i am the antichrist. or whatever.

So in honor of, I don't know, Christmas or something, I've decided to abandon my quest for hipsterdom and be goth instead. I've already taken the first step, which is to paint my nails black, as illustrated to the right. Further plans include wearing mostly black clothing, which I sort of do anyway, but now I do it because it is Black Like My Soul instead of being slimming and sophisticated and easy to mix & match on a hectic morning.

I've also visited one of the internet's many goth name generators and am excited to inform the world of the death of Helen (yippee! death! [see, i am totally good at being goth]), and the birth of Ethereal Ravyn.

further adventures in gothicness forthcoming no doubt. Um. satanbye?


too good for mcsweeney's

If Classic Plot-Twist Movies Took Their Cues From The Multiple-Tony-Winning Broadway Hit "The Light In The Piazza," In Which It Turns Out That The Mysterious Daughter Is Not Tubercular or Already Married or Anything Even Remotely Expected; Rather, She Is Mentally Retarded

The Sixth Sense
Bruce Willis' character has been mentally retarded all along.

The Empire Strikes Back
While Luke is dangling over the abyss, Darth Vader reveals to him that he is actually mentally retarded.

The Crying Game
It turns out the "girlfriend" was no girlfriend at all - instead, "she" was mentally retarded.

Fight Club
Brad Pitt is just a manifestation of Edward Norton's mental retardation.

The Wizard of Oz
Dorothy wakes up in her own bed, surrounded by loved ones, and discovers that she is mentally retarded.

The Usual Suspects
The fax comes in with the suspect sketch, and reveals that Kaiser Soze is mentally retarded.

Citizen Kane
It's revealed that Charlie Kane was driven his whole life by the thought of his lost childhood mental retardation

Soylent Green
Charlton Heston discovers that soylent green is made of mentally retarded people.

Wild Things
Even though it appears that Kevin Bacon or even Denise Richards is mentally retarded, Neve Campbell and Matt Dillon are the real mentally retarded ones, and they have been been mentally retarded from the very beginning. But then out of nowhere, Bill Murray is mentally retarded.

It turns out the whole movie is told mentally retardedly.

with help from david. thanks, david!


or one sixth of a pair of jimmy choos

For those of you who are not living under a rock, you know that the New York Transit Worker's Union is gettin' its strike on right now. For those of you who are stalking me, you know that I live on 112th street, and work on 4th street. For those of you who can do math, you know that that's a 108-block walk (closer to 115 if you include the east-west aspect). For those of you who have been paying attention to the wacky-ass zone system that has been imposed on the city's cabs, you'll note that that's a theoretical $25, which in reality, when you realize that the vast majority of cab drivers are capitalist opportunists who are gouging like motherfuck, is about $35.

All of this is preface to the fact that I'm staying with friends who live closer to work than I do, but I need clothing to wear to work tomorrow. There's a Gap a block away from my office. For less than $70 - the cost of a cab ride home and back - I can acquire two pairs of underwear, two tshirts, a cardigan sweater, and two pairs of socks. For good measure, I can even get a clearance belt, and even a whimsical flowery pin or two. If I were to do this shopping at the K-Mart around the corner from the Gap, I could even throw in a toaster.

In other news, if you are bored or concerned that you are growing stonehearted in the face of painfully selfish Transit Union bosses or in need of some kittens to look at, please visit Cute Overload. Greater minds than mine have compared its potency to that of a nuclear weapon. It gets everybody. Everybody.


Snark Ye Herald Angels

Inspired by the witty Banterist, my own Interwebs Edition of Grammar Cop.

Defendant: The New York Daily News

Charge 1: Flagrant misuse of apostrophe in pluralization of "greeting," a word which is not in any way confusing or difficult or unusual to pluralize (i.e. "moose," "jones," "addendum")

Charge 2: Demonstrating an unacceptable lack of proofreading, considering the offending party is a newspaper, and thus in theory employs people whose sole job function is to look out for and correct this type of error.

Charge 3: Displaying the offending structure in a connected script text, making the break between the G and the S exponentially more obvious than it would be had it been in a normal font.

Charge 4: Making the damn thing flash red and green.

Report: Officer Helen was reading about out-and-about actor Nathan Lane's sarcastic take on Brokeback Mountain, a movie with which Officer Helen is obsessed, and noticed this atrocity flashing on the screen. Capturing it for eternity was a simple matter of left-clicking.

Fine: $31.50, the cost of a six-line Kwanzaa message*

*a side note of social commentary: a Kwanzaa message is the abovementioned $31.50. A Christmas message is $42 even. A Hanukkah message is $52.50. What can we learn from this? Black people are poor, and Jews are rich. Thanks, New York Daily News!

I could so hit that.

Words and phrases meaning women of easy virtue (i.e. sluts) in the slang of Georgette Heyer's regency-era romance novels:

  • barques of frailty
  • birds of paradise
  • bits of muslin
  • convenients
  • lady-birds
  • light-skirts
  • Paphians
  • peculiars
  • prime articles
  • trollops
  • wantons


stop the presses

A brief detour to the serious. Sorry, I will return to usual sarcastic form when I get over my total seething anger at the following.

There is a staggering, extraordinary article in the New York Times today. It's a profile of real-life gay cowboys in Wyoming, a la Brokeback Mountain, and in it various men who are alternately accepting of and struggling with the contradictions of their hypermasculine lifestyle and their attraction towards men are candid about what goes on inside their heads. Two admit to having been on the brink of suicide. One claims that a Matthew Shepard-esque hate-killing will happen again. We learn that Brokeback Mountain has yet to find a distributor in Wyoming - between the lines it's clear that it might never find a distributor, that this movie is too devastating for an entire state hyperaware of the lines between the rugged cowboy lifestyle and, as one ranch hand puts it, "getting involved with being hairdressers."

This article is killer. It's important. Everyone should read it, the same way everyone should go see the movie it's inspired by the movie which is starting this whole conversation about how you don't have to be a mincing stereotype like Sean Hayes on Will & Grace or Nathan Lane in virtually his entire performing career in order to be a gay man. The movie is stone-facedly upfront about violence - particularly of the gruesome, punishment-fits-the-crime variety. Whether or not you agree with the lifestyle choices of the characters whose lives it follows - in fact, particularly if you don't - you can't help but relate to one of them. Are you a Jack Twist - trying to change the world to fit yourself? Or an Ennis Del Mar - trying to change yourself to fit the world? So you watch the movie, you relate to a character (or both, or an inevitably described as "long-suffering" wife, or a ranch foreman, or a grasping daughter) and all of a sudden you realize that you are psychologically putting yourself in the same space as someone who if you met him in a bar or on the street you wouldn't think twice about - rugged and cowboy manly - and then you realize this is a man who falls in love with men and in that one second your mind is turned in a way that any number of GLAAD outreach campaigns have failed to do.

This is an important movie, because it does that. This is an important article, because it shows us that the story of the movie isn't restricted to just the movie. So why isn't it on the front page?

Because here's the thing. The article is in Fashion and Style. Fashion and fucking Style. Which is Timesspeak for "women and gay men." So sure, the Times wants Wyoming to open their minds, but their readers? Not worth the hassle.


this week in ideas: the debate van is not a patent office

We all know how I feel about abortion and about a gal's right to choose. I realize of course that there are some philosophical inconsistencies when it comes to the question of abortion, and that most of us on the side of civil rights and feminism have atendency to gloss over the gnarlier issues and to just assert in a loud voice IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO until anti-choicers feel bad about themselves and go cry in the corner that nobody understands me like You do, Jesus, why can't you be my date to the Spring Fling since none of the boys really see my inner beauty that my momma says I have like You do.

But having been a debater in college, and thus being an argumentative and aggressive type when it comes to telling people what to do about things, I have at various points along the way tried to come up with ways to reconcile my bone-deep belief that Abortion Is Not Evil with my concerns over the unresolved role of the conceiving father in all this, or "but where do we draw the line?!" For drawing that line I will say See: Peter Singer and then amend it a bit to basically say that let's give something the right to life if it is either sentient or viable and leave it at that. But the question of daddy rights... this is, as the trailer says, a little bit of a pickle, Dick.

It seems like most problems can be solved - at least on paper - if we treat people like robots and assume optimal rationality in their behavior. So here's what those of us in the van on the way home from the Princeton tournament came up with that fateful night: Before a guy and a girl have sex, they sign a contract. In this contract the guy agrees that if he is unwilling to financially support prenatal care and the subsequent child to such a degree that the mother could live an otherwise totally normal and struggle-free life, then he gives up his right to have a say in whether or not she aborts any conceived zygote. Thus the time commitment of motherhood inherent in being female is somewhat offset by the dude’s monetary commitment. We also added in some provision that tied the compensation to minimum wage, but a) I don’t really remember that part and b) it was probably retarded.

So then Dalton Conley, a New York Times editorialist who was apparently named after a C-list law firm, goes and steals my idea, asshole. But the thing is I am sort of okay with that, because he has been getting lots of shit for it and also it turns out the idea was really really horrible. So, I give up any claim I might have had to the Sex Contract. You go, Dalton Conley. Run with it, baby. Run all the way to the bank.


beating the system, part two

A while back, I enlightened penny-pinching poverts like myself in the ways of ripping off Au Bon Pain for a tomato/pesto/mozzarella sandwich for significantly less than their suggested $6.99 sale price. No, let's not say "ripping off" - so fraught with judgment. I prefer to think of the sandwich as being, let's say, liberated.

