01 magic for beginners (kelly link). i'd concuss myself / for the chance to discover / kelly link again.
02 atonement (ian mcewan). adolescence in / a rotten nutshell, rendered / with ageless sympathy.
03 sweet tooth (ian mcewan). spies on fiction, and / fiction on spies; atonement, / but so much more fun.
04 stranger things happen (kelly link). the hat story is / amazing, but i can't talk / about it. (terror.)
05 great plains (ian frazier). apprenticeships for / nonfiction aren't a thing, but / i'd be frazier's serf.
06 joseph anton (salman rushdie). a singular tale / of bravery for art's sake. / fuck yeah, publishing.
07 antarctica (gabrielle walker). with pym, this nonfic's / an overturned cooler of / polar-pure goodness.
08 pym (mat johnson). sometimes i wake up / and pad out to the shelf to / reread the best jokes.
09 boy, snow, bird (helen oyeyemi). snow white recast as / mothers, daughters, and sisters. / modern, clever magic.
10 every love story is a ghost story: a life of david foster wallace (d.t. max). a thoughtful bio; / predictably, made me miss / wallace even more.
11 beautiful ruins (jess walter). starlets, italians, / and the people who love them. / patchy but winning.
12 the dog stars (peter heller). apocalypse sans / j-law, plus a little plane / and a man-eater.
13 an equal music (vikram seth). better than dancing / about architecture. a / bit twee, but good twee.
14 the diviners (libba bray). more is more: psychic / flapper teens with ESP! / just let it happen.
15 amsterdam (ian mcewan). booker prize winner? / seriously? mcewan, / i expected more.
16 vengeance (benjamin black). john banville's crime books / lack some of their pulp lately; / i'll still drink to them.
17 my life (isadora duncan). craziest tunic- / wearer since cassandra; i / admire and fear her.
18 see a little light (bob mould). karmic opposite of / dean "scrooge" wareham's black postcards. / nice guy finished first.
19 the twelve (justin cronin). book 2, HIGHBROW BLOOD: / THE DICKENSING. honestly, / vampire methadone.
20 the starboard sea (amber dermont). probably i should / stop reading novels about / prep schools. most are MEH.
21 world war z (max brooks). zombie invasion / seen through a mosquito's eye: / i was entertained.
22 lost at sea (jon ronson). great subject choices, / less-than-diligent research. / funny, frustrating.
23 babayaga (toby barlow). are spies a match for / wicked old-country song-spells? / witch, please. (also fleas.)
24 how did you get this number (sloane crosley). i like crosley, but / this collection needs edits / and fewer bear deaths.
25 why we broke up (daniel handler and maira kalman). a sweet theme grows / cloying with repetition. / these teens don't charm me.
26 changing places (david lodge). dear me at nineteen: / we still think david lodge sucks. / regards, ancient me.
27 outrage (arnaldur indridason). clunky crime patter, / but good info on using / tandoori spices.
28 the psychopath test (jon ronson). i have a vein near / my eye that throbs when facts die. / it's python-sized now.
29 rivington was ours (brendan jay sullivan). the lower east side / had to deal with both this guy / and lady gaga.
30 melissa explains it all (melissa joan hart). she once threw water / in oscar de la hoya's / face in mexico.
31 the mad bomber of new york: the extraordinary true story of the manhunt that paralyzed a city (michael m. greenburg). assumptions sans facts, / a byzantine timeline, and / thesaurus abuse.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 what was the best book you read this year?
02 how do you feel about jason segel playing david foster wallace in the upcoming film adaptation of david lipsky's although of course you end up becoming yourself?
03 who would you cast as david foster wallace?
04 if you were a character in a supernatural young-adult novel set in the roaring twenties, what would your special power be?
05 is it even possible for john banville (benjamin black)'s philip marlowe novel to be any good?
06 do prep-school novels just suck, or should i hold out for more never-let-me-go-ish exceptions that prove the rule?


girl bear-hugging a dusty cello as "greensleeves" echoes down the subway tunnel like whalesong, i salute you.


                        And in the cellblock
of this logic, I eventually will have to try
a few things, as poltergeist,
on my own distant progeny, my sad
relatives, not too soon after my death
shall I do so, as that would be
so awful for all of us, but once a few
hundred years have passed,
and my future grandchildren
are living in their hovering tents,
I will attack them in their sleeping bags
with the silt of Mars making
its red tears in my eyes.

(josh bell, from "one day, alone on the houseboat, vince neil changes the name of everyone he has known, knows, or is like to know—male and female—to james," tin house #58)


the wild iguanas seemed comfortable in our presence

"rushdie plays backgammon, and i love, love, love backgammon," said the beautiful young attorney seated beside me on our plane from puerto rico, "so i'm hoping we can play the next time i see him." man, i thought. i was feeling pretty good about frolicking with wild iguanas and having a feral cat party and scooping a bee out of the sea, but playing backgammon with salman rushdie sounds pretty boss. i need to step up my game again.

tropical vacations for people who spend a lot of time thinking about david foster wallace are interesting propositions. mostly they aren't sinister at all, and when one is reclining on a chartered sailboat in the caribbean with some of one's best friends in the world it's easy to feel suspended forever in the sunlight like a beetle in amber. then one returns to land and is commanded by the well-intentioned but intimidating queen of the concierges to smile, to smile more broadly, to smile more broadly still you are in paradise, and one is beneath the waves in a sea of childhood-holiday-photo angst. the sea is figurative and the sailboat is real, though, so one is still doing pretty fucking well.

images of indolence are on their way; in the interim, please enjoy this photo of an iguana on a patio table. i know i do.


the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register*}

Suspicious person/circumstance. 12:47 p.m. A parent said a 12-year-old daughter locked the parent out of the house.
Citizen assist. 2:52 p.m. The caller said a man was stealing lemons from his tree and looking through his window.
Disturbance. 9:26 a.m. The caller reported a man standing on the corner.
Assault report. 11:10 a.m. The caller said a customer tried to steal a pizza and threw it at the manager.
Suspicious circumstance. 10:43 p.m. Several juveniles were allegedly putting duct tape on cars and in the street.
Drunk in public. 7:28 p.m. A caller reported a drunken man speeding through the park in a golf cart.
Terrorist threats report. 4:20 p.m. The caller said his step son, who lives in La Palma, told him he's going to go down there and teach him a lesson.
Disturbance. 4:24 p.m. A local Starbucks manager said store employees refused to serve someone they believed was selling drugs on the afternoon of Aug. 31.
Disturbance. 8:00 p.m. The caller reported a man yelling at them to stop playing at the park.
Keep the peace. 10:18 p.m. The caller said her roommate wants to move out in the middle of the month, but is demanding to be refunded for her part of the rent.
Citizen assist. 1:08 p.m. The caller reported a nasty note from a neighbor left taped to his door several days ago.
Disturbance. 9:22 a.m. The caller said a man just punched him in the face.

