mardi, janvier 31, 2006

aubergine and artichokes

My lips are stained a lovely shade of purple (aubergine, really) and my mascara's smudged in a way that only happens when I laugh so hard that I cry.

Both are occupational hazards of spending quality time over wine (and sharing some stories, of course) with a woman more precious than rubies. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's my very own bel amie, Allison.

Can't wait 'til we do stats homework over wine and artichoke dip again ...

samedi, janvier 28, 2006

getting my learn on

After two trips to the airport (courtesy of Aloha airlines and Hotwire.com) and breakfast at Ortega's this morning ...

Ophy: "So what are you up to today?"
H: "I have an insane amount of reading and homework to do this weekend."
Ophy: "Home-what? I'm so glad I'm done with grad school."
Diana: "Me too."
H: "Thanks."

jeudi, janvier 26, 2006

bite me

After eating dinner with my dad at Rancho's, I headed to Shooters to support my friend Edgar, who was DJing there for the first time. Remembering how good it felt when my friends showed up back in my dj esoterica days, I got there early and pretty much stayed on the dance floor. By 11:30, the place was packed and I had decided that it was time to call it a night. Ten minutes later, I was still dancing to a set that included "Panic," "It's a Sin," and "Let's Dance."

That's when I turned around and was nearly face to face with a goth boy. He was smiling, holding a beer, and not a bad dancer. He said "hello" and I didn't move away. He seemed friendly, but not smarmy. He told me his name, asked mine, and made smalltalk. That's when things got weird.

He said "I like your neck."

Thinking I must have misunderstood him, I said "I'm sorry?" and leaned my ear closer to him.
Instead of repeating himself, he bit me.
That's right. He bit my neck. WTF?!

I backed away, more amused than angry, and asked him how old he was.
He tried to be coy and said "how old do you think I am?"

I responded with "I asked you a question: how old are you?"
He said "26."
I then said "but obviously not old enough to know better than to do that to a complete stranger."

I walked away, said "goodnight" to Edgar, and then made a clean getaway.

I've been going to clubs like these for nearly a decade and have never met a goth quite so bold. I'm also fairly certain that I don't put out a vibe that says "bite me." (At least not in the literal sense.)

Thankfully, he left no marks. Freak.

the daily cass

Cass is keeping a photo diary for each day of 2006.

This photo was taken on Jan. 14, before we headed to the SuperDiamond show. I have no idea why Nolan, Cass, and Diana chose the props they did -- I was just finishing my drink. But I suspect that Nolan's monkeyriffic prop may explain why he was so popular later in the evening.

monkfish, vol. 5 in a series

This fun article triggered the latest dispatch in my series of run-ins with monkfish. It brings me to five references in four months (two in January alone):
My Week as a Waiter
By FRANK BRUNI
Published: January 25, 2006
IT'S 7:45 p.m., the East Coast Grill is going full tilt and I'm ready to throttle one of the six diners at Table M-8.

He wants me to describe the monkfish special. For the fourth time. I hoarsely oblige, but when I return yet again to my riff on the apricot lager mustard, which comes right before my oratorical ode to the maple pecan mashed sweet potatoes, his attention flags and he starts to talk to a friend.

Does he mistake me for a recorded message, paused and played with the push of a button? Doesn't he know I have other tables to serve?

mercredi, janvier 25, 2006

stripping over my words

Diana's post on butchered idioms (courtesy of her former boss Renaud, a Frenchman) is hilarious.

Read the Renaudisms and learn what "Did you wake up on the wrong side of the foot?" and "You can't teach a monkey a new face" mean.
TopicRenaudism
Finality of numbers"It's not that those numbers have to be set in marble."
Phone Tag"I'm sorry that we keep playing tag phone."
Kissing up"I don't need you to lick ass."
Getting to the point"We need to cut to the chest."
Bad mornings"Did you wake up on the wrong side of the foot?"
Non disclosures"You can't look at that because you haven't signed the DNA yet."
Unappealing jobs"What would repeal you from this job?"
Renaud's brightness"I'm not the sharpest tool on the shelf."
Training"You can't teach a monkey a new face."
Leaving for the day"I'm about to quit the building."
Talking about others"I wouldn't talk in your back."
Sucky jobs"My friends have dead hand jobs."
Picking your battles"Don't kill the hand that feeds you."
Go ahead, make my day"Be my guess."
Tripping over my words"Stripping over my words."
It strikes me that..."It strikes my mind that..."
Probability"Shoot fish in a pond."
That's a relief"That's a large weight off your stomach."

working up the nerve

Decisions, decisions: do I share this factoid at tomorrow's Toastmasters meeting or not?

Sex helps calm nerves before public speaking
Full sexual intercourse offers the best results, psychologist says
Updated: 2:53 p.m. ET Jan. 25, 2006
LONDON - Forget pretending you are talking to one person or concentrating on a single point in the audience — having sex is good way to calm nerves before giving a speech or presentation.

But Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley in Scotland, said it has to be full sexual intercourse to get the best results.

He studied nearly 50 men and women who recorded their sexual activities for two weeks and analyzed its impact on their blood pressure levels when under acute stress, such as when giving a speech.

Brody discovered that the volunteers who had sexual intercourse were the least stressed and had blood pressure levels that returned to normal more quickly than people who engaged in other types of sex.

But people who had abstained from sex had the highest blood pressure response to stress.

Even after taking into account stress due to work or other factors, the range of responses to stress were best explained by sexual behavior.

“The effects are not attributable simply to the short-term relief afforded by orgasm but rather, endure for at least a week,” Brody told New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.

He believes that the release of the so-called “pair bonding” hormone oxytocin might explain the calming effect.

quotable

"Sometimes the majority is right ... though never for the right reasons."
-My friend Leo

quotable

"Open minds are a beautiful thing."
-Susan Guerra

zanzibar chicken

I usually serve this with couscous, carrots, and a blood orange salad.

