Tuesday, September 1, 2009


It's time for a moratorium on LOL.

I get the need for snappy abbreviations--I text, I'm cool, I'm down with the kids--but come on, people: it's been years with this fucking thing. Shouldn't it have run its course? Gone the way of "neat" and "chick" and "daddy-o"? Where's the new new thing from urban dictionary.com to replace this old clunker?

Moreover, let's face it: it's a lie. Maybe--maybe--when people write it as a response, there is a chance they might actually have L'lled Out Loud at some incredibly hilarious bon mot. But when they write it after their own inane, breathtakingly unfunny comment? Really? "I need a glass of red wine. LOL." Seriously? You thought to yourself "I need a glass of red wine" and then you laughed out loud? If that's true, you really should not be drinking.

Frankly, in situations like the aforementioned, people use this because they're too lazy to say something more genuine and true. It's not "I need a glass of red wine boy that's hilarious isn't it? and aren't I a zany wag?" It's "I need a glass of wine. But don't worry (Mom), I'm not an alcoholic, I just had a crap day."

Now is that so hard?

If something is genuinely funny, there should be alternatives. (Don't even get me started on LOLs crazy, inbred cousins: LMAO, ROFL. Let's face it: if it were possible to 'laugh your ass off'--if laughing were a genuine aerobic activity--the world would be a much better--not to mention thinner--place. And the only people who Roll on the Floor Laughing are in mental hospitals.) But since there don't seem to be any spiffy new acronyms cropping up from the street to convey wit, I feel the need to take it upon myself to offer up a couple of new ideas. Just so we can retire the LOL and send it to the wherever old logisms go when they're no longer neo...

My suggestions:

JK: Just Kidding. No idea why this isn't In Common Usage. It's not particularly exciting, but at least it's fucking precise. That's what we all actually mean half the time we (and when I say "we" I mean "you") type LOL.

TIC: Tongue In Cheek. You know that works. If you require a little flourish: TPFIC: Tongue Planted Firmly In Cheek.

YMML: You Made Me Laugh. Simple. Truthful. And only one more key stroke than the dreaded LOL. (Which, when you think of it, also sounds icky in your head, doesn't it? I don't even like looking at it, cause "lol" paints an image of a gobstopper stuck in someone's throat. While "Ymml" just seems like you got a whiff of something delicious.)

IS: I Snorted. For those precious, rare times when a friend's rapier wit actually made you gag.

IKBIL: I Kid Because I Love. To make sure things aren't misinterpreted and feelings aren't inadvertently hurt; gently takes the sting out of your buckshot snark.

And of course, there's always this: Ha! An actually word. That conveys levity and enjoyment--simply, efficiently and economically.

Amazing, this English language thing we got going here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Buy America

You know that famous Calvin Coolidge quote, "The business of the American people is business"? I've been thinking a lot about that lately, while watching the country get caught in this vile shit storm of 'town hells' and Fox news lies and our tall, lithe president apparently standing so straight because he's afraid he's misplaced his spine--all as we try to do something so seemingly morally 'right' as improve our health care system to make it more fair, accessible and effective. It shouldn't even be a question that we need changes, but the rabid right is essentially proposing that we do nothing. They're barely even admitting the status quo is flawed (one of those Fox news lies is the oft repeated mantra that we have "the best health care in the world"; in upside-downy world maybe...).

Paul Krugman (fantasy dad) reported this week that when news broke that White House was waffling on the so-called 'public option', the stock prices of the big insurance companies got nice little bumps. So it's pretty obvious where they stand; on a wad of Twenties. It's been reported they take home up to 30% of every consumer dollar in profits--which is more than the law allows casinos to bank. Your insurance company is making a tidier profit than The Flamingo. On your health. A little crazy, right? (As for all the wing nuts at those town halls? They truly do seem to be a nice, florid cross-section of stubbornly uninformed, ugly Americans. If they aren't obvious shills for the medical/health care/big pharma industries, they're surely unwitting dupes. It's embarrassing, frankly.)

So it's all about money. Cold, hard, cash. A few very wealthy, very invested businessmen who make a living off of our health--or more precisely, our illness--just don't want reform. They like their mini-mansions too much. That's pretty much it. It's not any more complicated than that. We unfortunately have a system that makes health care a commodity like anything else: toilet paper, MP3 players, flip flops. And if someone is selling you something, they want to make a profit on it. The business of America really is business, no matter what.

In trying to refute the entire notion of a public option, I've heard some Republicans (shouldn't we just start calling them Republicants, btw?) say the public option wouldn't be fair--to the insurance companies (and gosh knows, the government should be all about making things fair for corporations...). I heard California Republican congressmen John Campbell say, essentially, "Why should there be a government run option for health care to provide competition? The government doesn't make furniture or shoes to give those industries competition." This argument is so specious and despicable it's almost impossible to debate. The man is equating chairs with health care. Saying that since the government doesn't provide us inexpensive, non-profit La-z-boys it shouldn't provide us inexpensive, non-profit life-saving heart surgery. Lovely.

With that kind of thinking it feels like you have to take a beat, triangulate, try to reason; there's a crazy person in the house, take some deep breaths and back away. But I think we should be doing the opposite: Going Big or Going Home. I actually think the fact that there's even an issue about the government being involved in this at all is the problem. Maybe we're tip-toeing around a bigger concept here. I mean, what is the basic function of the government? To take care of its citizenry, yes? The right wing is all about defense and security. Why? If not about just proving they have bigger balls (and admittedly, it might be), then it's ostensibly to stop other people from killing us. If we can spend seemingly unlimited amounts of money making sure that some foreign entity doesn't invade and start slaughtering us, why shouldn't we spend money making sure that diseases don't invade and start slaughtering us? In fact, in some ways we do: everyone is all too happy to have the CDC whipping up batches of swine flu vaccine--to protect the citizenry. Isn't that what health care should be? Protecting the citizenry from unnecessary death or preventable suffering?

I understand that Obama wanted to get what he could, start with something that seemed doable and non-threatening to the entrenched interests, maybe work reform incrementally. But as the wacky right distorts and lies and screams and froths at the mouth, filled with misinformation and free-floating rage, I have to think the moral argument wasn't big or compelling enough. If they're this upset now? Maybe we should have just asked the big questions and shot the big wad. Maybe we shouldn't be arguing fine points about how to enable everyone to afford health insurance. Maybe we should be arguing about why health insurance even exists.

