Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ledbetter Equal Pay Act Signed by President Obama

Story here. Most awesome blog report here, with President Obama's remarks:

Equal pay is by no means just a women's issue -- it's a family issue. It's about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition and child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves; that's the difference between affording the mortgage -- or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor bills -- or not. And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple and plain discrimination.

So signing this bill today is to send a clear message: that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody; that there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces; and that it's not just unfair and illegal, it's bad for business to pay somebody less because of their gender or their age or their race or their ethnicity, religion or disability; and that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook. It's about how our laws affect the daily lives and the daily realities of people: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.

Ultimately, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are -- and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals; whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put on paper some 200 years ago really mean something -- to breathe new life into them with a more enlightened understanding that is appropriate for our time.

That is what Lilly Ledbetter challenged us to do. And today, I sign this bill not just in her honor, but in the honor of those who came before -- women like my grandmother, who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up and giving her best every day, without complaint, because she wanted something better for me and my sister.

And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us, because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.

More frequently than ever before, I have woken up to news that despite the current economic climate and ongoing wars make me feel like it's a great day to be an American.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

trash talking my nerd injury

This is what I look like with my hands in wrist-stabilizing splints:

This is the unsympathetic trash-talking I got from TD:

"You look like Edward Scissorhands...but less cool."

(upon discussing the ADA, my support of employer accommodation of disability, what is the statutory definition of a disability as some condition that substantially limits major life activities, and how carpal tunnel doesn't really count, or at least does not necessarily count):

"You should own your gimpitude. You know, like reclaim the word 'gimp.' Big gimpin'."

(in response to my nerd gloves):

"They're like bound feet for the modern age. Finally, you also claim your heritage."

(in response to my delicious spaghetti and meatballs, yes, made with cripply hands).

"Pretty good cooking....for a cripple."

Lest you take serious offense, reader, TD is progressive and believes in equal protection laws, has been really supportive, and is utterly sympathetic. He has been on my case to get treatment, and has been carrying things for me and opening jars for me. I feel vaguely pre-feminist, writing that. But really, they should make pop tops for everything.

I'm breaking out my big blue thing of a wrist support out at school to type in relative comfort, and wearing supportive gloves in public too. In elementary school, a more insecure Belle would have been mortified and too scared of judgment and may have suffered in pain. But by junior high school I gave up on being cool. Plus, at this level of education, everyone immediately recognizes that I have a repetitive stress injury and react sympathetically. They know the occupational hazards of our profession, the main two being bloviation and an RSI. There but for the grace of $300 in ergonomic tools go they. Plus, I am too old to care about this aspect of my external appearance, even when I sit with the undergrads who stare blankly at my wrists and big blue gel stick. Besides, I was dressed really nicely today in a dove gray dress, navy cardigan, tights, tall brown boots, brown trench, and purple-gray scarf. In case you're wondering.

Just in case though, here are alternate, non-nerdy reasons for my braces. Choose your favorite answer:

a). I am a falconer, but my falcon cannot hear me.
b). I am Michael Jackson, and it don't matter if you're black or white (no seriously, check out the gloves).
c). I am a female archer from the 1950s ready for some synchronized archery.
d). I am desperately seeking Susan.
e). I am going to beat the crap out of you in our next match.
f). I am a competitive bowler, and I bowl alone.

I also have a two inch scar on my abdomen from an appendectomy. I keep wondering if anyone will believe it if I tell them that it's from a bar fight, when this crazy bitch broke a beer bottle on the counter and sliced me and stole my money and I'm fucking lucky she didn't take my kidney, too.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

what's up with that?

I have frequently experienced that phenomenon of really loving a movie/musical artist/painting, and then, later, upon reflection, totally hating it and everything it stood for. This is not necessarily induced by reading external reviews by snarky critics--sometimes, it's just a creeping sensation of "I thought I liked this, but I was duped." Most frequently, it's sentimental, schlocky stuff. I am by no stretch of the imagination a sentimental, feeling, emotional person. In some ways, easily manipulated, until I have cognitive override and realize that I just reacted positively and sometimes violently to what is, artistically speaking, complete crap.

Sometimes it's not being duped--I loved, and still love, The Notebook. I cried and cried at the scenes with the older couple, especially seeing Gena Rowlands crippled with Alzheimers. Dude, if you don't at least feel for her, you are a meanie. I still like Capra movies. They're actually good for one thing, and they play with the emotions in a way that's sincere in that "well, it's plausible" way. I don't feel like I've been emotionally manipulated to a place where I wouldn't have wanted to go, and so I'm still satisfied in my emotional investment in James Stewart's fates in It's a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

But the movies I'm talking about: Garden State and As Good As It Gets. Crappy movies that I emotionally reacted to, initially liked, and then later hated. They won acclaim and awards. They contorted my malleable heart into liking Zach Braff and believing his bullshit lines about home being someplace everyone imagines (pukey purple prose) and wanting him to stay with his manic pixie dream girl, Natalie Portman (who was really annoying!). They made me think Jack Nicholson's horrid character was a plausible match for Helen Hunt, and made me want them to like, be together. They made me ignore my reaction of "that's crappy hotel art" to Greg Kinnear's stupid paintings of Helen Hunt, as if he was the first to be inspired by a woman's back.

