Stories

ImageLast weekend, I ventured up to the Altadena Urban Farmers’ Market at the Zane Grey Estate. There, all sorts turned out on the glorious, sunny JanuarySunday. Men and ladies with long grey hair, red-lentil eating bralesschicks, beautiful couples in crumpled clothes with feral angel babiesin tow and Pasadena ladies in crisp, cropped pants all ambled about thefading estate.

Curious to see the property, eager to pet one of the resident goats and hopingto find some amazing back-yard yuzu and artisan goat cheese, Martin andI signed the legal release at the entrance and perused the booths setup all over the lawn and asphalt driveway. For sale were leather belts,fabric bags, handmade soaps, honey, prepared foods, jams galore,multiple varieties of granola, home-baked breads and many kinds ofbaked goods. I didn’t get near any of the baked items. I didn’t want toget too close and have that awkward moment when I decline to purchasethe proffered sweet. I got the distinct impression that the cookiesetc. were vegan, and while I’ll eat vegan vegetable and grain disheshappily any day, I see butter and eggs as necessary additives tocookies.

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ImageRecently at my dentist's office I told one of the assistants that she looked great. Her skin glowed, her hair bounced and her body looked lean and firm. "Thanks. I'm killing myself doing that P90X program," she said.

Oh. P90X. In case you haven't heard of it, it's an intensive (some think masochistic) home exercise program that relies on cross-training: a mix of cardio, strength training, yoga, and stretching. As for the diet, it's high protein and low-to-no carbs. Think skinless chicken and egg whites. If you even fantasize about pasta or potatoes, you need to drop and do 50 push-ups.

The assistant added, "You should see my husband though. He has lost 12 pounds in two weeks. He looks amazing!"

"He's doing the P90X too?" I asked.

"No. He's on the soup diet," she said.

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ImageThe “Sunday Styles” Section of The New York Times recently ran a front page story on the evolution of the noun Charlie Sheen into a verb, as in sheened and sheening, meaning, among other things, partying or making bad decisions (Laura M. Holson, “When Your Life Becomes a Verb,” March 6, 2011). Apparently the first cited/sited reference appeared in Urban Dictionary, and more recently posters on Twitter have offered their definitions.

In the meantime, we’ve all been sheened: to be exposed to far too many stories and interviews involving Sheen. A dangerous side effect of this phenomenon may be an uncontrollable desire to turn all names into verbs, as in

To franco is to multitask, then fall asleep in all the wrong places, like classrooms and award-show stages.

To juliachild is to whip up a French dinner for 8, while laughing.

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beeflowerThere is much in this world that leads us to believe that as humans, we are superior to other life forms. We have opposable thumbs, and the kind of intellect and consciousness that allow us to build more than a hive or a dam and shape our future with intellect rather than instinct. We have religions that teach us that we are “stewards” of the earth, as if we had somehow been handed a title by an unseen force who we may actually have invented.

We do not, often, look at ants as they carry a fallen comrade across our bathroom floor and consider whether we would do the same. We worry about how they got into our house, and how best to kill them. No one is going to be bothered to carry every ant, spider and fly outside – they are, after all, encroaching in our homes with their dirty little feet. We particularly hate stinging creatures like bees, hornets, and wasps. We say things like “I see a purpose for bees, at least honey bees, but the other ones don’t do anything useful.”

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wizarddorthyAh, we’re off once again to see the wizard, played by, in his newest incarnation, James Franco. Apparently, according to a recent story on NPR, there are 8 other Oz-related projects in the works, and I suspect that the reason for this recent surge in interest has to do with the boom in dystopian literature and film. The 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a dreamscape antidote to the Great Depression, The Hunger Games of its time, as its central character, the unsinkable Dorothy Gale, and her little dog, too, took off to have a series of adventures— only to be quite happy, at the end, in true Hollywood romance fashion, to return to the home that she was once so desperate to leave. Like Katniss Everdeen prepping for the opening ceremony on the eve of the hunger games, Dorothy cleaned up nicely at the Emerald City Beauty Salon, and like Katniss, Dorothy was plucky and brave.

Unfortunately, Dorothy is what’s missing from Oz the Great and Terrible, for this is a prequel. And this version gives us something quite different: one part buddy film (the main buddy being a monkey—surely viewers can’t help but think of the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which Franco spent a good amount of time with a chimp), and one-part Updikian Witches of Eastwick. The 1939 MGM musical and the current film are, of course, only two among many adaptations, which began shortly after the novel’s publication in 1900. Baum himself wrote two versions for the stage. And when there are remakes and sequels, a blockbuster prequel is sure to follow, so this latest development shouldn’t surprise us. (There is a rumor of a sequel to this prequel— let’s not go down that yellow-brick road for now).

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