Well in the time since that post I have become both more poor and, correspondingly, more interested in ways to spend less money to acquire more goods & services. I was reminded this afternoon when I stopped into McDonald's to get some coffee that if it's a good deed to take down the faceless behemoth corporations, it must be doubly so to spread the word to others. So my good deed for the day: two new ways you can (insert theme music here) beat! the! system!

Yeah, I know. McD's is gross, it's evil, whatever. But here is the amazing thing, that will sort of make you want to eat there even if you're not hungry, just so you can send the golden arches a big ol' bronx cheer. The amazing thing is: the dollar menu. On this dollar menu, at least at the McDonald's near my office, there is your usual complement of crapola such as the chicken fajita (wtf, man. wtf), and then there is the shining beacon of heavenly poultry goodness: four chicken mcnuggets for $1.00.

Intrepid diners will have looked elsewhere on the menu and noticed that SIX chicken mcnuggets are a whopping $2.89. And the math geniuses among us will note that you can buy THREE four-piece chicken nuggets for a scant $0.11 more, pre-tax. That, ladies and gentlemen, is twice the nugget for (rounding up) 4% more of the cheddar. Throw in the free dipping sauce, and you are blasting holes in the pockets of corporate america. And/or supplying yourself with some delicious - albeit horrifically unhealthy - fried bits of bird.

This one is old news. A Starbucks cafe mocha is, like, a million dollars. But a Starbucks hot chocolate is only HALF a million dollars. Add a shot of espresso (less than a dollar) to your hot chocolate, and you've got - functionally - a cafe mocha. Mia used to work at Starbucks and swears you in fact receiving an identical drink. Plus, the whipped cream is free.

Another fun trick, courtesy of Amanda:

  1. 1. order two shots of espresso over ice for a grand total of maybe two bucks.
  2. At the accoutrements counter, fill your li'l plastic cup the rest of the way up with whatever combination of milk, cream, sugar, and powdery toppings your heart desires.
  3. Brag loudly about your cheap-as-shit Iced Americano.

Like I have just now decided to always say, it's not stealing if you're paying for something.* Bon appetit!

*but of course, illegal behavior is not endorsed either by this depressingly low-traffic blog or the perhaps horribly underpaid girl who writes it. stealing is wrong, my friends. don't do it.


yes, i want your body

ah, the fleeting internets. a google news headline about the PR shitfest that is Kimberly "spawn of Rod" Stewart and Talan Whatshisface's called-off engagement read:

have i told you lately that it's over?

I clicked on the link and it took me to a 404 page, and when I googled the phrase I got ... nothing. Oh well. It was a brief, glimmering moment of headline brilliance. Like a shooting star, or a sunset, or a jewel-like insect whose birth and death arrive and pass in the time it takes us to blink our eyes. Just like Kimberly and Talan's love. Tragic, really.

actually, i've been really into this one eyeshadow from brooklyn lately

you might not realize this, but the endless struggle to be a hipster is actually pretty trying. there is the disaffected posture to adopt, the obscure television trivia to retain, the appreciation for lowbrow/lowbrow to cultivate. it is, let me tell you, hell on my beauty regimen. with all the time spent ensuring that my chucks are distressed and making sure people see me listening to my ipod and double-checking that my scarf is draped just so, i barely have time to smudge my eyeliner - let alone deep condition my hair. but with winter upon us (happy belated thanksgiving, everybody), and a fair bit of making out with people on the schedule for the holiday season, i can't skimp when it comes to lip maintenance. so i popped off to my friendly local duane reade looking for something that would fit into my hectic lifestyle - something moisturizing, but also light. something with a hint of color. something that smelled yummy. something that spoke to me.

And there it was. Cover Girl Lipslicks. 0.14oz of lightly tinted, shimmery, emollient goodness. but - oh! - too many colors! which one will perfectly complement my self-identication, the lipgloss equivalent of a message t-shirt?! did i want to wear the sparkling pink of "princess"? the cool mauve of "demure"? the rich grape of "daring"? (the cover girl website informs me that this shade is not available in canada - intrigue!)

don't kid around with me. the right choice - for my lips, for my lifestyle - is obvious: "hipster" - a pearlescent wine color that says "even though i buy my lipgloss at a drug store, i am DIFFERENT and INDIE!"

so which is sadder: that cover girl makes a lip gloss called "hipster," or - as i sit here typing this narrative, noting with a certain happiness that my lips are soft and nicely shimmery and emitting a vaguely berry smell - that i'm wearing it?


rave: payless shoes

holy crap this is my new favorite store.
that is all.


i'm a lyrical gangsta

Avid watchers-of-Helen will know that I am obsessed - obsessed - with the song "Nasty Girl" by Nitty. This is a song that takes the tune to "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies and turns it into a hip hop/motown/pop fusion the likes of which are rarely seen outside of musical valhalla. It is also notable for containing, in my opinion, the best lyrical moment ever in the history of music, to wit:

Last time we sexed, I had her crawlin' like a alligator
It's an artistically unoverestimable line, not only for its terrific use of "sex" as a verb, and for its use of the indefinite article "a" before a word beginning with a vowel, but also and perhaps most importantly for the inscrutable nature of "crawlin' like a alligator" as a presumably desirable effect of particularly good "sexing." Much time and energy on my part (and to the annoyance of others) has been spent explicating this line, and I was pretty sure that the case was closed on the issue of Greatest Lyrics Ever.

Until. Until I was browsing around H&M and was distracted from the gold lame asymmetrical vests and the Mary-Kate-esque knee-length open-weave sweaters by the following coming from the store's loudspeakers:
you're so Anne Frank
Let's hit the attic to hide out for 'bout two weeks
Let's discuss: the singer (Andre 3000, the song is "So Fresh So Clean" by Outkast) is telling this girl that she reminds him of Anne Frank and he would like to hide in an attic with her for two weeks. Baby, you're so sexy that you remind me of The World's Most Famous Holocaust Victim and - mm mm mm - let's go pretend the Nazis are after us and have lots and lots and lots of sex in the meantime. Is this even a compliment? It's not really a question of being offended or not being offended, it's a question of this makes no sense.

The real question, though, is whether Andre 3000 can make Anne Frank crawl like an alligator. I imagine folks would pay to see that.


it all depends on the woman, really...

can i make it any more obvious?

It has come to my attention that currently in pre-production is a movie inspired by the Avril Lavigne classic story of love, loss, and ironic redemption, "Sk8r Boi."

The part of the ballet-dancing prep will be played by Nicole Ritchie, and the sk8r boi himself will be played by one or another of the interchangeable Madden twins.

To this I say: holy crap.


things that are awesome

Inspired by the devil's rhubarb, a list of other people, places, and things possessing the quality of awesomeness:

  1. frisee lettuce
  2. small children who are concentrating very hard
  3. talking and while you are talking realizing that the sentence you are saying is going to wind up having a really convoluted grammatical structure, and then realizing that you handled it perfectly, and then marveling that you were able to have that whole thought process going on at exactly the same time that you pulled that stunt of grammatical brilliance, and then feeling really proud of yourself
  4. flannel sheets
  5. the knowledge that pasta tossed with garlic sauteed in olive oil and topped with fresh parmesan is, on a per-serving basis, only about ten cents more expensive than ramen noodles
  6. the Tappan Zee bridge
  7. stuffed animals made of polarfleece
  8. paint-your-own pottery
  9. the feeling of superiority engendered by the express train on which you are riding hurtling past a station where there are many people waiting
  10. masking tape
  11. piggy banks
  12. Annie Lennox
  13. dull gloss paper
  14. books of unconventional size
  15. penguins
  16. your sense of what cloudberries look like, prior to learning what cloudberries actually look like
  17. pthalo green
  18. drawing a line through the diagonal on a lowercase Z
  19. really fast-moving escalators
Feel free to add or annotate in the comments. This is not by any means an exhaustive list.


the greatest recipe of all time

In my line of work I come across some pretty crazy recipes. This one wins. Every facet is genius. It is a work of art. It is from Kitchen of Light, which is a cookbook of Scandinavian food and is pretty rockin' in its own right. But that's not the point. The point is:

The Devil’s Rhubarb
Serves 4

8 thin stalks very young rhubarb, trimmed
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup very cold vodka

Peel the rhubarb so that only the juicy interior remains.

Place the sugar in a small bowl. Dip the rhubarb in the sugar and take small bites. Clean your mouth with sips of vodka from small glasses.

THAT IS IT. THAT IS THE ENTIRE RECIPE. I need to sit down, the awesomeness hurts me.



A commenter on Gawker asks:

jews: will they ever get over themselves?
Answer: ha. no. we are a masturbatory people, my inquisitive friend. now stop asking questions and go read the latest issue of Heeb while wearing your American Apparel t-shirt and listening to the Beastie Boys. wait, what was the question?


i'm not sure about "mightier than," but it's definitely "as mighty as, maybe a bit less"

Whoever said working in publishing was a peaceful job was off his rocker. Today I have received upwards of four (that's right - it could well be five or six) paper cuts, three of which have bled. I am so badass. Don't even try to step up. I have a ream of cotton-bound and I will cut you.


