Friday, December 16, 2005

On the Question of Forgiveness

So the Terminator-Governator denied Stanley "Tookie" Williams clemency and he was put to death earlier this week - killed by lethel injection given to him by the State of California. His crime? Williams killed 4 people though he maintained his innocence throughout. Additionally, he was one of the founders of the notorious and violent Crips gang in Los Angeles but, from what I've read, dramatically turned his life around in jail and began to write anti-gang books. Basically, a story of redemption but his rehebilitation, apparently, fell on deaf ears or, rather, came at a time when Arnie is feeling politcal heat and felt the need to throw the seething right-wing masses (how many are there in Cali?!?) some good ol' fashioned red meat.

Reading about this case brought up a couple of disturbing questions/observations about these United States at the beginning of the 21st century. Has anyone else noticed that the more "christian" our country becomes the less forgiving it is? The more godly our nation becomes the more hellbent it is on extracting revenge in the crudest, most savage ways possible. Are we sublty practicing an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth type of law? According to pollsters 68% of the population believes wholeheartedly in the death penalty so, I suppose, St. Arnold could forcefully argue that he was merely carrying out the will of the people.

Now, I think this is a particularly interesting case because, obviously, this man, Stanley "tookie" Williams, from all appearances, had made a legitmate turn around, had changed, had tried to to redeem himself or had redeemed himself but...what is the point of redemption if the culture won't recognize it or has lost the capacity to forgive? And, isn't forgiveness at the heart of Christianity?

Monday, December 12, 2005


I meant to write about this a few weeks ago but in the post-Thanksgiving rush forgot. While I was in Portland over Thanksgiving in between tipping strippers and gawking at hunky Kurt Cobain look-alikes (all of whom, true to cliche, seem to work in coffee shops) I also went to see "Rent." I almost felt like I had a duty to see it, being that I am an aspiring New York Boho-Thespian (albeit one that is far more jaded than the characters that belt their way through adversity in Jonathen Larson's "Rent." I should, apparently, take a cue from the characters in "Rent" and sing my way through the Darwinian struggle of living in New York City but then I'd probably get arrested). First of all, I hate to say it, because I like a lot of the "message" behind "Rent" and some of the music is really, fun, clever, moving etcetera, etcetera. But (ahhh, yes, the invetiable "but") this musical has not aged well and it seems, just ten or fifteen years after its debut at New York Theater Workshop, horribly dated.

The premise of the musical is, essentially, the story of eight artist/bohemian types who struggle to live, love, and create in the East Village during the height of the Aids epidemic. The storyline of Puccinni's "La Boheme" is thrown in there somewhere but "Rent" is not a strict reinterpretation of the opera. Not only do the earnest hipsters of "Rent" struggle with the H.I.V virus, they also face the onslaught of gentrification that is about to make their affordable housing (er, free housing) in the East Village (the EAST VILLAGE!?!) a near impossiblity. Now, I think, watching "Rent" in the era in which the East Village is the playland of junior executives from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, who roll up and down Avenues A,B and C in two hundred dollar "Seven" jeans, drinking $15.00 mojitos, talking on cellphones while their thumbs move swiftly and expertly over Blackberry Keyboard interfaces, is quite differnt than watching "Rent" in the early 90's.

The earnestness of "Rent", the goodwill of these hipsters with a cause, the "love will save the day" message that underlies the musical seems, at this point, slightly cringe inducing because it rings so ---hollow. Also, for better or worse, the disease, AIDS, that really gave the musical it's sense of gravity is, now, something that has come to be thought of as only deadly to...poor African countries. I don't think the musical is helped by the fact that the movie is directed by one of Hollywood's great hired hand/hacks, Chris Columbus. The man responsible for "Mrs. Doubtfire", "Stepmom" and the first two clunky adaptations of "Harry Potter" to name but a few of his Hallmark inspired ouevre.

His camera knows no grace and the scenes never soar or seem...filmic, actually. The fact is film is not theater and the film adpatation of "Rent" could have benefitted from a little nip and tuck (it's far too long, with one ballad too many) as well as some editing panache. It gets neither and the camera remains static and worshipful throughout which kills whatever flair was inherent in the score. Oddly enough, by being too reverential of the original stage production of "Rent" the movie has no life of its own and just seems like a weaker, cornier version of what thrilled so many audiences in the theater. True artists (the kind the character in "Rent" aspire to be) know that sentimentality is the enemy of good art but Chris Columbus seems to only know how to direct in mawkish pastel tones. Even the Drag Queen in the movie version of "Rent" comes off as PG-13.

This "Rent" is nothing that a junior Executive from Goldman Sachs would object to, in fact, after viewing it, it'll just make the East Village all that much cooler, now that, you know, "those" kinds of people are not actual residents there anymore (they all left for Red Hook in '93 cause they couldn't afford the ____). La Vie Boheme, indeed.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Now that you've trashed the place, leave.

I went out last night with a friend who I haven't seen in a while. We spent the first half of the evening catching up on our, respective, lives. Engaging in the comforting back and forth of "how are you?", "how's your job?", "your lovelife?", "your complete lack of a lovelife?", "your family?", "what are you doing for Christmas?", and so on and so forth. After we had talked about what had been filling our days and evenings since we last saw each other since summer (hard to believe it had been almost 5 months but that's how friendships often function in New York -- sporadically) we moved on to talk about, you know, the incredibly bizarre and genuinely terrifying state of the world.

Perhaps, because it's the end of the year or because I spend many hours of my day being bombarded with information (of my own free will, mind you) I have lately been more dismayed than usual by the utter shittyness of the news. Joyce's qoute about history being a nightmare from which he was trying to awake strikes me, now, more than ever to be totally relevant and reading the newspaper is becoming a truly stomach churning affair. It's curious too, I feel the more information I absorb, the more powerless I feel. Especially reading, hearing, or seeing news about the war in Iraq which, day-by-day, seems more and more like a genuine hell on this earth with the Pentagon unable to entirely censor the images of exploding buses and smoking mosques.

Not to be a total Debbie Downer but looking at the world and feeling any kind of hopefulness right now would take a few esctasy pills and a fifth of bourbon. I have to admit to being slightly depressed even if it is the "most wonderfulllll time of the yearrrrr" and I know I am getting a long covted for i-pod for Christmas (finally a tried and true member of the Born to Buy generation). Now, I must also admit that I have, as of late, been nursing a slight fixation on the Baby Boomer generation, the generation raised by the "Greatest Generation", the generation that gave us George W. Bush but also Bill Clinton, the generation that gave us Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs, and Katie Couric, and Ken Lay to name just a few. A boomer was anyone born post-World War II when western Europe was dragging itself out of the mire and the U.S. economy was booming from all the toasters and nuclear warheads it was making and selling.

For the record, the Boomers gave us the S.U.V and the i-pod, and Wal-mart and our feudal 21st century economy of Warlord/Shareholder and Serf/Service Employee and with it the end of pensions and the shredding of any social or civil contract put in place during the Great Society. I am going to be bold and unforgiving and say: I don't like the Boomers very much. They were born (en masse) and they partied (en masse) and they trashed the planet (en masse) and now they are going to try and stay as long as possible (en masse) and and we, their children (who are fewer), are going to be here to clean up their mess.

They are like the world's worst party guests and we will be picking up their trash and cleaning up for a long time after they've left.

Harumph. Needless to say, hope springs enternal (and who am I to doubt that cliche) but mine has just taken a quick vacation. I hope it returns in time for the New Year.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Twin Peaks

I went to lovely Portland, Oregon for Giving de Thanks. I went primarily to visit old friends who moved to this tarnished jewel of a City from San Francisco ( which is just an outright jewel). My image of Portland prior to my visit was that it was another well-to-do Pacific Northwest mid-sized City that was the benefactor of Nike dollars and Tech industry largesse but, boy, was I wrong. Portland, actually, has one of the worst job markets in the whole country and my friend Korey, who has a fine Master's Degree in Library Science, has been relegated to working at a car dealership temp job located 30 minutes outside the City. He is doing well by Portland standards but, needless to say, he is, now, moving back to San Franciso -- evergreens, no matter how gorgeous, and beer, no matter how tasty and micro-brewed (Potland has a lot of both) are not reason enough to stay in an economically depressed town.

The City plays host to an odd assortment of hardcore Hippies with a well established anti-corporate ethos and Slacker-Granola Punks still sporting flannel and vintage t-shirts a la Kurt Cobain plus, right-wing militia types who preach the words of Jesus and the gospel of the N.R.A. There is no sales-tax in Portland and ballot intiatives to increase funding of schools and whatnot have, usually, failed so there are no civil or social services to speak of. Apparently, the City is so strapped for cash the Police Department doesn't have a computer system and there is a rumor that there are only two snow-plows for the whole town so an inch or two of the white, sticky, stuff shuts the town down.

Not to be terribly crude but speaking of the white, sticky, stuff - Portland has an incredibly vibrant, uh, Adult Entertainment industry that fits into the whole Wild-West, Anti-Tax, Anti-Gub'ment, environment. Fantasy Video is a peep show/porn-store that's big enough for the whole family. Dancing Boys? Check out the Silverado where the men strip for other men (and the few women who love them enough to be dragged out to a gay strip bar: me!). The men taking it all (and I mean all) off were suprisingly good-looking (they had all their teeth) and so hair-free and shiny that comparisons to Ken Dolls would not be far off the mark. They shake what their Mamma gave them to get tipped by men in baseball hats decorated with logos of bald eagles and American flags or a short brunette with a crimson face (again: me).

The only industry besides porn that really seems to be booming in Portland is the manufacturing and distribution of Cyrstal Meth. It seems that meth has become the moonshine of the 21st Century with small rural communities turning to household cleaners that, mixed right, can be turned into a nasty drug that is both a relief from boredom and enconomic desparity. It's entirely possible that the clapboard house tucked neatly into the side of that mountain is a fully functioning meth lab. Hopefully, the people inside know what they are doing because if they don't Grandma's falling-apart Victorian is going up in flames. This is "Our Town" for the 21st Century where tweaker-drug dealers compete with preachers for the soul of America. I saw more than a few people on the streets of Portland who had, obviously, done a little meth -- the manic chin wagging is always a dead giveaway.

However, Portland (and the state of Oregon) is an icredibly gorgeous place and the native Oregonians, to their immense credit, have managed to stave off the rapacious development that mars so many other rural states. No Wal-Mart or Home Depot complexes cut into Oregon's awe-inspiring natural beauty and, bravo to a community that puts it's Mom and Pops and it's environment ahead of a short-term economic boom.

I am glad I got to see where Lewis & Clark forged their trail and you can still imagine how wild and beautiful it must have been untouched. Oregon, wild Oregon, with its evergreens, waterfalls, streams, mountains, meth users, and strippers, all perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Poetry of My Own

Since I am so snarky about other people's written words, namely poetry, I thought I'd put my own rather feeble attempts on the perverbial chopping block. Most poetry I write, like most people, comes out of soured relationships but I will spare the two (close friends) who are kind enough to graze my site with their eyeballs. These are about the general absurdities of every(day) life.

small, white, lies
escape from my lips
like pearls
they come bouncing down to the floor.
rolling around on the ground
these meaningless fabrications
slide around my feet
making shinier
my lovelife or my carrer or my age
whatever particular insecurity
manifests instelf that day.
though i'll try not to step
on one of these small, cracked jewels
i know eventually one will get caught under my shoe.
i'll wind up on the floor
looking like a fool: my dress torn, my hell broken,
scrambling to get up, my mouth wide open.

on a porch one cold summer night
listening to stories
of your memories.
tales of people i don't know
history, so much, history.
names that signify something to you
but not to me
laughing on cue, sighing when need be, crying if you want me to.
above all - i am listening
to your past being glorifed, the present seems to terrify.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I don't have television and not because I don't, sometimes, really crave a comfy night at home in front of the flickering blue lit box. I miss my "ER" and I would love to, occassionally, veg out in front of the pretty people who break up and make up and then break up and make up on "The OC". I'd like to have Jon Stewart deftly guide me through the new's of the world with humour and insight. However, I don't have the box and no overriding desire to go out and buy the box so my television viewing is severly limited. I'd like to think it's absence, generally, makes me a happier and saner person too.

However, I usually end up watching the television when I am at the gym because, god forbid, you just, you know, excersise. At my gym, Crunch, there are, at minimum, twenty televisions blaring and flickering as people run on treadmills whirling and stairmasters squeaking. The usual fare playing is, generally, MTV on one channel and CNN on another. At any time, you can look up and see "Laguna Beach" on one set and Lou Dobbs on the other reporting on "Broken Borders" and the "Disappearing Middle Class" or TRL Live on one set by a Headline News update on a soldier's death, just one more carnage filled scene of a roadside bomb in Iraq. Needless to say, it's a very, very odd mix of the frivilous and the fatal.

Last night, as I was doing my usual cardiovascular routine, feeling the "bbbuuuurrrnnn" in other words, when I looked up and caught a clip of the Cyclops, Dick Cheney, giving a one-eyed speech attacking the Democrats for questioning his rationale for going to war. He really is beginning to look more and more like that monster in Greek mythology who lived on an Island and, basically, terrorized citizens, with its rage and its one eye. It was really incredible to watch him give this speech, green bile coming out of one side of his mouth with his one squinty eye boring holes into the soul's of men. Everytime he speaks, I swear I see snakes and toads come slithering out of it but then I remember it's just the well-crafted lies that are handsomely cloaked in a rhetoric of rigtheousness and fear.

As the years pass, five to be exact since George Dubya Oedipus took office, the country seems to be living is some giant real-life, real-time version of The House of Atrius. Don't you wish someone would just hand Junior and Cyclops-Cheney a copy of a Sophocles play and tell them to read it? Their hurbris is so-over-the-top it almost seems like dramatic fiction. This Christmas lie to your children and tell them if they don't behave Dick Cheney will kill Santa and deliver coal to your door. The Cyclops would wholeheartedly approve of your manipulation; he knows sometimes you have to lie and terrorize to get children (and adults) to behave themselves.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Big Grinchin'

Another reason to hate Christmas -- Getting a job posting sent to you by well meaning friends that reads something like this:

"Macy's seeks adults ages 18-40 to play Christmas elves. Must be under 5'5 and love children."

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Soon, the airwaves will be filled with commercials for Macy's and Target instructing us (us, the American consumer) to get ready for the mooooost wonderful tiiiiiime of the yeeeaarrrr. The most wonderful time of the year for retail giants, like Wal-Mart and the like who are, now, predicting their fourth quarter earning profits, mouths-a-watering with forecasts of what the numbers for "Black Friday" might be. Cable news anchors, supremely coiffed hair moving nary an inch, will report if "consumer confidence" was up or down this year. Starbucks will sell gingerbread lattes and Bill O'Reilly will devote large segments of his informative, fair and balanced programming, to the widespread attack on Christmas.

Ahhh yes, when I see the giant Christmas tree go up in plainview at Rockerfeller Center and every major department store decorated like some sort of oversized Candy Land board I cannot help but think that Christmas is, clearly, doomed. Of course, anything Bill O'Reilly does or says at this point can be promptly filed under "parody". It really is too bad Saint Nick can't come crashing down upon his fat-head but, sadly, father Christmas is probably too busy being taken to court by those anti-Christmas meanies, the ACLU, and, heretoforth, is being prohibited from shimmying down any chimneys to deliver toys. Thank baby Jesus we have a serious man like, Fox news contributer, John Gibson to list the widespread attack on Christmas and the endless indignities so many Christians will, no doubt, face next month.

Don't believe Christmas is getting the shit kicked out of it? Read this, America:

Yes, Virginia, there is a war on Christmas. It’s the secularization of America’s favorite holiday and the ever-stronger push toward a neutered “holiday” season so that non-Christians won’t be even the slightest bit offended.
Traditionalists get upset when they’re told—more and more these days—that celebrating Christmas in any public way is a violation of church and state separation. That is certainly not what the founders intended when they wrote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
John Gibson, a popular anchor for the Fox News Channel, has been digging up evidence about the liberal activists, lawyers, politicians, educators, and media people who are leading the war on Christmas. And he reveals that the situation is worse than you can imagine. For instance:

• In Illinois, state government workers were forbidden from saying the words “Merry Christmas” while at work
• In Rhode Island, local officials banned Christians from participating in a public project to decorate the lawn of City Hall
• A New Jersey school banned even instrumental versions of traditional Christmas carols
• Arizona school officials ruled it unconstitutional for a student to make any reference to the religious history of Christmas in a class project
Millions of Americans are starting to fight back against the secularist forces and against local officials who would rather surrender than be seen as politically incorrect. Gibson shows readers how they can help save Christmas from being twisted beyond recognition, with even the slightest reference to Jesus completely disappearing.
The annual debate will be hotter than ever in 2005, and this book will be perfect for everyone who’s pro-Christmas.

No one likes it when their friends forget their birthdays and all you atheists and jews beware: Jesus is gonna be mad when he comes back and finds out you were trying to shut down his birthday party. And, if the Jesus who comes back is anything like the one described in Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" books you are in for a major ass kicking: the son of God will take one look at you and your face will explode, then your blood will curdle and melt. I am not making this up, in fact, the books apparently go into gross detail about what happens to unbelievers after the rapture, and it sounds like a scene most fans of slasher and gore movies (you know, the ones that are sullying our nation's youths?) would die to see. In fact, the Left Behind series, with it's uplifting scenes of a thousand year war and an ultra-violent Jesus who lives not to forgive but to avenge might be the perfect gift to give this Christmas.

I know, I know, Jesus is the reason for the season but it doesn't hurt to buy, buy, buy too especially if it's from your local Mega-Corporate Christian Publishing house. I doubt Pat Robertson or Tim LaHaye would discourage their Christian flock from, say, shunning gifts altogether and just, you know, celebrating the birth of Christ with nothing but prayer, no presents, no chintzy decorations, no elaborate show, just simple remembrance and a deeply personal day of faith.

But, wait a second, that doesn't sound like Christmas!!?!?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

La Vie en Rose

I am one of those Americans that Henry James was talking about when he said "Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris." Luckily, I have already been to the City of Lights and, in fact, lived there for some time and, subsequently, have gone back to visit. The most time I spent there was as a jeune-fille au-pair before I started college. I lived with a real live French family that did eat two feet long baguettes every night and had cheese after every meal and I looked after their two enfants terribles, a boy and a girl. I had French friends, a French boyfriend, studied at the Alliance Francaise and, generally, had , the quintessential "Girl Abroad" experience. It was a memorable year and I left with a great love of France in all it's sophistication, and beauty, and, yes, in all of it's arrogance, too.

Now, even when I lived in la belle France over ten years ago (loathe as I am to admit I am actually old enough now to say things like "over ten years ago") there were signs that this was a culture in the midst of a major transition. I can remember hearing many of my French aquintances and some of my French friend's mutterring about "les arabs." "Les arabs" were to blame for everything from crime and unemployment; les arabs were to blame for someone being rude to you in the supermarket; "les arabs" were to blame for the coarsening of their society; the other, the uncivilized, "les arabs". Funny sentiments for a country that has, traditionally, prided itself on tolerance and, often, chided the United States on it's ugly history of rascism. Afterall, France was Josephine Baker's escape and Nina Simone's final resting place (not a surprising choice for a woman who sings about"Missippi Goddamn!!!"). My parents who lived in Paris from 1968 to 1971 recall that they were often asked by the French about the ugly spectre of American rascism.

Now, right-wing pundits in this country are already sneering and wagging their fingers and, gloating, that now the French have their own "muslim" problem. Don't listen to them. The fact is that after World War II, France had an economic resurgence for about thirty years, those years are called "Les trents glorious" (literally, translated to mean "Glorious Thirty"). In a nutshell, there were not enough workers in France during the Post-war boom years so the French solicited workers from their former colonies, namely Algeria. The French, by all accounts, were brutal in Algeria and most of the other North African countries where it planted its flag so, you can imagine, that there is already a legacy of resentment in these places towards their former rulers (read George Orwell's "Shooting the Elephant" about the insidiousness of colonialism or just look at the news footage of American troops in Iraq). Now, all these North African immigrants have moved to France to work, and when the work is there it's fine, but, eventually, the boom turns into a bust, and unemployment rises and suddenly there is a sizeable immigrant population. You know what comes next, right? The resentment sets in and the mainstream population begins to whisper "Get the fuck out" but...sorry, it's a little late for that.

By now, all of these immigrants have moved to France, started families, live in slums (les banlieus) outside of Paris, and are regarded with bitterness and distrust. Their kids are born into a country that, essentially, doesn't want them even as it claims to uphold the mantle of "liberte, egalite and fraternite." In short, you have a country with a naked case of xenophobia not unlike what we have here with Americans shouting about the illegals taking good jobs (or, shitty jobs that no American, quite rightly, wants to get paid $5 an hour for. Too bad we don't blame the greedy corporations and not the desperate workers but that's another blog entry).

The situation in France, as far as I can tell, is the burning, seething, anger that the children of these immigrants, born in France, feel toward their birth-country. The kids of the banlieus (the slums) are an uncomfortable hybrid; they don't feel French but are too western to feel Algerian or Morroccan. Now, it is naive and just plain dishonest to simply chalk this up to another case of "Islamic extremism" as if it were a virus that is airborne and not caused by other mitigating factors. Obviously there are other mitigating factors which I've just described - the legacy of colonialism, the politics of globalisation, the rise of fundamentalism, the failure of modernity, all of these get ignored, completely ignored, by the opinion-makers in our press, researchers in think-tanks, neo-cons and the like, who simply boil it down to "jihadism."

I wish it were that simple. Don't believe me? Check out some of these statistics:

Despite the large number of Arabs and Muslims living in France, there is not a single Arab or Muslim politician in the French parliament.

Or what about this? (A recap of what I described).

The only story that obtains here is that unrest began as a reaction to the suspicious deaths of two teenage boys who were fleeing the police yet had done nothing wrong; it intensified after a mosque was tear-gassed; and it has spread as Sarkozy has barked out veiled threats and insults. Further, eyewitnesses suggest that the police are deliberately provoking violence.The backdrop is not mysterious either. These kids are growing up in squalid banlieues, where their parents and grandparents were deposited upon arrival. Doug Ireland notes that they are in France largely due to state and industrial policy. During the 1950s and 60s, when France was experiencing an economic boom, a policy was initiated to recruit from the former colonies labourers for menial and factory work, because two successive wars had killed off much male labour power and lowered the birth rate. There was a similar policy in Britain: it was Enoch Powell, he who later drowned in rivers of his own froth, who encouraged residents of the Commonwealth to migrate to the United Kingdom and take up roles in the NHS. Generations of largely North African Arabs were abandoned to the banlieues, pushed to the bottom of every available pile, blamed for being there.

Now, I don't support the rash outbreak of violence. I certainly wouldn't want to come out of my house to see a masked teenager torching my Peugoet. However, I don't think human behavior or history for that matter can be neatly sliced up into little categories of "good" and "evil." I hardly think, Bill O'Reilly should bloviate about the French and their problems when we have so many of our own. Sorry, Bill Bennett but I don't think white, western, judeo-christian societies hold the moral highground in the world.

What's the solution? I don't know and I don't think anyone does, not anyone who is a nuanced thinker anyway, and that's the very scary reality of the world we live in right now. I guess you could say that this is a case of history repeating itself or as the French might say "la plus ca change, la plus ca reste la meme" (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

C'est la vie, non?

Friday, November 04, 2005

If you see something, say something.

We've all been there, right? In those public spaces, a mall or a supermarket browsing the aisles, when you notice a child severly misbehaving (because that's what children often do) and you see a parent smack or scream at their offspring in such a violent, uncontrolled, rage-filled manner that it leaves you slack-jawed. Mouth agape you wonder: what should I do? Should I say something? Should I call the police? Should I interfere? Sometimes there's another single, childless, adult in the supermarket with you who has seen this bit of domestic violence play itself out by the cereal boxes and you both catch each other's eye, all brows furrowing, wide-eyed, you silently acknowledge what you've just witnessed, reading each other's minds, both thinking: should I get involved in this shit or just grab my Grape Nuts and run?

I, sad to say, more often than not take the coward's way out. I walk by the parent who has just, visibly, lost it, glaring at them, passive-aggressively telegraphing that I do NOT approve of them pulling a Joan Crawford in the SuperFresh. But, I've seen too many incidences of people interferring in a parent-child moment and getting yelled at by the mother or father and being told, rightly or wrongly, to mind their own " goddamn fucking business." You could say I'm a little hesitant to get involved; afraid, I will get my ass kicked by this parent like their five year old just did.

This morning on the subway, a mother and daughter got on the 6 train going uptown, a very crowded rush-hour train. A good-natured passenger stood up and gave the child his seat and the mother pushed her daughter onto the plastic subway seat, a little more roughly than seemed... normal. Then the mother instead of protectively standing in front of her little munchkin, her baby, turned away and ignored the kid. I silently take stock of this scene because I am standing right next to this odd little family duo. I notice the other passengers have noticed that there is something slightly off about this little family. One other passenger, in particular, is rolling her eyes, and, passive-agressively staring at the mother in a way that I find all too familiar because I realize I am probably doing the same thing.

A few stops go by when the kid starts to yell "Mama, Mama, Mama" but, Mama, looks to be having some kind of minor breakdown and continues to ignore her child, covering her face with her arm, looking like she wants nothing more than to lay down and just give up.

The community on the train looks confused and the feeling that, obviously, prevails is: what should we do? I am spared the moral dillemma of "to get involved, or not to get involved" because the train has reached my stop and so I leave. I leave as most of us do, knowing we saw something that wasn't right, but didn't have the courage to say something, didn't have the time, couldn't because it was too inconvenient, or might get ugly and "really who am I to interfere?"

And, as I march to work, trying to shake off the image of this unremarkable but disturbing scene, I can't help but think of this Philip Larkin poem:

This Be the Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Hmmm, Do I sense a theme here?

Suddenly, the Bush administration has a new raison d'etre: the bird flu. Now, I am hardly suggesting that this isn't a genuine threat and there was an excellent article a few months back in the New Yorker about the possible devastation that the avian flu could cause (this is fascinating but, apparently, most pandemic flu's originated on the Asian continent) if it spread worldwide.

However, it is hard, post-Iraq war, after being repeatedly lied to, and manipulated a la George Orwell's 1984, by this group of Thugs to believe anything they have to say. Everything seems like it's being manufactured and endlessly spun to distort, distract, and strike fear into the hearts of men.

Cockle-doddle-doo: Libby's nothing not when the sky's falling down or so says Commander Chicken-hawk-Little Chief.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Always the Bridesmaid...

I am getting to that age (an age which I will not, in print, specify) but that age in which friends start getting married and having babies. Some of my friends skipped the getting married part and went straight to the babies; others would like to get married but can't because they don't live in Massacusettes, most of western Europe or Canada; then there are some going for the semi-traditional full-on wedding parade/extravaganza.

Because I do have friends, goood friends, who are doing the whole pomp n'circumstance, wedding thang, I am proud to announce to the citizens of Blogdom that I am going to be a bridesmaid! I only hope I will look half as attractive as the bridesmaid in this random picture I found on google. My bridesmaid's duties have already begun when I was semi-indoctrinated into the secret rituals of the bride this past Thursday. My friend, Shoni, (the bride) and I went to a pre-registration event at the superstore, Bloomingdales, hosted by none other than Vera Wang, wedding dress maker par excellence and Media mogul of all things matrimonial.

First of all, I don't often go into luxury stores like Bloomingdales because I don't want to be reminded, floor by floor, of what a pauper I am. Generally, I think I am relatively happy and don't want for much (the operative word in this sentence being "relatively") but when I entered the gleaming expanse of Bloomies, with it's shiny cosmetic counter and their huge jeans department selling pants for a cool $200 a pair, my mouth started watering like a Dickenisian orphan. I silently start calculating how many paychecks it might take for me to come back to Bloomies and buy jeans that fit my ass like a glove and are branded oh-so-delicately with a giant squiggly line on the pocket. Suddenly, I don't give a shit if the jeans department of Bloomingdales probably has profits higher than most third world country G.N.P's. My ongoing (vocal) critique about the wasteful materialism of our society is completely forgotten as my eyes scan all the amazing looking shit that is for sale in this otherworldly store. Going up the escalator to check out the flatware, I have a bird's eye view of the furniture department and all I know is that I want to belong to the ownership society. I want to own stocks; I want investments; I want to be a shareholder; I want property; I want in.

We make it up to the floor to look at all the goodies the brides and their beloveds can register for, all the while being attended to by the various representatives of Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Kate Spade, and, of course, Mistress Vera Wang, all of whom design homeware and whatnot. The representatives look like your atypical New York Power Players: blowdried, board straight hair, stilletos a la Carrie Bradshaw, pants or skirts that show off their carefully sculpted pilatefied bodies, and nails that have been pedicured within an inch of their lives. I can't help wishing I hadn't worn tennis shoes (with holes in them no less) and my backpack, while practical, strikes me as retarded plus, I keep fearing it's going to knockdown a display of Kate Spade Paisley patterned dhina.

Shoni, the bride, is the picture of calm excitement as she lobs softball questions at the designer vulture/merchants who are each trying to sell her either toasting glasses ("these are absolutely essential at any wedding, there's always a toast, the best man toasts, the parents toast, and these toasting glasses are made of sterling silver so when you take a picture of the toast they will look beautiful. People don't realize that toasting glasses are really important") or a platnum wedding cake knife which is also, "absolutely imperative." They are absolutely serious, so serious, in fact, I'd swear they were talking about homeland security and not something to scoop cake onto a plate.

Looking around, I can understand the excitement and the appeal. In fact, I am beginning to feel a lot like Charlie Sheen's character in Wall Street; all that is missing is Michael Douglas whispering "greed is good." I think this has more to do with being in Bloomingdales than it does with being a Bridesmaid. I don't even think Shoni is going to register at dear old Bloomies, thank god, because if I spent any more time at that store I'd turn into a lil' Leona Helmsley. I even contemplated trying to get an MBA or finding a husband that does...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What a Difference a Year Makes.

It's almost the anniversary of your re-election (though many remained convinced that both of your victories are dubious, at best and that is certainly true of the first win. I am less prone to believe the conspiracies about the second because I think you won that through a masterful manipulation of pure fear and bigotry).

Only a year ago, I went to Philadelphia with my 71-year old father to campaign in that mythical Battleground State. The whole election boiled down to the mood of the people in a few land-locked states (and their questionable voting machines). My father, with his barely concealed despair and rage, at what you had done in your four years to the country already. His sheer disbelief that it was even possible that his fellow citizens might conceivably re-elect you. You, who are the opposite of everything my father, the son of immigrants, pitifully poor in his youth, who worked tooth and nail to educate himself, who put himself through school, who joined the foreign service and represented this country for 35 years, and did it all through sheer force of his own will. He could not stomach the thought we might elect you again. You who are the son of wealth, and the beneficiary of cronysism and sophisticated greed. You who never got anything by virtue of your own merit and never seemed to be curious about anything but oil, baseball, and jesus. You, the CEO President. You, Mr. Tough Guy. You, the Paper-Tiger Sheriff brandishing a big stick. You terrified and medicore man. You who should have stayed in Midland, TX, with your pretty wife, and healthy twins, swimming, barbecuing and waiting for the oil revenues to trickle in.

Only a year ago, we stood on a windy street corner in Philly half-heartedly holding beaten up Kerry signs (a man we supported out of total desperation) and got honked at and cheered on and it seemed like the end of this 4-year national nightmare might be near. And my father, joked, that if you won again it might be time to head up north and look at real estate in Montreal. He sounded more like my friends who almost spit with fury saying "I'm fucking moving if he gets re-elected again"then a retiree. Then my father and I parted ways right before election day, I going back to New York and he headed back to his upscale cul-de-sac in Maryland (the spoils of a lifetime of government service). And he told me to "hope for the best" and that "it looked good" but that there would "always be Montreal" in the worst-case scenario.

Only a year ago, I remember getting back to my apartment as the results came trickling in. I chose to spend the night, alone, on the couch, without alchohol which was probably a mistake I realize now, getting phone calls from frantic friends, calling me in panicked disbelief when Florida, legitimately this time, got called for you.

Only a year ago, I was wrestling with the fact that I was living in a country that had just re-elected Darth Vader (Dick Cheney) . I can remember feeling totally defeated picking up the phone to call my dad whose voiced cracked saying that Kerry could still win, Ohio was up in the air and that he had not conceded and I, knowing it was over, cried. My father reiterated that we could always escape to Montreal. I remember I told him the website for Canada had already crashed because of so many hits.

Only a year ago, my inbox was full of emails that kept being circulated, the one that had a map of the United States as two countries: the United States of Canada and Jesus land. There were articles and blog entries detailing vote rigging and the first person accounts of Republicans goons shaking down every black community in Ohio. The anti-red state Southern bias that was spewing out of the my fellow Blue state dwellers; it felt like there was a new Civil war but this time the North was going to lose it.

Only a year ago, you came swaggering out, your face gleaming with new found legitmacy, your administration a weapon of mass gloating, proudly proclaiming that, now, you had "political capital" and you were "going to spend it." Big balls were being planned in your honor and Pat Roberston would be there doing a jig, that radical evangelical swell that had carried you to victory would be sure to cash in on your poltical capital. And then there were the rest of us, nearly traumatized, preparing ourselves to see 50 years worth of progress and protection get ripped up and thrown aside.

A year has passed and look at you now. I bet you think to yourself, after a day of putting out fires, horsely reiterating that you don't want to cut and run as the American death count hits 2000, and your supreme court nominee gets pummelled because even she can't satisfy your reddest, red meat base, and your prized advisor, your architect, your own dear Dirty Trickster looks at an indictment. Are you as shocked as I am at how you've fallen apart? Do you think "I wish I'd stayed in Texas and just raised the twins, gotten another job from one of Dad's friends and stayed the hell out of politics?"

You must think "what a difference a year makes, huh"?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Poetry Night

Last evening after a long day at work, mainly on the internet consuming utterly useless information, I went to a poetry reading organized by a friendly aquintance of mine, Elaine. It's been a long time since I have been a room with other consenting adults listening to other consenting adults reading their poem. It was wierd. I am being honest here, because I am finding that blogging is this wierd marriage of journalling and performing. Plus,I just read this delicious and profound and hilarious play/book by the late Spalding Grey called "Swimming to Cambodia" and his unflagging honesty was fucking brilliant and bold and hilarious. So, I am taking a page from Spalding's book and just saying whatever the hell I want (on the net, that is).

So, poetry night. Have you ever noticed how so much of perception is based on context? I know, I know that is almost pathetically "stating the obvious" but I really noticed it last night. Suddenly, because it was a poetry reading all the men there seemed a little...fey or super crunchy (GRANOLA) ish. They all seemed to be wearing earthtones and I counted a lot of khaki pants and more than a few patagonia jackets. The women all seemed crazy kind of like Sylvia Plath (without the mythology or Ted Hughes or Gwyneth Paltrow movie) I must have looked crazy too. Everyone there seemed to have graduated from the University of Michigan or the University of Wisconsin, Madison and I got the feeling that they all ride bicycles on the weekend and prefer foreign films. It all felt a little...staid.

The poems and the readers (there were two) were fine and, when I wasn't thinking about whether or not I should eat dinner or just skip it and have a big breakfast tomorrow instead, some of the poems were catchy. A lot of modern poetry suffers from what the rest of modern art suffers from: the inability to take the individual experience and make it grander and more universal and more fantastic than just the outpouring of psycho-babble. So, there was a lot of lines about "in our apartment when the sun was shining and burnishing your skin and you were incased in glass. Remember your fathers stripped sweater and pipe which litter the road to the canyon that we looked out onto." One quickly tires of description followed by adjective followed by description: all allusions to the storminess of the writer's childhood or love life. Hardly any of it rhymes either which if I am going to be completely candid, a la Spalding Grey, I have to admit bugs me.

I love poetry though and I wish it weren't relegated to crazy-Aunt-in-the-attic status. When you go into a bookstore, the poetry section is usually banished to a corner like the porno videos at Blockbuster - just out of sight, a dirty little fetish meant only for adults. I was always particularly taken with the Romantics - Keats, Wordsworth, Shelley, Blake and their crazy love of nature, and their crazy love of love, and their love of revolutionary enlightnment and their love of enlightning drugs - the rock stars of the 1800's. I wished, at times, last night there could have been shots of absinthe and wild runs between overgrown hedges with poems being recited in between the fields of untamed grass but, uh, there was no absinthe just complimentary shots of Bailey's Irish Cream in Dixie cups and no grass except for the kind being sold outside the nearby soup kitchen on the corner of 40th and 9th.

So, here 's to poetry of the yesteryear: to words more fierce, more dear, more bold, more clear. Here's to you, Mr. Blake, up in heaven, drinking all of God's wine,
Now a ghost still writing poems, wild, whimsical, and, divine.

Laughing Song by William Blake

When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;
When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it;
When the meadows laugh with lively green,

And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene;
When Mary and Susan and Emily
With their sweet round mouths sing 'Ha ha he!'
When the painted birds laugh in the shade,

Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread:
Come live, and be merry, and join with me,
To sing the sweet chorus of 'Ha ha he!'

Monday, October 17, 2005

The New Yorker's Art and Architecture Issue.

Now, I don't want to hear any snipping about how the New Yorker is actually a middle-brow magazine catering to the petty bourgeousie: it might be but I love it. I think the writing is really, really clean and clear, often, witty and other than their lamentable endorsement of the Iraqi war, which was written by David Remnick but ghostwritten by the American Enterprise Institute, it's a great magazine. Afterall, it has Anthony Lane as their movie critique and he is, in my humble - no one reads my blog- opionion the best person writing about (mass) entertainment/art today.

Last week was the special "Art and Architecture" issue and it was both infuriating and depressing and a reminder of how much bad art (and architecture) clutters the landscape. I am less knowledgeable about architecture than I am about art (and I am dilletante-ish on that, even) so the articles about architecture caused me less consternation than the ones on art and artists. Once piece in the issue that really caused me to clutch my forehead and wag my head was on the artist Rikrit. Let me qoute from the piece (and, no, I promise, this is not a page torn from an old Mike Myers draft of the Sprockets sketch on S'N'L). Here goes:

"Called Untitled 1990 (Pad Thai)." People who came to the opening found Rikrit at a cooking station in a small room adjacent to the main gallery, making pad thai and serving it on plastic plates. Quite a few visitors assumed he was the caterer. According to Randy Alexander, who worked with Paula Allen and had invited Rikrit to show there, "Rikrit's idea was just to leave everything as it was, so the detritus of the opening was the formal work people would see when they came into the space the next day. We had a concern about the olfactory presence of rotting food, but because of the spices he used it never went beyond obnoxious."
Alexander was impressed by Rikrit. "His gestures, his style, his elegance all became part of the piece." he remembers. "But at the same time he had this casual, funny, normal side. I never heard a critical word about him from anyone, and in the art world that was pretty unique." Later that year Alexander started his own gallery, Rikrit was the first artist he showed. For this one , "Unititled 1990 (Blind)," Rikrit offered a voice-activitated tape recorder, a pair of binonculars on the windowsill, and a floor strewn with discarded envelopes containing audiocassettes that Rikrit had recorded, viewers could make use of these items or not. Alexander served Rolling Rock beer at the opening, because he could get it at a discount. "Rikrit liked the bottles," he remembers. "I stacked them up in their original cartons and we made a piece of it."
The effect that Rikrit and his work have on some people is not easily explicable. Gavin Brown, who came in one day, was working then for Lisa Spellman at the increasingly influential 303 Gallery, but he thought of himself as an artist- he had gone to art school in London. Something about the four cases of stacked green bottles pierced his soul. "It irritated me so much!" he remembers. "Beer bottles in their cardboard cases, all empty tops off. It wasn't like a found object - there was so much more to it than that. I could feel this in waves, even though there was almost nothing to it. It was an object that seems to say 'You don't seem to realize how little everything else matters.' I couldn't get it out of my head."

Now you might be wondering who would be rich, bored and misguided enough to, say, buy Rikrit's "art". As if this article wasn't already reading like parody then wait, it gets worse:

"Some of his cooking untensils from the early shows were starting to sell. I wondered how Rikrit felt about that: if the work was suppossed to be about social interation, what did an unwashed wok that he'd bought and used once have to do with it" "I didn't think it through at first", he told me, "but then I realized, yeah, there was a problem. What I do now is ask people to use what they buy. Cook a meal, invite people to eat with you, have your own experience. The value and the meaning are in the use." Eileen Cohen, a collector who began buying Rikrit's work very early, gave a party in her apartment last spring to "reanimate" a cooking piece of Rikrit's she had just acquired. Three handomse stainless steel pots stood on pedestals, over propane stoves, cooking three different kinds of dumplings - mild vegeterian, not-so-mild veal, and highly spiced beef. I also saw a wok from one of Rikrit's first pieces, crusted with ten-year-old shrimp curry, displayed on a shelf in Cohen's library, next to a Hopi ceramic pot."

It is actually hard to know where to begin to pinpoint how many things are wrong and downright laughable about this article and, more to the point, that state of art, in this case, visual art in the 21st century (at least in the western world). First off: this is not art and no amount of rationalizing by the purveyors of taste will convince me otherwise. Yes, it might be a "cool" experience, and a "neat" installation and the artist himself sounds really "nice" and "super cool" and not likely to cut off his ear anytime soon but this is not work that will be remembered by anyone in half-a-century's time; except, maybe the rich offspring of art-collectors from Manhattan.

This article is about how the petty tastes of the individuals, or really the EGO, masquerade as art. Now, Picasso, according to all accounts had an ego like a mad bull but the man was an unbelievable genius (I just recently visited the Picasso Museum in Paris and his body of work left me gob-smacked; the sheer virtuousity that one person was capable of). Picasso's paintings and sculptures do not require instructions or cooking materials and while they speak to his personal experiences (as all art does, right?) they are not just "cool", self-referential, found objects/experiences that are, essentially, meaningless. There is nothing particularly universally meaningful about four cartons of stacked beer bottles with no caps on unless, maybe, you've lived in a frat house or go to a lot of cheap art openings. The Rolling Rock beer bottle installation is not art, it is just an attempt to find meaning where there is none plus, it's skilless, lazy, and, above all, boring. Yes, trash can be beautiful and meaningful, Bob Rauschenberg has an amazing body of work made from bazooka wrappers and car tires but that was thoughtfully put together, stacking up beer bottles after a party is not. Soon this "art" will be thrown away, afterall, Time acts as a great garbage collector.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Cupcakes and the Bourgeousie.

On the weekend for extra dosh I work at a Cafe (which for the purposes of this blog I will call "Cafe" lest I get fired for writing incriminating things) which is a rather lovely place, actually. It is just another one of the small businesses that make New York a great town: a place where, if one has enough capitol, creativity and ambition you, the individual, can own a small, unique, store. Basically, it's not some giant chain, where all the stores look the same from New York to New Dehli (I am thinking, of course, of Starbucks which I don't entirely hate because they give their workers, EVEN part-time workers, healthcare so they are off my conglomerate shit list). At the cafe I work at we don't call the customers "guests" with fixed grins and magic kingodom happy faces and we don't play appropriately hip worldmusic to enhance the consumers intake of coffee and cupcakes (the bedrock of what this cafe sells). We just, you know, sell cupcakes, make coffee drinks, take money, serve people but not in a way that would suggest we are running a quasi-spa and not a cafe.

However, many of our customers don't realize that this is not a spa or that I am not their personal maid service. I posit that customer service is one of the last arenas that Americans feel it is acceptable to exhibit all of their bigotry and it is a great microcosm of the American class system. The only thing that really seperates me and the customer is a glass case with cupcakes but they are on the other side brandishing cash or an American Express black card and with it a huge sense of entitelment and a really ugly air of moneyed superiority. When I open my mouth to speak I get the sneaking suspicion that they are surprised that, well, often I speak better than they do, am wittier, and, yes, probably have a liberal arts degree equal or greater than theirs. It doesn't matter to them though because with cash or plastic in hand, on the other side of the glass incased fence, they have the power. So whatever has been going wrong in their lives, the job they hate or the child they thought they wanted or the pounds they've put on or the loveless appearance oriented marriages they are in, have a sudden outlet.

