sean v. santa

season's greetings from hell's kitchen!


101 in 1001: 086 tour arizona mining towns with joe [completed december '07]

the missus in the cemetery

the missus and i really agonized over this one. he offered several times to detour through another town (prescott, which rhymes with triscuit, not ascot) in order to satisfy the plural part of the list item, but we were more interested in getting back to phoenix in time to have a leisurely dinner at the tee pee* than i was in completing the task as literally as possible. i have visited more than one arizona mining town - we buzzed past globe a few years ago - but that was before my 101 in 1001 adventures began. i can but hope that posterity will exonerate me.

we stayed in a haunted hotel and were in fact disturbed in the night: the utter absence of sound and the hot breath of the radiator kept both of us up until about six in the morning. i hate to be one of those city slickers who can't sleep without the white noise of traffic and police sirens, a la john cusack's character in midnight in the garden of good and evil, but so i am.

jerome is now an artists' colony rather than a mining town (for the most part - there was one active site down the mountain), and the locals have realized the value of the town's picturesque decrepitude; while a few buildings (like our hotel) have been restored and maintained, just as many have been allowed to tumble apart in extremely attractive ways. i wish our friend jodie had been along for the trip: i got some fair-to-middling photos as we strolled around (the full set is here), but pros like her must get amazing stuff. visit jerome, internets! i enjoyed myself there much more than i did in sedona the next day, crystal vortices and possibility-of-running-into-axl-rose or no. how about you - visited anything sexy lately?

*gratuitous side note: my sister-in-law and i ordered the presidential special, which is what george w. bush ate when he visited the place on a campaign stop in '04. unusually, he made an excellent choice.


when i logged in to check my alumni e-mail a few days ago, i learned that diane wood middlebrook, a former professor of mine, passed away last weekend. she's come up in conversation several times since then, and though many, many people can speak more eloquently and personally of her than i can, it can't hurt to say a little more.

DWM, as she called herself, lived two blocks above us on green street in san francisco, in a gorgeous art deco building that looked like a cross between a cruise ship and a wedding cake. when i composed notes to her - to ask her if she'd be a professional reference (of course, she remembered me well, and she wished me luck), to ask her if she'd be an academic reference (yes, and i really was a good writer), and when i was bold enough, to ask her to coffee (she was partial to peet's, and she hoped i wouldn't mind waiting until the publication crunch for her husband was over) - i was sure she could feel my nerves jangling halfway down the hill. she was extremely kind, but she was also extremely intimidating: she was the first woman i got to know who truly kicked ass in the field i hoped to enter. she wasted no time: she told us (in english 187, plath and hughes, my senior year) that she started working at 4 am every morning, and kept a neon green background on her computer screen to shock her brain awake. she ran our little class like a boardroom, and by the end of the quarter she had all of us speaking quickly and confidently, like she did. when she learned that most of us hadn't yet read the waste land, she had a new copy for each of us (purchased herself) ready at our next meeting. she shocked me back into loving my work as it was about to end, and my papers for her just before i graduated were easily the best i wrote at college. no big surprise there: i love confessional poetry, and i wanted badly to impress her. for the last one, on ted hughes and birthday letters, i even spent an hour dorking out on cover art (in retrospect, it was pretty obviously my temporarily-rehabilitated-slacker's equivalent of a thesis).

she was funny, and frank, and quite salty. when i got my own fangirl copy of gin considered as a demon, her book of poetry, her gentle tone shocked me - between hughes and plath, i'd been sure she would sound like plath. i fantasized for three years about befriending her, about getting the conspirator's wink she wrote about in her poem about the white horse tavern here in new york. we moved east before she came back from london after finishing her husband, though, and my crush got lost as joe and i reshuffled our lives.

she was a remarkable woman, and i highly recommend getting to know her work. those of you who knew her, even as little as i did, know how lucky you were. as i do.

12.15.07 [arizona]

over the river, through the woods, &c

greetings from flavor country! after a six-hour flight sandwiched between two screaming babies and a night in a generic phoenix hotel room that was nicer than our apartment in almost every way, we've settled in for some long form loafing at joe's parents' place. this image is one of the reasons i will not be driving while we're out here; i have no interest in being the second asshole in an SUV to be swept downstream this season (it's only a few feet deep right now, but my fording experience begins and ends with the oregon trail for the apple IIe). there's little reason for anyone to drive, really - we've already taken our traditional tour of payson's Thrift Stores of the Damned and wal-mart (where i got the hairy eyeball for honking the hoochie mama elk call and learned that "wal-mart deleted [?] darts").* instead there will be reading (i'm halfway through philip roth's american pastoral), tipsy scrabbling, and NO smoking (three weeks, bitches!). quality time in the middle of nowhere, she has a certain charm - though it would be nice to find some darts. how's the seasonal nonsense in your neck of the woods?

*i wasn't particularly excited about giving wal-mart money anyway, so that was fine.


101 in 1001: 010 attend a taping of (jon stewart's) the daily show
Dear Daily Show Audience Members,

Due to a writers strike, “The Daily Show” taping on Wednesday December 12th, 2007 has been cancelled. Unfortunately, we have no additional information as to when this strike will end. Your cancelled show tickets will NOT be automatically rescheduled, you will have to start the process again. If you would like to attend a future taping of the show, please reserve tickets on our website at www.thedailyshow.com. Since we have no direct control over the strike, we cannot guarantee that the show will actually tape on the new date that you select. Of course, we are all hoping for a speedy resolution to the labor dispute.
i reserved those tickets back in june, man! i don't mean to whinge - being a thwarted daily show audience member is a lot better than being a daily show staffer right now, to be sure, and we're flying out west tomorrow anyway* - but that sucks.

out west, yes yes: joe's parents were going to be here in manhattan for the week surrounding christmas, but plans mutated, and we're heading out to arizona instead. speaking of 101 in 1001 items, i have high hopes for 086 (tour arizona mining towns with joe). expect sexy photos of frontier decrepitude! and please don't be put out if your annual "season's greetings from new york!" card has a phoenix postmark - until, oh, fifteen minutes ago, i've been up to my eyebrows in the february issue of the ladymag. it's been extremely unpleasant.

at the extremely pleasant end of the spectrum, louis menaud's "woke up this morning" (from last week's new yorker) yielded several of the most satisfying phrases i've read since...well, since the last time i read fitzgerald or wilde. a few of my favorites:
The impulse to keep a diary is to actual diaries as the impulse to go on a diet is to actual slimness. Most of us do wish that we were slim diarists.


At least one person has read the entire “Journals: 1952-2000,” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (Penguin; $40), from start to finish, and this person can report that the work yields the exact degree of pleasure that can be derived from standing on a moving sidewalk: it’s painless, you don’t want it to stop, and there is not a single surprise in it.
the whole feature is great, both in little bites like those and because of menaud's larger points about what makes someone a great diarist (warhol was, reagan wasn't). it made me want to be a diarist, or to have a diligent and affectionate editor who could unpack my writing (i should be able to do that for myself, of course). read, internets, read! if you yourself have a diary, and/or a blog, consider what menaud calls the id/ego/superego theories** of diary-keeping: do you agree with any of them?

*we planned the trip after the strikers settled in for the long haul.

**as follows:

Writing is onerous (especially with an ultra-thin pencil)—writing feels like work because it is work—and, day by day, life is pretty routine, repetitive, and, we should face it, boring. So why do a few keep diaries, when diary-keeping is, for many, too much?

Three theories immediately suggest themselves. They are theories of the ego, the id, and the superego (and what is left, really?). The ego theory holds that maintaining a diary demands a level of vanity and self-importance that is simply too great for most people to sustain for long periods of time. It obliges you to believe that the stuff that happened to you is worth writing down because it happened to you. This is why so many diaries are abandoned by circa January 10th: keeping this up, you quickly realize, means something worse than being insufferable to others; it means being insufferable to yourself. People find that they just can’t take themselves seriously enough to continue. They may regret this—people capable of taking themselves seriously tend to go farther in life—but they accept it and move on to other things, such as collecting stamps.

The id theory, on the other hand, states that people use diaries to record wishes and desires that they need to keep secret, and to list failures and disappointments that they cannot admit publicly have given them pain. Diary-keeping, on this account, is just neurotic, since the last thing most people want to do with their unconsummated longings and petty humiliations is to inscribe them permanently in a book. They want to forget them, and so they soon quit writing them down. Most people don’t confess; they repress.