Why shouldn't health care fall into the same category that other 'essential' services? The government (whether national or local) makes sure we have police and fire departments, clean water, safe medications, salmonella-free food...so why shouldn't it make sure we don't die of an undiagnosed tumor or untreated diabetes? To my way of thinking, making health care something we have to 'negotiate' for in the 'marketplace' is positively perverse. If your house is on fire, do you have to 'shop around' for the cheapest engine company? Do you get a better price on your tap water than your neighbor does because you work for a big corporation and she's self- employed? Do you have to find a nice 'plan' to buy into just in case you ever need to call a cop? Can you imagine? "I couldn't afford police insurance, so when someone was breaking into my house I just waited it out in the bathroom and hoped for the best."

Of course, the fact is we all do buy into such a plan: by paying our taxes. So yes, I am in fact suggesting that health care be covered by our taxes. Crazy talk, I know. Positively Socialist! But let's be honest here; we have 'socialist' systems already--taxes we all pay to provide essential services for the public good. So why are we are we drawing the line at health care, pretty much the most 'essential service' of all? (If you don't have your health...) Maybe Obama should just say: Sure, fine. I'm a Socialist. Unless you live in the woods, off the grid, and eat bark, you kind of are too. If you drove to this here town meetin' on a public road, you're just as much of a pinko as I am. So just sit down, open up and say, "Ahh".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Poem

Once every year or two a poem comes to me. Sometimes on a hike, sometimes driving, sometimes when my head hits the pillow. Until now, I have written them down, stuffed them in drawers and forgotten about them. But now I have a blog, so I can share my flashes of poesy with the world.
Or, you know, you three.

Sleeping With The Animals

sleeps curled in the Vee of my knees,
tiny twitching, dreaming
girly dreams of dainty things
like pretty clothes and fangs.

slumbers beside me,
his fur soft as a doyenne's stole,
snores cutting the night
like a serrated knife, trying in vain
to carve a coconut. But

lies on the floor,
my sleeping dog prince,
silent, stately, his heavy head cradled
by his sizable paws.
Dreaming of more ways to be

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How Are You? (Don't Answer That.)

Here's one thing you should know: I love Facebook. I am a True Believer in Facebook. I am to Facebook what 13-year-old girls are to Twilight. I am to Facebook what single man-boys are to Guitar Hero. I check it constantly. I love seeing what my FB peeps are up to. I think reconnecting with old friends is actually a good thing--kept, as it is, at a nice, comfy, digital remove. I adore the faux Scrabble. I totally dig knowing what cousins 20 years my junior are thinking. (Like to keep up with 'the kids'.) I utterly enjoyed following a friend's trip in virtual real time as she uploaded her pictures onto FB daily.

In fact, I think Facebook is a brilliant invention, one of the few that does exactly what it was designed to do, and does it well. It has not--as of yet--become a bastardized version of itself, tweaked by its own success and mutated by its own users into Something Else. (The way MySpace, for instance, started as a promotional site for bands but turned into, apparently, Facebook 1.0. The way Craig's List began as a nice, shared cyber-bulletin board for finding roommates and used bicycles but metastasized into a marketplace for white slavers and serial killers.) Facebook--despite growing pains and terms of usage scandals and awkward new page lay-outs--seems to still do what it promised it would do: create and maintain an Internet community.

And I love the status update. I'm probably, truth be told, a status update abuser. Particularly with the old layout, where your status update hovered atop your 'home page' forever? I changed that thing constantly. I changed that thing when the wind blew weird, when the dog belched, when Keith Olbermann expressed righteous indignation. Any little, silly thing or oh-so-clever solipsistic thought that flew into my addled brain made it into that rectangular box.

But there is status update abuse and there is Status Update Abuse. Some of you people need to back away from the laptop. Stop. It. Really. The complaining, the bragging, the blah blah blah. If it's not at least a little witty, informative, interesting, day brightening...I'm gonna say it. I don't think we care.

But there they are anyway: The Complainers. I can mock them because: I am them. I complain on my status update like lucky people poop: every day.
I have a headache.
I still have a headache.
Headache: Day Three. (This is fun stuff, right?)
I try to make them somewhat informative (Don't park on Highland after 3; you'll get towed just like I did). Or even better, a little entertaining (3am, the cat's snoring like Ernest Borgnine after a Baja bender.) But I can't lie. Bottom line, I'm just a grouch.

Nevertheless, I pale--pale--in comparison to the major league Complainers. These are some serious, professional, don't even, Complainers. Their complaints are intimate, sad, shocking, depressing, graphic. About planes missed and babies up-chucking and mothers dying and illnesses caught. All on Facebook. Where people know you just wrote that. Obviously, everyone's entitled to bitch. I'm bitching right now. But folks: that shit just makes me feel bad. And honestly, I feel bad enough already. Can you dial it back, just a bit?

Then there are The Braggers. Now, honestly, I just feel bad for the Complainers. The Braggers are the ones I loathe. You got the all out, swaggering tools: "Trying to decide between the Land Rover and the Land Cruiser." Really? Instead, how about trying to decide whether your kids get asthma or cancer from the belching fumes you're going to spew into the air so you can drive around in a pimped out station wagon pretending you're taller than you are? How about trying to decide whether you're an asshole or a douchebag. What's that you say? Oh, right: both.

Then you have your 'passy-aggressy' "I'm-gonna-say-something-mildly-curious-to-get-you-to-ask-me-what's-up!" braggers. Like this beaut: "First day of work jitters!" Oh, Lordy, now we have to ask: New job? Where? Good for you! Then they answer and it's all so, "Well, I don't want to brag, but...". And then of course they do brag (I mean, you asked!). I just want to channel Aaron Altman: Keep it to yourself.

