Thursday, December 27, 2007

By special request

After posting about my bundt cake extravaganza, Laura asked if I'd be posting the recipe. Well, here it is, in all it's fattening but delicious glory. It's ridiculously simple to make since it builds off a cake mix. Sure, that's cheating a little bit, but I'm still a novice in the kitchen and take help where I can get it.

Triple Chocolate Cake


  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
  • 1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into a well greased 12 cup bundt pan.
  3. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake thoroughly in pan at least an hour and a half before inverting onto a plate If desired, dust the cake with powdered sugar.
Note: mix up the flavor by using chocolate mint chips or peanut butter chips.

In other cooking adventures, I repeated my Thanksgiving baking contributions and brought both pumpkin pie and macaroons to my sister's house for Christmas. I also tried my hand at what looked like an extraordinary simple recipe for making some sugary sweet toasted nuts. Unfortunately, it turns out that the bottom rack of my oven gets a lot hotter than the top rack, so one entire cookie sheet of nuts turned into a carmelized, smoky, disgusting mess. Those had to go directly into the trash, but the other half turned out well enough. That said, I'm in no rush to make them again. I didn't love the way these came out, and nuts are too expensive for me to do this often. Plus, I hate the word "nuts."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It runs in the family

So my Aunt Dorry has always, for as long as I can remember, made chocolate bundt cakes as her standard dessert. I really can't remember the last time I went to meal there when chocolate bundt wasn't offered up with coffee at the end of the evening. It's consistent appearance is actually sort of funny at this point.

Well, last night Todd and I went to a fabulous dinner at Josh and Todd 's. With my new-found affection for cooking and baking, I was more than happy to be bringing dessert. I cast around for suggestion, soliciting recipes and tips. One of the things that I've come up against as a new cook is a limited accessibility to all the tools and instruments required for most recipes. I don't have the money to go out and buy everything The Pampered Chef has to offer, and living in a New York apartment, I definitely don't have room to store it all, either. So I had to rule out some recipes just based on their intense preparations (and by intense, I mean something as simple as whipping heavy cream, for instance). Anyway, after much consideration, I found a recipe for a triple chocolate bundt cake that looked awesome. I don't think I'm going to make it my signature dessert the way my aunt has--I have hopes for a greater range than that--I have to say, the chocolate bundt cake didn't disappoint. I think I cooked it about five minutes too long, but otherwise I was really happy with how it came out.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Attend the Tale

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street opened last night, and Jen and I were at the Ziegfeld to see it. I went in somewhat apprehensive but also hopeful, and overall, the movie satisfied.

Johnny Depp is, as almost always, excellent. His voice isn't amazing, but his intensity and acting abilities made up for his somewhat limited range. And, I was very pleased when I realized the talk-singing that dominated the preview was really no where else in the movie. He plays Sweeney with moments of rage but overpowered by sadness and despair. His Sweeney is a man just this side of defeated, kept going only by Mrs. Lovett and his inability to forgive. He makes Sweeney sympathetic but not likable, just as he should be.

Tim Burton's other casting choices were...questionable. I went in with extremely low expectations of Helena Bonham Carter, and she really was the weakest link. I was aggravated that she was cast for a couple of reasons: 1) I'm just totally over her. I think she does the same damn thing all the time. 2) She only ever shows up in movies her boyfriends or husbands direct (Yes, I know this is a slight exaggeration, but it still feels that way). Remember when she was with Kenneth Branagh and she was in Frankenstein, Theory of Flight, and everything else he made? Maybe she should find a part she's right for and actually go on an audition for it, because I'm sad to say that my low expectations really weren't overcome. Her acting was good, actually, and I like the way she played Mrs. Lovett, but she simply could not sing the part. She just doesn't have the voice, and it seems to me that that should be a deal breaker, wife of the director or not.

Sacha Baron Cohen was wonderful. He made one of my historically least favorite characters/parts/songs into a highlight. He really rocked it. Alan Rickman as the evil Judge Turpin was good, though his voice is really nothing amazing. And Timothy Spall as the beadle seemed to be in a different movie all together. Very over the top. And the rest of the cast skewed very, very young. Though that worked in some places (a child Toby, for instance) the lad who played Antony simply wasn't believable as a sailor who'd been all over the world. It's fine to try to create a juxtaposition between Antony and Johanna's innocence and the world weariness of the rest of the characters, but this took it too far.

I thought most of the musical cuts made worked well, though I really did miss The Ballad of Sweeney Todd. They could have played it over the end credits or something. And I wish they would have kept Kiss Me. As it is, Antony and Johanna have no direct interaction, which makes their love affair slightly harder to buy.

It wasn't an unequivocal success for me, but it was pretty good. I liked it and would recommend it.

Small side note: Remember how Christina Ricci's breasts and cleavage were practically characters unto themselves in Sleepy Hollow? Well, the same is going on here. I imagine that a great deal of Burton's directorial notes to both Bonham Carter and Jayne Wisener (Johanna) went something like this: "Deeper breaths! I want to see them HEAVING."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Light Fell review

Check out my latest Enfuse Magazine review this time for the yet-to-be-published Light Fell.

My copy looked nothing like the image here, by the way. Because I got pre-pub galleys, mine has yellow cover with plain black font. I like to believe that all the random New Yorkers who saw me on the subway with it were intrigued and wondered who I reviewed for (New York Times? Village Voice? Enfuse Magazine?). Probably, they just thought it was an ugly cover, though.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

CNN continues to be the dumbest fucking news channel this side of Fox

Just in case anyone was wondering whether CNN headquarters was still populated with total idiots: Yes, it is. I give you, their recent slip-ups:

Barack Osama
Obama Bid Laden

and even,

Obama, Nebraska

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Double Header: Juno and I Am Legend

When Caryn and I were in college, we were great fans of the movie marathon. Planned the day before, we’d pick three, four, or even five movies to see in a day. Pulling this off required some serious forethought; we looked at start times, running times, accounted for previews and credits: it was awesome. We even found ways to work the system for free popcorn, bulk candy, and giant-sized sodas. Was this ethical? No. Were we poor but movie-lovin' college kids? Hell yes.

This past weekend, Todd and I did an extremely modified take on the movie marathon and saw Juno and I Am Legend. There were no stolen, sugary treats in sight but, like any good marathon, there was wide spectrum of movie quality on display.

Juno, written by current It Girl Diablo Cody, tells the story of an unwanted teenage pregnancy with sass, obnoxiousness, and some unexpected warmth. What I loved about this movie was how well ensemble members played off each other, the snappy dialogue, and—very importantly—the lack of moralizing. And, frankly, the cast was a dream. With two, count ‘em, two, Arrested Development alums--Jason Bateman and Michael Cera--you know you’re off to a great start. Jennifer Garner, J.K. Simmons, and Allison Janney are also fabulous in their roles. The foundation and heart of the entire film, though, is Ellen Page. Seen before in the ultra-disturbing and nonsensical Hard Candy, I went in not knowing what to expect. She beautifully carried the story and emotions of this movie and is a real star in the making.