Manipulative schlocky movies, I'm onto you. Something tells me that Milk, a story of a real hero, and Slumdog Millionaire, whatever it's potential for being "poverty porn," are in the "actually good" camp rather than the "you'll hate it later" camp. Or at least, here's hoping. Trouble is finding the time to see these movies. Maybe we should stop having Top Chef marathons.


Monday, January 26, 2009

random roundup

1. After a week of hardly typing at all and doing hand exercises all day, I am really behind in work but my hands only hurt when I am typing rather than constantly in a dull with flashes of nerve pain way. Improvement! Sort of. No pain = good, no work = bad. I have a prescription to a hand therapy center in the Big City a long haul away (bus + train + bus), and they're checking my insurance. I have an appointment with the school doctor today to get a diagnosis I already have for a prescription to the school's internal physical therapy services. So all told, probably a week before I get treatment, which should be twice a week for twelve weeks. Dude, it took me forever to get these appointments and prescriptions. I know I'm double-dipping in the health care, but hopefully one of these will work out. I am not excited about taking 2-3 hours twice a week to get therapy, but as TD points out, expense or time should not get in the way of me being able to get back such a necessary life function, and specialists are the way to go. If it doesn't work out though, then hopefully the school's stuff will work out.

2. I think my mom says that those born in the year of the Ox are doomed to a life of toiling away like a beast of burden. In any case, it doesn't look good this year. Then again, we Asian people are superstitious and I was told that if you took pictures in three, the middle person dies.

3. When I studied Art History AP in high school, I really responded to Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World. I was only 16 though. My art history teacher said that she thought he was more of an illustrator than an artist, and he never did really fit in with the moderns. But do I reject Wyeth from my own tastes and intuitions, or because I have been told that he does not belong in a class with or in the tradition of Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper? A year later, studying the woodcut prints and landscapes of Winslow Homer, I wondered why Homer is so much more revered by the critics. I myself love Winslow Homer even more, if only because his prints, used for Harper's, are the closest we have to a visual document of his times, and because his landscapes have so much more life and emotional energy than Wyeth's. I respond with even more emotion to Homer. This is perhaps the best image of war and this is the best image of homecoming and this is just too romantic for words. Anyway, the debate over Wyeth that continues after his death (artist or schill?) is related to the ongoing debate about Billy Joel. To which I will say that it is an inapt comparison to say that Billy Joel is the Andrew Wyeth of music. Andrew Wyeth sold an idea of American sentimentality he knew didn't exist as truth; Billy Joel is just plain sentimental and schlocky. But that's ok! If we evaluate Wyeth as a Rockwell type, we can enjoy Wyeth more, particularly his paintings of his neighbors as little processed American singles slices of a bygone Americana. If we evaluate Billy Joel not as a rock singer or artiste but as a pop singer, then we can enjoy "Uptown Girl." I mean people don't take Bruce Springsteen seriously--not even "The River," which broke a young Belle's heart the way Christina's World seemed hopelessly sad and ceaselessly searching to Young Belle. Why would critics or anyone of discerning musical sensibility take "Piano Man" or "New York State of Mind" as a true anthem of the art of the people? Neither Springsteen nor Joel are as good as Bob Dylan or Tom Waits, but that's ok. Bruce Springsteen has virtue as a soundtrack artist and inauguration singer, and Billy Joel is fun and catchy. Little wonder that his music has been used for a ballet musical.

4. On wrestling and catharsis.

5. Obama reverses the stereotype threat effect!

My hands hurt again. Will blog again in a few days, hopefully, in response to Amber and to show you the handsplints I'm getting.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Leopard print tunics to tulle skirts

Dear Belle,

My extremely tardy response makes forgiving your arguable ball-dropping completely necessary---not that there was anything to forgive! Your poor hands are to be well-treated, even if that means a reduction in blogging. I was just playing catchup from the inauguration madness and whiling away the hours in good IRL company instead of writing.

Fashion, however, is plenty inspiring. Unlike some, I actually care about the messages I send with my choices in clothing (at least most of the time, and when I don't, it's a conscious choice to disregard, not scorn for the idea of conveying messages through dressing).

When I was in school . . . homemade clothes, oh yes. My double knit interchangeable ensemble in purple, purple leopard print, pink, and white leopard print (tunics, belts, and leggings!) was something to behold, I'm sure. I too rocked the Keds: white leather ones, which I diligently re-polished with the same stuff my mom had for her nursing shoes. There were also several shirts with puffy paint (Girl Scout projects, mostly) and some with pictures of horses that my frustrated painter aunt made on the weekends. It took eighth grade and the new Contempo Casuals in the mall to break me of these sartorial habits. I immediately adopted a quasi-goth look revolving around black stockings, Doc Martens, and miniskirts, which took me through high school and faded out only after I moved to California and chopped off my waist-length hair.

