— Allison and I, while in Boston, were snowbound in our hotel on Sunday afternoon. We lay in bed and watched the documentary “The Armstrong Lie”, about Lance Armstrong. It’s fascinating and outrageous. We are a little bit obsessed with him, and have had lengthy conversations about him, and the behavioral tics that reveal his essential nature. The whole “I didn’t say she was fat” comment during the Oprah interview has been picked apart by the two of us as though we are forensic psychologists. So we watched the doc (which I recommend), and we had to keep pausing it for discussions, so that a 124 minute film was stretched out into a 5-hour mini-series basically. And that was why we drove all the way to the Boston in the teeth of another major snowstorm. No, not really. We had driven up to see comedian Mike Birbiglia perform at the Wilbur Theatre, and he was fantastic. So funny.

— I am currently reading Mark Helprin’s latest novel, In Sunlight and in Shadow, a gigantic intimidating tome. The first couple of chapters were rough-going but I have faith in him and things really started kicking in around Chapter 4 and now I can’t put it down. I could do without the constant reminders of how beautiful Catherine is, Helprin at one point says that she is “perpetually attractive”, and by that point I was like, “I get it, dude, I get it, you have a crush on your own character, it’s okay, but stop telling me how gorgeous she is.” However, she’s a great character, interesting and funny and odd, and the love story is completely improbable and unpredictable and breath-catchingly romantic. It’s filled with his typical swooning prose, something only he could get away with with a straight face. It’s another New York novel, like his masterpiece Winter’s Tale, only this one takes place in 1947, a bustling prosperous and yet anxious time, with returning war veterans trying to step back into the rushing river of the mainstream culture. I picked up the book after the disheartening experience of watching the film of Winter’s Tale (my review here). I just wanted to immerse myself in Helprin’s writing again, and so far so good. Has anyone else out there read it yet?

— Why People Are Awesome, Exhibit 739: A transcription of the musical notes seen on the derriere of one of the dudes being tortured in hell in a Bosch painting. The girl who did the transcription (and make sure you listen to the clip of her plunking it out on a keyboard) is a college student in Oklahoma. I love her. I love people who go to the limit with things.

— A rather mean-spirited observation, which normally I avoid, but in this case it cracked me up. In 2012, I had a brief and intense relationship with a guy I’ll call “Tim”. It did not end well. To put it mildly. “Are you mad at me?” he said in our last conversation. I said, “Not really. I just don’t think you’re a nice person now.” I probably would not make such a comment now, or who knows, being hurt makes people say all kinds of awful things. And he had lied to me just to keep me around, because he liked talking to me and wanted a woman in his life, blah blah. So, I still maintain that “nice” people do not behave that way. But whatever, I’m not perfect. Not my finest hour. The thing ended pretty much on that terrible note, he had wanted to “be friends” and quickly gave up that idea when he saw my reaction to it (“My friends are nice people. You are not.”), and I’ve never heard from him since. Not surprising – I wouldn’t have contacted me either after that – and is what I wanted, the words “good riddance” coming to mind. During 2013, my annus horribilis as well as my annus mirabilis, I’d think of him sometimes. Not always, but sometimes. I don’t remember much of it. Then I started getting better. I started prioritizing other things, and started practicing thought-stopping techniques with my doctor’s help. Not about him, he wasn’t the problem, it was those “what is going to happen to me?” thoughts that needed to be stopped. It took up a lot of time and energy, and I’m still working on it. The energy it took to get better completely took up all of my brainspace, and without even noticing it, months then passed without me thinking about “Tim” at all. Like, not even once. He vanished. But then maybe a week ago, he flew into my head, out of nowhere, but this is the weirdest thing: when he popped into my head, what I thought was, “Huh. Wonder what Tom’s up to.” That thought lasted only half a second before I shook myself, correcting myself in my brain: “I mean Tim. His name was Tim, not Tom.” For half a second I actually forgot the dude’s name. And then I laughed out loud.

— In the next couple of weeks, I will have two brand-new nieces and/or nephews! I am so excited, the countdown has really begun. I am proud of my siblings and very happy for them. I can’t wait to meet these little whippersnappers!

