The answer

We park on the driveway because we are lazy asses who can't be bothered to pull into the garage. The driveway is not a destination. It is a path. When we park on the driveway, it is no longer a driveway. It is a parking spot.

We drive on parkways because they are streets that run through an open space, aka a park.

That is all.


ohmigod, shoes

I was writing this very long thing about how it is hard to reconcile the cliches and the realities of being a mid-20s media professional (*snort*) living in New York, and there were terrific snide references to Sex and the City and suddenly realizing that I spend more on clothes than rent and stupid crap like that. But rereading it, it was boring and not funny and made me sound incredibly snotty and unpleasant. Which I'm not. I mean, I have a cold right now so I am technically snotty, but not in the way I meant in the sentence two before this one. So I am just going to cut to the point, shallow and ridiculous as it may be.

About a year ago I bought a really gorgeous pair of shoes. They were my first pair by a brand that is fancier than Nine West, and I loved them and wore them to all my holiday parties and felt like a chic and awesome person for owning special insanely fancy designer shoes.

This year, looking for a pair of shoes to wear to this year's holiday parties, I saw on the shelf in a random shoe store these exact ones! Except why would they be carrying Marc Jacobs at the ShoeMania on 14th street?! And when I went to look closer I saw that they were, obviously, duh, not in fact Marc Jacobs, but were knockoffs!

And the point of this is: I own something that has been knocked off! I am at the top of the sartorial food chain!

The consumerist label whore in me rejoices. While the rest of me pretty much hangs my head in shame at the rejoicing of the consumerist label whore.


vignette: dressing up trash

Marcin: Once again I have been struck by how high quality Al Jazeera's news reporting is
me: i'm too busy being struck and amazed by britney spears' sixteen-year-old sister being pregnant to be able to focus on anything else
Marcin: OK, that's not something you'll see on al jazeera
Marcin: I don't see why this is surprising
me: she was the classy one!
Marcin: How so?
me: well, she wasn't pregnant
me: and wore underwear
me: and showered regularly
me: those were the major things
Marcin: Apparently I am classy too now!


Portrait of the artist in a kickass unicorn dress

I used the first eighteen minutes of my lunch break to draw an annotated picture of me, wearing my unicorn dress. Here you go:

For a larger version (the detail is incredible, if I do say so myself: you can see the pink polka dots on the non-unicorn part of the dress) click here.

In thrillingly relevant news, a guy got stabbed at the very mall a mall very near to the mall* where the unicorn dress was purchased. Obviously the bloodshed was precipitated by the store having run out of unicorn dresses.

*It was a mall in New Jersey. I admit it.

My dress has unicorns on it

A Lady does this marvelous thing where she wears incredibly beautiful clothes in an astonishingly stylish way, and takes pictures of herself, and posts them on the internet, and makes her readers swoon and love her.

I don't do this mostly because if you people go blind then where does that leave me? But today I am tempted to make an exception, because here is the thing: I am wearing a dress that has unicorns on it. The unicorns have red manes and pink-dappled flanks and are rearing majestically while standing in front of castles that are resting on clouds. It is all outlined in gold glitter on black chiffon and basically it is the greatest dress in contemporary sartorial history.

I work in an actual office with several hundred real people and it is a safe bet that they will all sort of get swoony and see God whenever they look at me, because the unicorns are so goddamn magical as they swirl around my hemline that you basically have to look away or else enter a state of rapture.

I have paired it, obviously, with royal blue wellies and a black cardigan. Unfortunately my camera is not here, but perhaps later in the day I will draw a picture of my awesomeness and post it here a la A Lady so that you may revel in it and perhaps transfer some measure of its sparkly wonder into your own pitifully unicorn-free lives.


Drinkin' Island is inside each of us, my son.

I'm not much for alcohol, but years and years ago I was one-half of an evening that involved two people and eight rapidly-consumed Irish Car Bombs. It began at around 8pm and ended somewhere in the neighborhood of 8:25. Or, depending on your measure, ended at around 5 the next morning when I woke up on my friend's floor and walked thirty-five of the hundred or so blocks home before falling into a cab, leaving behind my glasses and a giant wedge of my postcollegiate dignity. Or, by yet a third measure, ended at 10am four days later when the hangover finally slouched out of my system and toward Bethlehem to be born.

On the one-year anniversary of that lost night, I did an Irish Car Bomb in its honor and nearly puked. Never again, I vowed, will that unholy combination of Guinness and Bailey's pass my lips.

Turns out I am not exactly nun-caliber when it comes to sticking to vows (any future husbands, please take note), since I had one and a half this weekend at Mr. B's birthday party. I am pleased to report that I lost neither consciousness nor my lunch.

I feel like adulthood has finally arrived. It is like my liver has had its bat mitzvah.

Post title taken from this vital piece of Americana.


What Christmas means to me

Besides the undisputed juggernaut-champion of contemporary Christmas songs,* I think the best non-standard carol is "What Christmas Means To Me," as performed by such luminaries as Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5. Also, on a lesser scale, by Hanson and by the Olsen twins.

What Christmas means to me, by and large, is bopping around the city simultaneously being Jewishly indignant about and secularly revelling in everyone's sudden affinity for particular color schemes and oddly nordic-inspired sweaters. Also, did you know that Nick and Jessica do a supremely kickass version of "Baby It's Cold Outside," which would count as a contemporary Christmas song except that it's about getting drunk and having sex.

*You should not have to reference this footnote to know that Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" is actually the best song of all time, period, and by the rule of sets and subsets is also therefore the best Christmas song.


Any club that would have me as a member

Approximately four minutes ago the boyfriend and I were lying on the carpet in the middle of his living room* talking about stupid tricks from elementary school. Like when you would turn to someone and say "Spell ICUP" and then they'd say "I C U P" and you'd laugh at them. Mr B pointed out, appropriately, that actually it was way more sucky for the person who it was said to, because someone saw them pee, and that is pretty much more awful than seeing someone else pee.

"Then of course there is the Pen 15 club," I said.
To which Mr B said: "What's that?"

Of all the moments in my life in which it has been important to maintain composure so as not to ruin the greatest thing that has ever happened in my relationship, this might have been it. I got up off the floor and found a pen.

"Do you want to be in the Pen 15 club?" I asked.
"Yes!" said my unwitting boyfriend.

So I indoctrinated him. Now I am sitting at the computer giggling uncontrollably, and he is in the bathroom scrubbing his hand and simultaneously muttering annoyedly and humming a song by Zombite, which should be your new favorite band.

*there was laundry on the bed, and sometimes you want to lie down but you don't want to pick up a pile of shirts.


If I had $1000...

It is pretty obvious what we'd all do if we had a million dollars, but here's a more realistic gedankenexperiment (gezundheit!): what would you do with a thousand?

A cool G is, well, cool, except when my retail paralysis sets in and I realize that if I spend a thousand bucks on a thing (or a set of things), it's most likely a one-time spree. A painfully beautiful purse would be awesome, but it's not like I can drop another thousand in a year when this one gets grody. A vacation (omg Iceland?) could be awesome, but I've always had a tough time spending money on experiences as opposed to objects. I totally covet this covetworthy dresser, and have for ages, but if I bought it I'd have to rearrange my furniture in a way that would actually require spending more money, which might bring the total above a thousand, and ultimately no one really sees my bedroom.

None of this is to say I actually have a thousand dollars to spend on anything. It is more to illustrate that my formidable powers of overanalysis can render joyless even the most inherently painless hypothetical.

like, for example, when I get faced with the "well seriously, what if I did have a million dollars?" question, I get sort of huffy because god, after all, a million bucks is like basically a studio apartment in Manhattan, and I wouldn't be able to afford the maintenance payments or the property taxes anyway.

seriously high fashion

Oh, goodness, I keep forgetting to mention this: Jetblue, which is my favorite airline because it is as pretentiously lowbrow/highbrow as I myself aspire to be, has this in-flight channel of New York Times writers interviewing Very Important People, so that when one is thirty thousand feet above the ground one can be enhancing one's intellect. And among such inspired interview subjects as Chuck Close and Actual Real Life CSI Agents, there is also a 5-minute clip of style editors Cathy Horyn and Stefano Pilati interviewing Karl Lagerfeld, and it is the greatest thing ever in the world, because he is simultaneously brilliant and bonkers.

Also I saw him on the street once.

C'est fin.


Happy Thanksgiving from my bottom.

Thanksgiving with my family varies little from year to year. It reliably involves several cases of wine, several cutthroat games of Scrabble, an extraordinary quantity of pig-derived meat products, and my mother commenting on the visibility of my ass.

(To be fair, this describes most time spent with my family. It is identifiable as Thanksgiving because there is a turkey in the middle of the table.)

This year I decided to be proactive about my mother's commentary on my ass. Due to the particular contours of my body (extraordinarily short torso, phenomenally high waist), my pants like to fall down and expose what we will euphemistically refer to as "butt cleavage."

