Reading: A Place of Hiding, by Elizabeth George. Her new one. I'm not exactly reading it yet, but I will be very soon. Tomorrow, if I actually get my ass in gear early enough to get the bus.

Watching: Pete Sampras's retirement ceremony. We're the same age practically. I felt very old. And sort of unaccomplished.

Listening: To the new Fountains of Wayne CD, along with everyone else in America. It is very very good.

Purchasing: Not one but two Gloomy Bears. They have to come from Hong Kong, but they are mine. A 7-inch blue one and a 12-inch grey one. And I did not pay $28 apiece for them.

I was going to write about how I watched the news last night and got just about as pissed off as I have ever been in my life. First, it was about how much money it is going to cost you and me and every other American in order to get Iraq back on its feet. (Seeing as we're responsible for bombing the shit out of them, I suppose it is only fair that we pay to rebuild everything we destroyed.) Second, about the absolute ridiculousness that is going on in Alabama. (There were people sobbing on the sidewalk. Seriously, sidewalk-sobbing people, go read the First Amendment of the Constitution - assuming you can understand that many polysyllabic words - and then get the fuck over yourselves.) Third was the fact that we are back to prosecuting people who make porn. (Or at least a particular kind of porn, the non-sexy, violent, aberrant porn, but porn I will never be forced to watch unless, as the pornographer pointed out, the prosecutors show it to me when I'm sitting in the jury box.) Fourth was the fact that we now live in a society where, if you walk into an office building and kill six people, you rate nothing more than a thirty-second wrap-up just before the piece about how dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate.

But I'm not going to write about any of that, at least not right now. Right now, I am going to answer reader questions!

Melissa (who, seriously, wrote with her question approximately ninety seconds after I sent out the request for them) asked: "What is your number one favorite book of all time, your desert island book, and why? When did you discover it?"

Forcing me to choose one book is like forcing a parent to choose among her children, but alas, that is the point of the question! If I had to choose one book and only one book to take with me, it would be To Kill A Mockingbird. My current infatuation with Fitzgerald almost had me going with The Great Gatsby, and I would love to have taken Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary for pure entertainment value, and there is always the possibility of a volume of Shakespeare's collected works, though that feels like cheating.

But at the end of the day, I think Mockingbird would win. It is in so many ways the perfect book, combining elements of your standard literary novel, young adult fiction, mystery, and humor, while incorporating powerful lessons about humanity and compassion. I could easily read it once a year, and if I had nothing else to read for the rest of my life, would be happy reading it until I had each word memorized.

I discovered it in 8th grade, when we had to read it in English. Our teacher invited all of us to come in early over a couple of days to watch the movie before school, and Elise brought Skor bars for us both days, and even now I cannot see one frame of that film without craving a Skor bar.

Mike writes: "A typical interview question is one that focuses on regrets ... like "is there anything you wish you'd done differently." But to turn that around to a positive, what's one decision that you look back on and say "I'm so happy I did that!" (in a non-internet context ... starting an online journal doesn't count!)?"

Heh, looks like you knew what my first answer would be...

Honestly, it would have to be deciding to move to Washington. That decision has kicked my ass in a lot of ways, and I haven't been happy-skippy-lucky girl since I've been here, but I have been, in a manner of speaking, more alive. I've lived a richer life in the past 15 months, with lower lows, yes, but higher highs as well, and I am infinitely more alive than I would have been right now back in Kansas.

So I am very, very happy that I moved here.

Finally tonight, long long long long-time reader Elissa asked the ever-popular James Lipton "Inside the Actor's Studio" questions. (God bless you, Elissa, I've always wanted to answer these!)

What is your favorite word? Intrigue. I love the look of it, the sound of it, the spelling of it, the meaning of it.

What is your least favorite word? Jalopy. I know it means an ugly car, but it's an ugly word too. Brian Belden drove one and I was forever having to ask my mother how to pronounce it. I just had a mental block.

What turns you on? In the intellectual sense: laughter, kindness, true heroism. In the more popular sense: a man taking off his jacket or button-down shirt. The moment where the shoulders come out but the arms are still caught? Love that.

What turns you off? Boorish behavior.

What is the sound or noise that you love? A foghorn.

What sound or noise do you hate? The unnecessarily exaggerated burp.

What is your favorite curse word? Bastard. It's mild as curse words go, but fun to say.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? I'd love to be an editor at a publishing company.

What profession would you not want to participate in? Podiatry.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? "What the hell took you so long?"

(More to come!)

...that plays in our teeth

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