Mark Linn Baker, we hardly knew thee

A Conversation I had with Mark Linn Baker, Who I Met Tonight

Random Dude: Hey man, you’re the guy from Perfect Strangers!
Mark Linn Baker: Yep, that’s me. Good to meet you.
Random Dude fades back into the crowd
Helen: You must get that a lot.
Mark Linn Baker: Yep.
Helen: Cool.

Conversations I Would Have Liked To Have Had With Mark Linn Baker, Who I Met Tonight

Helen: You must get that a lot.
MLB: Yep.
Helen: You know I always felt sort of connected to Perfect Strangers, since I grew up in Chicago.
MLB: Oh really?
Helen: You don’t actually care, do you?
MLB: No, not really.
Helen: You’re not a very good celebrity.
MLB: Fuck off.

Helen: You must get that a lot.
MLB: Yep.
Helen: So… that Frog & Toad musical thing totally bombed, huh?
MLB: Fuck off.

Helen: You must get that a lot.
MLB: Yep.
Helen: So you’re on that show with the girl from Roseanne.
MLB: Actually it was canceled.
Helen: Yeah, I heard it was crap.
MLB: Fuck off.

Helen: You must get that a lot.
MLB: Yep.
Helen: So you’re on that show with the girl from Roseanne.
MLB: Sarah Gilbert, yeah, great girl.
Helen: I heard she’s a lesbian.
MLB: Fuck off.

Helen: You must get that a lot.
MLB: Yep.
Helen: So you’re on that show with the girl from Roseanne.
MLB: Sarah Gilbert, yeah, great girl.
Helen: I heard she’s a lesbian.
MLB: Yeah, she and her partner have such a beautiful commitment.
Helen: I went to Smith, actually. So it’s sort of like I’m an honorary lesbian.
MLB: I guess I can see that.
Helen: So… you’re kind of balding, aren’t you?
MLB: Fuck off.

Helen: You must get that a lot.
MLB: Yep.
Helen: So, still in touch with Bronson Pinchot?
MLB: Fuck off.

Helen: You must get that a lot.
MLB: Yep.
Helen: So, still in touch with Bronson Pinchot?
MLB: Actually, and I’m only telling you this because I find you strangely attractive, but Bronson and I are secretly lovers. And, like I said, I find you really attractive, and I know Bron has been interested in trying something new lately. So what would you say if I asked you to, maybe, slip out the back and --
Helen: Fuck off.


a public service

I am actually a big fan of riding the subway to work every morning. It's a nice dose of alone time that gives my brain time to wake up before it is forced to do things like, for example, work. But there is always that horrible person who is listening to his or her iPod really, really, REALLY loudly, like they had suffered hearing loss as a small child when they stood too close to a 747 taking off or forgot to wear their ear tubes when diving into the deep end, and they are now forced to listen to Yellowcard or Linkin Park or some other such crap at top volume while the rest of us are busy mentally snarking on everyone else's outfits and trying to read Page Six over the shoulder of the old Asian woman sitting next to us. And it's always crap music like Yellowcard or Linkin Park. It's never anything really good that might make the morning commute really fun, like say Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen or Eternal Flame by the Bangles. Or even something worth showing off that you are listening to, like the latest pre-release single from the brother of the Arcade Fire's guitarist's band which you got the mp3 of from someone at like Misshapes or something. No. It is always Crap.

In honor of that, I present a tactful way to deal with the situation. Just print this out and make copies and hand it to whoever is rocking out to Creed or whatever. It's elegant. It's tasteful. It's subtle. It gets the job done.


fun fact

here's one to help you get comfortably through the night:

after two years, 20% of a pillow's weight is made up of dust mites and dust mite droppings.

ew. ew ew ew ew ew.

sleep well.

UPDATE 10/28/05
Laurel, intrepid field agent and ersatz Canadian, has tracked down this article from New Scientist which reveals that some dude named Ashley and his team found

mini fungal "ecosystems" inhabiting five feather and five synthetic pillows that had been lain on for between 18 months and 20 years. Each contained up to a million spores from around 16 different species of fungi.

oh yay.


an AIM exegesis

adam: I am mesmerized by "ooh oh this my shit"
helen: i love the grammatical construction of "it's not just gonna have been like that"
helen: it's declarative yet non-declarative! the verb tense is subtly nuanced!
adam: it is practically alfred, lord tennyson
helen: going to (future perfect) have been (past perfect)
helen: does this refer to now?! does this mean it already happened?! does this mean it will happen shortly!?
helen: we do not know!!!
helen: it's genius
adam: it is a tapestry of meaning
helen: but even more importantly
helen: it is NOT just going to have been like that
helen: so at what point is it NOT the case? we need to find proof of nonexistence!
helen: which is impossible!
adam: meta
helen: which means in order to actually figure out when it is not just going to have been like that, we have to identify all the times when it IS just going to have been like that, and then fill in the holes
helen: it is genius
adam: not unlike the filling of the holes in this video*
helen: though if we're going to keep the analysis going, in that video holes are not actually filled. Rather, they are emptied
helen: again, the negative is the positive
adam: well, the first one was originally filled
adam: and the intent is to fill the other hole
helen: right, but the video is ABOUT emptying
adam: and attempt at filling
helen: but it's clear from the video that the banana doesn't actually *fill* the recipient's mouth
helen: it occupies it, sure
helen: but there isn't actual filling happening, in the sense of "no additional room"
adam: in the anus, there was little additional room
adam: that is plausible for filling
adam: I can fill a glass without have the water go all the way to the brim
helen: but when you shoot something out of your ass, your ass is no longer full!
adam: I was referring to what happened BEFORE the video
adam: which is clearly REFERENCED by the video
helen: but that's not the video!
helen: you can’t do that.
helen: you can't analyze the document based on assumed context
helen: you don't know how the banana got up there
adam: how else?
adam: I am watching it RIGHT NOW
helen: so any ass-filling going on over there?
adam: look, it got there somehow
helen: but you don't know how
helen: you can't include it in your analysis
adam: look. let's say you see a glass of water on the table
adam: you don't know how the water got there
adam: possibly god placed it there
adam: but you still consider the glass FILLED
helen: okay, i think we're missing the point here
helen: which is:
helen: the video is not about the ass being filled. the video is about the ass being emptied.
adam: we will have to agree to disagree
helen: if it were about it being filled, it would have included the stuffing up the ass of the banana!
adam: I am sending that IM to your mom

*THIS IS HORRIBLY HORRIBLY NSFW. consider yourself warned.


Dear God

“Ugh. I wish Kol Nidre was on a different day. Wednesday the Computer Club is having our all-night LAN party.”
“That sounds really lame.”
“But there will be Warcraft! And probably pizza!”

- an actual conversation between me and my brother, 10/10/05

Dear God,

Happy New Year! I was thinking about saying “shanah tovah” except I figure what with your omniscience etc. it doesn’t really matter what language I’m wishing you a happy new year in, and adding in a whole ‘nother language – transliterated, no less – probably just confuses the matter. You probably just sublimate the gist of this letter anyway, and I didn’t really have to write it, I could just think it. But I kind of wanted to sort of distinguish myself from the prayers and hosannas and all that other stuff which you’re probably bombarded with all the time, especially around this time of year. Also I have all these notecards left over from my bar mitzvah, which my mom has been bugging me to finish off. My friends in the Computer Club would totally make fun of me for writing you a letter longhand instead of like emailing or something, but I really like the font my name is printed in and I know you won’t tell.

So anyway. Down to business. Here’s the thing: I mentioned already that I’m in the Computer Club, which is like a very important thing in my life right now for various reasons that I don’t really want to get into and anyway you probably know about them (omniscience is awesome, by the way, Q was always my favorite character [actually now that I bring that up, Charlie and I had a total flamewar about this the other day – he claims Q is only omnipotent and not omniscient, but I maintain that if you can do anything, that means you can learn anything, so you can totally do the act of being omniscient. You’re probably the right guy to settle this.]). So the point is, we’re having our all-night LAN party this Wednesday, and I really think it’s time I owned those motherfuckers at Warcraft. My mom won’t let us get a PC at home, and there are these subtle platform differences with the Mac version, and I’m really sick of losing all the time, so I’ve been secretly practicing in the computer lab after school on Tuesdays. Also, there will probably be pizza.

The thing is there’s no way in hell my mom is going to let me go because it’s the night before Yom Kippur. So speaking of your omnipotence (okay so it was Q’s omnipotence, but I needed a segue), any chance you could change the date of Yom Kippur this year? I would really appreciate it. You could do it by slightly changing the fabric of space/time, or something, and I looked this up and you did it for I think Joshua, who was laying siege on like Jericho or something. I think this is functionally similar to me laying siege to Charlie in the land of Azeroth, plus I will probably not blow the shofar, which you probably find really annoying at this point, plus it makes my ears hurt and sometimes triggers an asthma attack.

Anyway, thanks in advance.



Dear Friends

Hello friends:

As of next week, I will no longer be identifying as a member of the social group generally referred to as "Hipster." I have accepted a position as a middle-ranking social hub and B-plus-list invitee in the New York WASPy Prep circle. While I am very saddened to be leaving Hipsterdom, particularly the glasses and the comfortable sneakers, I am very excited about my new social opportunity, including the LASIK,the Manolo Blahniks, and my upcoming nosejob and conversion to Episcopalianism.

