping you up nights, and if I had to guess it was the sense that you faced obstacles that you did not recognize or could not perceive. Once you know what you face, it's much easier to deal with it, but this particular phobic phase seemed to focus on the unknown -- which is precisely the kind of contradiction you were struggling with. In any event, it's time to think about what you're actually doing and creating, and who can help.

Know us? Know how good they are? Curious about your own? See yours here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Beach reading

Maggie says:
So I'm leaving for vacation. Here's what I'm packing:
  • Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck. Finally committed to reading a book I've always been embarrassed to say I'd never read. About a third of the way through now.
  • The Gastronomical Me, MFK Fisher. I've been meaning to read this forever. A memoir on travel, love, adventure, and the food that ties it all together. Could there be a better read for me? I'm thinking it'll be very Aphrodite, a book I adore. "[Fisher] spit Puritan restraint out like a dull wine and made a life of savoring the slow, sensual pleasures of the table." Yum.
  • Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon. This one was recommended to me a year or so ago, and I found it left behind at a community meeting last month. Seems like a sign to me.
  • The Last of her Kind, Sigrid Nunez. Wrote about this one on m-pyrical in February, and finally got it in my greedy reading hands. The sentence that got me was this one: "I believe you have to reach a certain age before you understand how much life really is like a novel, with patterns and leitmotifs and turning points, and guns that must go off and people who must return before the ending."
If I manage to see Jessie tonight, she's promised to loan me one of her faves:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Drowing out office craziness

Maggie says:
Say you find yourself with piles of deadlines to meet before leaving for your fantasy beach vacation with college girlfriends at the end of the week. Say you work in an environment that features very loud engineers who can make focusing next to impossible. Say your head is screaming and the pile of deadlines is just getting thicker and thicker, with Friday morning getting closer by the minute. Say you've already canceled your lunch plans and still don't see how you'll get out of here at a decent time tonight.


Slip on headphones.

Start playing James Blunt's Back to Bedlam.

It's the perfect soothing-but-not-too-soothing soundtrack to a stressful office, totally calming and somehow energizing, too. Soft. Just right.


(I know, I know: I've already mentioned this CD once. Just go ahead and listen to it already, will you?!)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Listening to The National

Maggie says:
A friend who'd be horrified at being m-pyrically outed (so will therefore be kept anonymous) burned a CD for me a couple weeks ago, and it's become an absolute obsession. The CD is Alligator by The National. And really, listen to this thing at your own risk, because it will jam itself into your head and NEVER LEAVE.

The sound is a melodic, gorgeous up-and-down mix: a leisurely, moody tryst followed by a quick, angry sprint followed by a jaunty, biting skip. It's somehow dark and foreboding without sounding like either. It's a deep voice that cuts through your brain with lyrics that lull you into their pace and mood.

Probably what's really happening here is my full realization that I have a major crush on singer/songwriter Matt Beringer, he of the deep voice, confessional lyrics, and unapologetic arrogance. Somehow the same man sings "I'm a perfect piece of ass" and "For a little while you'll be here, the only good part of me" and it works. I think that's because in the moments in between humility and self-confidence, he's vulnerable but no saint, like so many of us: "Break my arms around the one I love, And be forgiven by the time my lover comes."

"Secret Meeting" is the song that haunts me all through my workday. All the others I play extremely loudly while driving fast. So... having a "stilted, pretending day?" Listen to this CD and it'll make it all better.

"Baby, come over, I need entertaining
I had a stilted, pretending day
Lay me down and say something pretty
Lay me back down where I wanted to stay
Just say something perfect, something I can steal
Say, look at me
Baby, we'll be fine
All we've gotta do is be brave and be kind
I pull off your jeans, and you spill jack and coke in my collar
I melt like a witch and scream
I'm so sorry for everything"

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Love its parts, not its whole

Maggie says:
It was with huge anticipation and delight that I sunk into Donna Tartt’s second novel, The Little Friend. You may remember that Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History, is one of my all-time favorite books for the gorgeous way it strikes a balance between intellect and lyricism. Tartt’s brilliant and her writing shows it.