*previous installment here.


the dirty dozen {twelve things before the tropics, where, i'm told, it is rainy}: part 2 of 2

07 thistle hill tavern's buffalo cauliflower recipe.
08 simon beck walks all day to make massive patterns in the snow.
10 joe called me at work yesterday afternoon to report that he'd looked at the little silhouettes on the cans more closely and it turns out we've been feeding steve and matty dog food for the last month. i asked the internet if this was irreparable. cats are not small dogs, the internet said.
11 on royal swan upping.
12 frank o'hara, from "meditations in an emergency:"
However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of pastoral life, nor with nostalgia for an innocent past of perverted acts in pastures. No. One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes—I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It is more important to affirm the least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as it is and even they continue to pass. Do they know what they're missing? Uh huh.


the missus and i are leaving for st. thomas at 11:59 on wednesday night; between now and then i'll have shipped a magazine (it's you or me, february 2014), dragged myself 1001 miles at long last, probably failed to donate blood, and slept, hopefully. matty has broken us down over the course of a week of restless nights without interrogating us or making any demands, which seems like questionable strategy, but whatever, i'm not a kitten.

the dirty dozen {twelve things before the tropics, where, i'm told, it is rainy}: part 1 of 2

01 an important video about gifts.
02 rachel's favorite gingerbread recipe.
03 cheetah cam at the metro richmond zoo in chesterfield, virginia.
04 raymond chandler's twenty-four los angeles homes.
05 david lynch nearly makes hemingway interesting in a 1988 obsession ad.
06 "letter to a hotel manager," a lydia davis story for this year's hay festival.


la cucaracha

We could eat grapes half the morning like Goethe
hunkered against an obelisk,
waiting on the proper angle for the season
to see the Sistine sun-kissed,

or we could slip a coin in the device
that illumines another masterpiece
in a sordid chapel (but soon again
dark shrinks it to a gleam of grease).

(ange mlinko, from "revelations," granta 125)


in our exercise room on friday morning there was a man in loafers, dress pants, and a tucked-in oxford striving mightily on a stationary bike, and i salute him.


candied tangerine peels. the pith beneath the peels was so minimal and easy to remove that i didn't bother to try to trim it; i gave each tangerine a soccer-practice quartering, peeled each quarter and chucked the fruit into the juicer, julienned the peels after trimming their tips, and that was that. these were delicious, and we now have a jar of tangerine simple syrup for making old fashioneds. all's right with the world.

homemade cheez-its. midtown manhattan was uninterested in selling me annatto seeds with which to boehner my dough when i first attempted this recipe a month ago, so i subbed in a few teaspoons of pimentón; i also grabbed the wrong pepper grinder and ended up adding a dash of garlic powder by accident. i've repeated those mistakes in four(?) subsequent batches, and i'll probably repeat them in four more before the year is out. mike bloomberg would pose for a photo with these crackers.

pretzel & nut mix. at some point i should probably write david lebovitz and let him know he's been my kitchen's godfather for years. this mix takes no time to throw together, it's a deeply sexy blend of maple-syrup felicity and a chile kick, and it makes you feel like a roald dahl character who lives in a fabulous pie.

roasted butternut squash salad with warm cider vinaigrette. learning that ina garten was a nuclear policy analyst before she was the barefoot contessa has led me to forgive her for the fact that this recipe only works every other time i follow it (and thursday wasn't one of those times); she doesn't have time to idiot-proof her salads and weigh in on budget legislation (and source her weapons-grade velvet pantsuits; i saw one in person and was altered). i could of course be to blame for thinking i could sub mesclun in for arugula, but we needn't point fingers. in future attempts i'll be conservative with my greens, liberal with my vinegar, and in velvet of my own, hopefully.

green bean casserole. martha stewart takes a hell of a long time to pull together her gourmet version of a cream-of-mushroom-soup casserole base, but i'll concede that it's fancy-tasty; the whole casserole, moreover, can be pulled together and refrigerated a day ahead of time, so the fact that it takes, er, an hour isn't quite so terrible. i neglected to account for its chilled state when i got around to baking it on thursday, so it didn't reach the table in what i would call a piping-hot state. i hear this happens to everyone on thanksgiving? at some point i should develop an oven schedule like rachel's.

nick's nut roast with warm coriander dressing. this dish has been my friend cara's holiday main for years, the scotsman describes it as "a stonking veggie alternative to the christmas roast," and there was no way i wasn't attempting it. i found the lingham's chilli sauce at shi eurasia on orchard street; the owner, thrilled that i'd called her about it, took me through her mother's special recipe for fried crabs. the black nigella seeds turned up at kalustyan's on lexington, and i was straight-up smug by the time i packed the roast into my bundt pan on wednesday night (we didn't have a big enough loaf pan, and we grew so enamored of saying "nut bundt" that we felt we had to go with it). the roast wasn't especially interested in debarking from the bundt when i baked it the next day and looked a bit like a laird's ruined castle when i brought it to the dinner table, but it was crunchy, spicy, and like nothing i've made for a holiday meal before. omnivores went back for second helpings. you are good to me, cara.

savory mushroom gravy. god knows what happened to the gravy. well, hubris happened, as i assumed it was the one part of the meatless meal i definitely wouldn't shank (even tofurky gravy is good, and tofurky is the devil's doorstop), and gullibility happened, since i believed the internet when it claimed this was the BEST RECIPE EVAR, but i worked hard and played by the rules, and i expected to retire in comfort. instead i had to call joe in to what-seems-to-be-the-trouble-little-lady my nasty-ass gravy and spoil my solo-thanksgiving-prep streak, and it ended up tasting marvelous, and fuck capitalism.

butterscotch-pecan ice cream. another david lebovitz joint, and my favorite homemade ice cream of all time; it came out beautifully, as it always does. i was so excited the first time d-lebz tweeted at me that i printed and squirreled away a screengrab of the message. i'm not ashamed.

tangerine sorbet. also also lebovitz, and a solid formula for any citrus sorbet. i used a megajuicer i inherited from my magazine's food editor to juice my tangerines, and in retrospect i probably should have done it the old-fashioned way, for the pith that remained between the segments after i removed the peels gave the juice just a touch of bitterness. what are the domestic arts without a touch of bitterness, though?

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 if martha stewart had worked for the government in the '70s, what would her job have been?
02 do you make schedules and charts when you cook, if you cook?
03 is the internet right about anything?
04 i'm leaving for my first-ever tropical vacation as a grown-ass adult next wednesday. what should i bring? (bathing suit already acquired.)


we've been brainstorming life updates in response to a request for holiday-newsletter material.

lauren and joe have received their spare set of house keys from their petsitter who moved to new jersey.
lauren and joe have stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb.
lauren and joe have succeeded in business without really trying.
lauren and joe are on a wintertime sleigh ride through hans christian andersen's copenhagen.


the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register*}

Suspicious person/circumstances. 9:33 p.m. The caller said his 15-year-old son and the caller’s mother have barricaded him out of his home because he recently quit smoking and the son is now upset because he bought an e-cigarette.
Unknown trouble. 3:51 p.m. The caller said the caller's roommate has a machete.
Suspicious person/circumstance. 5:58 p.m. Informant called from McDonald's saying people at Arby's took her balloon and treated her badly.
Disturbance. 5:10 p.m. An informant said the neighbor is angry at the informant's son because the son moved a tree and a seed fell, upsetting the neighbor.
Suspicious person/circumstance. 3:53 p.m. Informant reported that pornographic films recovered in the mail were not ordered.
Terrorist threats report. 8:51 p.m. The caller said a student shoved the caller and said she is going to file a report that the caller was the one who pushed her.
Disturbance. 7:14 p.m. The caller reported a man rolling around on the grass in front of the mortuary.
Disturbance. 12:36 a.m. Informant reported a neighbor that goes out and blows a bugle type horn and marches around the yard with a sword. Subject reportedly does it all the time.
Suspicious person. 7:19 p.m. A man reported that his phone lines had been tapped and that someone was hacking into his bank account. He later said he might be a methamphetamine user.
Disturbance. 4:38 p.m. A male transient who reportedly goes by "Hollywood" was seen urinating in public. The transient was reportedly wearing a shiny cape.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 1:41 p.m. The caller reported neighbors burning their fireplace for the last four or five days without stopping and a very odd smell coming from the house.
Suspicious person/circumstance. 6:48 p.m. A male subject was reportedly standing on a white van and was preparing to skateboard off the top of it. A subject was reportedly videotaping.