And the superego theory, of course, is the theory that diaries are really written for the eyes of others. They are exercises in self-justification. When we describe the day’s events and our management of them, we have in mind a wise and benevolent reader who will someday see that we played, on the whole, and despite the best efforts of selfish and unworthy colleagues and relations, a creditable game with the hand we were dealt. If we speak frankly about our own missteps and shortcomings, it is only to gain this reader’s trust. We write to appease the father. People abandon their diaries when they realize that the task is hopeless.

i'm going to have to start a collection of favorite reactions to the golden compass (hitting theaters this very minute - why am i at work again?). what was that delicious phrase of hannah's? causin more family feuds than richard dawkins - how i love philip pullman. from today's houston chronicle, "does film compass steer kids in wrong direction?" -
"If parents see (the movie) they might think, 'What a great Christmas gift idea? [sic] Why don't I get little Johnny or Sally the trilogy?' But if that happens, then little Johnny or Sally will wake up Christmas morning to a candy-coated message of atheism," [a spokeswoman for the Catholic League] said.*
is "candy-coated message of atheism" a memoir or a garage band? can it be both?

in other news, i found a stimulating survey about which presidential candidates would put the most thought into buying holiday gifts, according to american women. the top five for each party:

31% hillary clinton
14% john edwards
11% barack obama
3% bill richardson
3% joe biden

18% rudy giuliani
13% john mccain
8% fred thompson
6% mitt romney
5% mike huckabee

having spent time with people who have received gifts from some of the above, i can say that one frontrunner sounds right and the other is intensely amusing. personally, i'd want a christmas present from dennis kucinich (2%, the poor guy).

*my favorite comment on that story: If your beliefs are so flimsy that they are swayed by a movie with a talking polar bear, you should probably stay home and shut off the electricity.


happy holidays and absolutely no trespassing* to you and you and you, from our management company.

happy holidays! now bugger off.

i kind of enjoy the combination of goodwill and bossiness that erupts around the city in december. when joe and i were leaving our apartment last night, a cab screeched to a stop in front of our steps: "hey man," the driver yelled, "where is your coat?" we said that we were just crossing the street to get to the gym, and he nodded and zoomed away.

on the gym: to my great surprise, i've continued to go (nine times now since the quit - at this rate i might actually hit 100 visits in time to knock off 017 on my 101 in 1001 list). to my horror, i'm starting to enjoy myself a tiny bit. this breathing-hard-without-pain thing is fascinating! the new rub is that i'm not really interested in anything other than cardio: though i'm developing a moderate interest in running** and dig elliptical machines, weight machines (and free weights) are deadly boring. can one get ridiculously fit without them?

*and no hot showering, apparently. they've been real creeps about consistent heating thus far this season - trying to freeze the sweet old ladies out of the building, i'd imagine.

**on a treadmill, mind you. i'm wa-ay too self-conscious to run in public.


as fred bartles and ed jaymes used to say, thank you for your support: it's now been a week since my last cigarette, which is something i haven't been able to say for eleven years (gulp). i'm not going to dwell on the crappy things about having smoked for that long, money-, health-, or otherwise - i hardly have the right - but it is nice that i'm now saving at least $5.10 a day ($6.80 per pack in nyc x .75 pack per day). i'm socking that money away for a trip to iceland (joe says that if i can hold out long enough to afford it, he'll go anywhere i want) and a big-ass tattoo when i get there. that part of the plan isn't especially popular, but c'mon - i'll be about to turn 30 by then. new ink for a new decade, or something. a big-ass tattoo is also the traditional reward (in the microculture that exists only in my head) for getting ridiculously fit, and this whole quitting thing could lead to that as well - i've been to the gym four times (and counting) this week.* exhaustion is a good antidote to the nic-fit jitters, or it has been so far. i hate gyms with an epic passion - they're habitrails for people, if you ask me - but i'm more than vain enough to be deeply afraid of gaining weight as i quit. one solution for two problems, hey hey! i'll be a hamster for that, at least until i'm fit enough for the roller derby.

*i'd gone once this year (cough) before that.


101 in 1001: 026 quit smoking [last cigarette: 11.23.07]
cessation goals are tricky. it seems terribly unfair and/or misleading to be able to say that i've quit smoking when i'm only talking about four days' worth of work (though it's certainly been work) thus far. also, there's nothing in the list item about whether or not the quit has to stick forever (though that's what i meant when i put it on the list). i mean, i could quit mensa and then rejoin in a year when i find myself missing the dogfighting and orgies, and it'd still be accurate to say that i quit today. i think the permanence i had (/have) in mind makes up for the only-four-days part, though, and the prospect of public failure and shame is a very effective relapse deterrent, so: hey internets! i quit smoking!

...for good. just you watch.


those of you who checked in with me about the angst at the beginning of my last post were very kind; this holiday season is progressing peachily, actually, and it seems very unlikely that i will feel like yelling and/or blowing my nose at anyone. i could be jinxing myself by calling '07 the year of little holiday drama, but whatever: do your worst, baby jesus.

what i really want to talk about, though, is the whole orphan thanksgiving thing. i made a vague attempt to put together a virtual table last year (that is, to collect photos of far-flung friends' dishes and patch them together in a photomontage so we could rub virtual elbows), but i wasn't very aggressive about soliciting the food porn and ended up with but a few sexy shots of wabes's cookies and jen's gravy. we are thinking big this year, internets, and i am very serious about pretending to share a table with all of you! behold the orphan thanksgiving photo group (and come on in, or snap pics tomorrow, send them to me, and i'll upload for you)! hell, come on in even if you don't feel like taking pictures of food!

here's a bit of inspiration, also known as the earl grey tea cookies i made last year that were not, contrary to popular opinion, sausages.

these are not sausages.

you can top that, right? bring it!


hello, internets! i haven't died, but i've killed several long posts about how i turn into sulky mclonelypants around the holidays because i have a weird seasonal Adult Child of Divorce mourning cycle. i know you're dying to hear the whole story of how i threw a bona fide tantrum last year when my dad suggested we hang out with my stepfamily the day before thanksgiving, but i'm afraid you'll have to settle for the summary. if you like conflict, try the superest, one of my new daily reads: it's an ongoing duel between cartoonists (Player 1 draws a character with a power. Player 2 then draws a character whose power cancels the power of that previous character. Repeat.), and it's kookily great. my favorite thus far is the silent film director ("He won't hear your cries for mercy!"), who vanquished the foley brothers ("They pulled off that bank heist with just cellophane and frozen heads of lettuce.").

in addition to feeling sorry for myself, i've also been trying to get to the bottom of why the fact that joe and i are married is so very fascinating and/or shocking to people we meet (as a couple) at our local bar. it's common knowledge that generations x and y* are getting married later, but the median age for first-timers is only up to 25; though i was carded for cigarettes at duane reade two hours ago,** i'm obviously older than that. it's also common knowledge (thank you, darren star) that women in new york city are overwhelmingly single - in manhattan, only 34.8% of women in the 25 to 44 age bracket are hitched - but i think it's clear from the way joe and i act around each other that we've been together for a very long while (we're way past finishing each other's sentences; we spontaneously meow journey songs at the same time***), which typically implies marriage. i suppose we could look like the sort of people who cohabitate happily without The Man's shackles, but that's a relatively small portion of our demographic. so what gives?

the setting is the shocker, obviously: people don't expect to meet married couples in a bar, or to see a woman tag along for her husband's dart matches (for that matter, the girlfriends don't usually come either). but why not? we live in the city and we don't have a car; we can't exactly spend our weekends at ikea or on foliage tours. i'm starting to despise local restaurants and theaters (too expensive and crowded, respectively), so dinner and a movie is (boring and) out. on the other hand, joe and i both love playing darts (as does george, with whom we spend the majority of our free time), our local is a two-minute walk from our apartment, and our pints are dirt cheap. joe and i don't do everything as a unit, but i quite like that we share that. how is wanting to hang out with your partner exotic?

*by the by, i've never really figured out where i fall between the two. it's argued that x cuts off at 1980, but, um, i obviously don't remember watergate. where should the split be?

**and carded everywhere for everything when we were visiting jen last month. why so uptight, chicago?

***i know this is pathetic, i'm just saying.


luchador o'lantern (1 of 2)

feliz 'ween, internets - may all your soupbones and flying clotheslines find their marks.


as i was getting ready for work yesterday, i spied a lime-sized dust bunny on the floor next to one of joe's speakers, where the three-legged cat was perched like a gryphon. i picked it up to transfer to the trash and discovered that it was in fact a dead mouse; i shrieked so loudly that i'm surprised the missus didn't hear me from the shower. i have no problem with live mice, mind you (we hear them running inside our walls all the time, though we've never had evidence of one in the apartment) - grabbing a dead one with my bare hand, now, was unpleasant. i don't think the cats killed him: there were no signs of foul play and/or postmortem chewing. the mouse had, however, been carefully groomed - his fur was slick with cat spit. my pets haven't much in the way of killer instincts, then, but they can give prey beauty treatments. none of us - me, joe, or chuck and buck - would make it in the wild.

brain dump 010 [halloween, sort of]

jackie costume designs. jackie chan has a website for kids! a website for kids with a yearly halloween costume contest! a website for kids with a yearly halloween costume contest for which past entrants have drawn louis xiv jackie, thai woman jackie, and gandalf jackie! loving this site is exhausting me, but it's worth it!

results from record of the day's "what price did you choose?" (for radiohead's in rainbows album download) survey. i feel like less of a cheapskate (we paid £5) knowing that the self-reported average was £3.88. as one of the commenters quoted in pitchfork's piece on the survey noted, it's nice to have the opportunity to "tip" thom et al. if we decide the album merits it; i might go back and do just that.