I generally compensate for this by attempting to wear longer shirts, avoiding thong underwear, and frequently hiking my pants up in what is probably an extremely unsexy way. My mother would like me to compensate for this by wearing my pants extremely high up, aided by a belt. I asked her once to show me where on my body the top of my pants should hit and she literally indicated an area above the bottom of my bra. Clearly my mother has not read Vogue for a while. Or, perhaps, given the new trend for extremely high-waisted pants, she is reading Vogue far more closely than I give her credit for.

Suffice to say I do not really take my mom's advice on this matter. (Though I did succumb to sartorial pressure and bought a pair of high-waisted jeans a month ago; unsurprisingly for my particular proportions, they weren't high-waisted enough, and after about 10 minutes my ass was, again, visible.) But while I might disagree with her methods, I do, for the sake of decency, acknowledge her point.

About twenty minutes ago I was crouched over on the floor at my parents' house trying to plug something in. This is not, like, a regular position for me. It is sort of the posture one strikes when one is trying to console a crying toddler who is hiding under a chair, or maybe when one is wearing a nice skirt but the only sitting-down option is the ground and one doesn't want to get grass stains on silk chiffon. It was a squat, basically, but it involved certain machinations that caused my pants to fall down a little and I could tell, thanks to cold air where three seconds previous there had been no cold air, that I was channeling a plumber.

My mom walked into the room. "Helen," she said.

"Don't say it," I said.
"Say what?"
"Don't say anything about my butt."
"How do you know that's what I was going to say?"
"I know. I just know."
"I just need to tell you something, that's all, just one thing."
Here she made a crab-claw gesture. "This much. This much of your butt. Is this considered attractive back in New York?"

I sighed and plugged in whatever it was I was plugging in.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.



i haven't posted for like four billion days. or, more accurately, four. i fail at NaBloPoMo, but i'll see what i can do to see the rest of it out. i was busy being a bridesmaid at The World's Most Fun Wedding, and learning how to wear six pounds of false eyelashes.


today's brilliant idea

via eric:

StupidFilter, an in-progress open-source filter software designed to identify and block rampant retardation in written English, as specifically denoted by excessive caps lock and use of LOL. From their FAQ:

Isn't filtering stupidity elitist?
Yes. Yes, it is. That's sort of the whole point.



My boyfriend and I met online. Not, we are quick to point out, on a dating site, even though certain friends of ours persist in a tautological assessment of the matter: Did you meet on a website? Yes. Are you dating? Yes. Well then it's a dating website! Sigh. Okay. Whatever.

But this lady might protest too much. I am, after all, an enthusiastic fan of online matchmaking, not least for its astonishing properties as a kick in the ass to get a lovelorn singleton out of her incestuous postcollege friend group and make her aware of a slightly different, although quite possibly demographically parallel, milieu.

In fact, back before we knew of each other's existence, Mr B and I were both members of actual-for-real dating site Nerve.com. A few months ago, mushily talking about how happy we were to have found one another, we wondered if we would have wound up together had we found one another's Nerve profiles.

The short answer, after firing up the computer and remembering ancient logons and passwords, was Absolutely Not. Even looking past the fact that I was below his minimum age range and he was above my maximum, he thought my profile made me out to be a childish, hipper-than-thou ditz and I thought his made him sound like an overeducated, vaguely creepy, generic dude-bro. And, for what it's worth, while we might each be not entirely unlike our profiles, we agreed that the people we saw when we looked at each other were not the people we saw when we read our profiles.

I suppose the real gist of it is that the one thing a dating profile is sure to broadcast is the product of (a) how you perceive yourself, and (b) how effectively you are able to portray that perception. (Mr B assures me that he was not intentionally trying to come off as the kind of dude with a basement apartment and a second-life account.) But for all that, odds seem high that your potential coffee date doesn't actually care what your self-perception is. And she'll only be able to assess how well you've conveyed it after she's gotten to know you well enough to identify the places where self-perception and reality differ.

This is all an extraordinarily circumloquacious way of getting to Crazy Blind Date, which almost - almost - makes me wish I were single. Here is how it works: you don't make a profile. You don't get to pick who you go out with. You verify that you are a real human being by replying to a text message, you say what time this evening you are free for a drink, you narrow down the neighborhoods in which you'd be willing to have that drink, and the algorithm hands you a date. Tonight. With a complete stranger.

If Mr. B and I had found each other on Nerve, we wouldn't have given each other a second look. But if we'd had a randomly-generated blind date, which in effect is actually quite similar to how we did meet, though in real life as opposed to online, things would have probably turned out quite differently. In the good way. Which is to say, single people who live in Austin, Boston, New York, and San Francisco: Do this! Meet people! Bring an open mind! And probably pepper spray!

Report back!


fun fact: Japan!

"I want you to cook me miso for the rest of my life" is, apparently, a traditional Japanese way of asking a woman to marry you.


I feel just fine

Due to NaBloPoMo, I'm finding my creative reserves being drained quite quickly. To that end I am just going to turn to my most fertile topic, grammar and usage, knowing full well that while you can sustain your interest over two posts on the matter, asking for a third (and, as the month progresses, quite possibly a fourth or seventeenth) is a lot. For this, I am mildly apologetic. Only mildly, though.

ANYWAY. My current pet peeve is when people use adverbs to describe how they feel, as in "I feel badly for Philippe," when Philippe has just lost his job or perhaps has acquired pneumonia. Or "I feel sickly" if you yourself have just acquired pneumonia. Or "are you feeling poorly?" when inquiring about the pneumonia status of a friend or coworker.

It is a pet peeve of mine because I value truth, and because when you say this, you are lying. Unless, of course, you have some sort of nerve degeneration or sociopathic emotional void, and it is on Philippe's behalf. But I would guess that, in fact, your ability to feel is just fine, darling, and you are not feeling badly at all. No sir. But, as it happens, the guilt or sympathy that Philippe's tragic state inspires in you might, you know, cause you to feel bad.

BUT WAIT, I hear certain people, like maybe Marcin (except not actually Marcin because he and I have already hashed this out over Google Chat, and he conceded my point by saying "your powers are strong today") revving up to say. Of course it is acceptable to say "I feel poorly," because don't we say - in an opposite, pneumonia-free scenario - "I feel well"?

Alas, no. "Well" is a clever little syllable, which can function as either an adverb or - dundundunnnn - an adjective! When you say "I don't feel well," you are indicating - adjectivally - that you are not experiencing wellness, or health. You don't feel badly, you feel bad. The opposite of an adjective (well) is an adjective (unwell, bad, sick).

Of course, if you have been badly burned in a fire and lost sensation, and are intending to adverbially refer to your unfortunately diminished ability to experience sensation, then by all means continue to tell us how you cried while at the petting zoo because you feel badly, and thus could not truly experience the sensational kickassery of a handful of wriggling fluffy duckling.


It's-a me!

I have a total thing for Marios. Batali. Lopez. But my numero uno Mario is the ur-Mario, the Mario, Mario the plumber-slash-Nintendo spokespixel.

His theme song was my cell phone ringtone (plus I can play it on the piano! Mostly by having listened to The Video Game Pianist ad infinitum while sitting near a keyboard.) And I've played virtually every Mario storyline game, from 8-bit sidescroll through a (quite possibly completely inaccurate) illegal preview of the Wii's Mario Galaxy. And I love them all. (Though my favorite, at least right now, is Paper Mario for GameCube. Whoo-ee is that a kickass game!) That is, I've played virtually every storyline game but one.

Nintendoids know that when Mario originally came out -- Super Mario Bros., the sidescroll classic that we all know and love, that came bundled with Duck Hunt for the 8-bit NES -- it was such a blockbuster that Nintendo rushed production on a sequel, designed by My Personal Hero, designer of the original game (plus, like, every other Nintendo franchise I have known and loved), Shigeru Miyamoto.

And then the sequel disappeared. And was replaced, in the US, by a crappy RPG with the Super Mario Bros. characters haphazardly swapped in for the folks originally designed into the game. The Miyamoto Mario 2 had been deemed too difficult, too weird, and too frustrating for the wussy American gaming audience, and was sent to the wayside. (Rumor is that Miyamoto designed it while he was massively depressed, hence its almost existential unpredictability and self-defeating elements.)

The game was finally released stateside in a collection of all the NES/SNES Mario games, which I completely managed to miss. But now - oh now! - the original, frustrating, difficult, fucked-up, agitating, classic Mario 2 has been released for the Nintendo Wii! And my boyfriend owns a Wii! And I am going to download this game to his Wii and I am going to play it and my life is going to be awesome and I am SO PSYCHED OH MY GOD.

If you own a Wii, you should get it too. If you don't, you are a giant loser. That is all. Thank you.

edit: Bill points out that I do not own a Wii, therefore I am a loser. Forgive me, I was unclear: If you own a Wii, but do not download Mario 2, you are a loser. If you do not own a Wii, you are simply completely out of touch with the current state of world awesomeness.


cry for help

It's come to pass that I somehow lost the red bar stretching from side to side of the banner up top there. I've got no idea how it happened, or how to fix it. Can anyone help me?

update! c'est fixed. hurrah!

cookie update update

Just got back from the post office! Uberchocolate chip, this batch. The secret? Thin, wide tiles of chocolate, which layer and melt and spread and, well, you'll see.

