we will live to make holocaust jokes anon

this morning a car bomb went off at the madrid airport. this is, in and of itself, scary. it was set off by ETA, the basque separatist group, and was fairly ineptly done: no one was killed, and the injuries were minor. still, an inept carbomb is nevertheless a car bomb, and antigovernment violence, however poorly executed, is one of those things that - try as i might to be jaded and flip and dismissive of authority - really shakes me up.

my brother and i flew from madrid to zurich this morning, and when our plane was sitting on the runway i looked up at a particular moment and where before i had thought there was nothing but hazy sky, there was now a thick plume of heavy dark smoke rising up over the terminal. i figured it was an engine that had gone haywire or some spilled fuel or maybe some sort of controlled brushfire clearing or something. what does one think when one sees smoke? i thought that.

it turns out it was the bomb. the reason i hadn't noticed it earlier was because it hadn't been there.

the plane took off as scheduled and not a word about the bomb was said. i didn't even know it had happened until i showed up at my hostel here in zurich and had an email from a friend asking if i was okay and alive. i went to cnn.com and read the article on it and saw the photo that was identical to what i saw from my window seat and for a second my heart leaped into my throat. and then just as quickly as i felt like i was on the verge of death, everything was back to normal.

i am okay. i am alive. but i am a little bit more aware of the world, i think. this is bad for the aloofness that allows for my elitist snark. but probably good for me as a person.

still, as per the recent tradition of the Jewish people, my brother and i swiftly fled the hostile country, and are safe and alive in Switzerland.


things i hate: stupid switzerland, specifically stupid zurich

the thing about madrid

now i realize that both of mv posts-from-europe have been about switzerland, even though everyone's favorite launderers of nazi gold have really only been the brackets on the real point of the trip: my brother and i spent a week (okay, 5.5 days) in madrid.

unfortunately for my tendencies towards mockery and bitterness, madrid is actually pretty cool. it feels like any other city, in that it is loud and has lots of mcdonalds (mcdonaldses?) and there are lots of girls wearing jeans tucked into boots, which is a look i am slowly but surely getting on board with, much to my own chagrin.

the really wonderful thing about madrid is that its residents speak with a castilian accent. here is what a castilian accent sounds like: it thounds more or leth like thith.

which ith to thay: thuper.

now, of course (of courth), after five days of being surrounded (thurrounded) by spanish speakers (thpanish thpeakers) engaging in this (thi... i'm going to stop now) (thtop now) (no, for real) delightful affectation, i finally stopped feeling like a total moron saying grathiath instead of gracias. and of course as soon (thoon) (oops) as that comfort set in, off we jaunt to stupid zurich where they speak with a german accent. and here is a fun fact: german accent + lisp = almost too stereotypically homosexual to really be acceptable coming out of the mouth of a mid-20s american female. thadness.

trulz unnecessarz kezboard changes

i am in zurich and all the keys on the keyboard are in the wrong places.

well. that's not entirely true. the z and the y are switched around. what the fuck is wrong with switzerland. or, as it really should be, swityerland.

europe. meh. who needs it.


european dispatch numero uno

things they sell at the zurich airport:

cannabis-flavored iced tea.

would you believe me if i told you i bought one because i am a moron and thought it was mint?

that might have happened.


¡feliz holiday season!

i leave for a week in spain and an incidental day in switzerland in, oh, 3 hours, so we'll consider the next couple of days a little vacation for rsgo. rest assured that i will spend my entire time in europe being bitter and critical of everyone's clothing, accents, ways of life, and grammar, and will come back and spew out bile in an appropriately xenophobic manner.

i'll be accopmanied by my brother joe, a snarkbot-in-training if ever there were one, so perhaps if we're bored of paella and art museums, we'll drop in on an internet cafe and give you the helen+joseph play-by-play of Why Spain Is Stupid.

have a happy christmas if that's your thing, otherwise enjoy your sense of countercultural religious superiority.*

*joe points out (already vigilant!) that since we'll be on a plane for christmas eve, presumably watching a movie, we really should bring chinese food on board with us. and if we're questioned, or the recipients of disapproving glances, we can quasilegitimately cite a religious obligation to its consumption.


ah cruel fate. various pieces of the universe are conspiring to make me entirely uncreative today, so unless you count this faux-post (you really shouldn't), i'm failing to meet my self-imposed weekly posting quota.

to make your visit here not entirely unworthwhile, i would like to introduce to you your new favorite animal, the baby tapir:

like most things, it becomes less cute with age. but we can pretend that's not the case.



by meredith

what a piece of meat is man! how tender in season! how infinite in edibilities! in fork and moving, how express and delectable! in action how like an angelfish! in apprehension, how like a cod!

Sonnet One Sharkteen
by helen

Let me not to the carnage of this night
Admit impediments. Sharks are not sharks
Who falter when they fat turistas find,
Or from two lovers, modestly remove:
O no! They are ever-eating beasts
That dine on toddlers, nature’s bacon;
On thick-skinned fishermen they feast
With gusto, each limb torn and taken.
Sharks are not fools, though grinning slicing teeth
Curve upwards in a sickled vicious smile:
Sharks folly not with plotting out for weeks,
But quickly bite, with strength if not with guile.
If this be error and upon me tacked,
I never ate, nor no shark e’er attacked.

by mr phipps

Is this a dogfish which I see before me,
The tail toward my mouth? Come, let me eat thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fast swimmer, stating
To feeding as to sight? or art thou but
A dogfish of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the hunger-oppress'd brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palatable
As this which now I desire.
Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
And such an ichythope I was to taste.
Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other fishes,
Or else worth all the rest; I yet taste thee,
And on thy teeth and tongue gouts of blood,
which was not so before sentinel, the ray,
Whose blubs's his watch, thus with his slow pace.
With Tuna's ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a jellyfish. Thou sure and silt-soak'd sea,
Feel not my strides, which way they swin,
for fear Thy very ocean speaks of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it.
Whiles I threat, fish live:
Worms to the heat of deeds too cold gills gives.
I go, and it is done; the smell invites me.
Hear it not, Dogfish; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

by helen

Two dolphins, both alike deliciously,
In fair Atlantic, where I hide unseen,
An ancient beast, evolved to surreptitiously
Spill fishy blood, make pointy teeth unclean.
To which, this fatal mouth and curving fin?
This pair of star-cross'd mammals, which one's life
Shall my serrated cavern pierce within
And with its death assuage my hung'ring strife?
Their oblivious passage through my death-marked lair,
And the continued motion of their yummy flesh,
Which, had they knowledge, quickly they'd repair
To safer waters - now shall I devour, fresh.
And so if you, in cage and SCUBA, lend an eye
You'll see me feast -- then by my teeth shall die.


let's all give joshua a warm welcome

rsgo received its 21,757th visitor earlier this morning. this is not in and of itself a terribly big deal, except that my highly sophisticated faithful-rsgo-reader stalking abilities (aka my sitemeter page) indicates that this particular visitor found me by way of doing a google blog search for "Joshua Foer."

zomg, as the kids say. avid helen-watchers know that Joshua is My Favorite Foer (sidenote: i would so watch that sitcom), and since this particular user of google blog search lives in Brooklyn (i might or might not have googlemaps'd the lat/long, and i might or might not be horrified at my own stalkerdom), i am going to wildly assert that the user was My Favorite Foer himself!

hello, Joshua! welcome to rsgo! we like you here, for no real reason except that we have a mild dislike for both The New Republic and your middle brother's horribly craptastic second book-slash-insistent clinging to his middle name, and also in your publicity photo you look kind of like my cousin adam.

additionally i would like to posit that it would be ABSOLUTELY AMAZINGLY AMAZING if there were t-shirts (a la Team Aniston/Team Jolie et al.) that read team joshua, team franklin, and team jonathan safran, because i am going to assume that everyone else in the world also has a Favorite Foer. (for the alliterati among you, and so as not to cause confusion with Foer père, perhaps we can call it a Favorite Foer Frère.)

i might have to make those t-shirts a reality. oh my god. i am really really excited.


blast from the (highly disturbing) past

almost exactly one year ago, leila, mia, and i found a giant rubbermaid container full of porn in the storage loft in my apartment. i mentioned it in a blog post and linked to the list of contents that we'd posted on craigslist under lost & found.

cleaning my room this evening, i found the original handwritten list of contents. and since craigslist trashes posts after a few weeks, i've decided to reshare with all of you the (abridged) list of porn-box contents, plus the picture we took for posterity. consider it an early christmas gift.

  • towel, dirty
  • bust magazine with cynthia nixon on cover
  • video: fast & easy coeds
  • video: no label (later revealed to be a brunette doing dirty things to a blonde)
  • video: just cumshots #66
  • 3 issues of Club magazine, one featuring a layout about "lusty lawyers"
  • video: virgin stories #3
  • moist towelettes
  • a sock
  • aromatherapy candle
  • video: virgin stories #6
  • 1 issue of Hustler
  • audiocassette of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • prescription antihistamines
  • open packet of condoms (unused)
  • various small stuffed animals
  • q-tips


how nerds make dessert

for a party tonight, i'd promised to bring lemon-meringue tartlets (don't go acting all impressed - they're surprisingly easy to make). i already had about two cups of lemon curd leftover from making spiced shortbread cookies earlier this week (don't you wish you were my roommate?), so i spun by the grocery store to pick up some ingredients for the crusts. at the grocery store, smiling from the produce section, were the most beautiful lovely grapefruits ever.

grapefruit-meringue tartlets! sang the lightbulb that flashed on over my head. so i bought four grapefruits and another pound of butter and carried on my merry way.

i make lemon curd kind of a lot, considering it's, you know, lemon curd. but as someone who doesn't love chocolate, i make lemon bars and lemony sandwich cookies and lemon pies with moderate frequency. so the recipe exists in my head, rather than on a piece of paper, and i do most of it by sight and feel. for example, i have no idea how much lemon zest and lemon juice i use, i just know that it's about the quantity you get from three large lemons.

so, fuck. how do i convert lemons



answer: math! for zest equivalents, i simply need to figure out how to convert the surface area of an ellipsoid (the lemon) to that of a sphere (the grapefruit), and for juice equivalent i need to convert the volume of an ellipsoid (minus the pith) to the volume of a sphere (minus the pith).

this should be a walk in the park, right?

there was a leftover lemon on my counter. i wrapped it with a piece of string going around the round part (5.7 inches)and going around the long part (7.3 inches) and figured i would just plug it into some sort of simple equation to figure out the surface area.

ha ha.

the surface area of an ellipsoid is derived via this formula:


ha. um. no. i'm going to abandon surface area altogether and move on to the volume, for juice purposes. much easier:

where a is width/2, b is length/2, and c is depth/2. or whatever. anyway, this is totally doable. knowing that the circumference of a lemon is 5.7 inches, we simply divide by pi (oh my god the puns are making themselves), getting both a width and depth of 1.814 inches.

it would be easy to measure the length of the lemon using my piece of string, but i stupidly cut the lemon up to make preserved lemons after i measured the two big circumferences. so time to convert the circumference of what i will assert is a perfect ellipse into the length of its major axis!

7.3 inches in circumference and a 1.814-inch transverse axis... and now we just plug it into this formula:

...and then we kill ourselves.

at this point i realized that it's been about 8 years since i've taken a math class that actually involved numbers, and i can't go on. so i did something shameful: i took my piece of string and i laid it out on the table in an ellipse that vaguely resembled what i thought the lemon looked like, and i measured its length, arriving at the oh-so-precise conclusion of "eh, 3 inches."

okay. now let's party. The volume of an ellipse that's 3" x 1.814" x 1.814" equals? 4/3 x 3.1415 x 1.5 x 0.907 x 0.907 = 5.168.

WE HAVE MEASUREMENT! except i forgot to include the depth of the pith, except fuck it i no longer care.

now it's time to measure the volume of the grapefruit. this is easy, because i am asserting that a grapefruit is a sphere, with a diameter of 13.2 inches. if the diameter is 13.2 then the radius is 2.05, so the volume is (dundundunnnn) 36.08.

this sounds obscenely large but i decided to just go with it. except that - while lemons have teeny pith (only about an eigth of an inch), grapefruits have giant massive pith. so i have to reduce my diameter by an inch, which means my radius by half an inch, which means my new equation becomes:

4/3 x 3.1415 x 1.55 x 1.55 x 1.55

which gives us a grapefruit volume of 15.6!

so a grapefruit (15.6) divided by a lemon (5.168) equals 3.01, which is close enough to 3 for me to say that the answer is:


easy as (oh my god, can i really say it?) easy as (wait for it!) easy as (here it comes... are you ready? come on... come on...)

easy as pi.


some lists

things for which my baby don't care

  • clothes
  • shows
  • cars and races
  • high-tone places
  • that tone, young lady
  • the oxford comma
  • anchovies

things country and western singer troy gentry has killed and then lied about
co-authored by mr phipps
  • a black bear
  • another bear
  • "maricita"
  • the hobo down by the crick
  • my buzz, man
  • that last can of coors in the fridge that i was saving


the truth of the matter

more erudite minds than mine (not to mention those in possession of more free time) are doing a marvelous job rounding up the various charges of literary plagiarism being flung about these days. Over at the Freakonomics blog, Stephen-with-a-ph does a bang-up summary of the brouhahas (brouhahae?) surrounding Jimmy Carter's otherwise-well-intentioned bit of slapdash political writing, and Augusten Burrough's memoir-if-by-memoir-you-mean-fiction.

What blows my mind here is manifold, but as I started writing it out this first thing wound up taking up all the space, so it's the only one I'm really going to touch on right now. If you would like the short version, there is a nice little summary down at the end, and you can scroll down to it because I don't know the HTML for a jump. Here it the mind-blower: what is up with this expectation of truth in publishing?

Seriously - bear with me here. It's one thing if the book we're talking about is scholarly in tone, or is journalistic in its nature. If it's intended to be the hardcover equivalent of foreign-war correspondence on CNN or a meticulously researched biography of a person who actually existed, then yes - obviously - the readers have a right to unmitigated, objective truth (assuming it exists at all, etc etc).

But the vast majority of book-writing falls outside of this pure reportage, and we as consumers ought to be a little smarter in our consumption. Carter's book - a lambast against Israel's treatment of Palestine (which I haven't read, since in theory I don't actually care about the real world, but nonetheless a copy is fluttering my way thanks to amazon.com) - isn't journalism. It's a book-length opinion piece, and as such calls upon the tricks used in opinion writing everywhere: wholesale ripoffs of others' ideas, half-baked notions and catchphrases, and overall hyper-hyperbole - all in the name of driving home a simple, straightforward point that is generally summarizable in a sentence. Tom Friedman? This War Is Good. (or, the later columns, No Wait, My Wife Was Right.) Maureen Dowd? Everyone Is Less Smart Than Me or, alternately, Hey Look! There Went Feminism! And then Jimmy Carter, using a book rather than Times column inches: Stop Killing And Oppressing People, You Stupid Israelis.

(This isn't to say that it's okay that he uses these tricks. It's not, and he shouldn't. It undermines his future trustworthiness, and it undermines this issue itself of which he's trying to raise awareness. Despite its demonstrated dissemination - the book is among the top 10 on the Times bestseller list - the very high-profile criticisms of its methods only provide fuel to those who would seek to criticize its message. It's the literary equivalent of an ad hominem attack, and it serves Carter in poor stead.)