In The Little Friend, the makings for another great book were all there: Not set in a cold New England town this time (which I know a thing or two about), but instead set in the South, which I also know a thing or two about. Not first-person narrated by a self-conscious college guy, this time we get third-person narration featuring a spunky, smart young girl named Harriet. I can hang with spunky, smart girls. Less a tale of friends binding and then unraveling through murder, this one takes place a decade after a brother’s murder with the unsolved weight of it hanging in the air as heavy as the humidity. Sounds good. Throw in some snake-handling, some class and race conflict, some kooky Southerners, religion of all shades and stripes, and this should have been my favorite book ever.

And yet.

Something didn’t quite gel here. I remember reading a Tartt interview when The Little Friend was published where she admitted it took her ten years to finish this second novel. She felt haunted by the success of the first – written when she was only 28 – and struggled to write a book about her home that was distinctly different than the critically-acclaimed novel that spoke to her college years. To be honest, it was sometimes a struggle to finish reading it.

If only I loved this book in whole as much as I love its parts. I love the childlike precociousness of Harriet and the true-blue way her friend Hely loves her. I love the childhood summer spirit that’s so well captured in their long afternoons. I love Harriet’s grandmother and great-aunts, the way they live with a shared identity yet each very separately, each the fabric of each other’s stories, each the rock of the other. I love the small-town feel with the family everyone’s scared of, the Sunday School teacher who’s not exactly Christian in his business practices, the underbelly of the town mixed with “the Club” and its crowd. I love the tone of a death you can never overcome, the influence an absence has over a town in a way a presence never could, the shadow that never lifts. I love reading about the seediness of meth-making culture, the hysteria of drug addiction, the suffocation of family that makes you as desperate as you are loyal. But I don’t love the crime-avenging here or the adventure tale. It just doesn’t work for me.

It occurs to me that we remember parts of our childhoods and growing up in these miraculous passages of characters and details. What we forget is the everyday-ness that binds all of that together. There’s a reason we’re not all writing epic novels about the summer we were 12: it’s probably more the stuff of a novella or a short story collection. So should this have been.

But of course, I’m absolutely itching for Tartt to write number three.

And: I’m heading to the beach in two weeks, so I’m accepting any and all book recommendations for the days upon days I’ll spend doing nothing but lying in the sun, reading, and swimming.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Oakland As A-OK!

Mikaela says:
Fans of Moneyball, the Oakland As, the underdog, or the new wave of baseball will be happy to learn of Nick Swisher's heroic performance leading the way to the A's sweep against the Yanks.

Those who read the book will remember Nick Swisher was the much sought-after player, valued by many teams, not just the As, with their new insight into choosing players based on the stats not the stories and/or dreams they represent to talent scouts and coaches alike. Well, Swisher's a success.

This bodes well for the possibility of maintaining competition and entertainment even if salaries are, oh, I don't know, capped like hockey players' one day. There, I said it. What can I say? I'm a labor girl. (And a gigantic nerd who became an A fan because of a book and its explanation of a mathematical basis for assessing the value and therefore risk of choosing some players over others.) What's sexier than baseball plus math plus good writing? Um, NOTHING. Go Oakland!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Girly-girl news

Maggie says:
What can I say, warm weather brings out my inner girly-girl. When it's cold out all I want are old jeans, sturdy clogs, and wool sweaters. But with the sun I get frilly and leggy and everything that comes along with that. So, in girl news:
  • The Bobbi Brown counter is open at Dillard's. This is fantastic news if you're a diehard fan of unnecessary-yet-critical cosmetics and adore smelling like the sea. As ABQ inches toward something of a retail critical mass, my shopping self wonders what's to come. A Stila counter, perhaps? My wallet trembles in wait...
  • The Inspire salon downtown is catching quite a following. First I blabbed about it. Then Mikaela got the cutest haircut ever. Then Chantal showed up at brunch yesterday all layered and playful. Now the word's out on Duke City Fix, too. So what are you waiting for? Go see Chris and his scissors. And tell him the three of us recommended him - I think he's getting a kick out of this little blogging following he has now.
  • A friend recently posited that if you see cute shoes in this town, you know they weren't bought here. Ouch. But I say, cute shoes are around town if you're patient, persistent, and lucky. Now why haven't I been to Ruby Shoesday yet? Their adorable website is begging me to come visit.
  • Guess who joined up with a fab friend to create a party theme around A) a weird holiday where no one has fun plans except kids, B) the fact that said friend will have leftover hay in her backyard on said holiday, and C) my sighting of an obnoxious cutesy/trashy, "where the hell would you ever wear that, anyway?" gingham top while shopping last week? Yep, me. I think preposterous party ideas should be my new specialty.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

In the spirit of bipartisanship...