PS. Basically they are 100% butter, so you will probably die.

mea culpa

God, I can barely last a week. In my defense, yesterday I was away from the computer all day, being smushy and romantic in celebration of the official first anniversary of the Helen/boyfriend union.

Before I work my way up to some interesting, insightful post for today, I'm going to count today's apology for yesterday's failure as, um, yesterday's post. C'est la vie.

edit! the oh-my-god-i-cannot-sleep post from 2 days ago is technically from yesterday! I WIN. But I am going to fail anyway when I go to Florida next week for a wedding in which holy crap I am a bridesmaid.


Oh my god I cannot sleep.


vignette: hot literary action

Mr Phipps: No, really.
me: oh wait
me: okay
Mr Phipps: lol.. oh dear god.
Mr Phipps: take a japanese pop culture reference and shoehorn in an american writer
me: john donne and shakespeare both being notably american
Mr Phipps: tentacle-rape hp lovecraft.
me: lovecraft really takes to tentacle-rape actually
me: no! cthulhu! no!
me: yesssssssss


Grammar Judgment II: Son of Grammar

Holy hell, the definition of "grammar" seems to get more people excited than I thought it would. I love you guys, seriously. In junior high my mom always told me that when I got out into the real world I would find more people like me, by which she very specifically meant "people who get completely agitated by issues of grammar and usage," and it really warms my heart that the existence of the internet has proved her right.

I'd like to clarify what was apparently a too-brief discussion of the difference between the adjectives "grammatical" and "ungrammatical," and why the existence of those two words precludes the existence of a particular type of qualified version of the noun "grammar." It is totally okay if you don't care about this and just skip on down to the comments in order to call me a fat bitch.

A friend (who wishes to remain anonymous due to the fact that I freaking schooled him when we were arguing this over google chat) went at the matter from the easiest point of entry: the analogy.

"Look," he said. "If you have a math test, and you get 30/100, it is fine to say 'poor math skills.' Even though the errors are not math, given that they're simply wrong: 2 + 7 = 10 is as much 'not math' as 'I is hungry' is 'not grammar.' When you say 'poor grammar' you mean that the person makes frequent grammar errors, and his overall language skill is poor."

Ah. Except that saying "poor math skills" is not analogous to saying "poor grammar." It is analogous to saying "poor grammar skills" - which is perfectly fine. In this case, "poor" and "grammar" are both modifying "skills," which is a noun that can take as many qualifying adjectives as you'd care to throw at it.

"Using grammar," on the other hand, is a lot like "being pregnant." Either there is a little parasitic clone chilling out in your uterus, or there is not. Either your verb agrees with your noun, or it does not. You can be happily pregnant. You can be exuberantly grammatical. But you can't have "partial pregnancy" the same way you can't have "poor grammar." For that matter, you also can't have "incorrect grammar," because grammar is – definitionally – correct.

But my friend kept pushing:
"I continue to think you are not just pedantic, but wrong. Using poor grammar strikes me as a perfectly acceptable way of saying 'makes many grammar errors.'" I unapologetically use this construction regularly."

As it happens, so do I (though I feel a little twinge whenever I do, so maybe it's not totally unapologetic usage). But that isn't the point. The point is that, despite its frequent use, it remains incorrect. Of course, odds are that it will probably evolve into correctness, but you know what? "Irregardless" is now an actual word in the dictionary. So the evolution of language doesn’t always go down the happy path towards sunshine. Saying something is correct merely because it is ubiquitous is the sort of thing that a blogger a bit more prone to straw-manning than I am might say leads us down a path towards genocide and Crocs as acceptable footwear and horribly ineffective democratically-chosen presidents. Oh wait.

"You are like the people who say SPLIT INFINITIVES ARE ALWAYS WRONG," said my friend, and I resisted the urge to quote the guy who inspired Dead Poets Society, and also the urge to point out that an infinitive, properly, is a single verb despite being two words, and splitting it is like saying "absofuckinglutely," and instead let him continue down his path.

"Your binary construction of 'grammatical' and 'ungrammatical' assumes that there are a fixed set of grammatical rules. That is not true; there are many rules that people disagree on."

He's right, of course. Issues of grammar, like issues of law or tennis or anything else for which there is a codified set of rules, are always up for dispute. But the existence of disputes doesn't render the entire system unsound, and doesn't disallow the possibility of saying of an action "that is illegal" the same way one says of a sentence "that is ungrammatical." I suppose it's worth noting at this point that my friend is a lawyer, so the point wasn't lost on him.

Beside being a lawyer, though, he is also a really smart guy. So he started from a new direction:

"Okay. If I say 'poor grammar,' you know what I'm talking about. If the concept of poor grammar exists, then there's no problem with the construction 'poor grammar,' right?"

Well, yes and no. Here we get into interesting Frege-trailblazed territory. (Fun fact: I used to have a t-shirt that said "Gottlob is my boyfriend." Then an actual boyfriend borrowed it, and broke up with me, so the status of my relationship with Gottlob is currently in question.)

If a concept exists, it can be given a name. Let's call the concept "poor grammar," which - regardless of its grammaticality - we all comprehend, "P."

"P" can be replaced with anything. "Thistle." "Uskvald the Hirsute." "Asdgsdds25sd." "Poor grammar." It's simply a name applied to a concept - a handle which, when said or written, immediately allows all of us to conjure its concept in our minds.

The problem with calling "P" "poor grammar" is that "grammar" is not a word devoid of connotation, and so using it in the name of another thing creates reference to its own meaning. And, going back to the pregnancy analogy, "poor grammar" is simply not a meaningful phrase. Not "not meaningful" in the sense of "incomprehensible"; rather, "not meaningful" in the sense of "a computer given the rules of English would be unable to parse this sentence successfully."

"Fine," said my friend. "Disregard that argument. I am suggesting that grammar is subjective and therefore that it is coherent to refer to 'poor grammar' in the same sense as it is coherent to refer to 'poor art'"

Well as it happens, I actually think there is a case to be made for "poor art" also being a meaningless concept. But that’s another issue for another time.

The final point of all this, I think, is that I was really making a quite trivial point. I don't believe anyone would contradict that a given sentence is either grammatical or ungrammatical. The extension of this notion that's getting everyone's undies in bunches is the truthful fact that given a binary situation, you can't express middle ground and allow the expression to remain binary.

You may now proceed with calling me a fat bitch. Thank you.

cookie update

I've been getting delighted emails from some cookie recipients over the last few days, and I'm so pleased that your baked goods have arrived without incident.

Poor RW's cookie has met a less happy fate: I got a machine-chewed package returned to me today, sans cookie, with a big "return to sender" sticker on it. He'll be benefiting from tonight's rematch of Helen vs. The Oven, though it might not again be oatmeal chocolate chip due to the fact that I used up all the oats last time.

Let us have a moment of silence for our fallen cookie brethren.


I judge you when you are ungrammatical

A few weeks ago there was an article in the New York Times about grammar. Specifically, how young people these days are really holding high the banner of the tradition of our language and isn't amazing how that facebook thing has a group that is devoted to grammar, and why don't these whippersnappers stay off my lawn and in my day we walked uphill to pay half a penny for a piece of lint etc.

The gist: Grammar is hip among the youth! Who'da thunk?

But the thing is this: these phrases appear in the article:

good grammar (3x)
poor grammar (2x)

They are used in the following contexts: quoted individuals, names of pro-grammar organizations, and the author himself discussing grammar.

Bob Morris, you seem like a smart enough dude. New York Times copyediting team, I would not imagine that you are any sort of collection of fools at all. So tell me, please please please please, how is it possible that none of you know that "grammar" is not a word that can be qualitatively modified?!?

A quick lesson. This sentence

Most writers for the New York Times is not morons.

is incorrect. It is ungrammatical. It does not use "poor grammar" or "bad grammar." It does not use grammar at all.

Let's say you are playing tennis with your butler. Let's say your butler responds to your second serve (you faulted on the first by stepping over the line) by placing his racquet on the clay and then brewing you a cup of tea, which he serves you with butter cookies. Is your butler using the rules of tennis? No. He might be doing something quite lovely, you might be very thirsty for tea, but he is not using the rules of tennis. He is not using poor rules of tennis. He is just not using the rules at all.

"Grammar" is the word we assign to the set of rules that governs the placement and interaction of words in a language, much like we say "the rules of tennis" to refer to, well, the rules of tennis. In either speech or tennis, you are either playing by the rules, or you're not.

In summary:
You cannot use poor grammar. You can only be ungrammatical.

In further summary:
"Poor grammar" is, itself, ungrammatical.

In final summary:
You are probably sitting here thinking "Helen, holy crap, you are an obnoxious and sanctimonious person." Okay. Those are probably true. But as the facebook group (of which, despite its titular [hee hee "titular"] flaws, I am a member) says: I judge you when you use poor grammar. Consider yourself warned.

Update: The argument continues...


in my room

I have two little plastic bunnies on the window ledge next to the bed. One looks like Frankenstein and the other is schoolbus yellow and his ass says "I LOVE L.A."