I Am Legend, on the other hand, is devoid of both ensembles and up-and-comers. Given that this is far more widely marketed, I don’t really need to do the whole summary part of the review. Just in case any of you live under a rock, though: Will Smith battles zombie-like humanoids as the presumably last normal human on earth. I give Smith a lot of credit for making such a solitary movie captivating. Interacting for most of the movie with only a dog, he really does one hell of an acting job. And I Am Legend does have a few good scares in it; I jumped more than once at the zombie attacks. Unfortunately, logic was apparently deemed completely optional by the creative forces behind this movie. The leaps of faith audience members are forced to make are just too much. And I Am Legend shared a bit too much with War of the Worlds in terms of resolution. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the incredibly stupid ending for those of you who haven’t yet seen this. But anyone who has seen both will surely know what I mean. Thumbs down.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Well how about that

According to Ben Brantley, New York Times theatre reviewer, all my friends and I are apparently wrong, wrong, wrong. He thinks that The Homecoming is amazing, riveting, genius, nigh-perfect, even.

And, he can't stop yammering about how wonderful Raul Esparza and Eve Best are in this thing. Frankly, I thought they were the two worst performances on stage.

I stand by my critique and think that Ben Brantley is applauding the production out of fear that he'll be called stupid if he admits that he didn't know what the hell was happening either.

Cooking up a storm

Wonder of wonders, my claim to cook more once I moved into my new apartment is actually not total B.S.! I’ve been a baking more than ever, and Saturday night Todd and I whipped up a whole meal. I thank the fun food-related books I’ve been reading (and I still have two Ruth Reichl’s to go!), Dorrie’s blog, my slightly more user friendly kitchen, and the fun of cooking with another person instead of just with Camilla. She’s really not a lot of help, after all.

Todd and I found ourselves in Union Square on Saturday, so we decided to take advantage of our proximity to Trader Joe’s. We bought bottle after bottle of cheap wine to try, then ventured over to the food market to see what they had. We came home with the fixings for a meal that would easily have cost us twice as much at a restaurant: lemon and herb marinated ahi, mushroom risotto, green beans, and multigrain french bread. And, to top it off, we made (aka microwaved) mini chocolate lava cakes for dessert. I was impressed with our success; everything turned out really well!

Everything, that is, except my left thumb, which I, like a genius, stuck in the giant shaft of steam pouring up and out of my steamer. I’m not disheartened, though; all those Top Chef contenders are peppered with burn scars, proving that even the pros make these boneheaded moves now and again.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Santa's "O" face

Ok, this doesn't make me feel all Christmas-y, but it does make me laugh.

How extra creepy is that stalker-ish, "he sees you when you're sleeping," quality now?!

A Matinee, A Pinter Play...

So Jen and I took in The Homecoming tonight. On the one hand, what a fabulous cast: Ian McShane, James Frain, Michael McKean, and (my personal favorite) Raul Esparza. On the other hand, what an unenjoyable play.

The first act was B O R I N G. A whole lot of set up that really felt like it didn't need to take anywhere near all the time it actually took. The second act picks up a lot, but the plot takes such a turn into the absurd that I felt totally mystified. Jen and I admitted to each other over coffee after the show that we felt like we just weren't getting it. Surely these characters couldn't have really been saying and doing the things they said and did in earnest, could they? They must all be some kind of metaphor or representation for something else, right? We mulled over many half-baked theories, some of which might have made an interesting college essay and none of which made for a particularly riveting night at the theatre.

Most disappointing, really, was my Raul. He just wasn't good. Accents are absolutely not his strong suit, as evidenced in Taboo, Comedians, and any other show where's he's supposed to be British. I'm not sure if he was so focused on the accent that he forgot to act or what, but while the rest of the cast was natural and at least somewhat authentic, he seemed mannered and uncomfortable. I have a theory that now that he's marginally famous, at least in the theatre world, he's scared to take risks. It's like he knows he's being watched and so afraid of getting it wrong that all the raw emotion and intensity that made his earlier performances so powerful gets completely stifled. Truly, a knockout performance still wouldn't have made this show successful for me, but I do look forward to the day that he wows me again.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette

So my not so secret guilty pleasure books are those historical novels detailing which people in various royal courts are getting it on, scheming against each other, and plotting for their own ascension to the throne. Philippa Gregory specializes in this genre and is responsible for such fun reads as The Other Boleyn Girl, The Constant Princess, and The Queen’s Fool, among many others. I recently picked up Abundance, expecting something similar and found, instead, a beautifully written account of Marie Antoinette’s successes and failures as dauphine and then queen of France.

Sena Jeter Naslund, who also wrote the extraordinary Four Spirits, approaches Tointette’s (as her intimates call her) story from a very personal perspective. We travel with her as she crosses the border from her native Austria and is reborn as French royalty. We feel her desire to charm and please everyone around her, even as she finds ever luxurious ways to also please herself. Marie Antoinette is presented as selfish, yes, but also as both innocent and determined. Told from this personal perspective, readers are presented with Marie Antoinette’s considerations about her fashion choices, hair styles, and favorite artists more often than the state of French economics and politics. The approach allows us to revel at her early successes and sympathize with her later plight; what we can’t do, is rationally understand what prompts the populace’s about-face. Instead, Naslund richly explores Marie Antoinette’s emotional response to mob mentality, her love and appreciation for her friends and supporters, her sensitivities to both kindness and callousness, and the strength upon which she draws when faced with imprisonment, separation from her family, and, ultimately, the guillotine.

Naslund is a gifted writer, and her talent does not go wasted here. For anyone with an interest in this subject matter or type of character study Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette is a wonderful read.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

It's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough

My biggest accomplishment of this weekend? Putting up my Christmas tree! I'm really pleased with the way it came out, though I do wish it had a few more lights on it. I blame my mom; growing up, my father was in charge of stringing lights on the tree. After each strand, my mom would assess it and decide it needed more. We always ended up putting enough on to light up the whole room. I bought three strands the other day, thinking that would be more than enough. Thanks to the brightly lit trees of my youth, though, I think I need about twice as many to really look perfect. Either way, I think it looks pretty good, and it definitely feels more like Christmas now!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fuck Huck

I don't think too many of my readers are of the red persuasion, but just in case any of you have been pulled in by Mike Huckabee's charm (even I'll admit he does well in interviews), I thought you should see these articles.

The first details the role Huckabee played in the release of a rapist, Wayne Dumond. Thanks to Huckabee's advocacy, Dumond was freed and went on to rape again, this time killing his victim. The Huffington Post has covered this issue thoroughly, and Huckabee didn't take too kindly to the critical look they took at him. He fired back through the media, and today the Huffington Post had this response.

I think what's particularly interesting here is not that this horrible person was released and went on to commit more horrific crimes. We don't actually live in the movie version of Minority Report, after all. What happened is awful, and there actually is every reason to believe that the powers that be (Huckabee, the parole board, etc.) could have seen this coming. But human error exists. That aside, though, there is a lot to be upset about here. The apparent political nature of Huckabee's decision making is disgusting, as is his refusal to recognize his contribution to this situation.

Blah, blah, blah

I feel like it should already be the weekend. I went to Nino’s last night for some amazingly delicious vodka sauce with Rena, Carole, and my BFF Gerri. Girls’ night out was so much fun! We sat around laughing and chatting for so long that we wore out our welcome. The Nino’s staff got to the point where they did away with any and all mood lighting and turned on the brightest lights they had in the hopes that we’d finally take the hint (we did). Somehow the night felt much more like a Friday to me than anything else, and now I want to be out of the office doing more fun things.