Maggie says:
So yeah, we all know Condoleeza Rice is a #$#$%$%&@#&*. But, um...

I want her suit anyway.

Happy June -- Horoscopes for EVERYONE!

Brian Francis says:

ARIES: It could be worse. You may need to go out on a limb and take what for anyone else would be a huge risk. And, as the cookie crumbles, that may wind up being the very last thing you want to do when the time comes. The key may be to act sooner rather than later, before your insecurities take over. You could easily get lost for weeks trying to decide between alternatives or doing battle with yourself about the right choice to make. You're slipping into one of these classic 'caution versus dare' situations, with the clock ticking. But what exactly do you have to be so cautious about? It seems you have a lot more to gain by breaking out of a plaster mold that seems to have grown around your sense of adventure. You need to act in accord with whatever you consider your true nature. That is, if you want to get anywhere, or get anything done.

CANCER: None of the various bits of your current scenario are new. Each is eminently familiar. Now, however, you get to assemble them into something that makes sense, in total. The experience you've gained in many seemingly separate aspects of your life counts for a lot, particularly if you look at it closely and use what you know. You've benefited immeasurably from many dress rehearsals, practice missions and testing numerous early models of your plan. You've been restoring the foundations and repairing beams for months or even years. Now is the time to power up the whole system. That's always a moment of truth, because you're not certain whether what you've created can stand the test of reality. But there's just one way to find out. The reality check, however, winds up being one of self-confidence. Systems and inventions are one thing. Having the guts to live the way you need to live is something else entirely.

VIRGO: Don't just act cool or keep your cool. You must be cool. You must not let your worst fears run away with you, and at the same time don't go too overboard on your plans to take over the world. Between the worst possible catastrophe and the highest and mightiest triumph in all of human creation, there is what you are simply trying to do. It will remain simple as long as you keep it such, and remember that anything we do in this world we do with the help of our friends. Therefore, it would be very helpful to keep clear communication with the people you trust, want to trust, and need to maintain cooperative relationships with. When the time comes to doubt, I suggest you express your doubts in a reasonable way rather than make any assumptions. To do this, you will need to know when you are making assumptions, which would indeed be a great triumph for humanity.

This will be one of those awesome periods of achievement, if you're able to stay above the fray. It's a little like that old joke about not arguing with idiots because somebody watching won't be able to tell who's who. While we're onto old jokes, don't join any club that will have you as a member. Rather, get into the fact that it can be lonely at the top, and then stay focused on your goal. You have a goal, and actually, it's going pretty well. These days, the more specific you make it, the better. The more you wrap up old business and get it out of the way, the more room you will have for that one very specific concept of what you want to do in the world. Meanwhile, there will come that moment when you need to lower your expectations. Don't freak out -- this is only temporary.

TAURUS: Ah, the miracle of getting one's shit together. When does it happen? Usually when we decide it's going to happen, but it takes some experience to get one to that place, often more experience than we ever dreamed. But trust me, you have that; it's not the issue. Here it is, in less than 100 words. You seem to be putting way too much hope in a relationship situation as a substitute for doing the work of deep, imminent emotional changes you need to make. The solution is not going to come from outside you but rather from you unleashing the life force energy that's pent up inside you. When that energy moves, you could call it a crisis, or you could call it progress. In truth, it's probably going to be both, but of the two, the progress is by far more worthwhile, and Goddess knows you've waited long enough. So, do yourself a huge favor and stop waiting.