*previous installment here.


the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register*}

Suspicious person/circumstances. 9:49 a.m. The caller said a car has driven by her house five times this morning. She said she put puppies for sale on Craigslist and thinks this could be related.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 7:59 p.m. The caller said she thinks people are intentionally trying to cause a traffic collision with her because her family is wealthy.
Assist outside agency. 9:28 a.m. The caller said she is at IHOP and a lot of customers began coughing.
Disturbance. 4:22 p.m. The caller said a tenant has a bad attitude and the caller doesn't want him there anymore.
Burglary report. 9:26 p.m. The caller said his terrier was stolen from inside the house. The dog has a GPS but the caller doesn't know how to use it.
Suspicious person/circumstance. 6:31 p.m. A woman reported that a man knocked on her door and asked for help with paperwork because he was in training to be a police officer.
Unknown trouble. 1:38 p.m. The caller said a naked woman walked into her house and then walked outside.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 1:47 p.m. The caller reported several men washing cars in the self-carwash without permission.
Disturbance. 5:16 a.m. The caller reported a man and a woman having sex in the Jacuzzi.
Found property. 11:23 a.m. The caller said he received a large package of marijuana.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 12:22 p.m. The caller said a man walked into her house smelling like marijuana. She said his excuse was that “all the homes look alike.”
Suspicious person/circumstances. 6:19 a.m. The caller reported a large amount of broken glass in the sandbox.

*previous installment here.


101 in 1001 {III}: 008 take a knife-skills class [completed 11.03.13]

i thought i wanted to learn to cut things efficiently and safely because joe (foe of onions) always complains that i don't dice things finely enough and because i seem to lose the tip of a finger to a laughably-uncomplicated prep job (this year it was chopping parsley; sorry about that, right index) once a year or so. those are solid reasons to learn to cut things efficiently and safely, and brooklyn kitchen's celebrated class addressed them; i've now spent substantial time practicing the previously-scorned not-removing-the-stem-of-the-onion method, and i now know to make a tiger claw with my non-cutting hand before i get to work on, say, a carrot, and that i should be honing my knife before and after every big job (if you look at the blade of your knife straight on and can see reflected light, it needs to be honed). i also know, thanks to the preview of the advanced knife skills class to which we were treated at the end of our class, that i'm unlikely to become one of those rare and mysterious vegetarians who can prepare meat for others, as the spectacle of our teacher taking a chicken apart on a cutting board directly and graphically in front of me was at least sixteen times more disturbing than the small-stage production of titus andronicus i saw at the public two winters ago (in which a small child wandered around puncturing a lumpy plastic bag full of blood each time a character was dispatched); you omnivores terrify me.

what i now realize i actually wanted was to see someone chop an onion really, really fast, as they do on foodie-reality-tv shows like top chef. i am not a very good pupil as a general proposition, and i am especially lousy at following right-handed people in demonstrations: i have the visual-spatial intelligence of a baby carrot and a short attention span, so i get confused and promptly move on to thoughts of, say, how i might make myself octopus smoking slippers* or teach steve to jump through a hoop instead of digging in and figuring out how to make my clumsy old left hand do the thing i'm expected to learn to do. (i'm a bad teacher for similar reasons, and wonder every now and again if all those archery "lessons" i gave as a girl scout camp counselor ever led to fatalities.) i did not see anyone chop an onion really, really fast (our teacher was far too responsible to encourage us to go benihana on our vegetables), and it's unlikely i myself will be chopping an onion really, really fast at any point in the near future, but i'm not sorry i froggered out to north williamsburg in the middle of the new york marathon to learn knife skills: i'll remember the tiger claw, i now have a freezer full of wonkily-cubed stock ingredients, and i also have a class handout i can consult if i ever develop the self-discipline to sit down and puzzle out diagrams for more than a few minutes at a time. sometimes that's enough.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 did i make it sound like i do all the cooking when i mentioned joe's prissy onion thing?
02 do you know how to take a chicken apart?
03 were/are you a good pupil?
04 were/are you a good archer?
05 when did you last take a class?
06 if you were to customize a pair of smoking slippers, how would you do it?

*they are in the works and will be boss.


central park, 5 november

it's That Week in central park when every third pedestrian has some sort of musical instrument and it feels reasonable to rent a bike for $30 an hour. as i headed for bethesda fountain yesterday afternoon i saw a couple waltzing slowly beneath the elms. forget you, hollywood! i bet they were both in perfect health.


My voice is a zoo right now for this,
and this paces very much inside it,
it would like very much to escape
and eat hot blood again and go home,
and right down to the restless way
I walk I am an argument against zoos.

(patricia lockwood, from "what is the zoo for what," new yorker 10.28.13; her second collection, motherland fatherland homelandsexuals, will be out in june)


misfits, banksy on the bowery

"don't we want to live in a world made of art, not just decorated by it?"

happy halloween, banksy. thanks for stopping by.


as i'm about to argue that an open-notebook approach to compensation for creative work is both honorable and optimal, disclosure is important. note, then, that i have written poems for several small literary journals and received contributor's copies but no payment; i've been a salaried editor at and writer for a print magazine for the past decade; mcsweeney's paid me $25 for contributing to a book; miranda july sent me a contributor's copy of learning to love you more, though my work was referenced in an essay rather than reproduced; my flickr photos were available under a creative commons license until about a year ago, and were used by national geographic, the wall street journal, the food network, a few print authors, and many websites; i once consented to receive a review copy of a chuck klosterman book that i subsequently panned; i once drank a bunch of brennivin and posted bruce springsteen cover art on this site; i do not ask for permission from or compensate anyone for the photographs i post on birthday cakes for animals; i have never received payment for my writing on this site (which has never featured ads) or for guest posts on a few friends' sites (one of which features ads); i paid my little sister $300 (as i recall) to illustrate our save-the-date cards and wedding invitations; i paid michel gondry $20 to draw my portrait.

a colleague and friend of mine, easily the most prolific writer i know (she's got something like ten novels and probably hundreds of essays and articles for everyone from the new york times to women's magazines to sites like salon.com and nerve.com under her belt), wrote a long facebook post last week about a site she'd just pitched with an essay. her contact declined to buy her piece, but said that she was more than welcome to post it on their site for free. what magnanimity! i won't quote directly from the post (it still isn't public), but in short, my friend made a strong case for writers needing to protect themselves from "exposure" gigs, noting that actors with union cards aren't allowed to work outside of contracts (to do so would be damaging both to them and their peers). groups like actors' equity, AFTRA, and SAG don't really have analogs in the publishing world, but maybe they should; as tim kreider noted in the sunday times this weekend, it's a hot mess out there right now.
I know there’s no point in demanding that businesspeople pay artists for their work, any more than there is in politely asking stink bugs or rhinoviruses to quit it already. It’s their job to be rapacious and shameless. But they can get away with paying nothing only for the same reason so many sleazy guys keep trying to pick up women by insulting them: because it keeps working on someone. There is a bottomless supply of ambitious young artists in all media who believe the line about exposure, or who are simply so thrilled at the prospect of publication that they’re happy to do it free of charge.
i haven't had to spend too much time thinking about the implications of writing for free. my literary-magazine credits are ancient history, and i am confident that turning my juvenilia over to those now-extinct journals did no serious harm to my community (i do squirm a bit over the strange poem about christina aguilera, but that's another story). this blog predates Big Web Money for personal writing, and my feelings about it haven't changed over the years; i hope it's been of use to other people, but i'm not ashamed to admit that i've written it mostly for my own benefit, and i'm comfortable with its potential financial impact on my peers as a not-for-profit public site featuring my recreational writing and photography. as for the writing i do as part of my full-time magazine job, it's work with formalized pay, bless it, and fairly uninteresting in the context of this discussion.