Once I get settled in my new life, I will be sure to update you with my new contact information. Please note that my new cell phone will be unable to make calls to or receive calls from any New York area code that is not Manhattan, and is likely to deliver a somewhat painful shock if the area code in question is Brooklyn. I'm not sure of my new address just yet, but I can tell you for sure that it will be on the
east side!

Apologies to those of you who are Jewish, black, or straight-acting gay - it was really lovely knowing you. Watch the mail for a heartfelt letter of thanks and goodbye, written on my new Crane's stationery. For those of you who are white and protestant, give me a call sometime and we'll go to the club and watch our fiances play golf.



musical interlude

Okay, this is ridiculous. All you people who are friends of mine who live in New York ought to be ashamed of yourselves. The Decemberists are a band so awesome it hurts me, and they are so widely acknowledged to be awesome that I am almost embarrassed that I am so into them because it undermines what shreds of indie cred I actually have leftover after spending the majority of my indie cred on the cojones it takes to walk around Manhattan wearing Converse All-Stars and unnecessarily geeky glasses. And The Decemberists are playing a concert next Wednesday, October 5th, and I have tickets to that concert, and NONE OF YOU PEOPLE like this band enough to go see them with me.

... or else, hope against hope, you just didn't know about the concert? And you didn't know I had an extra ticket? And you really want to go with me? And you're going to email me now about it?

Correct answer.
also let me know if you like josh ritter, death cab for cutie, or andrew bird. 'cause they're on the horizon.


manifestations of my personality as determined by online quizzes, and how I feel about it.

what flavor of tic-tac are you?: “fresh mint”
I don’t really like being told that I resemble a vaguely defined menthol flavor. At least with spearmint and cinnamon and the others you’ve got a sort of Frege-style referent when it comes to the flavor description, but “fresh mint” is totally noncommital. Also, I’m a little disturbed by the claim that my best match among the other tic-tac flavors is “Orange.” “Fresh mint” sounds sort of toothpaste-y, and we all know that toothpaste+orange juice = ew. This does not bode well for my love life.

wat demon r u?: “u r a vampire! the greatest of the demons!!! night walker and drinker of the elixer of life.”
I m a vampire! R u a vampire? You know what? Being a vampire is a-okay with me. Vampires get to wear cloaks, which is a sartorial statement I am willing to stand behind. Technically speaking, I was operating under the assumption that the elixir of life was something intimately related to the philosopher’s stone (thanks, Harry Potter and Paulo Coelho), but maybe that’s the difference between an elixir and and elixer: one is mythical, and the other one is just, you know, blood.

what name is best for you?: “Nimue”
True story: one of the other options was “Pipijznock.”

are you a true punk or just a stupid poser?: “you are a true punk”
I really think there’s middle ground to be had here. Could I be a non-stupid poser? Could I be an untrue punk? I disapprove of the dichotomy that the author of this quiz is trying to create. It’s polarizing attitudes like this one that cause so much strife in our great nation today. America is stronger than that. We are a proud and multifaceted people, united by our common love for freedom and ramen noodles and Lindsay Lohan.

what form of self-mutilation are you?: “you are hair pulling”
All the other options – cutting, burning, self-breaking of bones, reopening closed wounds – are violent and totally destructive. And then there’s me, being all “oh I need to feel! I am so numb and alone, I need to cause pain! I need to know I’m alive!” And I do that by… pulling on my hair? That’s like cruising Washington Square Park at 2am for a bottle of extra-strength Tylenol.

??what alcoholic drink are you??: “you’re most like: a Cocktail”
The double question marks that both precede and follow the title of this quiz fooled me into thinking this was an extremely urgent question that needed answering immediately. “What alcoholic drink am I?” I cried, and went diving into such alcoholic questions as: what is your favorite movie? And then I get this totally unacceptable, totally noncommittal “you’re most like: a Cocktail” crap. I mean given the extraordinary range of idiotic drink names – everything from Harvey Wallbanger to the painfully obvious Sex On The Beach – I was really expecting something more. In fact, this is so bad that I refuse to accept it. I’m going to self-identify as a Dirty Vodka Martini With Extra Olives, and let you extrapolate pervily from that what you will.

what type of killer are you?: Ninja
Can I be a Vampire Ninja? Because holy crap. That would be awesome. You just can’t get cooler than a Vampire Ninja. Also, I wouldn’t have to buy new clothes. Black is the new black. Miuccia Prada said so.

Oh, and because I arbitrarily declared Tuesdays to be glossary day, today's word is:
Vampire Ninja (VAM-pyer NIN-juh), n. Definition: me.


hijinx, re: the flammability of oxygen

It's like a gift.

Hurricanes AND buses, rolled into one devastating news story! Thanks, Fate. You totally rock, what with helping me keep my blog thematically consistent and all.

Bus Carrying Elderly Storm Evacuees Explodes Near Dallas (NYTimes)


i think i like the new version better

From a manuscript I am editing:

I am suddenly filled with that sense of peace and meaning which is, I suppose, what the peons have in mind when they talk about the practice of the presence of God.
It is worth noting that in the actual quotation, the word is "pious," not "peons."


it's tuesday! that means it’s GLOSSARY DAY

Today’s theme: words I helped make up

bironic (bye-RON-ick), adj. Ironically bisexual.
source: “wow, that guy in the flowy white shirt with the blow-dried hair is very Byronic.”
“what does that mean?”
“reminiscent of Lord Byron (1788-1824), archetypal romantic poet.”*
“oh. I like my meaning I just made up right now a lot better.”

This word is so good that I really think it’s more than enough for today. You know that you know at least six people to whom this term applies. Five are girls from college who liked to make out whenever they got half a beer in them and knew that people were watching, and the sixth is that guy who always made you feel a little weird whenever he told you your hair looked really good today, and could he touch it? And he told you that all the freaking time.
Anyway, tell your friends & neighbors. Let’s get “bironic” in the OED.

*It is interesting to note that Lord Byron was, in all likelihood, both Byronic and bironic. This fact makes me inordinately happy. Check it out:

He kind of looks like Jude Law, now that I think of it.


Dear Peter Pan Bus Lines

Hey Peter Pan Bus Lines!

You know what was awesome? I was riding one of your buses on Friday when all of a sudden I was distracted from the bootleg episode of Scrubs I was watching on my laptop - it was Episode 104, "My Old Lady," which is totally one of the best because the lady who plays Mrs. Landingham is in it - don't you love Mrs. Landingham? I mean how can you not? Anyway, I was distracted because for some reason the bus was pulled over by the side of the highway, and generally speaking that doesn't fit into the sort of thing I find normal when I'm taking the bus somewhere. Especially because there were some state trooper cars with flashing lights, and when I looked out the window I noticed that our driver was being breathalyzed and given that follow-my-finger sobriety test. I was like OMG. Seriously. Oh. Emm. Effing. Gee.

That was pretty cool, Peter Pan Bus Lines (do you let people call you Pete? Do you hate me for asking?), but it was not nearly as cool as what happened next. What happened next was that a state trooper wearing a hat and reflective sunglasses - at night! So badass! - got onto the bus and stood up at the front and said "okay, who called the cops?"

Ha ha ha, Peter Pan Bus Lines! Our driver was driving so badly that someone on the bus called the police to report him! It's so Agatha Christie - the call was placed... from inside the manor! And then it turned out that while our driver was not drunk, he was in possession of significant logbook violations, and was not in a fit state to drive, and the besunglassed state trooper decomissioned him! And then we got to wait for an hour for a new bus driver, who when he showed up was groggy from having been woken up in the middle of the night - all because you, Peter Pan Bus Lines, in your infinite wisdom, do not see fit to have backup drivers waiting just in case your logbook-inadequate drivers are caught in their schemes! Oh you are wily. I wish I were a Bus Line, and I could be as wily as you.

Anyway, I just wanted to say hi, and see what's up with you. When this horrible bus experience happened I totally thought of you because, you know, I was totally on one of you buses, so I had to drop you a line. I mean, it was like fate or something. I hope everything by you is awesome. Me, I'm taking the train from now on.



Tom Coburn cares. He really cares.

Even though I find his glasses to be insufferably goofy-looking, and the photoshop job on his author picture makes him look like he's wearing Revlon SuperLustrous Lipstick in Hawaiian Coral, David Brooks sometimes pulls out the guns that I wish I had:

John Roberts Jr. Aw, shucks. This has been a humbling experience, Mr. Chairman. To think that a boy from an exclusive prep school and Harvard Law could grow up and be nominated for the Supreme Court - it shows how in America it's possible to rise from privilege to power! That's the hallmark of our great nation.

So while, of course, I can't talk about specific cases, or any emotions, weather patterns or sandwich meats that may come before the Supreme Court at any time between now and my death in 2048, I do want to reiterate that I feel humbled by this experience. I feel humbled that my wife is dozing off behind me. I feel humbled by this committee's inability to lay a glove on me. And I feel modest. You see this suit? I skinny-dip in this suit. That's how modest I feel.