I’m this close to finishing the book I’m reading and ready to move on. I’ve actually loved the book (I’ll review it soon) and have a book to read for Enfuse this month plus my January book club novel to get to, so I wish I were at home in bed reading instead of at my desk.

And, I’m eager to get my Christmas tree from the dudes who have set up camp across the street from my apartment. That’ll happen tomorrow, and if it turns out as lovely as I hope it will, I’ll post pictures of my festively decorated home soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Best of 2007, Take 2

Since we all did pretty badly on the Times 10 Best Books of 2007 list, I'm hoping the
100 Notable Books list will make us all feel better.

At least here I've read a few (The Abstinence Teacher, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Yiddish Policeman's Union) and heard a few authors read excerpts (Richard Russo, Ian McEwan, Michael Chabon).

And if this still seems like a pathetic familiarity with the latest and greatest on the literary scene, I comfort myself with the justification that I like to wait for books to come out in paperback (for easier subway reading) and that most these books will be just as wonderful whenever the hell I get to them. The few exceptions are those so mired in the times that they need to be read within our current world context. And if they're that time sensitive, they certainly won't become part of the canon. And, therefore, no one will remember them in a few years, and I won't forever be embarrassed for not having read them.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Weekend Review

Well, look at me. The minute NaBloPoMo is over, I take a two day break. And this right after I implored everyone to keep blogging a lot. The weekends are often a time when I like to forget that computers exist and focus my energies on watching some Netflix, reading, or (gasp!) actually getting up off my duff. Now it’s Monday and mandatory duff time again as I sit at my desk, so I’m ready to blog again.

I had a book-centric weekend. My first Saturday stop was to what was billed as a used book and music sale in the UWS. The publicity made it sound like it was going to be a great place to find countless unexpected treasures. Instead, it was an old man in a room selling all his old crap. It was actually sort of sad. He seemed kind of jazzed that anyone was there (the place was empty when we walked in), and I didn’t want to totally disappoint him by walking out empty handed. Luckily, I found a copy of Lady Chatterly’s Lover in good condition; since I’ve never read it before, the five dollars he was charging seemed worth it.

Next I was off to an independent book publisher’s conference. Publishers set up tables in the General Society Library in midtown and chatted people up about their books. It was just like all the conferences I attended when I worked in college publishing, except that I was on the other side of the table and not miserable. I didn’t buy anything (though I was sorely tempted), but I did collect lots of info to pass on to Laura for possible Enfuse connections.

Yesterday was more low key, and my big accomplishment was pulling out my box of Christmas decorations. I don’t have a tree yet, but I did string lights all along the railing of my loft. It looks so pretty!

Friday, November 30, 2007

NaBloPoMo Successes all around

Hooray to all of us who stuck to the NaBloPoMo plan and actually posted something every day for the last month. I have absolutely loved reading what everyone has written, watching the videos some have posted, checking out Mike's pics, listening to some of Nate's music recommendations, and trying to figure out what the hell drunken goats are doing in Colorado.

I will try to continue writing a lot, though I'm sure it won't really be every day for the rest of time. I hope everyone else will continue in the same spirit!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The 10 Best Books of 2007 (so says the NYT)

The New York Times recently put out their list of this year's best books. I've read a whopping none of them. How'd the rest of you do?


MAN GONE DOWN, by Michael Thomas.
Black Cat/Grove/Atlantic, paper, $14.

OUT STEALING HORSES, by Per Petterson. Translated by Anne Born.
Graywolf Press, $22.

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES, by Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.

THEN WE CAME TO THE END, by Joshua Ferris.
Little, Brown & Company, $23.99.

TREE OF SMOKE, by Denis Johnson.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.


IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY: Inside Iraq's Green Zone, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95; Vintage, paper, $14.95.

LITTLE HEATHENS: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish.
Bantam Books, $22.

THE NINE: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, by Jeffrey Toobin.
Doubleday, $27.95.

THE ORDEAL OF ELIZABETH MARSH: A Woman in World History, by Linda Colley.
Pantheon Books, $27.50.

THE REST IS NOISE: Listening to the Twentieth Century, by Alex Ross.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just when I thought I was done

I am feeling settled and comfortable in my new apartment just in time to pack up and move offices. We're moving only a few blocks south, but I've spent the afternoon in the same cardboard-smelling, packing tape-shrieking mess I just left behind.

This move is far less traumatic on a personal level, but I am somewhat miffed about losing my good office and being stuck in a craptacular cube again. There's no doubting, even for a moment, that this job is about a hundred thousand times better than any job I ever had at McGraw-Hell. Nonetheless, going back to a cube feels a bit like a demotion. Many of us are in the same boat, so there's no point whining about it, and I'm putting on a very Mary Sunshine face to my boss. But I'm not happy.

I mean seriously, how will I blog and Gmail Chat all day now that people can see what I'm doing?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Some 2007 Favs

In honor of the impending end of the year, I'm hopping on the list-making bandwagon to talk about some of my favorite things from this year. Today: movies (books and who knows what else to follow). These aren't necessarily movies that have been released in the last twelve months, but they are all movies I watched in for the first time in 2007.

My Top Movies of 2007


I loved the spirit of Hairspray: though it's message of acceptance is overly simplified, it's still a good one. The performances, especially by some of the lesser known cast members such as Nikki Blonsky and Elijah Kelley, were wonderful, as was the music. They were even smart enough to cut one of my least favorite songs from the stage version!

Heavenly Creatures

This movie is amazing! After hearing good things about it for years, I finally pushed it to the top of my Netflix queue. Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame, directed a young Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in this true tale about two wonderfully and horrifically imaginative teens. With an emotional connection that bordered on obsession, the two friends turned violent when faced with potential separation from each other. Beautiful fantasy sequences, strong performances, and two extraordinarily compelling characters makes this a definite must-see.

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills
Paradise Lost 2: Revelations

It's hard to even know where to start when talking about these two documentaries. Three teenagers in West Memphis, Arkansas were railroaded by the courts and convicted of murdering three young neighborhood boys.

Their convictions were based mostly on one of the teen's coerced confession and "satanic panic." The three were unpopular, interested in Wicca, and wore a lot of black. Their outsider status provided opportunity to those who wanted to condemn them.

All three remain in prison where they've been since June of 1993. Since then, countless people from some of us to celebrities like Margaret Cho and Natalie Maines have taken up their cause. Still, there is no end in sight. You can visit Free the West Memphis Three to learn more.

Everyone should see these movies, but they are horrifying.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Difficult Reentry

So here I am, back at work. It's always hard to come back and get focused after a long weekend, and this one is no exception. I'm feeling especially tired, and I can't tell if it's just the readjustment to my work schedule or connected to the NyQuil I took last night to battle some sinus congestion. Either way, I'd rather be in bed. Also, it was raining this morning, so I didn't take the circuitous route to the office I use when I want to stop for coffee. Boo.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Enchanted by Enchanted

At Shannon's suggestion, the family went to the movies to see Enchanted on Friday night. It was a great suggestion on her part, because the movie was utterly enjoyable. It's perfect for both kids and adults who are in a whimsical mood, and makes great use of Amy Adams, James Marsden, and its New York City location. Adams is perfect as Giselle, a would-be princess thrust into NYC by, of course, some one's wicked stepmother. Wide eyed and innocent, she plays Giselle with the right amount of earnestness and excitement. Marsden, as the Prince who vows to rescue and marry her, shows a great comic timing and is funnier than his previous roles have allowed him to be. The cast is rounded out by Patrick Dempsey, Susan Sarandon, Idina Menzel, and Timothy Spall (Harry Potter's Wormatail).