black kids (formerly mata hari), the band responsible for dooce's "song of the year." it's called "i'm not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you," and it really is great - a mishmash of robert smith-ish yelps, shimmery cure-ish keyboards, and...generic happy shouting. the band's whole four-song ep, wizard of ahhhs, is downloadable from their myspace site (the link above). no word yet on how one would tip them, but they sure do seem to deserve it:
Black Kids are such good-natured pop-cultural sponges that they opened their fateful Athens Popfest set by reciting a screwball exchange from the Jim Henson-directed David Bowie fantasy film Labyrinth (a back-and-forth borrowed from Cary Grant's The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer).

rockula online, "what may well be the first page devoted to the 1990 cult-fave vampire musical." i mentioned this via twitter a few weeks ago, but it's hard to express the weird joy that is rockula in 140 characters or less. listen: it's about ralph, a vampire whose true love, thanks to a gypsy curse, is beaten to death with a hambone (by a pirate with a rhinestone-encrusted peg leg) once every 22 years. the pirate is thomas dolby ("she blinded me with science"); ralph's mother is toni basil ("mickey"). ralph is in a rap/rock band with bo diddley (really, behold: "he's the dj, i'm the vampire"). rockula never made the leap from vhs to dvd, but if you stumble across the cassette at your local rental place, internets, never let it go.


chicago, october 07 [part ii].

005 i want a ringer to accompany me to shows all the time. jen took us to the house theatre's the sparrow on friday night, and it was one of the best live performances i've seen in years (which actually does mean something, since we're comparatively good about getting out for music* and have seen a few notable plays in the last few months). the show was twee in the best possible way: as jen promised/warned us, hearts were worn on sleeves all 'round, but the house team's (elementary but) extremely clever staging and genuine exuberance (a far cry from the rote and hollow crap we see on broadway here) were absolutely winning. i was on the verge of tears fifteen minutes in. jen also let me sit up in the booth with her, guest headset and all, as she called a show (for another group) on saturday night; i've always known that jen is a drama ninja, but now that i've seen how coolly she delivers her team's cues, i suspect that she's a drama superhero ninja. i was so very proud.

006 apple picking in and of itself isn't all that exciting, especially since most of the trees (in both new york, per my coworker, and in southern wisconsin, as we now know) are stripped bare by mid-october and one is obliged to scoop up cheaters' apples from bins scattered around the orchard. it is extremely pleasant, however, to exit the city and leap around in the mud** for a few hours; even the rotting apples smelled good, and i got to continue my pastoral joe photo series.

007 the wedge is but one of many, many wisconsin foam hat styles, as we learned in the cheese ghetto surrounding mars' cheese castle in kenosha (just down the highway from apple holler): in our buzz through one shop alone, i saw cheese sombreros, top hats, baseball caps, and western wear. if i'd been able to find a cheese fez, i'd probably have bought it. i'm kicking myself a bit for passing on the cheese mardi gras beads.

008 if we were serious about owning a place before...age 40 or something, we'd move to chicago. even hipster-gentrified neighborhoods like wicker park offered three-unit buildings for around $700k (i don't even want to think about what a similar place in williamsburg would fetch these days).

on a non-chicago note, my family in southern california (los angeles and newport beach) is safely removed from the horrible fires we've all been hearing about. a friend's family has been evacuated from san diego, though, and jacob's parents are far closer to the irvine stuff than my father is - send gust-discouraging, wet blanket thoughts that way, please, o internets.

*by the by, i passed on my opportunity to buy tickets to see the spice girls this winter. they were going to be very expensive, and far away, and joe would have broken one of his own limbs to avoid having to come along, but i still feel that i've failed 1997 lauren.

**and hide in the corn. i really need to stop patterning my field trips on stephen king adaptations.


joe, seurat

chicago, october 07 [part i].

careful indie hair - short, razored, pixie cut - is serious business for the girls here. the el is a bumble and bumble ad, and/or a peter bjorn and john video. congratulations on your many hot ladies, illinois!

002 the el, speaking of, is pure disneyland, from the creaky, thunder mountain interchanges to the rickety turns that barely miss old pirates of the caribbean balconies. i've never understood why proximity to trains is such a big deal on chicago episodes of the how exorbitant is it where you live? real estate porn shows joe favors - living near the subway is no big deal for most new yorkers (i actually like being able to hear the trains when we're downstairs at pravda). i get it now - that noise would be awful.

003 jukeboxes are almost universally good. i got joy division two nights in a row, and the second was when we were at a microbrewery - can't see that happening at the anchor steam place in san francisco. microbrews are almost universally good, speaking of.

004 i can't get behind mies van der rohe. i enjoyed all of the chicago architecture foundation's river tour, but "less is more" is no good for me - my modern faves are goldberg's (river city, marina city). our guide claimed that he was once a janitor in mies's building, befriended his housekeeper, and ate his leftover roast beef (he lunched minimally as well, you see). if he's lying, it's an amusing lie.


say, have you ever seen my family's fake coat of arms? well, then.

the faux family seal (1 of 2)

as the story goes, when world war one went down and we were on the outs with deutschland, my great-grandfather (great-great-grandfather?) on my mom's side decided to...decrease the likelihood of personal political difficulties by making our extremely german family (the wagners) temporarily french (the de la tours). not one to rely solely on his ability to act french,* my ancestor backed up his cover story by creating a big, flashy signet ring with a coat of arms (the ol' tour) and a motto (tiens ta foi). who, after all, would bother to cook up fake heraldry and a fake slogan for a fake signet ring for the fakey mcfakersons? a shifty german, obviously, but it apparently worked (or was never needed at all, who knows). i'd forgotten the story of the bogus seal, but my mom used it on my birthday package,** which reminded me that i want desperately to inherit that ring. em and baby jo can forget it right now.

*i come from a long line of bad liars. on that side, at least - dad's is full of attorneys.

**how, one wonders, would old wagner feel about his motto stamped on a j.crew card? the american dream works in mysterious ways.


columbus circle, central park

speaking of blade runner, this was the view from my office this afternoon. i've always loved dramatic storms, but i love them even more when i'm twenty stories above the street - the corridors between the skyscrapers do such weird and wonderful things to rain and snow. can't beat the bilious, noirish sky, too - i get to pretend i'm a gumshoe rather than someone who's been hunting fashion people with a phone all day (how much is that sweater? how much is that sweater?!).

tom wondered what the cosmic pendulum would do after the stanford football win, and i was ready to say that i took care of the rotten end for all of us with my operatic vomiting the other night. i've got more to give, though, as i've come down with a terrifically sexy case of the flu (which had better be out of the way by the time we take off for chicago on tuesday; i am not at all interested in giving far-flung friends the plague in exchange for their hospitality). it's also looking like the broadway lockout (due to a labor dispute between the stagehands' union and a few owners who control most of the theaters) we've been hearing about all week might actually happen, in which case our plans to see the cyrano premiere tomorrow would be shot. lord knows i sympathize with underpaid drama types (ahem), but it's been a long time since i've seen jennifer garner in disguise; hmm.


such highs and lows in the nyc! on saturday night i was stuck to the couch, home early thanks to a bizarre reaction to a burrito (quod me nutrit me destruit, eh angelina?) and trying to watch television through my squinty allergic freak-eyes when mom called to tell me about the stanford-usc game.
With the win, Stanford football’s back on the national consciousness in a big way. “Cardinal Rule” proclaimed ESPN.com’s frontpage headline, “Absolutely Stunning” read SI.com’s. That the game went final at 11 p.m. Eastern made it the perfect lead story for that night’s TV shows and the next morning’s newspaper’s. Even the New York Times got in on the act, with the nation’s preeminent newspaper giving Stanford’s shocker top online billing, over stories on Medicare billing scams, and ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Congo.
we what? in something other than air hockey? fantastic! that excerpt from the daily is kind of disturbing (over iraq?),* but i loved the coverage of how excited the kids on campus were that night. they started a fire! my little successors!

on sunday george and joe and i went up to the ziegfeld theater for the super-special new-york-and-los-angeles-only screening of blade runner: the final cut (no voice-over, two unicorn scenes, no optimistic footage from the shining at the end). as we filed in, we saw

celebrities v. giant inflatable rats: straight outta 1982

LOU REED. i'm still working with the theory that i should never, ever say things to famous people, but i had a rough time with that one. we played the man's music at our wedding, internets (george maintains that "sweet jane" was a depressing choice, but it's one of my favorite songs)! the ziegfeld's crappy soda dispenser then cheated me out of the vat of diet coke with which i solemnize all movie theater visits, but that's 1) hardly a low compared to the previous night's death burrito and 2) watching blade runner with lou reed! 1982 indeed.

rats: 4.5
star: 11

yesterday i finally got my copy of the learning to love you more book, with a note from the publisher saying that though they didn't end up using a photo of my banner, hey, thank you for permission anyway, and here's a 'thank you' freebie. i'm disappointed (particularly because a friend's project wasn't included either, and i like hers more than i like mine), but the gesture was nice. one of the concluding essays mentioned me and my phrase (which had been my little sister's idea), though, so hey! her text got used in an art book, which one could argue is a high to make up for what we did to her football team. how about that!

how did the cosmic pendulum treat you this weekend, internets? did you know that it tried to wallop jen with catastrophic weather for the chicago marathon, and that she finished anyway? my college roommates are superheroes, you know.

