Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The other morning, I was still congratulating myself on having avoided having to summon a plumber to deal with my bathroom clog, when I walked out the front door without my keys and locked myself out. Pride goeth before a fall, or so they tell me, but I am by habit so paranoid about closing doors without checking my pockets for my keys that I had not bothered to conceal a spare.

Fortunately, I did have my iPhone, so I was able to determine that there is a locksmith located within a half-mile of me, so I placed a call, and in twenty minutes or so, a young man of terrifying efficiency was drilling out my lock and letting me back in. He managed to convince me that I needed to have both the lock he'd drilled and the deadbolt changed, and what with the service fee, and the drilling out, and the changing of two locks keyed together, he was gone twenty minutes later, and I was poorer by $414, which I figure is about how much it would have cost me for two visits by a plumber. Oh well. At least I have shiny new locks, and the locksmith (admittedly not a disinterested party) assures me that my old locks were a break-in waiting to happen.

My mother, who no longer likes to brave shopping malls and does not appear to understand how to order gifts over the Internet, sent me some money to spend on myself and the girls for Christmas. I quashed the impulse to just put the money in the bank (the impulse didn't put up much of a fight, really), and instead bought myself something that met the two main requirements for a gift: a) it's something I really like, and b) it's something that I was unlikely to buy for myself. So I am now the proud owner of a Kindle. It seemed to me that if one is going to own an e-reader, one ought to break it in, as it were, with an especially good book, so my first download was Pride and Prejudice, which had the additional benefit of being free.

I must admit that I was feeling just the eensiest bit obligated when I made the choice. I adore Jane Austen, and P&P (or, if you prefer, PnP, though if you're involved in any sort of online interaction that is likely to lead to you and your correspondent in a mutually horizontal position, I must caution you that if he mentions PnP, you are likely to be bitterly disappointed if you believe him to be a fan of Ms. Austen) is one of my favorite novels, but it's just possible that I was resisting being in the mood for something a skosh, well, trashier. (One acknowledges that the sets of "all novels" and "all novels trashier than Jane Austen novels" are very nearly identical.) But I was no more than a few pages in before I was transported. I remembered the excellent writing and all the humor, but I had forgotten what an absolute page turner (note to whomever: "page turner" may be obsolete with e-readers; come up with an alternative) it is, even if you've already read it four times and have seen both the excellent and the execrable movie versions, so that there's really very little doubt as to how it's going to come out.

It's been some years since my last reading, so it's not surprising that I was struck by a lot of what had not occurred to me so much in the past. What I especially noted this time through was the character of Mr. Bennett, who deals with a situation of his own creation, but not to his own liking, by removing himself from it as much as possible and making himself something of a recluse in his own library. The consequences of his seclusion range from the (minor) deterioration of his own character to a family scandal. Within the context of a Jane Austen novel, those are quite big deals. I took his example as a reminder of how important it is to remain engaged.

The second book I downloaded was The Pilgrim's Progress, and that is going, um, not so well, but I intend to persevere, much like Christian. John Bunyan, frankly, was not much of a writer, and The Pilgrim's Progress is really more proto-novelist allegory than novel, but it was the first book that I read in my first literature course as a freshman. The course is still offered (or was as late as 2009, at least), but the reading list has changed considerably, and the professor who taught it has long since retired, a fact which makes me a little bit sad. Tempus fugit, I reckon.

In other media-related news, I had a series of such unpleasant interactions with Comcast's so-called customer service that I have entirely abandoned cable television (and Comcast) in favor of Verizon FiOS internet only, with a Netflix account (streaming through the Wii, plus a one-at-a-time DVD rental). I thought I would miss some of my favorite reality TV shows, but so far I haven't, and, well, how did I live without Netflix?

Naturally, I love all of the movies and TV shows, from the sublime (my first DVD was A Single Man) to the profane (Spartacus: Blood and Sand; the mind boggles), but what I especially appreciate is the Netflix' user interface's continuing efforts to define and predict my tastes. At some point, a new category appeared in my browsing menu: "Emotional Gay and Lesbian Dramas." I was a little sad when it went away, but then it was replaced by "Edgy Gay and Lesbian Romances," which was followed by "Dark Gay and Lesbian Romances," and, finally, "Steamy Gay and Lesbian Romances." These are pretty obvious choices for me, but I'm a bit impressed by Netflix' ability to withstand all of the attempts to throw it off the track: YFU also uses my account, and it's not uncommon for her to spend six hours on the couch watching half a season of The Office or a completely inscrutable (to me) Japanese anime series. Somewhere there's a psychologist writing a thesis about me.

I don't have what I perceive to be the usual issues with new year's resolutions; (I.e., that they create unreasonable expectations and then guilt when they're broken, as they nearly always are. When I break mine, I just shrug.) indeed, I think that any excuse at self-reinvention or self-improvement is a good thing. But getting them done by January 1 is just too much pressure. Also, it leads to bad choices, and it lessens your enjoyment of the holiday. (I had a splendid New Year's Eve, by the way. I went to a late party, and before that, That Guy came over for dinner, and he brought a bottle of Laurent-Perrier demi sec, and it was delicious.) It makes much more sense to me to spend a bit of time during the first week of the year thinking about one's goals for the coming year and then to implement resolutions as necessary throughout the year, beginning with the first resolutions on January 6, which has the virtue of being Epiphany/Twelfth Night/Three Kings' Day. (I typically wait until after April 15 to institute additional resolutions: the strain of eighty hour work weeks is too much for anyone's resolve.)

The specifics are not really of interest, but this year my goals are achievable and my resolutions are not especially onerous. In any case, after the events of 2010, it's almost a given that 2011 is going to be a good year, if only by comparison. Looking at life year by year is arguably artificial, but you have to have an organizing principle of some sort. The new year is sufficiently close to the winter solstice that it's still a time when the days are very short and the temperatures are very cold, so you want to be at home under a blanket, reflecting on what from the past you want to let go, and what you want to pick up in the coming year.


  1. I never reflect of the year before but that's maybe the reason why it is quite impossible to keep the good resolution.
    Jane Austen is one of my favorite writer. I loved "Emma"... I'll try to imagine you laying on your "pipe-bed" and reading on Kindle...
    Also, demi-sec is not delicious! It is much too sweet, please try "brut" next time.

  2. Brut always for me; I love the sharp, crisp dryness and want it really cold and bracing.

    Other things I want hot and bracing but that's another topic entirely.