Tom Coburn Well put, Judge Roberts. Yet when I think of the polarization that still divides this great nation ... waaaahhhh ... waaaahhhh. (Senator Coburn breaks down weeping.)

Jeff Sessions This may be a good moment to remind my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that in this country unelected judges don't write the laws. We have unelected lobbyists to do that. Under our system, judges merely interpret the law and decide presidential elections.

Specter Senator Sessions, let me interrupt you right there. We're not here to argue among ourselves and ignore the nominee. We're here to deliver 30-minute speeches disguised as questions and ignore the nominee. So let me turn to Senator Bid--

Coburn And when I think of the flaws in the reconciliation process! And the gerrymandering! Oh, the suffering! Oh, the humanity! Waaaahhhh ... waaaahhhh. (Senator Coburn collapses and is taken back to his office on a stretcher.)

It's brilliant, really.



today's glossary theme: words I only know because I spend all day obsessively refreshing Gawker et al., and which lead to confusion when I use them in conversation with friends who have, you know, lives.

biotech, (bye-oh-TEK) n. alternate spelling of "beeyotch" or "biotch" or "b-yotch" or whatever, pronounced in conversation as "bio-tek," aka a shortened version of something I'm guessing they teach at Apex Technical.
Source: overheard in ny.

federletus, (fed-er-LEE-tus) n. 1. the reason Britney got fat. 2. the embryo that will eventually grow into the stupidest yet most oddly attractive (in a rodent-skank kind of way) and richest trailer-baby ever. odds are good it will be named London. which, yes, is better than Cheeto, but it makes me think of those allegedly hot twin brothers, one of whom was apparently on Seventh Heaven or something.
Seventh Heaven --> Ashlee Simpson --> blonde lip-syncher of slutpop, examples of which are totally at the top of my itunes most-played list, even though i pretend to be all hipster and really into The Hold Steady or whoever --> Britney --> federletus.
it makes sense in my head.
Sources: gawker, trent, perez, pretty much fucking everywhere.

humpy, adj. some attribute possessed by Ted Casablanca. unclear whether this is a positive thing ("he is so humpy. i want to hump him") or a negative ("he is so humpy. he tries to hump everything." alternately: "he is so humpy. like a humpback whale.").
Source: defamer.

lilo, (LIE-low) n. LIndsay LOhan. not that borderline offensive, borderline autistic disney character. please. why would i IM you about a disney character reportedly making out with Bruce Willis? actually, that would be sort of awesome. i would totally IM you about that.
Source: perez

lovesit, (LUVZ-it) ejac. (not that kind, sicko) contraction of loves+it, as in "I loves it!" It's not an invitation for you, towards whom I feel affection, to plop down on the sofa.
Source: trent.

Maer Roshan, (somethingsomething ROSH-in) n. editor-in-chief of Radar. not even i get it. i mean, i get the magazine. it's neato. i just don't get the obsession. also: how the heck do you pronounce "maer"? is it like the lady horse, or like ex-jennifer-love-hewitt boyf john?
Source: gawker. why?

manorexia, (man-or-EX-ee-ya) n. contraction of man+anorexia. what Ethan Hawke has. also probably Carson Daly, but no one actually cares about him anymore.
Source: the ether? gawker stalker?

manpris, (man-PREEz) n. contraction of man+capris. calf-skimming pants worn by men. in particular, k-fed, who also inexplicably pairs them with white athletic socks and flipflops. why has no one investigated whether or not he buys those special japanese socks which are designed for flipflops, or just goes for the old reliable big-toe scrunch? i smell the greatest dissertation defense ever.
Source: the fug girls

skeletwins, (skell-uh-TWINz) n. lindsay lohan + nicole ritchie. fuck you, rachel zoe. fuck you, internet, for enabling me know who rachel zoe even is.
Source: trent.

more to come, no doubt. Next Tuesday.


on social norms

haha. no one actually cares. if you do, i moved it here.


not to mention

also in Fetus news: they say if you're making them mad, you're doing something right.

all hail

Holy crap! Somehow I completely failed to notice that my abortion craigslist personal ad achieved Best-Of status!

Anyway, now my own brand of lame liberal satire will be preserved for all posterity. Check it out here. In terms of internet fame, I am such a rock star.

Autographs available on request. You must provide your own fetus.


does it count as prostitution if your pimp is not-for-profit?

Liz, my Boston correspondent, stumbled across this brilliant posting on craigslist Boston.

For every first-date that I go on as a result of posting this, I will donate $50 to the American Red Cross. I'll do it through work, and my employer will match my contribution... so just by going out with me once you are helping to donate $100 to the Hurricaine Katrina Disaster Relief Fund.

So even if you end up hating me, think I'm rude, fat, ugly, boring, smell bad, and the thought of going on a second date with me sends chills up your spine and makes you want to puke*, you can sleep soundly knowing you've done your part to support victims of what is likely the worst natural disaster to hit America since the founding of our country.

In all seriousness, I hope to raise a fair bit of money doing this. I have several friends who lived in New Orleans who lost their homes and most of what they owned last weekend.

A bit about me: I'm 26 (as of a week ago), 5'10", 165lbs. (in shape... make it to the gym a bunch), have brown hair and eyes, have a job, and have a picture I will send when you send me yours. As much as this is a way to help victims of the hurricaine, I am also looking to meet someone I really click with, so only write back if you're single and at least interested in the possibility of a serious relationship (no pressure, though... I'm about the most laid back guy you'll ever meet).


* Note: I am not rude, fat, ugly, or boring... and I promise I smell fantastic.

As McDonald's would like me to say, I'm lovin' this. I doubt Dave (inability to spell "hurricane" aside) is interested in trekking down to NYC for a date... the transportation cost alone would sort of negate all the good he'd like to do. But I'll be up in Boston next weekend, and Liz has floated Dave's way the tempting offer that he can go out with both of us at once in exchange for him upping his donation to $200. We'll see if anything comes of this.

And no, while Liz is very pretty, I don't think there will be anything going on that, say, a God-fearing Republican wouldn't approve of.


...and the other cheek

It's no secret to the rest of the world that right now the United States is royally fucked up right now. Leaving aside the likelihood of long-term economic devastation due to the loss of one of our major port cities, or the embarrassing rise in oil prices due to our inability to extract ourself from an extraordinarily indulgent user-to-quantity ratio, or the unprecedented and monolithic backlash on the part of the news media - indisputably the most important opinion group in the nation - against the president and FEMA (Maureen Dowd called the agency's head, Michael Brown, a blithering idiot) - leaving all that aside, we are suffering most right now in the eyes of the international community because of how easily we proved that it takes little more than water to reduce an oblivious, prosperous, egocentric nation to sub-third-world conditions.

As of today, the death toll is estimated at 10,000, with a further estimate that for every body found, there are 2-3 more still trapped in attics, floating in the floodwaters, or simply hidden in the devastation of the city. Waterborne pathogens are proliferating, there is no safe drinking water, and even those refugees who are hundreds and hundreds of miles away are suffering from rashes, respiratory illness, and - no joke - trenchfoot. For once not taking their cue from the president, the American people are responding admirably - already this is relief mission is better-funded in terms of civilian donations than September 11 or the December '04 tsunami. But money alone isn't enough - patrolling, healing, rebuilding - this all takes human bodies, and those are hard to find. Over 500 members of the New Orleans police force - ranked up there with New York, LA, and Chicago in terms of hard-boiled, take-no-shit police ability - have quit or simply walked off the job, overwhelmed by the situation, the devastation, and what was being asked of them. At least two officers have killed themselves. And it's no better for people who are already out - hospitals throughout Louisiana are understaffed, overfilled, and finding themselves unable to cope with the influx of hundreds of thousands of patients who are in need of immediate treatment.

Here's where Cuba comes in. Castro has offered to send 1586 doctors to the United States to help bring our citizens out of this living nightmare. The US has a longstanding history of not giving a shit about Cuba, and snootily turning the other way when they offer to help us out. Usually, that's not so bad - economically and militarily and politically they don't have much to offer as a nation. But 1586 doctors is something they have that we don't have. 34 tons of medical supplies - that's something we could use. There comes a point where the government has to decide whether it wants to preserve the lives of its own, or if it wants to preserve a grudge.

It's likely that in this case, as with everything else for the past week, it'll choose wrong.


let's take a break from my Katrina obsession for some fun with memes.

Total volume of music files on my computer: 3561 songs, aka 14.99 gigs, aka 9.8 days of continuous music. approximately two-thirds of which I have never listened to.

The last CD I bought: I have this very music-obsessed friend, and I am in turn obsessed with introducing him to new music. The last ten CDs I bought have all been for him, and without fail he's already heard of them. Most recent: The Notwist, "Neon Golden." He hadn't heard it. He liked it. Score!

Song playing right now:It's 3:27am and my apartment has thin walls. I am rocking out to the sweet strains of my air conditioner. 73 degrees, low fan, baby.

Five songs I listen to a lot these days: According to iTunes, my top five most played songs are:
1. "Winter" by Joshua Radin
2. "Our Way To Fall" by Yo La Tengo
3. "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie
4. "July, July" by The Decemberists
5. "If I Could Turn Back Time" by Cher
As Ernie says, one of these things is not like the others. Also in heavy rotation: "Too Drunk to Fuck" by Nouvelle Vague. Highly recommended.

Quantification frame courtesy of Leila.


it's about time.

The US has accepted Canada's offer of help, and four ships and three Sea King helicopters are headed to the gulf coast next week to assist in rescue, relief, and reconstruction.

Full story here.

"no aid will be refused"

LJD(1:13:46 PM): as your foreign correspondent, I should also point out that yesterday morning, the Canadian PM offered to send basically the entire canadian military to help out
LJD(1:14:04 PM): and bush was all "thanks but no thanks"
Me(1:14:38 PM): Asswipe
LJD(1:14:54 PM): Martin was like "hey, we got ships, we got planes, we got helicopters"
LJD(1:19:22 PM): well, I'm going to go to the humane society and visit some kittens

six of one...

From the NYTimes:

The president was grim-faced as he prepared for an aerial tour of the flood region, and he expressed ambivalence about his journey. Before he departed for the region, he told reporters in Washington that "I'm looking forward to my trip," but later, in Mobile, he said, "I'm not looking forward to this trip."

Strong leadership. Mmhm.


I love you, Jack Shafer.

I love you, Paul Krugman.

I love you, Anderson Cooper.

I love the anger. I love the barely suppressed impotent rage. I've got nothing to offer - I'm sitting here with a 32oz bottle of Fiji water and a low-fat muffin from Starbucks and I'm moving commas around on recipes for quail - but the people who matter are doing good things.

nothing up my sleeve

Oh those brilliant Californians. On Thursday the State Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage - not just civil unions, those PC updates of "separate but equal," but actual marriage - and it was done as an independent legislative action, not as the result of a court order. And it's being totally buried in the news cycle by all the (justifiable) Katrina coverage.

From the Washington Post:

Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) noted that in recent months, Canada and Spain have adopted same-sex marriage. The United Farm Workers endorsed the bill, as did Los Angeles's new mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

"This is not radical. This is not vanguard," Leno said. "We're part of something bigger than ourselves now."

It's sad that it takes the largest disaster in our nation's history to distract folks from the abomination against God that is gay marriage (seriously, God is all "why am I being abominated against? Stop it!"). But it's great that California is saying fuck all, we're going to do the right thing. I don't know how Schwarzenegger can quash this without making himself look even worse than he already does with regard to issues of sex and sexual orientation. GLAAD must be having a field day.


too little too late

David Corn in The Nation:

a moment like this shows Bush's weaknesses. He was late to respond (again!) and his rhetoric was hollow (no surprise). Yesterday he declared, "America will be a stronger place for it." Puh-lease. Did he ask his speechwriters for the most empty platitude they could concoct? Then today he proclaimed there would be "zero tolerance" for looters. But if I were stuck in New Orleans, waiting for help from a government that had failed me, and my family was without water, food or clothes, I'd grab what I could from where I could. I'd worry about payment later. Sure, some looters are criminals exploiting the emergency. But many are people trying to survive. Who would watch their kids go hungry rather than break a window at a Winn-Dixie? Not me. Call me pro-looting-when-it's-necessary.

When Bush is insensitive when it comes to the war in Iraq, an action he spearheaded, we can justify it as defensiveness, a stubborn refusal to back down and admit he was wrong. But insensitivity to the victims of a natural disaster that can't in any real way be blamed on anyone - that shows his (and his administration's) true colors. There's only so much we can take.

hell hath no

The situation in the Superdome is escalating. The newsmedia seems to have shaken off its sympathy filter and is finally paying attention to the sub-human conditions of the over 16,000 people who are imprisoned in a football stadium that is rapidly succumbing to rising floodwaters. From the LA Times:

"We pee on the floor. We are like animals," said Taffany Smith, 25, as she cradled her 3-week-old son, Terry. In her right hand she carried a half-full bottle of formula provided by rescuers. Baby supplies are running low; one mother said she was given two diapers and told to scrape them off when they got dirty and use them again.

At least two people, including a child, have been raped. At least three people have died, including one man who jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing left to live for.

It's beyond horror. The refugees who are trapped in the Superdome (they're not allowed to leave - there are metal barricades, soldiers with machine guns, and helicopters patrolling the area) are given two 9-ounce bottles of water a day. They are not being told what's happening either on the outside or the inside.

People should not be dying now. The storm is over. This is a big nation. We are a country who master the control of large groups of people - we successfully interred thousands of Japanese citizens for no reason at all. We virtually exterminated the native human population. We shepherd old people and infants through metal detectors, having browbeaten them into accepting as a good thing this violation of their rights and their personal space. How is it that we are so good at efficient cruelty, but so inept when it comes to efficient good?



righteous fury

It's very easy for me, sitting here in blue-skied New York, to feel absolutely no connection to Katrina. I don't know anyone in New Orleans, I don't own a car so the gas hikes don't affect me, I don't really even have that much vested interest in the state of Louisiana as a conceptual entity. This isn't the sort of thing I care about. I'm far too selfish.

But reading coverage of the storm, and the devastation, and the hundreds and thousands of people whose homes and possessions have been destroyed... this is getting to me. I am sitting at my desk at my job where I am paid to do something that is, at the end of the day, really quite useless. I go grocery shopping. I sleep in my bed. And there are people who don't get to do that right now, because an act of God has torn them out of their daily lives and into a horror story. The worst part is how passive it all must be - in our nightmares, in movies, the action is constant and the disasters are instantaneous. But these people who are trapped in the Superdome (and who are now being transported, trail-of-tears-style, to the Astrodome in Houston 350 miles away) and the folks who are camped out with friends and with strangers and in the woods and on dry ground... they had the action already, and they're now dealing with the horror of the aftermath. Imagine it - you're forced out of your home by a category 5 hurricane and the gushing floodwaters of a broken levee, you make it out alive, and now you have to wait. Just wait. It's a Sartrean hell, watched over by an absent God.

And then you get the people who are trying to find someone to blame. From Salon:

a group calling itself Columbia Christians for Life alerts us to the fact that a satellite image of Hurricane Katrina as it hit the Gulf Coast Monday looks just like a six-week-old fetus.

"The image of the hurricane ... with its eye already ashore at 12:32 p.m. Monday, August 29, looks like a fetus (unborn human baby) facing to the left (west) in the womb, in the early weeks of gestation (approx. 6 weeks)," the e-mail message says. "Even the orange color of the image is reminiscent of a commonly used pro-life picture of early prenatal development."

And in case you're not getting the point, the e-mail message spells it out in black and white: "Louisiana has 10 child-murder-by-abortion centers," the groups says, and "five are in New Orleans."

But why would God single out Louisiana? Other states have many more abortion clinics, and Louisiana and the other states hit hardest by Katrina all voted for the pro-life president of the United States. It didn't add up for us at first, but the Columbia Christians for Life have an answer for everything. God has already punished California with earthquakes, forest fires and mudslides; New York with 9/11; and Florida with Hurricanes Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne and the early version of Katrina.

Part of why we were all able to rally together after 9/11 was because we had an enemy - it was easy to define an "us" when we had a "them" to contrast ourselves against. We gave blood, money, clothing, and time - because in a way, it made us feel like we were doing our part to show our attackers that we take care of our own. It wasn't just sympathy for the victims - there was vindication written all over every action. But there's no "them" to get back at here. There's just water and an empty sky. It's hard to rally the indignation and the fury necessary to take something from our own unscathed lives and give it to people who don't carry symbolic weight. But the truth is, if we can't sustain the "us" even when "them" doesn't exist... we're not much of anything.

Give and give and give.


the story of my life: a play in one act

editorial department. helen speaking.

crazy lady
hello thank you for answering. what did you say your name is?


crazy lady
well i read about your company in my local newspaper, The Connecticut . . . I mean The Hartford . . . I mean it was in the paper, you were in the article about prenatal nutrition which was advocating a certain vitamin regimen for mothers and children. So the thing is is that when i was pregnant my doctor didn't put me on a nutritional plan, he was smart enough to just recommend iron tablets. But still i followed a plan as it was outlined in a nutritional catalog. And I took those supplements like they suggested, and when I was pregnant and then when I was done with being pregnant it all worked out for me.


crazy lady
it was Richardon's nutritional catalog, that was published from the 1960s until someone bribed them and they stopped publishing it in 1987 because it was too smart, too good you know. Which was fine by me because i stopped taking the supplements in 1984, but i called the catalog company but they don't have any more left in stock, so i called the Federal Trade Commission and they weren't very helpful either.

I don't think we publish-

crazy lady
You know I've had a very hard time tracking down my medical records. They were scattered - out in the Hollywood Hills, at the Center for Hollywood Development - and my doctor here has some, but also there is this guy, he's a security guard at Henri Bendel's, and he has some of my medical records too, I don't know how.

I don't think -

crazy lady
He must be a retired doctor or something, you know how they let the doctors keep their records if they're photocopied. So my medical records are in California and here and this guard at Henri Bendel's has my DNA, which is a concern to me because if it were to get in the wrong hands, well I have a very violent history.

I -

crazy lady
So I've given up on that, you know I have a very violent history. Well you know our attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, and how he is only interested in corporate things and has no interest in individuals who might be suffering problems. You know I called him to tell him about my phone bill, which for the past few months has been $300 but should only be $45 because I have the all-inclusive plan. So you know I called small claims court, but they weren't interested.