They can misdirect all of their frustration (read: anger) at the chick behind the counter who hasn't gotten them the right cupcake! "No, I wanted the pink flower", "Why don't you have any more chocolate vanilla", "How much is that?!?" and on, and on, and on. Sometimes, if feels like a hundred Veruca Salts have been let loose and they are all asking me for an Oompa Loompa. Oftentimes, my interactions with the Fat-free Pilates toned Mommy crowd or the Mr. time is money Man turns into a passive agressive exchange that takes on the quality of a Harold Pinter play (random aside: Pinter just won the Nobel - Go Harold!). The simple act of my serving and theri buying a cup of coffee or cupcake becomes a power play fraught with subtext with "that will be $ 2.50" really meaning " that will be $2.50 you cheap, classless, bastard" and "large or small" becomes "large or small you spoiled fatso." Sadly, I am on the losing side, behind the counter, and, until Americans learn that money isn't a liscense to treat others like identured servants, than serving will continue to be an exercise in sadism.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

On being friends with Republicans.

I am close to two people, yes, only two, because I don't necessarily count my grandmother or my boss as friends, who voted for Bush in the last election (or, the Stephen King title might be..."The day the map turned blood red"). These are two people who's company I, genuinely, enjoy and find charming, two people who I think are, essentially, good people, nice people, worthwhile, smart and caring people who I keep in touch with and email and see occassionally for a beer and invite to my shows and to parties at my home, people I share anecdotes with about my life and their lives, in short, two people who are friends of mine.

I try not to talk about politics with these two Republican friends of mine but, inevitably, the conversation drifts to the (my) latest outrage of the Bush admininstration, and the whole corrupt bunch up there on Capitol Hill oiling and sleazing there way around the legislature. So, despite my best attempts to talk about work or their (occassionally) my significant others, the latest series on H.B.O. and the merits of microbrews, what books or movies we've digested lately ivariably we end up talking about what I so strenously had tried to avoid talking about, namely, Iraq and the whole stinky Republican agenda.

Now, I, on the one hand, hate talking about politics, specifically, Iraq, with these two, rather nice, Republican neo-con friends of mine because it saddens and frustrates me. It saddens me because to my core, to the edges of my toes and my fingers, in my bones and deep in the wellspring of my soul, I believe this war is a goddamn disgrace . Everytime, I read about our endeavors there, of the car bombs exploding, and the marketplaces marred by suicide bombers, of the children needlessly dying, and the leveling of Falluja and countless other Iraqi towns, of the incepient civil war, the secterian strife, and of our own leaders who blindly insist, like broken records, that we are making progress I feel a deep and burning and helpless sense of shame. Shame that I am, through my tax dollars supporting the Pentagon war machine churning without end and that there is really, and truly, short of evading the I.R.S, nothing I can do about it.

My two Republican friends of mine, strongly support this war, and believe it to be just and, more specifically, necessary to the future of the world, I supposse, and to the safety and health of these United States. We huff and puff at one another, each side, trading memorized facts ("there were no WMDS", "Yes, there were or we haven't found them", "What about the yellowcake?", "They found the yellowcake", "Occupation in post-war Japan wasn't easy either", "You cannot compare Iraq to Japan post-World War II", "They took us to war on a lie", "Everyone, including the Democrats believed the intelligence", "We either fight them there or here", "What the hell are you talking about? Iraq had NO terrorirsts before this war", "Saddam was a brutal and evil dictator", "There are a lot of brutal dictators in the world", "Read this article in the Nation", "Read this article in the Weekly Standard" and on and on ad nauseum) but no one leaves the conversation with their worldview changed in the least. Truth be told, there is even a slight thrill in having a real live Republican to vent my digust to who isn't a blood relative but...that thrill quickly loses it's appeal after the 6th feckless conversation.

Instead, I leave the debate, a little angry and disturbed that they see the world so differently than I do and that there is almost nothing, nothing, I can do to change these Republican, neo-con friends minds and, I am sure, they feel likewise. I wonder how to proceed with this relationship and if there is a future but I remember that I like these two friends of mine. I would be lying if I said I don't sometimes scratch my head and wonder if it might not be better to adhere to that old saying "never talk about money, religion or politics" and that's easy enough to do these days because all three are virtually interchangeable, right?

Maybe I'll ask these two Republican friends of mine.

Mind-Boggling Tragedy.

This is when it becomes obvious how paltry(?) or meagre language is...when you have to grapple or deal with tragedy. I am speaking about, of course, the mega-diasesters, Katrina and, now, the earthquake to hit South East Asia. I don't even know how you begin to fathom or put into words the realization that with a single, cataclysmic, shake, thirty thousand people perish under houses and rubble (this is the estimated number of people they think died in Pakistan and Kashmir and India this past weekend). I don't think you can grapple it, really, unless it is happenning to you or around you, unless you are forced. You watch it on television or read about it on yahoo news and the awfulness of it flickers in your mind and then you move on to the far more paltable update on Paris Hilton's broken engagement.

Hmm, why am I choosing to write about such depressing stuff? Honestly, because, well, I think I am fresh out of inspiration so massive tragedy seemed like the next best thing to write on. Alright, that was incredibly callous and this is exactly what I mean about not being able to really deal with tragedy and maybe even more today, in our information saturated brains, than ever.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Forgetting You.

Have you ever been to H&M on a Saturday afternoon when a busload of tourists from Ohio has just been let loose in its environs? Shrieks of pleasure being emitted from every corner over how “cute” and “adorable” and, most importantly, how “cheap” it all is?!? Yes, you can snarl and feel superior to tourists from Ohio (a state for which I am hard-pressed post-election ‘04 to have much sympathy for) but the fact’re there too. You are at H&M pawing, and, mauling your way through the cheap shit, too. Your eyes scanning the sheer tops that would look so cute with those black pants you have or the chunky brown belt that would dangle oh-so-alluringly over that flowing white skirt you bought last week completing your vision of boho-city-chic.

The music soothingly pumping out and numbing any worries over whether you should, in fact, really charge this “made in tawain/romania/turkey/latvia/estonia/or the perennial favorite: china” crochet tank top. In the midst of picking and choosing, making your way through elbows and arms and coos of “oh that looks good” you forget about whatever was bothering you earlier that day: the recent break up, the fact that you miss him, the energy its taking not to call him, the job that demeans and drains you, the realization that your parents are, now, senior citizens, the knowledge that this world you inhabit is just getting uglier and more complicated and that the leaders in charge of safeguarding it are too craven and ill-equipped to lead it, all of it fades into the background when you are trying to decide between floral or leopard print.

After you’ve picked out your six items you take your place with the rest of the seething masses, standing behind the gum chewing teenager in her jeans a la Britney and her eager to please Mother (who is trying to give her daughter everything that was denied to her in her own adolescence). Like Catholics taking the eucharist (or the “wafer” as my own mother called it) you inch your way to the fitting room - one step at a time. Finally, after shifting from leg to leg and glaring at the tourists from Ohio you get a fitting room; a small mirrored sanctuary where you can model those chosen wares for your own discerning eye.