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

3 lbs chicken thighs and/ or drumsticks (chicken breasts also work well)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
3/4 cup orange juice
3 TBSP sultanas

1. Season chicken with cinnamon, cloves, salt, and pepper. In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, in batches if necessary, and cook, turning until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2. Add onion to pan. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
3. Return chicken to pan. Add orange juice and raisins. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10-15 minutes, until chicken is tender.

mardi, janvier 24, 2006

'cause there's something in a sunday ...

As I was getting ready for work today, I searched my iTunes library for songs with "Sunday" in them.

Here's what I got:
Sunday Morning - Ani diFranco
Hated Sunday - Black Box Recorder
Sunday Girl - Blondie
Sunday Rider - David Gates
Sunday Papers - Joe Jackson
Sunday Morning Come Down - Johnny Cash
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning - Madness
Sunday (The Day Before My Birthday) - Moby
Pleasant Valley Sunday - The Monkees
Everyday is Like Sunday - Morrissey
Here's Where the Story Ends - The Sundays
Sunday Bloody Sunday - U2
Sunday Morning - Velvet Underground

weakness

I was sitting in a Long Island Starbucks on new year's day, sipping peppermint tea, and sharing the Times with Ben when I first read this article. Both of us laughed. It was my Sunday ritual, except for the company, time, and place. (Blast the non-quantum nature of these particular dimensions.)

Anyhow, I remembered that I still hadn't posted the article when a straight male said this to me yesterday: "i passed up kate beckinsale last minute for some ledger-gyllenhall man-love. aren't you proud? wait, don't answer that." (I should mention that Kate's currently starring in a vampire flick in leather pants.)

Meanwhile: Cowboys are my weakness
By Larry David (Originally published in The New York Times)
SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2006
Somebody had to write this, and it might as well be me. I haven't seen "Brokeback Mountain," nor do I have any intention of seeing it.

In fact, cowboys would have to lasso me, drag me into the theater and tie me to the seat, and even then I would make every effort to close my eyes and cover my ears.

And I love gay people. Hey, I've got gay acquaintances. Good acquaintances, who know they can call me anytime if they had my phone number.

I'm for gay marriage, gay divorce, gay this and gay that. I just don't want to watch two straight men, alone on the prairie, fall in love and kiss and hug and hold hands and whatnot. That's all.

Is that so terrible? Does that mean I'm homophobic? And if I am, well, then that's too bad. Because you can call me any name you want, but I'm still not going to that movie.

To my surprise, I have some straight friends who've not only seen the movie but liked it.

"One of the best love stories ever," one gushed. Another went on, "Oh, my God, you completely forget that it's two men. You in particular will love it."

"Why me?"

"You just will, trust me."

But I don't trust him. If two cowboys, male icons who are 100 percent all-man, can succumb, what chance to do I have, half- to a quarter of a man, depending on whom I'm with at the time?

I'm a very susceptible person, easily influenced, a natural-born follower with no sales-resistance. When I walk into a store, clerks wrestle one another trying to get to me first. My wife won't let me watch infomercials because of all the junk I've ordered that's now piled up in the garage. My medicine cabinet is filled with vitamins and bald cures.

So who's to say I won't become enamored with the whole gay business? Let's face it, there is some appeal there. I know I've always gotten along great with men. I never once paced in my room rehearsing what to say before asking a guy if he wanted to go to the movies.

And I generally don't pay for men, which of course is their most appealing attribute.

And gay guys always seem like they're having a great time. At the Christmas party I went to, they were the only ones who sang. Boy that looked like fun. I would love to sing, but this weighty, self-conscious heterosexuality I'm saddled with won't permit it.

I just know if I saw that movie, the voice inside my head that delights in torturing me would have a field day. "You like those cowboys, don't you? They're kind of cute. Go ahead, admit it, they're cute. You can't fool me, gay man. Go ahead, stop fighting it. You're gay! You're gay!"

Not that there's anything wrong with it.

(Larry David appears in the HBO series ''Curb Your Enthusiasm.'')

lundi, janvier 23, 2006

mixing bagged colloquialisms

Our new statistics professor had a previous life as an English major and a psychologist, which probably explains why our course syllabus is 20 pages of 10-point Times New Roman text. (No joke.)

Allison, Justin, and I were reading the fine print last night at Urban Grind when I stumbled on the section about our written proposal. It was four pages on what not to do writing-wise, including a warning about avoiding colloquialisms and mixed metaphors.

In a completely serious tone, Allison chimed in saying "I definitely agree with not using colloquialisms, especially in California, because California is such a mixed bag ..."

That was the point at which I arched my eyebrow and shot her a look. Then, both of us exploded into laughter that lasted several minutes.

Her new nickname: "mb" for mixed bag.

scenes of chaos and joy

The people who brought you the mp3 experiment 2.0 are at it again. Sunday was Improv Everywhere's 5th Annual No Pants Subway Ride in New York City. More than 160 riders participated in the ride before police halted their No. 6 train at about 5 p.m. Eight were arrested and cited.

See some images.

The irony here:
Agent Siegel was taken to the precinct wearing no pants (he was separated from them and they're currently in my apartment.) After he was released, he asked a cop if it would be ok for him to ride the subway home. The cop hesitated and then said, "Yeah". So he was given permission to immediately return to the subway and break the same law he had just been taken in for.

Police halt annual ‘No Pants Subway Ride’ Eight pranksters cited for disorderly conduct
Updated: 11:32 p.m. ET Jan. 22, 2006
NEW YORK - From the waist up, they looked like perfectly normal commuters. That wasn’t good enough for police.

Eight pranksters who dropped their pants and showed their underwear on the subway on Sunday were taken into custody and issued summonses for disorderly conduct. All were ultimately released, said Improv Everywhere, the group that organized the stunt.

The group said more than 160 riders participated in the fifth annual No Pants Subway Ride before police halted their No. 6 train about 5 p.m.

Charlie Todd, who founded Improv Everywhere in 2001, said it’s not his group’s intent to offend. He said he wants to create scenes of chaos and joy in public places around New York.

“It was our intent to make people laugh,” he said. “We try to give people a great story to tell.”