the majority of my experience giving it away is with photography, and honestly, i'm ashamed of it; i think that because i'm an amateur, to put it mildly, it didn't occur to me that making my photos accessible via creative commons could affect anyone's livelihood. it felt good to collaborate with, say, self-publishing authors who really couldn't afford professional images, and the random bigger hits were entertaining. hey, my selfie is on gizmodo! i started getting messages from professional photo assistants who wanted to use my stuff, uncredited, for free (for the titillation i would get, i suppose, from seeing them distributed to a wider audience?). i noticed traffic to my flickr stream from public-domain search engines, and it occurred to me, after way too long, that my hits were replacing paid work. whether or not someone can afford to pay a photo contributor is beside the point these days; why should they, when there are millions of folks like me out there? my default licensing setting is now creative commons/attribution/non-commercial. that feels right to me, but i still don't really know what i'm doing.

the titillation of exposure for non-professionals as currency has been examined to death in discussions of, say, reality television, but i'm starting to think about how it affects the food chain in other ecosystems. my friend's post-your-essay-for-free! offer is what kreider calls "death by exposure" for professionals, and in a media climate where everyone with a keyboard is a potential content provider and traditional outlets are dying off like giant pandas who can't figure out how to mate in captivity, the less-experienced writers who think they're building portfolios by working for nothing or next to nothing are going to find that there's no one left to look at them. long ago when the earth was flat and lots of newspapers still existed, i wrote a column for my college daily that was syndicated across the country. it was less impressive to the intern coordinators at big publishers here in new york than the fact that i'd been promoted at the on-campus coffeehouse (that, at least, showed i had management experience), but as far as i know, my friend's mother remembers me as "that girl who wrote about having sex with you." at some point in the near future, the kind of titillation keyboard-havers get from seeing themselves onscreen could be exposure's main value—or its sole value.

is it fair to resent amateurs and aspiring pros for what's going on in the media world? does resenting them do any good? some of my friends believe the market will sort itself out, but i...think about how that worked out with regulations and big banking over the last several years, and i have my doubts. also, have you ever watched writers try to split a restaurant tab? what we as "content providers" and lovers of thoughtful communication can do, and what we must do, is take responsibility for what we're doing, and how it affects our industries, peers, and contributors. i mean that literally: why don't we talk about things like how much we are or aren't getting paid for our work, and how much we pay each other? "Maybe [people who ask you to write for free are] asking in the collaborative, D.I.Y. spirit that allegedly characterizes the artistic community," kreider writes in sunday's times piece. "I have read Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, and participated in a gift economy for 20 years, swapping zines and minicomics with friends and colleagues, contributing to little literary magazines, doing illustrations for bands and events and causes, posting a decade’s worth of cartoons and essays on my Web site free of charge. Not getting paid for things in your 20s is glumly expected, even sort of cool; not getting paid in your 40s, when your back is starting to hurt and you are still sleeping on a futon, considerably less so." gift economies work, or "work," in closed systems like burning man, where collaborative community is institutionalized. in practice, proprietors of profitable businesses depend upon (and in some cases prey upon) contributors who decline to commodify their work.

friends and colleagues, please make your contributor-compensation policies easy to find and easy to understand. take responsibility for how your participation in this new, weird community affects the rest of us. make sure you're not the guy who doesn't kick in on the tab. we're supposed to look out for each other.


banksy, minibanksy

so that also happened

so that happened

say what you will about the conservative groups claiming that bill de blasio will be soft on crime and drag new york city back to the seventies, but you can't pretend the british-graffiti epidemic that's swept the city since he won the democratic primary last month isn't real.

why people deface banksy's work; the banksy v. robbo war in pictures.


the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register*}

Suspicious person/circumstances. 1:37 a.m. The caller reported a house with the porch light that keeps blinking. The caller thinks someone is inside trying to send an SOS signal.
Disturbance. 8:27 a.m. The caller said her grandson is arguing and refusing to go to school.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 1:56 p.m. The caller reported a man undressing behind Marshall’s.
Disturbance. 3:14 p.m. The caller said a man, who wanted to buy her car, insulted her. She said he told her it looked old so she yelled an obscenity at him and he made a threat “I know where you live” and walked off.
Citizen assist. 10:09 a.m. The caller reported an ongoing issue with scams the caller thinks are occurring with CVS.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 3:28 p.m. The caller reported a female roommate possibly involved in prostitution.
Citizen assist. 3:46 p.m. A woman reported that a neighbor went into her garage without permission last night.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 6:16 p.m. The caller at Trader Joe’s reported a man taking pictures of customers entering and leaving the store.
Robbery in progress. 10:04 p.m. The caller said he was walking by the Laguna Hills Community Center when a group of about 10 people tried to rob him. He said they said they wanted to search his pants for any money and tried to take his recyclables. Police arrested a 30-year-old man.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 1:35 p.m. The caller reported a woman throwing clothing into the street and walking trail.
Court order violation. 7:13 p.m. The caller said he wants to turn himself in because he violated his restraining order.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 12:03 a.m. The caller reported two people with masks on.

*previous installment here.


101 in 1001 {III}: 037 read three library books [completed 10.13.13]

III: OUTRAGE, ARNALDUR INDRIDASON. in some ways outrage, an icelandic thriller, seems hyperconscious of the nordic-crime-fiction juggernaut that is stieg larsson's millennium trilogy: the title refers to rape (the first of larsson's books was called men who hate women in swedish), and indriðason's leading man, crotchety old inspector erlendur, has gone on a vision quest in eastern iceland and left reykjavik's latest murder mystery to elínborg, a female member of the reykjavik police force (and a secondary character in indriðason's previous novels). in other, more important ways, it's like that episode of space ghost coast to coast where space ghost follows an ant for ten minutes: icelanders, bless their hearts, dance like there's nobody watching. witness a stakeout with elínborg outside edvard's house (edvard might or might not know who killed runólfur, a creepy guy found dead in his apartment in a tiny san francisco tee shirt):
The car was chilly but she did not want to keep the engine running and risk drawing attention to her presence. She was also reluctant to pollute the atmosphere more than necessary. She never left the engine running when the car was stationary - it was practically the only cast-iron rule she observed as a driver.
elínborg is as methodical as erlendur is erratic, and iceland's impeccable national databases and tiny population suit her style of police work perfectly: when one of runólfur's neighbors mentions she saw a man limp down the street in a leg brace on the night of the murder, she tracks down and interviews each and every male icelander of a certain age who had polio. she also finds a woman's scarf beneath runólfur's bed and notices that it smells like tandoori; alors, time to consult the one place in reykjavik that sells tandoori pots. this is a particularly lucky break, as elínborg knows it well.
Perhaps [the mystery woman] worked in a restaurant that served tandoori dishes. Elínborg knew something about tandoori cookery, and had even included some tandoori dishes in the cookery book that she had published. She had read up on tandoori cuisine and felt pretty well-informed about it. She owned two different clay tandoori pots. In India they would traditionally be heated in a pit filled with burning charcoal so that the meat was cooked evenly from all sides at a high temperature. Elínborg had occasionally buried a tandoori pot in her back garden in the authentic manner, but usually she put it in the oven or heated it over charcoal on an old barbecue. The crucial factor was the marinade, for which Elínborg used a combination of spices, blending them to taste with plain yoghurt. For a red colour she added ground annatto seed; for yellow, saffron. She generally experimented with a mixture of cayenne pepper, coriander, ginger and garlic, or with a garam masala that she made herself by using roasted or ground cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, garlic and black pepper, with a little nutmeg. She had also been trying out variations using Icelandic herbs such as wild thyme, angelica root, dandelion leaves and lovage. She would rub the marinade into the meat - chicken or pork - and leave it for several hours before it went into the tandoori pot. sometimes a little of the marinade would splash on the hot coals, bringing out more strongly the tangy tandoori fragrance that Elínborg had smelt on the shawl. She wondered if the woman they were looking for might have a job in Indian cookery. Or perhaps, like Elínborg, she was simply interested in Indian food, or even specifically in tandoori dishes. She too might have a tandoori pot in her kitchen, along with all the spices that made the dish so mouth-watering.
wild icelandic herbs in tandoori, by the by, are delicious; take it from me, i've been to austur-indíafjelagið twice.