The great thing about a tempest in a teapot is that at the end of it all, you may wind up with a cup of tea. Make sure you're paying attention to just how much energy you're putting into that nice warm Earl Grey. It would appear you could prepare a banquet for 50 with the effort you're expending on some idea or project. Rather than throwing all your energy into something, I suggest you press yourself gently toward the point of a breakthrough. It's true enough that your thinking has been stuck, but it's worked out to be the productive kind of stuck, or it will have if you're able to extract the one extremely impressive idea that has the power to move a mountain or two. Remember, there is one level of this situation where it ALL comes down to money. So keep count of that stuff and make sure you know what you're doing with it.

The last time this happened, it was a lot less obvious. Now you see the pattern. Now you cannot only take it a lot more personally, you can involve yourself in a personal way and work the situation to your best possible advantage. The message or reward of this month's Mars-Saturn conjunction in your birth sign is some combination of discipline paying off, patience providing the perfect opportunity to act, and hard work being rewarded with something changing in your favor. In fact, anything you experience this month you can work in your favor, but now it's even more important that you see it that way. When you make the one major decision that seems to be looming, you'll probably notice how long you've gone not quite feeling like yourself, and have the revelation of what it feels like to be suddenly acting in accord with your own nature, after quite a long delay. Not a bad plan.

Get your parents and related individuals out of the picture, symbolically or in reality. That is, remember you're an adult and they have no power over you. The one thing you don't want to mess with this month are 'authority issues', which is precisely because you have way too much taking authority to do. Indeed, you must become the only authority in at least one particular area of your life; but you can. The mastery you've attained several times over is all your own, and you don't need anyone's permission to put it to work. Your journey to success has been fraught with peril, but behold, that is a sign you're not on vacation. Your plan is actually working, even if you're not quite sure what it is. Ah yes, now is the time to get sure. You only get to go through this particular scenario once. Make it work for you.

You have arrived at a moment when you need to work out the details on your long-range plan, and to do that, you need to start by having one. Many factors over the past year have been pointing to this, and at the same time you've likely been encountering a level of fear or resistance that you're unaccustomed to. If this statement is true, you need to cop to it, and face consciously whatever factors are working behind the scenes or below the floorboards. Though you are good at doing what's right and don't usually need to concern yourself with the finer details of ethics, I sense there is an ethical issue brewing, at least in your own heart and soul. You may actually be doubting yourself. That alone has the power to hold you back and dissuade you from achieving your own greatest success.

CAPRICORN: Be realistic about the importance of an encounter later this month that relates to the subject of shared finances or tax matters. You will need to adopt an entirely new approach to such questions, whether you're motivated by progress, or the need to avoid a crisis -- and there is a fine line between the two, particularly now. This may well be a situation involving turning a crisis into an opportunity. What you've had going for you up until this point is how solid and steady you've been. But there have been key moments when you had to rethink your strategy, and this is one of them. You will not need to wait for the rewards. A long cycle is coming to a close, perhaps as long as two years, and by one month from today you will stand in a new place. But between here and there, you need to take each step carefully.

Sometimes if we respond to things as a threat, they become a threat; if we respond to them as something else, they appear in that form. Sometimes we can guide things consciously from one state of being to another. Often, what makes the difference is whether we respond with fear or creativity. I am not one of those who believes 'everything is projection' and that 'we create the universe'. Rather, I think existence is a co-creative process, and our project here is to learn how to take up the work of manifestation together. But what we hold in our minds, and the choices we make about what events, people and symbols mean, sets the stage for how we experience our individual realities -- and these same things can influence many other people. In the coming weeks, you have a lot of influence over how one particular situation develops. Use it well.

Take up the role of inventor: consider each day, each gesture, each choice, each relationship an invention or opportunity. Apply originality to every act and decision you make. Necessity will definitely be the progenitor of this process, but you do have the ability to stay four or five steps ahead of the game, anticipating your needs, managing your energy and commitments, and most of all, taking care of yourself. So much stuck energy finally comes free this month that you could be swept up in the wave of activity. The results of so much work and dedication are finally beginning to show results. If you feel like you're getting overwhelmed, get to a new level and start making decisions the moment you notice you're in any distress at all. But the one sure way to know you're not in denial is if you're in a creative mode every waking moment.