*and okay, the copy editing - let's not talk about it.


after waiting a few months for a surgeon who took my insurance to join my dermatologist's practice, i finally (and with no fanfare) got my Suspicious Moles removed last night. i'd never had stitches before, so i was quite fascinated by the weird twangs and tugs coming from over my shoulder (once my concerns that i wouldn't be able to throw darts while sporting sutures were assuaged). i finally realized why it was so compelling as i was going to bed last night: the crafter becomes the crafted, i whispered to joe.

i was stuck in the waiting room for two and a half hours, which gave me time to catch up on rumpled back issues of time and newsweek. the latter mentioned an online piece i then read this morning: "love me, love my tofu," on how "for vegans, it ain't easy dating green."
No longer is it enough to share an interest in piña colada or getting caught in the rain—today’s singles want to know whether potential partners are fit and how often they work out, among other personal details. And then there’s the friction between vegans and vegetarians.

It might sound counterintuitive; after all, neither group eats meat. But for many vegans—who also eschew animal products like the dairy and eggs eaten by vegetarians—love may not be enough to conquer ideology.
you know why? because some vegans are assholes. i should qualify that a bit: i admire their commitment, and i know several who are fantastic people. i've encountered others who proselytize in a way that would be wildly socially inappropriate if they were talking about anything other than animal rights - like, say, the magical love of jesus.
“I’m in a relationship with a murderer,” bemoans Carl, one of many vegans who wrote in to the “Vegan Freak” podcast for romantic advice. Carl, who didn’t give his last name, says his girlfriend is a regular vegetarian, and their differences are becoming a major source of tension. In the vegan world that’s not an uncommon dilemma.
you know what, carl? your girlfriend should leave you for paul williams.
“I know it sounds corny,” says Paul Williams, a 35-year-old vegetarian in Atlantic City, N.J. “But basically I want to date someone with a good heart that can understand why I’ve chosen to be a vegetarian.”

brain dump 009 [early october]

365 portraits, up-and-coming nyc photographer bill wadman's one-a-day project. his shots are mostly of assorted new yorkers, though the occasional celebrity pops up - see 05 september (buzz aldrin) and 25 september (maggie!).

vegetarian shepherd's pie recipe. this required a bit of tweaking. we doubled the pie's filling but only used a single batch of mashed potatoes, so there was a layer on top rather than all the way 'round. we also threw in two large diced carrots and 2 tbsp fresh basil (instead of the dried), and simmered on high for 25 minutes rather than 15: 3 cups of wine (nearly a whole bottle) and 3 cups of vegetable stock (we used the better than boullion vegetable base) take a long time to cook down. result: two full pies (we made two so that joe could stir some ground beef into his version), awesome welcome-to-fall leftovers for a week. probably the best veg shepherd's pie i've ever had, and i know my potatoes and stew, internets.

silent majority, "citizens against car alarms." i'm not (yet?) prepared to outlaw the things, but i've been inspired to acquaint myself with the intricacies of new york noise laws. last night joe (politely) asked the guys at the car rental place down the street to, y'know, maybe do something about the alarms that have been sounding every 30 seconds almost every evening (they park rental cars up and down our block at night). their response: "but how else are we going to find the cars?" they hit the alarms on purpose instead of walking down the street, you see. i might hate them more than i hated the people who'd block our driveway (and our costly parking space) on purpose in san francisco; the jury's still out.

"you, bill clinton and a bowl of chips," on increasingly chatty (read: creepy) messages from democratic candidates. the blogger suggests that the "howdy" tone differentiates the notes from spam; "[obama's] campaign also cleverly put a “Re:” in front of another recent email, presumably to make recipients feel like they were already invested in the conversation." ah, but spammers started doing that years ago; "Re:" is automatically spam unless i recognize the sender. i did read and enjoy the clinton note, as it was amusing to see bill whore so officially (if you donate to hillary's campaign in the next while, you're eligible to win a date to watch one of the debates with him). then, this weekend, i got a note from john grisham (subject line: "Fwd: Carrots") about how he will also be my date, and oh, hillary says bill should be eating carrots rather than a bowl of chips. um, what? i feel like writing the campaign to let them know off-putting this stuff is, but knowing the wiles of the clinton team, i'm sure some demographic must be eating it up. still, james carville would never have stood for it.


as i mentioned a few days ago, joe hooked up with the local C team for the nydo's tuesday night league. i was worried that george and i had railroaded him into it - there's more than a little pageant mom in the way we deconstruct him when he plays. oh, he's doing the pre-throw flutter - he should lay off the five and just splash when he goes for the bull. i would have wanted to come along anyway, since we both know all of the guys he plays with and hey, the home matches are at our favorite bar, but i owed him the support regardless. luckily (pathetically?), darts-watching is great fun (if not the great-great fun of playing). there's the amusing transformation of big gruff pub regulars into whispery gossiping ladies - i'm solid enough on game strategy (and whispery gossiping ladies) that i can play along for that part (and the list-making and all-star scorekeeping, most arcane). then there's the unabashedly gleeful way they celebrate - one of joe's teammates, a greek guy who had been grumbling about getting hit by a taxi that afternoon when he was on his bike, squeezed his eyes shut and danced like a leprechaun when joe got a crucial ton in his last round of 501. full-fledged bear hugs all 'round when they won the match in the last game. i don't mind that i look like a groupie for coming along - i'll be asking to play in the spring. it's nice to feel like we're part of the neighborhood (yeah, i watched a lot of cheers at a formative age).

joe was in such a fine mood after the win that he's letting me post his spam poem. it has a great-escape*-liner-notes feel, maybe, but i think it's really about the wonder of darts.

Your friend is here

Czech Olympic Committee annihilates
Free games for all
Our present for your health

Join the Growing Fans of Dry Cleaning Bag
Big size - is success
Make your fat friends envy you

Contemplating Suicide?
Summer is almost here, be ready
We have what you need

Hey Ervin
You have got to read this before Tuesday
Big Day Tuesday

*and what's with damon albarn dissing that album? it's always been one of my favorites.


a post of imelda's turned me on to "you are what you watch" from alessandra stanley in today's times. as imelda put it, "[B]efore I start getting crap for talking about TV all the time, now that the other three networks (or should I say, the good networks) are beginning their seasons in the coming week, read this." it is quite the feel-good read for those of us who love the tube:
A favorite show is a tip-off to personality, taste and sophistication the way music was before it became virtually free and consumed as much by individual song as artist. Dramas have become more complicated; many of the best are serialized and require time and sequential viewing. If anything, television has become closer to literature, inspiring something similar to those fellowships that form over which authors people say they would take to the proverbial desert island. (People who say “Ulysses,” on the ground that it would use up more time than almost any other novel, would also probably bring “The Wire.”)


Television used to be dismissed by elitists as the idiot box, a sea of mediocrity that drowns thought and intelligent debate. Now people who ignore its pools and eddies of excellence do so at their own peril. They are missing out on the main topic of conversation at their own table.
the paragraphs on battlestar galactica are especially ego-boosting, as it's our current show of choice (i'm going to try to be starbuck for halloween, which will be either fantastic or deeply embarrassing). of course, the ego boost is all about the elitism stanley mentions near the end of the piece:
Before the Internet, iPhones and flash drives, people jousted over who was into the Pixies when they were still a garage band or who could most lengthily argue the merits of Oasis versus Blur. Now, for all but hardcore rock aficionados, one-upmanship is more likely to center around a television series — like metaphysical clues buried in “Lost,” whether the current “Battlestar Galactica” is an affront to the 1978 original (some bloggers sneeringly refer to the current incarnation as Gino, short for “Galactica in name only”* ) or who discovered “Flight of the Conchords” when it was a comedy team performing in concerts, not an HBO series.
good tv isn't really new, nor is the concept of water cooler and/or status shows, but its influence in, say, my office is still pretty incredible. when i was hiring someone for my old job, my cube neighbors less-than-half-jokingly said i should try to find someone who watches lost, the office, and 30 rock. i did, as it happens, and her happy patter with them emphasizes my comparative tv torpitude (i watch only lost, and i usually watch it a day late, which disqualifies me from the first half hour of chat on thursday mornings). pop media fixations are par for the course at a mainstream magazine like ours, of course - our tuesday production meeting began this week with the deputy editor leading the editorial staff in a lengthy facts of life singalong. does this happen at your office? and hey, what do you watch?