like indriðason's novels which are not jar city (his first inspector erlendur book, far and away his best), outrage doesn't quite tweak the wrinkles in one's brain which blockbuster english-language murder-mystery-thrillers traditionally tweak: the pacing is all over the place, the translation thumps unexpectedly into potholes of british slang, and the case itself is of limited interest. then again, i've never really gone to them for that; i started showing up for a cheap iceland fix, and now that i've been to iceland a few times, i keep coming back for (the weird-ass dancing and) the little revelations of cultural character. halldór laxness's nobel-winning, majestic-as-shit independent people is a gorgeous way to think about icelanders, but one should leaven that impression with pop culture, i think. one should always leaven with pop.


                                                  When Darwin
thought to test sonic responses of earthworms,
he requested that his children serenade
his soily jars of them: and, dutifully, an orchestra
of whistle, bassoon, and piano began
concatenating the night away in the billiards room,
its air alive with tremble and skreek,
low-blown moan and high-pitched tootle, so
racketing you'd think the row of dead wrens
and the barnacles might rise up and start capering.
The worms appeared deaf to the music; nor,
I'll bet, does this concert sound like a day
in your world—though it's of your world.

(from albert goldbarth's "jung/malena/darwin," tin house #57)


From: 1
To: 2, 3
ok, today's brainstorm need: making a "drowning pool" ophelia-type candy vortex in a glass jar out of blue sour straws for our goth party. what kind of figurine or image do i put at the bottom of the vortex?

From: 2
To: 1, 3
The grieving lady face from Edward Gorey? Phyllis Schlafly? Martha Stewart?

From: 3
To: 1, 2
John Boehner?


101 in 1001 {III}: 037 read three library books [ongoing]

no pants time

II: RIVINGTON WAS OURS: LADY GAGA, THE LOWER EAST SIDE, AND THE PRIME OF OUR LIVES, BRENDAN JAY SULLIVAN. hats off to the new york public library for hooking me up with books i don't want to purchase and install at my apartment and am unlikely to find at my office! it served me well with jon ronson's psychopath test and served me even better with rivington was ours, a DJ/bartender's casual memoir of life among the beautiful people, lady gaga in particular, on the lower east side (i.e. our 'hood) circa 2006. my only real beef with library books thus far, standard used-book potential for bed bug infestation aside,* is that i have to read them straight through right away to avoid late fines, which is sort of annoying when, say, one wishes to skitter between an old copy of gilead from one's mother-in-law, the big ol' vampire novel one lugs back and forth on the subway to decompress over the course of the week one is shipping the december issue at the office, the new yorker, and the isadora duncan autobiography that makes one wonder if one speaks english as well as one thought one did.** that said, i'm not sure one is meant to linger over sullivan's prose.
On our first date I was so nervous that I blurted out, "So, Nikki, tell me, what are your hopes and dreams?" I had hoped to disqualify her, to hear she was boring or stupid or in graduate school. I had hoped to find just one reason that I could quit staring at her, to stop imagining how much of my life I'd change just to make room for more of her in my world.***

She told me she was waiting tables ever since she quit designing lingerie for a bigger company. Now she wanted to start her own lingerie company with a partner who'd worked for Victoria's Secret. They would launch in February.

When she turned the question on me, I answered truthfully about my secret writings.**** Afterward we looked into each other's eyes like two lost sailors who first sighted land.
sadly, though the beautiful nikki is a lingerie entrepreneur and not a grad student, she isn't nearly compelling enough for sullivan (per gary shteyngart [who in turn must have lost a terribly high-stakes poker game to have had to deliver such a blurb],"a writer's writer. yes, he's that good."), who prefers to spend his hours out from behind the bar or the turntables with gaga, a young "musician" with extremely compelling eyes ("Her eyes sparkled like disco balls." "Her eyes were glowing like bright factory windows, her mind inside chugging along, excited by the noise of production." "She had an emptiness in her eyes and if you looked you wouldn't find her." "Her humorless eyes were pools that hovered just below thirty-three degrees Fahrenheit."). despite the sweet nothings they exchange at sullivan's obligatory twenty-fifth birthday party at the hotel chelsea (sigh), nikki leaves him to his karl lagerfeld-esque imagery ("I remembered the crisp air and the expressionless leather on all of our friends' jackets") and his lovelorn nights of blistering art theory with gaga ("If you thought she was a bit dumb, it was probably because she thought you were not that bright and didn't try to say anything over your head.")

and what of the lower east side? as we all know, memoirs of this sort are all secretly or not-so-secretly love letters to the city itself, right? sullivan spills a bit of ink describing his fragrant commute through "big trouble in little chinatown" on the way to the B/D station at grand and chrystie (like a lot of people who spend the evening on the lower east side, he doesn't actually live there), a bit more on an afterparty for the killers at motor city (good night sweet bar: and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!), and quite a lot on an awkwardly-telescoped vespa ride through central park to gaga's parents' place on the upper west side (of course he has a vespa). that last passage in particular feels like filler, and it is; brendan jay sullivan wants you to know how well he knew lady gaga and how highly other people think of him, and that's about it. there's nothing wrong with wanting those things, but if one is to be a writer's writer, one would want the former to be someone else, yes? this is my theory.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 if you are a book-borrower, what sort of books do you borrow? do you find you need to rush through them?
02 who is shakespeare's finest character?
03 have you ever referred to a chinatown as "big trouble in little chinatown"?
04 if a pop star told you she'd heard you're well-endowed, would you mention that in your memoir?
05 is it ever OK to give chapters song-lyric titles?

*bed bugs love used books, people. if you bring one home, do yourself the favor of throwing it in the oven at 115 for an hour (they also die at temperatures below 26 degrees, but most freezers don't get that cold).

**holy shit, isadora duncan.

***spoiler: not much.

****"[M]y third-time's-a-charm full-length manuscript The Confessions of Mercutio—a retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. To tackle the great work, I took Shakespeare's finest character and Romeo's best friend, a longwinded drunk with a knack for getting into situations, and gave him free reign of Verona."


101 in 1001 {III}: 037 read three library books [ongoing]

I: THE PSYCHOPATH TEST, JON RONSON. to decide how i feel about jon ronson, i need to give a name to what i think he's doing. i read lost at sea, a collection of his articles for the guardian, and sort of concluded that he's a middlebrow comic nonfiction writer; his research doesn't seem especially rigorous, but that's par for the course with short personal essays, and it's entertaining stuff. the psychopath test (subtitled "a journey through the madness industry") reframes things a bit: it's a book-length treatment of a single theme, anchored by the application of a checklist of psychopathic traits to subjects like a ruthless business executive, a former haitian death squad leader, a man who claims he faked psychopathy to avoid jail, members of the media (himself especially), and so on. he also considers how the media and pharmaceutical industry benefit from mental illness and/or perceptions of it, and, er, hunts down the publisher of a really fancy zine. he's often very funny, but he's also misleading and unsatisfying when he ventures into dark places with a light touch. he presents some wild old psychiatric research on mental institutions,* for example, without explaining that its methodology was subsequently and definitively torn apart.** at what point does curating information in that way become irresponsible?

in his review of the book, fellow guardian contributor will self notes that "at his best, ronson is one of the finest comic writers working today," then implies in the nicest possible way that pop scholarship like his might be kind of horrifying.*** i don't think ronson is a monster, professional and personal feelings about responsible research aside; i do think that someone who makes $250,000 ("double that in a good year," as he tells us in "amber waves of green," a piece he wrote for GQ) should hire a straight-up research assistant if he wants to be taken seriously. for better or for worse, this gal expects copious footnotes in her comic nonfiction (i miss you, DFW).

*such as david rosenhan's "on being sane in insane places," published in science in 1973, in which he and seven other subjects faked their way into inpatient treatment for insanity and were given antipsychotic drugs and held for an average of nineteen days, even though they behaved completely normally after admission.

**a friend adjacent to "the madness industry" who read the psychopath test at the same time i did sent me two pieces from a 1975 issue of the journal of abnormal psychology: robert l. spitzer's "on pseudoscience in science, logic in remission, and psychiatric diagnosis: a critique of rosenhan's 'on being sane in insane places" and theodore millon's "reflections on rosenhan's 'on being sane in insane places.'"

***that courtly criticism, in part:
So mild – and, dare I say, humane – is the tendency of Ronson's satire that when he ventures out into the world of political extremists, or military fanatics, or psychiatric persecutors, he is determined to see the nebech in everyone – until they're revealed as shlemiels. But just as there was a break-point in [Ronson's] The Men Who Stare at Goats, one that occurred when the heirs to the new age military theorists actually began torturing Iraqi detainees with hideous ditties from kids' TV shows, so there's a break-point in The Psychopath Test when this reader, at least, began to think: these people aren't merely shlemiels, they're utter bastards. From then on the humour is sucked out of the text into the vacuum of a dark and cruel space.


Naturally, I don't discount the possibility that Ronson is only too aware of what he's up to here – he's undoubtedly a clever and thoughtful man. By constructing his books so that they start off achingly funny then at a certain juncture become naggingly painful, he does indeed force us to think more deeply about the subject at hand. This, surely, is all that contemporary satire can achieve: in a world with a relativistic moral compass, it can't enjoin us to do the right thing – for which there is no longer any consensus – but only to think about what the right thing might possibly be. That Ronson's books, rather than providing us with the material we need to think about these questions, can only indicate the further reading we should do,**** is also mandated by his authorial persona.
****and then it doesn't! many of the sources in his bibliography are secondary (books and magazine articles); a fact checker who handed over backup like that would be unlikely to work for me again.


arizona by iphone

joe and i failed to discourage occupation of the seat between us on monday night's extremely full redeye flight from phoenix to new york city—it is hard to look menacing and/or pestilential when one is simply an X on a plane diagram—and we both ended up in armrest turf skirmishes with our neighbor, a rather pushy gentleman. i eventually crossed my arms and fell asleep, so i didn't apply much of the constant, firm pressure that is my signature border control. joe, more wakeful, went for active defense via sharp jabs. who maintains their territory with open hostility like that? it never ends well.


ye fancy koi at the butterfly house


beautiful ruins (book). torn at the jfk jetblue terminal book kiosk between hate-reading tom wolfe's latest* and buying beautiful ruins, an unknown novel that sparkled like a stephenie meyer vampire, i went for the sparkle; it was a new york times times best book of the year, its first sentence ("The dying actress arrived in his village the only way one could come directly—in a boat that motored into the cove, lurched past the rock jetty, and bumped against the end of the pier.") seemed more promising, and it turned out (o shame!) that the author, jess walter, is a man. yes, i am apparently more likely to get past a book's glittery cover if its author is male, and i hate myself for it. ironically, my biggest disappointment with beautiful ruins (which has dazzling, complicated, david-mitchell-esque descriptions tucked all over the place) is how male it can be; that dying actress is kind of a snooze, a foil for male leads, and a prostitute's work is described so unkindly that i felt in reading about her like i'd missed the point of her character altogether. not an epic romance, this, but a solid series of travelogues. a good book to meet at the beginning of a trip to a place in the sun.

changing places (book). i've spent something like fifteen years feeling guilty for really, really hating nice work, the third novel in david lodge's "campus trilogy;" when i found the first one, changing places, at a thrift store, i felt it was time to give the old fellow another chance. i enjoy it when people make fun of berkeley, so the scenes set in the fictional bay area city of plotinus, in the state of euphoria, were mildly entertaining (the other "place" in the title is rummidge, modeled on birmingham in england; a mousy professor from rummidge trades jobs with a rock-star academic from plotinus, and what-count-as-hijinks-when-you're-an-englishman-of-a-certain-age ensue). a lot of changing places is about the titillations of wife-swapping, and while i can sort of understand why a novelist would be excited about that in 1975, it feels awfully juvenile now. a lot of changing places is also experimental (chapters written as scripts, chapters written as newspaper clippings, conclusions completely ignored), and i hated that as much here as i did when jennifer egan rocked it in goon squad. thanks but no thanks, lodge.

lost at sea (book). welsh journalist jon ronson's "mini-adventure stories" (in this collection, mostly his guardian articles) are tasty, and i appreciate his investigative vim (he followed a psychic on a mediterranean cruise for one piece and took an intense church of england evangelical course for another). i haven't yet decided how i feel about how he reacts to the weird data he collects; he doesn't always seem interested in journalistic objectivity, even in the presence of his subjects, and his pieces end abruptly, as if tipping his hand throughout each essay left him without material for conclusions. the american writer john jeremiah sullivan covers a similar variety of weird pop subjects in pulphead (compare his "on this rock," on a christian music festival, to ronson's "and god created controversy," on insane clown posse) with what feels like much greater success, because he's...writing for magazines and has more time on his hands? that seems unfair. more empathetic? no, ronson isn't unfeeling. my friend cara recommended ronson's the psychopath test, a book-length examination of "the madness industry;" i picked it up from the library this afternoon and will report back with my findings on those findings.

love's labour's lost (musical). by the last week of this year's shakespeare in the park season we were sure we wouldn't make it through the online ticket lottery, so i bit my lip, spread out a poncho in the dirt, and camped for three hours in the standby line. a bad man with a saxophone played show tunes at us for one of those hours, some acorns beaned us, and we didn't get seats until the show had been underway for ten minutes, but i think everything that needed to happen happened: the seats we eventually got were fantastic, and the show was boiled down to its essential plot points (a bunch of bros swear off women, then reconsider) and filled in with songs and pop riffs like "single ladies" and "to be with you" (this love's labour's lost is a musical), so we didn't miss, like, crucial exposition. as joe noted, the production was a bit like stoner cooking: a big mess thrown together with confidence that the end result will be satisfying. that's true both as a criticism (some of the random pop references felt like too much; i think the audience could have been trusted to appreciate the text as shakespeare wrote it, without prompting or seasoning**) and as a compliment (the show was a lot of fun, even though some of it was cheap fun; this was the summer of poutine theater, and i'm still okay with that). some of the new music is solid stuff, and "love's a gun" in particular ("in the end there's still a marriage to someone you hardly know"), minus its cheesy power-ballad ending, is a bright and painful takedown of the comedies. this show will end up on broadway, i think; my virtual-line bitching aside, i hope this means broadway audiences end up in shakespeare as well.

mooncakes (pastries). "you should get some of these at the bakery on essex," said joe, and so i did: three lotus-seed mini-cakes, one lotus-seed cake, one mixed-nut cake, and one bitter-melon cake with a salted duck egg baked into the center. according to the chinese lunar calendar, the mid-autumn festival is september 19-21 this year, and mooncakes are gifted and eaten to celebrate prosperity and the harvest, in memory of a mythical archer and his beloved, sort of. the lotus cakes tasted a bit like the japanese red-bean wagashi i've gotten from minamoto kitchoan, the nut cake tasted like a slightly-mysterious pecan pie, and the bitter-melon cake with salted duck egg tasted like a thousand years of suffering at the hands of vindictive ancestors. i will try any (vegetarian) thing once, but i would have to lose a poker game nicolas-cage-in-honeymoon-in-vegas-style before i'd take another bite of one of those.

mr. burns (play). if i can get over the idea that i might have to see a musical every now and again, joe and i might go ahead and subscribe to playwrights horizons, which has yet to present us with anything less than capital entertainment. this time around we bought almost blindly and ended up seeing mr. burns, the best post-apocalyptic love song to people who quote the simpsons i'll probably ever see. it follows a handful of scrappy nuclear-meltdown survivors who pass the time by helping each other remember "cape feare" (episode 2, season 5), in which the simpsons move to terror lake via the witness relocation program because sideshow bob has been sending bart death threats. it's eventually about everything from storytelling and memory to gilbert and sullivan and britney spears (mr. burns deploys "toxic" almost as well as jen did at her wedding last year), and it's absurd and moving and wildly clever. it was also rather splattery at our matinee: one of the actresses whacked the blood pack on her chest a bit too enthusiastically, and joe and the guy in front of him took jets of stage blood to their chests. no big; at intermission i asked the assistant stage manager how he made his blood (it was detergent-based and "very washable"). culture in a blender and an unexpected splash zone: best day ever?

savages @ webster hall (concert). silence yourself (savages' debut album, just shortlisted for the mercury prize) is one of the best albums i've brought home in a long time, and their concert was the best live event i've attended in years; jehnny beth is utterly riveting on stage, ian curtis's geometry multiplied by pj harvey's gravitational field plus siouxsie sioux's upper register and diamond-sharp red heels. savages aren't exciting because they're women, they're exciting because they're confident and uncompromising and blisteringly talented, but i'd be lying if i said it was anything less than thrilling to watch music like that pour out of people who look like me. in, you know, a very poorly-lit room.

sweet tooth (book). hooray for giving ian mcewan one last chance! his latest, a novel about a beautiful young cambridge graduate who ends up working for MI5 (the UK's domestic counterintelligence agency) and grooming a young author to write novels favorable to the government, is a cross between atonement and a pulpy old john le carré novel (fine work on an unreliable female narrator's inner life plus meditations on writing plus safe houses and mysterious scraps of paper). in the sunday book review kurt andersen called it "about as entertaining as a very intelligent novel can be and vice versa," and he's right; it's an extremely fun book that doesn't feel trashy and an extremely thoughtful book that doesn't make you want to walk into the sea. i kind of want to send it to david lodge.

the world's end (film). it's entirely possible that simply getting to spend two air-conditioned hours in a large, plush, mostly-empty, probably-VD-free southern california movie theater in which no one texted or shouted or answered their damn phone made it impossible for me to dislike the world's end, but i think i'd be a fan anyway; i liked both shaun of the dead and hot fuzz, i appreciate how simon pegg and nick frost aren't too vain to play unlikable characters who don't especially deserve happy endings, and the idea that the corporate standardization of british pubs is probably one of the more visible signs of the coming apocalypse makes total sense to me. also the fights are really spectacular. god, i'm still thinking about that air conditioning.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 how do you feel about tom wolfe?
02 do you judge books by their covers?
03 is following a psychic on a cruise ship the welsh version of david foster wallace's "a supposedly fun thing i'll never do again"?
04 have you ever had a mooncake? what did you think?
05 would getting splattered with stage blood upset you?
06 what made the last great concert you attended so great?
07 if you're a fan of the pegg/frost family of products, which movie is your favorite?

*delightful as his emperor-of-ice-cream suits may be, i cannot forgive tom wolfe for i am charlotte simmons. never forget, internet.

**at one point armado auditions sonnet 29 as a love note for jaquenetta, and he and his friends dismiss it immediately; the joke was solid, but it also felt like broadway pouring one out for dear, departed (traditional) productions of yore.


101 in 1001 {III}: 027 go to the bronx zoo [completed 09.15.13]

maya and her cub

i spend a lot of time thinking about animal parks, which is unsurprising, given the rigors of maintaining ye olde birthday cakes for animals tumblr (it is no picnic: the panda photos really start to bleed together after the third or fourth month, and the internet still seems to lack interest in fêting reptiles*). ethics of anthropomorphism aside, we have a complicated history: when i was growing up in southern california, local heavies included a drive-through safari at which an african elephant broke free, killed one of her trainers, and forced the closure of two freeways; the san diego zoo (linked in the early '90s to hunting farms); and sea world (enough said). irresponsible animal parks are nightmarish, but conscientious ones are invaluable to conservationists. the bronx zoo is the flagship urban animal park of the wildlife conservation society, a nonprofit which receives excellent ratings from groups like charity navigator and kicks ass when it comes to, say, taking care of little snow leopards. we made a point of visiting the zoo this weekend because they've just started letting the public have a look at this five-month-old fellow, asleep with his mum five feet away from us in my photo; he's the firstborn son of leo, a leopard cub who was orphaned in the mountains of pakistan back in 2005 and rescued and hand-fed by a shepherd (seriously). thank you, bronx zoo, for being the sort of animal park that spearheads worldwide leopard-saving efforts and not the sort of animal park that plunks its big-cat exhibits right next to a shrieking merry-go-round (i'm looking at you, national zoo). the zoo's extensive grounds seemed to suit all of the animals we visited, actually, and once i have figured out how to hang out with tigers without weeping openly i will probably start making a point of going there on a regular basis. oh, tigers.

*with the notable exception of the late krakatoa, a komodo dragon who has been appreciated by like 27,000 people thus far. you fascinate me, internet, but i will probably never understand you.


in the cemetery

   I'm sitting next to Evelyn, the woman with the stomach cramps. "My heart's racing to see if she calls out my name," she whispers. Evelyn has come on this cruise specifically to ask Sylvia about her stomach pain.
   "Evelyn," Sylvia calls.
   She walks up to the microphone.
   "Uh," she stammers.
   "Speak up, honey," Sylvia says.
   "Um," Evelyn says.
   Sylvia looks impatient.
   "I—uh—think I've got a poltergeist in my house because things keep moving in my dishwasher," Evelyn says quickly. "Can you tell me the poltergeist's name?"
   "The poltergeist is an older relative called Doug," Sylvia says.
   "Thank you, Sylvia," Evelyn says.
   She sits back down. I look at her. She shrugs.

(jon ronson, from lost at sea: the jon ronson mysteries)


january on the train

"Well, [biographer Richard] Holmes is the great master of the quest, of the search. But there is the moment in Footsteps, when he is following [Robert Louis] Stevenson and finds himself on the bridge he thought Stevenson crossed, and then sees another bridge a few hundred yards away and realizes it was the other one. The point is that you can do a parallel journey, but however close you feel to the person—you've held his or her letters, seen what's been crossed out, got the journals, you've been in touch, as it were—you've got to be careful of not putting on the same clothes your subject did, of not eating the same thing. A good day's work, I think, is when at the end of the day I've written something I didn't know at the beginning.


I think I'm two people—the researcher and the writer. The researcher spends quite a lot of time going abroad, working in libraries, seeing letters. I sometimes turn to the writer, who is doing nothing at that point—who is sleeping!—and I say, Do you want this bit about [George Bernard] Shaw bicycling? And the writer doesn't know. He says, You're the researcher, you decide. So the researcher thinks, Well, that's really not important. And the researcher is always longing to be writing, getting on with the actual problem we created. Then the writer takes over, shuts the door to the world, and kicks back on this researcher who was traveling the world, meeting people, making discoveries, and he says, Why the hell is there no documentation here about Shaw and the bicycle? This part of Shaw's life is exactly about how things were happening more quickly, whereas before he was on foot."

(michael holroyd to lisa cohen, from "the art of biography no. 3," the paris review summer 2013)


cinespia, august 24

at the risk of being the girl who insists all gatherings are better in cemeteries, i'm starting to feel like all gatherings are better in cemeteries. my little sister and esb and i rolled out to see scream* at cinespia at hollywood forever when i was out in los angeles for matty in july, and i insisted on a follow-up trip when joe and i were back in town two weeks ago. this time we saw back to the future, so hobbyists' souped-up old deloreans ant-marched around the cemetery grounds. the crowd was a bit less costumed than it had been for scream's ninetiesfest (really, los angeles? who doesn't have an old puffer vest and/or a prom dress?), but it was enthusiastic, and it seemed to appreciate our complicated picnic accessories. we planned separate menus for encampments in line and in front of the screen, swapped cheese for wine with the kids on blankets behind us, and toasted absent friends as the sun ducked like a starlet behind the mausoleums. i'll say it again: new york, please try harder.

*was skeet ulrich ever plausible as a teenager? he's that franchise's gabrielle carteris. also, esb had never seen scream. what?!


los angeles

i'm closing in on the wild-haired and dirty-eyed final week of shipping the november issue at work and can't in good conscience write at length about our nine days in southern california (we got back this monday), but i feel like* it would be selfish to stagger into the weekend without airing this photo of my family at guelaguetza. i'm sentimental like that.

*that post (and the jezebel post it references) is actively insipid. have you ever known a thing to be actively insipid? it's both depressing and kind of impressive.


the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register}*

Suspicious person/circumstance. 10:19 p.m. A male subject was sitting with a hammer in his hand.
Disturbance. 5:12 p.m. An informant in the principal's office at Hidden Hills Elementary said skateboarders were using picnic tables.
Disturbance. 6:59 p.m. A woman called about a 7-year-old child who was abusive to her dog and her daughter.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 9:15 a.m. The caller reported finding two cash registers on his lawn.
Disturbance. 6:29 p.m. The caller said six children are throwing rocks at nine ducklings along the bike trail. The caller yelled at them and is a little concerned they may come after him next.
Suspicious person. 10:46 a.m. A woman was pulling plants out of people's yards.
Suspicious person. 4:47 p.m. A gallon size plastic bag was attached to a street sign. The caller said it looked like pencils inside and said it didn't look normal.
Disturbance. 9:25 p.m. A caller reported that someone threw a gallon of milk at his house 10 minutes ago. He doesn't know who did it but there are three people standing nearby in the dark in a hallway.
Citizen assist, 3:28 p.m. Someone reported people handing out religious material to students coming out of school.
Keeping the peace, 7:42 p.m. A man said his neighbor was giving baseball lessons in his own backyard and it was too loud.
Petty theft. 10:49 a.m. A man said someone used a rock to break into the candy vending machine at a construction project he supervises and stole $50 in candy. The damage to the machine was $100.
Shoplifting. 9:05 a.m. An employee of Ralphs said a man took a 24-ounce can of Budweiser into the bathroom and drank it without paying. The loss was $1.94.

*previous installment here.


   When the group broke from the conversation around the table to pose for a family photo outside, they continued their easy patter on books and pop culture. Joe's corgi, McMurtry, named after the novelist Larry McMurtry, was insistently present, so that someone catching snippets, from a distance, of the family's conversation into the yard would have heard something like this: "Neil Gaiman ... Spielberg ... McMurtry! McMurtry! ... Cronenberg ... Matt Groening ... McMurtry!"
   "Did you see that picture of John Irving that ran somewhere—he was coming out of some swamp with his shirt off?" Owen asked. "He looked like a ninja."

(from susan dominus's "children of the pen," on stephen king's family)


the dirty dozen {notes from my hometown police blotter, as reported by the oc register}*

Suspicious person/circumstances. 9:47 p.m. The caller said a pizza delivery guy came to the door with a pizza but she didn't order any.
Found property. 5:10 p.m. The caller said he was using a metal detector and found a knife.
Disturbance. 10:47 p.m. The caller reported four men smoking out of a bong at the community center softball field.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 10:12 p.m. The caller said a "big-time drug dealer" is going to be doing a huge drug deal at the In-N-Out.
Reckless driving. 10:55 a.m. The caller reported a woman in a Jetta "hugging" the curb and hitting the sidewalk.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 12:21 a.m. The caller said all lights are on at Carl's Jr. and it's a 24-hour drive-through, but there are signs on the doors saying "closed, sorry for the inconvenience" and registers are wrapped in black trash bags.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 10:01 a.m. The caller said a man set up a tent in the Little League first base dugout area.
Keep the peace. 4:15 p.m. The caller said he negotiated a purchase of a printer on eBay and was told by the owner to drive to Beverly Hills and pick it up. When he got there, a woman was standing there with the printer and said she's handling the sale, but she's not who he spoke to and she's denying knowing that person. The caller said it's very shady.
Disturbance. 11:55 p.m. The caller said his drunken friend is not acting normal.
Assist outside agency. 6:30 a.m. A bobcat or mountain lion reportedly was spotted in a resident's back yard.
Citizen assist. 6:25 p.m. A woman said she left her driver's license and credit card in her lover's trousers. Her lover then went home to his wife, who was angry and now had both her ID and credit card, she said. She called sheriff's deputies in an attempt to retrieve her property, officials said.
Suspicious person/circumstances. 1:42 p.m. The caller reported two men mowing the lawn and thought it was suspicious because they're driving a small U-Haul instead of a truck.

*previous installment here.


it was nearly summertime when i passed the stacked cages of kittens at the southern end of the union square greenmarket. the rescue group's volunteer turned to me as if we were reentering a conversation much older than our acquaintance: "you'd make a good mama," she said slowly and somehow regally, and i hurried into whole foods and let the frosty air shrink me until i was small enough to hide behind the pineapples and cry.

as when jude died, years ago, petfinder was how i reminded myself that mourning wasn't the only thing: so many cats needed homes, and if i found the one who was supposed to come home to us, joe and steve and i would know what to do with the feelings that had no place to go after chuck died. i found cats who looked just like steve did when he was a baby, hemingway cats with miraculous extra toes, cats whose shelter reports were barely believable as country songs. in june i found matty.

cat carrier, seventh avenue

airtrain, JFK

under your seat

en route to jo's

flowers from jo

roxie, downtown LA

catedral de la fe, downtown LA

hollywood forever hearse

matty's cousin checks out his carrier

the first cab ride

first day home

back in march i cancelled our trip to visit my sister in southern california to stay in new york city as chuck died. matty was born in southern california then—not too far from where i myself was born—and i can't tell you how good it felt to trade in those useless plane tickets last month and fly out to bring him home.

i think sometimes of how joseph campbell describes the psychological, pedagogical functions of myth—how it carries us through crises, and helps people 'grasp the unfolding of life with integrity.' we atheists are like caddisfly larvae when it comes to myth, boy; in the absence of a collective narrative, we'll build shit to protect ourselves out of anything. at a birthday brunch in downtown los angeles, my sister's friends blinked at me: "you know there are homeless cats in new york city too, right?" "what if someone said, 'we really want to adopt a kid who's norwegian'?"

matty's foster mom named him matisse, so we called him matty in the weeks between when she told us we could adopt him and when i flew out to meet them both. it became clear that we weren't going to be able to call him anything else—he just is a matty—so we started chewing on names. matthew barney? matthew arnold? mathlete? he was found skittering around a parking lot in anaheim, his foster had told me, so we named him the matterhorn. in my myth he was in this photo all along, waiting for us.