Even though I'm not the most stylish (or the least), and even though I'm older and stodgier now, I still am skeptical of the whole school uniform trend. Young people forming their own identities need room for individuation in expression. Sure, there are other ways to express yourself, but getting it out of your system by wearing something to school and finding your tribe is better than actually having to find a crowd to run with outside of school. There's only so much time for you to really go wild with experimenting with your appearance. I am still a little sad that I never dyed my hair blue. (Probably not office-appropriate at this point.)

Even working in a firm, I draw the line at the whole "older women must wear ___" bit, though. If you can rock the young styles, who cares how old you are? I had a makeover some time ago, but I've thrown out most of the advice from it, mostly because it wasn't me, and I don't like speaking with a different, blonder voice. At present I stick to cashmere sweaters with either trousers or pencil skirts with tall boots. Once summer comes, I will revert to my usual cool and pretty dress + cardi or blazer.

I didn't go to any of the inaugural balls, alas, but did get this lovely party dress for future evening occasions. It does break my new guideline for clothes, namely that I play up my callipygian qualities, but it was just too kicky and fun to resist, and I had just come off an all-nighter at work and wanted to treat myself. There will almost certainly be an evening wedding or something, and if not I will consider it economic stimulus.

Made anything tasty lately? I'm gearing up for another party and am looking for new recipes to go with old favorites. The more I cook, the more Texas brisket will be left for me.



Tuesday, January 20, 2009

state of the belle: pretty, patriotic, articulate, and in pain

A very nice weekend: a romantic getaway on Saturday to Sunday to nearby scenic destination. On Saturday, at this delicious chain burger establishment, TD and I were discussing TARP and EESA and the stretching of the statutory language to re-label pretty much everything as a toxic asset and the proper role of government, etc. The guy at the table next to us remarked on how surprised he was that we were discussing the economy over lunch, and told TD that I was "lovely and so articulate. You are a lucky man, and you two make a handsome couple." I thought about chiming in "and I'm clean, too!" but I didn't. Instead I was gracious and thanked him, we wished him a good day, and afterwards were like WTF.

On Sunday we listened to some inauguration coverage and felt surges of elation coming from whence we knew not. It wasn't just listening to the snippets of grandiloquence, but also just a feeling of happiness and optimism. We just felt good. Monday we listened to Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech on the radio and I teared up a bit and felt both happy and serious. I told TD that I had always loved American history and politics and law, but not until I turned 18 did I feel really personally invested in the political system. That I had a stake in it, and almost felt a sense of ownership and responsibility. That sense was kind of bludgeoned to death in 2000 and further kicked lying down in 2004, but in November 2008, that invested citizenship was reawakened. I am sad to say that during times of repressed civil liberties and war I feel less invested in my country, when in fact I should feel more compelled and impelled to care and do something. So I listened to the speech and felt more motivated than I have before, because the commitment to service and country is best held aloft by hope and real potential for actual change. I wish I had felt this way eight years ago. But maybe the maturity of experience is better than the naivete of youthful idealism. Afterwards, we had a nice day with friends at some other nearby scenic destination and drank wine and ate food.

One of his friends was a plastic surgeon, and when he saw me weakly hold a pen, I told him I had carpal tunnel. He examined it. It is pretty bad. I have a loss in motor skills, flexibility, and pain, and he can see how my right hand has lost some muscle compared to my left. Which is also starting to hurt! I have been doing hand exercises, but he's going to refer me to a hand specialist for real hand therapy and splints, and if that doesn't help, it's surgery. Gah. Did you know that plastic surgeons do most of the surgeries? He says that there's no real turning back, that the nerve just progressively weakens and it's harder to fix when it gets really bad. Double Gah. I am typing this in spurts and taking breaks to do exercises and am on painkillers. Because I can't open bags of chips or use can openers or hold things and have flareups of pain, TD is telling me to stop punting and fix this ASAP.

So if I don't email you and don't blog more than 2-3 times a week, this is why. My productivity is really suffering, and so I apparently have to conserve hand strength.

I will say though, that I thought the inauguration speech was pretty great, with a great balance of economy of words, hopeful rhetoric, and appropriate solemnity. It's a great day for America.


Friday, January 16, 2009

that funny looking kid who smelled even funnier

Dear Amber,

I totally dropped the ball on our epistolary blogging with end-of-year projects, the holidays, and now carpal tunnel. (Update: new $80 Microsoft Wireless Ergonomic 7000 is worth it, even if the keys are stiff, and I am thinking of getting those wrist splint things.)

Anyway, I have no idea what we were talking about. So I'm switching subjects. I was thinking of offering my own thoughts on "game," but then I realized I have nothing original to say and too little game/experience to offer any insight anyway. Also, wouldn't want to touch that with a ten foot pole.

Instead, today I talk to you about fashion, in contravention of our feminist ideals to disregard the beauty industrial complex and social constructions of feminity and beauty as created by the patriarchy (cough). I basically have a uniform of unbranded fleece jacket or peacoat, jeans, and whatever sneakers I feel like wearing that day. A few times a week I dress it up with dresses or skirts with tights (colored or herringbone knit) and riding boots or mary janes (I still walk to/from school). It's not that adventurous a wardrobe, and I'm limited by my lack of funds.