As a spoof of and homage to classic Disney movies, Enchanted includes a few perfect musical numbers led by Adams (who did her own singing) and Dempsey's cynical New Yorker plays her foil well. Sarandon was the one downer for me, through no fault of her own. I simply found that her plot-important character, who provided the motivation and circumstances for absolutely everything that happens in the movie, wasn't what I wanted to see. I was looking for more singing, dancing, cooing at small animals, and sugary-sweet romance.

That said, I still had a wonderful time, and Enchanted offered the perfect happy ending to our holiday weekend.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Growin' Up

Part of the fun of being at Mom's for Thanksgiving was that I got to catch up with Caryn and Larry as well as family. They came over for some left over pie on Friday, and I got to see Joey again for the first time in two months. In that time, she's literally doubled in size! Here she is, twice as big and cuter than ever.

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's Pie-Tastic!

Some combination of moving into a new place with a slightly (though only slightly) more user-friendly kitchen and reading so many food-themed books lately has made me believe that I not only want to bake more but actually can. To this end, I offered to make the pumpkin pie for yesterday's feast. I'm thrilled to say that it actually came out well. It was my first solo pie baking attempt, and I really didn't want to be the one who caused this Thanksgiving to be pumpkin-less.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

Not original, I know, but today's post is all about what I'm thankful for. Instead of saying friends, family, and health (which is all, of course, true), I'm saying today that I'm thankful for creation. Don't worry, I'm not going all Intelligent Design on you guys. Really, I'm thankful for feeling more creative for the last few months. There was a time when I was constantly working on a writing project, making pottery, learning what a crimping bead was so I could make my own jewelry, or doing something else fun and creative. I've been out of that mode for a while now, and without even realizing it, I was completely missing it.

Thanks to the encouragement of some friends and National Novel Writing Month, I've been doing far and away more writing in the last two months than I've done in the last two years. And even though NaNoWriMo has been a dismal failure in terms of word count (I'm thousands and thousands of words behind where I should be), I still consider it a personal success.

Now I need to collapse into a food coma.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I've been reading like mad lately and also recently finished Grub by Elise Blackwell. Since this one came through Laura and Enfuse Magazine, you'll have to visit Enfuse for the full review. It's a good book, though, and especially interesting for those of us who try to be writers and/or have suffered through publishing jobs.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Abstinence Teacher

Tom Perrotta, author of novels such as Election and Little Children (to name a few) recently published The Abstinence Teacher, the tale of Ruth Ramsey, a suburban mom and high school sex ed teacher, and her personal encounters with the religious right. As is happening in so much of the country, an evangelical church has sprouted up in her community; church members consider it part of their mission to correct what they see as the moral wrongs happening around them.

When Ruth is asked in class one day whether oral sex is like kissing a toilet she responds, in addition to providing some explanatory health and hygiene information, that “some people like it,” and soon finds herself in a public maelstrom about what is appropriate sex education curriculum for high schoolers.

Perrotta provides all of this as back story, focusing the majority of his book on Ruth’s second encounter with the Tabernacle’s faithful. Her younger daughter is a star on her soccer team, but when the team’s coach, Tim, leads the girls in a post-game prayer, Ruth confronts him. Ruth is already exhausted from being the public face fighting against the overly zealous, and Tim is a recovering addict clinging to his newfound religion to keep him sober.

As with all of Perrotta’s books, The Abstinence Teacher is well written and remarkably readable. But, like his others, he doesn’t push beyond the surface of the story enough to deeply affect the reader. His topic is clearly timely, but he takes the easy way out by making Tim doubt his own convictions a little too much. It’s clear where Perrotta stands on the issue of religious extremism, and he never gives us a three-dimensional character who persuasively advocates for embracing the presence of Christianity in all parts of life. While my convictions happen to fall nicely in step with Perrotta’s and those of his leading lady, the book would have been more powerful if Perrotta had provided a more compelling counterbalance.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Twelve Words

In the midst of obsessing about how many words I'm up to on my regular old novel writing, it was a nice change of pace to be as absolutely concise as possible. Here's my twelve word novel. If I'm lucky and the Powers That Be at On the Media love it, they might read it on the air next weekend.

This place and this man weren't what she'd expected. She missed home.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

12-Word Novel

I was listening to On the Media this morning on NPR when the two hosts sent a shout out to all of us participating in NaNoWriMo. It was pretty exciting to hear, especially since it's taking more and more to motivate as I fall further and further behind. They put out a very interesting challenge to the would-be writers listening: rather than writing a long novel, write a very, very short one--12 words or fewer. I haven't written my 12-worder yet, but I'll post it tomorrow if I come up with something good. In the meantime, here are a couple of my favorite entries so far.

In the army, George discovered he was a coward. He told nobody.
--Leon Freilich

The children wept as mother shuddered. Father was the whiskey man again.
--James Lavin

Sit. This will take a while. You see, your mother is dead.
--Todd V.

Obituary; first five words free? She thought. "Charles dead. Yacht for Sale."
--Angela Stucker

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tim & Heidi

I'm a little late in seeing the premier of Project Runway Season 4 because I don't have cable and have to work all sorts of nefarious schemes to see it. But, this morning, I caught up with the rest of the PR fans and watched the first episode. I'm so glad this show is back! I missed Tim (though not enough to watch his terrible solo show) and Heidi, as well as Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. The season looks loaded with drama, and I can't wait for everyone's full personalities to surface.

Carry on!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Make me a better person by giving away your hard earned money

My good friend Kristinn is a better person than I am. Thanksgiving will find me stuffing myself full of turkey, stuffing (well named in so many ways), and mashed potatoes with gravy. Once I do all that, I'll likely lay on the couch moaning about how much I ate and how many ways my stomach hurts. That will last exactly as long as it takes someone to suggest dessert. I'll then waffle between whether I want pumpkin pie or apple, and before the night is out I'll have a slice of each.

Kristinn, on the other hand, will be running a charity race. The Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger helps raise awareness about hunger and homelessness and raises money to provide meals and medical care for the poor and homeless in her community.

Since we all know I'm too lazy to run a race, even for charity, I'm doing my part by trying to guilt trip all of you into donating to Kristinn's race. See, if some of you give her money, I'll have seriously helped the cause without ever getting off the couch. It'll be a beautiful thing.

To make this dream come true, visit Kristinn's So Others May Eat website.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ways to waste time at work

Except for the part where I have to wrack my brain to come up with interesting things to write about each day, I'm totally and completely loving NaBloPoMo. It tickles me more than you know to come in to work each morning certain that I'll have a few fun things to read from my friends. I should space out my blog reading, visiting one here and one there, but I'm like a starving kid in a candy story, gobbling everything down at once. Sadly, that leaves me with another seven and a half hours or so to get through with nary a blog post to read. So, how do I survive the boring patches of my days? Here are two of my favorites:

Go Fug Yourself: This site, written by two very funny women, skewers celebrities for the god awful things they wear. The mockery, complete with countless pop culture references and adoration for George Clooney (aka Intern George) is a must read.