Every sheet, pillowcase, or comforter that I own is either white, pale yellow, or this particular middle shade of blue. These also comprise the colors of the walls of every bedroom I have ever lived in (though not all at once). They are totally NOT my favorite colors, and clash horribly with my bright green dresser. I'm not sure why I keep buying these colors. It's a major source of WTF in my life.

My bed would be incredibly comfortable if it were not on a pronounced angle that slopes down to the left.

I once dated a guy who was supremely freaked out by birds. My bedside table is painted with images of birds. We basically lasted two days.

On a related note:
Seriously - weekend posting? This NaBloPoWriMoYoMom is killing me. Tomorrow, for real, you are probably just going to get an annotated photograph of my closet interior.


vignette: faux foer

me: i am pretty sure i saw jonathan safran foer yesterday
C: really? where?
me: on 6th avenue
me: the manhattan 6th ave, not the brooklyn one, so perhaps unlikely
me: but if it wasn't him, there is a Fake Jonathan Safran Foer among us
C: maybe he hires fake JSFs to wander around and confuse people
C: like they do with the presidential motorcades
me: or saddam hussein
C: maybe JSF is the same person as saddam hussein
me: that adds some seriously weird textual levels to Everything Is Illuminated

this vignette brought to you by NaBloPoWriMo, and my laziness



Welcome to NaBloPoWriMo, broadcasting from TriBeCa, via ParSuGo, formerly of SoHa. (While drinking a SoBe? Nah. Totes SoLaYe.)

The conceit: a blog post a day, every day for the conveniently-thirty-dayed month of November, for no discernable reason except to be the hypertext-driven new-media sibling to faux-literary juggernaut NaNoWriMo, in which one fulfills one's lifelong dream of writing a novel by forcing out 50,000 words in thirty days, despite the fact that most novels run closer to 200,000 words and it will probably take you longer to edit and rewrite and insert coherence into a 50k-word hastily-written novel than it would be to write a well-outlined, researched 200k-word one.

Leila's the one who put me up to this, and by golly, I'm gonna stick to it. Thank heaven for the vignettes.

As long as we're discussing ourselves, there are some exciting new people to check out over there in the links: Angela, previously noted in this space for her extraordinary investigations of the Philip Roth/Benjamin Kunkel prime-time soap opera, and Gregory Levey, who has the distinction of being a person who actually holds down real, interesting jobs that have purpose and meaning and somewhat intimidating authority, and yet remains convincingly ensouled.

Be a dear and see what they have to say.


adornment exceptions

I'm not, by nature, much of a jewelry wearer. But I am, by nature, a giant design snob and a tremendous lover of the nerdy. And I'd argue that the combined nature-ness of those latter two seriously outweigh the non-nature of the former one, and so I say with confidence that I would totally wear both of these necklaces for, like, maybe 20 minutes before clawing at the clasp to get them off because holy shit I hate wearing necklaces.

The first, by cultish Brit jewelry label Tatty Devine, is a freaking Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in necklace form. Nothing, but nothing, classes up a little black dress like a gold-colored dinosaur silhouette around your neck. Ideal for a night at the theater, or seducing your paleontologist of choice.

And the second marvelous drive-me-to-exception necklace is by kickass design team mike and maaike, who have printed pixelated images of famous stolen jewels onto die-cut leather, creating a marvelous effect that will make your geek friends jubilant and your friends who forgot to wear their glasses second guess their vision. Bonus points if you can convince your gentleman caller du jour to accompany you wearing ThinkGeek's marvelous, quasimatching 8-bit tie.

So, FYI, unrelatedly, my birthday is January 6.


hi mom

An old friend found me via facebook a few weeks ago and we excitedly agreed to get drinks and catch up on approximately the past twenty years. We're now locked in the familiar cycle of "oh this week doesn't work for me, how about next week," which will probably go on for another year or so until we accidentally run into one another at a bar or party and consider that sufficient to meet our obligation.

My mom and I were on the phone last night, and she mentioned that this friend's mom, with whom my mom remains in touch, reads my blog and finds it "interesting." So my mom asked how she could read my blog, in order that she might assess its level of interestingness. She is now in possession of the tools with which to do this.

My mom is quite a marvelous mom and I don't feel much reason to edit myself in case she stumbles upon anything. But if she were the sort of mom who might blush at mentions of lesbianism or nonvaginal sex, this (oddly cut-off but worth clicking on nonetheless) Achewood strip would pretty much encapsulate how I felt about the matter:

basse cuisine

Haute cuisine generally concerns itself with truffles and seafood preceded by the word "dayboat" and -ottos made with non ris- grains like farro and whatnot and sauces made via tincture and microvegetables that cost $23 per 3 ounces. And I like haute cuisine very much, and eat it whenever the budget and disposition allow, but there are times when one must cry "enough already with the sage-encrusted trumpet mushrooms!" and fall headfirst into a pot of Kraft Cheese-and-Macaroni.

Boxed mac and cheese is notable because it requires only four ingredients - noodles, cheese powder, butter, milk - to create extraordinary happiness. But what if I told you that you could achieve comparable happiness with only three ingredients? What then?

Enter My Dad's (Or Maybe My Grandma's) Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs.

You need:
- ground beef
- ketchup
- ginger ale

These meatballs are astonishingly delicious and I will not accept criticism until you have made and tasted them yourself.

Pour 1 part ketchup and 1.5 parts ginger ale into a pot. I go for a whole 14-ounce bottle of Heinz and then a 20-ounce bottle of Canada Dry, which is a decent enough approximation. Stir them together. Put them over heat. Spend the time that the ketchup and ginger ale are heating up turning about a pound of ground beef into small meatballs, about one inch in diameter. Add the meatballs to the pot.

Soon the pot will resemble the surface of Mars:

Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot, and let it hang out there for an hour. Then it is done, and you can either remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and eat them with toothpicks, dipping them in the remaining sauce, or you can spoon the meatballs and sauce over some sort of starch such as noodles, rice, or potatoes.

They are delicious, and - thanks to the "food closeup" setting on my camera (not a joke), quite beautiful.

even closer, you say?

Look at that glistening sphere of meat. The glisten means the deliciousness is working. You can thank me later.

nb to cookie-recipients: your baked goods have entered the jurisdiction of the US Postal Service. the matter is now out of my hands.


Dr. Prada will see you now

I use Mint.com to manage my (extremely basic) finances, in large part because I like graphs and the nice software at Mint automatically separates all of my expenditures into categories that I can look at in pie, column, or scatter form.

I went to the ladyparts doctor last week, because that is what you do when you have ladyparts and also when you realize your insurance will cover you getting the HPV vaccine and you are not really into the idea of getting cervical cancer. I paid for my visit with my debit card, which means the transaction goes onto my Mint file.

Mint has categorized it for me.

Under "Shopping: Clothes & Accessories."

There is a joke about girls and shopping and ladyparts and cervix-as-accessory here but it is Friday and I am too tired to make it.


vignette: the voice

me: i know! it is basically the highlight of my life right now.
Emily: it can't get better.
Emily: all that's left is to be a guest on Wait Wait Don't Tell me, and then you have to die.
Emily: it would be illegal to have a better life.
Emily: think of the children.

cintra wilson: a love story

I worked at the world's most wonderful bookstore many many summers ago, just about coincidental with my discovery of those aspects of the internet beyond hotmail, diaryland, and ICQ. Notable as a point of internet-obsession was salon.com, which at the time was headlined by these marvelous and totally bonkers women like Camille Paglia and Cintra Wilson.

This is relevant to my bookstore employment because the same summer I became aware of Cintra Wilson, she came out with the book A Massive Swelling, which I read in one sitting during a register shift and, as far as I can remember, was basically about how she lived on the same block as Shalom Harlow and Shalom Harlow's incredibly pretty boyfriend, and thereby cultivated resentment towards them for their prettiness.

(I totally, completely found that to be a sympathetic angle, by the way. In fact, it is entirely possible that the idea that someone would pay you to write an entire book about being bitter about being less pretty than professionally-pretty people has been the driving force behind my life so far, and the opportunity to be physically more proximate to the pretty people in order to cultivate a more legitimate articulate bitterness might have been a major motivation behind my postcollege move to New York.)

I define others' fame via a rubric comprised entirely of my own awareness of them and my own perception of their media saturation. Therefore the summer of whatever that was, which saw not only the Cintra Wilson book at my place of employment but also a collection of Salon.com's greatest essays, and also (if I am remembering correctly) a Cintra Wilson article in Bust or Bitch or Jane or one of those monosyllable neogirlyfeminist magazines, was - to me - the apex of Cintra's celebrity. And then she disappeared from my awareness, and all that remained for me was a vague false memory of seeing Shalom Harlow standing by a fire hydrant, pouting.

Then she showed up out of the blue in the place I was least expecting to see her: The Critical Shopper column in the New York Times.

Here's a confession: Critical Shopper is, one hundred percent, my favorite aspect of the New York Times. It is awesome. In it, an individual goes to a store and interacts with salespeople and buys things, and then presumably goes home and writes about it in a voice that is by and large naive, overeducated, and vaguely indicative of social phobia. A not-out-of-place passage might be something like "The saleswoman suggested I try a sweater. A sweater? Me? I stood there, feeling how I can only imagine it must feel to be a fourth grader in the Republican vision of Gomorrah, with the school nurse asking with trepidation if there was any chance I might be pregnant."