But I remember days of being more adventurous, and at least individual. Of course, that was because I was even poorer than I am now. When I was a kid, my mom shopped at K-Mart or made my clothes from cheap bolts of fabric. Girl, I had bright blue elastic-waisted pants that gathered at the ankles printed with ice cream cones. I also wore shoes with velcro strips until the age of nine. I remember getting a pair of much-coveted LA Gears or Keds and wearing them every day even when they got tight (such is my nostalgia that I have a pair each of "cool" redesigned LA Gears and Keds kicks). I wore shorts over tights in the winter. I wore discarded t-shirts from my brothers, and so would wear leggings (ugh, I was poor, what is Lindsay Lohan's excuse) with big t-shirts that said "Boston Sucks" in bright green. It took me a while to learn that was a reference to the Celtics. It was just a t-shirt to me. I am glad to be past these years, because no kid wants to wear ice cream pants or weird slogan t-shirts. It just screams poverty, and even then, I pined for the banality of Americana basics: khakis, t-shirts, cardigans. Instead I wore weird clothes, and wore them two days in a row (my mom said that they weren't dirty and so I wore clothes two days in a row before they went into the laundry) and bathed every other day (my mom said I would get sick if oftener). Man, I was the poor kid in funny clothes that repeated and I probably smelled weird. I am glad not to be there anymore. Things improved in junior high and high school, at least the bathing and clothes repeating thing (my hardy ability to survive baths and me getting a sense of independence and me doing my own laundry). But I was still odd. I was/am a small person who stopped growing at the age of 14 and 5'2", and so I was wearing Kids-R-Us well into high school--at the very least, sophomore year. This is why the early sexualization of little girls' clothing, and my nieces' low rise jeans, bewilder me.

Fast forward to college: things improved, at least I started shopping at Gap and Old Navy on sale (hell, I still do). My late bloominess in college made it difficult to keep on wearing kids clothes, although I still do have two mackintosh jackets from Gap Girls (the XL pants, alas, have given way to the womanly hips, and no way can I fit an XL or even XXL shirt now). Know what's great? Boys clothes. I have a sailing jacket from Old Navy and a fleece jacket from Gap Boys. I also, as a size 7 shoe woman, wear size 6 kids shoes.

And with that look I arrived at law school in one of the most looks-conscious, high-maintenance cities in the country. I wore wide-legged red pants, kids clothes, loved big brooches (I so was the trendsetter before Michelle Obama!) and tied scarves around my neck or as headbands (I so was the trendsetter before that show I never watch, Gossip Girl!). I wore chunky heeled mary janes and lots of jewelry. It took me till third year to grow out my hair, get some bootcut jeans, force myself to wear heels (dude, girls were wearing stilettos with their backpacks and Seven jeans), and limit myself to the ubitquitous big hoop earrings. I fit in, but I looked really boring, even if I looked "prettier."

So, my question to you my stylish and feminist friend: nevermind the question of who we dress for or for whom do we amp up the sex appeal--how do you balance individualism with fitting in? What do you think your exterior says about your interior? This is a fairly broad question, but fashion is as good an example as any. In my new city, fitting in is much less looks-conscious: a fleece, jeans, and sneakers and I'm just like the rest, and there's not even a brand-consciousness here (there's an entire culture of outdoorsiness, coming here is what made me learn about other brands from which to buy my performance gear). I stand out if I dress up. In my old city, I stood out because I looked weird. I like fitting in and not being asked here, whether I have a special date later, and there, not being asked "oh, you shop at Gap Kids?"

But I kind of miss being weird. I'm not talking about weird knitted hat and dreds different (not cool if you are white/Asian, people). Just the sparkly magpie bizarro joy I brought to my every day. RIght now I'm wearing a black sheath dress and a teal cardigan and my makeup is light and natural (no more retro red lips!), and I look great and womanly and adult. I also feel like a tool. But I guess I've decided, in my adulthood, that I'd rather fit in and look "normal" than to have yet another aspect of my identity (and really, are clothes so central) questioned. There's other ways I articulate my individualism. I am losing them, but I am sure they exist.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

anyone lived in a pretty how town

(poem here)

I love being back in my liberal college town with the bookstores and restaurants and little markets and my one bedroom apartment. And while we tried (unsuccessfully--no wind) to fly a kite last weekend, and may do some more outdoorsy things this weekend, it's been mostly staying at home and working from home. Cooking, baking, eating in, board games, watching TV through Hulu and Netflix Instant. I've done lots of shopping online and have bought (another) bookshelf, a mattress topper, and have browsed online for dresses that I'll never buy and cookware/bakeware that I'll buy one piece at a time. I got a bunch of academic texts online so as to save money and time, even if I am the cause of the death of the publishing industry. So, yeah, in theory I could do any of this anywhere. But I love it here.

I love the weather, I love that there are so many interesting (and cheap!) bookstores around if I want to go to them (one of my favorite dates--we buy a bunch of books and share them), I love that there's a wide variety of cuisines and high/low restaurants (we only go out on weekends, which feels like a treat), I love being a part of a huge university with lots of interesting lectures, talks, and a performance hall where big acts like Alvin Ailey come by. I like the combination of a college town with a real community (at least the city I live in). I like the liberal politics of this region, although I got by in Orange County anyway. I like that I can walk to all the places I need to go, and take the bus or train to most of the places I want to go, even though I was used to driving in traffic and stressful conditions in Southern California. I like that there's a city car share and casual carpool. I like that there's a couple great regional parks with good hiking trails and even lakes and stuff, even if I only go once a month. I like I don't care much about things being open 24 hours (since I usually pass out by midnight), and I don't like that much urban density, and I don't need a backyard right now. So these things, to me, make this place much more livable than any other place I've lived in. I know I can't stay here forever, and one day I'll have to adjust back to driving everywhere and buying everything online (like I do now, except that I enjoy the browsing and used bookstores).

What makes a place liveable to you? What do you take into consideration when choosing a place to live? I know some people who hate the suburbs so much and call anyplace that is not NYC "uncivilized," but that's really annoying. There's ways to make any place liveable, and the internet has helped greatly. But I will admit that there's much that I love that is specific about this region, which makes it more livable to me than any other place. But I imagine I may one day feel that way about some other city and state. Maybe. I hope so.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

anton ego cooks!

I really enjoyed Ratatouille. I love food and cooking, and I like talking animals (but I hate talking babies in the sense of Look Who's Talking or those weird advertisements). I secretly like French things, even though bad experiences with certain French international classmates make me publicly disavow this with militant Francophobia. I was super excited to see (and take a class in) the kitchens where the animation crew refined the cooking motions for their storyboards. In fact, I love all things Pixar. TD has a friend who works for Pixar and we stayed through the credits of Wall*E to see his name as a lighting engineer guy. My favorite movie is The Incredibles, although I have this huge love for Monster's Inc. and my nephew loooved Toy Story. One of my favorite bits, because I'm a big ol' softy who loves grandiloquent monologues (cough blogger narcissist cough), is the speech by Anton Ego, the crazy mean critic in Ratatouille:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talents, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new; an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking, is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto, "Anyone can cook". But I realize - only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.

I just eat up faux-populist stuff like that, man. This season's Top Chef is particularly enjoyable to me because I really liked the background story of Eugene, a tattooed tough Asian guy who started as a dishwasher and self-trained himself to become an executive chef. TD makes fun of me for liking the human interest stories, but really, aw.

Anyway, the real life Anton Ego is now cooking and himself being critiqued! It is like something out of a Disney movie! Or that line in High Fidelity, in which a professional critic tries his hand at actually creating something and putting something new out in the world. Except that this guy is getting skewered. Heh, skewered.

The glib, sanctimonious person in me would love a critic getting his comeuppance (especially one who is so scathing and self-satisfied and blindly in love with his own supposed talent as compared to the rubes he deigns to critique, a true Ego indeed), but I sorta feel bad for the guy.

I have no idea what this means though. Phoebe?:

“Those macaroons — they’re so hard they’re like stuffed Christians,” said Marc Beekenkamp, a Web designer, using an expression that means the dish is too heavy.

Stuffed Christians?! Also, don't they mean "macarons"?

Also, this much be a very French observation:

That point, at least, has never been in dispute. Mr. Simon prides himself on being an outsider and a provocateur. His columns describe not only a restaurant’s food, but also its service, décor and clientele, even down to the movement of the breasts of women around him.

Huh. Do the women in France not wear bras? Do they jog while eating? Why do their breasts move? Maybe they heave with emotion at the gastronomical delights, their bosoms quivering with anticipation or whatever.

This is a fun article to read, if only to remind casual and professional writers "not to overdo it." I try to refrain from purple prose if I can (cough), but my natural enthusiasm for everything makes me deem everything "the best ___ ever," and my tendency to become too emotionally invested in things makes me want to cry with disappointment. Like this Ritz cracker I'm eating right now after hours of not eating? The BEST cracker EVER. All buttery, crumbly delight.


Monday, January 12, 2009

random roundup

My right hand still hurts, but I am improving by using my mouse with my left hand and typing like one of those people who can't touch type in the way the typing class in 7th grade taught us with your index fingers on the "F" and "J" and as if pecking the board didn't look stupid.

1. Rita has a plausible conspiracy theory about the New York Times and its Life and Styles section.

2. Relatedly, The Atlantic is the very first magazine to predict the untimely demise of the NYT.

3. TD and I started playing this board game this weekend. It is pretty fun! But yes, I'm looking up strategies so that I can totally dominate. I need to work on my trash-talking though.

4. We really like that 30 Rock show.

5. Great article on breast-feeding, work/life, and other fronts of the so-called "mommy wars."


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

you can't spell "carpal tunnel" without "crap"

I do not want to type much these days. Ouch. I think I should use the school's physical therapy. You know how your hand cramps and it zings all the way to your elbow and it stiffens and you can hardly hold a pen? Yeah, like that. I'm also just feeling general blog exhaustion. I don't know why, because I'm not writing much these days and I'm not even reading much. Maybe if I make my peace with short, content-less posts, I will be able to keep blogging. If your hands hurt as much as mine does, I'd rather conserve movement for academic writing and knitting and cooking. Maybe I'll blog only a few times a week until this heals. It did the last time. Please heal.

I was going to weigh in on this debate, but it is exhausted and it exhausts me. Suffice it to say, I agree with Phoebe for reasons deriving from theoretical agreement and personal experience, notwithstanding my own complicated feelings towards the beauty industrial complex and my own body image.

Instead, I'll just say that I express my deepest sympathy to Miss Self-Important for her roommate woes. I always wonder about dudes like this. How do they survive? What did they expect would happen when they moved out of their parents' house? Were they raised by wolves or sickeningly indulgent mothers? I know plenty of people who grew up with housekeepers who still know how to cook and clean, and plenty of people who grew up lower-income who can't, so even class privilege or lack of necessity is no excuse. I grew up with three brothers. The youngest older brother is a total slob (ew, and we have but one bathroom upstairs), but at least he can cook. And he could clean, if he bothered to. My parents seem astounded at my cooking and baking abilities. I was not raised to cook or clean much (I was told to do homework instead and was thrown out of the kitchen and excused from many chores). I didn't really move out till 22, when I went to law school. My mom still tried to pack me food every weekend. Still, I learned how to cook and clean. What is this dude's excuse, other than male privilege? I just don't get it. I guess I am blessed with a partner like TD, who can cook, clean and fix stuff, like every person who does not live with their mother should be able to, and he cooks for me all the time.

Still, roommates. Even with my love-goggles I can say that there are more benefits to living alone than cohabitating too soon, with anyone (even/especially if you love them). I actually live in one of the highest rent cities in the country, which is why I never eat out. I mean, I live three miles from school in technically the gritty city next door to the liberal college town (just on the border though, so it's a couple miles away from actual bodies-in-the-lake part). Still, past roommate experiences have taught me that it is better to suffer the high rent alone in a tiny apartment (although my current apartment is quite spacious for one person) and trek it to school or work than to live with roommates you hate. Even if you don't hate your roommate, problems and awkwardness and boundary issues will necessarily ensue. I was really close friends with a girl until we moved in together. After we moved out a scant number of months later, I didn't see her or talk to her, and it was kind of both of our faults--we send occasional emails, we talk about coffee, but we have never actually met up--and we used to hang out really regularly, until we moved in together.

She would come into my bedroom and wake me up at midnight or 1 am to talk for hours about her boyfriend or general friend problems (I have insomnia and take sleep when I can get it and she didn't get why I was angry at being woken up), but would complain that I was encroaching on her life if I stayed at home when she had friends over, or when I became friends with her friends--originally at her insistence! She tried to set me up with a guy, which didn't work, but complained when the schedule of contrived group meetings for us to get to know one another became "too much" for her to deal with, since she didn't like to get too close to people and see them socially so often. I work from home, so things got so tense she would stay at school till midnight to avoid coming home. She was one of those enviro-sanctimonialists who would get so preachy about recycling and composting everything that I wanted to burn trashcans of paper on our porch. She talked openly in front of my boyfriend and me about her desire to keep her own boyfriend of 8 months at arms length to limit him to a schedule of once a week, after she had seen her other girl friends for a night of clubbing (so say Saturday late night till Sunday), and only one phone call a week (she got freaked out if he called more than that, and wondered what was wrong) yet she knew in her heart that she wanted to marry him and was upset if he didn't acknowledge their relationship to others. I could only hope that my boyfriend didn't think her view of relationships was what I wanted, which fortunately he didn't. Still, because of this, I am thinking that we should go have coffee and reconnect, but I wonder if the awkwardness of not having talked or seen each other since we've lived together will come up. It probably will. Ah, well.


Monday, January 05, 2009

she & him

Karl introduced me to this awesome band, which consists of my girlcrush Zoeey Deschanel (I loved her in All the Real Girls...and probably no other movie) and M. Ward, chill indie dude singer.

Don't you just love the upbeat '60s sound and Mary Tyler Moore-ishness? I am somewhat tempted to cut bangs, but I am more lazy than I am stylish (high maintenance = not Belle), and moreover I am not an indie rock girl (see also Jenny Lewis, Cat Power, Leslie Feist, etc.)

In other news, I learn that "svarta vinbar" means "currants", not "lingon berries." Kind of an acquired taste, a little tangy and vaguely medicinal. Not going to make hamantaschen with this jar. I will stick to raspberry and peach jam.


anomie belle

Anomie. Via Wicked Anomie, check out my evil and much cooler twin, Anomie Belle!:

About Anomie Belle
an·o·mie [an-uh-me] n social unrest or normlessness; malaise, alienation and purposelessness.

belle [bel] n a popular and charming woman; especially: a woman whose charm and beauty make her a favorite.

Sleeping Patterns wastes no time introducing Anomie Belle’s haunting voice, beautiful and is bursting with sound (Sound Magazine).

Anomie Belle is the project of composer, producer, audio programmer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist, Toby Campbell. She makes dark social issues eerily lovely" (Doug Haire, KEXP). Originally a classical violinist and songwriter, she released multiple solo records before creating her own beats and making her way into electronic, experimental, trip-hop music. A Portland, Oregon native, Campbell has performed at top venues across the US, and has worked as a musician and producer in Madrid, Glasgow, Amsterdam, New York, Buenos Aires, and London. In 2006 she moved to Seattle to focus exclusively on Anomie Belle.

Bryan and Karl, I think you might both agree that I should buy the CD and a T-Shirt. I dig the music, in a nostalgic-for-the-trip-hop-of-my-making-out-music-college-days. Check out the cover of Otis!

Thanks, Wicked A!

In other news, I am back in my apartment and looking helplessly at piles of books and general mess, and trying to revise a paper. Yesterday was much nicer, with the whole pick up from airport and eating of Mexican food and watching 30 Rock and falling asleep reading The Atlantic (which is not that great these days).


Saturday, January 03, 2009

orange county, yugoslavia

Some places are described as having "no there, there." Well, there's none here either, and I'd still rather be there. My brain is addled by too much family time, too many movies (my parents put a plasma TV in my room to bribe me into coming home more often and for longer), too much sunlight, too many episodes of Spongebob and something terrible called "Drake and Josh." It's like Saved by the Bell. Yes, I said that. Yes, I am bad, and occasionally I let the TV babysit the kids for me so that I can read something. They're pretty good most of the time drawing and playing quietly, but after a few hours of that they start being loud again. It's easier now that they're older and more self-sufficient and yet still mostly good and obedient. I, not being their overly indulgent parents and a cool and fun and yet must-be-obeyed aunt, have achieved that Machiavellian perfection of being both loved and feared. I overdid it the other day though, trying to push two 40-50 lb children at once on the swings (it's like that arm press machine at the gym) and yesterday I was super sore and had to take many Advil. They kept wanting to go in and out of the kiddie swings, and I volunteered to help pick up and push another couple of kids whose grandmother had a bad back, which is like lifting and pushing 40 lbs for like many, many reps. Which in turn gave me a bad back. You try doing all those weight bearing exercises when you avoid the gym and do not do much cross-training. Ow.

So while I like the family and am pleasantly surprised at how they're becoming more open minded to the idea of non-Vietnamese people in the family, I will be glad to go home again on Sunday. Home! Where I can cook for myself and walk alone at night against my better judgment, and where bad judgment may be exercised on a daily basis! Yay! I'll be glad to be home and back with TD. You know what else I'm glad about? Not blowing $500 just to go AALS. The Gowder and I were supposed to go, but we both agreed that we would not pay such an unconscionable sum just to hang out in another Southern California suburb. We have been constantly complaining to each other about the lack of everything for the past two weeks (I can't tell who drinks more haterade). I am so going to run to the bookstore and cafe on Monday and this time I promise won't make fun of the college students and their neophyte awakening discoveries of bell hooks and Franz Fanon. I got nothing but love for them.

I know I seem to hate Orange County. I don't, really--I just disprefer it, and this dispreference is borne from experience. I am sure that one day I will live in just as boring a suburb, but I hopefully won't have as a provincial life ruled by conformity and conspicuous consumption.

No, I'm not making it up. See, e.g., Dean MacCannell's Empty Meeting Grounds, chapter 2, which is entitled "Orange County, Yugoslavia":

"The fundamental feature of the Orange County ethos is the difference and distance between public self-understanding and the barely repressed underlying passions. What is socially important in Orange County is not actual values, but the public expression of inflated values."

"it might be argued that Orange County "un-freedom," extending into one's own home and beliefs, cannot be compared to socialist central control, because in Orange County it is fully accepted and desired by everyone as contributing to the common good and is not, therefore, totalitarian in character. This is precisely the argument that loyal party members in East Germany or Yugoslavia gave for their regimes before they expressed themselves differently on the same matter."

"One recognizes the pattern immediately: it is socialism, a kind of international corporate central control and total economic dependence leading to mental incompetence; corruption; unearned privilege for the "party loyal"; blind acceptance of all prevailing values. Orange county was not my first expererience with totalitarianism. In the 1960s I visited Yugoslavia and saw immediately that any romantic ideals I might have held concerning socialism were clearly wrong. The roads of Yugoslavia were also filled with Mercedes-Benz and BMW sedans of party officials."

"For the average-person-in-general today the difference between capitalist and socialist modes of production is not a real one. It is felt mainly as the dominant form of ideological expression, a pure abstraction which is lived as a myth. If you live in Orange County you must be certain that under socialism you would be "unfree"; if you live under socialism you must be certain the capitalists exploit the working classes and use force to maintain their historical advantage. But in Orange County you learn ot live without freedom while pretending otherwise, and in Yugoslavia you learn to be a capitalist."