Overheard in New York: I cannot tell you how easy it is to get sucked into this site. As the title suggests, the entire website is composed of little snippets of conversation overheard on the streets of New York. Because each conversation is bite sized, it's incredibly easy to keep thinking, I'll just read one more, and the next thing you know, you've been ignoring your work for an hour. It's addictive!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


That's how many words I have written for National Novel Writing Month. And since I haven't done anything exciting in the last 24 hours to write about instead, I'm going to talk about writing a book in a month.

First of all, it's hard! I'm trying to get up early and write before work. Despite how very, very difficult it is for me to drag my lazy ass out of bed in the morning, I find that if I can manage it, I'm more productive then than I am in the evenings. And since I can't always be guaranteed a slow day at work in which to novel, forcing myself to become an early riser seems like my best chance for success.

I'm also really intrigued by how organic this process is. National Novel Writing Month focuses exclusively on quantity and output. There is no quality control and the NaNoWriMo powers-that-be actively encourage writers not to edit at this point. As they say, that's what December is for. Because I'm striving for a lot of mediocre writing instead of a smaller amount of polished, thoughtful prose, my novel is progressing in unexpected ways. I'm following tangents and writing disembodied scenes without any connective tissue. I'm surprised at which parts are coming very naturally and which characters refuse to materialize, regardless of how central they're supposed to be. My protagonist is a mere specter, while secondary characters' back stories are flowing right out of me.

And finally, I'm grateful for the friends going through this with me. Sharing all my bad writing on a regular basis--and seeing what others are coming up with, too--creates a feeling of accountability and much-needed motivation for me. It would be easy to give up if I were doing this in isolation (as most writers work all the time), and I'm glad to have the moral support of my fellow NaNoWriMo-ers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Documentary Recommendation

Last night I watched the Werner Herzog documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly. Herzog (the filmmaker behind the also amazing Grizzly Man) introduces Dieter Dengler, a German-born American who wanted nothing more as a boy than to be a pilot. This dream ultimately leads him to the Air Force, then the Navy, and ultimately to a Vietnamese prison camp after his plane is shot down during the Vietnam War.

Dengler's story is one of courage, endurance, and perseverance. While the events alone are worthy of documentation, it's really Dieter himself who makes the movie. His matter-of-factness and humanity are almost beyond belief.

Herzog recently revisited this story, retelling it in Rescue Dawn, staring Christian Bale as Dieter. I haven't seen this fictionalized account yet, and I can't decide if I want to. I recall both Bale and his costar Steve Zahn garnering raves, but right now I need to live with just the documentary for a while.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Uh, oh.

So here we are, not even one half of the way through the month of November, and I officially have nothing to blog about today. I'm writing anyway, for the sake of NaBloPoMo success, but I've got nothing to say. Let's see what I can come up with anyway...

My kitchen is very, very yellow, but I might be coming around on it. I may just be talking myself into liking it because I'm lazy. Either way, I'm not repainting it right now.

Today is Rena's birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RENA!), and I think we should all eat some cake in her honor.

Because I'm a total book-buying addict, I unnecessarily bought two more used books over the weekend at that thrift store on 96th: The Eyre Affair by Jaspar Fforde (which my older sister has highly recommended) and Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo. Total price: $2.95.

And, for a short time today, it looked like newsman Sam Donaldson liked to get freaky with some high-end hos. But in a much, much less interesting update, apparently he doesn't.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Namesake

I know I'm not the first person, and I'm sure I won't be the last, to give Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake a glowing review. But having just finished this book, I feel compelled to put another recommendation out there.

Lahiri's writing is beautiful, and she's able to fully embody characters in short space. Even secondary characters, and somewhat unsympathetic ones at that, are drawn in three dimensions. Given the book's vast scope, Lahiri's ability to deliver the key details needed to make far flung situations come alive in only a few paragraphs is vital.

The Namesake spans both the globe and generations, telling the story of a Bengali man and woman, betrothed and married at the arrangement of their parents, and their son who grows up in America and as an American. Lahiri skillfully draws parallels of various distances: the geographical distance Ashoke and Ashima put between them and their homeland, the emotional distances between parents and children and husbands and wives, and the distance between duty and dreams. The wonder of The Namesake is that these all feel universal, despite being so grounded in a single ethnic group's shared experiences.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lazy Saturday

I've spent the day mostly at home, trying to do a few things here and there that will make the new apartment even more like a home. I spent way too much money at the hardware store downstairs buying paint and all the accompanying painting tools and set about painting my kitchen yellow. I thought it would add a much needed pop of color to the place as well as visually separating the kitchen and living room which are open to each other. Unfortunately, the yellow I bought looks much brighter in my apartment and on my walls than it did on the chip at the store. I'm hoping that as I adjust to it I'll start to feel better, but for now it's a bit much.

Friday, November 9, 2007


Laura, Tina, and any other New York deserters who might be reading this, get ready to be jealous! Tonight is Rena's official birthday celebration at the most delicious of delicious Italian restaurants. You'll think I'm exaggerating only if you haven't been to Angel's and had their gorgonzola bread. I've been salivating at the thought of this appetizer since Rena decided to go there for her birthday. Now that the day is finally here, it's all I can think about! Hooray for whoever came up with this recipe!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Headmaster Ritual

The Headmaster Ritual falls squarely into my favorite sub-genre of literature: academic dysfunction. This category includes favorites like The Secret History, Straight Man, Wonder Boys, and Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Many in this genre focus if not exclusively then emphatically on one perspective of surviving in an academic setting: either the students' view or the faculty's. The Headmaster Ritual, in contrast, offers up three main characters, the school's headmaster, a newbie teacher, and an unpopular senior who happens to be the headmaster's son. Antrim gives equal playing time to both Dyer (the teacher) and James (the student) leaving the headmaster out in the cold somewhat. He's little more than a caricature, and the reader is never given a satisfying understanding of his motivations. He's the catalyst for almost everything that happens in the book, and, for that reason, a key player. But in terms of the book's emotional heft, it's Dyer and James who carry the day.

Predictably, both Dyer and James are outsiders. These stories are never told from the perspective of the prom queen or quarterback; what fun would that be? I know very few people who confess to being popular in high school, and I think most of us enjoy seeing the popular stereotypes skewered by our unpopular fictional counterparts.

Unlike many of these academic-set books, which count on departmental and social dysfunction to continue unabated for all time, thus making them somewhat timeless, The Headmaster Ritual uses fictional but timely current events to place the story. There is a real-world political aspect present providing the high stakes for Dyer's and James's individual storyline climaxes.

The Headmaster Ritual doesn't crack my top five list for this type of book, but it was a fun and fast read.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Civic Duty

So, yesterday was election day. I was well aware of it, because Columbia very kindly gives us all the day off to do our civic duty. Had it not been for this vacation day, though, this election may have passed me by completely unnoticed. While my local and national news has been all a twitter with whether Hillary is being discriminated against because she's a woman, whether Fred Thompson's campaign is crumbling as quickly as a Law and Order suspect's alibi, or why Stephen Colbert has been banned from the democratic ticket in South Carolina, there has been nary a word about yesterday's elections.