This is quite a circumloquacious way of getting to my point. Which is that in today's Critical Shopper column, Cintra Wilson visits Balenciaga and apparently enters a fugue state, inspiring the wrath of the sales associates and eventually revealing to one of them her identity as a Times reporter with a gravity that she compares with that normally reserved for Batman.

I find this awesome. Basically what this all comes down to is that I would like to be Cintra Wilson. Now, the last time I suggested that I would like to adopt the identity of a New York Times writer (it is astonishing that I have done this more than once in my life), he discovered me via some self-googling and we had a lovely email correspondence and I just the other day got an invitation to his book party.

Cintra Wilson, you crazy wonderful person, I bet you can one-up that. Let's be friends. You know where to reach me.


happy national coming out day!

i am ready to tell you all that i am straight.*

*even though i went to smith, and briefly thought i might not be.

hunger management

your dashing blogeuse is all busy with workstuff right now, but for those of you receiving cookies, start pouring the milk! the baking has commenced, and the mailing begins early next week.


vignette: on the flipside

warning: swear words! sexual imagery! children should not use the internet.

Neil: meeting these people is kind of like getting fucked in the ass. it hurts like hell at first, and you think your eyebrows are on fire, but gradually you realize, "hey, i could do this 1, maybe 2 times a week."
me: that analogy is only really helpful if one does, in fact, enjoy getting fucked in the ass.
me: hmm. what is the universal analogy to assfucking?
Neil: working out -- it's kind of painful, but it eventually feels good, and gay men do it more than anybody else.


My last two posts here have been about cookies and fetuses.

As if in anticipation of this event, last December Meredith made...

(you guessed it!)

a fetus cookie!

View it, in all its glory, by hitting this link right here. That one. The one two sentences before this sentence. Now three before.


fetuses are a type-2 recyclable plastic

Mr. B and I were up until about 2am last night arguing having a civilized conversation about abortion and sex ed and what is the appropriate age at which to put a hypothetical daughter on birth control. (Me: when she starts going to alcohol-present parties or on dates with people. Mr B: "there is no way my daughter will ever have sex ever because I will violently remove the manparts of all non-me males within ten miles of her for the entirety of her life."*)

So while I was already in the right mindset when I arrived at work this morning and read that the Planned Parenthood in Aurora, Illinois has finally opened (hurrah!), I'm not sure that there's anything in the world that could have prepared me for the inanity of this quote:

But Lucie Groleske of Aurora said she wanted to remind women there are alternatives to abortion.

“In this age when people are trying to ‘go green’ and recycle, recycle, recycle, yet people are throwing away the most valuable resource on this planet — a human being,” said the 37-year-old stay-at-home mother of four.

Can anyone help me figure out what in the Sam Hill this woman is talking about? Marcin suggested that "One can recycle foetuses into a variety of valuable products, including gourmet soup!" So basically my takeaway from that is that I will not be having him cook for me.

I will not even get started on the scoffability of a woman with the financial and social luxury of being a stay-at-home mother of four making a case about abortion being somehow environmentally harmful. Additionally, google has revealed to me that this man is her husband. And, um. Wow.

*This is a paraphrase.


i love fall. bonus: free cookie!

[note] The gist of this post is: If you leave a comment, I will mail you a cookie. There is no catch. That is all. You don't really have to read the rest if you don't want to. [end note]

I like fall because I can turn on my oven and not want to die. Not in, like, a Sylvia Plath oven-death kind of way; rather in an I Do Not Like It When My Kitchen Is 130 Degrees And I Am Hyperbolic way.

Anyway today's temperature high was 71, and 71 is only TWO DEGREES AWAY from being "in the sixties," and the sixties, temperature-wise, means fall. Fall means ovens turn on, on-ovens mean baking things, and the best and most wonderful things to bake are, obviously, cookies.

I would like to bake some cookies, but I have the eternal problem of who to make them for. Mr. B likes Nutter Butters a lot, so I once made him a batch of from-scratch nutter butters (lowercased because they are not actually the brand-name store-bought variety, because I made them myself from scratch and included in the recipe my [metaphorical] blood sweat and love) and they were met with a judgment of "these are almost as good as the real thing," so basically I will never make cookies for Mr. B again.

My friends and roommates are also obvious cookie targets, but they have finite consumption abilities and I have a near-infinite baking ability, so basically here is the point: post a comment and I will mail you a cookie. It would also help if you gave me your address, but that's up to you. It will probably be oatmeal chocolate-chip, because that is the best cookie in the world.

i'm sick of rumors starting*

Regarding the potential truth of the Philip-Roth-steals-Ben-Kunkel's- girlfriend-and-writes-a-book-about-it scandal that I know you are losing sleep over? Angela has done a bang-up job investigating the issue. Please to be checking out it.

*no, actually, I'm totally not.


this is only a test

Today is 38 days before a Big Day. Specifically, my official first anniversary with Mr. Boyfriend, which we randomly count from November 7 because it was the first date we went on in which the following criteria were met:

  1. neither of us was technically still involved with another person.
  2. people with whom we still socialize were witness to our romantic proximity.
  3. the date did not end with a disastrous run-in that I, in retrospect, find hilarious but which he, in retrospect, finds still to be grounds for twenty minutes of sulkiness.
But today is its own Sort-Of-Big Day, because this day in 2006 was the first day we went on a date in which the following criteria were met:
  1. it was a date.
I am sort of an obsessive chronicler of anniversaries, because I like to be reminded of the passage of time, so I have been mentioning to Mr. B that today is one solar year after a particular event in our relationship history, and he has been all "I do not care about this fact," which is okay because it is not something I really need him to care about.

So a few minutes ago my coworker said "hey, there are some flowers for you up at reception" and I went to check and lo and behold they are from Mr. B, and the card reads Happy Not-A-Versary Helen! and I am pretty sure Mr. B signed it "love" but I got all misty at the supercuteness of it all and how wonderful he is and general overwhelming happy-sappy-etc.

Instead of immediately calling or emailing to say thank you, though, I decided to play it a bit coy (because why not?), and send him flowers in return, with instructions that the card read Ditto. Love, Helen.

Now I wait. Which will he see first - the flowers, or this entry? Stay Tuned!

To fully add dimension to the matter, I earlier today sent Mr. B an email that I will charitably describe as "aggressive," in which I compiled a list of the reasons why something he said last night made me annoyed, and he has not yet replied to that email. It is unclear whether this is because he is furiously angry at me, or unable to email without revealing that he sent me flowers. Also I am so amazed at my capacity to ruin wonderful romantic surprises by sending pissy emails, but that is perhaps a matter for my therapist.

update, 4:53pm: he got the flowers, and has not yet found this blog entry. awww.

helen desires a literary tabloid

I finally got around today to looking at last week's issue of the New Yorker, but all I really got to glance at before arriving at work this morning was that there is a piece by Philip Roth called "Age Makes a Difference."

I got really psyched because I thought it might be a meditation on life with his much-younger girlfriend, who I heard somewhere (I have no idea where I heard this, but be assured I perpetuate this rumor like it's my job) he poached from wonder-filled (and wunderkind) writer Benjamin Kunkel, author of one of my Least Favorite Books Of 2005, Indecision.

Instead it is basically about how his characters all have prostate issues and erectile dysfunction. So, letdown.

women are just not funny

The decline and fall of western civilization can largely be traced by New York Times articles that attempt to distill the ephemera of youth culture into an easy-to-comprehend article that, more often than not, will capitalize "internet," mention Brooklyn, and use the phrase "blogosphere."

One such article showed up this weekend, and it was about how people who comment on famous blogs become themselves famous. And it mentioned in particular the real identity of a commenter on Gawker named LolCait who, as it turns out, is friends with my friend Leila, thus proving that the internet is a giant ball of incest.

It also proved that, yet again, I am the most sexist person I know. Because when I thought LolCait was a pun-inclined female named Caitlin, I thought she was smug and obnoxious and generally I disliked her. But now I know that she is actually a 24-year-old named Richard, who is a boy, and I think that he is witty and awesome.


bigger than jesus

Instead of taking a normal Beowulf-reading English class during my junior year of high school, I took a course called Dramatic Literature, in which basically we screwed around in the theater wing and occasionally wrote and then performed for the entire school plays in which, for example, I had to lesbionically kiss my best friend, who was playing my life partner, and got to kiss on the cheek my objet d'crush, who was playing my son.

Our final project for the year was to write a script for any medium. I decided to write a murder mystery, and because I am pretty much terrible at coming up with plots, I took the song "Video Killed The Radio Star" and broke the lyrics down until I had a plot. (There was a character named Walter Video. And a very famous radio star died. I bet you can't guess who did it.)

This is all by way of introduction to the fact that Mister Boyfriend and I are going to see the movie Across the Universe tonight, which basically as far as I can tell takes what I did to one song by The Buggles and applies it to the entire Beatles catalog.

To remind Boyfriend when and where we are seeing the movie, I sent him an email with the following subject line:

I can't forget the time or place

Just in case you are secretly, I don't know, a pod person, and for that reason do not grok the brilliance, here is what just happened there in that email subject line:
  1. It is a song lyric, which is a measurable step up from my usual email subject lines of "hi" and "!" and "[null set]"
  2. The song lyric refers to a) time and b) place, both of which are enumerated within the email (7:35 and union square, to be precise).
  3. The song lyric is taken from a Beatles song, and the movie whose time and place needed to be ascertained is, as mentioned, full of Beatles songs.

When Boyfriend failed to have the appropriately incredulous/fawning reaction to this, and I had an incredulous/non-fawning reaction to that, he explained it thusly: "it's just so perfect that it is too good to get credit for."


i have more hilarious thoughts

"some of my best friends are #000000."

i have hilarious thoughts



vignette: sunday night at home

family guy's chris griffin as luke skywalker (on the television): hey han?
family guy's peter griffin as han solo (on the television): what?
chris/luke (tv): why do they call 'em TIE fighters?
me (real life, out loud, excitedly): it stands for Twin Ion Engine!
peter/han (tv): no idea!

there is no more to this because when it happened i was alone. in a room. talking out loud to a television. on which played a cartoon reenactment of a sci-fi movie. that is all.


this is what i do all day

my company publishes this one ridiculously famous book about pregnancy. you have probably heard of it. fun fact: Britney read it during her first pregnancy, but maybe you have to be literate for it to make a difference.

The Book was pretty much a featured player in the extremely awesome movie Knocked Up, and for various publishing-company-related reasons, today I needed to find a still of a scene in the movie in which the book appears. Unfortunately, the DVD isn't out until next week, and I needed the screen shot today.

and then in the course of listening to me complain about my impossible task, a coworker of mine clued me in to the fact that the super-creepy porn stores along 8th avenue around Times Square often sell release-date DVDs way before the actual release date. I guess they need this as an incentive for customers to come in and then when they are aglow with the thrill of having Harry Potter 5 before everyone else, they will be all "you know what I need now? porn!" and then the store will have served its purpose.

so because i have this crazy and deep love for my job, which often manifests itself in absurd and possibly illegal ways, i went to The Land Of Seedy Porn Shops and walked into many of them and went up to the counters and asked the nice men behind the counters if they had Knocked Up.

and none of them did. until one shop, where I said "do you have the movie Knocked Up? it's new."

and the friendly man of Indian (or possibly Pakistani [can muslims own porn stores?]) descent nodded happily and said yes, they just got it in, and led me back into the surprisingly well-lit aisles of the store until we got to the fetish section (alphabetized, i am not kidding, by topic). and when he started looking at the pregnancy-related naked-people motion pictures and gestured for me to take my pick, i realized there was a confusion.

"it's not a porn," i said.
"it's not a porn?"
"no, it's not a porn."
"oh. no. sorry. we don't have it."

so anyway i wound up back at the office empty-handed, and then i realized hello, i am a jew who works in media so i should be able to do anything, right? so i got a free trial subscription to imdb pro and called up Judd Apatow's production company and told them who I was and who I worked for and asked for what I needed and they're emailing it to me on Monday. The end.

alanis-ironic update: a different coworker just called me, like, one second after i posted this and said "i just saw your blog post and you know we already have that image, right?"



at work, we just got emailed our health insurance coverage summary and holy crap, i get 7 days of detox and 30 days of inpatient rehab free of charge. i additionally pay zero dollars for an "elective termination of pregnancy," though of course that's only in-network.

clearly i'd better start cultivating a drug addiction and irresponsible bedroom habits so i can take full advantage of my benefits plan.

minnesota: land of fantasy

i am a pretty big fan of my boyfriend, but once upon a time i dated a guy from minnesota, and one of the foundations of my attraction to him was a photo of him at the minnesota state fair holding a giant bratwurst. that's not a euphemism. i just seriously like sausage. that's not a euphemism either.

it turns out the minnesota state fair is a strange and, above all, wonderful thing. i am not making up any of the following fair attractions:

  • food on sticks
    including the standard hotdogesque objects, but also things you would not expect to see in on-a-stick form, such as meatball-and-tatertot-casserole, aka Hotdish, which is served with a cream of mushroom soup dipping sauce, aka Lutheran Binder. also pastrami and cream cheese wrapped around a pickle spear. on a stick.

  • the crowning of a fair queen
    is she called Miss Minnesota? no. is she called Miss State Fair? no. She is called Princess Kay of the Milky Way and is required by the rules of the competition to be a dairy farmer’s daughter, an employee of a dairy farm, or the daughter of a dairy farm employee. she then has her likeness carved in butter, and the butter sculpture is displayed at the fair on a rotating platform.

  • an all-you-can-drink milk stand
    which costs $1. one.

  • a carnival-style sideshow
    featuring Poobah, the fire-eating pygmy, billed as the youngest munchkin to appear in The Wizard Of Oz.

  • live stingrays

the question, of course, is why on god's green earth did we all not attend this wonderful thing? i am not kidding that next year i am going to be there, come hell or high water. and also that cream of mushroom soup is dead to me. there is only Lutheran Binder.


the guinea pig letters

way back in the day, i found myself in possession of a semi-decent sized collection of incredibly disgusting recipes. so, as one does, i started a blog about them, and garnered a bit of attention (of both the good and the bad variety) for a particular recipe for fried guinea pig.

part of the beauty of the recipe i had found was the simplicity with which the process was presented. "one guinea pig, de-haired, gutted, and cleaned," the recipe said. i editorially mused on how one might achieve this, and then without further inquiry both the recipe and i moved on to the next part (1/2 c. flour).

and then today i received the most wonderful email. Mr. Charlie Sommers, a self-described "Tennessee country boy (actually an old man)" found me through the magic of the internet and decided to shed light on the path. A warning that, if your stomach is not of the iron-clad variety, this might not be your cup of tea.

From: charlesfsommers@
To: Helen
Subject: How To Dehair a Guinea Pig

Enjoyed your disgusting recipes and thought I could enlighten you on how to dehair a guinea pig.

Dispatch the pig with a tug on the old head strong enough to displace the cervical vertebrae and sever the spinal cord. After twitching has ceased you may bleed the animal with as small of an incision as possible on the neck. After bleeding is complete bob the animal in water that has been heated to 155 degrees, do not use boiling water or you will set the hair. After a minute or so the hair will slip off with very little effort on your part, then you may proceed with removing the guts.

This method is also good for dehairing the possum. When cooked with the skin on both of these animals will retain more of their delicious juices and their skins will make wonderfully crisp cracklings after browning.

Bon Appetite,

Charlie Sommers
After twitching has ceased! How could I resist this? I wrote Mr. Sommers a reply, inquiring where he had picked up such knowledge. He replied right away:
Hi Helen,

I am a Tennessee country boy (actually an old man) and have assisted in the dehairing of many pigs of the porker variety. Any good old country boy who eats possum (they are delicious) knows that they are better dehaired than skinned. I have also used this method on groundhogs with much success. I have never dehaired a guinea pig but I am sure that this method works on any animal. When working in a custom slaughter house I once used this method on several goats that were being slaughtered for local Muslims. I have a friend whose wife is Peruvian and she assures me that guinea pigs are delicious and account for much of the meat eaten in her home country.

Cordially yours,

Charlie Sommers
Dear Charlie Sommers,

I adore you.



vignette: giddyup

chad: What is it with women and horses? Why do girls like horses so much? And how can they classify horses as 'pets' ?
chad: If it's bigger than I am and doesn't come when I call its given name, then it hardly classifies as a pet in my book.
me: they love horses because they are warm and soft and gentle and give you orgasms when you ride them.
me: only about 5% of men are like that


foreign people are hilarious

a headline on the english page of russian newspaper Pravda reads:


the article makes no mention of anyone expressing strong disapproval of the recently deceased opera singer. one can only wonder.

discovered via kseniya via matt carman.

what i listen to

gender groups

soapbubble pop



that with which jiggy can be got



a basic fact is that i love a lady's blog so much that i sometimes slip into her voice when thinking about my own life, and start getting all Royal We in my mental narrative and seriously consider starting to wear accessories.*

another basic fact is that i am not such a huge fan of pass-it-on memes. (except for the really long email questionnaires where you have to answer questions about yourself such as "chocolate or vanilla?" and "how many people have you kissed?" those are my kryptonite, i completely drop everything when one lands in my inbox and fill it out posthaste.) but when you get a pass-it-on meme from Mlle. Lady and you implicitly trust her taste in all matters chic and social, it is probably an a-ok meme and you can revel in its bright-pinkness.

anyway, what ho, hurrah, she has named me a Rockin' Girl Blogger, and it comes with a picture:

the rules are that now I, in turn, name five Rockin' Girl Bloggers. The Lady herself would be among them, but no tagbacks. So without further ado:

Meredith demonstrates a sense of sincere irony (or is it ironic sincerity?) that is so finely-tuned it would bring someone with perfect pitch to their knees, weeping tears of joy that they at last live in a world free from error. her blog involves many, many lists, all of which are inspired.

Leila posts to this blog approximately never, because she is all off being intelligent and professional on this blog. but she is, as the kids say, on her shit. she is single-handedly credited with introducing me to the music of Lil Mama.

now we encounter a problem. Kat hasn't updated in like nine thousand years. ditto most of the other girlbloggers i know. I read lots of sites written by girls (oh my god, basically Jezebel is the emotional center of my life right now, sorry Boyfriend), but because they are infinity more famous and important than I am I am selfishly not going to reward them even more. So I will bend the rules thusly:

- a tagback to A Lady.
- Leila counts as two, because she has two blogs.
- and Matt Carman, because he won't mind that I call him a pussy.

*glasses do not count as an accessory.


ess oh you pee

the wonderful soup place near my office has Chicken Alphabet Soup right now. i love that the selling point is the shape of the noodles. i totally bought some. it was delicious. (and orthographic!)

hypersnobbery: a manifesto

there is this application on facebook called honestybox. i love it. it is the dream, the absolute dream, of anyone who has harbored fantasies of telling someone exactly what you think of them, and knowing that they can never trace it back to you. the sort of person who will go to a public library in a town in which they don't reside in order to make a fake gmail address in order to log a scathing and anonymous comment on the blog of an ex-girlfriend of an ex-boyfriend.

not that i am necessarily such a person.
or have done these acts.

the way honestybox works is you add the application to your profile, and suddenly there is a field in which your internet-friends can write things, which will be transferred to you behind a veil of secrecy that will reveal only the gender of the sender (this makes me want to say, as a rejoinder to strap-on advocates: "it's not the motion of the ocean, it's the gender of the sender") and their presumably completely honest comments on whatever it is.

most of the comments i've received on honestybox are about weird sexual fetishes and are from people i actually know in real life who i then email and say "stop honestyboxing me about vomit" and then they say "but it is HILARIOUS" and then i admit that yes, it is.

but the few actual honest assessments of character that i've received are, well, largely negative. this is not surprising, since the people who adore me and think i'm marvelous generally tell me directly. the thing that i do find surprising is that the insult most often flung is a single word: "pretentious."

here is the thing (because there is always a thing): i am not pretentious. what i am, kids, is a giant snob.

my raging snobbishness mostly manifests itself in the realm of language: if i had more free time, i would find it entirely spiritually fulfilling to be that girl on a messageboard who does nothing but hop in and correct people: "not only are you completely incorrect about the role of the elf-queen in issue 9.25, but you misspelled "avatar" AND "hortimancy" and you meant "irrespective" not "irregardless" and holy crap learn the difference between their/they're/there, because honestly i have no truck with morons like that. xoxo." and then i'd get flamed out of existence and be all huffy, and it would be awesome. also clearly i am ok with run-on sentences.

anyway the misapplication of "pretentious" bothers me, because pretension, by definition, requires pretense. it means you have to be faking it. you have to not belong to whatever group you are playing at belonging to. i'm pretty sure i'm not faking whatever highbrowism is being pilloried, though i bet it is probably my tendency to use words like "highbrowism" and "pilloried." except i am not faking being the sort of person who uses these words, i totally am the sort of person who uses these words. i am also the sort of person who does the new york times crossword puzzle, and thinks less of a person whose favorite book is The Da Vinci Code, and wants my entire apartment to be furnished by design within reach, and thinks critical thoughts about people who wear unattractive clothing. i am not faking being an elitist intellectual who wears hipster glasses and reads the New Yorker on the subway. i am that douche.

so the other thing is that i think about the pretension/elitism distinction often enough that on facebook, where you are supposed to list your interests in order to make it easier for your friends to buy you birthday gifts, my very first interest is, i am not joking, "the complexities of pretension." which itself is a totally snobby thing to be interested in. because, in summary, in the misused language of the masses: i am pretentious about being pretentious.

but, you know, i would not like to overlook the possibility, which if it turned out to be true would be awesome, that the people who are sending me anonymous messages accusing me of being pretentious are actually using the word correctly, and think that i am faking something that is not real. or -- oh my god even better -- that they are seeing that one of my interests is "the complexities of pretension" and so they are honestyboxing an accusation that i am faking my interest in pretension, and am literally pretentious about pretension. and that would be so cool.

also, to the one person who honestyboxed me an assessment of "elitist": i love you. yes. you rock.

vignette: retromemetics

coworker: how was your weekend?
me: someone set us up the bomb.
coworker: i don't get you.


good news and bad news

the good news -- incredible, extraordinary, and worthy of celebration -- is that i have finally learned how to like gin! this was not easy, and required a very strict training regimen that proceeded as follows:

ages 0-16: never consume it.
age 16: at a cousin's bar mitzvah, dad offers a sip of his gin & tonic. find it repulsive and instead go for a vodka gimlet.
age 20: read Lolita, decide to be Humbert Humbert. realize that femaleness and lack of sexual attraction to prepubescents probably puts a damper on that, but some patina of creepy-old-manness can be assumed by drinking HH's drink, gin and pineapple. note, with happiness, that the pineapple obscures most of the flavor of the gin.
two weeks later: forget about this.
age 23: a friend reads Lolita and does the same "at least i can adopt his drink" thing. era of gin & pineapple resumes.
age 25 (right now): having been fed innumerable gin & tonics (gins & tonic?) at last weekend's wedding, the first of which was consumed when already too inebriated to register distaste, find self actively craving the commingled flavors of juniper and quinine. adulthood has finally arrived! or possibly alcoholism.

the bad news is that i didn't win the lottery. no ponies for anyone, unless you buy them yourselves.


sharing the wealth

i bought a lottery ticket today for the first time in my life. this is because if i win, i will win $325,000,000, which is - technically speaking - a crapload of money. when i was discussing with the boyfriend whether this was a wise investment of a dollar, he said with decisive certainty that the odds of me winning are one in one hundred thousand, and because he invests things as his profession and therefore is much more aware of financial matters than i am, i believed him.

i would like to take this opportunity to officially say: booyah. he was wrong. the odds are totally not one in a hundred thousand. they are one in one hundred and seventy-five thousand. but i appreciate his optimism.

in fact, i am so swayed by this optimism that i make this promise: if i am the recipient of these extraordinary millions of dollars, i will fulfill the unfulfilled-childhood-wish of your choice (such as being bought a pony or going to disneyland) for each person who specifies his or her wish in the comments before tomorrow night's drawing.

this has the potential to be incredibly awesome, folks. let's get on board.


punch lines

a pig like that, you don't eat all at once.

welcome to jamaica - have a nice day!

you think i asked for a twelve-inch pianist?

i'm afraid not.

nacho cheese!

for you? no charge.

aaah! talking muffin!

you got me out of the shower to tell me this?

now aren't you sorry you had me neutered?

it's okay, we're not welcome at the grocery store, either.


vignette: preening

Chad: what's the grammatical deal with "found out" vs. "found"?
me: [long explanation of the notion of a particle]
Chad: Your brain... it's so incredibly sexy. Quite possibly the sexiest brain I've met. It's so sexy that when your boyfriend goes and then you pass as a widow from grief I'm totally going to dig up your body remove your eyes and make love to your brain directly.


helen and the awesome factory

on the way home from work today i had nothing to read. this usually leads to buying a chickadelic magazine like glamour or cosmo so that i can learn 150 Tricks That Will Drive Him Wild! and also feel Accepting Of My Flaws etc.

but i passed a streetside bookseller before i passed a newsstand, and since he was packing up at the end of the night he said "any book, two dollars," and there was a hardcover copy of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory on the table so i figured hells yeah, and bought it.

the cover is pretty cool. it looks like the cover on this edition, which if you clicked just then you would have noticed that it is worth many thousands of dollars, so the moral of this story is holy fucking crap, i just bought a first-edition book on the street for two dollars. i win.


secret naked people

note: apparently if you don't read this post all the way through i sound like i am utterly insane. um. i'm not? keep reading. end of note

so there is this new thing in my life, and it is called Married People. not that i haven't spent my entire existence surrounded by folks who are married, but folks like your parents or your teachers or those at your office who are more senior than you do not really count as Married People, because according to your perception they have always been in a state of married, and so you are not having to witness the personal, social, and anthropological accompaniments of the transition from Two Seriously Dating Normal UnMarried People into Married People, and as a result be totally thrown by said personal, social, and anthropological accompaniments.

apparently the Attack Of The Married People is actually hitting me with tremendous punctuality, because i am 25 and therefore my peers have had a couple of years to sit around in a post-college world and arrive at the decision that they would really like to have other people buy them silverware. So I am starting to get used to the idea of people who I used to refer to as "Amanda's boyfriend" suddenly being "Amanda's fiance," and I consider my ability to not have a total quarter-life-crisis meltdown at that transition to be approximately five hundred gold stars in my favor. But the problem with getting used to someone being your friend's fiance is that within a finite amount of time he will transition to being her husband, and that is incredibly difficult for me because husbands are, like, my dad and Tim Allen and other dudes with mustaches who like to go to stores where they sell wood.

but far worse than Married People is this new thing I have learned goes with them, which is: Secret Naked People. because my boyfriend is currently in another state, which he went to in order to attend last night's bachelor party preceding tomorrow's wedding at which we will both be in attendance. And when he called me today, hungover and barely verbal, and i said "how was it?" he said "I can't tell you."

apparently this is common practice around bachelor parties. it is like each bachelor party is its own micro-Las Vegas and what happens within the group of attendees is never spoken of again to outsiders ever.

here is the problem with this: I've never met the bride, and am unlikely to immediately confide in her any sort of secretive things that might have happened at the party that her husband-to-be would not want her to know. So this means that my boyfriend is deciding that there are things that i can't know. And so now, because i am extremely rational and in no way neurotic, I am pretty sure my boyfriend participated in some sort of sexual act of which i would be disapproving, such as a foursome with strippers, and i am not allowed to know about it because it is the rule about stupid bachelor parties.

anyway now my new plan is to incorporate Secret Naked People into my life, and not be able to tell my boyfriend about it, because it is the rule because i declared that it is the rule. Like:
"Hey Helen, what did you have for lunch today?"
"Actually I'm not allowed to tell you.*"
(*translation: "My coworkers and I ordered in Thai, but it might or might not have come with some of that nation's famous prostitutes.")