"One might ask how thinking subjects can live with this much contradiction. In the case of Orange County, the people seem to be sustained by a crude sensuality, perhaps also derived from their Bible Belt heritage, an equation of sex, dirt, and power. I observed two sun-tanned women, a mother and daughter with matched, platinum-tipped hair and nails, wearing designer outfits, driving a new Mercedes convertible, the one with the latest engine. They were the perfect embodiment of Orange County bourgeois respectability, but their personalized license plate revealed the aggressive crudeness that seems as basic to Orange County life as the contradiction itself. The plate read "WAY 2 GO" and beneath, on the custom frame, "Anything Else Sucks."


"it's ok to be smart"

My niece got these as a present. I hate anti-intellectualism. Since when was it not OK to be smart?
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Thursday, January 01, 2009

darn you nick and matt

What a thing to do on new year's eve (now the first day of the new year!). I read through an old box of letters before throwing them out (and then deciding that some of them can't be thrown away). All because Nick and Matt said that letters should be kept or at least re-read before chucking. Some are nostalgically sad because they're written with such affection that somehow seemed to fade with distance, some are just plain ol' drama sad because they chronicle the implosion of a decade's worth of friendship. Wow, your late teens and early twenties are hard. Wait, I can remember writing some really lame and dramatic letters and emails as recently as June 2007. Whev. Pre-TD. I now have a mostly drama-free life, which oddly dovetails with a letter-free life.

I used to write letters. I used to receive letters. I used to print out emails and keep them in a corporeal form. But now I find oddly comforting the ephemerality of the spoken word and the physical gesture. They are real, they are felt, they are kept as memories but otherwise released to time. These letters feel like heavy, heavy objects to carry around. I used to think that if I didn't document an experience or have tangible proof of something (yes, I feel your love, but will you write it down?) it didn't exist. Ok, so a part of that is being an excessively romantic English lit major obsessed with the correspondence of authors (Bishop and Lowell!) and epistolary romances. Part of it is being a sucker for lame romantic drama tropes and thinking that one day the letters will be like some chronicle of love between me and my husband, as if life were a movie starring Meryl Streep played in her younger years by Laura Linney and directed by Anthony Minghella to be appreciated by future generations.

And then I remember that part of the reason why I never want to run for public office or in any way become famous is that I do not at all want any personal correspondence read by anyone else (ironic that I have a blog, yes), because almost everything I write is banal and meaningless. Besides, because I actively do not want drama or hardship in my life, correspondence, even if we engaged in it, would be extremely banal given that TD and I are not separated by distance or torn asunder by war, and we do not suffer from delusions of third person grandeur such that we would voluntarily inject the drama into our normal, happy, I-see-you-every-day relationship. I really like our phone calls, and I like that we see each other. I like that the affection is expressed in non-dramatic ways. Actions mean more than words. I read some of the love letters. How painfully empty! I think of the pick-up at the airport on Sunday as being ten times that grandiloquent puffery. Words mean a lot, but they don't mean that much in the end, if you don't feel them and live them.

So I think I'll throw away most of the letters. Except the ones chronicling the friendship implosion. I don't know why I'm keeping the most painful of the lot, especially as they chronicle in part some crazy family drama involving my brother. I suppose I could send it along to my screenwriter friend, for safe-keeping, wondering if some part of it (a quip, a plot point) finds its way into some movie. I always tell her my craziest stories. She loves crazy stories and drama, just like me, especially when they happen to other people. She is the one who taught me to see humor in my father's crazy over-the-board apoplectic rage whenever I am careless bad-female enough to leave a sock in the dryer, threatening to throw all of my clothes out on the street to be run over by cars. The cartoon image of a steamroller running over your clothes, turning them into tents does come to mind, yes. So maybe I'll send them to her, so that the letters aren't discarded, but at least they're no longer these metaphorical skeletons that I keep in my literal cloest (in a decoupaged box! I was crafty once).

I was thisclose to writing up some of the letters and publishing poetry I wrote during those years that are like all emo and shit but one of which is well-regarded by an MFA firend. But I didn't.


obligatory blagojevich post, with questions

Why on earth didn't Illinois call for a special election?! Republicans are blaming the Democrats for blocking this. True?

I was telling TD that the legal opinions appear to be all over the place on whether the Senate can refuse to confirm Burris. Volokh says no, some guy at some other school quoted in the NYT says no, Balkin, Tushnet and Amar say yes, and so now I don't know what's the right interpretation of Powell v. McCormack.

Predictions: a big ol' mess. Blagojevich is one sick, corrupt, Willie Stark like guy. Senate will vote not to confirm, Burris will sue, and a big ol' mess in the courts will ensue.

What do you think? Who's right about Powell? Even if the Senate is the "top court" for appointments as Amar says, if Burris sues, it would go to the SCOTUS, right, as it rests on the interpretation of Art. I Sec. 5 of the Constitution? I'm inclined to go with Balkin and Amar on this one, but I am not an expert in this type of law.