Because I had the whole day off and, therefore, no excuse not to, I did actually vote. I went in totally unprepared with no idea what I was even voting on. This is not ideally the way a voter should enter the booth! Certainly some of this was on me; I could have done some research but didn't. But I also wish the media had devoted just a small amount to what was happening. I listen to NPR every morning and read the New York Times almost every day. I consider myself fairly well informed and still I had no idea. It was funny how the polling station workers seemed so happy to see me. I think they were bored out of their minds and pleased as punch to have something to occupy thirty seconds of what was surely a long, boring day.

What do you all think? Did anyone else vote?

PS: In other blog news, I see that my apartment pictures are MIA. I'll repost them tonight when I'm home and with my camera.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Amazing Neighborhood Discovery

Walking around my new 'hood over the weekend, I saw that one of the multiple churches near me (one of which I hear tolling its bells in a surprisingly pretty way on each hour) is the home of a thrift store. I don't have a lot of luck with second hand clothes even when they're called vintage to make them sound snazzy. I went in anyway, and was very pleasantly surprised to see that they also sell used books. There are a few book cases when you first walk in, as well as a whole room dedicated to novels, art books, history books, biographies, and more. While no where near as large, this place kicks The Strand's ass when it comes to price. I bought Assassination Vacation for $1.95 and Mansfield Park for 50 cents. Granted, the copy of Mansfield Park is well worn, but it was only 50 cents! This is like having the Ithaca Friends of the Library sale two blocks away 365 days a year.

Monday, November 5, 2007

As promised

I did enough work in my apartment this weekend to pull out the camera. Nothing is up on the walls yet and much is still disorganized, but I think it's looking pretty good.

Here's the view of the living room from the loft:

And the kitchen/back of the apartment:

And the loft:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A day in the life of a cat

It's pet picture day over here at Blog Fullard, and Camilla gamely volunteered to look all cute and cuddly for the camera. Actually, she has a really hard time keeping her eyes open when I take her picture with the flash on, so this image, taken sans flash, isn't the sharpest ever. But I think it's adorable how she burrowed into my pillowcase, and it cracks me up that her oversized paw looks like it's the same size as her head here.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Charles Isherwood agrees with me!

There is something very satisfying about seeing that a respected New York Times reviewer totally agrees with you. And I'm not talking about annoying Ben Brantley here, either. I'm talking about Charles Isherwood, who I tend to really like as a reviewer. Behold, his take on the latest Frankenstein creation.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Halloween musicals are never a good idea

Around this time last year, Josh, Todd, Jen, and I took in a viewing of Evil Dead: The Musical. I wish I could report that I loved it, but in truth I found it painful to sit through. The people around me seemed to be enjoying it, but I just could not find enough humor in the performances, spoofing, and massive amounts of fake blood to enjoy the evening. There was talk of leaving at intermission, which is something I used to never do and now only rarely do. But I was in favor of ditching. We ended up with a split vote and stayed for the duration.

Wednesday night Josh, Todd, and I tried again. It was Halloween, and though we didn't don costumes or score candy, we did try to get into the creepy crawly spirit by going to the new off-Broadway Frankenstein: The Musical (side note: the show is apparently suffering from massive ticket returns as fools who can't read think they're buying amazingly priced tickets to Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein musical, realize they aren't, and then try to get their money back. If a deal looks to good to be true, that's likely because it is). I went in with high hopes; the buzz hadn't been over the moon, but I'm a fan of Hunter Foster, who played Victor Frankenstein. He isn't always a hit, but his Bobby Strong was spot on and affords him the benefit of the doubt in my book. Sadly, there just wasn't much for him to work with here. Foster is best when comic, and this show was trying--oh, how hard it was trying!--to be atmospheric and dark. Steve Blanchard, as Frankenstein's creation, did a lot of heavy breathing and dragging of one leg to embody the monster. I wish he would have seen Eve Best in A Moon for the Misbegotten and done a bit of what she did. And apart from individual performances, the music just wasn't good. There was a great deal more synthesizer in action than any show this side of Jesus Christ Superstar deserves. Characters were never given an opportunity to interact with each other. Instead, the show raced through plot points with the chorus milling around the stage synopsizing the action and individuals rhapsodizing about their angst through song.

Todd began the night by warning us that if the show was bad, he wouldn't be pressured into staying. Intermission came and after talking for a while about what was and wasn't working, we decided to bail. Apologies to Hunter Foster and team, but it was a lot more fun to get drinks together for the rest of the night than stare forlornly at the playbill counting how many songs we had to go before the end.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NaBloPoMo Day 1

Good luck to all my fellow NaBloPoMo-ers out there! I'm trying to stock pile ideas of interesting things to write about this month, but there's no guarantee I won't resort to telling you about what I had for lunch at some point.

Laura and Tina have convinced me to also give NaWriNoMo a try this year, too. In the next 30 days, I'm supposed to write a 175 page or 50,000 word novel. So far I have 437 words and only half a clue what it is I'm writing. Plot, characters, and arc are all a bit fuzzy at this point. My hope is that all will emerge soon, or these are going to be 175 painful pages.

In the meantime, I'd like to point out that whoever decided NaBloPoMO and NaNoWriMo should take place in the same month is mean, mean, mean.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

This year I'm dressed as someone pretending she has her shit together when really she's fairly disheveled due to a recent apartment move. It's a subtle costume, but I got the details just right.

In all seriousness, the move went very smoothly, in no small part thanks to my awesome mom. I treated her to an approximately 18 hour day of first standing around while movers moved my shit, laughing (perhaps to hide the horror) at the soccer ball-sized dust bunnies that had accumulated under every piece of furniture I own, and then more unpacking than anyone really wants to do in a day. All in all, though, we got a remarkable amount done. There was an hour or two where we'd spread out all the boxes to try to find the ones we wanted to unpack, which resulted in quite an obstacle course just to walk from one side of the room to the other. I started feeling overwhelmed at that point, but after a little bit of shifting and stacking, things started looking a bit better. There's plenty more to do before the place is really put together, but it's not bad for the first 24 hours. I'll post pictures once it's a little more organized.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Movin' On Up

Tomorrow is my long awaited and much obsessed about move. I haven't brought the laptop over to the new place yet, so I'm still unsure about how my wireless connection will be at first. I might be MIA for the next few days, but I'll be back in action by Thursday for NaBloPoMo!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Feed the Hungry! Post a post!

Today's blog post is really a comment on various friends' blogs. Anne has introduced me to a site that she rightly calls amazingly addictive while tapping into all our inner geeky, competitive, do-gooder ways (sorry for the plagiarism, Anne!). Check out to test your vocab and feed the hungry all at the same time.

Laura today reminds us all to participate in NaBloPoMo, which I have every intention of doing. I have something of a burden and gift in terms of the NaBloPoMo timing intersecting with my move. On the one hand, I can (try to) rivet you all with amazing stories of turning my new apartment into a home and discovering the hidden treasures of my new neighborhood. On the other hand, who knows if I'll be able to borrow my new neighbors' wireless connection. Since I haven't signed up for internet service yet myself, there may be some trips to Starbucks for weekend posting.

And, finally, a gentle nudge to my blogging friends who seem to have fallen off the wagon lately. I need workday entertainment, gentlemen! You know who you are (Nate and Josh).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bleak Presidential Options

I realize that most of my political post are bitch sessions about how idiotic republicans are. And I stand by that; they are idiots. But just to mix things up a little, I thought I'd bitch about Barack Obama a bit, too.