"Morning, darling. Did you sleep well? Should we go out for brunch?"
"Actually I'm not allowed to tell you what I am doing this morning.*"
(*translation: "I will be doing laundry as soon as you leave. If you catch my drift.")

anyway, this is my new plan. Secret Naked People. but I can't tell you about it.


vignette: real-life jokes

leila: god, i'm totally deaf.
me: have you thought about getting a hearing aid?
leila: yeah, i already did that.
me: did what?
leila: got a check-up.

vignette: on marriage

coworker of doom: weekend plans?
me: boyfriend and i are going to rhode island for a wedding.
coworker of doom: is this your first one as a couple?
me: yep.
coworker of doom: better not accidentally look at each other during the vows. that means you're legally married, in some states.
coworker of doom: also according to the laws of physics you would become spontaneously pregnant.


lazy sunday

here is pretty much what happened to me yesterday. it should be evident to you that it was possibly the greatest day ever in the history of the universe.

morning: some stuff happened.
lunch: chicken fingers in manhattan.
afternoon/evening: some other stuff happened, including a movie.
dinner: chicken fingers in brooklyn.
night: fell asleep.

mm. happysigh.


a fable

chapter 1
many years ago i decided i wanted to be a lawyer, and then i realized that was a very very bad idea, and i like working with books better, so never mind.

chapter 2
this morning i received a phone call from the law school i once thought i wanted to attend, saying "so we'll see you in two weeks!"

it all worked out in the end.

moral of the story
even fancy law schools make clerical errors.


vignette: from the department of Not The Right Thing To Say

me: i just can't get over that someone thought i was pregnant.
boyfriend: well i bet you looked like a hot pregnant lady. pregnant ladies are all wholesome and healthy looking and stuff. it's sort of a compliment.

today's thought experiment

let's say you're a mid-20s female who rides the subway to work in the mornings. most mornings the train is insanely crowded, but occasionally you manage to snag a seat.

let's say you leave the house this morning wearing a very cute, tres of-the-moment black empire-waisted dress, so you feel kind of hot. and your hair looks good, and you have taken a few minutes to put on makeup. the train pulls into the station and you get on. you scan for seats: no luck. you settle in with your arm wrapped around a pole and get out your book.

let's say a seated hipster boy, cute in that if-i-didn't-have-a-boyfriend-i'd-maybe-say-hi way, makes eye contact. he smiles. you smile back. he gestures that, if you want, he will give you his seat. you shake your head a polite no, and turn back to your book.

let's say he says, smiling: "do you want my seat?"
and you say, smiling: "no, thanks, i'm fine"
and he says: "really, please take it"
and you say: "no, really, i'm okay"
and he says: "i'm going to stand up. you're going to take it."
he stands up. he says: "i totally understand. my wife is seven months pregnant."
he smiles beatifically.

besides the obvious, which is to never wear empire-waist dresses ever ever ever again, because your stupidly well-endowed chest creates horrible topographic illusions, because you are in fact not pregnant, do you:

correct him. inform him that you are not in fact an incubator of new life, at least not at the moment. feel like a fat cow. allow him to wallow in his asshattishness.
Pro: You are honest.
Con: You are stuck in the same car with the guy who thought you were pregnant for seven more minutes, which is the time it takes to get to the next stop.

do not correct him. take the seat. feel like a fat cow, but silently, and allow him to feel good that he has done something kind. probably he will tell his wife what a gallant thing he did.
Pro: you get a seat on the subway.
Con: you had to pretend to be pregnant in order to get it.

I think this might be the fundamental ethical query of our times. This has nothing to do with whether this might or might not have happened to me this morning. Nope.


helen armstrong?

After work yesterday the boyfriend and I rented bikes and rode up and down the Hudson River bike path until i developed soreness in areas that are not going to be mentioned in public.

This is an illustration of my new favorite fact: riding bikes is awesome.


things are better in canada

and here's why: i learned how to ride a bike this weekend!

i know, i know. shut up. more to come.


an open letter to a snotty lady

i went to BEA a few months ago and, rounding a corner near the Perseus Group booth, nearly smacked bodily into a large yellow pantsuit inhabited by Nan A. Talese. you don't know who she is, unless you are the sort of person who breathes gawker like air, or works in publishing, or watches Oprah and retains every episode.

Nan Talese was James Frey's editor, and by most accounts the woman who insisted that he repackage into a "seriously, it really happened" memoir a book he was trying--unsuccessfully--to sell as fiction. Everyone knows what happened next. Oprah picked A Million Little Pieces for her omnipotent book club, it sold a million little copies, everyone got all weepy over the ravaging horrors of addiction and this poor man's struggle with pain and misery and how powerful love is and how sweet and humble poor James Frey was when he appeared on Oprah all curly-haired and soft-spoken.

And then it turned out the book was, um, fiction, and Oprah had James and Nan on her show, and she ripped them both new excretory orifices, and she was so, so, so angry. And there was lots of media coverage and now if you send in page 24 of a copy of AMLP, you get a refund from its publisher because they lied about its truth. And I posted about truth in publishing, and blah blah blah.

This is a long intro to a short point: Dear Nan Talese, please get over this.

An AP wire piece that came out, like, four minutes ago (an aside: not only does Nanhave a hilariously dated name, her husband's name is Gay. as in, I am not using that word to hilariously insult his name, the word "gay" is actually his name.) has Nan saying she is still mad at Oprah for her "fiercely bad manners," and that she - Nan - would still have done everything exactly the way she did.

I wonder about the psychology behind this. For all that I am bothered by Oprah's pervasive brand of mediocrity, I agree with pretty much everyone that her book club is a really good thing. And part of the desire of publishers everywhere to have Oprah pick one of their books for her club is that, um, it will cause the book to sell forty-seven billion copies and become a touchstone of cultural awareness. Basically Oprah is agreeing to shill your book in exchange for you agreeing that the book you let her shill is not, to put it mildly, a sack of crap and lies.

What did AMLP turn out to be? A sack of crap and lies. And Nan, sweetheart, when you knowingly misled Oprah, when you knowingly allowed her to use her godlike powers to get your book onto the nightstands of every third housewife in the United States, you knew what you were getting into. Oprah exercises her influence in an admirably conscientious way,* and when you lied to her you made her less credible. And credibility is her currency. When she reamed you on her show, she was just strengthening the Oprah dollar, which you had caused to take a serious hit.

Anyway, since the publishing world is what it is, you haven't lost too much of your power and influence. Lucky you. So you know what I would advise? Shut up, please. Lay low. Stop trying to poke the dragon in the snout. Remember what Oprah did to the beef industry? I'd be wary. She has a beef with you.

*except that moronic recent embrace of The Secret. ugh.

prediction: i will one day be up for a position working with Nan Talese, and i will be googled, and I will not be offered the job based on this post.


chicken nuggets: the end, i swear

a followup on the chicken nugget concern of last week:

I finally got around to reading the chapter on McNuggets in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I approached with quivery trepidation since, as google informs me, there is one ingredient discussed there that will blow your mind!!! and I didn't want to get knocked too far off my oh-so-high chicken nugget horse (note: that is an awesome mental image).

anyway here's what the book has to say about it:

But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to "help preserve freshness." According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food: It can comprise no more than 0.02 percent of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse." Ingesting five grams of TBHQ can kill.”

Dun dun dunnnnnn. TBHQ, in sufficient doses, makes you die.

So what? So does table salt. Fun game? Feed twenty grams of Morton's to a toddler and then flee the country.* And, as wikipedia tells us, TBHQ is not a "form of butane" in the sense that, say, a mcnugget is a "form of chicken." it is a form of butane in the sense that a human being is a form of carbon. which is to say, it is ultimately comprised of some fundamental elements, but in fact it is a hydroquinine that has butylic elements, and if you still know what I'm talking about at this point I'm just going to turn the floor over to you.

Anyway, all the is a very roundabout and overly obsessive way of getting to the point that: chicken nuggets are delicious and will not kill you. please consume them. but not with ketchup, because that is disgusting.

*please do not actually kill children. they are cute.