— Lots of great stuff going on in the O’Malley clan: cousin Kerry’s A&E series Those Who Kill premieres on March 3. Cousin Liam’s band Dr. Mars has an album out on iTunes and they’re playing a show next week in Brooklyn. Pregnant sister Siobhan is now producing the weekly “Mortified” shows here in New York City (where people read their high school diary entries, it’s a laugh-riot, you should check it out if you live here, or in other cities – it’s gone viral). And, as producer, she has put together something called “The O’Malley Family Band” – it’s hard to believe this has never been done yet, considering our Family Jamboree energy – and The O’Malley Family Band play accompanying songs throughout the show. (Quote from cousin Liam after one of their rehearsals, “You guys. We just rocked Joe Public.”) The band consists of Siobhan on guitar, cousin Liam on guitar, cousin Ian on drums, and cousin Joshua on trumpet (he comes down from West Point for the shows. I mean, honestly, the awesomeness is too much to handle.) Cousin Mike has a new pilot he’s written that’s been picked up, a comedy series starring himself and LeBron James. Which, come on, I’m already in love with it. And cousin Emma, who briefly gained international fame via Lena Dunham’s Twitter feed, has been flown out to Los Angeles to try out as a writer for Girls. So we’re all doing pretty well. As a matter of fact, the Industry Takeover is moving forward right on schedule.

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30 Responses to Snapshots

  1. Jaquandor says:

    Helprin has a new book?

    [looks at ‘To Read’ pile]

    [begins weeping]

    • sheila says:

      Ha!!! I know!

      And it’s another monster, 700 pages long or something. But I’m tearing right through it – once those first chapters were gotten through.

      • Jaquandor says:

        Helprin was an accidental discovery for me — I was randomly wandering the fiction stacks in the local library and I saw a thick volume called “A Soldier of the Great War”. I borrowed it, got sucked in, and I’ve loved Helprin ever since — even though I STILL have not read Winter’s Tale. I honestly have no idea why that is!

        • sheila says:

          Because it’s 900 pages long!! :)

          I had it on my shelf for years before I decided, “Okay. I am going to devote the time to get through this.”

          Boy, what a book. You’ll get to it!

  2. mutecypher says:

    I predict that in 2021 The Atlantic Intermittently will have an article titled “Neither the Jews Nor the Scientologists: Who Really Runs Hollywood? (Hint: They’re Irish)”

    • sheila says:

      Ha! Slow and steady wins the race!

      • mutecypher says:

        Nah, it wasn’t so much a comment on the speed of The Impending O’Malley Takeover as a mean-spirited observation on the persistence of old prejudices (and the slow-on-the-uptake Atlantic). Since you’re so un-mean-spirited you missed it.

        • sheila says:

          aha. I can be very mean-spirited – I just try not to write that way!

          And I probably didn’t catch it because I do think the Irish should take over everything. :)

          The O’Malley family crest reads Terra Marique Potens (Powerful on Land and Sea) – we all have sweatshirts with the crest/motto on them (nerds). So I feel that the slow/steady takeover in show business is part of that ancient destiny. Again: Nerd.

          • mutecypher says:

            I’ll put “How The Irish Saved Civilization, Again” in my to-be-read-once-written file.

            And I need to come up with a family crest.

            ‘Tis not through envy of thy nerdy lot,
            But being to happy in thine nerdiness…

  3. Paul says:

    I enjoyed the Armstrong movie also – although I did think it was a little longer than it really needed to be (though apparently not as long as it was for you!)

    On a different topic I just finished a book you might enjoy. An inside look at scientology from the current leader’s niece who was raised in that environment from age 2. Some pretty horrifying and fascinating stuff (did you know that the week starts and ends at 2pm on Thursday for scientologists?) . ‘Beyond Belief’ – it made me think of you and your special interest in this sort of thing :-)

    • sheila says:

      Paul – Jenna’s book! Yes, I read it – she is such a hero!

      Yes, isn’t 2 p.m. on Thursday when they have to get their numbers in? Is that what it is? A major rush to get their “stats” in?

      Her website – Ex-Scientology Kids – is heartbreaking – makes you see red reading some of these stories.

      Feels like the End Days are nigh in re: that organization (or “org”), but we’ll see.

      In re: Armstrong: The film really was like two films, wasn’t it – since Gibney started out as a fanboy, and then everything went down during filming, and he had to incorporate that new knowledge into the film. So you can feel the “old” film struggling with the “new”. Armstrong lying right to the camera, etc.


