mardi, février 28, 2006

still crazy after all these years

Eric to me, tonight: "The trick is learning how to fill that hole in your existence with positive things."

So I had a good visit with Eric. Actually, I had a very good visit with Eric.

Dinner was the two of us, plus his cousin Andrea and her boyfriend Clif, and Diana and Ophira. We all laughed about old times and listened to Eric's wackadoo travel stories. Then we came back to my place, looked at his photos, and drank Becherovka.

There wasn't a moment of tonight that was awkward or weird at all. I'm grateful for that, because he is my oldest friend, and for many years was my best friend and my lover. It's good to complete the circle, and close the loop on us and what has been the defining relationship of my life (so far). Doing that via phone or e-mail was never enough. Talking face-to-face was the only way to finish this. I'm feeling really good about it. And I'm very pleased that both of us have found positive things with which to fill our respective existences.

laissez les bon temps roulez

It's Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday.

While New Orleans is struggling with how to reclaim its past and let the good times roll, I'm thinking about how I'll face my own colorful and hedonistic past, in the form of my ex-husband.

Eric's in town. It's the first time I've seen him since we split in October 2004. I'm looking forward to seeing him tonight and having fun with our mutual friends.

I'm also associating Mardi Gras with my present, which includes a man who's very fond of an aging Boxer with that name.

lundi, février 27, 2006

philosophy, bdp, and poetry

Etan Thomas flies in the face of convention — he's a baller and an activist, a poet and an athlete. And his voice is worth listening to.
We live in the era of the soundless athlete. An era in which the highest-profile figures in sports not only say nothing about the condition of the sociopolitical landscape their fan base resides in, but worse -- they have nothing to say ...

It takes a strong person to take a stand against America. Not its people, but its policy.

His name -- Etan Thomas -- has been placed among those who have spoken loud while saying something. The Alis, the Jim Browns, the Jackie Robinsons, the Ashes, Russells, Carlos and Smiths, the Jack Johnsons ...

He's the only one who makes noise about it, he's the only one who Public Enemy's it to the public's enemies. Which is what makes him -- he, E -- so needed and so important. Because in a world of Terminator Xs, we all need a little Chuck D in our lives.

A little philosophy. A little BDP. A little ... introduction to poetry.

No corporate sponsor telling me what to do
Asking me to tone it down during an interview.
Tryna minimize the issue
but I'm keepin' it large
I love the place that I live
but hate the people in charge
Speaking is hard
when you got strings attached
So I'm going to say it for you
'cause I don't got none of that.
And if you don't understand what I spit on your brain
Son, let this ---- explain.

Immortal Technique, "Freedom of Speech"

Via Leo

(word) geeking out

I was the editor of my high school newspaper. My biggest typo: a home page headline that read "Congradulations!" I claimed it was a deliberate pun, a play on graduation. It wasn't.

Anyhow, this comment triggered that memory: "pet peeve #3,563: people who write 'congrads.' nobody is graduating anything."
congratulation 1438, from L. congratulationem, from congratulari "wish joy," from com- "together" + gratulari "give thanks, show joy," from gratus "agreeable."
For future geeking out: The Online Etymology Dictionary.

pas de questions

The Project for the Old American Century reminds me of the Propaganda Remix Project.
Via Turk

samedi, février 25, 2006

the new electric servants

A very interesting read about how people buy pricey kitchen machines hoping the right gadget will make them want to cook. It won’t work: you can’t get domestic happiness so easily ...
Are We Worthy of Our Kitchens?
By Christine Rosen
Judging by how Americans spend their money—on shelter magazines and kitchen gadgets and home furnishings—domesticity appears in robust health. Judging by the way Americans actually live, however, domesticity is in precipitous decline. Families sit together for meals much less often than they once did, and many homes exist in a state of near-chaos as working parents try to balance child-rearing, chores, long commutes, and work responsibilities. As Cheryl Mendelson, author of a recent book on housekeeping, observes, “Comfort and engagement at home have diminished to the point that even simple cleanliness and decent meals—let alone any deeper satisfactions—are no longer taken for granted in many middle-class homes.” Better domestic technologies have surely not produced a new age of domestic bliss.

Ironically, this decline in domestic competence comes at a time of great enthusiasm for “retro” appliances and other objects that evoke experiences that many Americans rarely have. We seem to value our domestic gadgets more and more even as we value domesticity less and less. Wealthy Americans can purchase an expensive, “old-fashioned” cast-iron Aga stove, but they cannot buy the experience it is intended to conjure: a cozy kitchen filled with the scents and signs of a person devoted to the domestic satisfaction of those who share a home. And middle-class Americans can buy machines that aim to make their domestic chores more pleasurable or efficient, but the ideal of transforming domestic labor into a “lifestyle” is a fantasy. The machines promise to restore peace and comfort to domestic life, but such nostalgia (whose literal meaning is “homesickness”) is not a recipe for domestic happiness.
Via Arts and Letters Daily

vendredi, février 24, 2006

not zatarain's

Last Sunday, Leo suggested that we buy some blood oranges at the farmer's market. Those inspired last night's tasty dinner.

Our menu:
Zanzibar chicken and couscous
Blood orange salad with vanilla vinaigrette and fried shallots

blood orange salad with vanilla vinaigrette and fried shallots

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 2 minutes
Serves: 4

6 blood oranges
1/3 cup reduced orange juice
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean, split
1 tsp sugar
2 TBSP lemon juice
Frisee or green leaf lettuce
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Mint leaves

Crispy fried shallots
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp flour
1 pinch salt
3 shallots, sliced into thin rounds
Peanut oil for frying

1. Peel oranges and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Reserve. Combine the orange juice, vanilla, sugar, and lemon juice to make the dressing.
2. Put lettuce on plates. Drizzle dressing and olive oil on lettuce and place oranges on top. Sprinkle oranges with salt. Sprinkle with a bit of pepper. Arrange mint leaves on top and sprinkle with crispy fried shallots.

Crispy fried shallots:
Combine cornstarch, flour, and salt. Coat sliced shallots with mixture. Heat peanut oil in a skillet until very hot but not smoking. Deep fry shallots until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.


jeudi, février 23, 2006

i've been retired for about four days now

Right on.

Eight workers at a Nebraska meat processing plant have claimed the record $365 million Powerball jackpot. The seven men and one woman will each receive $15.5 million after taxes under the cash option. When one of the winners, Eric Zornes, 40, was asked whether he was still working at the plant, he replied: "No. I've been retired for about four days now."

room for rent

My roommate just let me know that he's moving closer to campus. It's a good thing for him and an okay thing for me.

Know anyone who needs a room in the North Park area? It will be available in the next few weeks.

spoony, defined

At last, a good synonym for maudlin.

spoony \SPOO-nee\, adjective:
  1. Foolish; silly; excessively sentimental.
  2. Foolishly or sentimentally in love.
    1. Enamored in a silly or sentimental way.
    2. Feebly sentimental; gushy.
Example:I love how spoony Allison is about Jeff.
Spoony is from the slang term spoon, meaning "a simpleton or a silly person."

mercredi, février 22, 2006

no shit

This is genius! And proof positive that one person's (er, dog's) trash is another person's treasure. I wonder if this can be applied to human waste. Seriously.

Behold the power of poop
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Posted: 1:11 p.m. EST (18:11 GMT)
SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- City officials are hoping to harness the power of dog waste in this dog-friendly city where animal feces make up nearly 4 percent of residential waste.

San Franciscans already recycle more than 60 percent of their garbage, but officials hope to turn into energy the 6,500 tons (5,897 metric tons) of dog waste a year -- nearly as much as disposable diapers, according to the city.

Within the next few months, Norcal Waste, a garbage hauling company that collects San Francisco's trash, will begin a pilot program under which it will use biodegradable bags and dog-waste carts to pick up droppings at a popular dog park.

The droppings will be tossed into a contraption called a methane digester, which is basically a tank in which bacteria feed on feces for weeks to create methane gas.

The methane could then be piped directly to a gas stove, heater, turbine or anything else powered by natural gas. It can also be used to generate electricity.


"Ginga (The Soul of Brasilian Football)" is a new film by Fernando Meirelles, director of one of my favorite films: "Cidade de Deus (City of God)." It will be playing at the 14th Annual San Diego Brazilian Carnaval this Saturday, Feb. 25 at 4th & "B". The theme is "World Cup 2006 Carnaval e Futebol."

jesus is a player

What can I say? Hay-seuss is a play-yah.

Via Turk

mardi, février 21, 2006

la fête du baiser

Apparently, I missed an anniversary on Saturday. I also forgot to celebrate La Fête du Baiser.

Before my card-carrying status as an official romantic gets revoked, I hereby pledge to redeem myself this Saturday. But I'm not donning a habit and I ain't kissing no holy man ...
La Fête du Baiser is a well-known kissing festival, celebrated the Saturday after St. Valentine's Day, in Roquemaure, France. Begun in 1989, it commemorates not only Saint Valentine, who locals claim as a former resident, but the arrival of his mortal remains in 1868 to Roquemaure's collegiate church reliquary.

The relics were purchased in Rome, in hopes of curing the town's diseased vine stocks; within four years they were healed. Today, Roquemaure is home to a winery (Cellar St. Valentine) which produces wines named after the saint.

The festival was started by a local priest, Father Rene Durieu. Men and women around the village dress as priests and nuns, kissing each other, as well as travellers. Special foods and wines are produced especially for the festival.

lundi, février 20, 2006

overheard in my kitchen

As I was making pancakes Saturday morning ...

"It's every man's fantasy. Except you're not barefoot."

It's the little things that leave me smiling days later.

dimanche, février 19, 2006


"All I ask of food is that it doesn't harm me."
- Michael Palin (1943 - ), English comedian, actor, and television presenter best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python, as well as for his travel documentaries.


Not Martha is one crafty bitch

How to tell quality ice cream without tasting it at Accidental Hedonist

Perfect pizza dough at 101 Cookbooks

Hot chocolate cakes in a cup

Rooibos tea 101

not that into me

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Modern Love rocks.

I haven't read "He's Just Not That Into You" or "The Rules." Truthfully, I have no intention of reading either book.

Part of it is that I'm a late-comer to the singlehood game. But a bigger part (as I put it to Leo this weekend) is that I'm not like most women.

Much of me rebels against the gender social constructs that society (men and women) would foist upon me. I value people who are direct and forthright in their communication and, frankly, don't have the patience for the games that people play, especially under the guise of dating. And right now, I find myself happily plodding along, making mistakes and enjoying myself, one relationship at a time.

Modern Love: Loved and Lost? It's O.K., Especially if You Win
By Veronica Chambers
Dating for me was always like that video game: you try to follow the dance moves, and the further you get in the game, the trickier the moves become, until you are just a flailing mess. I was clingy and desperate and wore my heart on my sleeve, falling madly in love repeatedly, only to meet with heartbreaking rejection at every turn.

Which is why it is nothing short of a miracle that two years ago I was swiftly and happily married.

Until then I was a case study in "He's Just Not That Into You," or so I've been told. I haven't read that book: friends warned me that it would trigger too many unpleasant memories. Apparently it is all about women like me: women who wear blinders about the men in their lives, who come on too strong and fall in love with the wrong people over and over.

I'm sure there are many of you out there. And if you're one of us, here's what I have to tell you, what I wish someone at some point had told me: It's O.K.

It's O.K. to fall deeply for one loser after another. It's O.K. to show up at a guy's house with a dozen roses and declare your undying affection. It's O.K. to have too much to drink and call your ex 20 times and then to be mortally embarrassed when you realize your number must have shown up on his caller ID. It's O.K. to stand at a phone booth in Times Square on New Year's Eve, drenched like a sewer cat in the pouring rain, crying your eyes out because the man you are infatuated with has decided that he needs some space.

It's O.K. because I believe that all of these grand gestures and heroic attempts to follow E. M. Forster's simple advice to "only connect" are not really about this guy or that guy. Making a fool of yourself for love is ultimately about you, how much you have to give and the distances you will travel to keep your heart wide open when everything around you makes you feel like slamming it shut and soldering it closed.

Not to digress into too much pop psychology, but I sometimes think that I never had a chance at being one of those girls who could play it cool. My parents' marriage was a soap opera saga of dramatic exits and mind games and affairs. When I was little, my father would force me to choose which parent I loved more. If I chose my mother, he would react with fury. If I chose him, he would smother me with hugs and kisses, luxuriating in his victory, then promise to come back for me soon.

Soon could mean two days or two weeks or two months. I learned early on that love meant never having to follow through on your promises.

My mother, bless her heart, tried to keep me from becoming a desperate girl with a daddy complex. In seventh grade I got my first boyfriend: one very handsome junior high school star athlete named Chuck Douglas. We went to different schools, so our relationship consisted of long, meandering phone calls, most of which were initiated by me.

One day, when my mother could not reach me after school for three hours straight, she came home early with the intention of beating some sense into me. When she found me sprawled underneath the dining table, the phone cord wrapped like a bracelet (or a handcuff) around my arm, she took pity. She led me into her bedroom and asked me how often I called Chuck.

"All the time."

"And how often does he call you?" she asked.

I shrugged.

"You can't chase boys," she said. "They don't like it."

I was 13. Chuck Douglas was dating me, a certified nerd, in a sea of buxom cheerleaders. My mother's words meant nothing. I was already lost to the cause.

In college I discovered women's studies and somehow managed to wrap the words of Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis neatly around my now well-solidified boy craziness. "I'm a feminist," I declared. "I don't need to wait for a man to ask me out."

So I asked out guy after guy after guy: the very epitome of he's just not that into you. I dated numerous gay men who were not yet out of the closet. It became a kind of service after a while, coaching ex-boyfriends out of the closet. I went out with a techno D.J. who invited me to go sailing with his parents. I hated his taste in music, and he was a terrible kisser, but I still cried a week later when he dumped me.

IN my 20's I had two long-term relationships that nevertheless ended, and I found myself back out in the wilds of the dating world. At this time the hot self-help dating book was "The Rules." There were many rules that were supposed to help you lasso a man, but the one I remember said that you should never accept a date for Saturday after Thursday.

"The Rules" reminded me of that conversation I had with my mother about the swoon-worthy Chuck Douglas. I understood that the rules were good for me, but so is tofu, and I just can't stand the stuff.

My friend Cassandra insisted that men are like lions; they want to chase their prey. She suggested that I smile at a guy I was interested in instead of barreling him over with conversation. "See what he does," she said. "If you're feeling playful, then maybe give him a little wink."

Soon after, I was invited by a friend to take a trip to South Africa. One enchanted morning my friend and I were having breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Across the room I spied a charming man with the kind of friendly face that you feel you have known forever. Leaving the restaurant, I stood up and saw that he was looking my way. I smiled. He smiled back. Feeling bold, I winked, then tripped on a step and fell on my face.

The next few minutes were dizzying as I was surrounded by hotel staff offering me ice and bandages. Then I heard a voice amid the cacophony; it was the man I had winked at. I turned away, mortified.

"You should see a doctor," he said.

I insisted that I was fine.

"Well, let me be the judge of that, because I happen to be a doctor."

He took me out to dinner that night and every night for the rest of my trip. We exchanged phone numbers and even though I lived in New York and he lived in Sydney, Australia, I called and called him because I was so sure that what I felt for this man was, if not love, then certainly magic.

It wasn't. To give the guy a little credit, we lived continents apart. Even if he was that into me, it would've been a hard row to hoe.

It was about this time, when I was in my late 20's, that I read a nugget of advice, probably in a women's magazine, that I took to heart. This article suggested that if you knew you were going to meet the love of your life in one year, you would really enjoy this year. This seemed reasonable.

So while I still tended to wear my heart on my sleeve and to commit too quickly, I also had some really fun one-off dates with guys I knew were never going to call. I went to the theater and to hip-hop shows and tried to relax about the whole dating and mating thing.

About a year later I met the man who would become my husband. The friend who kept reintroducing us insisted that, unlike the vast majority of men I was meeting in New York, Jason was a guy who could hold his own. He was not a "Sex and the City" Mr. Big, a type I was well acquainted with: the über-successful guy who keeps you at arm's length. Nor was he a starving artist who was willing to fall in love while nursing commitment issues about things like holding down a job and paying bills.