[resignedly] mm hm

crazy lady
so i went to the latin progressive junta on east 57th, and there's a yugoslavian there, and you know he was very helpful. i called a private detective in 197- 198- i mean in 2002 - after my husband died, becuse his twin died, he was killed by a violent russian, a moscow man, i mean russian, so i need to find out how to sue about my telephone bill

mm hm

crazy lady>
my family has a very serious history of violence, you know. But my medical records are scattered - in hollywood hills, in connecticut, and like i sad my DNA is in the possession of this security guard at henri bendel.

You realize you're calling a publishing company? [as opposed to, say, an outpatient hotline or your husband's ghost]

crazy lady
yes, because I was wondering, besides food recipes do you also publish violence and medicine and fraud recipes"


crazy lady
well i only have an electric typewriter - do you need me to use a computer?

oh! you want to submit a manuscript!

crazy lady
yes, i want you to publish my book. I have not had the chance to have it written yet. what is your zip code?

[standard how-to-sumbit speech]

crazy lady
well thank you very much, you know after they started taking over my phone lines i thought that calling people would be a bad idea, but this really is the recipe - the story - i mean, my story and my husband's story. but that's really it.

[hangs up]

the inevitable onset

i bought two CDs today as a birthday present for a friend. Instead of going into some quirky nonchain music store and browsing until I fell into a cover-art-induced stupor and bought any album that has track titles which reference math or philosophy (my usual CD-buying MO, which incidentally has lead to the discovery of a terrific number of more-obscure-than-thou hipster bands, in certain circles lending me an indie credence that I really don't deserve), I did some online research, looked up the location of the nearest music store, called ahead, and had them pull out the albums and hold them for me behind the counter. Then, on a coffee break, I spent a grand total of 1 minute in the store, in which time I went to the register and paid. The end.

I did the same basic operation last week when buying new drinking glasses and a vegetable slicer (see previous entry) at Williams-Sonoma (they were on sale!), and yesterday when buying basic white plates at Crate & Barrel (also on sale, stop it). Also when buying a sweater from Banana Republic two weeks ago that I knew without even trying on that I would love.

Basically, I have become one of them. Those time-starved yuppie bastards who forgo interpersonal contact or leisurely browsing in favor of efficiency efficiency efficiency. Alas. It was bound to happen eventually.


a really gross and pointless story, which isn't really enhanced by the illustrations

I got a ceramic-bladed vegetable slicer yesterday from Williams Sonoma.

The oblongly rectangular thing towards the bottom of the yellow paddle is the plastic finger guard that comes with it, which allows one to slice things without getting one's fingers in the way. This will be important later in the story. In the meantime, I used the slicer to make beautiful thin rounds of cucumber, similar to the ones shown in the photo above. The type of cucumber I sliced is known as "English Hothouse," which is a 15-inch-long, 1-inch-wide behemothic double dong of a cuke.

But the cucumber being as long as it was, I figured i could hold onto it a safe 15 inches from the razor-sharp ceramic blade and not run the risk of hurting myself. Little did I know that the slicer can burn a wicked pace, and in no time at all I had a nice pile of paper-thin wisps of cucumber beneath the yellow paddle, and a scant 2 inches of nub separating my fingers from the (did I mention razor-sharp?) ceramic blade.
Note the little nub of cucumber. Note the lovely thinness of the slices. Note that above I mentioned that the finger guard would be an important player later on. Here's where: of course I didn't use the finger guard. Of course I cut myself, deeply and grossly, in such a way that you could sort of see the inner workings of my finger.
Pleasant, isn't it? To add insult to injury (literally, hurrah), blood was splattered, psycho-style, all over my chiffon-like cucumber slices. To add humor to both insult and injury, after staunching the flow, the only band-aids to be found were of the novelty variety. Namely, band-aids that were die-cut and photoprinted to look like bacon.

At this point you might note that bacon, as an animal product, is actually composed of things that look a great deal like the inner workings of a finger. And when wrapped in the bacon band-aid, my finger actually looks way worse than the actual cut.

To replicate my experiment, you can get the veggie slicer at Williams-Sonoma, the bacon band-aids at Archie McPhee, and the hothouse cucumbers from a grocery store. My fingers are not for sale, and this kind of hurt so I wouldn't really like to participate anyway.


dinner theater

on sunday night i (irrationally) decided to walk the hundred-plus blocks home from the 13th street movie theater. at 42nd and 8th i made a diet coke stop at Villa Pizza, a very times-square-ish boring faux-new york-style pizza place that was surprisingly packed with tourists considering it was about 11:30pm on a sunday. standing in line i started glazedly watching whatever it was on tv. It was black and white, slow-moving and very important-looking, and I thought to myself, assuming it was a bio of Winston Churchill or a Roosevelt or someone similar, "how unexpectedly classy of this cruddy place to be showing something so highbrow!"

And then I started really paying attention, and it was a CNN documentary on the Holocaust. And the next images on screen - your standard starving prisoners, crying parents, haunted children - were horribly juxtaposed with the seventeen varieties of pizza and fat fanny-pack wearers and british tourists giddied by all the high-quality orthodontia. To top it off, I think I was the only one in the restaurant who noticed that the entertainment we were all being fed - and that we were all subconsciously absorbing - was essentially a photo montage of conditions in arguably the worst prison camps in history, set to a soundtrack of "Whoa, wasn't Wicked, like, wicked?" "Do you have just plain pepperoni?" "Can't we just leave?" So I left, and I walked the rest of the 70 blocks home.


mysterious mysteries - solved!

Jordan, questionably reliable supersleuth (seriously, who decided to give him access to federal databases? Lock up your daughters) has determined that lucky NJ #1 is: Trenton mayor Douglas Palmer.

Even though I should have expected that the mayor of the state capital gets the prime license plate, I'm a little let down by how anticlimactic this mystery turned out to be. His town car was so shiny! The windows so tinted! I was secretly hoping there was some sort of amazing, fabulous New Jersey town that secretly ruled some important aspect of society or something like that. Instead, it's the mayor of Trenton. Woo. Hoo.

In honor of his amazing detective work, Jordan wins something or other that I haven't decided on yet.


today's math victory

A line that formerly read "Kevin Bacon is one degree away from Kevin Bacon" now reads "Kevin Bacon is zero degrees away from Kevin Bacon."

Baby steps.


mysterious mysteries

Lazily and extravagantly cabbing it to work this morning, my friendly driver noted that we were behind a town car with New Jersey mayoral plates, the license number for which was: 1

What Joisey mayor has such a coveted registration? Someone supersleuth this for me. Winner gets a fabulous prize.*

*"fabulous" is a relative term. For example, I think single-serving packets of cream cheese are fabulous. On the other hand, I think single-serving packets of fruit snacks are silly. Still, fabulous prizes are necessarily fabulous. So take comfort in that.


Deathmatch: Potter - revisited


Lupin will die.
Wrong wrong wrong. But I’ll carry this one over to book 7. There's no way Wormtail's silver hand doesn't have something to do with killing werewolves. And the whole Tonks angle now makes this (*sob*) emotional.

Harry and Ginny will flirt like nobody's business, and Ginny will in some way save the day
Right! On both counts! (Winning that quidditch match SO counts as saving the day). Not only did they flirt, they snogged. Love that word. Did not love the spiderman-esque "I can't be with you because they'll try to kill you. O the hero's life is a lonely one" bit.

Ron and Hermione will admit their love.
Halfway? The flirtation is escalating.

Snape, as played by Alan Rickman, is totally hot in a greasy, evil way.
Eh. I’ll refrain from judgment on this one.


Very Important Person

Last night Jessie - hottie, smartie, love of my life - invited me to be her plus-one for a staggeringly discounted dinner at BLT Prime, Laurent Tourondel's latest outpost of his BLT insta-branding venture. Unlike the other two BLT's out there, whose names - BLT Steak and BLT Fish - give you something of a sense of what to expect from the menu, Prime is a little bit of everything, with impressively good results. The menu is a fusion of those from Steak and Fish, with some extras - lamb and chicken, notably - that more or less serve to make the menu indicative of all the major Barnyard Animal Groups, and absolutely not somewhere you'd want to go if you're a crazy meat-hating vegetarian. Because Jessie is in with the ins, we were seated at 6:45 at one of the VIP tables - a corner banquette where the foot traffic wasn't too loud, and where we had a distractingly mouthwatering view of the dessert table (an idea I like in theory, but the dozen or so displayed cakes and sweet terrines reminded me un poco of the layout at a bar mitzvah). So now, permit me to indulge my inner foodie, and here comes a (horribly overanalyzed) play-by-play of our phenomenal meal.

We started off with cocktails. Jessie had something called "India in Mexico," which involved tequila somehow, and I had a guava mojito, which the bartender recommended as his favorite menu drink, and it truly was delicious, but all the fresh mint really overpowered the subtle flavor of the guava juice that was supposed to make this more than just your everyday mojito. While we were downing the hard stuff, our waiter came over and explained the layout of the menu: main dishes are broken up more or less by species, and there's a selection of sauces and gravies from which to choose. The chef encourages patrons to order one appetizer, one entree, and one side dish per person, with the apps and sides for sharing. We decided to indulge in Tourondel's encouragement, sent in for an order of tuna tartare and an order of beet-and-fresh-goat-cheese salad as our appetizers, a lamb T-bone and Dover Sole as our entrees (for which we left the sauce choices up to the kitchen), and, as a side, we ordered one. The one. Blue cheese tater tots. Yes, blue cheese tater tots. Seriously. Holy christ.