I was extraordinarily excited about him when I first heard of him in Chicago. And his keynote address at the Democratic National Committee was phenomenal and appropriately catapulted him onto the national stage. But since then he's made a series of uninformed comments and annoyed me with his constant request for money. Yes, all the candidates need to fund raise. But I'd like a little inspiration before they pick my pocket at least. Obama's most recent disappointing turn, though, is appearing on stage with hate monger Donnie McClurkin. McClurkin is an evangelical minister who was "cured" of his sinful gay ways by the church. He states that he is in a war against homosexuality, and regardless of Obama's rhetoric about tolerance and inclusiveness, his choice to appear side by side with this bigot speaks volumes.

I'm extremely disappointed by how few of the democratic candidates actually advocate for acceptance. All the front runners, including not only Obama, but Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, too, have a separate but equal platform going. I know it's not going to happen, but I truly do wish that Dennis Kucinich could get some traction. He's really the only one who makes any sense half the time.

Now, I wouldn't want to totally break my anti-republican streak here, so let's end with a juicy little tidbit about Rudy Guliani. He recently treated a group of Iowans to insight on his views of torture. According to Guliani, waterboarding (immobilizing an individual and pouring water over his or her face to simulate drowning) isn't necessarily torture. He says: "It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it."

Ok. Sure. Simulating drowning COULD be torture, but if it's done by someone's sweet old grandma while she tickles your feet, well, that's a different story. Throw a cute puppy in there and it's practically Christmas.

A Children's Lit character Grows Up

The Times today interviews Judith Viorst, author of the iconic children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The title character is Viorst's real life son Alexander, and when he and his brood (including three children of his own) moved back into his mother's house during their home renovation, Viorst took the opportunity to write another book. No children's book this time, Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days sounds more like a cross between a memoir and an advice guide. I haven't read the book, but I do think it's interesting to imagine how that boy with gum in his hair is actually a real person who grew up. I tend to think of Alexander and Max (of Where the Wild Things Are fame) each as a children's lit Every Man: timeless and existing within each of us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mitt Romney is a fucking idiot

As reported in today's New York Times Romney is mixing up Barack Obama's and Osama Bin Laden's names. Now, it's not like he was about to get my vote anyway, but does ANYONE want for president someone so stupid that he can't remember which is the name of an esteemed public servant and countryman and which is the name of Public Enemy Number One?

Tender at the Bone

Last night I finished up Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, the first of three Ruth Reichl books Laura lent me last month. A more sweeping and traditional memoir than Julie and Julia, my other recent food read, Tender at the Bone introduces Reichl at a young age and follows her through her transformative years and into early adulthood. For Reichl, food is a constant source of comfort, excitement, knowledge, and personal growth. Peppered with recipes (which I, of course, didn’t try), the book is literally a menu of Reichl’s experiences.

To carry the food theme a little further: The beginning had an episodic feel—life as tapas, perhaps. The reader gets merely a glimpse of Reichl’s brother, for instance, and even recurring characters are introduced through stand alone anecdotes. Once these introductions are made, though, Reichl hits her stride and writes about her family, friends, and food with aplomb. Her experiences at boarding school, her transformation from student to hippie, and her use of food as a means of personal connection all resonate as well as entertain. It’s her relationship with her parents, though, that lends the book emotional heft. Reichl deftly introduces her mother’s idiosyncrasies early in the book and lets the reader’s understanding of her mother’s mental state develop slowly, much as hers likely did growing up. Meanwhile, she paints a portrait of her father as a loving if unintentionally distant man. Her relationship with her mother and father, and their relationship with each other, is, as the title promises, quite tender.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ann Coulter can suck it

Ann Coulter, reigning queen of idiocy, strikes again. Her latest doozy: a personal dream about repealing women's suffrage.

If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women.

It also makes the point, it is kind of embarrassing, the Democratic Party ought to be hanging its head in shame, that it has so much difficulty getting men to vote for it. I mean, you do see it’s the party of women and 'We’ll pay for health care and tuition and day care -- and here, what else can we give you, soccer moms?'

I wish this were a joke.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Act V

I can't highly enough recommend that everyone take a listen to this recent podcast of This American Life. It focuses on an amazing story of one production of Hamlet. Totally worth an hour of your day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lamb is Christopher Moore’s Fluke

The first book I read by Christopher Moore (whose name, I confess, makes me think of the dreaded two-headed beast Listopher Bennemoore) was Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. I loved it. I loved how smart and irreverent it was. I thought I loved Christopher Moore. As it turns out, I really only loved that one book. I’ve now read three additional Moore books, the latest being Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings. As with so many of my recent reads, this was from the Laura and Nate Olsen Mountaintop Lending Library, but unlike Julie and Julia, I can’t give this one an unequivocal thumbs-up. Fluke, focused on the underwater adventures of a couple of whale researchers, complete with an Atlantis-like society, mysterious creatures from the sea, and jokes about whale sphincters, was a fast read requiring little intellectual involvement. This is a good thing for people who can’t focus because, say, they’re obsessed with an impending move (or something). In that sense, it was the perfect book for me right now. But like Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story and The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, Moore steers Fluke straight into the land of the absurd, and it all gets a little too silly for my very literal brain. Moore is a serviceable writer and seems to more than satisfactorily serve the niche who is looking for the over the top. For me, though—I like my whale butt jokes with a pinch of realism.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Congratulations, Josh and Todd!

It was a wedding weekend! On Friday, Josh and Todd tied the knot in front of a small group of family and friends near their home in New Jersey. I felt so lucky to be there with them as they made their commitment official after seven and a half years together. I've never been to a wedding so small, and while I can understand how and why many weddings grow, there was something incredibly special about having an intimate group present for the exchange of vows.

Saturday we gathered again for a larger celebration at the Red Cat. I've heard Josh and Todd talk about this restaurant many times but had never been there myself. After Saturday's feast, though, I can definitely see why they return time and again. Everything was delicious, from the salmon tartar appetizer to the amazing spinach and egg risotto that came with my entree to the blackout cake. More special, though, were the toasts friends and family gave to honor the grooms. Josh's childhood friend Holly made me cry! Both days were wonderful, and it is always inspiring to see two people who are so right for each other. Congratulations, Josh and Todd!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mastering the Art of Reading About French Cooking

So as I mentioned in yesterday’s project ponderment post, I’ve been reading Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. Laura was kind enough to lend it to me while I was at her house last month, and all told, it’s a very good read. Adapted from Powell’s blog, the book, as expected, has a very conversational tone. Self deprecating and funny, Powell pulls the reader into her very relatable world from the first page. Her horror at realizing she’s pushing thirty and works an extraordinarily unsatisfying job, her concerns over starting a family, her misery over uncomfortable shoes and long subway rides—they all felt familiar. What’s more, she makes her wholly individual response to all these universal fears and frustrations also feel universal. I will never ever, even if I live to be a thousand years old, cook my way through Mastering The Art of French Cooking. It’s not who I am, and it’s not going to happen. But Powell’s skills as a writer allowed me to see this as a reasonable step in jumpstarting your life. By the end of Julie and Julia, I was right there with Powell, believing that future happiness really DID hinge on completing The Project. In all fairness, I knew that she did finish and that there was a happy ending right around the corner. I was holding the proof in my hands, for Pete’s sake. But that knowledge didn’t detract from the emotional heft the story carried.