Jason was a regular guy: he had a good job, owned a house, liked his parents. Eight months after our first date he proposed.

SUDDENLY the role I had been playing my entire dating life was reversed: I didn't want to get married. I'd never been angling for a ring. What I had wanted all through my 20's was a really great boyfriend: someone who called when he said he would, who would get up early and go running with me over the Brooklyn Bridge and who would jump at the chance at weekend getaways in the Berkshires.

I wanted someone with whom I could read the Sunday paper in bed, who would sit next to me during foreign movies, who would bring me chicken soup when I felt ill, who would send me flowers on Valentine's Day and sometimes for no reason at all.

Jason said he wanted all the same things too. But to him the relationship I described was marriage, not dating.

So I said yes.

Which is probably why after two years of holy matrimony I still make the mistake of calling Jason my boyfriend. He is in every way the best boyfriend I've ever had. No one ever told me that a really great marriage can make up for two decades of horrible dating. No one ever said that all those guys who were just not that into you can be, for women, the psychological equivalent of notches on a bedpost.

I'm happy now that I dated the D.J., the doctor, the candlestick maker. When I look back at those relationships, I can see that in the midst of all the drama I managed to have a goodly amount of fun.

What would have happened if any of those relationships had lasted, bumbling along in all their glaring wrongness? Instead of just being dumped and consoling myself with pints of Chunky Monkey and viewings of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," I could have been facing any one of these men in divorce court, or being forced to see them every Saturday afternoon, when we met to swap custody of our children or our cocker spaniel.

Thankfully, all those men were just not that into me. They did me a bigger favor than I could ever have known.

Veronica Chambers lives in France. This essay is adapted from "The May Queen: Women on Life, Love, Work and Pulling It All Together in Your 30's," edited by Andrea N. Richesin, to be published by Tarcher/Penguin in March.

samedi, février 18, 2006

i'd like to dedicate this foam finger to ...


Happy 29th birthday!

You are one of my favorite people ever. (Which is a good thing, given how much of our lives we spend together. And will spend before we finish grad school.)

For the record, I could listen to your laugh and your stories all day long and never grow tired of either.

god bless the banterrific

H: Have you tried Durex "Love" condoms?
Phil: No, and I'm still stuck on the part where they said:
"100 couples were randomly asked to sample 30 condoms over three months."

30 condoms over 3 months!? What tha!? You mean there are people that have sex MORE than once a month? WhaaaAAAAA!!!

You, my dear, have just rained on the parade that was my lonely night lying on my couch and staring at my cable-less television. Man, what I really need is Cox. (Remind me not to say THAT in public.)

gift ideas from busted tees

Allison, Eric, and the rest of you. Check this out.

Eight year-olds, Dude.

Welcome to Pantyville, population: you.

How often does God get credit for the really important things?


One good turn deserves another.

I had such good luck with the NPR Valentine's Day music poll (see i don't want to get over you) that I listened to the one other song I didn't know ("Martha" from Tom Waits' "Closing Time" album).

Yoav in New York described it as: "the saddest, most lyrical song about a missed love. Forty years after parting, a man calls his old sweetheart and tells her, as 'he fights the tears' that she was the love of his life."

Operator, number, please: it's been so many years
Will she remember my old voice while I fight the tears?

Hello, hello there, is this Martha?
This is old Tom Frost, and I am calling long distance, don't worry 'bout the cost.
'Cause it's been forty years or more, now Martha please recall,
Meet me out for coffee, where we'll talk about it all.

And those were the days of roses, poetry and prose and Martha all I had was you and all you had was me.
There was no tomorrows, we'd packed away our sorrows and we saved them for a rainy day.

And I feel so much older now, and you're much older too,
How's your husband and how's the kids? You know that I got married too?
Lucky that you found someone to make you feel secure,
'Cause we were all so young and foolish, now we are mature.

And those were the days of roses, poetry and prose and Martha all I had was you and all you had was me.
There was no tomorrows, we'd packed away our sorrows and we saved them for a rainy day.

And I was always so impulsive, I guess that I still am.
And all that really mattered then was that I was a man.
I guess that our being together was never meant to be.
And Martha, Martha, I love you can't you see?

And those were the days of roses, poetry and prose and Martha all I had was you and all you had was me.
There was no tomorrows, we'd packed away our sorrows and we saved them for a rainy day.

And I remember quiet evenings trembling close to you ...

so quirkytogether

Emily Dickinson: quirky and alone, but not quirkyalone. We are sociable people.

One of my friends recently characterized me as "a woman who thinks quirky thoughts."
A week later, another called me offbeat.
A day after that, a third called me eccentric.
And yesterday, a perfect stranger told me that my tastes were very eclectic.
Then there's the fact that my deejay name was esoterica.
And that I'm currently listening to "Martha" from Tom Waits' Closing Time album.

For the record, I don't think I'm particularly quirky. But perhaps that's because I have some really wackadoo friends. Anyhow, I came across the quirkyalone concept through my friend Diana in San Francisco:
Quirkyalone: noun/adj. A person who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than dating for the sake of being in a couple. With unique traits and an optimistic spirit; a sensibility that transcends relationship status.
Having read the definition, I might be a quirkyalone. Moreover, the quirkyalone traits list resonates with me. And anyone's who's read my blog knows that trait #10 has my name all over it.

I am an optimist. And I have to say that the past year (I happened to be single) has been the best year of my life (so far). Knowing what I do about myself, I have to say that I'm happiest when I'm coupled in a fulfilling relationship. But I'm also unwilling to "settle." The challenge: finding the right person (my equal) at the right time in the right place. (Which makes me just like everyone else, right?)

Anyhow, I've taken the quirkyalone quiz and it turns out that I know myself fairly well:
How quirkyalone are you?
Your score was 78. Somewhat quirkyalone (otherwise known as quirkytogether): You are probably part of a mysterious group of people, the quirkytogethers. You share many of our quirky qualities, but you manage to find yourself, on a regular basis, in a coupled situation. Interesting.
Via Diana

a rose by any other name ... is a danish

I'm disappointed. Iran has sunk to our level.

Following on the heels of our "freedom fries" foolishness, Danish pastries have been renamed in Tehran.

Iranians rename Danish pastries
Iranians wishing to buy Danish pastries will now have to ask for "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad".

Bakeries across the capital, Tehran, are covering up signs advertising the pastries and replacing them with ones bearing the dessert's new name.

The confectioners' union ordered the name change in retaliation for the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.

The images have caused angry protests across the world.

The union said that their decision was prompted by the "insults by Danish newspapers against the Prophet".

Danish pastries are very popular in Iran and not subject to a boycott affecting other Danish products as they are made locally.

Ahmad Mahmoudi, a cake shop owner in Tehran, backed the move.

"This is a punishment for those who start misusing freedom of expression to insult the sanctities of Islam," he said.

But others were less convinced.

"I just want the sweet pastries. I have nothing to do with the name," shopper Zohreh Masoumi said.

This is not the first time a popular snack has been hit by fallout from a political row.

French fries and French toast were renamed "freedom fries" and "freedom toast" at cafeterias in the US House of Representatives in 2003, after France opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Via the BBC

vendredi, février 17, 2006

i don't wanna get over you

I am completely hooked on this song.

It all began innocently enough. I was catching up on some NPR and checked out their Valentine's Day Music Poll results, which included a link to several songs about the different aspects of love.

"I Don't Want to Get Over You" from the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs, Vol. 1 was the entry on Longing, Angst and Hope.
I don't want to get over you.
I guess I could take a sleeping pill and sleep at will and not have to go through what I go through.
I guess I should take Prozac, right, and just smile all night at somebody new,
Somebody not too bright but sweet and kind who would try to get you off my mind.
I could leave this agony behind which is just what I'd do if I wanted to, but I don't want to get over you cause I don't want to get over love.
I could listen to my therapist, pretend you don't exist and not have to dream of what I dream of;
I could listen to all my friends and go out again and pretend it's enough, or I could make a career of being blue--
I could dress in black and read Camus, smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth like I was 17 that would be a scream but I don't want to get over you.
I'm thinking I need to hear some more Magnetic Fields after this review. (And that I need to meet the reviewer.)
I suspect a certain worldview is required to fully enjoy this album, the major component of which is an almost preternatural attraction to the weird and excessive. Fortunately I have that in spades, so when a drunken friend (in whose tastes I have great faith - he recommended Pulp and Six Feet Under, after all) mentioned this doozy, I was intrigued enough to go out and buy it.

First of all, this album achieves two reasonably important things: it delivers exactly what it promises, and it does so with an almost frightening consistency. Any album with just shy of three full hours of music is bound to have some filler, but there's almost nothing here that doesn't work on at least some level, and a good third of the songs are actually great. That's more than some bands achieve in an entire career.

Musically speaking, this is a low-fi, indie pop album (read: it sounds like it was recorded in a basement - and that's a virtue).

Stephen Merritt covers all this in a pleasant, ever-so-slightly slurred croon and with a pervasive sense of wry, somewhat self-deprecating humor.

So, conclusions: I watch a lot of tv, and I listen to a lot of music. The former has miniaturized my attention span to that of a hyperactive squirrel and the latter has made me that much harder to impress. Yet I was not only able to sit down and listen to this entire album in one sitting, I was singing along (or trying to) by the second song on disc one. While it's true that this may not sit quite as comfortably on someone else's palate, odds are if you like pop music at all, you'll find at least a handful of tracks you'll like. And that's kind of the point - there's something for everyone. It's worth paying the price even if you end up distilling it down to one mixtape after a few listens.


Who needs critical thought when you can buy Chinese-made 27" color TV's at Wal-Mart for 99 bucks?

Via theQuietObserver

being magnanimous

I sought advice from Aaron and Allison about whether or not I should offer to pay for half of dinner on Valentine's Day.

That led to a much more important question, namely: is it magnonymity (like anonymity)? Magnanimosity (like animosity)?

In the end, I didn't pay for half.

Thanks to Leo for answering the two-million dollar question.
n. pl. mag·na·nim·i·ties
Pronunciation: "mag-n&-'ni-m&-tE
1 : the quality of being magnanimous : loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity
2 : a magnanimous act

jeudi, février 16, 2006

too tall and too married

A good friend of mine is also doing online dating. She found out that the "great" guy she was seeing was "too tall and too married." Looks like she should check out, and before her next date.

(Name Here) Is a Liar and a Cheat
Published: February 16, 2006

BEWARE, ladies.Manny from Miami is not quite the sensitive single man he says he is. He is married with a kid, no less, and "he sleeps with women everywhere," according to his anonymous former girlfriend in a posting on

As for Vincent of Jacksonville, his ex said she answered a knock at her door one day only to find his wife and his mistress had come calling. The two, having found out about each other, "don't mind teaming up to get rid of the next girl," the ex-girlfriend said in her posting. "Whatever you do, don't date him, don't speak, just move on."

And Michael, the 23-year-old from England? "He only cares about himself and how many notches there are on his bedpost," reported one of the women he counted as a notch. "Ultimately, he'll end up sad and lonely. Probably with a hefty bout of gonorrhea."

Unearthing a potential mate's cheating, thieving, maybe even psychotic ways during the early stages of courtship has always been tricky business. But it is particularly difficult today, when millions are searching for dates online and finding it far easier to lie to a computer than to someone's face.

But the Internet is now offering up an antidote. Web sites like, and are dedicated to outing bad apples or just identifying people who may not be rotten but whose dating profiles are rife with fiction.

Framed in pink, the site allows a woman to post the name and photograph of a man she says has wronged her, along with a short but often pungent synopsis of how precisely she was aggrieved. The suspicious or merely curious can hunt for a cheater by typing a name into the search engine. Women can also send e-mail messages through the site if they want to ask more pointed questions about a particular cad. In a slight nod to fairness, men who disagree with the characterization can write a rebuttal to be posted alongside their names.

"It's like a dating credit report" for women, explained the Web site's founder, Tasha C. Joseph, a public relations specialist in Miami. She said that 170,000 women have registered to use the site and that they have entered information on 3,000 men.

While many women find the Web sites amusing and sometimes helpful, they have enraged men, guilty or not, some of whom send e-mail messages or call the posted phone numbers to have their names and photographs taken down. They argue that the Web sites are biased and damaging, particularly if the story being told is false. And while the women remain anonymous, the men are offered up in full detail., also known as, which features a drawing of a woman dressed in red, carrying a pitchfork and sprouting tiny horns, has a questionnaire that generates a rating of a man as good or bad from zero to 122; most men end up in the muddled middle. The multiple-choice questionnaire allows women to check off descriptive statements ranging from "stinks, has body odor, bad breath and doesn't care" to "He has the perfect balance of humility and confidence." is among the sites geared to online daters of both sexes and the untruths they tell behind the Internet's wall of virtual anonymity. The site can warn a woman that the purported 6-foot-4 Wall Street stockbroker with bulging pectorals is really a baldish, 5-foot-10 Wall Street Journal deliveryman with man breasts. Or it can alert men that a supposedly unmarried woman with the dimensions of a lingerie model is actually a married woman who hopes to achieve those dimensions with a little help and a lot of money.

Users post the nickname that the person in question uses on an online dating service like, and warn that the posted profile is misleading. A click of the mouse can send the curious to the person's profile page. Not all the news is negative. People who tell the truth are flagged approvingly as "true daters."

The warnings on, which are edited, must relate to the posted photograph and profile. So if someone turns out to be a cheapskate, but never claimed to be a big spender on the profile, the site's editors strip out remarks about stinginess. Not so if the dater is married and claimed to be single.

"With the advent of the Internet people can be what they want instead of what they are," said Ms. Joseph, 33, who started last year after she and her girlfriends swapped one too many stories about devious men. "You think this guy sounds great. Turns out he's married and he's got five kids."

She said her site, which she likens to the F.B.I.'s most wanted list, receives 250,000 hits a day. "Using the Internet to out these cheating guys gives these women a bit of a weapon," she added. The sites seem to be thriving because false advertising is epidemic in online dating profiles. Joe Tracy, the publisher of Online Dater Magazine, estimated that 30 percent of daters using online services are married, a number he said has steadily risen.

But Mr. Tracy cautioned that truth-in-dating Web sites may also be guilty of publicizing falsehoods, and the resulting harm to a man's reputation can be complicated to undo. Writing a rebuttal is effective only if the man knows that his face and name are listed on the Web site. He may not.

"The least that these sites could do is contact the man who is being posted about for a rebuttal," Mr. Tracy said. "It's only fair he knows it's up there." As for the anonymity granted a woman, Mr. Tracy said, "If this was a court case, he would know who the plaintiff is."

One man was so furious with Don' that he created a Web site in October to solicit men for a lawsuit. So far none has been filed, Ms. Joseph said, adding that she does not know exactly who is threatening to sue her. But, the man's Web site, makes plain his objections:

"If the target was your father, your mother, your sister, your brother, your friend, your co-worker, your husband, your wife, your lover and the words were being spread not in a legal trial but in a public display of hatred how would you feel?" the site asks. "If someone's life was damaged by slander what could be done about it?"

Attempts to contact the Web site's founder were unsuccessful.

Ms. Joseph, who is planning to start a companion Web site for men,, said she understands the anger her site provokes. But she added that women must be granted at least a semblance of anonymity to protect them from harm. As for lawsuits, Ms. Joseph and the creators of similar Web sites note that people who post their stories have to check a box saying that they are being truthful.

"It's a bulletin board for women, and the women take full responsibility of everything that they post," Marlon Hill, Ms. Joseph's lawyer, said. "They attest to the veracity of their stories and photos."

Andrea Wells of New York City heard about from a friend a few months ago and signed up. She knew just the guy to expose, a handsome, charming would-be rapper named Serge. The two met at a concert a year ago and dated for five months, she said. She went to his house just once and thought the place looked overly spare. There were few clothes in the closet, for example.

Their relationship ended abruptly when Serge's disconsolate wife sent Ms. Wells a message from Serge's BlackBerry, alerting her that Serge was married. Thinking back to her visit to his house, Ms. Wells realizes "he hid everything — wedding pictures, shampoo."

"I posted his story," she said. "It's public knowledge. Everyone should know. A marriage license is public knowledge."

And while she acknowledges that every story has two sides, "It's a perfectly good thing for women to check," Ms. Wells said. "At least it gives you a heads up."

Roberta Lipman of New York, an artist and real estate agent, does dating due diligence on Reading profiles on sites like is like reading code, she said. Take the word "separated" as a description of marital status. See it and run, she said.

"Online dating is tricky," said Ms. Lipman, who said she is in her 40's. "There is so much room for hidden agendas."

Back when old-fashioned blind dates were in vogue, the person was at least vouched for by a friend or relative, Ms. Lipman said. And while personal ads in publications were also risky, a person couldn't go on and on about his or her attributes in a space the size of a Post-it note. But online conversations can easily get out of hand and go on for months. People can invest time and emotion in a person who turns out to be a romantic fiction.

"You can tend to fall in heavy-like," said Jamie Diamond, director of community relations for "It's not just, 'I missed out on a half hour of going to Starbucks.' "

mercredi, février 15, 2006

can you say gulag?

It turns out that I'm not having Google's baby, after all. I don't see how they can reconcile their role in silencing free speech in China with their 'don't be evil' corporate mantra.

I like my friend Jason's take on it best: "I mean, how does Google fight this? Can they really say that the Chinese government locking up dissidents is okay? I know what they're thinking: 'it's like camp. Sleepaway camp.' C'mon. Maybe it's the fact they they just went public and the internet growth rate is 12% a year in China."

mardi, février 14, 2006


"You only get one chance to get to know someone for the first time."


bésame ... bésame mucho

Long kisses are one of my favorite things.
The Kiss of Life
Published: February 14, 2006
Since it's Valentine's Day, let's dwell for a moment on the profoundly bizarre activity of kissing. Is there a more expressive gesture in the human repertoire?

When parents kiss their children it means one thing, but when they kiss each other it means something entirely different. People will greet a total stranger with a kiss on the cheek, and then use an identical gesture to express their most intimate feelings to a lover. The mob kingpin gives the kiss of death, Catholics give the "kiss of peace," Jews kiss the Torah, nervous flyers kiss the ground, and the enraged sometimes demand that a kiss be applied to their hindquarters. Judas kissed Jesus, Madonna kissed Britney, a gambler kisses the dice for luck. Someone once even kissed a car for 54 hours straight.

Taxonomists of the kiss have long labored to make sense of its many meanings. The Romans distinguished among the friendly oscula, the loving basia and the passionate suavia. The 17th-century polymath Martin von Kempe wrote a thousand-page encyclopedia of kissing that recognized 20 different varieties, including "the kiss bestowed by superiors on inferiors" and "the hypocritical kiss." The German language has words for 30 different kinds of kisses, including nachküssen, which is defined as a kiss "making up for kisses that have been omitted." (The Germans are also said to have coined the inexplicable phrase "A kiss without a beard is like an egg without salt.") How did a single act become a medium for so many messages?

There are two possibilities: Either the kiss is a human universal, one of the constellation of innate traits, including language and laughter, that unites us as a species, or it is an invention, like fire or wearing clothes, an idea so good that it was bound to metastasize across the globe.

Scientists have found evidence for both hypotheses. Other species engage in behavior that looks an awful lot like the smooch (though without its erotic overtones), which implies that kissing might be just as animalistic an impulse as it sometimes feels. Snails caress each other with their antennae, birds touch beaks, and many mammals lick each other's snouts. Chimpanzees even give platonic pecks on the lips. But only humans and our lascivious primate cousins the bonobos engage in full-fledged tongue-on-tongue tonsil-hockey.

Even though all of this might suggest that kissing is in our genes, not all human cultures do it. Charles Darwin was one of the first to point this out. In his book "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals," he noted that kissing "is replaced in various parts of the world by the rubbing of noses." Early explorers of the Arctic dubbed this the Eskimo kiss. (Actually, it turns out the Inuit were not merely rubbing noses, they were smelling each other's cheeks).

All across Africa, the Pacific and the Americas, we find cultures that didn't know about mouth kissing until their first contact with European explorers. And the attraction was not always immediately apparent. Most considered the act of exchanging saliva revolting. Among the Lapps of northern Finland, both sexes would bathe together in a state of complete nudity, but kissing was regarded as beyond the pale.

To this day, public kissing is still seen as indecent in many parts of the world. In 1990, the Beijing-based Workers' Daily advised its readers that "the invasive Europeans brought the kissing custom to China, but it is regarded as a vulgar practice which is all too suggestive of cannibalism."

If kissing is not universal, then someone must have invented it. Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist at Texas A&M, has traced the first recorded kiss back to India, somewhere around 1500 B.C., when early Vedic scriptures start to mention people "sniffing" with their mouths, and later texts describe lovers "setting mouth to mouth." From there, he hypothesizes, the kiss spread westward when Alexander the Great conquered the Punjab in 326 B.C.

The Romans were inveterate kissers, and along with Latin, the kiss became one of their chief exports. Not long after, early Christians invented the notion of the ritualistic "holy kiss" and incorporated it into the Eucharist ceremony. According to some cultural historians, it is only within the last 800 years, with the advent of effective dentistry and the triumph over halitosis, that the lips were freed to become an erogenous zone.

For Freud, kissing was a subconscious return to suckling at the mother's breast. Other commentators have noted that the lips bear a striking resemblance to the labia, and that women across the world go to great lengths to make their lips look bigger and redder than they really are to simulate the appearance of sexual arousal, like animals in heat.

A few anthropologists have suggested that mouth kissing is a "relic gesture," with evolutionary origins in the mouth-to-mouth feeding that occurred between mother and baby in an age before Gerber and still takes place in a few parts of the world today. It can hardly be a coincidence, they note, that in several languages the word for kissing is synonymous with pre-mastication, or that "sweet" is the epithet most commonly applied to kisses.

But kissing may be more closely linked to our sense of smell than taste. Almost everyone has a distinct scent that is all one's own. Some people can even recognize their relatives in a dark room simply by their body odor (some relatives more than others). Kissing could have begun as a way of sniffing out who's who. From a whiff to a kiss was just a short trip across the face.

Whatever its origins, kissing seems to be advantageous. A study conducted during the 1980's found that men who kiss their wives before leaving for work live longer, get into fewer car accidents, and have a higher income than married men who don't. So put down this newspaper and pucker up. It does a body good.

modern love

"Modern Love" is probably my favorite column in the New York Times. Each week, a different person shares "random tales of romantic and familial woe."

Two Decembers: Loss and Redemption blew me away.
By Anne Marie Feld
ON the afternoon my mother died, she left work early. Her day as a computer programmer at Chase Manhattan Bank had skidded to an abrupt stop courtesy of a systemwide computer failure, and all employees got the afternoon off. It was late December. My 16th birthday. Gray, snowless, cold enough to make the lawn crunch underfoot, but close enough to Christmas to make a few uncrowded hours seem like a gift. Or in my mother's case, a curse.

Rather than enjoying some last-minute shopping or hitting the couch, she methodically cleared her desk, drove the Honda home, fired up a pot of Turkish coffee and hanged herself in our garage.

Twenty years later my father insists that she wouldn't have died that day if the systems hadn't gone down. He might be right. Work gave my mother a structure that sealed the madness inside, if only for small chunks of time. Idleness brought trouble.

My memories of my mother all have her working at something: cooking, staying up all night scraping wallpaper, poring over fat textbooks to get her master's degree. In home movies my sister and I, long-limbed and small-bodied, dance and do gymnastics in the foreground while my mother lurks in the background, washing dishes or zooming diagonally through the frame on her way somewhere else.

Though my mother worked full time, my sister and I never lifted a finger in that house. It was spotless, without the piles of clutter and tides of dust that mark my own house.

My mother's madness seeped in so quietly that my father, an optimist to the end, was able to ignore it, believing that it would get better on its own. In our house questions about what we did and how we felt went unasked. Or if asked, unanswered. My sister and I ate alone in our bedrooms beside flickering black-and-white televisions.

I wasn't told about my mother's two earlier attempts at suicide and would never have guessed. In my mind suicidal people raved and ranted. Madwomen were locked into attics, where they would moan and rattle chains. Occasionally they set fire to country estates. They certainly weren't grocery shopping or dropping the kids off at the community pool on their way to the office.

From fielding calls on the yellow rotary-dial phone in the kitchen, I knew that my mother saw a therapist, a woman named Barbara, whom she tried to pawn off as a friend. I knew better. My mother didn't have friends.

When I was 14, my mother started sleeping on the living room floor and wearing a dark gray ski hat with three white stripes. She seemed to drink nothing but gritty coffee and red wine poured from gallon bottles stored under the kitchen sink. She would send me into the pizzeria to pick up our pie, convinced that the men spinning crusts were talking about her behind her back.

As I limped along in my teenage bubble, very little of this registered as alarming. This was how all families were. As my mother's madness amplified, she came to believe that our house was bugged and that her boss was trying to hurt her. But as long as there was a computer program to write or a carpet to vacuum, she could be counted on to do it and do it well.

In her insistence upon getting things done, on living an ordered life, my mother managed to miss out on the nourishing aspects of family life and life in general: laughing at silly things, lying spooned on the couch with your beloveds, sharing good food, the tactile delight of giggling children crawling all over you. Without this, family life is an endless series of menial tasks: counters and noses to wipe, dishes and bodies to wash, whites and colors to fold, again and again in soul-sucking succession.

On the morning of the day my mother died, I headed toward the door to catch the 7:10 bus to school. My mother and 12-year-old sister were just waking up in their sleeping spot on the gray carpet in the living room. They sang "Happy Birthday" to me, my mother's beautiful, low singing voice frosted with my sister's tinny soprano.

Eight hours later I stepped off the Bluebird bus, looking forward to an afternoon of "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" and was disappointed to see my mother's car in the driveway. I dropped my knapsack on the window seat, stroked the dog's dusty ears and called, "Mommy?"

Her purse sat on the table. I checked all the rooms but found them empty. Then I opened the door to the garage and stopped breathing.

I shut the door, ran up the stairs and outside, and sat on the cold concrete stoop, looking up the street. House after split-level house stretched along the curved road with one thing in common: no one was home. All of the parents in my neighborhood worked, and since I had taken the early bus home from school, the kids were still gone as well.

I sat hunched over my legs, arms circling my shins, as my heart slowed. Finally I stood up, slowly opened the screen door, went back into the house and dialed 911.

In the days that followed, my father, sister and I sloshed through a sea of awkwardness. The wife of a friend of my father's bought me a dress to wear to the funeral, a maroon velvet Gunny Sax monstrosity with puffed sleeves and lace trim. Regular funerals are hard enough; the funeral of a suicide tests even the most socially skilled.

When all the robotic "Thank you for comings" had been finished, my sister tried to open the coffin when no one was looking. My father stopped her just as she was about to lift the lid. "I just wanted to see her," she explained, almost inaudibly.

Other details needed handling, providing my first, metallic taste of the kind of chores that come with adulthood. For the first time in my life, a formal party had been planned for my birthday at a local catering hall. The party favors — clear Lucite boxes filled with Hershey's Kisses, decorated with pink and silver hearts — sat in bags in the garage, waiting.

But there would be no party. I picked up the phone and said, over and over, "I'm sorry, my Sweet 16 is canceled." By the time I was done, cold sweat ran down my wrist, wetting my sleeve. I didn't cry.

On the day the party was to be held, I stood in Loehmann's with my father. My mother's dress for the occasion, a gray wool sheath with long sleeves, lay on the counter. The clerk told my father that the garment couldn't be returned. My father looked at the clerk and said very quietly, "But she died." They took the dress back.

And as soon as I could, I fled. First to college, then to a place as far from Long Island as I could manage: San Francisco. Every night I would shimmy into a short black dress, tights and platform boots and belly up to small scarred stages, staring at would-be Kurt Cobains, or boys in porkpie hats whaling Louis Armstrong covers, or nodding my head to the beat as shaved-bald D.J.'s spun in corners of warehouses while hundreds of people raved, shaking water bottles over their heads until the sun shot weak rays through dirty skylights.

My rent was $365. I had some savings; work seemed optional, as did stability. Over the next decade I would have 10 apartments, 13 jobs and at least as many boyfriends. I met Dave at a film festival, while waiting in line to see a movie called "Better Than Sex." We started seeing movies together, always picking films with "Sex" in the title. Months after we had run out of movies about fornication with no signs of doing so ourselves, he finally kissed me under a lamppost outside his front door. I was wearing knee-high black leather boots. He was wearing sheepskin slippers.

He phoned every day. He listened. He smiled a lot. He told me I was beautiful. He made up rap songs about our love. He wanted to talk about everything, from politics to my period. He wanted children. He was, as my best friend's father said, "a good citizen."

WE found a house together, a 1920's cottage on a street of Spanish Mediterranean houses in every color of the rainbow. We split the down-payment 50-50 and started packing. Driving alone through a torrential downpour to sign the title for our house, I lost it. I didn't do stable.

I convinced myself that Dave was a con man planning an elaborate sting to separate me from my down payment. The year we had spent together was the setup for the graft. Now I was going to be out $25,000 and a boyfriend. It was a hop, skip and a jump from there to standing at the side of the road, homeless and utterly alone, the victim of aiming too high.

My hands were shaking when I pulled up outside the title company. Dave was standing there, holding an umbrella, waiting to walk me the 10 feet from the curb to the building. Eight months later, just back from our honeymoon, he carried me up our wonky front steps and across the threshold before collapsing from exertion on the blue sofa in our office. Another eight months after that, a plastic stick with a pink line told us that our remodeling plans were going to have to wait.

On my first visit the ob-gyn calculated the baby's due date: my birthday. I was terrified that my day of personal infamy would be shared by the next generation of my family. Friends spun it beautifully: "It'll be healing. It'll give you back that day."

The contractions didn't hit hard until Christmas night, four days after I turned 36. Fifty-six hours after the first tremors hit my abdomen, three hours after the epidural wore off, I pushed my daughter into the world.

I wasn't thinking about my mother. Or about my sister, who stayed at the head of the bed, cheering me on when I thought my body would rip in two. Or about Dave, who watched tearfully as Pascale poured out. I thought nothing, and just lay there, shocked by pain and exhaustion. But when they finally returned her raw, chickenlike body to me after bathing her, my first thought was that she looked like my mother.

Anne Marie Feld, a journalist and grant writer, lives in San Francisco. This essay is adapted from "Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families," edited by Leslie Morgan Steiner, to be published by Random House in March.

the language of love

Historians think the first valentine was actually French poetry sent in the fifteenth century by Charles of Orleans whilst he was locked up in the Tower of London.

lundi, février 13, 2006

this just in ...

Allison wins the award for funniest (real) Cheney photo today.
"Little did the NRA know that their award would come back to bite someone in the ass face."

Cheney, being presented a rifle by the NRA in 2004.
He was at the National Rifle Association’s 133rd annual convention portraying Kerry as a threat to gun owners.


"The storm blanketed the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina to Maine over the weekend, dropping 26.9 inches of snow Central Park — the heaviest since record keeping began in 1869. The old record was 26.4 inches in December 1947, the National Weather Service said."

Confession time: I'm a silly Californian who knows nothing about real snow, as evidenced by my text message to Ben yesterday:
How's the weather? Hope you're on the slopes, enjoying yourself. It's too hot for winter here. My mind's rebelling against 80-degree days in Feb. Later.

In my defense, I just heard that it had snowed a lot back East. I didn't realize that "The Blizzard of '06" was still in progress.

Anyhow, Ben and Asim: I hope that today's a snow day and that you're out enjoying it. And Asim, let me know when you want to visit San Diego. : )

one of these things is not like the other

Cheney shoots man on Texas quail hunting trip
Updated: 10:01 a.m. ET Feb. 13, 2006
WASHINGTON - A 78-year-old hunting companion of Vice President Dick Cheney was recovering in stable condition Monday after Cheney accidentally shot him during a weekend quail hunting trip, a hospital official said.

Katharine Armstrong, the ranch’s owner, told The Associated Press that the accident occurred after Cheney, Whittington and another hunter got out of a car to shoot at a covey of quail.

She said Whittington went to retrieve a bird he shot. Cheney and the third hunter, whom she would not identify, walked to another spot and discovered a second covey of quail.

Whittington “came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn’t signal them or indicate to them or announce himself,” said Armstrong, who was in the car.

“The vice president didn’t see him,” she said. “The covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by god, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good.”

Armstrong said the shotgun pellets broke the skin.

“It knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn’t get in his eyes or anything like that,” she said.

Via Cass and IJAB

samedi, février 11, 2006

six degrees of wikipedia

Six degrees of Wikipedia -- finds a path between two Wikipedia articles using links in the text.
Via linkmachinego

going underground

I love maps as much as the next person.

Strike that. I love maps more than most people. Let me use the following examples to illustrate my point:
  • Exhibit a: My bar is a 36-inch wooden globe covered in a 1789 Venetian map.
  • Exhibit b: A Blaeu map adorns my living room.
  • Exhibit c: My work mousepad is a map of the Paris Metro.
  • Exhibit d: I have a magnet of the Tube, courtesy of Lynne.
Naturally, I loved learning about the variants on the London Underground map ...

Harry Beck's London Underground map is such a design icon that computerfolk are forever designing spoof versions. There's the marvellous upside-down South London version, for example, and the ingenious London motorways map.

The usual trick is to retain the real diagram and just change the names of all 275 stations instead. Simon Patterson was probably the first (in 1992) with his Great Bear, but since then the tube map has also gone foody, German, sweary, Hollywood and (just last week) ingeniously musical. There also one where each station name is replaced by an anagram.

Find tons more tube map variants at Geoff's place and Owen's site.
Via Diamond Geezer

factoid from a nestle chocolate wrapper

Q: Which laundry detergent keeps clothes clean in Uzbekistan: barf, puke, or vomit?
A: Barf

Upon further investigation, I learned that the good people at Nestle were not trying to pull a fast one.

Barf is made in Iran and is a best-seller in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Here is the English blurb on the side of the box:
Combination of T.A.E.D. with perborate in Barf, delivers effective bleaching and hygienic performance, even at cold wash.

Barf with finely balanced formulation, removes even the most stubborn dirts without causing any harm to clothes.

With inclusion of soap in Barf formulation, the softness and texture of fabric is preserved.

playing it straight

This op-ed piece contains spoilers. You have been warned.
And, yes, this is the same Dan Savage who writes the love/sex advice column "Savage Love." Again, consider yourself warned.
Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Ex-Gay Cowboys
Published: February 10, 2006
First, a little of that full disclosure stuff: I have not actually seen "Brokeback Mountain" or "End of the Spear," both of which I'm going to discuss here.

But since when did not seeing a film prevent anyone from sharing his or her strong opinions about it? Before the posters for "Brokeback Mountain" were even printed, everyone from the blogger Mickey Kaus to the Concerned Women for America to gay men all over the country had already said a lot about the film. (Their opinions were, respectively, con, con and pro.)

So, let's get to it: Remember when straight actors who played gay were the ones taking a professional risk? Those days are over. Shortly after Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, both straight, received Oscar nominations for playing gay cowboys in "Brokeback Mountain," conservative Christians were upset when they learned that a gay actor, Chad Allen, was playing a straight missionary in "End of the Spear."

"End of the Spear" tells what happened after five American missionaries were murdered in 1956 by a tribe in Ecuador. Instead of seeking retribution, the missionaries' families reached out to the tribe, forgave the killers and eventually converted them to Christianity. An evangelical film company, Every Tribe Entertainment, brought the story to the screen. In a glowing review, Marcus Yoars, a film critic for Focus on the Family, noted that the "martyrdom" of the slain missionaries has "inspired thousands if not millions of Christians." But after conservatives took a closer look at the cast list, the protests began. Many felt Chad Allen's presence in the film negated any positive message.

The pastors claim they're worried about what will happen when their children rush home from the movies, Google Chad Allen's name, and discover that he's a "gay activist." ("Gay activist" is a term evangelicals apply to any homosexual who isn't a gay doormat.) They needn't be too concerned. Straight boys who have unsupervised access to the Internet aren't Googling the names of middle-aged male actors gay or straight — not when Paris Hilton's sex tapes are still out there.

Frankly, I can't help but be perplexed by the criticisms of Mr. Allen from the Christian right. After all, isn't playing straight what evangelicals have been urging gay men to do?

That's precisely what Jack and Ennis attempt to do in "Brokeback Mountain" — at least, according to people I know who have actually seen the film. These gay cowboys try, as best they can, to quit one another. They marry women, start families. But their wives are crushed when they realize their husbands don't, and can't, ever really love them. "Brokeback Mountain" makes clear that it would have been better for all concerned if Jack and Ennis had lived in a world where they could simply be together.

That world didn't exist when Jack and Ennis were pitching tents together, but it does now — even in the American West. Today, the tiny and stable percentage of men who are gay are free to live openly, and those who want to settle down and start families can do so without having to deceive some poor, unsuspecting woman.

Straight audiences are watching and loving "Brokeback Mountain" — that's troubling to evangelical Christians who have invested a decade and millions of dollars promoting the notion that gay men can be converted to heterosexuality, or become "ex-gay." It is, they insist, an ex-gay movement, although I've never met a gay man who was moved to join it.

This "movement" demands more from gay men than simply playing straight. Once a man can really pass as ex-gay — once he's got some Dockers, an expired gym membership and a bad haircut — he's supposed to become, in effect, an ex-gay missionary, reaching out to the hostile gay tribes in such inhospitable places as Chelsea and West Hollywood.

What should really trouble evangelicals, however, is this: even if every gay man became ex-gay tomorrow, there still wouldn't be an ex-lesbian tomboy out there for every ex-gay cowboy. Instead, millions of straight women would wake up one morning to discover that they had married a Jack or an Ennis. Restaurant hostesses and receptionists at hair salons would be especially vulnerable.

Sometimes I wonder if evangelicals really believe that gay men can go straight. If they don't think Chad Allen can play straight convincingly for 108 minutes, do they honestly imagine that gay men who aren't actors can play straight for a lifetime? And if anyone reading this believes that gay men can actually become ex-gay men, I have just one question for you: Would you want your daughter to marry one?

Evangelical Christians seem sincere in their desire to help build healthy, lasting marriages. Well, if that's their goal, encouraging gay men to enter into straight marriages is a peculiar strategy. Every straight marriage that includes a gay husband is one Web-browser-history check away from an ugly divorce.

If anything, supporters of traditional marriage should want gay men out of the heterosexual marriage market entirely. And the best way to do that is to see that we're safely married off — to each other, not to your daughters. Let gay actors like Chad Allen only play it straight in the movies.

Dan Savage is the editor of The Stranger, a Seattle newsweekly.

vendredi, février 10, 2006

on being in the know

H: "So I heard in a meeting today that [the head of HR] is retiring in June and [the head of IT] is retiring in December. "

Aaron: *bug-eyed silence*

H: "The person who said it prefaced her remarks by saying that she had been surprised to learn this information a few months ago. I commented that I didn't know until she announced it.

So much for MarComm being in the know."

Aaron: "Clearly, not always. Sometimes. But not often."

one small step for google ...

Google's done it again.

This time, it's the Google Maps - Lunar Landing Sites. Be sure to go a step at a time and zoom all the way in. Afterward, read the FAQ.

For the record, I'm still having google's baby. And despite the fact that Ben wants to marry them, I've let him know that he'll have to get in line. (Feminist or not, I'm not doing it out of wedlock.)

vanity fair

Asim, you can have Keira. I think Scarlett's much more attractive.
Scarlett, Keira bare all for Vanity Fair.

jeudi, février 09, 2006

les trois couleurs

I just finished Krzysztof Kieslowski's trilogy. I did not see the ending coming. At all.

I enjoyed the themes (liberty, passion), symbolism (eye-popping color), tone, and interconnectedness of each film. But I enjoyed Blue most of all.

meet fred, the undercover cat

On the one hand, this story sucks. On the other, it's awesome.

But I'm left wondering what sort of pension benefit Fred will get.

Undercover Agent in Fur Snares a Fake Veterinarian - New York Times
The place was New York City. Crime was the dish of the day, and the main course was injury to an animal with a side of petty larceny. The victim was Burt. Burt was a Boston terrier. He was about to find a friend who looked more like a foe.

Fred was an alley cat in Brooklyn before he went undercover with Carol Moran, an assistant district attorney. The case involved Burt, a terrier, and a sham veterinarian.
The case unraveled over six months, with an indictment this week. The details spilled from court documents and interviews with investigators and Burt's owner, Raymond Reid.

For four years, Burt had been under the care of Steven Vassall, 28, an unemployed lab technician who styled himself a licensed veterinarian. Mr. Vassall gave Burt vaccinations and heartworm treatments and sometimes boarded him. Mr. Reid liked Mr. Vassall. Mr. Vassall made house calls.

Mr. Reid left for vacation in August, but he got an urgent call from Mr. Vassall. Burt was in a bad way. Burt had swallowed a foreign object. Burt was going to die.

Mr. Reid came home and said he wanted to see Burt. Mr. Vassall let Burt out of the car and drove away. Burt had an open wound along his abdomen, and he was licking the blood.

Mr. Vassall sent Mr. Reid a bill for $985. Mr. Reid called the Brooklyn district attorney.

The district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, put his top investigators on the case. Rackets Division. Senior people. A sting was arranged. An apartment was wired. But this mousetrap was all spring and no cheese.

Carol Moran was working a steady 9 to 5 in the district attorney's office. She had 22 years on the job. For this case, she was going to need a sidekick. That's where Fred came in.

Fred was the strong, silent type with no place to come in out of the rain. He was an alley cat from the streets of Brooklyn, long and lean with thick black stripes. Ms. Moran took a shine to him right away. She adopted him from Animal Care and Control.

Fred never asked to be a hero, but he needed work. And neutering. Mr. Vassall agreed to end Fred's sex life for $135. Last Friday, he picked up Fred and the payment. Fred was in a carrying case. The payment was in cash.

Mr. Vassall was charged with unauthorized veterinary practice, criminal mischief, injuring animals and petty larceny. He was free on bail but could not be reached; his phone was disconnected. His lawyer, Royce Russell, declined to comment.

The victim was stitched up. The hero wore a badge to meet the news media. His big green eyes looked past a dozen TV cameras. A dozen camera operators made kissy noises.

A tabloid reporter asked the district attorney a tabloid question.

"This is the first, Nance," Mr. Hynes said. "First undercover cat."

Then Fred took a nap in the corner. Tomorrow was another day. His owner said neutering was still in the works.

the vitamin c myth

There's no doubt that Vitamin C is good for you. But, contrary to popular belief, a mega-dose of Vitamin C is not an effective cold remedy.

Looks like we'll have to spend some time in bed to fight this one off.

mercredi, février 08, 2006


"Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated."
-Coretta Scott King (1927 – 2006) , wife of the assassinated civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., and a noted community leader in her own right.
Via Diana

the paki mack agenda

I give The Paki Mack Agenda five naans.

In his own words: Friendly brown guy. Not a terror threat. Likes to eat, drink, and be merry. And currently transplanted to Phoenix, so help me. No, really. Help me.

Full disclosure: Omer's a college friend and another wacko liberal.


Via Diana

this bowl's for you

I know it was a few days ago, which in pop culture years is so, like, three years ago, but I am taking a marketing class right now.

So here are the Super Bowl commercials, courtesy of Google Video.
Via googleblog

real beauty

It's a man's world, but there are very few times when I would actually like to be one. One of those times is when I see how un-self-conscious most men are about their bodies.

That's because I don't know a woman who doesn't wish she was taller or shorter, thinner or curvier, had bigger or perkier breasts, clearer skin, different eyes, or better hair.

On the one hand, it's admirable to strive for a goal and to better oneself. On the other hand, the self-loathing that leads to eating disorders and a multi-billion dollar cosmetic surgery industry gives me pause. In short, most women have bought the beauty myth (to one extent or another).

And I am one of those women.

Consider this: I've never traded on my looks. In fact, I didn't really believe that I was attractive until not that long ago. Part of it was reality: I never was the prettiest girl in class, and I never defined myself in terms of beauty. (I always thought — and still do— that my intelligence is my most attractive quality, because to me, smart is sexy no matter how you slice it.)

Do I blame society? Check. Do I blame my mother? Of course. And do I, at thirty years old, now own my issues and work at loving myself everyday? Damn skippy.

Enter Dove. Dove (ostensibly) sells beauty products, but I would argue that they (like all beauty products) are actually in the business of selling hope. Now, they've formulated the campaign for real beauty.

The whole phenomenon fascinates me. And I'm sure that I'll be writing more about it after doing some reading.

i'm gorgeous inside

One of my male friends recently told me (tongue in cheek, but truthfully) that the best advice he ever got re: women was the following:
Always tell the smart ones they're pretty. And always tell the pretty ones they're smart.

Brains ego: I'm always confident, but often wrong.
Beauty ego: I've never doubted my mind, but I never attempted to trade on my looks because no one ever called them out as something to trade on until about six months ago.

Another male friend recently asked me some tough questions about my self-esteem. The crux of it was getting at why my perception of self had shifted.

It changed because of me. And I believe that as it changed in me, others came to see me as I see myself. (The bit about external beauty wasn't really crystallized in my own mind until late last summer, which is why I finally put the whole list in writing.)

Part of it was weight -- but that wasn't all of it. For example, I weighed less than I do now when I got to college. But I never thought I was beautiful then, much less verbalized that thought.

I wasn't comfortable in my own skin for lots of reasons. As I get older, I'm more comfortable with myself. I like myself more than I ever have. I own who I am (and am not) and am confident in my talents. And I'm a lot more secure as a result. I have a great therapist and amazing friends to thank for that transformation. My therapist asked the right questions, challenged me, and gave me reality checks that weren't always fun, but always necessary. Today, she's one of my favorite people on the planet.

When people focus on an aspect of you, and praise it, then you come to define yourself that way (at least I did). So, I was always the smarty pants. And when you add to that the self-loathing my mother has about her own weight issues and the way she made them mine, it made me recoil from ever defining myself around physical attractiveness. When I was unhappy in my relationship and putting on weight, it as even easier to never want to define myself in terms of looks.

So, yes, physical weight was a psychic weight on me. But more than that, it was the gift of seeing myself through someone else's eyes that led to the final, conscious, shift. Although he was less-than-honest with me about lots of other things, dating Harry was good for me, if nothing else, because he verbalized about what he saw me as: a smart, beautiful, kind woman.

Hearing those words from someone else confirmed what I already knew to be true.

mardi, février 07, 2006

long may you rev

A guy I know favorably compared women (in the abstract) to the new Mustang.
It was funny. And he had the good sense not to talk about a model with the top down.

But I draw the line at these ringtones.

¿dónde está tu duende?

Well I'll be damned. I learned a great new word (in two languages) this morning.
n. The ability to attract others through personal magnetism and charm.

[Spanish dialectal, charm, from Spanish, ghost, from Old Spanish, owner, proprietor, from duen de (casa), lord of (a house) : duen, lord (from Latin dominus. See dem- in Indo-European Roots) + de, of (from Latin d. See de-).]

But a few other sources say that duende means "hob, sprite, puck, elf, goblin" in Spanish. (I can see how the etymology evolved and how one is really a characteristic of the other, but wonder why the good people at got it so wrong. )

Bilingual superfriends to the rescue ... how common is this word en Espanol? I've never encountered it as such — instead, I've used pícaro to describe people with these qualities.

blushing intensely

The hardest thing about dating is breaking up. I briefly dated someone last fall and it was incredibly difficult to tell this person why I couldn't be with him. When he argued with me during the breakup, I could tell that I had really hurt him and that left me sad and frustrated about our friendship ending. But it also convinced me that I was doing the right thing.

It's now been several months and he joined me (and several friends) on an outing this weekend. We all had a great time.

Yesterday, out of the blue, he sent me this. I'm humbled. But more importantly, I'm glad to know that our friendship is on solid footing again:

I've said this to my friends the last couple of days, now I repeat it to you:

Sometimes you see someone you once dated, however briefly, and think "what the *fuck* was I thinking?!?" But sometimes you see the person and it rips your heart out. But sometimes, if you're very very lucky, you see the person and say to yourself: "Wow. This woman is absolutely gorgeous, and is a completely amazing person, and I totally see what I was thinking. And... she was right, it wouldn't have worked."

I couldn't have hoped for anything better.