Todd, a teacher and performer, said the police overreacted when they turned a harmless event into something that inconvenienced lots of subway riders. A judge will determine whether those issued summonses will be punished.

dimanche, janvier 22, 2006

engine 22

Who knew?

On Engine 22, It's Women Who Answer the Bell
SAN DIEGO, Jan. 17 - When the crew from Fire Engine Company 22 raced off at 7:50 a.m. the other day for the first call of their 24-hour shift, a woman reporting chest pains, their big red rig was primed for action but missing a typical feature: a man.

The four members of Engine 22, Division A, a captain, an engineer, a firefighter-paramedic and a firefighter, protect the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego, an affluent peninsula on the Pacific Ocean. They are one of the few crews in the nation made up entirely of women, winding up together last October, as the captain, Joi Evans, said, because of "the way the cards fell."

Together they work, cook, shop, train and sleep in small dorm rooms in the station house, around the clock for 10 days a month, at a time when women are making some inroads into the fire service nationwide but are still only a sliver of the front line in one of the most physically grueling and male-dominated professions. With women accounting for about 8 percent of the 880 uniformed firefighters assigned to its station houses, compared with the national average of 2.5 percent, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, which has a female assistant chief, is considered one of the best departments for women to work, according to Women in the Fire Service, an advocacy group based in Madison, Wisconsin ...

postsecret (number 3 in a series)

The PostSecret Project is now a book. It was actually Ben's Christmas gift to me. (Thanks again, B.)

The book includes many of my favorites and was a hit with Cass, Diana, and Nolan when they were over for dinner last week. It's now on my coffee table and has been picked up by pretty much everyone who's walked through my front door.

Newsweek has an article about the project right now: You’ve Got Confessions.

Here's a new sampling of some of my favorites, swiped over the past three months. (Each image links to a full-size version.) You can also see earlier faves: 1, 2 .

samedi, janvier 21, 2006

loose lips sink relationships

My friend Bill gave a great speech at last week's Toastmasters meeting. It was on kissing and had the entire room in stitches; two-thirds of the room was actually crying by the end of the speech.

He was kind enough to send me the outline yesterday, so here's the essence of what he (a forty-something single guy) had to say ...

The facts: Most men are afraid of marriage, bad cooks, and bad kissers. Most men are aware of the first two facts, but completely in the dark on the last. According to the group of women Bill surveyed, only 20% of men are good kissers, which means that 4 out of 5 are doing things the wrong way. All of this becomes even more important when you consider the group's other observation -- if the first kiss sucks, you might not get a second chance.

Some things to keep in mind: For women, kissing is often an end unto itself. But for men, kissing is often the means to an end.

Ways men go wrong / problematic kissing styles:
- The Dead Cod (not enough pressure / traction)
- The Slobberer (too much lubrication)
- The Washing Machine (too much 360 movement)
- The Dentist (too much floss action)
- The Engulfer (stick to her lips, and don't include everything from her nose to her chin)
- The Reptile (too much tongue flicking)

Other things to keep in mind:
- No hair pulling
- No vacuum
- No biting

Finally, these are Bill's tips for success:
- moisturize
- relax
- watch body language

not enough biscuits in the world

I've often been amazed at how careful Casey was with me during my recovery from various surgeries. The first: a tonsillectomy in 1999. The second: foot surgery in 2002. The third: a nephrectomy in 2003. He was also very attentive as my marriage unravelled.

He instantly went from a playful and exuberant puppy who would forget himself and gladly jump on me (down, boy!) when I came home from work to a cautious, reserved (one might even say careful) dog who would sniff me gingerly and wag his tail eagerly.

The scientific explanation, that I was emitting stress hormones or some other measurable, tangible (albeit outside our senses) pheromone makes the most sense. But I often wish that Casey could speak, even if he'd be saying "greenie, greenie, greenie" two thirds of the time.
What the Nose Knows
How well do you know your dog? The answer is, not nearly as well as your dog knows you. Given the right incentives, humans can certainly be perceptive enough. But most dog lovers discover, sooner or later, that dogs have an alertness to the behavioral signs of their owners that humans rarely equal. And that's nothing. Scientists have recently discovered that dogs can distinguish, with almost unerring accuracy, between breath samples from people with lung cancer and from people without. The dogs have to be trained to do it, of course. But the fact that they can do it at all is remarkable. There aren't enough biscuits in the world to teach a human to smell at such an extraordinary level of subtlety.

This news will give pause to almost anyone who lives with a dog. Just what a dog "knows" is hard to say, because the human idea of "knowing" is so closely related to the ability to express what you know. Even trained cancer-sniffing dogs express their knowledge - their distinction between samples - only by sitting or not sitting. But this is what always happens. We tend to forget the extraordinary powers of the animals we live with simply because we live with them. We tend to humanize them, which means, if nothing else, that we tend to reduce them - in terms of their sensory powers - to our muddling level. We can barely take in the fact that when a dog comes up and sniffs us, it is really giving us a nasal M.R.I.

Not that this will change the dynamic of our relations with man's best friend. For a while - remembering the cancer-sniffing dogs - some of us will wonder when we see our pets cock their heads, "What are you looking at?" But time will pass, and humans will be humans, and we will forget, at our end of the leash, that the beast we are walking with may already know things about us that we will discover only too late.

nutcases s'abstenir, s'il vous plaît

Online dating dispatch, volume two in a series ...

The most outrageous person who has contacted me thus far has to be Retired_Spy, who complimented me on my good French grammar: "(de points de bonus supplementaires pour ta bonne grammaire en francais)."

My first thought was that it was my buddy Nathan having some fun with me.
But now I'm kinda hoping he's legit, because he's just so ridiculous.

Either way, he's really not my demographic, but at least he's honest about what he's looking for and pretty witty in how he's asking for it:

I'm a well-educated, charming, witty dirty old man in my 40's living near Geneva, Switzerland.

I'm English mother-tongue, but speak French, German, and have forgotten almost all the Russian I knew.

I'm involved in international relations on a global level. In my career I've worked in over 60 countries on all continents (except Antarctica for you purists).

I'm not looking for a soul-mate; rather, I'm looking for someone (2 'X' chromosomes obligatory) who enjoys taking a few mild risks, delights in long boozy lunches, and would be interested in foregoing same for hot, sweaty, and fulfilling, purely superficial, utterly meaningless encounters.

Oh: nutcases, s'abstenir (don't bother replying).

You're either young (18-28), inexperienced, enthusiastic, and very pliant; or still young (29+), experienced, enthusiastic, and very pliant. In either case, you should be a risk-taker (that's a risk with a small 'r', by the way).

You shouldn't be a flake. I don't like flakes. Or teases. Or girls who haven't quite grown up.

It would be great if we spoke a couple of languages in common, and you've seen the world a bit, although that's not strictly necessary.

And you should be interested in getting together for a nice lunchtime dalliance or two. Or three. Or more.

Nutcases, s'abstenir svp.

vendredi, janvier 20, 2006

transported

Tonight, Cass and I hit Apertivo for a drink. I wanted some port, and Cass chose the chocolate port.

It was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that we made a deal to meet at Aperitivo for the monthly port faceoff for the rest of 2006.

It goes something like this ... we order two glasses and pick a winner. The winner gets carried forward and a new contender goes head-to-head for the title the next month.

January's champion: Sonoma Valley Portworks' Deco Chocolate Port.

Meanwhile, I think I'll make the Port-Poached Pears with Port Chocolate Sauce. Failing that, I'll manufacture an excuse to make the Port Chocolate Sauce.

asim, this one's for you ...

So I'm minding my own business, reading the Times when I stumble on this story about how to spend a great 36 hours in San Diego ...

It lists several of my regular (food and art) haunts:
Cafe Chloe
The Mission
The Hash House A Go Go
The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art
Kettner Nights

Who knew that we were so effing trendy?

don't be evil

I've said it before, and I'm saying it again: I want to have Google's baby.

Their corporate motto is "Don't be evil." Apparently, that includes taking a principled stand against the Bush Administration, like they did this week.

Google rebuffs feds over access to search data
Bush administration wants details of what users look for
Updated: 8:24 p.m. ET Jan. 19, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO - Google Inc. is rebuffing the Bush administration’s demand for a peek at what millions of people have been looking up on the Internet’s leading search engine — a request that underscores the potential for online databases to become tools for government surveillance.

Mountain View-based Google has refused to comply with a White House subpoena first issued last summer, prompting U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales this week to ask a federal judge in San Jose for an order to hand over the requested records.

The government wants a list all requests entered into Google’s search engine during an unspecified single week — a breakdown that could conceivably span tens of millions of queries. In addition, it seeks 1 million randomly selected Web addresses from various Google databases.

The search engine giant said Thursday it had refused a subpoena issued by the Justice Department to provide a factual basis for justifying an online pornography law that was struck down by the Supreme Court on free-speech grounds.


By the way, Microsoft, Yahoo, and America Online complied with the request but say they did not reveal any personally identifiable information about their users.

Yeah, right.

jeudi, janvier 19, 2006

talking 'bout my demographic

Wickedly good. Artfully scientific. Intensely playful.
Deliberately random. Selfishly giving. Successfully unsatisfied.
Constantly spontaneous. Seriously wacky. Normally quirky.
Conservatively liberal. Rarely typical. Simply complex. Esoterically focused.
Relaxedly driven. Promptly late. Competitively compassionate.
Agreeably contrarian. Traditionally hip. Conventionally progressive.
Unapologetically contrite. Revolutionarily stable.
Locally worldly. Internationally domestic.
Formally casual. Masculinely feminist. Firmly gentle. Easily difficult.
Intellectually athletic. Rurally cosmopolitan. Urbanly off-the-beaten-path.
Realistically romantic. Imaginatively grounded. Cooly doting.
Confidently modest. Quietly engaging. Independently social. Calmly edgy.
Gainfully unmaterialistic. Willfully yielding. Deliciously unsavory.

mercredi, janvier 18, 2006

scintillating

"Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."

Last night, I dreamt about Starry Night.

That's really odd for me, as I rarely remember my dreams. It could've been the quote. Or seeing the real thing last month at New York's MOMA. Or talking about Don McLean with Cass, Diana, and Nolan Saturday.

Perhaps it's the new experience of giving off rapid-fire sparks whilst peacefully outside myself.

Update: The fact that I have it set as my wallpaper on my cell phone, and see it twenty times a day is probably why. When I consider that it is the last visual I see each night (my cell phone is my alarm clock), it all makes sense.

quotable

mardi, janvier 17, 2006

¡maravilloso!

Spain has a new law that bans smoking in the workplace and requires large restaurants to be mostly non-smoking. The sight of office workers forced to light up on the sidewalk is a shock in a country where many people used to scoff at the anti-smoking crusade in America.

Spain Gets Tough on Smoking

Ireland banned smoking in the workplace and restaurants two years ago. Italy banned it in all public places last year. Now, if only the French could get behind this ...

al's speech

I heart Al. And I wonder where our country would be today if he were at the helm instead of the idiot cowboy.

Al Gore: America's Constitution is in Grave Danger

dimanche, janvier 15, 2006

nolan's strange magnetism

Cass, Diana, Nolan and I saw SuperDiamond (the alternative Neil Diamond experience) at the Belly Up last night.

We began with dinner and drinks at my place, then headed to the show. The openers, Urban Gypsys, were a funk band so good that even the whitest white boys in the audience found their inner groove and shook their asses.

Then, Surreal Neil and the Diamond boys took the stage in their sequined shirts, platform shoes, and ridiculously tight pants. Having gotten there early enough to stake out our spots right against the center of the stage, we were poised for a great view of Neil, which created all sorts of issues ...

I'm not above throwing an elbow when someone tries to weasel her way up front, especially if that someone is a bimbo who's never heard of the band and only wants to get up on stage. Let's just say that there were bimbos aplenty.

Take, for instance, the very inebriated blonde who kept rubbing herself all over Nolan. His back got more breast action than it's ever had, which is hilarious, given that she was so not his demographic. For some strange reason, Nolan also seemed to have victim written all over him. Earlier, he encountered an asshole who kept trying to berate him into trading spots with his girlfriend. But it was all good in the end.

Surreal Neil and the boys rocked out for nearly three hours, playing all my favorite Neil Diamond songs. We all loved it. As we were walking out, Diana kept saying how hot Surreal Neil was. Neil reached new levels of hotness with us all when Cass pointed out that he's a math teacher from Hayward who rocks out with his buddies on the weekends and makes ridiculous amounts of money while having a great time.

And not to brag or anything, but I wore my supacool Neil Diamond forever t-shirt purchased when I saw the real Neil last month in concert. I think it probably factored into me being the only woman who Surreal Neil actually kissed during the show. It was my hand, but that's not the point now, is it?

vendredi, janvier 13, 2006

missing the mark

This NPR story comes to us all thanks to my friend Hilary.

She actually told her friend Andrea (a producer for All Things Considered) about Hanzi smatter, who followed up with a story. It became the most-emailed story on the NPR site for a few days.

NPR : Chinese Character Tattoos: Lost in Translation
Robert Siegel talks with Tian Tang, author of
http://www.hanzismatter.com/ (a Web site dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters in Western culture). Tang posts photos of Chinese character tattoos that either contain errors or carry no meaning.

Tang says as a Chinese American, he felt it was his "duty and honor to educate the public about the misusage of Chinese characters."

jeudi, janvier 12, 2006

totally engorged

This article about a man's personal journey of discovery, as precipitated by a late-night Bowflex infomercial, just slayed (slew? whatever.) me.
A Better Body in 64 Payments
By STEVE FRIEDMAN
HERE'S how an infomercial works: One day life is good, and I'm munching on a sugar-coated, low-fat blueberry Pop-Tart in front of my television at 1:30 a.m., weeping quietly at Tony and Maria's first meeting in "West Side Story" because I know that staggering pain and death await them and all of humanity.

Between that moment and dawn's early light, for 20 minutes I remember only dimly, I stare slack-jawed at a television advertisement for a Bowflex home-exercise machine.

A few days later, five small-coffin-size cardboard boxes are crammed into my one-bedroom apartment, cutting off some of my favorite television viewing angles, tripping me on my late night sorties to fetch Fig Newtons from the fridge, unsettling me so much that I'm forced to add a pint of reduced-fat frozen yogurt to my Pop-Tarts, to soothe my nerves.

I call my friend Jack to complain. I do this because I blame him for my predicament. Jack is a voice-over actor who works out at a health club every morning and eats oatmeal for lunch.

A few days earlier we had been sitting at a Greek diner in the middle of the afternoon, because for the last five years neither of us has had what Jack calls "a no-win contract with the Man" and others refer to as "steady jobs."

We had been chatting about Venezuelan-style populism, Britney Spears and male-pattern hair loss. I was snacking on a cheeseburger and milkshake.

"You're Shamu," Jack said. "Don't you think you'd be happier if you'd eat like a human being instead of a tree sloth and start working out every so often?"

"I think tree sloths are vegetarians," I said.

"Who cares what tree sloths are? You're a whale! You've got to do something!"

But what? My knees are arthritic, so I can't play basketball or jog anymore. The pool at my fitness club is always crowded. It's too cold for bicycling. Sit-ups? On my hardwood floors? Why not just ask for serious spinal injury and months, if not years, of excruciating and expensive rehab.

And then I saw the Bowflex infomercial. "Pumped arms. Ripped abs. Legs of steel," it said. "Twelve pounds of muscle in six weeks," and "Results are easy, with just one simple workout, 20 minutes a day, three times a week." All for $25 a month.

Bowflex spent $16 million for paid programming on national cable channels in 2005, more than any other company spent on a piece of home exercise equipment, according to the Infomercial Monitoring Service.

I can understand why. Its message is clear and life affirming, potent and simple. I have heard similar exhortations from evangelists over the years and, more recently, from a girlfriend right before she dumped me. To wit: just because I'm an overweight, lazy, greedy, at times selfish, overeating, occasionally self-loathing and chronically underearning daydreamer, doesn't mean I'm beyond salvation.

Redemption is as easy as surrendering my will and a little cash to a higher power. Or springing for flowers and shaving more often and taking Katharine to a nice restaurant every once in a while. Or, in the case of the Bowflex, simply punching a few buttons on my telephone.

A week and a half later, after I have realized that assembling the Bowflex Xtreme 2 requires an advanced degree in biomechanics, after I have called the Bowflex folks to send someone over to put the thing together for me, and after I have learned that assembly costs an extra $200 or so that the infomercials don't mention, I open the owner's manual and fitness guide, searching for the easy-to-follow map to a world where no one will call me Shamu.

Instead, on the first page, I find this: "Please take your time to read through the entire manual before attempting to use your Bowflex Xtreme 2 home gym. You should understand how to properly set up and perform each exercise before you do so using Power Rod resistance." Slight problem: The manual is 69 pages. There are 75 different exercises. I feel a mood coming on. I fetch a few Pop-Tarts.

This isn't fair. One Bowflex magazine ad promised me "rock-hard abs, a sculpted chest, and powerful arms" as a result of exercising "just 20 minutes a day, three days a week." It didn't say anything about hours spent memorizing "success tips." And it certainly didn't mention the "Bowflex Xtreme 2 Body Leanness Program," which I found on Page 55, where I learn that "for maximum fat loss," I ought to stick to a daily diet of 1,500 calories. If I could stick to a 1,500-calorie diet, would I be sharing my living quarters with a machine that is nearly seven feet tall and looks like a mechanical octopus? I take out my fury on a pint of peanut butter cup ice cream, which I have stored for just such an emergency.

I wake the next morning filled with resolve and anticipation. I do three sets of bench presses, then seated shoulder presses, lat pull-downs and biceps curls. Afterward I am sweating a little, grunting and feeling extraordinarily fit.

"Behold the new me," I say to Jack, whom I have invited over to admire the Bowflex Xtreme 2. Jack inspects the resistance rod technology.

"I see you have it set on 'girl,' " he says.

The booklet offers seven training regimens, ranging from the 20-minute, three-day-a-week "better body workout" to the six-day-a-week, hourlong "body building" plan. I choose "advanced general conditioning," which means exercising 35 to 45 minutes, four days a week. On those days I also spend 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer at the gym. At the end of a week I have taken my belt in a notch. After two weeks I have lost five pounds. I don't wheeze quite as much on my trips for Fig Newtons. Also I now use bowflex as a participle.

"What are you up to tonight?" Jack asks one afternoon at the diner, where we are mulling over Villanova's prospects in the forthcoming college basketball season, the heavy toll globalization exacts on the poor and who is a better dancer, Christina Aguilera or Shakira.

"Not much," I say. "I'm just going to grab a salad, maybe watch a little TV, then do some bowflexin." I drop the g because I think it makes me sound more muscular.

In the middle of Week 3, when I look in the mirror, my arms are bigger and my chest and shoulders are more defined. I refer to my arms as guns now, as casually as possible and at the slightest opportunity.

"How have you been?" a magazine editor I used to date asks me when I run into her on the street one day.

"Not bad," I reply. "But the guns are kinda sore."

She frowns, pursing her lips.

"Probably because I've been doing so much bowflexin," I say.

She steps back.

I scream during my crossover high rear delt rows. (Don't ask.) I grow a goatee, which I think is slimming. I start slipping the word engorged into conversation.

"Don't you think," Jack asks one day over our afternoon coffee, "that December's a little late in the year to be wearing nothing but a T-shirt?"

"The guns need to breathe," I say.

"What is wrong with you?"

"Nothing. I'm getting healthy. And speaking of health, do you have any idea how many calories are packed into a bowl of oatmeal? Maybe you ought to think about that."

"I miss the old you," Jack says. "Plus you're never going to last on that thing."

But I do. I last, and I thrive. I have worked out with free weights before, and on Cybex machines and Universal equipment. I find the Bowflex Xtreme 2 a perfectly satisfactory alternative, solid and challenging. (So do legions of Bowflex users I encountered online, who seem to find success with the Bowflex in direct proportion to how much they use it.)

Virtually every exercise I have ever done with weights, or on a machine in a gym, I can do on my Bowflex. And the power rod resistance turns out to be a rather ingenious way that the Bowflex brains have figured out to simulate weight by pulling against heavy plastic rods. So what if I have a mechanical octopus as a roommate? It's working.

True, the heavy-duty plastic mat that the Bowflex is supposed to sit upon is an "accessory" that is an additional $99. True, the "satisfaction guarantee" refund offer would entail my disassembling the Bowflex Xtreme 2, packing it into its original boxes and paying for its shipment back to Bowflex. True, the manufacturer recalled more than one million devices in 2004 after reports of broken seats and collapsed benches on its Ultimate and Power Pro models. True, the Bowflex Xtreme 2 costs $1,599.

True, when a woman I'm dating discovers that I have ordered a machine advertised on an infomercial, she says, "I don't know what your mother did to you and I don't want to know, but don't call me anymore." True, the infomercial universe is filled with companies selling belts that promise to melt away pounds while you're lounging on a couch, miracle diets that will make you slender while you're slumped at your desk and other goofy sounding, if not fraudulent, gizmos and gimcracks. Can something called a Bowflex that comes from that same universe possibly be legit?

"As long as you stress the musculature in a similar manner, it doesn't matter if you're using a Bowflex or free weights or a similar device," said Glenn A. Gaesser, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia.

"The bottom line is they all work if you use them," Dr. Gaesser said, "But there's a caveat with the machines that make promises. If you work out 20 minutes, three times a week, yes, there will be a new body. But don't think it will look like a body builder or Lance Armstrong."

Keith Cinea, the senior education coordinator for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, said a better physique was part of a package deal. "It's resistance training, aerobic conditioning and your diet," he said. "Especially if you're looking at the body transformation they mention in their sales pitch, with just the machine, no, it won't work."

It won't? I need to change my diet, maybe even increase time on the elliptical trainer? This disappoints me. This makes me sad. I feel a mood coming. But I do not grab for a pint of ice cream, or reach for a box of Pop-Tarts. Those sad, fatty days are over. Shamu doesn't live here anymore. There's no room, not in my apartment. For this I salute the Bowflex Xtreme 2. As I salute, I check the mirror. The guns? Totally engorged.

mercredi, janvier 11, 2006

splicing

I posted my profile on an online dating site and it's a bit over-the-top, even for me.
Giant disclaimer: A male friend of mine who's done online dating heavily influenced much of what's posted there. As he's precisely the type of person I'd like to date, I thought it made sense to listen to him. After all, the first rule in writing is to know your audience.

Anyhow, here's one of the responses:

Subject: Oh sure...
It always starts with comma splicing. Just this once. You're in a hurry, got things to do, who's going to notice this one time? Trust me, it's a short step from there to splitting infinitives (hell, it's just another kind of splice, really, right?), and before you know it, you're sticking prepositions at the end of sentences like the Administration stacking up new excuses for the war. It can only lead to the shame of dangling participles and introducing yourself at some 12-step meeting.


Although he's not my demographic, it's good to know that there are some seriously funny people out there.

mardi, janvier 10, 2006

about me

So I'm doing online dating for the first time in my life. This is the profile I posted.

My Self-Summary:
I'm irreverent and relevant. I literally and literarily alliterate, but don't be fooled, I'm not afraid to splice a comma if I have to. I've been told I give really good email, and I expect the same in return. I'm a former DJ, so don't try and fool me with any soulless emo. If you're talking post-industrial, you won't find me at the bar: I'll be shaking, but not stirring, my martinis on the dance floor. My dog's cool, so if you expect to get along with me, expect to get along with him. And I've got a traveling jones; I just can't wait for my next chance to go walkabout and earn some frequent flier miles. (Yes, that is an appropriate place to use a semicolon.)

The truth about me: I'm uber-literal and often way too analytical. I'm also comfortable in my own skin, direct, well educated, sincere, creative, sensual, vulnerable, and kind. I value honesty and am a good friend.

Some of my favorite things: Success, social justice, travel, politics, photography, long kisses, music, cooking, French, Spanish, living abroad, foreign films, indie films, dogs, cancer, NPR, David Sedaris, gardens, back scratches and rubs, flowers, history, dancing, tea, rain, yoga, art, reading the New York Times on Sunday mornings, organic produce from the farmer's market, the color green.

What I'm Doing With My Life
At this very moment? Frittering away time online and flirting with hedonism.

Occupation: Web diva (erstwhile lackey) by day.

Avocation: I'm a graduate student, two nights a week.

Preoccupation: Travel. I've lived abroad (France, Spain) and visited 14 countries so far. This year, I plan to see Peru and China.

I'm Really Good At
First, some things I can't do:

Hard math
Sing loudly on key
Suffer fools / tolerate willful ignorance
The same thing over and over again
Run a seven-minute mile -- yet
Thrive without social interaction
Still there?

Some things I can do:
The Hustle
Hold my own at trivia and word games
Bake/ cook from scratch
Touch my tongue to my nose
Use an incident light meter (and flash powerpack) in a difficult situation. (Need proof?)
Laugh at myself

The First Thing(s) People Usually Notice About Me
People usually comment on my sense of humor and my ability to have a conversation with most anyone about anything. And to pull in a relevant esoteric fact, unless the conversation's about the Bulgarian national soccer (sorry, futbol) team. In that case, we're all SOL.

My Favorite Books, Movies, Music, and Food are
I loathe this question, as my tastes are all over the map. But if I must ...

(a) Things I last read: This afternoon: The New Yorker and Bust magazines, this morning: The New York Times, last night: A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke, last week: Postsecret by Frank Warren, last month: The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

Favorite books: Me Talk Pretty One Day, Naked, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, The Power of One, The Oxford English Dictionary, The Joy of Cooking, The Professional Chef, America (Jon Stewart), Almost French, Madam Secretary, The Eyre Affair.

(b) Movies: Monsieur Ibrahim, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Strictly Ballroom, Delicatessen, Election, Rushmore, The Royal Tennenbaums, City of God, The Big Lebowski, The Princess Bride, Big Fish, Before Sunrise, Amelie, Best in Show, The Motorcycle Diaries, Witness for the Prosecution, Amadeus, 12 Angry Men, Rear Window, The Sound of Music, Love Actually, The Shawshank Redemption, Blue, Dress to Kill, Dune (David Lynch version), High and Low, Memento, American Beauty.

(c) Music: The Divine Comedy, New Order, The Smiths, Lloyd Cole, Pulp, Ani DiFranco, Nouvelle Vague, ABBA, Queen, David Bowie, The Clash, Dido, Teenage Fanclub, Barenaked Ladies, James, Indigo Girls, Dean Martin, U2, Carla Bruni, Frank Sinatra, Frou Frou, Paul Simon, Sarah McLachlan, TMBG, Moby, Wilco, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Oingo Boingo, Johnny Cash, Madness, Elvis Costello, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The House of Love, Neil Diamond, Carl Orff, William Orbit, Paul Oakenfold.

(d) (Least favorite) foods: I detest avocado and sushi (I know it's heresy to say that in Southern California, but it really means more for the rest of you). I also abhor eggplant and most mushrooms. Otherwise, I'm pretty easy food-wise ...

I'm savoring:

A newfound varietal dark chocolate vice. Try the 71% ocumare sold at Trader Joe's.
The memory of a divine white slice near Grand Central Station a few weeks ago.
Finally, I wouldn't want to live if I couldn't eat sugar, salt, and garlic. (But probably not all at the same time.)

The SIX Things I Could Never Do Without
Food
Water
Oxygen
Sleep
Travel
Hope

Ten things I'd love to live without:
Self-indulgent patriotism
Fundamentalists of any religious stripe
An ignorant and apathetic electorate
The electoral college
Hate (in all its ugly manifestations)
Rampant consumerism
A pervasive sense of entitlement
The Patriot Act
Plastic people (Ashlee, Britney, Paris, and others of their ilk)
WAL-MART

I Spend a Lot of Time Thinking About
... things I plan to do before I die (which I'm not planning to do anytime soon).

Today's do-before-I-die list includes:

Finish graduate school
Run a marathon
Live abroad
Become fluent in at least two more languages
Make arrangements to donate my body to science

On a Typical Friday Night I Am
... out with friends at all the usual places (restaurants, dive bars, clubs, movie theaters, concerts, museums). Or, I might be at home, enjoying good food and drink with the aforementioned friends.

The Most Private Thing I'm Willing to Admit Here IsI'm a vapid, materialistic, selfish, and emotionally unavailable shrew who is needy, lazy, cruel, frigid, suffers from scurvy (and halitosis), and loves Ashlee Simpson. I lack any intelligence whatsovever, basic written and verbal communication skills, and am a fundamentalist who believes that a woman's place is in the home and that you should make all of the decisions for both of us. Oh, and did I mention that I'm ugly and will also hate your mother and your friends?

You should message me if:
The thought of a woman who can write, thinks quirky thoughts, can make you laugh until you cry, and might just be smarter than you makes you want to send me a ridiculously charming email.

I'm likely to respond if you're kind, literate, reasonably sane, and politically similar (read: uber-liberal; if you voted for G.W. or G.H.W. Bush, don't expect a response).

Bonus points if you're: self-confident without being arrogant, handsome but with facial quirks (not chiseled and magazine-perfect), a witty mofo, monogamous, taller than me, inclined toward some kind of art, grounded, interested in the world around you but not so hung up on politics that you can't talk about anything else, able to appreciate femininity while respecting equality, take-charge but not controlling, articulate, passionate about something, ethical, sincere, sensual, gainfully employed, fun, spontaneous, serious, fond of the smell of fabric softener, polyglot, goofy, interesting, able to handle conflict through communication, and someone with kindergarten-teacher patience.

Yeah, you do need to have a picture. I'm down with different, so it's okay if you look, think, or are different. And if you're almost eligible to join AARP, good for you -- but I'm really not interested.

note to self

lundi, janvier 09, 2006

how the irish grieve

A good friend of mine lost her Nana this weekend. She has returned home to celebrate the life of an amazing woman and to support (and be supported by) those who knew her Nana.

A wake makes incredible sense to me — talking, drinking, and experiencing grief as a group while telling stories of times gone by is how I'd like to be remembered. No somber, drawn-faced ceremonies. Just loved ones and talk. And perhaps, just perhaps, music and dancing.

Know that you are loved, A. And very much in my thoughts.

fearlessness

It began with my friend Eleanor, who is my archetype for fearlessness.

Then there was Ben's comment last week about his friend who bought an around-the-world ticket and traveled alone. That led me to remark that she must be fearless. And to think about my own fears.

Over brunch with pediaJen yesterday, I declared that I want to be fearless in how I live my life and the choices I make. I feel that I'm pretty far along that path, but that it's time to push myself a bit and to enjoy the rewards that come from taking chances.

Lest you think I've gone daft, I don't mean fearless in the foolhardy sense. Just as pain is the body's way of telling us that something is horribly wrong, a little fear (in the form of reason) is a good thing. But keeping my wits about me, I'm hereby banishing my irrational fears.

My first foray in fearlessness: online dating. Stay tuned for dispatches from the front ...

dimanche, janvier 08, 2006

quotable

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
-Leonardo daVinci, (1452 – 1519), Italian Renaissance architect, musician, anatomist, inventor, engineer, sculptor, geometer, and painter.

small effing world

While at Decade for Brandon's 30th birthday tonight, I finally met the man who wasn't there. I also met his fiancee, whom he'll marry next week. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't ask him to coffee all those months ago, for several reasons. But it's also nice to solve that little mystery and put the whole thing on the "resolved" shelf. The irony: I lost interest the second we began to speak. And, he's friends with Brandon to boot.

Tonight's theme was pretty much about reunions for everyone there. It was my first time showing up to the Zombie Lounge (a great seedy punk/ rockabilly bar which is all of three blocks from my house). While there, I saw at least ten people that I haven't seen since 2001, someone whom I've randomly run into three times in as many years, someone whom I haven't seen since a party at his house in October 2004, and I guy I used to date (who's now dating an acquaintance). Oh, and did I mention that I was also there with someone who used to date the same guy I dated? As Phil and William put it, the circles are starting to tighten and collapse on one another.

vendredi, janvier 06, 2006

monkfish, vol. 4 in a series

For some bizarre reason, I've seen / discussed a monkfish once a month for the past four months. Here's the latest sighting, in the capable hands of one of my heroes:

da da da da

How very punk rock. A (insert pissed-off pun here) 76-year-old Frenchman attacked Duchamp's "Fountain" with a hammer yesterday.

‘Artist’ attacks Duchamp's famous urinal
76-year-old French man previously vandalized ‘Fountain’ in 1993
Duchamp’s 1917 piece — an ordinary white, porcelain urinal that’s been called one of the most influential works of modern art — was slightly chipped in the attack at the Pompidou Center in Paris, the museum said Thursday. It was removed from the exhibit for repair.

The suspect, a Provence resident whose identity was not released, already vandalized the work in 1993 — urinating into the piece when it was on display in Nimes, in southern France, police said.

During questioning, the man claimed his hammer attack on Wednesday was a work of performance art that might have pleased Dada artists. The early 20th-century avant-garde movement was the focus of the exhibit that ends Monday, police said.

A 2004 poll of 500 arts figures ranked “Fountain” as the most influential work of modern art — ahead of Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” Andy Warhol’s screen prints of Marilyn Monroe and “Guernica,” Picasso’s depiction of war’s devastation.

“Fountain” is estimated at $3.6 million.

california über alles

Last night, Arnold gave his State of the State address and said nothing.

How appropriate, then, to learn that the Dead Kennedys (avec Jello) are playing the House of Blues just in time for Eric's holiday in San Diego.

dimanche, janvier 01, 2006

a memorable new year's eve

When I was in high school, my father used to say that I "ran with a certain crowd." My retort usually included a clarification that I, in fact, didn't run unless I was chased. By killer bees.

... which is why my plan to run a half-marathon in 2006 is so completely wacko to most of my friends. Anyhow, I decided to start 2006 off on the right foot and let Ben talk me into signing up for the Emerald Nuts New York City Central Park Run.

The weather was foul (snow, rain, hail, and sleet) as Ben and I raced the train to Hicksville yesterday afternoon. We caught it into the city and met Pete and Jen for dinner at Yaffa Cafe in the Village and then headed uptown for drinks at Brother Jimmy's Carolina Kitchen in Manhattan. I shouldn't have had that last shot, but we'll come to that later.

I've never done a "fun run," and laughed as I saw the reactions from Ben's friends when we told them our New Year's eve plans. Asim's response was probably the best. (We were eating dinner when Ben broke the news and Asim put his fork down and then looked down as he shook his head slowly from side to side.)

Anyhow, at 10 p.m., Ben and I left the warmth of Brother Jimmy's and headed for Central Park and the staging area. Once there, we danced and joined the mayhem, while watching the costume contest. Predictably, our favorites didn't even place, but that wasn't the point.

There was a dusting of snow everywhere, but the night was cold and clear when we lined up with the eight-minute mile people. Then the fireworks exploded and 5,000 people dressed in warm clothing took off. Mile one actually was an eight-minute mile. Mile two was slower and I think I made a snide remark about not drinking before a run again. But that didn't stop me from enjoying the champagne toast at mile 2 and then walking/ jogging the rest of the way. I have to hand it to Ben for being a good sport and letting me set the pace. I also appreciated all the onlookers cheering us on with high fives and shouts of "happy new year!!" along the course.

We finished at 50 minutes and I admitted that I had, in fact, had fun, although I had had my doubts earlier in the day and the week. We finished the night with calls to friends on the West Coast, and some hot cocoa and cookies before subwaying it back to Penn Station and the Long Island Railroad.