The only misstep was Powell’s inclusion of imagined scenes from Julia and Paul Child’s life together. It felt like something her editor made her do, and though each scene is very short, I hurried through each, eager to get back to Powell’s outer borough kitchen, her manic swings from jubilation to meltdown, her fights with and love for her husband, and her musings on just how sucky an office job can be and how cooking changed her life. Her experiences and heart are the real story here, and well worth reading all on their own.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Self Improvement Project Needed

Friday night I went out with a co-worker I’ve recently become friends with. She told me in confidence about a new business venture she and a couple of friends are trying to get off the ground. It marries her writing and journalism ambitions with an idealism she holds while still filling an important market niche not currently being served. It sounded like a plan with every possible ingredient for both success and personal satisfaction, and I was happy for her. She came in my office yesterday and said that in her excitement on Friday night, she now realized, she didn’t ask me about my “pipe dreams.” I tried to look thoughtful as I wracked my brain for a good answer, and the sad fact was that I didn’t have one. I have no big pipe dreams, no goal that I working toward or even just talking about.

So now I feel like I need some kind of goal: something to give me a purpose beyond just cranking out marketing materials for Columbia and reading contemporary fiction. The timing of this mini existential crisis is particularly interesting, because I’m almost finished reading Julie and Julia (a real review to follow). I think Julie Powell’s dramatic belief that if she didn’t finish her self-assigned project she’d have a totally empty life has gotten under my skin more than I realized. There is something curiously powerful about the belief that just living day to day isn’t enough. I have (for once) a job that I’m pretty happy with. I am excited about my new apartment. My friends and family are happy and healthy. My social life is a success. And yet, I’m plagued by the idea that I need to be doing something more.

The challenge is that I have no idea what to do. I claim to want to take classes, but as each new semester starts, the idea of spending three nights a week in class is never as enticing as it is after it’s too late to sign up, at which point I wistfully remember what it’s like to learn and be part of challenging discussions and thought-provoking debates. We all know that I’m not going to sauté and broil my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So what should I do? I’m taking suggestions and open to all ideas. Should I learn to cake decorate? Should I start doing yoga every week? Bring on the ideas, people.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Who's Your Homeless Friend?

Not me! I signed a lease on a new apartment this morning. It's a "duplex studio" which is real estate speak for a loft studio. Luckily, this one comes equipped with very high ceilings. Whereas most loft studios have a little crawl space that anyone with even minor claustrophobia could use for nothing but storage, this one has an actual almost upstairs room. There will surely be much bumping of heads at first, but the upstairs is fairly roomy and will give me a great chance to separate my living and sleeping space like a real grown up.

I move in on October 30th, and there is a lot of packing to do before then. I'm starting to collect boxes from work today and hope to give lots of clothes and shoes to Good Will as I go through the back of my closet.

An apartment-warming event will have to follow once I get myself slightly settled in the new digs.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Celebrity Sightings Galore

This weekend proved both very busy and very fun--and the celebs were out in full force. Saturday I spotted Miranda July in the gallery section of Chelsea. She was standing outside the silliest and most expensive clothing store I've ever been inside of, and I'm choosing to believe that she was in the neighborhood to take in some art and not to spend $1495 on what can only be described as a fucking ugly shirt at Jeffrey.

As much as I love a literary star sighting, my evening's second elbow-rubbing with fame was even better. I've told most of you the story of bumping into my favorite Daily Show correspondent, John Oliver, on 8th Avenue while on the phone with Jen several months ago. I acted like a fool, saying hello to him as if we were buds while recounting to Jen every thing that happened:

"Jen! I just saw Daily Show correspondent John Oliver!"
Waving frantically.
"Hi, John!"

Not my coolest moment.

Well! Apparently my antics made an impression. I was winding up my Saturday night by people watching and eating a much needed alcohol-absorbing slice of pizza. Who should walk by but John Oliver. We made eye contact, and he waved to me. I'm telling you, HE waved to ME. He clearly was charmed by my earlier display of excitement over seeing him and now wants to be my best friend. I played it cool and just waved back before calling Jen to recount the whole thing to her voice mail.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Into the Wild

Last night I saw Into the Wild, Sean Penn’s movie adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book of the same title. Both tell the true story of Christopher McCandless—or Alexander Supertramp, as he called himself. McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch) led a financially privileged life until his college graduation when he donated his life savings (in the neighborhood of $25,000) to charity and walked away from his life. He wanted to be free of material possessions and became obsessed with the idea of living off nature in the Alaskan wilderness. In the spring of 1992 he completed his hitchhiker’s journey and began to do just that.

Penn’s film jumps around chronologically, wisely intermixing McCandless’s solo experiences in Alaska with the more populated adventures he had as he traveled the country in preparation for his great adventure. By all accounts, in both the book and the film, McCandless was extraordinarily charismatic, meeting and bonding with both locals and other tramps. He seemed to inspire love and affection in people with not only no effort but a bit of disdain for the importance other people place on personal relationships. Unfortunately, Penn takes his idolization of McCandless a bit too far, with two memorable crucifixion poses struck by Hirsch: standing atop a mountain, arms outstretched as he takes in the view and floating down a river, arms outstretched soaking in the sun. Penn even goes so far as to have one of the other tramps ask McCandless, “you’re not Jesus are you?” This deification, along with Penn’s penchant for over dramatization (such as a wilderness shower scene where McCandless’s hair washing is detailed in slow motion, as if in a Pantene commercial) are the few missteps in this slow but absorbing movie.

Emile Hirsch, who I’ve previously seen only in such sub par movies as Alpha Dog, truly owns this film. His portrayal of a man whose actions are so difficult to understand was subtle, honest, and powerful. And the movie, though slow in the beginning, is utterly captivating by the time we reach the tragic finale. This one’s worth a trip to the theatre.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Banned, shmanned. Bring on the books.

So this week, September 29th to October 6th, is Banned Book Week (mini shout out to Veronica for pointing it out). I'm an avid reader, and the idea of banning any books is utterly depressing, especially at a time when it seems that people need a great deal of encouragement to crack a book. Sadly, most affected, certainly, are children. Adults can order whatever they want from Amazon. It's the kids who rely on their school or local libraries for books who are being denied.

I remember being a kid and sharing my room with Veronica. Our parents made sure we each had those mini reading lights that clipped on to the back of our books, and each night before going to sleep we'd read. My family's love of reading instilled the same love in me, and I'm so grateful for it. There were no banned books at our house.

I also think it's sad to see how many of the banned books are about sex: straight sex, gay sex, sex with a fried worm...I worry that the same families who are banning Annie On My Mind would allow their kids to play Grand Theft Auto. I have absolutely no evidence to back that up, but there does seem to be a greater tolerance for violence than sexuality in our culture, and I find it mysterious. It just makes no sense to me.

Below is a list of the 100 most frequently challenged books from 1990 - 2000. I've read about a third and bolded them so anyone who is interested can see my deviant reading behavior for themselves.

1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

19. Sex by Madonna
20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
30. The Goats by Brock Cole
31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
32. Blubber by Judy Blume
33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
46. Deenie by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden

49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
65. Fade by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
71. Native Son by Richard Wright
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
74. Jack by A.M. Homes
75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
77. Carrie by Stephen King
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier