Thursday, January 31, 2008

No Movie for Weak Hearts

Or the squeamish. Or those who want redemption and happy endings and upbeat music playing over the end credits. You’ll get none of that from No Country for Old Men, the movie that everyone except me thinks is the second coming. I definitely liked this movie and I can appreciate its greatness as a movie independent from how much I actually enjoyed it. But I think No Country suffered a little bit from all the raves I read and testimonials I heard before actually seeing it myself.

The film is both small and epic at the same time. On its surface the movie is focused on the pursuit of one criminal by another. One, played by Josh Brolin, is a thief by circumstance: he was presented with an easy opportunity to grab a whole shitload of cash, and he took it. He shows no remorse about the stealing but does display true, if delayed, humanity. It’s that humanity that puts Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem as more monster than man, on his trail. The violence caused by these two men in their lust for money and a macho pride in winning carries the movie for the next two hours.

The film opens with the most gruesomely displayed death. Subsequent killings are shown with less detail and eventually we begin seeing only the aftermath of murder, and then, finally, only the suggestion of it. It’s a brilliant commentary on our own desensitization to violence and the characters’ they-can-only-hang-you-once mentality, with each crime mattering a little less than the last.

Tommy Lee Jones, in the movie’s most affecting performance, plays a small town sheriff quietly trying to enact justice amidst all the havoc. He alone of the three leads prompted any true feeling from me during the movie. Throughout I was captivated, yes, disgusted (both at the characters’ characters and the gore) and compelled to keep watching. At none of the many, many deaths did I tear up or feel my heart strings tugged, though. Intentionally or not, the filmmakers held me at a distance throughout the entire movie.

The film’s bigger picture, of course, presents a dismal world view: people are selfish, happy to hurt others for their own gain, and mostly get away with it. There are hints of hope to be found in this movie, but they are few and far between. Having not read Cormac McCarthy’s book on which the movie is based (All the Pretty Horses was enough McCarthy for me, thank you very much), I’m not sure if this perspective is solely his world view or a combination of his own pessimism married to that of the Coen brothers, who wrote and directed the movie. Either way, I left the theatre impressed but not moved. No Country for Old Men is worth seeing, but I can’t say it will change your life.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Sunday night Todd surprised me with a really interesting treat: Etiquette, which can be described in part as a private performance in a public space. No, this is not a lap dance as my friend Kimberly suggested when I told her about it on Monday. It’s a private play in which we were both the actors and the audience. We sat at a table in the corner of a Ukrainian restaurant in the east village and each donned a pair of headphone, which fed us our lines, direction, and much of the play’s narration. In that small space we were given props and lighting, both of which were used to great effect to tell the story of a prostitute and an old man who meet in a café in Paris as well as a sad story-within-the-story.

At first I felt a little self conscious, aware that we were the only ones participating in this amidst plenty of other people just out for dinner. Quickly, though, the other diners fell away as I became wrapped up in the experience. It was extraordinarily unique, and though it occurs every half hour—same characters, same lines, same story--, the experience felt remarkably personal. Because our participation was so complete no other actors/audiences will ever experience it just the way we did, just as we didn’t experience what any who came before us had felt.

The theatre behind this, The Foundry Theatre, is next doing a show called Open House. They’ll perform it 24 times, each time in a different private home in a different New York City apartment. Very cool.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Voting conundrum

We are now just one week away from the Super Duper Tsunami Tuesday Primary Smackdown. Twenty two states (including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Colorado) will weigh in on February 5th to help elect each party’s nominee. Since Dennis dropped out, I have to really do some thinking about whether I will vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. While I actually do like John Edwards, it seems like a terrible waste of an historical opportunity to vote for the rich white dude, so he isn’t really in the running for my vote.

After much consideration and hemming and hawing, I finally decided to vote for Hillary. But that was yesterday. Since then I’ve watched both their reactions to Bush’s last State of the Union and taken yet another one of those who-to-vote-for quizzes. The results of those helpful little gadgets keep putting Barack above Hillary for me.

I was extremely pumped about Obama when he first hit the scene. I think what got to me is the same thing that is still speaking to a lot of other voters: there is something truly inspiring about him. He inspires confidence with his tone and charisma, and that will be nothing to scoff at when we try to rebuild our standing in the world. That said, I’ve become more and more frustrated with the lack of details he provides. I keep hearing him talk about hope and change and how “yes, we can.” And maybe he’s right. But at the end of the day I think Hillary might be the one to get more done.