      I know he’s awful and everything, but you almost (almost) feel bad for him. Or – embarrassed for him, is more like it.

      • Paul says:

        I agree you ..almost.. want to feel bad for Armstrong. But you never really get the idea that he has any remorse or had completely fessed up. e.g. even by the end he still wouldn’t admit the wife of his former teammate was telling the truth. ‘Embarrassed for him’ is maybe the correct term.

        I was just reading some reviews of Jenna’s book on amazon and was interested that most of the negs had to do with writing quality. I think given the fact she received almost no real education people could cut her a little slack. The story itself was certainly compelling.

        I was confused in retrospect by a number of cases where she’d say she didn’t understand her parents’ motives or why certain things happened – you’d think she could have gotten the real scoop on that since her parents had also left the org by the end. Missed opportunity? Or maybe some things that still can’t be talked about even now.

        • sheila says:

          Yeah, there’s that chilling moment in the doc when you can see Lance starting to craft a new narrative – “I still will have won 7 times …”

          It’s sociopathic, how smooth and automatic it is.

          He is also so in love with the “redemption narrative” storyline – and used his own “redemption narrative” in a craven and opportunistic way, throwing his cancer survival back in his opponents’ faces like a weapon – which is despicable. In a way it was the perfect cover story, the perfect front.

          I wonder how he’s doing now – does he “get it” now? Does he have remorse? Is he capable of it? Having observed him for years (I find him fascinating and always found him a little off-putting – I was never on the LA bandwagon) – I highly doubt he could allow himself to fully feel remorse on any meaningful level.

          I find it interesting.

          I am sure that the Miscavige family is a total clusterfuck – with all of them struggling to come out of their own brainwashing – and imagine all the guilt those parents must feel? And now with DM’s wife gone missing – making headlines – FINALLY – people have been wondering where she is for years … it’s just got to be a whole can of worms there.

          Jenna is so poised and articulate and brave – her morning-show interviews have been amazing. I am just so impressed with her, coming out of that environment – the harassment she must endure on a daily basis – and yet she still stands strong. Major courage, that one.

          • sheila says:

            Mark Headley’s book is excellent too – not sure if you’ve read it. Not well-written, again, but who the hell cares – this is a story that has to be told, and he blew the lid off of so much with that book. I love him and his wife. Heroes.

          • devtob says:

            Glad to read you are still a skeptic of the Scientology cult, especially how it screws up families.

            But what happened to “The Belly of the Beast,” your hilarious post about a visit to the Scientology Museum in LA from a couple three years ago?

            It seems to be no longer available here.

          • sheila says:

            It’s no longer available because I took it down, years ago. It (and other posts like it) was getting a lot of traffic from an IP address in Clearwater. I may want that cult to go down – and I do – I am thrilled that I have lived to see the events of the last two years – but I don’t want the hassle of those people coming after me. They make your life hell. It’s happened to friends of mine.

          • sheila says:

            Speaking of which, do you have that bookmarked somewhere? It gets regular traffic from one specific IP address (I know the location – Schenectady) even though the link is dead, and has been dead for years. Just curious. I’m cautious too.

          • Paul says:

            I’ll check out the Mark Headley book – it sounds pretty good. I also saw some good reviews of a book called ‘going clear’ . It is kind of a fascinating topic – these people are such an interesting combination of cunning and stupid. They almost seem compelled to use brute force tactics that (predictably) drive people away.

          • sheila says:

            Paul – I got “Going Clear” for Christmas – Ha!! – it was the first book I read this year. It all started with the New Yorker profile of Paul Haggis – author Lawrence Wright delved deeper into the topic from there and this book was the result – Haggis’ journey is a huge part of the book and yes, it is FASCINATING. In years to come, Paul Haggis’ role in this whole thing will just grow. He went public in such a HUGE way. I mean, so did Jason Beghe – and that had a similar impact. Leah Ramini, too. These are all major major events.

            Easy to see that the Writing is on the Wall if books like THAT are coming out now – when you consider what happened to Paulette Cooper and the guy who wrote the famous Time expose years ago … The cult is a crippled monster right now.

            There are still so many people caught in its web, but it really is unraveling at an alarming rate – I can’t even keep up!!