Then there's Burroughs. Okay, kids. Running with Scissors is a book I have actually read. Have you read this book? This book is OBVIOUSLY fiction. No one's life is actually this narratively pat. Dudes. Please. I read it the whole way with this sort of indulgent mental stance - the same thing you take on when you listen to your internet-first-date tell you a story that he is obviously making up as he goes along, just so he can appear interesting and witty and like his life relates to your life. "Uh huh," you're saying. "That's really fascinating." And it is - the story is fascinating. But it's a story, not a factual account. I felt the same way while I was reading James Frey's outed-as-fake autobiography, A Million Little Pieces.

But even beyond these skeleton-of-fact/musculature-of-fiction pseudoautobiographies, there's a whole ocean of salt with which we ought to take autobiographies in general. Above, I offered as books for which we can have a fair expectation of truth (a) journalism and (b) biography. But not autobiography. There's no objectivity in experience (unless you can find a way to put qualia to paper, in which case: holy crap), and so inherently any recounting of one's own life is going to be a little bit tinged by the haze of memory, the extraordinary powerful ability of the brain to convince itself of truths that aren't true, and the common writerly affliction of desperately wanting things to fit a classic narrative arc of mounting intensity and eventual redemption.

Think of the great stories you have in your life. I have this amazing one about the time that Harvard Medical Services misdiagnosed me with gonorrhea despite the fact that, at the time, there was *ahem* no real way I could have acquired it. The Story Of The Immaculate STD has moved into legend status, and I tell the story so often - with so many minor embellishments and smoothings-out - that I don't know that I could really pick apart the actual bits from the ease-of-retelling bits that allow me to set up the story as a buildup with a punchline. Take that. Take your best story, and then make it the story of your entire life. Tell me you can really write an autobiography and have every single word be true. Tell me you can write 500 pages about yourself and have it all - every sentence, every idea - be fact, be fully attributed, be remembered perfectly.

You can't. So does this mean that we should let these fictionalized autobiographers off the hook? Absolutely not. But it does mean that these guys - and any would-be memoirists - should stop pretending that autobiography is journalism. Memoir isn't fact - it's (as the frenchtastic name tells us) memory. And memory (as my favorite Foer brother, Joshua "no really, not Jonathan" Foer would tell us) is quite a mysterious thing.

When it comes both to Carter and to Burroughs, the weight of criticisms falls largely and appropriately onto both their shoulders. But it's also to a nontrivial degree the responsibility of readers to realize that these gray areas between Fact and Fiction exist. The idea of a literary binary is, in fact, sort of a terrifying one - it's injections of reality into fiction that often make the best novels the most compelling (for all that I hated it, Ian McEwan's recent plaigiarism scandal was over medical and technical passages about what it was like to be a WWII nurse), and similarly some elements of fiction incorporated into fact can help it go down more easily.


Authors of books: stop being arrogant assholes.
Readers of books: stop being sheeplike morons.

Thank you.

the non-blind among you will notice that we've had a few lifts and tucks done here at RSGo. ain't it pretty? i promise i will now stop fiddling around with formatting and actually start focusing a bit on content. for reals.


the meat of the issue

This image appeared in an article in today's New York Times:

The article is about how New York City is now requiring restaurants that have publicly available nutrition information to list calorie counts on their menus, in an effort to make the city healthier and other such lovely paternalistic justifications. The picture is of two Burger King burgers: a triple whopper (1,230 calories) and a cheeseburger (330). The article jumps back and forth in tone between censuring the overreach of this civic dictate, and pointing out how disgustingly caloric most foods are.

Blah blah blah. Basically it inspired me to walk eleven blocks to go get lunch at Burger King. In the rain. That is all.


let us bow our heads in thanks

i'd like to take a moment to applaud the illustrious illustrative talents of mr. marc fishman, who the stalkerish among you will recognize from the comments section. check out that picture up there on that banner that he made. that's me! i totally look exactly like that, except my nose is a little smaller and my skin a tidge more ghostly pale.