The world falls away and all that’s left is you, the mirror, and the decision over what looks better/sexier/more sophisticated/the most flattering/the most desirable on you, on your body. The blinkers are finally on and you have a goal - the rest of your worries are just white noise. Now, isn’t this what you came here for? To H&M on a Saturday? Admit it: you came here because it’s an oasis, you came here to forget, you came here for a little peace.

Arrested Development

Ladies: be wary of any man who, past the age of 18, tells you their favorite book is "Catcher in the Rye". This, in no uncertain terms, is a blazing, blarring, impossible to ignore, RED flag and you can be rest assurred that this is a guy who is lost in a state of perpetual adolescence.

Yes, we all loved Holden Caufield, that Upper West Side "Igby goes down" underdog. Holden Caufield, literature's favorite fuck-up, the rich kid with a heart of gold who can't quite get it together. The kid who gets kicked out of every boarding school forever disappointing his lock-jawed, well heeled, New Yorker parents. And, yes, how can you not love a teenage boy protaganist who counts his kid sister, Phoebe, among his most prized and beloved confidants? I loved the book too...when I was fifteen.

But, guys, it's time to move on. You are not Holden Caufield anymore or even remotely in his age range and to continue to identify with a confused teenager and hold that book on a pedestal speaks, transparently, to your own inability to, well, grow up.

I bet you can't commit to anything but mixed cd's.

So buck up and get yourself down to the Strand. Commit to finding a new favorite book and, yes, I'll let you off the hook: you can choose a Fitzgerald or a Hemingway as potential replacements. Or, even, Nick Hornby will be allowed. I'd say check out Johnathan Franzen too. Get ready to kiss Holden Caufield and "Catcher in the Rye" goodbye because it's time to put away childish things. Get ready to scrub the use of the word "phony" from your vocabulary.

Sure, you'll miss Holden and his lovable mistakes but missing people and things, objects, and places is part of growing up (which devotees of this book should know). Afterall, Holden learns that growing up is all about letting go (read the last paragraph of the book - tear stained no doubt as you pack it up, heeding my advice, knowing it's time to become, well, a man and finally graduate from high school). Believe me: acting your age can be liberating. And, don't take offense: what if you dated a chick who told you her favorite book was still "Forever" or "Are you there God, it's me Margaret?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Spinning in Butter.

After sitting shackled to this ergonomic chair and keyboard like some 19th century prisoner for much of the day; hunched, immobile, listless (you get the picture) I like to end my day running on a treadmill in some wierd outburst of frenetic energy (think 70's gerbil wheel and you've got the picture).

I belong to Crunch Gyms (hey -- no "judgments" is their logo) and I dutifully go everyday to watch the free cable and atone for the sins of my flesh. In addition to the medevil excerise machines ("stairmaster" sounds like pre-enlightnment torture device to me) and the weights there are also a range of "fun" and "fresh" classes designed to make you forget that you are actually excersising. Usually, these classes involve an obscene amout of jumping around to a smattering of selections from every kind of "popular" music played so loud your brain starts to feel like a bad euro-trash disco. But I , like most of the other people in the class (READ: 20 to 45 year old WOMEN) am happy to actually feel that my arms and legs do work after a day of sitting motionless.

The other day I decided to take the epic plunge and try the spinning class which is like a Jane Fonda aerobics routine all done, get this, atop a bike. Imagine an excersie class designed by methamphatimine addicts and you kind of have the idea. You enter a darkened room, which is designed to look like an abandoned disco with bikes where the dance floor should be. After adjusting my bike to fit my respective height - mine, it should be noted, is set so low Frodo could have used it ride to Mordor - I begin to comfortably pedal and get ready for the class to start. The bike is oddly fast and I worry that when I begin to sweat I am going to come hurtling off it. I begin to have visions of telling my friends I got in a STATIONARY bike accident.

Brushing off this worst-case scenario, I nervously look around and get ready, feigning confidence, as well toned women with sculpted biceps and steely glints in their fat burning eyes take their place around me. Suddenly an instructor wearing a hands-free, head-set mike, is shouting to "SPRINT" which is, apparently, my cue to pedal like a 13 year old chasing traffic. The superwomen around me morph into Lange Armstrong crack addicts; their kneecaps look like dangerous killers. I am glad I don't have prosthetics because I feel at any moment one of my legs is going to detach itself from my hip and go flying into the middle of the floor? No one else seem to share my concern and they pedal, spinning away their calories with a commitment I am not sure if I admire or find terrifying.

This goes on for 45 minutes. By the end we have gone "uphill" and "downhill"; we have done push-ups on the bike, and a bit of yoga and I am sure, at some point in this class, I forfeited my ability to have children but, what the hell, right? My knees might not work when I hit 35 but my body is that much closer to being fat-free.

Monday, September 19, 2005


LIFE ON LINE (As I know it).

9:00 - Get to work (nameless/faceless/soulless temp job). Turn on computer.

9:05 - Check work email. Return work emails. Use words in email like "Per your request" and " Please find the enclosed attached" and "Do not hesitate" and "if you have any questions."

9:30 - Check my hotmail/yahoo/earthlink/ personal email. Lament the lack of emails from friends/dates/parents. Decide I need to meet new people and curse my friends. Wonder if I have become a major bore/dullard?!?

9:32 - Go to in attempt to keep up on current events. Read Paul Krugman and agree with everything he has to say. Wish I could date him. Shake my (metaphorical) fist at the Bush administration and everything it does. Swear at the picture of our frat boy asshole President and crony of Good Ol' Boys. Wonder what the world is coming to. Leave NYTIMES site feeling depressed and slightly hopeless.

9:45 - Need to feel frivolous. Go to and look at pictures of Paris Hilton. Wonder what the world is coming to. Leave Eonline site feeling depressed and slightly hopeless.
10:00 - Answer phones and fax and go on a Starbucks run for my boss.
10:30 - Come back and decide I should be helping refugees in Africa not making coffee runs for a grown man.

10:40 - Log on to site. and look at requirements. Read description for "Waste Managmenent in the Developing World" project. Wonder if this requires extensive work with Port-a-Pottys? Imagine good times (filled with meaning, filled with hope) helping women and children in Uganda. Am (rudely)interrupted by boss and told to fax stock transfer sheet to client.

11:00 - Send out mass email to friends urging them to sign petition asking Congress not to approve one of Bush's rightwing nut job judges to the supreme court.

11:05 - Wonder if mass email was a mistake? Wonder if I am blocked on friend's emails?

11:15 - Stuff envelopes

11:25 - Think about why I got a liberal art's degree.

11:35 - Go to and read the latest news on the whereabouts of Madonna, Gwyneth, P-Diddy, and Beyonce.

11:38 - Shake my head at the celebu-freak world of news. Vow to never waste time reading such trivial infotainment again.

11: 45 - Read report about Nuclear proliferation on the Council on Foreign Relations website.

11:55 - Wonder why more people can't be as informed as I am.

11:59 - Extremely bored.

12:00 - Debate whether or not to send Ex an email.

12:30 - Regret sending Ex an email.

12:45 - Wonder if I should eat lunch at Subway?

1:00 - Tell boss am going to lunch.

1:10 - Order a turkey supreme at Subway. Decide to get "Baked Lays" with sandwich and a root-beer soda.

1:20 - Sit in front of Morgan Stanley building with other temps eating Subway.

1:25 - See roving bands of corporate assholes wearing blue shirts talking about their weekend in the Hamptons. Wonder what the world is coming to? Finish lunch feeling depressed and slightly hopeless.

1:30 - Contemplate not going back to work.

In the Beginning

Here we go (I hope I don't humiliate myself too much).