          • devtob says:

            I had it bookmarked because it was so Sheila, and since it somehow got on top of the Chrome home page, I use it to click to TSV, even though I have to click again.

            I’m near Schenectady, so that’s probably me.

            IMO, mocking Scientology like you did is more effective than bemoaning how awful they are, especially among the young people they are always trying to grab.

          • sheila says:

            devtob – the Schnectady mystery is solved! Ha!! I would see traffic coming in to that dead link and I wondered if there was some raging angry “org” in Schenectady who had flagged it for nefarious purposes. Hahaha. These people don’t mess around and seeing that that piece was being read by someone in Clearwater was enough for me to take it down. I don’t want them contacting my employers and landlord and telling lies about me, like they have done to friends of mine.

            Mocking was fine. That story in Belly of the Beast is a great one and it went on much longer than what was there in the post – I actually got in extremely far into the organization (as far as I could get without paying any $$) – but I’m not willing to risk ALL in order to have my fun.

            I don’t think it matters much anymore – they have way bigger problems than lil ol me … but at the time, 2010, 2011, that wasn’t the case.

            But I am glad to know that that “click” I would see occasionally was from your Bookmark, and not some cult-head waiting to pounce.

  4. Melissa Sutherland says:

    Sheila: If you never do anything else in your life that’s worthwhile (how impossible would that be?), just by linking me to the butt song, you have earned my love and devotion forever. I really admire people who do things like that. Never had it in me to dig that deeply into anything. My loss.

  5. Melissa Sutherland says:

    Continued to read.

    Hooray for the O’Malleys! My god, your family is doing well. Let me know when the takeover is complete. Can’t wait!

  6. milt says:

    Another book suggestion. Have you read Bruce Dern’s memoir, called Things I’ve Said, But Probably Shouldn’t Have? It’s immensely entertaining–one of the best actor’s memoirs I’ve ever read. He spins out fascinating and frequently funny story after story: about his own career and the people he worked with; other actors, directors and Hollywood people, and gives unvarnished views on the movie industry. As quoted in the book, Lee Strasberg told Dern that because he was such a unique talent, he would not be appreciated until he was in his 60s, and would continue acting into his 80s. As a result of reading this book, I hope he gets an Oscar for Nebraska–it’s long overdue.

    • sheila says:

      Cool! Thanks for the recommendation! I never was a huge Bruce Dern fan – I always thought he pushed too much as an actor (the final confrontation scene in Coming Home made me embarrassed for him – I love him in King of Marvin Gardens, though), but he is an interesting guy and I love to see people still working/still hungry/still taking risks as they get on in years.

  7. Kate Poulter says:

    I’m also reading In Sunlight and in Shadow! It’s a journey, an adventure. It also brings up things I need to think about more. For example, I was caught by the image Catherine describes of growing up as a lonely child and, well, why paraphrase: “When I was a little girl I wanted to go into the theater because of the music and the light. I didn’t have many friends when I was growing up—none, really. But then my mother took me to a play, where the light and music seemed better than the world itself. I’m so stuck on that, that when I see the real thing it makes me think of the imitation. When you watch from the dark, as I did for so long, that’s what you get.”

    There’s so much more, of course, but that little snippet made me think of why theater and movies and even books are so powerful. They’re even frightening sometimes, because they create true emotion that one has to process, sometimes for days afterwards, or longer.

    So, those are some of my thoughts after just finishing chapter twelve. How wonderful to know that across the continent someone else is riding the same train. What a view!


    • sheila says:

      Kate – I really liked that little section too.

      I’m still pretty early on – Harry is now out in the Hamptons meeting her parents for the first time – so I have a ways to go. But I am very invested in the story already – Harry’s journey, in particular. What a strange and interesting character.

  8. Dan says:

    I’ve had In Sunlight and in Shadow for over a year now, but haven’t felt able to tackle it. Glad to to know that when I do make the ascent, it’ll be worth the journey.

    • sheila says:

      Definitely! Like I said, I found the first three chapters or so a bit of a slog – but I hung in there. For me, the thing kicks in when Harry (lead character) travels out to the Hamptons to crash a party at a country club (he has to swim through a channel, holding his tuxedo up with one arm). That’s when I got invested.

      It’s lovely, so far!

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