*they're right about that, thank goodness.


for most issues of the ladymag, i review a book or two. this happens in more or less the same way every month: a colleague swings by with a handful of advance copies, and i grab the ones that seem least likely to be chick lit. sometimes she hasn't finalized her lineup and i'll be influencing whether or not we feature the books at all. recently we've been skipping this step, and i agree to read things we already know we'll feature. that's a good thing and a bad thing: i know my piece will be published, but i also know i have to say something positive no matter what (our entertainment coverage amounts to recommendations rather than reviews - the section is so small that we don't really have space to tell people what they should avoid reading). we also don't really have space to say much period (these things are 50 words long at best), so these reviews are basically title/author + major plot point + short string of compliments. you can tell i've had trouble with a book when the compliments are about the cover art. what a hat!

so i've had a lot of practice, is what i'm saying, with blurbs. if i somehow became a celebrated author and up-and-coming writers started asking me to add pleasant sentiments and my name to their dust jackets, i could totally hook them up.

i was poking around online the other day to check on a book i'd reviewed a few months ago. i'd actually enjoyed reading it, so now that it's available to the public, i wanted to see if it was doing well. you can see where this is going, right? the first editorial review on its amazon page (after the publishers weekly paragraph) was by me (attributed to ladymag, of course, but written by me). i then went to the author's website, and same deal: my blurb first, above the washington post, the san francisco chronicle, and a few dozen others. i suspect it's on the book itself, or will be. um, glad i could be of help? i always assumed i'd know i was blurbing if i ever did it, but it can apparently be a totally unconscious thing. are the others written by people like me, in situations like mine? don't trust blurbs, internets! or, trust blurbs, but not mine, unless i've told you i wasn't rewritten and/or forced to be nice. maybe we can have a code word: if a paragraph contains the word peanut, it's a lie.

that one excepted, of course.


101 in 1001: 077 visit a working farm [completed 09.16.07]

wee sheep

nothing says "onset of autumn in new york city" quite like a...county fair. i've had my eye on the queens county farm museum for months now, and i can spend inordinate amounts of time ogling baby animals and/or majestic vegetables, so this was clearly the weekend to make the trip. we figured it would take a while to get from manhattan to a working farm, and we weren't wrong: we spent half an hour on the E train and another forty minutes on a bus that stopped every 500 feet. joe gets the supportive spouse of the day award for coming along, since as far as i can tell, he shares neither of my fascinations. no, that's unfair: he appreciates cute beasts every once in a while. he doesn't tear up when he sees small sheep, though, which is probably normal and healthy. i do wish he'd been willing to stick around for the pig races.

points of interest at the queens county fair:

the petting zoo. i paid an extra $2 to mill around with a bunch of three-year-olds and let animals make out with my hand. i'm not sure that it occurred to the staff that even goats will get full and misanthropic after two days of constant feeding (everyone got a big cup of alfalfa pellets), so most of the little guys were hiding while their greedier parents jostled for treats, but i had to say hello anyway. then i couldn't touch anything for two hours because the bathroom line was huge and i was covered with chunky goat spit.

the livestock tent and craft barn. big advantage of hitting a citified fair rather than a full-fledged state fair: the livestock handlers are hobbyists rather than professional farmers, so their animals are pets, not food. it's possible that someone will eventually eat the stupendous pigs that were snorking around next to the petting zoo, but it seems unlikely. this is what i tell myself, anyway. the craft barn was full of the mean needlepoint ladies i bitched about a few posts ago, but it also had puppies in hats and an unironically awesome bloody needlepoint jesus. the simplicity of the jesus (half cross stitch all the way!) plus the cheekiness of the knitted anatomical heart i spied next to the puppy give me hope that something like my debbie harry piece might pass muster next year. i would like a county fair ribbon, even an honorable mention (which i suspect is what the judges issued to things they didn't want to actually compliment).

the bavarian beer garden. lo, something joe actually asked to visit! it was two in the afternoon, and we were still recovering from last night's darts'n'pints training session (aside: the missus is now an official member of the local darts league. though george is storming an irish castle this week, he and i will be shocking and aweing local pubs with our cheers for joe soon), so we took it easy on the beer. we ja!ja!ja!ed heartily with the polka band to make up for it. there is something about gawky teenage boys leaping around in lederhosen that just makes my heart smile.

'the amazing maize maze.'

101 in 1001: 055 walk through a corn maze [completed 09.16.07]

randall flagg

hot double-item-completing action! this is what hitting queens was all about. it was a beautiful day, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, and joe was a good sport about my constant stephen king jokes. totally worth it.


curse you, berlin, for shrinking my posse! wabes left for germany yesterday, and while i'm thrilled for her and know her year of research will be fantastic (she's too modest to say so, but our girl had fellowship committees competing for her), i couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for myself - and a bit sheepish. i've grown so accustomed to having my girlfriends scattered across the country that i never quite wrapped my brain around how close she was. we met up every few weeks, sure, but now that she's on the other side of the atlantic - i feel like i pissed away so many opportunities. i'm a huge flake, operatically (and genuinely) affectionate in person but virtually unreachable for making plans or catching up from afar. i could make excuses for it - i'm awkward on the phone, i have limited internet access, i'm nesting with the cats and the wife - but at the end of the day, i'm just flaky.

the war on this begins with our trip to chicago next month to see jen and tom: in jen's case, i've been promising a long-distance visit since, well, about 1997. i will also return phone calls, make concrete weekend plans, write beautiful letters, and send a boy to the cratchits' with a turkey! really, internets: i'm going to work on this. and wabes - you're missed.

from lovely ladies to nasty men: pica (the former) comments on the recent release of jack kerouac (the latter)'s on the road (original recipe):
[S]ounds like a marvelously ugly, hateful all-American text. Tasty, like Rocky Mountain oysters dipped in ketchup. I never made it past Kesey and Ferlinghetti as a teenager: I don't think Kerouac or Cassady ever seemed much like kindred spirits; they seemed more antsy than zany. On the road with a bunch of semi-closeted misogynists? Sounds pretty boring to me. I think I'll read popular science books and Camus instead.
kerouac was, well, a marvelously ugly, hateful all-american, which brings me to a question pica asked a few months ago:
Could you read, and love, a literary work by someone whom you personally know to be a crappy human being?
my answer at the time was OH HELL NO! - or it would have been if i could comment on vox blogs (you have to have an account). my answer with old jack kerouac in mind is - apparently yes. i've little (personal or professional) patience for the beats (burroughs in particular - if i had a time machine, i'd head for tangier in the '50s and punch him in the face), but under the influence of my hippie freshman roommate, i read a shitload of their stuff (and wrote several papers on them). kerouac, the chigger, got under my skin: to this day, for me, two of the most resonant passages in modern american lit are his (one from on the road, one from dharma bums). it breaks my heart to know that you'll never read on the road, pica - it's a frequently tiresome book from a frequently tiresome man from a fr - anyway, but its moments of brilliance are more than worth a few hours of holding one's nose.


101 in 1001: 093 attend a lecture at the 92nd street Y [completed 09.05.07]

101 in 1001: 093 attend a lecture at the 92nd st Y

michael palin and lorne michaels, boom goes the dynamite! i'd forgotten about this list item altogether for a while, and when i first consulted the Y's fall lineup i thought i might have to sit through an evening with don delillo in the name of progress. fortunately his event isn't a lecture. lorne michaels interviewing michael palin wasn't a lecture either, you say? ah, but the event calendar disagreed!

as michael palin has been reading from his new book (diaries 1969-1979: the python years) all over town this week - a friend of ours interviewed him about it a few hours before we saw him, actually - it probably wasn't very clever to pay $26 a pop for the Y event. i wanted to have a look at the facilities, though, and they are in fact lovely - hey, those panels!* when my poetry and joe's government work have made us wealthy, we'll become members and attend so many of these things that their individual prices will be laughable. they'll be free for members, actually, but that's not the point.

financial issues aside, who could regret going uptown for the IT'S man? were it not for his efforts (and for mtv's late-night python marathons back in the day), i'd never have convinced anyone to date me in high school. in college, my mom got first dibs on the guys in her freshman dorm for being the only woman who could play bridge; thirty years later, i was the only girl who knew the lyrics to the lumberjack song. a bit easier, really, and the advantage disappeared at college, but thank you, fellows.

*yes, it's pathetic that i snapped an empty stage. it's tough to sneak a photo when one can't disable one's flash, internets, and i didn't want to be rude (or kicked out).


brain dump 008 [another month bites the dust]

learning to love you more (the book) (yes, again), coming to...something near you september 20! neither amazon nor miranda july can tell me whether or not the book will include contributions from me or jen, and that makes me sad; i also can't really figure out if it's going to be in local bookstores. so many mysteries with the twee collaborative art.

someecards, "when you care enough to hit send." i was quite pleased to receive this one from george the other day; i am getting good at bar games (though it's been a while since i've really schooled joe, who was invited to join the team at our local pub). i sent this in return.

why blockbuster is gaining on netflix. count me with the scores of skeptics who commented on this salon piece; i live a few hundred feet from a blockbuster, so it is in fact much faster to return a movie to them than it is to send one back to netflix, but 1) that blockbuster is a joyless place and i don't wish to browse for exchanges there, 2) i object to the way the company censors some films, 3) i think they're still hunting my ass for some accidental late fee i incurred in 2003, which is unsporting, and 4) their website does not please the eye. fellow online movie renters, have you tried the blockbuster? has it met your needs?

cyrano de bergerac, starring jennifer garner and kevin kline. crap - i'm going to have to go see something on broadway. listen, cyrano has been one of my favorite plays since junior high - when, um, i impersonated the title character for a world history project (my nose kept threatening to fall off as i spoke - very awkward). also, the translation/adaptation is by anthony burgess! also also, as my father and i know, a great nose is the banner of a great man, a generous heart, a towering spirit, an expansive soul.

rick roll, noun. "When what you think is a link to something you want to see actually directs you to a video of Rick Astley singing 'Never Gonna Give You Up.' This is common in the WoW [world of warcraft] community: Awww! Rick rolled again, thought this was the new movie trailer." such a kind, gentle alternative to goatse! what really pleases me about rick rolling is the improbability of it cropping up in gaming forums (presumably populated at least in part by The Youth of Today rather than people our age) in the first place: what made them choose rick astley, of all people? there's hope for the future, maybe.

building on this week's theory that some things were better in the good old days, i'm on the verge of announcing that there is no good thrift shopping left in new york. okay, no good thrift shopping left in manhattan south of 90th street or in williamsburg. wabes wrote this morning with a request for (inexpensive) used furniture expertise for a newly local friend, and i nearly drew a blank. the place on 17th that yielded us two leather barrel chairs for $95 in '03 now wants thousands of dollars for miami vice-ish lacquered vanities, and housing works locations all over town have started auctioning their really good stuff online instead of keeping it in the store - so unless one of their very savvy merchandise people falls asleep on the job and the vintage hunters who turn up at the crack of dawn are away in the hamptons for the weekend, there's virtually no chance of finding something awesome and affordable in a random search. that's the heart and soul of thrift shopping, man.

this post is making me feel like andy rooney.


welcome back to kidchamp unplugged! i think our next door neighbor's wireless access, which he's been kind enough to share with us in exchange for picking up his mail, is permanently buggered, so we're reduced to making hay while the occasional open local channel shines. we could pony up for our own service, but i think this is the universe's way of telling me that i shouldn't be playing web games in silence when my husband is sitting two feet away. i have fond memories of the months in san francisco when we didn't even have a television; the cold war housewife who lives in my gall bladder secretly loved listening to the 2000 presidential debates on the radio while washing the dishes by hand. the news stories about al gore's wooden stage presence and haughty reaction shots were totally lost on me.

speaking of my inner housewife, i felt ancient as my assistant watched me unwrap a package from ebay this morning (our department doesn't get a lot of swag in the mail, so all news is big news). i don't really know what could have given her the impression that i'm still a zesty twentysomething - a karen o bong? - but i know discontinued fiesta ware didn't do the trick, nor did my visible annoyance when i found a flea bite on the underside of one of the pieces (simply liking old china isn't that bad; worrying about its quality for collection purposes, on the other hand...). this is, i think, what happens when frustrated nesters can't afford to live in entire houses apartments of their very own and tinker with normal things like fixtures and wallpaper: they fixate where they can, like on where their leftover chili lives. my leftover chili has very classic digs, so's you know.

at the other end of the inner housewife spectrum, the legendary embroidery goddess jenny hart wrote a solid guest column for getcrafty on why most needlework shop owners are stone cold bitches. my words, not hers: actually she talks about going to the national needlearts association (tnna) trade show and how, though a lot of mom 'n pop stores are going under, a lot of the folks in the business want nothing to do with people like her [and me].
I stood up and spoke to the group about the vibrant and active DIY market that's booming elsewhere- to a roomful of blank looks. And, a few who didn't like the suggestion that they were, possibly, just maybe, slipping out of touch with a very important market. I realized they didn't know where the new needleworkers and crafters had gone. But how do you tell them?


I also learned that 'crafting' was a dirty word to them (they are 'needleworkers', while 'crafting' suggests projects with popsicle sticks), and they don't spend a whole lot of time reading BUST, ReadyMade, CRAFT or looking at the interweb for alternative resources outside of the ones they already know. They need serious help. I was going to have to do double DIY duty: educate these retailers on how to attract our market ("Don't fear tattoos and pink hair! New needleworkers might have facial piercings -this is okay!") and appeal to our own community on why we should cross the thresholds of the shops that seem so, you know....squaresville to many of us.

there are several angles here: first is the old refrain about how alternacrafters don't get much respect from more traditional practitioners (it's not just the mean women at the needlepoint stores i visit here in the city - even the posters over at getcrafty, usually a fairly liberal bunch, leap at each other's throats every now and again when the legitimacy of "hip" work is championed or challenged). for practitioners of popular crafts like knitting, feeling the hate just means that you switch to a supplier whose personality jives with yours; for people like the needleworkers, who don't really have a forest of options, this means that 1) you lose out on potentially helpful advice from people who know a lot more about what you're doing than you do (my bummer) and 2) you go out of business once your elderly clientele dies (the vendors' bummer). i loved going to craft stores with my mom when i was little, goggling at the gorgeous materials and chattering about my projects to anyone who'd listen; if i found a place today that generated the same sort of excitement in me, i'd spend money there just to support the atmosphere. i miss it.


i need to stop starting things.

books i'm reading:

a free life (ha jin)
spud (john van de ruit)
haruki murakami and the music of words (jay rubin)
reading comics (douglas wolk)

these are books i'm actively reading, not books on my nightstand windowsill that i pick up once or twice a week; there are about a dozen more of those, jostling for space with the air conditioner and the alarm clock and water-warped back issues of the new yorker. the first two titles will be out of my hair by monday, as i need to review them for the november issue of the magazine, but this is still out of hand. even the cats know it: i tried to bring a copy of the clinton chronicle (our neighborhood paper) home to read the other day, and it sat on the corner of the credenza for 1.5 seconds before chuck leapt up and vomited on the front page.

craft projects in progress:

kathleen hanna needlepoint
stag beetle needlepoint
denim quilt
knitted quilt
supersecret baby gift

this too is silliness. the baby gift in particular should be out of the way by now: i find it terribly embarrassing that my friend is making a person faster than i'm able to make a present for that person. my big craft issue is that i design much more effectively than i execute. though i know just what the stag beetle's head should look like, for instance, i've spent hours and hours filling in the areas around his legs to avoid having to commit to specific stitches up top. on the quilts, i got very excited about what i wanted to do and plunged ahead without bothering to firm up my techniques. i should probably have known how to thread my sewing machine and purl, respectively, before settling in for the long haul. that's more than half the fun of casual craft, though - the occasional bliss of finding that improv along the way resulted in something far cooler than what you'd intended to make.

how predictable is it that a post about overload and unfinished things is itself turning into an unfinished thing? release it, the slacker on my left shoulder says, release it and hope for that improv effect you were talking about.

what are you juggling, internets? how do you decide which of the leisure things get attention?


brain dump 007 [late summer slump]

mexican grilled corn. one of two unhealthy taste fixations joe and i picked up from cafe habana in soho; the other is the michelada (a savory cocktail with beer, lime, salt, and copious hot sauce). the tyler florence recipe linked above is pretty good, even if, say, one is too lazy to buy and grate fresh parmesan and opts instead to use the three-year-old kraft stuff in the back of the fridge. the wednesday farmer's market at my office (?) has been featuring some fantastic (and fantastically cheap) fresh corn, so we'll be fattening ourselves with this for the rest of the summer.

the new pornographers' challengers, streaming for free via myspace (via jacob). i can't say i'm comfortable with buying the album at target for the special price of $9.99; i do hope the corporate promotional partnership means that NP are making some substantial dough, though. how do you guys feel about the indie bands and the corporate partnerships? should i care that, for example, wilco pretty much handed sky blue sky to volkswagen?

turf of gangs and gangsters, a new york times "weekend explorer" piece on the history of hell's kitchen. it focuses more on the "hell's canyon" skyscraper effect than on the northward ooze of chelsea (a store called something like "pocket pooches" opened up the street last month), but there are a few passages that hint at it:
One block east, the Mr. Biggs Bar & Grill at 10th Avenue and West 43rd Street is on the site of a dive bar, the 596 Club, which Mr. Coonan owned in the 1970s. In 1977 he and his crew murdered and dismembered the loan shark Ruby Stein there. The torso was later retrieved from the East River.

Mr. Robbins said macabre stories about the 596 Club still float around Hell’s Kitchen. Old-timers remember jars behind the bar that held the severed fingers of guys who had crossed the Westies. There’s the one about gangsters rolling a severed head down the bar.

“I’ve heard a lot of that kind of stuff,” T. J. English, author of “The Westies,” said in a recent interview. “Normally you’d dismiss it as absurd, but since it was the Westies, who knows? That place was certainly the proverbial bucket of blood.”