Then there are the STOs. State The Obvious. Anyone who has ever written as their status update "TGIF!" needs to be forced to eat at TGIFs. And not just on Fridays. If whatever you're thinking seems like something a 3rd grade teacher might write on a sheet of oak tag, you know, maybe you don't need to share that with your 164 friends. If whatever you're thinking isn't even a little specific, a little fresh, a little goddamn interesting: no need to write it down and make me read it, mmkay? Just, well, try a little harder. Please?

Personally, I wish everyone would just aspire to my favorite status update category: The Quippers. Cause that's what a status update should be, right? Droll, pithy little comment. The news of the day's bon mot. A laugh, a smile for your Facebook community. A quip. I must confess, this is the group I would choose to live in if I could choose. Unfortunately, the funny chooses you. So though I try, mostly I leave it to Richard. (He knows who he is.)

This is a theory I have about the Internet; it's not only the greatest communication and information and connectivity device of all time. It's also a magnifier. It not only gives us more, it allows us to be more. More informed, more connected; yes, fabulous, love it. But also more crazy, more neurotic, more paranoid, more creepy. Thirty years ago someone who might have liked the occasional bit of porn actually had to leave their house and face a shopkeeper and buy it. Now: that person can fill their hard drive (no pun intended) with so much porn they never have to leave the house. Ever. Icky. A fan of Joseph Cotton circa 1943 might have bought copies of Photoplay and Modern Screen and cut out pictures and articles of Joe and glued them into a scrapbook. Harmless. Today, there are multiple Zac Efron fan sites. Whole websites. Built by fans. In their free time. Just...for the love of Zac Efron. Creepy. In 1989 some guy spent too much time driving back and forth in front of his girlfriend's house; now he can download her credit report. Actionable.

Facebook Status Updates can be a little like that. Just too much. A passing, casual comment shared at a party or in an elevator would be promptly forgotten. Now, as a Status Update, that comment is magnified and takes on so much--too much--meaning. It's posted, people. Posted. Think about that. Would you write that thought on an index card and pin it to your jacket? And wear it around all day? Probs not, I'm thinking. So just...have a little discretion, okay? Think twice before you post. Cause if it's just complaining, or saying something we all know, or bragging for the sake of bragging? Yeah, you might get some positive reinforcement. A comment on your comment. Maybe the old thumbs up. Probably nothing at all. But what if the people reading that comment sneer in the privacy of their homes/offices/cubicles? And people who previously might have found you mildly irritating? Don't look now: they just unfriended you. See? Magnified.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Paper Cut

Oh, the "Fempire". A tiny, exclusive, moneyed emirate, perched in the hills, where its denizens can look down on the hoi polloi toiling below in the flat lands. Kind of like Andorra, but with yoga mats.

Apparently--thank goodness--I'm not the only one who found the article in yesterday's New York Times a bracing antidote to any germs of self-worth that might have been metastasizing inside me. Well done, New York Times and (journalist) Deborah Schoeneman! Good job Dana Fox, Diablo Cody, Liz Meriwether and Lorene Scafaria! Now I hate myself even more than I did before! I know that wasn't your intention (well, I'm pretty sure), but what a great side effect. Just sit down with these groovy galpals in Hollywood, talk about their dogs and their matching bespoke necklaces, and their Hollywood Hills homes, and their limousine rides to their movie premieres...and bingo: less successful writers everywhere start Googling, "suicide, techniques".

Of course, these women are allowed to be successful. My evolved, logical side knows that as far as female genes behind the cameras in Hollywood goes, the more the better. But my reptilian brain is toggling between wanting to go all Collyer brothers and never leave my house again and considering sneaky ways to give all four of them scabies. I think it's the "entourage" part of it all. As irritating as Diablo Cody is on her own (when oh when will everyone realize this "femperor" has no clothes?) I could just cast her aside as another annoying anomaly. But grouped together like this, these chicks--I'm sorry--are just hateful. And they did the grouping themselves, so it's not old Deborah Schoeneman's fault. Naming their little clique? Last girls I knew who christened their posse were the "Flagpole Girls". In elementary school. And all the inside crap and smutty gifts and liturgy...let's face it: as hip as these chicks are, this is just a sorority with better lodgings. And I freaking hate sororities. For all the high minded reasons. But also because they'd never ask me to join.

Maybe if "Fempire" were men. Maybe if they were novelists. Maybe if they lived in Portland. Anything to separate these babes in Hollywoodland from my experiences. Anything except their ability to "command seven figures" for their star-laden scripts, that is.

I know you're not supposed to compare yourself to other people. We're all valuable in our own right, blah blah blah. But I just can't help it. Horrible confession: I'm a jealous, vicious bitch. There, I said it. Any time I hear about anyone that's in any way bumping into the bubble that is My Life, I do an elaborate compare/contrast to try to make myself feel better. For instance: High School Nemesis is married with children. Ah, but she lives in Ohio and is a dentist. I am the glamour girl in L.A. I have hugged Hugh Jackman! I have had dinner with Jon Hamm! Whew. Potential self-flagellation averted. Some part of me is better. I can carry on.

But lately, sadly, this has been getting harder and harder to do. People I know--actually know--are successful (in my field), are in happy relationships, have nice homes, aren't recovering alcoholics, etc. etc. I can't find a slow leak in their bubble that makes my bubble look bigger and shinier and...bubblier. This has been my horrifying realization: at a certain point, you're no longer a Late Bloomer. You're just a Loser. And that's when paeans to younger, prettier, more successful people hanging around together doing your exact job in the New York Times can really, really, well...hurt. So that's the real thought for today: Ouch.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Invisible Stuff

Warning to people of faith: The following will offend you. Sorry. (Sort of.)

I finally tucked in the other night and watched Religulous, Bill Maher's scathing look at organized religion; it was well worth the 3.99 on pay-per-view. And then I read Frank Rich's column in the Sunday Times, in which he commented--hopefully--on the waning of the Religious Way of American Life; there are more people claiming 'no religious affiliation' than ever before. Nevertheless, we're still a nation of remarkably faithful church/temple/mosque/yoga yurt-goers. Much more so than other industrialized nations.

What the hell is with us? Maher incisively and hilariously skewers all the silliness of believing in some giant, invisible, all powerful "sky-man" (as John Oliver cheekily put it on The Daily Show) who has the time to manipulate the outcome of football games but leaves Darfur littered with corpses. Not to mention the general absurdity of the bible ("a talking snake? really?"). And the insanity (okay: stupidity) of taking said book literally. With a few clever montages and some bracing on-screen factoids, the movie limns all the hypocrisy, all the flimsy justification, all the general wackjob-itude of believing whole-heartedly in these thousand year old fairy tales. I mean, really: no one believes Rumpelstiltskin spun gold from straw, so why do people believe a Jewish carpenter turned water into wine?

But here's the thing: seems to me religion--sadly--isn't the only farcical, invisible thing we've decided to believe in. The "faith" we put in things we can't see or touch or smell or quantify in any way at all is rampant. I think we've been caught--for a while now (eight years? maaybee...)--in a kind of collective, willful ignorance. We've been having a hoe-down and doing a dumb, happy dance to a tune we can't even hear.

For people with anti-biotics and computers and statistics we believe in a lot of invisible stuff. We put our faith in invisible stuff. We get unbridled joy and a feeling of safety and entertainment value and sense of import and urgency out of Invisible Stuff. Like, for instance, just for starters:

--God, natch
--Money in your 401(k)
--Love and/or "a real connection" on any dating reality show
--All sorts of Byzantine financial transactions that don't make sense to anyone
--The value of your house
--Anything that 'reduces the look of fine lines and wrinkles'
--That Patrick Dempsey's hair just looks that way

What do we get out of all this? Ever-lasting childhood, that's what. We're not just chumps, we're children, living out not even an extended adolescence (fuck, adolescents do nothing but question the status quo; I wish we were adolescents) but an extended toddler-hood. We are actually slobbering, sticky three-year-olds who believe anything someone taller, older, cooler, richer, prettier or On TV tells us to believe. Regardless of fact, regardless of evidence. We might as well assume we'll get rich by putting errant teeth under our pillows.

Maher ends his movie by saying, among other things: Grow up. And despite the fact that most of the time I feel like a 12 year old weepily singling along to Janis Ian songs, I've got to agree. Maybe it's time we stopped believing in voodoo and magic in place of science, and smoke and mirrors light shows in the place of actual balances in actual brick and mortar banks. It's time we stopped think 'reality shows' are really...real. It's time we looked at something like the cold hard truth and lived our lives and fashioned our economy and developed products based on fact and empirical evidence, instead of wisps of pretty twinkling lights. It might not be fun, it might not be comforting, it might not be easy. But at least it'll be grown-up. At least it'll be real. Cause here's the thing about invisible stuff; when you need it most, it might turn out not to just be invisible. It might turn out to be non-existent.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


There was money. And then there wasn't. Simple as that. There was this nice number; not a huge number, not a rich person's number, but a number that I could use, that could help me out, that could make things easier. Right there, in my bank account. A surprise, yes, but not impossible in the fickle business in which I work. Money comes in dribs and drabs, sometimes when you expect it, sometimes not. So it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility. And after making a couple of phone calls to check it out, it seemed more than possible. It seemed probable.

But then: poof. Adios. Gonzo. A computer blip. Human error. Bank mistake. The having it, not the not having it. It was never mine to begin with. A fantasy. A chimera. A cruel joke.

And boom: I got an up close and personal experience with this, our second Great Depression. There was money. And then there wasn't.

That's pretty much it, right? The Dow is at 14,000+, then it's below 7,000. Where did it go? Citibank is worth 60something a share, then it's worth less than a biggie pack of Orbit White Bubblemint. Say what now? Investors have millions with Bernie Madoff and then they're paupers. Howzzat? And just like my 'phantom money' (that's what I call it; the phantom money) this is my belief: it was never there to begin with. We all acted like it was there, we felt cozy and comfortable like it was there, we spent like it was there, but it never was. The "money" we thought we "had" was just a bunch of black slashes on a white computer screen.

Look: Donkey. <-- That is not a real donkey. That is just some black slashes on a computer screen that looks like 'donkey' and makes you think 'donkey' but it is not actually a donkey.

Now, I'm a fantasist; I admit it. For the few days I (thought I) had that money, my life was swell. I exhaled. I actually felt a sense of calm descend, an unexpected smile curl the corners of my mouth. I even toasted with friends. I thought I was about to live a life (relatively) free of stress and worry and bizarre nightmares of becoming a crazy homeless woman living under the 405. I actually imagined...buying things. Books from the bookstore and not the 'used' section of Amazon. Getting a facial. A cloud of equanimity even settled over me, in place of my worst fears: if my computer continues chipping off little pieces of itself and finally there's nothing left but the F9 key, my life won't be over. The new 17inch environmentally friendly Mac will be mine.

But that's me. I make shit up for a (sporadic) living and I'm afraid of math. But can everyone in the country be fantasists? Can our entire economic system be an illusion? Can all those smart young best and brightest master of the universe Turk-types on Wall Street be delusional or liars--or both? Apparently, yes. We all believed. We believed in "Zero interest for one year!" on over-stuffed sectionals from LivingSpaces. We believed in "You've been pre-approved!". We believed in "No money down mortgages". No money down mortgages. Didn't anybody think, "Um...that...can't be right. I mean, for an entire house? Seriously?" Apparently not.

This fall I did some canvassing for Obama in Las Vegas. And in the worst neighborhood you could possibly imagine--an arid, flat, chained up mongrels, surrounded by used car dealerships Appalachia kind of place--people would open the doors of their small, sadly shabby homes and inside would be...a 52" flat screen TV. Flat screen TVs in every house. Two, three thousand dollar TVs. Everywhere. People bought those TVs--poor people, people who were un-employed or under employed or barely employed, people with too many bills who lived paycheck to paycheck--with money they didn't have. Phantom money. Black slashes on a white computer screen.

If we get through this in any kind of intact--please, let's get through this--I just hope we can all remember: This is not a donkey.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"i gave my power away"

Who would have thought Top Chef would provide a teachable moment that had nothing to do with skinning an eel or how strong redfish is? (BTW: am I the only one who thought "redfish" was something Dr. Seuss made up?) But Wednesday night's lamentable finale did just that. Carla Hall--dear, Beeker manque, hootie hoo Carla--who had won over fans and judges alike with her exuberance and soulful cooking and delightful goofiness, lost tragically; so tragically she wasn't even in the running at the end.

And why? Bad choices, forgotten details, over thinking her menu, poor time management? Probably, sure; all of the above. But everyone made mistakes: Stefan decided to freeze salmon halibut carpaccio before serving it--in a pool of melted fishwater (delish!)--and delivered a dessert the judges deemed dated and pedestrian. Hosea presented a sashimi trio that everyone agreed was bland and poorly seasoned, lacking the most obvious thing in the world: salt. So how did Carla's few mistakes snowball enough to prove fatal?

She admitted it Thursday on NPR: she second guessed herself. Presented with some ideas by her appointed sous chef (Casey, a runner-up from a previous season), Carla thought, "Okay, let's try it." Yeah, let's "try" cooking the beef 'sous vide'--a technique Carla had never done before (and which involves a plastic bag; sorry, but it seems a little Shake-n-Bake to me...). Let's try making souffles (who doesn't know how temperamental souffles are!?! wasn't this a Three's Company episode?) instead of the tartlet she'd planned. Presented with ideas from (let's face it) a subordinate--'sous' means under, after all--Carla said, "Okay, good idea there, Casey." Carla, ever kind, ever compassionate, ever open minded. She succumbed to the Achilles (high) heel of women everywhere: she decided to be a team player when in fact she needed to be just the opposite. She needed to not just have a vision, but also the confidence and dedication to stick to it. She needed to lead.

Why do we (women) do this? We lean towards empathy, kindness, compassion. We care about the group, often at expense of ourselves. (Every Mom, ever, yes?) We want everyone else to feel included; we want to hear opinions from all quarters. And that's all great. I love that about us. But when the task at hand doesn't call for a team response, when you're competing for Top Chef, not Top Kitchen Crew...sisters, I hate to say this, but: man up.

Look at how Carla's male competitors treated their sous chefs; like number twos. Hosea and Stefan looked at their sous chefs and saw Watsons to their Holmes, Spocks to their Kirks, Dwights to their Michaels. Carla looked at Casey, hugged her in solidarity, and saw Thelma and Louise. And yes: together, hands held, they drove off a damn cliff.

Is this why there's still a glass ceiling? (And there is: look up the stats--they're shocking.) That when push comes to shove we look for consensus when we should be decisive? And here's an even more frightening thought: what if we're not looking for consensus because we're so frigging nice? What if we're looking for consensus because we're--gulp--just freaking scared? In the myriad post mortems Carla has admitted she had a loss of confidence. This, from New York Magazine on line:

"When you are in a situation and you’ve done it on your own and you try to keep everything together, as soon as there is somebody in front of you who has been through it, you almost exhale at that point and say ‘Oh my God, thank God I have help!’ And you’re like, ‘okay, let me lean on you, let me listen, what do you have for me? Let me take some of your energy.’ And I think I did a little bit too much of that and I gave my power away."

Wow. Maybe we're not just tragically nice team players. Could we actually be...pussies? Is that possible? I mean, I know I'm a pussy, but I'm sitting in a dark room commentating. Carla was a competitor. Carla cooked her ass off. Carla had it going on.

Scarily, the recent event this most reminded me of? Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign. Remember her? The runner-up? Even though a tremendous amount of time and energy went into making us all believe that Clinton would be "ready to lead" on "day one"--and maybe she would have been--the inside dope on the campaign was that a real lack of leadership was exactly Clinton's problem.

In a Sept 2008 article in The Atlantic, Joshua Green writes, "...her advisers couldn't execute strategy; they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution." After reviewing of a trove of internal campaign documents, Green comes to this conclusion: "...Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency." Of the internecine squabbles inside the campaign, apparently, "Clinton herself could never quite decide who was right." Could this be what was at the root of Clinton's routinely criticized "triangulating"? Not hoping to be all things to all people out of a callous political expediency but a sadly familiar, junior high school terror that the mean girls won't invite us to their sleep-overs?

Oh, god. Is Hilary Clinton--strong, bad-ass, pant-suited, snarky, smart as shit Hilary Clinton--a pussy too?!!?

I'm not suggesting we vanquish fear: obviously, that's impossible. But clearly men have figured out a way to feel fear but do it anyway. To never betray that they're afraid. To act like they're on top of it and in charge (even when they--so often--aren't; even when they bollocks up the entire goddamned world). Maybe we need to just take some acting classes and learn to behave "as if". Maybe Carla felt she needed help from Casey; but she clearly should have acted like she didn't and stuck stubbornly to her own style.

By the end of the Top Chef finale it was clear Carla knew that was her mistake. When asked why she should be Top Chef she swallowed a clear desire to say what she's admitted since: "I gave my power away." Even as it was utterly clear that that was absolutely what she'd done, Carla put the best face on it she could and only talked about her strengths, tried to throw a soupcon of braggadocio into the pot. Unfortunately, it was too late; the sauce was already broken.

Monday, February 23, 2009

paul krugman: fantasy dad

Well, I'm not entirely sure if Paul Krugman is even old enough to be my Dad, but he's so wise and has such gravitas that he seems awfully Dad-like. (The beard helps.) So I have this urge to call home, chat with Mom (about the Oscars) for a bit and then say, "Can you put Dad on? Does he have a minute?" Cause I have a lot of questions for him.

This was in a Washington Post article about today's fresh hell on the stock market and the past year's overall decline: "The total value of all shares of companies on the Dow has dwindled to $2.45 trillion, down from $4.51 trillion." Okaaay. I literally can't even do the math to figure out the actually amount the market has lost. Does the calculator on the Mac dock go up to a trillion? More importantly: exactly how many zeros are in a trillion? Seriously, is a trillion even a real number or something kids make up when their parents ask them 'how much do you love me?' (A kagillion!) No matter: it's a lot of money. Something like--ball park--$2 trillion has been lost, yes? That is a shit pot lot, lot, lot of money. That is, like, more money than Titanic made. That is more money than Oprah has.

So this is my question for Paul/Dad: Where. Did. It. Go?


Where? It just...disappeared? If it can just disappear, then...was it ever really there to begin with? (Is this too existential a query regarding the stock market?) I really, really want to know. If this $2 trillion was never really there to begin with, then our previous "good economy" wasn't really...real. It was just numbers on a balance sheet? So...that couldn't have been very good to begin with, right?

And people make this whole fuss about the 'irresponsible' homeowners who are now upside down on their mortgage, i.e., they owe more than their home is worth. But again, if the value of their home went down due to the generally sucky economy and crashed real estate market, how is that their fault? That prior "value" seems to have been based on...nothing, right? If it can just...go down like that? So then the whole real estate bubble is really, really, truly a bubble: not just because it can "burst", but because it only really exists when it's filled with air.

Is our whole economy based on mass hysteria and...air? (Dad? Are you even listening? I get the sense you're watching The NewsHour...no, I don't want to talk to Mom again!)

This kind of freaks me out. Is our whole economy one of those kid's birthday party entertainer's bubble cubes filled with cigarette smoke? Those look so cool, so magical, so unlikely. But then they burst. And all you have left is the sick taste of Pall Mall's and Pledge on your tongue and a deep sense of disappointment in your heart.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

revenge fantasies. yum!

I know I'm not the only one who's having a hard time paying attention to the news; even my political junkie Mom has admitted to mainlining novels and bridge instead of her former drug of choice: MSNBC. It's just too damn scary out there. You can only hear so many times that we're in the worst economic slump since the depression before you start to feel, you know: depressed.

So I've decided to get angry instead. And not at the 'state of the world' or vague entities like 'the banks' or 'sub-prime lenders' or 'the Republicans'--at actual, living, specific people. I was leaning in this direction when I saw Bill Maher on Friday night--who, for all his flagrant, frat boy misogyny does say some wickedly funny, smart things--advocate actually killing a couple of to-be-named-later bankers. Which, while admittedly disturbing, was a strangely satisfying idea. Just...up and whack them! For the catharsis, for the possible deterrent effect and just, well, for the kicky fun of it!

Public executions may be going a bit too far, but there are definitely some particular people out there who are just plain Pissing Me Off. And since my splenetic letter to that dingbat John Thune didn't even warrant a form e-mail response (or better yet: an FBI file; fingers crossed!) I'm going to play out some fantasies here.

John Boehner: A persistent blocked tear duct would be good, so he'd be forever wet eyed and drippy. You want to cry? You're so upset? You feel so deeply? Then fine: cry. All. The. Time. Maybe the eye (ooh...both eyes!) could even be mildly infected, kind of red and rheumy so everyone will think he has conjunctivitis and no one will ask him to join in their congressional reindeer games.

Bobby Jindal: If he doesn't want Louisiana's portion of the stimulus package I think a) he should no longer be eligible for his personal portion of Louisiana's budget--i.e, his salary. b) He should have to live with a family of five in a FEMA trailer, right next to the pungent, rotting mess that used to be their house. c) to ensure he can't gain any presidential traction just because he's "cute", he should have to walk around permanently with one of those creepy Abu Ghraib bags on his head.

Bernie Madoff: It's absurd that this assface is still living in his opulent New York apartment. But I actually think jail is too good for him too. This douchey sociopath gets to sit around reading Jeffrey Archer novels and writing his own 'inside the big house' blog? I don't think so. I say he has to go work as a maid. And not just for someone he ripped off--for the maid the people he ripped off had to fire. And they can make him wear the silly little costume of their choice; French chambermaid? Sure. But giant cockroach would be fine too--not just for the visual perfection, but also because it would be just that much harder to fold a hospital corner with pincers for hands. At night old Bernie will have to tuck into some efficiency off the Major Deegan Expressway. Possibly with a semi-retarded, mouth breathing cashier from the Big Apple named Toby for a roommate.

Michele Bachman: This lying, soulless, whack-doodle should have her tongue super-glued to the roof of her mouth. That way, she can think all the outrageous, wildly untrue, heartless, just-to-the-right-of-Pol-Pot crap she wants. But when she goes on talk radio all anyone will hear is, "Gnnnmngrrchl."

John Thain: He of the $1400 garbage can. This tin-eared, Mr. Potter ass-hole should have to actually be a garbage man. Hanging on the back of the truck, wearing olive green coveralls, the whole bit. Hopefully, he will constantly be engulfed by the revolting fug of rancid broccoli water. And poop.

To end on a more fun, upbeat note--a fantasy crush I forgot last week: Julian Schnabel. The ego, the self-absorption, the genius, the genius, the genius. Amazingly talented film-maker (I actually like his movie-making more than his art), captivating raconteur. Big, burly, bearded, brilliant. Frankly, I want for nothing more. I'm even okay with the silly, yellow sunglasses. Sigh.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

thought for the day!

Hey, other tragically unemployed and mordantly depressed people: it's true what the happy people say; a shower really does help. How do you know it's time to shower? If you can't remember the last time you showered.

Best Headline of the Day (maybe ever); "Extinct Bird Seen; Eaten."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

that's why they call it a 'job'

Today's irritant: Craig's list job postings. This is officially proof that the untended, 'openspace' internet Doesn't Really Work. I get how fabulous and free and unfettered by commercialization Craig's List is. And for selling an old couch or Hollywood Bowl box seats you suddenly can't use, or finding someone to teach you the glockenspeil, it's genuinely a fabulous thing.

For job hunting? This thing blows. Blows giant chunks of half-digested kibble. The relevant M-W.com definition of 'job'? "A regular remunerative position." I.e., labor for which the worker is compensated with cash U.S. money. Not....this: check it:

I am shooting an ultra low budget horror film project in the coming months and need my hand written script to be typed up in Final Draft. I need a super cool, motivated team member to help me type because I am a very slow typist. Project should only take 1 to 2 sessions in a low-key, professional environment. Not a cash job but credit and meals provided. A great opportunity to work on an independent film with a gung-ho film director. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Did you notice sentence number four? The one that starts, "Not a cash job..." Are you fucking kidding me? You need your fucking sucky script typed and you're not even willing to pay some poor sap 10 bucks an hour to pick her way through your Kevin Spacey, psycho-killer from Se7en scrawl? Because this is a "great opportunity"? Um...NO. It's not. A "great opportunity" is interning as Steven Soderbergh's on-set assistant while he shoots in Thailand. A "great opportunity" is being Barack Obama's body man. Typing some bottom feeder's crap slasher script is in no way a great opportunity.

I don't care how slow you type, you tool, if you're so effing 'gung-ho' just hunt and peck your way through it while you're watching Adult Swim, asshole. In the amount of time you took posting (even typing!) this stupid ad you could have finished page one.

Then there's this one, in the actual 'jobs' category, like this might actually have something to do with "work" for "money".

We are seeking excellent writers with impressive resumes on IMDb, and who also have connections for getting us in front of the right people. That would definitely get you producer as well as writer credit. These projects are for both TV and feature film, and are both drama and comedy. WE DON'T WANT TO HEAR FROM ANYONE WHO THINKS HE/SHE IS A GREAT WRITER, AND CLAIMS THAT THEY HAVE CONNECTIONS, BUT TRULY IS NOT AND DON'T. PLEASE DON'T WASTE OUR TIME! Thank you.

Check out the righteous indignation of those caps, man! Wow. They have clearly been burned, baby, burned, by some devious wannabe writer who took advantage of their...what the fuck is it they're offering again? I have actually NO IDEA what the gig is. What does that "excellent writer" get in return for sharing all their contacts with these these high class individuals? And what writer with ANY IMDb credits in their RIGHT MIND needs these fuckers?!?! IMDb doesn't start listing a writer until he or she actually has something serious in development or pre-production--or frankly, usually, produced. Jesus Christ on the cross, why does an actual WORKING writer need some assface who can't even write a legible ad? With proper grammar and complete sentences and clarity of thought? The mind reels, frankly.

Craig, honey, baby. Love you, love your list. But, please: any way to make "job listings" actually list, real...what's the word?...jobs?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

hello blue monday

Q: Is it possible for me to keep this going three days in a row?
Apparently not; it's 12:48am, Tues, so missed Monday completely. These are my excuses:
  • Incipient cold.
  • Took a friend to the airport.
  • It's raining.
  • Nothing of note happening.

I am finding it harder and harder to actually read the news. During the last administration, as bad as things were, there was something to look forward to: throwing the bastards out. In particular, during the last year, the election provided an undeniable electricity and frisson to it all. A giant horse race of the most vital consequences. It was like watching a year long tennis match being played with scimitars on an island in a shark infested moat.

Plus: reading all the terrible things Bush and Co. were up to gave a name to any inchoate rage. There was a perverse thrill to the righteous indignation of it all.

Now? I just feel sad and scared and worried. Worried I'll be living under an overpass soon, worried there will be hobos again, worried our wonderful president couldn't bring an end to this shit storm even if he actually WERE the messiah.
Maybe I scare easily.
Maybe we really are well and truly FUCKED.
Either way, the New York Times is Just Not Helping.

Of no particular import at all:
What the hell is up with that Saving Grace show? Anyone? Why do all the characters' emotions--rage, fear, lust, indignation, joy, delight, whatever--seem pitched higher than a baroque opera? Are they all manics on crack? What's with all the laughing? These people laugh at anything, hysterically. Really; like hysterics, like mental patients, like Bard freshman after a nice spongy bowl of loamy, pungent weed. And they're all crazy Jesus freaks? Is that what the show is about? Hysterical, over-sexed, Jesus freak cops? Why again? (And incidentally, the oh-so-cleverly named "Grace"--get it? clev-urr--has the sinewy, taut body of a Pilates instructor, but she seems to subsist on beer and fries and Froot Loops? Riiiight.)

Those are my rantings for the day: I may be getting a cold. It's raining. I can't read the paper anymore. And Holly Hunter is officially chapping my ass.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

reinventing v-day

Q: Why is there a ridiculous, completely secular, purely commercial holiday to make us all feel bad about ourselves? For single people--even happy ones, for chrissake--the days leading up to this explosion of heart shaped trinkets and cheap, waxy chocolates is just a constant stream of unkosher salt being poured in our singleton wounds. Every store you walk into, every other cheesoid commercial. (Teddy bears dressed as 'love bandits'? Seriously?) Who really enjoys this crap? I have heard more people complain, dread and literally have to gird their loins for the onslaught of Valentine's Day than I have ever heard people admit even the tiniest shred of excitement about it. Frankly, couples don't fare much better; they either find the pressure intolerable or the whole thing just a giant, needlessly expensive, pain in the ass. Parents of small children get roped into making Valentines for every Ashley and Trevor in their kids' class. And the kids who get forgotten in the chaos turn into instant bitterinas. Which, while it will doubtless turn them into interesting adults with good stories to tell as emo singer songwriters or stand up comedians, ain't pretty on a five year old. (Believe me. I know.)

The only people who seem to enjoy this shitstorm are apparently newly dating 25 year old girls--the ones prone to bedrooms festooned with floral prints and closets filled with 'cute tops'. The ones whose boyfriends were busy yesterday buying red roses (the originality could make your head explode!) at the Ralph's. Red roses. From the Ralph's. Wow. What a keeper!

How big could this group possibly be? And why the hell do they need their own holiday? Could we also have a holiday for bald-headed tax attorneys or lesbian grandmothers? A holiday I could really get behind? (Well, the second one anyway...) Isn't this whole thing just a giant waste of money? Particularly in its current state of bloat? (Side bar: Why does every 'holiday' in America now last at least a month? Halloween bleeds right into Thanksgiving, which bleeds right into Christmas, which bleeds right into New Years' and on and on. It's like we're in a perpetual state of Buy Stupid Crap You Don't Need.) With the current state of our economy I know people are supposed to try to keep spending, but wouldn't it be better if we bought things like, oh, food and clothing? (Foil wrapped chocolate hearts and pink panties don't count.)

Okay. I've complained enough. It's over. And the fact is, I had a fabulous Valentine's Day, with amazing friends eating a terrific dinner, drinking fine wine and topping it off with decadent cupcakes. But of course, luckily, I can do that anytime I want. Without the red foil and chubby winged babies.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

it begins

So people tell me I should do this 'blog thing'. I resist. I have nothing to say. I am not particularly funny, or insightful, or connected or brilliant. Then I read some other peoples' blogs and I find out: neither are they. So.

Here I am.

Today's idea: my response to a post on The Daily Beast supposedly listing interesting, funny, compelling, 'geeky' (she said it, not me) dreamy boys to counter the dull, 'shellacked' 'Sexiest Men Alive' from People magazine. This is apparently a Valentine's Day feature, which actually strikes me as rather perverse; last time I checked if you're spending Valentine's Day thinking about Clive Owen and you are not Mrs. Clive Owen, then you are dangerously close to Rupert Pupkin/sending-yourself-roses-at-work territory and you should be sharing your thoughts with a mental health professional, not a bunch of bored loners cruising the internet on a Saturday morning. But that's just me.

Anyway. This chick makes a big point of how dull and obvious the standard lists are, how who cares about Patrick Dempsey and Matthew McConaughey blah blah blah--and then she starts her wildly inventive list of hotties with...the aforementioned Clive Owen. Yeah, that's way out of the box there, sister. Crazy talk! Who are you!? Clive Owen?!?

Girl: Get. In. Line. Behind half the female population on the planet. Most of the male population. My mother.

Next up: Ryan Gosling and Kyle Chandler. Now, I loves me my Ryan Gosling--I think he's an explosively good actor; if you put Half-Nelson next to Lars and the Real Girl we're talking Ryan is the Real Deal. But...unexpected? Geeky? And Kyle Chandler? Also: delicious, fine actor, but he is so perfectly, classically handsome he was cast in King Kong as a square-jawed, 30's matinee idol. This is not an iconoclastic choice.

She throws in some curveballs--the Flight of the Conchords guys, some CEO I've never heard of--but by and large this was not an interesting, thought-provoking list. This is the list of someone whose fantasies include Hawaiian vacations and walking on the beach at sunset. This the list of someone who thinks she discovered The Office because she liked the American version before it won any awards. This is a tampon commercial.

So: Here are my interesting crushable guy choices. It's hardly definitive, not even that well thought out; just the people I could think of today, in no particular order. Maybe if I keep the blog going I will make this a regular feature: Fantasy Crush of the Day or something. That's just the kind of self-involved crap bloggers indulge in all the time, isn't it?

1. Eddie Izzard. With or without the skirt, this guy is sex on a stick. Handsome face, cute accent, sure sure; what he's really got is the fastest, wittiest, craziest mind on the planet. He can go from wildly intellectual, hilarious surveys of World History--in French--to wacky little scenarios about giraffes communicating with each other without making any sound. Proof that the most important sex organ is the brain.

2. Jon Stewart. This is my idea of an obvious choice. Who the fuck doesn't like Jon Stewart? Humorless right wing tools and morons. He's not only witty but impassioned, wildly intelligent and--seemingly--a really nice guy. The dreamy poster boy for smarty pants, Upper West Side, lefty girls. Like me.

3. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Such a good actor, so subtle, so smart. But also has this underhanded, sneaky sexiness. Something about how his eyes smile when he does, how you feel like you can see him thinking, how he looks like he's really enjoying food when he eats, something about how unaffected he seems. How imperfect he knows he is. Seems like a guy who'd spend the whole day in bed with you, reading, snacking, making out. Delish.

4. Dennis Leary. Again, hi-fucking-larious. Fast thinking, fast talking, with a sharpened edge of outrage that is nicely tempered by a dash of well earned self-loathing. Doesn't suffer fools, but also seems to really enjoy other, smart, funny people (see: he and Jon Stewart together) and has been married to the same woman for years. Awesome.

5. Keith Olbermann. Talk about outrage. While sometimes he can just go on, his sense of justice has been so utterly warranted and necessary that he seems like some kind of national freaking hero. Saying what needs to be said, speaking truth to power, calling a spade a spade (or a criminal a criminal: i.e., Dick Cheney), you gotta love him for his consistency and passion and sheer brains. Not humorless either, he can laugh at himself and has that guys' guy love of sports that brings him down to earth. Plus, as David Letterman has pointed out, he has an enormous head. And you know what that means.

6. Michael Chabon. Great writer. Phenomenal writer. Genius writer. Inventive beyond belief, with a use of language that is just stunning and a humanity that is peerless. He's also tall and charming and funny. And he loves his wife and kids. Damn.

7. Jon Meacham. Writer, journalist, editor, awesome talk show guest. Voracious intellect wrapped in a delightfully self-deprecating, witty, Southern Gentleman package. (That slight touch of Tennessee in his accent is the ribbon on this smartly wrapped package.) He seems slightly out of time, like he would've fit perfectly in 50's New York, having cocktails at lunch and pounding out his pieces for Newsweek on a typewriter. Great, crinkly eyes too. And fantastic hair.

8. Craig Ferguson. A comic/actor/talk-show host who wrote a novel? A good novel that displayed a whacked-out, delightful intellect? Sign me up. His rambling, half-silly, half-genius 'monologues' are the funniest, most inventive on TV, while his willingness--nay desire--to dress up and look like an idiot for a laugh (Michael Caine in Space? Aquaman?) just makes him seem like the epitome of a good sport. And the fact that he effortlessly tosses around 'maybe I'm gay' jokes just shows how comfy he is in his own sexuality. His past as a drunk humanizes him beyond belief. And he just seems like a nice guy. Sadly, just got married. Well, sadly for me.

9. Hooman Majd. I actually don't know much about this bloke--just that he's an Iranian-American writer/intellectual of some note, an engrossing talk show guest, and has a lovely accent and speaking voice. He just seems Old Worldy and gentlemanly and sophisticated. Plus, he's just plain handsome and has very elegant hands. Good enough for me.

10. Neil deGrasse Tyson. The go-to astrophysicist for every talk show, he's the director of the Hayden Planetarium, a writer and raconteur and generally witty science guy. If the solar system needed a host, Tyson would be it. He makes the cold expanses of space seem interesting and warm. He seems interesting and warm. He seems like he'd make a great husband. I have no idea why. But scientists, man, are just plain cool.

Okay kids. That's all she wrote for today. Let's see if I manage to open this thing again. Didn't work the last time I tried, but hey, never hurt to keep trying. Unless you're, you know, Hitler.