Almost immediately the maitre d' came over with an incredible selection of amuse-bouche - wooden plates with a selection of crudi (house-cured chorizo and salumi genovese, a terrifically spicy soppressata, velvety bresaola, and some speck that was probably great as far as speck goes, but I've never really been a fan), a small white bowl of marinated vegetables, a beautifully presented plate of blanched cherry tomatoes with basil oil and shaved parmigiano, and the restaurant's classic (can a 6-week-old restaurant claim to have a classic yet?) chicken liver paté served with country bread so crusty it threatened to inflict damage to the roof of my mouth.

The appetizers showed up at this point, both dishes delicate and artistically presented (as were the amuses). The tuna tartare was molded into a cube, with avocado at the bottom and a sprinkling of panko over the top layer, resting in a shallow pool of wasabi-soy sauce. Sad for me, wasabi is one of those things that I really just don't like, and as soon as we had our first bites of the tartare cube, the entire construction collapsed into the sauce. The beet salad, on the other hand, was perfection: fresh, tangy goat cheese was sandwiched between rounds of thinly-shaved marinated beets, making what were essentially ravioli, and was served with a peppery salad of baby cress, frisee, and shallot. Our waiter also brought over a basket of the BLT brand's famous garlic bread, elevated above your standard aluminum-foil-in-the-oven version by the inclusion of shallots and parsley in the garlic butter, and being served on pull-apart semolina rolls.

It took us a good hour to work our way through the amuses and the appetizers (not to mention a really good bottle of 2002 napa chardonnay), and by that time our entrees had probably been waiting for us for a while. Still, we were shocked by the amount of food laid down on the table for us: not only did we have the Dover Sole and lamb steak that we'd ordered, along with a heavy iron baking dish with eight gigantic tater tots oozing blue cheese (dear god was it ever good), but the kitchen had comped us a side of parmesan gnocchi (tossed in a buttery cream sauce and buried under a further pile of freshly shaved parmesan), and a terrine of roasted carrots that turned out to be, by far, the best aspect of the entire meal. You wouldn't think to order a side of carrots when you're out at a restaurant like this (that humble orange root seems a little too thanksgiving to really mesh with the muted wood, sueded banquettes, and hip-but-moneyed crowed), but my god was it an incredible dish. The lamb T-bone came with a peppercorn gravy that was subtle but a little too fruity (though the lamb itself was cooked perfectly - pink in the middle and spicy and charred on the outside), and the Dover Sole was just as mindblowing as every reveiw I've read has made it out to be. Dover Sole is a mainstay on stodgy white-tablecloth restaurant menus, but this version - narrowly filleted, crisp on the outside, meltingly soft on the inside, and served with a brown butter sauce spiked with lemons and capers - throws the captain of industry/ladies who lunch preconception out on its head. It was, in a word, yum.

After all that food (and still more wine!) we might have had enough. At that point, we could still move, we didn't feel our pants straining or our stomachs groaning. But in the spirit of adventure we decided to push it just a bit farther, and we ordered dessert. A hot-fudge sundae semi-freddo-ed with a shot of espresso and some crumbled toffee, topped with homemade whipped cream and cutely juxtaposed with a straight-from-the-jar maraschino cherry, this, finally pushed us over the edge. We couldn't finish it, and only had one of the hazelnut gelato petit-fours that came as a gastronomic sendoff along with the check. The (thank you, Jessie. Thank you thank you thank you) heavily discounted check.

We finally left at 10:45 - almost four hours to the minute after we sat down. According to a well-placed source, I hear that Barbra Streisand will be there tonight for dinner. I might have to go back.


Deathmatch: Potter

My theory - and this is only a theory - is that tonight's midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is going to totally destroy this weekend's box office take. There's probably serious demographic overlap with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory crowd and the Potter obsessives, and that's going to mess things up in terms of these kids wanting to do nothing all weekend but read the latest 600-page condensation of Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts. I wonder if a book release has ever affected the monetary take of a movie (or a TV show's ratings, for that matter). If this does happen - score one for the book industry! (Maybe I'll get some sort of goodwill "we defeated the enemy" paycheck bonus. Maybe puppies will magically appear in my apartment.) Still, if it were to happen - how phenomenal, in the most literal sense of the world. I wonder what overliteral Hollywood finance types would make of a book affecting their yield - would they try to shut down the publishing industry? Would they insist that the next Harry Potter book star Jessica Alba?

For the record, because I must feed my inner fangeek, right now, 14 hours before the book is released, I'm going to posit the following theories:
- Lupin will die.
- Harry and Ginny will flirt like nobody's business, and Ginny will in some way save the day (she and Neville are so JKR's favorite characters).
- Ron and Hermione will admit their love.
- Snape, as played by Alan Rickman, is totally hot in a greasy, evil way.

I have no idea who the Half-Blood Prince actually is, and I kind of don't care. At this point I am pretty much unconcerned with the plot, I think the writing is shoddy, and I'm frustrated by the one-dimensional characterization. So why am I lining up at midnight to get my pre-reserved copy of the book? Why does a junkie shoot up heroin? Let's just say my copy of Enduring Love by Ian McEwan will languish on the bedside table for at least 24 more hours. It's embarrassing, but admitting you have a problem is the first step, non?


"you had me at 'fetus'"

according to various politically-attuned friends of mine, late last week Rehnquist's resignation was imminent. Inspired by the visceral horror of what the current political landscape could do with two vacancies on the supreme court, and thinking - as I tend to do - about what this has to do with sex, I posted a craigslist ad, which can be found here.
7/19: Okay, the craigslist posting has expired, but I've got a low-res screen-cap here.
9/11: I made Best-of! The forever version of the posting is here.

Within 30 minutes I had about eighty responses, and even today - five whole days later - I received about twenty messages from people damning me to hell, telling me I made them laugh, or genuinely offering to fill 'er up (if you will). As of this posting, I have received over 300 responses to the ad, and I have plans to follow through on zero (0) of them. Some highlights (from here on in all misspellings are [sic]):

  • Who knows maybe we will concieve the next George Bush. We could start tonite, I know you said something about Aug. 2nd, but I want to stick in someone, it might as well be you

  • I must admit, you had me at fetus... That's some funny shit... I would offer my services, but I've already been responsible for my share of abortions, and I feel like I should share the wealth, let someone else have a crack at it

  • since you're obviously extremely dedicated and willing to put your ideals before your body, mightn't you be interested in donating an egg to be used to make and destroy an embryo for stem-cell research?


  • Keep in mind I'm just doing this out of charity for you, I have nothing to gain from it except some exciting, raunchy sex. But really, the ultimate joy will be yours when you are able to be comped for the suck-job your womb will endure.

  • Will there be some kind of clear documentation that I, as the "father," am not liable for the costs of raising a child? I would hate to get involved in something like this only to have you change your mind and say, "Maybe I will have a baby. Pay up." So long as there's something on paper, I'm available.

  • OK. I'm in. But you have to promise it will be a partial-birth abortion in your 8th month of pregnancy

  • i actually just fell in love with you, sick, sad and true

  • Simply put, hate has overwhelmed love for you. You have been a SILENT witness to genocides because your HATE/AGAINST IDEOLOGY has blinded you.

  • I make really good mix tapes as well as yummy vegan cupcakes, and I'm into tattoos, reading, chess, kittens, bike riding, and politics.

  • Honestly someone needs to slap you. Hopefully your joking. Do you even understand what you said in your posting. Your 23, I can't believe that you sound like your 2. I don't even know you, but I feel like some one has to talk some common sense into you. Yeah yo, don't do what you want to do. And your even wasting the surgeons time when he probably could be exactly helping someone in need. And I can see you hid behind this "Liberal", but really (spoken softly) what's going on in your life that you want to do this, do you exactly realize what your embarking on. What in you past has happened to make you wanna do this, You should really take a look at that though, really, a serious long look.

  • Are you really serious about this....I am roman catholic, married, and a devote republican. I am an economist and professor, 41 and attractive. Let's talk about this further!

and the clear winner:

  • I was raised Catholic and I'm TERRIFIED of getting a girl pregnant, to the point where my penis wilts in the presence of a vagina because there could be some possibility that i'd knock her up. luckily i dated a strict catholic "technical virgin" (ass only) for most several years so pregnancy scares were only a problem when she'd accidentally sit too close to a puddle of cold semen on the bedsheets, or maybe a little would soak through after some enthusiastic dry humping. actually fucking a girl who wants to get pregant and then abort the kid might be just the thing i need to get over my fear of accidentally impregnating a girl - actually get her pregnant and get the whole drama over with.

Right. Because that would get the drama over with. Still, the part that truly amazed me was the number of people who did not get that the post was a joke. I mean really, the quote "I want to have your abortion" was considered so offensive that in the movie Fight Club they changed it to "I haven't been fucked like that since grade school." Are there really women out there who want to get preggo just so they can have it aborted for political reasons? That's so Life Of David Gale. Which is to say, not so hot.