Really, the two are far more alike than they are different (which is great when they’re impressing me and the pits when they don’t go far enough—which is often), but Hillary’s experience, contacts, intellect, and proven record in New York are a more solid foundation than a few out-of-this-world speeches.

And, on a more emotional than rational note, Barack’s peeps are just bugging me.

This isn’t really how I’ll decide who to vote for, but it’s aggravating, so I’m posting about it anyway. Because I was really jazzed about Obama, I joined his email list way back in the day. Over the course of the next several months, I became disappointed and frustrated that I got email after email (multiple messages per week, usually) but they very often said nothing except that I should give him money. They usually went something like this:

“We just made a ton of money. Show the nation that Barack Obama will be our next president by giving us more!”

Seriously. I kept waiting for word of how he’d fix health care, how he’d help the economy rebound, how he’d improve education in America, how he’d get us out of that clusterfuck known as the Iraq War, and all I ever got was an invitation to donate. So on July 16th I unsubscribed for the first time with the following message:

I began this long primary campaign with a lot of enthusiasm for Barack Obama. Though I'm still excited about his potential candidacy, I'm aggravated by the overwhelming number of emails I've received asking me for money. Like many of Obama's supporters, I'm not one of the wealthy elite. To be solicited for donations on a regular basis has proven more than a little annoying. Please take this as a note of caution; I know (from talking to friends and family) that I am not the only person feeling frustrated. I had hoped that signing up for Obama's mailing list would result in a greater understanding of his presidential policy plans rather than simply feeling hounded for cash.
I was left in peace for a few months and then started getting messages again in late September. I unsubscribed again but felt aggravated that I needed to do it twice. Well, this month, the Barack team started hounding me again. I am fully aware that Barack Obama himself had nothing to do with the decision to only temporarily respect my wish to unsubscribe, but I’m annoyed at him indirectly anyway.

Yesterday I got emails from both Hillary’s campaign and from Barack’s. Hillary’s asked me to volunteer in a myriad of ways to help her carry New York next week. Barack’s? Just asked for money. Again.

I’m still not sure who I’ll vote for on Tuesday. Now that the field has dwindled to only three democratic candidates, how are you all feeling?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Confused about Rudy

Ok, here’s what I don’t get. The republicans in general, and Guliani in particular, are, as usual, making national security a key part of their candidacies. They suggest that a republican president will keep America safer than a democrat would. This is, of course, bunk. Bush has alienated America from the rest of the world; our dearly-held position as the leader of nations is more of a punch line than reality at this point.

Despite Bush's frequent trumpeting of lofty goals, in fact, poll after poll shows the United States' standing and influence in the world sinking to unprecedented lows, with majorities in 10 of 15 countries polled in April 2007 by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and saying that they do not trust the United States to act responsibly. Even in the closely allied countries of Britain, Canada, and Mexico, a majority of people polled by newspapers in late 2006 viewed Bush as a threat to world peace on par with Iran's Holocaust-denying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and North Korea's enigmatic "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il.
Yes, Bush is almost out of office, thank goodness, but many of the republican candidates want to continue down the same failure-laden path. Guliani, for instance, wants to continue many parts of Bush’s global agenda and even takes some freaky-deak parts further than even Bush did.

But here, really, is the question of this post. What in the world suggests that Guliani will ever be capable of keeping America from being attacked again? Common sense suggests that what we’d want in a president is someone who can (with his/her team’s help, of course) recognize the atmosphere for what it is, anticipate problems, and create solutions to avoid those problems. Guliani was the mayor of NYC when the centers went down. He’s running on the platform that he can keep us all safe from the terrorists, when history shows that he, in fact, couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t. How is that a platform? I feel like every time he talks about 9/11 (which is every time he opens his mouth, it seems) he’s just reminding us of his failures. Can someone explain to me how he's supposed to be inspiring confidence? Because, truly, I don’t understand another way to see it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Brunch-A-Month is born

Around New Year's, Todd and I cooked up a plan to try to get our friends together once month for a brunch somewhere around the city. The goal is to see people in person more than we currently do, and it would be great for more of our friends to know each other. This morning was our first ever brunch-a-month; we had it at Deluxe in Morningside Heights, and I was thrilled that so many friends came out to knosh and chat. The next will be held sometime in late February: more details to come on the brunch-a-month blog. Check it out!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Regrettably, there is no George W. Bush chapter in this book

Is that title offensive? Yes. And I guess I'll be on some government watch list if the FBI stumbles across my blog. Luckily, I'm pretty low profile, so I think I'm safe.

Anyway, I recently finished reading Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation. I went in expecting to enjoy it for two main reasons: First, I am sort of oddly interested in this subset of American history. I loved Sondheim's Assassins, and it made me realize how little I know about some of our presidents and their (sometimes would-be) killers. I've read American Brutus, an interesting bio of John Wilkes Booth, and have both Manhunt and Team of Rivals on my to-be-read lists (though now I can't buy them until 2009, thanks to my self-imposed bookstore exile). But beyond this Lincoln-focused reading, the rest of America's assassination history was pretty vague to me. With her three-part structure, Vowell rehashed some of what I knew about Lincoln and J.W.B., then went on to give a crash course on President Garfield and Charles Gateau and President McKinley and Leon Czolgosz. She offers both standard history as well as unique random historical tidbits, sprinkling her own experiences all the way through.

The second reason I wanted to read this was that I thought Vowell's writing would be pretty damn funny. This was actually where my expectations were not met. There are a few chuckle-worthy passages, but this was no history-focused Sedaris-like reading. Then again, every time I expect anything to be akin to Sedaris I'm disappointed, so I should just stop comparing other writers to him.

That said, Assassination Vacation is still definitely worth reading. I learned a lot and was entertained throughout which is no small feat. Just don't go in expecting to be laughing out loud, making those around you wonder what is so funny about shooting a president.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Sadness: Kucinich drops presidential bid

I'm very sorry to report that Dennis Kucinich has bowed out of the presidential race. Though he hasn't had a snowball's chance throughout this entire race (thanks both to his lovable leftist ideals and the media's refusal to give the American public the chance to even learn about and then reject those ideals), I'm still sorry to see my favorite candidate gone.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Home Sick

No, this isn't, as my mom suggested,  a ploy to stay home and play with my new computer. I really am sick today. I think I take about 1/2 sick day a year on average, because I always think it's sort of pansy-ish for me to stay home. I am very sincere when I give others around me the good advice to take care of themselves and stay home when they aren't feeling well, but somehow I usually decide to go in even on the verge of death. I'm not sure if it's to prove to whatever boss happens to be around that I'm totally dedicated or if some twisted part of me wants to pass my germs on to the annoying coworkers I have. But one way or another, I usually end up working. After a fitful night's sleep, though, I woke up this morning tired, with a sore throat and cough that wouldn't quit, and unable to breathe through half my nose. I decided to take my own advice and stay home. Here's hoping I can kick it before whatever it is I have gets worse.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Yesterday this year's Oscar nominations were announced. I'm usually a big fan of the Oscars; I love the red carpet and seeing all the fashions, and I usually try to see as many of the nominated movies as possible so I can make informed predictions about who will win. And in years past I've often either won or tied the pool I've entered. The one exception, when I didn't place at all, was the year Crash stole the best picture award from Brokeback Mountain. Losing the pool was just the icing on the cake of that disappointment.

But this year I'm having a hard time getting jazzed. I haven't seen most of the nominated movies, and though I'm hearing good things about some of them, I'm just not excited about most of them myself. And, of course, it's hard to feel invested since the ongoing writers' strike might preclude the event from happening at all. I'm sure I'll still see No Country for Old Men, and I'd like to see Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Away From Her. But I really don't care about I'm Not There, American Gangster, and so many of the others.

Am I the only one feeling lackluster about the Academy Awards this year?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Cutest

Proof of yesterday's claim that Caryn and Larry's baby just gets cuter with each visit. Here she is showing off her new and adorable smile:

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Good, the bad, and the awesome

The good: I spent the last couple of days visiting with my mom, Caryn, and--in a surprise addition--Shannon. I took the train out to NJ on Friday and spent oodles of money shopping with my mom. Saturday was mostly about catching up with Caryn and Larry and oohing and aahing about how cute their daughter is. She was adorable when she was born, but now that she's a few months old, she's smiling all the time. It's so satisfying to get a big grin out of her! Then, Shannon surprised me by being available for brunch today in the city before hopping on the bus back to Boston. It was a great way to wrap up the long weekend.

The bad: My home computer's power issue has gotten out of control, and I'm sorry to say that it has officially kicked the bucket. It was a speedy but decisive decline. Yesterday I couldn't even get it to stay on long enough to lament that it still wouldn't connect to the internet. 

The awesome:  Instead of moaning about how my computer lost it's oomph, I went on a wild spending spree. I didn't go for the Macbook Air as I bragged I might, but I did pick myself up a hot new Macbook today. It's my first personal Mac, and I'm loving it. 

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Final book purchase for 2008

I'm home visiting my mom for the weekend and we're off to the awesome used bookstore in her 'hood, Second Time Books. Mom did a lot of her Christmas present shopping for me at this place, and of the zillion books she was nice enough to get me, there were three in the mix I'd already read. We're going to exchange them now, and once that's over I'm done shopping for books for the rest of the year (except for the book club books I don't choose). I'm truly not convinced I can resist buying a book for the next twelve months, but I am actually going to try. Between Christmas, Second Time Books, and the thrift store on 96th Street, I've managed to collect somewhere between forty and fifty books that I still haven't read. My goal is to power through most of them before I spend any more money.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A resolution for 2008

I'm not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions; they seem to always be the same for everyone (lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, etc.), but this year I want to think about what parts of my life I really do like and what I don't. I want to set goals for myself to try to bring my life more in line with the way I want it to be. So here, to that end, is my first goal of the year:

Read more books. Last year I read forty one. I thought that was pretty good, given that some of what I read is long, some is dense (though some books are admittedly fluffy), and I'm not a speed reader. Then I saw a couple other people's 2007 books-read lists, and they both read upward of fifty books. Because I'm naturally competitive, I take this as a challenge. So in 2008, I'm going to read more books than I did in 2007. And in 2009, I'm going to read more than I did in 2008, and onward forever.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Pet Peeve of the Day

I was just coming back from getting a salad for lunch and got in the revolving door one triangle behind one of those people who annoy me. You know, the ones who refuse to push the door themselves. They hope the momentum of whoever they follow, coupled with whoever gets in behind them, will save them from the exhaustion of having to actually push the door themselves. And, not to get all self-hating here, but these people are usually women. I’m sorry, but what is so hard about just pushing the door? Do they think it’s like the grocery store doors that open up magically just because they happen to be standing there? Do they think they are too good to push the revolving door? Are they just that lazy? And why am I always behind them?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mike Huckabee is still in the race? Seriously?

(FYI, I realize I’m totally sucking at Blog 365, but the loss of my home internet is taking its toll. I wrote a version of this post yesterday, so I’m posting it under that date. I’m grateful for Blog 365’s flexibility here!)

I know I’m not in step with the American masses (if this were the case I guess I would have been happier with where our country has been going for the past seven years). But I have to assume there are a lot of smart people out there in the rest America, even if I don’t agree with them. So what has me totally baffled is how Mike Huckabee can still be a contender for his party’s nomination. I know I’ve already posted about how it’s absurd that people would vote for a man who doesn’t believe in evolution or who would keep countless people from getting their insurance money because of the bad rap god got in the insurance forms, but I can’t stop there. Today I read this article about how Huckabee is equating homosexuality with bestiality. He’s so wrong and offensive in so many ways that I can’t believe anyone likes him.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Well, the drama continues. My computer continues to see all sorts of wireless possibilities but refuses to connect to any of them, even when signal strength is strong. So I packed up and went out last night, hitting a bar/coffee place I know that has free wireless. Even at a café things are looking dismal, though. An over the phone diagnostic with some computer wizard suggests that something had gone haywire with my driver, and I have to take it in tonight for some professional help. Here’s hoping the fix is fast and cheap.

If it’s not, and my computer has gone kaputz, I might take advantage of the opportunity to blow all my savings on the awesome new MacBook Air. It looks amazing!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Worm Composting

One of my favorite coworkers recently told me she was attending an evening workshop on worm composting. She’s smart, opinionated, and seems like a natural New Yorker...and then out of nowhere she reminds you that she spent a huge part of her life in Oregon and Seattle by talking about worm composting. It’s definitely much more Washington state than New York City!

Have any of you heard about this? From what I gather, you get a bin, some special trash-eatin’ worms, and throw in some garbage. Each day the worms eat their own body weight in coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, leftover food, moldy bread, vegetable peels, etc. Presto-change-o, you have top soil!

This sounds great in theory. I’m hoping to turn my fire escape into a pretty faux balcony with the help of some potted plants, and I guess some top soil would be good for that. But in a small NYC apartment, the increased temptation to rodents, ants, and flies (apparently fruit flies are really drawn to the compost) doesn’t seem worth it.

Have any of you done this?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Connection Woes

Well, I had all sorts of plans about what to post today, but when I got home my wireless internet wasn’t working. I thought I’d watch a little 30-Minute Meals and check in again later to find it up and running, but no such luck. I tried consistently throughout the night and could never get on, despite a strong signal strength. Here’s hoping my internet magically heals itself while I’m at work tomorrow; in the mean time, I’m having internet withdrawal!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Kitten love

My sister Shannon, tender heart that she is, just adopted this kitten who was desperately in need of a home. Isn't he adorable?

And just so Camilla doesn't get jealous, isn't she cute, too?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A naked disappointment

There is never a shortage of things to do in New York City. So what am I doing home on a Saturday night? Ok, truly, I am a bit of a homebody. But that's not the reason I'm home tonight. Todd and I, typically poor planners for weekend outings, actually did a bit of mid-week research this week. We found what looked to be a unique way to spend the evening, mixing our high-brow love of art with our low brow love of all things naughty: XXX Drawing Party. Adult film actors and actresses model for slightly drunk wannabe artists in the most provocative of ways, at least from what I could gleam from the advertisement. Unfortunately, the listing suggested it was both Friday and Saturday nights at 9:00 pm. Only tonight did we realize that the event really started on Friday at 9:00 pm and ended at 1:00 in the morning on Saturday, thus showing up on both Friday and Saturday's listings. Boo. So instead of trying my hand at actually drawing some porn, you'll all have to settle for this:

Friday, January 11, 2008


Affinity is the latest book I've read by Sarah Waters; it's also the last I'll read for a while. She's only written four novels and I've now read them all. Until she gets busy, my reading list will be Waters-free. Sadly, though, this most recent one was actually the least satisfying of the four. I find her style highly readable and enjoyed the book a lot, but it's structure and plot felt eerily similar to Fingersmith. Both feature pairs of women with secrets in their past. In each, the women form a formidable bond that is tested by their respective histories. And both books give their competing protagonists ample room to tell their own story. To be fair, Affinity was published first, so maybe it's really Fingersmith that is derivative, but I didn't read them in that order, so it didn't feel that way. Plus, I just liked Fingersmith better. There were more surprises along the way and the characters felt more flesh and blood.

I'd recommend Waters as an author, but I'd suggest Fingersmith, The Night Watch, or Tipping the Velvet first.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

On the Media

My company recently moved to a new office building (which I’m displeased about, but that’s a whole nother issue that I won’t get into). One of the quirks of this building is that any messenger-delivered items, of which I get quite a few, are delivered to an office in the basement. You seriously have to walk through the depths of corporate America to find this place. Anyway, I just went down to pick up a package and was enjoying 15 seconds of news on the Captivate TV in our elevators on my way back up.

This little political tidbit pops up, informing elevator riders everywhere that George W. Bush is the first US President in nearly a decade to visit Palestine. HELLO? He’s been the only US president for nearly a decade. Bill Clinton visited Palestine in December of 1998. If this is the first trip in nearly a decade, that rests squarely on George Bush’s shoulders. It’s just such a prime example of how the media spins things. Yes, it’s technically true that this is the first visit by a US President in nearly a decade. But to say it like that suggests that Bush is somehow making progress where others have not, which is just laughable. Oh, also laughable? His claim that he’ll broker a Mideast peace treaty before his term is up.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


It's a little late to be starting this, but I've been talked into participating in Blog365. Blog 365 is like National Blog Posting Month on steroids. Instead of posting every day in November, I'm going to try to post something every day ALL YEAR. Luckily, and realistically, Blog 365 rules allow for a bit of flexibility. They allow hard copy "blogging" when you're away from computers and encourage back dating to reflect when you really wrote something, for instance. I think it'll be hard but fun to post so much. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Early thoughts on the New Hampshire primaries

I'm watching the New Hampshire primary results trickle in right now, and I find myself having some contradictory feelings about Hillary Clinton. I'm trying to figure out who I will vote for on February 5; of course, if Kucinich is still in the race, he'll get my vote. Given those slim chances, though, I know I need to figure out who my second choice is. Of the three front runners, Hillary is probably my least favorite in terms of her voting history and some of her proposed policies, like health care. Even knowing that she probably won't get my vote in February, I find myself rooting for her. It doesn't make any sense, but I did feel a little bad for her when she lost Iowa, and I feel a bit relieved to see that she's doing well so far in NH (as of this writing, she's got 40% of the vote with Obama at 36%). I won't become one of the voters I mock, the ones who vote based on their emotions and affection for a candidate instead of making an informed decision about various candidates' policies. Still, it is interesting to note that Hillary has gotten to me in this way.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Golden Globes likely canceled

Nothing is official yet, but there are rumors galore that the Golden Globe Awards will be canceled due to the writer's strike and sympathetic actors and actresses boycotting the event.

I guess this takes the pressure off John C. Reilly. He won't have to practice his gracious loser face now.

Walk Hard? Run Fast.

My big outing this past weekend was to the movies with Rena. Looking for some Talladega Nights-style laughs, we decided to see Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. I don’t even know where to begin in telling you how not funny this movie was. The creative team seemed to write only two jokes and then just repeated them ad nauseum. First joke: Jews run the entertainment industry! What a knee-slapper. Second joke: John C. Reilly (43 years old according to IMDB) plays a fourteen-year old high school student. See it’s funny because he’s so old! You know what? He also plays a 15 year old high school drop out. And a 16 year old...zzzz.....

Walk Hard? We walked hard all right. We walked hard right out of the theatre about half way through the movie.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Master of my domain

Thanks to Todd and his internet magic, you can now find my blog at How exciting is that! It will continue to be available at the boring old blogspot address, too, but who wants to use that anymore, right?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Caucus This

Iowans love both Barack Obama and crazy evangelical nut jobs.

Barack Obama pulled an impressive first place finish out of his hat, with an almost 8-point lead over his closest rival. He, as predicted, did an amazing job getting out the vote. Caucus-goers turned out in record numbers, and the first-timers reportedly contributed heavily to Obama’s win. I think I’m happy Obama won. As some of you will no doubt remember, I was an Obamaniac when he first came on the scene. I loved him when he ran for senate in Illinois (when I was still in Chicago), and his stands on most issues impressed me. All three leading democratic candidates let me down on some important social issues such as gay marriage, but that’s for another post. Since then, though, Obama lost me a little with some serious money grubbing and a few seemingly naïve statements about foreign policy and healthcare.

On the healthcare front, Edwards, who came in second last night, seems to have the position I like best. He’s the only one of the three advocating for a single-payer universal health care plan similar to what other countries already have. And he is far more realistic about the efficacy (or lack thereof, to be more precise) of negotiating with pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

Which brings us to one Hillary Clinton. I’m a little worried about ellebee’s level of sadness this morning, as her girl Hillary came in a very disappointing third place. Granted, Edwards had only a teeny tiny margin over her, but third place is still third place. With less than a week before the New Hampshire primary, Clinton has a very small window in which to stop Obama’s momentum and give her own a boost. It’s true that she still leads in the national polls (though I haven’t seen any new ones since the Caucus results), but if Obama successfully builds off his Iowa finish, she could be in trouble. The air of inevitability has definitely been let out of her tires.

I can already hear Laura’s protests, but I’m going to say this anyway: If Hillary does win the nomination and subsequently the election, and assuming she gets reelected for a second term, we’re talking about 28 straight years of Bushs and Clintons. As much as I love Bill and respect Hillary, that still gives me pause. It just can’t be good for democracy to have so little variation.

On the Republican side, lunatic and possible antichrist Mike Huckabee walked away with the number one spot with a nine point lead over second place Mitt Romney. While democratic Iowans clearly embraced change, the republican caucus-goers embraced an almost laughably (if it weren’t so scary) bad candidate. A few notes on Huckabee:

I seriously don’t understand how so many people in this country make their decisions. Is Huckabee interesting and funny when appearing on the Colbert Report? Sure! Does that mean that we should entrust him with our entire country? Of course not. And yet, so many people seem to vote based only on personality. And with the awful results of eight long years of religious fanaticism driving our country’s decisions, I cannot believe that anyone would vote for another candidate of the same ilk. And yet, here we are. I only take comfort knowing that the Iowa Caucuses often don’t predict the long-term winner.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Emperor's Children

Three disaffected Manhattanites, Danielle, Julian, and Marina are pushing thirty and officially beyond the follies of youth. They’ve been friends since college, and though we never see them in their collegiate days, we get the distinct impression that none has grown much since then. Danielle’s professional time is spent at a production company where she suggests pieces on mass market-repellent topics that will never be picked up; her personal efforts, meanwhile, focus heavily on self-sabotaging relationships. Julian, fancying himself fashionable and influential, writes the occasional movie review for The Village Voice in between secret and, in his mind, shameful stints temping. Marina, based mostly on her good looks and literary sensation father, has been signed to write a book about children’s fashion. Unfortunately, her interest in the topic lasted about as long as it took her to spend the advance money. If pressed, none of the three could articulate what they want, but they all believe they deserve it, whatever it is. Adding to this mix are Marina’s father, Murray Thwaite; cousin, Frederick (Bootie) Tubb; and beau, Ludo. They circle around her as if in orbit, reinforcing her notion that she is the center of the universe.

Very few of these characters are actually likeable, which made for a sometimes trying 500 plus pages. That said, Messud is a gifted writer and has populated her novel with an interesting if not enjoyable cast of characters. And it is their selfishness and poor decision making that makes them disconcertingly real. Messud interestingly juxtaposes her authentic characters with their internal fantasies. Though not fantastic in the Heavenly Creatures sense, each of the characters inhabit a world of their own imagining and buy into the myths surrounding them: the myths of New York as some kind of intellectual and publishing shangri-la, of infallible family heroes, that love and desire can actually change people’s natures. It’s the crumbling of these fantasies, not surprisingly, that drive the novel’s central conflicts.

The timeframe and structure of The Emperor’s Children makes it clear that September 11th will play a role in the climax, and the suspense comes from wondering just how each character will be affected. And, as in reality and most good books, there are surprises along the way.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Welcome back!

I’ve been something of a slacker in the blogging department lately—sorry! I’m back now, though, and hope January will prove more blog-productive than the end of December was.

I am back at work (and hence, back to blogging, apparently) for the first time in ten days. The break was wonderful and, of course, felt much shorter than it really was. And, for ten whole days to myself, you’d think I’d have more to report. Mom and I drove up to Massachusetts for a visit with my sisters and brother-in-law for Christmas. Said brother-in-law’s mom and grandmother were also there, as was a friend of my sister’s and her grandmother. We have a teeny, tiny family, and it was a really nice treat to have a bigger group for the holiday festivities. And, thanks to my family’s generosity and my mom’s discovery of an awesome used bookstore in her neighborhood, I don’t think I will need to buy any new books in all of 2008. I seriously have a mountain of to-be-read novels and non-fiction. I love it! I finished The Emperor’s Children over the break and am about twenty pages shy of finishing Affinity right now. Reviews of both to come.

Between Christmas and New Year’s I lounged around a lot doing a great deal of reading and watching Netflix (a documentary about the font Helvetica was very interesting, and the adaptation of The Namesake was a bit of a snoozer. The book was much better). I did get out of the house to see the MOMA’s’ exhibit of George Seurat’s drawings with Todd. They are absolutely amazing! I encourage all the New Yorkers reading this to check it out, and soon. The exhibit closes this month, and it’s really not to be missed. Seurat’s drawings and etchings, though mostly charcoal/single color, play with light, depth, and texture in a really wonderful way. They offer a fascinating counterpoint to Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which was really the only work of his I was familiar with before seeing this.

New Year’s Eve found me at Drew’s house on Long Island again, as I’ve done for the past several years. His party was smaller this year, giving it a more intimate feel than it’s had in years past. I was really glad Todd and Josh and Todd were all there, too, to ring in 2008.

Now I’m back at work and trying to remember what all I was working on when I left here on the 21st....