Scott Rudnick, owner of Mr. Biggs, said the place had its share of ghosts when he first opened 13 years ago, but the introduction of karaoke nights “spooked the spooks out.”

mud, sweat and tears pottery. i was reminded of this studio's existence when i dragged a bag of old clothes down tenth avenue to the salvation army last weekend. i'd always thought it was a color me mine-style, paint-someone-else's-crap place, but it's an actual studio, and i think i need to take a class there. classes are $400, and i haven't got that, so i'll sock money away for a while and return to the whim when i've got a plausible stash. i have a secret theory that i'll take a bunch of these classes and be able to start making stuff like this,* and while that will never happen, i'll have a hobby to chat with my sister (baby jo, a badass ceramicist) about. that's also good.

pat kiernan's huge apartment. i've never been fond of cribs-style love letters to celebrities' homes, but i am so pleased to learn that pat kiernan, beloved host of the local morning news, has a righteous pad on the upper west side. it's as oddly endearing and canadian as pat himself: two of the family's favorite things are a painting of dancing pigs and a giant mountie.

one in ten benefit auction. beginning this sunday on ebay, a sale of beautiful handmade things to support eireann's mom (who had an aneurysm and a stroke this summer, and whose insurance isn't covering her bills). great cause, gorgeous art and craft - bid, bid!

how have you been passing the time, o internets? i've been up to my eyeballs in work at casa de ladymag for the past few weeks, but the load, she is lightening, and i plan to celebrate that all weekend.

*speaking of diana fayt's (amazing, amazing) ceramics, she's going to have stuff at candystore in the mission soon - you san francisco types should get on that. it's gross that i'm slowly turning into a shopping blogger, but pimping independent design is at least slightly acceptable, right?


joe and i are celebrating the big oh-one next week, and i've been trying to come up with definitive statements on what it's like to have been married for a year. it's surprisingly tough: we dated for seven and a half years (and lived together for most of that) before making it legal, as my grandfather put it, so it's not like we're just learning to play house. a thundering, is-that-you-god? voice in my head said YOUNG WOMAN, YOU'RE GOING TO MARRY THIS GUY AND IN FACT SHOULD PROBABLY PROPOSE TO HIM RIGHT NOW on a november night back in '99, so i can't say that i've been dealing with newfound feelings of solemnity now that new york makes us file our taxes together,* either.

marriage is...handy at blockbuster, where the clerks have finally accepted that joe and i share an account (saying "it's under my boyfriend's name" scandalized them for years; husband is the magic video rental word, even though we still don't have the same last name). it's awkward at work, sometimes, as apparently no one in the history of women's magazines has ever been hitched for a whole year without reproducing (i'm afraid to reveal that we're not trying - saying that aloud would probably crack the walls). it makes me feel old, but lots of things make me feel old these days (my sisters' ages, uncomfortable shoes, the continued existence of the olsen twins); that's not particularly significant.

as a pre-wedding, sorta-shower gift, my aunt caroline gave us a pair of flameless candles. you'd think that removing fire from the candle experience would make it less exciting, but not so, not so: they make excellent reading lights, and i love being able to just leave one on my pillow if i wander out of bed (as i do quite often) to watch the rain, get a glass of water, what have you. what i've really come to love is walking back into the room, to the pool of light in the corner: joe asleep at one pillow, a cat curled like a potato bug on each of the other two. my guys!, i exclaim in my head. my family!** though i didn't know it then, that's why i asked paul to read that wallace stevens poem at our ceremony: how high that highest candle lights the dark. it's like that.

*which, by the way, was such a letdown; being married saved us a grand total of about $100 for fiscal year 2006. a marriage license costs $35 and a ceremony at city hall is $25; all told, i've saved more at barneys warehouse sales.

**i always want to take a picture of this, but it'd never work; everyone would wake up and howl.


hey, the wall street journal's giving the times's "modern love" column a run for its money! in this weekend's edition, "'til tech do us part" -
Marriage counselors say they're increasingly hearing couples vent about electronic clashes. More than that, they say, the inherent solitude of Web surfing -- keeping tastes in music, movies and literature locked on their own computers instead of visible on the bookshelf -- sometimes adds to intimacy problems. "People have grown up in a more isolated world, so that coming together to share domestic life is a bit more difficult," says Danille Drake, a marriage counselor in suburban Washington.

Of course, sharing can create its own problems in the event a couple breaks up. Peggy and Michael Andrzejczyk, a recently divorced Detroit-area couple, are feeling the digital fallout. Peggy, 50, and Michael, 49, are still using their joint email address, although it's meant they've had to see each other's online dating alerts. They split amicably, Ms. Andrzejczyk says, but it was still strange when he remarked on her potential dates: "That's a little uncomfortable, when your soon-to-be ex-husband says, 'Hey, there's nice guys on there. I like Number Three.' "

For Derek Powazek, 34, there are limits to what he'll share with his wife, Heather. The San Francisco couple has separate blogs; his focuses on digital media, hers on photography. Mr. Powazek says he sometimes sees her quoting his best jokes on her blog, and he tells her not to steal his material (she credits him after the fact). As for sharing one blog, the idea "never came up," he says. "It would be like saying, 'Let's share our underwear.' "

interestingly (or not), there's little or no friction between joe and me on any of those fronts. it could be that we're old enough that we didn't really come of age in said "isolated world" - hell, we didn't even bother to get cell phones until after college (which is part of why i'm so amused when parents bitch on the local news about how vital their grade schoolers' phones are. i say gps-enabled anklets are much less disruptive in class, and child molesters can't use them to text your kid).

we also aren't very proprietary about some of the most 'personal' gadgets in the piece. the ipod i got for christmas a few years ago, for example, promptly became community property, so worrying about one person's itunes infecting the other's device (a big issue for one of the couples profiled) is totally moot. where else would the music go? also, is it so hard to blip past a rogue track or, damn, just make your own playlist? i admit that sharing would be more difficult if either of us cared to use the ipod to work out or walk around town, but we hook it up to the stereo when we have people over (and take turns deejaying), and joe uses it on planes, and that's about it. on things we do use frequently and don't use in the same way, like the netflix subscription (joe will not watch my leprechaun or dekalog picks, understandably, and i have to be in a special mood for hitchcock or a western), i think common couple courtesy sorts everything out: he's got access to the queue just like i do, and i make sure he wants to watch whatever's up if i'm about to get something new and he'll be around to see it (i save the lauren-only picks for when he's out of town, say, or at the gym). there aren't, admittedly, many joe-only things on the list, but i seem to care more about it than he does. i can't imagine acting like the guy in the wsj piece who wakes up extra-early so that he can knock his wife's movies out online at the last possible minute; are we sure their problem is technological?

the one thing i won't share: an e-mail address. i don't mean that i need to have a supersecret way to communicate - joe has all of my passwords, and my cell phone doesn't even have one - i mean that joeandlauren4eva@gmail.com would be really scary.
Partly because online activities can feel so solitary, some couples look for ways to achieve togetherness in their digital lives. Sherry and John Cheung created a joint "johnandsherry" email address. Ms. Cheung, 28, says the shared address makes her feel more like she's part of an official couple.

"It's a 'We're the Cheungs' type of thing," says the telecommunications manager in San Ramon, Calif. She says she's more likely to use it when she's writing her married friends (many of whom also share addresses) because they understand she's operating as part of a unit now.

But Ms. Cheung's friend Hui-Lin Grecian balks at writing to "johnandsherry." Ms. Grecian says she worries Mr. Cheung might forget to pass along a message if he checks the email first or might feel left out if she fails to include a greeting for him, as well. "A little more thought has to go into it," Ms. Grecian says.
GROSS. we have an official couple thing, too: i call it an apartment.

as for the blog, sadly, it is like underwear-sharing: joe is perfectly welcome to use it, if the spirit moves him, but he ain't interested. and i don't take it personally.

how about you? david and meg, paul and pica, kolz and wabes - what's it like to co-blog, or to have co-blogged? folks in general, do you play well with others?


brain dump 006 [hey, august]

worst casserole recipe of all time: combine 1 cup uncooked wild rice (rinsed), 1 lb. fresh mushrooms (sliced thick), 1 cup onion (minced), and 3 cloves of garlic (minced) in a 3 quart casserole dish; add 3 cups of vegetable broth, cover, and bake at 350 degrees for an hour and a half.
excellent if predictable and not particularly healthy fix for worst casserole recipe of all time: dish up a bowl of baked casserole, stir in a dollop of sour cream, and salt and pepper the shit out of resulting mixture.

flexible pet ownership. like zip cars, but with live dogs! after paying $150 to register, $99.95 for yearly account maintenance, $49.95 per month, and $24.95 per weekday (plus applicable sales tax), you can rent your very own dog. wow, so people who aren't committed and/or responsible enough to have a pet of their own can bypass hanging out with the lonely dogs at the pound and hire animals like bikes! apparently the FLEXPETZ dogs are rescues and/or need homes, and i'm all for them getting attention, but implying that an animal's company is a commercial product seems, to me, like a good way to encourage people to treat them like objects. that business plan makes my skin crawl.