UPDATE: Love is also deeply due to little bill, who turned marc's beautiful vector art into a lipstick flourish of banner redness, a la my possibly misguided wishes. truly he is an internet genius, and when i am no longer too lazy to update my link list, i'll throw his blog on there.


the art of conversation

i like to have my opinions and tastes confirmed by others, and as a result of this consumption-insecurity, i read reviews constantly. i stumbled across this otherwise uninspired take on the "eh, maybe if nothing else is playing" movie Holiday, and read through it until I encountered a word I'd never heard before:

Still, it’s great to see a legend back flexing his acting muscles opposite a huge talent like Winslet, with whom Wallach shares a strong repoire.

On goes my internal etymological dictionary (what, you don't have one too?): re... so something's being done again... and poire... what the hell does poire mean? hercule poirot? poivre? no. not re-peppering. what the hell is going on? I was stumped. what the heck does "repoire" mean? i couldn't find it in any dictionary, mental or otherwise.

then it hit me: rapport. the word that professional journalist al alexander and his editors over at the massachusetts Patriot-Ledger* both do not know how to spell is "rapport." sigh.

*does anyone else find it really amusing that heath ledger was in a movie called the patriot? it's like the mid-manhattan rag called the chelsea clinton news. wondrous.

UPDATE: astute reader joe notes that poire means pear. which i did know, on a certain level. i enjoy the notion of kate winslet and this dude sharing an again-pear. it sounds sort of ... vomitous, in its way.


i know you are but what am i

here's what i do for a living: i am an editor.
here's what i do a lot of days: order chinese food for lunch.
here's what makes me sad:

...in bed.

grammar police: celebrity edition

Laurel, nonerstwhile friend and fellow grammar-obsessive, has brought this site to my attention. It's a blog devoted to hatin' on the use of "literally" as an intensifier, singling out amusing mental-image generators such as "Kurdistan is literally exploding with confidence."

Here's the thing (because there is always a thing): I don't actually mind "literally" being used in a, well, nonliteral sense. It bugs me a teensy bit, but we use words like "really," "truly," and "actually" in nonliteral ways all the time, and no one seems to think twice about it.

I mean yes, I mourn the loss of precision in language. What word can I use to indicate that I mean what it is that I'm describing in a nonfigurative sense? I suppose I could say this is for real, in reality, not metaphorically happening. Still, while this is a linguistic irk, it's not a real cause for concern.

What is a real cause for concern: the issue of In Touch Weekly that I was reading over the shoulder of the lady next to me on the subway this morning had a picture of Kid Rock* wearing a t-shirt that throws out a big ol' fuck-you to proper apostrophe usage. I can't seem to find it online anywhere, so you will have to mentally imagine this being worn on the person of a stringy-haired dude in a porkpie hat who somehow managed to land Pamela Anderson:

bro's before ho's

I swear, the church of When In Doubt, Add An Apostrophe is growing faster than Scientology. I am not happy about this, Kid. I am angry. I am literally fuming. No, literally. There is actual steam rising from my ears. Literally.

Anyway, for his transgressions, I am fining Mr. Rock:
one (1) session of washing his hair
one (1) session of shaving his oddly early-pubescent-looking facial hair COMPLETELY off
seventeen (17) sessions of being smacked over the head with an apostrophe-shaped piece of wood.

*apropos of very little, i would like to pass along some advice to any of you wannabe celebrities out there. Please, for the love of god, do not refer to your age - or to any sort of relative oldness - in your self-appended stage name. Sonic Youth, you are all now in your late 40s, and are by no means Youthful. Kid Rock, you are not a Kid (nor, technically speaking, do you Rock). And for that matter, Debbie Harry, if people conflate you with your band - which is named Blondie - you should probably not dye your hair dark red. Let's use some forethought, people.