101 in 1001: 024 grow kitchen-worthy herbs from seeds [completed may 07]
i'm calling this one; it never got to the explosion-of-herbs stage i was hoping for, but we did manage to garnish a wee salad with the basil shoots i thinned on day 29, and that's a technical pass, i say; the rest of the basil croaked a month ago and i don't have much of an interest in sending away for more of those weird chia growing sponges. melissa has since given me a bunch of really kick-ass dirt (she and our friend dave actually do their own composting, the rock stars) and some carrot and lettuce seeds, though, so i'll certainly experiment again. i just won't, um, link said experiment to a public list.

the mole. joe and i just finished the first disc of season 1, and god, that show holds up (we watched season 2 when it aired on tv back in - '02? - but had never seen season 1). i'm glad anderson cooper got to get back to the casting of the news, but he was a fantastically arch host. why the long form game show evolved into shit like age of love and couldn't have spawned a bunch of spy-themed mole spinoffs is beyond me.

the eyelash perm (at last!). "first, lashes are individually curled over rubber rollers. next, two solutions are applied (the smell is reminiscent of a perm), followed by conditioner. then you're off, to bat those thick, come-hither fringes at any eyelash curler or makeup guru in your way." sweet lord! i didn't even know what eyelash curlers were until like two years ago; they looked like props from marathon man to me. folks will process anything these days (vaginal rejuvenation patients, i'm looking at you).

oh, that interview i was so nervous about in california ended up needing to happen while i was in california, and...no. the prep i would have needed to do to acquit myself well would have sucked up most of the vacation, and we were helping a friend move when it would have taken place, anyway. i'm still beside myself, though: how often does a ladymag give you the chance to talk to the speaker of the house?

07.25.07 {california}

we've been on the east coast for four years and a few months. distributed evenly, that means that i've been a new yorker for one day of every week i've been alive. it's gotten under my skin, that day: as we drove south on the freeway this weekend, i wanted to speed ahead and weave through traffic in the same way that i muscle past packs of tourists on foot in times square. on strolls along the beach, i find myself trying to calculate what homes would be worth per square foot as rental properties (as if orange county mcmansion owners would stoop to accepting tenants - ha). i see little knots of posturing teenagers at the mall and want to sneer at them: you think you're hard? i live in hell's kitchen (admittedly, that hasn't been impressive for about a decade - now it means i have a lot of thai options for dinner)! what is it about new york that tints one's world view so quickly? it's a singular place, but so is southern california, and i spent twenty years here - and i don't go on about how much ska-pop i had to endure back in the day, or how if you want gridlock, man, you should try getting past the el toro Y on a friday afternoon. on the reflexive comparisons, it could be that since i've gone through Big Life Changes in nyc (getting married, beginning a real career, thinking seriously about buying property) and started putting down roots, i pit it against other places to assure myself that i've chosen wisely. or there could be a goblin in my chest who's super excited about becoming one of those people who uses the city as an excuse for being rude ("i'm a new yorker, we're just direct"). they are mysterious, these regional tics. does this happen to you, too?

on a california thing that has stuck with me: joe and i went to the gypsy den last night to play scrabble and visit my favorite painting. i found the den, a shabby coffeehouse full of mismatched furniture and vintage colored glass, when i was fifteen, and i've coveted that damn picture (a nondescript portrait that, for most intents and purposes, is interchangeable with the dozens of pieces around it) ever since. various employee friends have assured me that the den never sells its art, but i fantasize about winning the lottery and making the owner a ludicrous offer she can't refuse (though, knowing hipsters, she'd value the refusal anecdote more than a pile of money). joe is neutral, but he knows how strongly i feel and is cool with it for my sake; me, i practically lose sleep over the thing. my questions to you, internets: what do you think of this painting (please excuse the crappy cameraphone photo)? why on earth does it haunt my dreams?

07.24.07 {california}

this vacation is much more necessary than i thought it would be - and that's saying something, as california! has been our rallying cry for the past three months whenever new york indignities got us down. i'm sitting on my dad's patio, waiting for the sun to warm up the pool and watching yachts scuttle up and down the coast (who are these people? eight in the morning on a weekday?), and i can't stop thinking about work. i made the mistake of figuring out how to check ye olde corporate e-mail before i left on friday, so i now know that i've got an interview when i get back on monday and, if i'm lucky, a huge interview sometime next week. my junior editor is more than capable of handling everything else that crops up between now and then, but those two assignments (especially the iffy one, which would yield the niftiest clip i've ever had the chance to write) will jangle my nerves until i dull them with leisure. guacamole and sunscreen, you're up.

harry potter, incidentally, was quite satisfying (though my pilgrimage to the grand hallows ball at columbus circle on friday was, as george and joe predicted, serious overkill) - if you've finished, meet me in the [spoilertastic] comment box.


it's been a bad month for blogging: our gargantuan back-to-school issue has been wolfing down all of my time at the office, and our handy-dandy freeloaded-(with-permission)-from-the-neighbors internet service has been nonexistent (you get what you pay for, yeah, fine). i had a lovely and terribly nuanced response to alison/bluishorange's letter to the internet from 2001 last week, for instance, but pounding it out here (read: casa de ladymag) after hours did not appeal. i would do anything for love, internets, but i won't do that.

figgy shower gel, magical. joe's favorite new products get weird nicknames almost immediately: ben & jerry's oatmeal cookie chunk ice cream is cookiepuss! (exclaimed), and korres fig showergel from the beauty closet here at the office is figgy! (exclaimed at greater volume, since he's in the shower). the stuff is very good, which is kind of a problem: who can spend $11 on showergel, even if the sexy greek packaging makes you feel like a cosmonaut? this is the heartbreak of the beauty closet. we pretty much never have to buy hair products or bath fripperies, and the stuff we use is more luxe than what we would buy, but it's almost never the same product twice. for every hit, there's a 'wickedly hot chocolate' bubble bath (shudder).

fondue takedown. i got a note from matt, the man behind the manhattan chili takedown i was so pissed about missing a few weeks ago; it seems he's organizing a fondue extravaganza along the same lines ($10 to enter, $8 to scarf), which i'm even more pissed about missing (it's this sunday the 22nd, when we'll be in california). new yorkers, go forth in our absence and make us proud! i expect a full report on this, as well as recipe ideas (and possibly a fedexed box of cheese).

jacob and megan gettin' hitched (teh win!). it's awfully gauche to break someone else's engagement news, but listen: i've kept quiet for a week, which is millennia in my wedding-obsessed and utterly-non-secret-keeping world. also, megan was one of those magical girlfriends who makes your friend even more awesome than he was before; that she's now his fiancée should surprise exactly no one who's seen them together. if you were out in hell's kitchen last sunday and saw someone on their fire escape doing a weird little troll-dance of happiness, well, that was me.

joe's 30th birthday (and related neuroses). there was some aggressive pouting in the lead-up, and some panic on my part concerning gifts (joe is one of those terrible people who says they don't want anything but mixed nuts and tube socks for christmas and then gets you something fantastic), but all was well that ended well: he realized that being thirty was much less painful than thinking about being thirty, we had a crazy seventeen-course dinner with friends at zenkichi, an izakaya in brooklyn, and i gave him a robot painting. also, as gmail's 'ads and related pages' bar reminds me as i compose this, kool & the gang says there's no age limit on cool. um.

moles, suspicious. i finally, finally got in to see a dermatologist to follow up on the skin cancer screening i flunked at work, and it was not good. the appointment was of the your-copay-is-pennies-so-we're-getting-you-in-and-out-of-here-as-quickly-as-possible-to-make-room-for-the-fancy-laser-peel-ladies variety, and the doctor spoke so fast i could barely understand what he was saying; the one time he slowed down was when he first saw the spots on my back, at which point he and his assistants aauugghh!ed in unison. i'm due back in two weeks to find out if they're little spots of evil. i shouldn't talk this way, but i can't say that i would be shocked if they are cancerous: i remember girls coming to class in junior high with big bandages on their faces from their first removals (hooray for southern california, land of human jerky). i'm expecting the worst, then, but hoping for at least some credit for being lily-white since i stopped jumping around in tidepools as a kid.

ratatouille. for once, a viable flick at the ziegfeld (beautiful theater, always shows third-tier children's movies*)! ratatouille's reviews, both in the press (the nytimes and the new yorker) and via blogs, have been positive enough that joe actually agreed to see it with me. he wasn't that impressed, but i thought it was winning and clever; i'm a sucker for vermin, and brad bird's themes are decently meaty (a nice surprise for a pixar movie). also: NO RANDY NEWMAN! far be it from me, most of the time, to wish strangers ill - but that guy should be launched into space.

*rumor has it that the owners want so very badly to turn their prime midtown real estate into a mcskyscraper that they book shitty flicks on purpose; in theory, bad receipts would make it a bit easier for them to rezone the property.