Friday, December 23, 2005

ester weighs in on the controversies of the day

#1) Transit strike over! But: Bloomberg racist?

Three cheers for being able to use the subway again. I hope sincerely that the union folks get something in return for this craziness (whose inconvenience I do believe affected them as strongly if not more than the rest of us.) On the other hand, accepting a deal in which they begin to receive pension benefits at 62 instead of 55 isn't exactly comparable to going back to the 10 hour workday.

That aside, naturally race poked its head out of the mess like Nessie from the Loch. Bloomberg gave a speech in which he accused the union of acting "thuggishly." Immediately, the heads of the union, which is majority-minority, shouted RACISM, a cry picked up by the echo chamber. Far be it from me to deny anyone the right to be offended; in our victim happy society, somehow even members of the majority-race and the majority-religion get to cry discrimination when Target doesn't do exactly what they want. But to my mind, describing a behavior as "thuggish" is not the same as calling individuals "thugs." To put it a Christian way, it's condeming the sin, not the sinner.

Does Bloomberg, deep in his Republican, businessman, billionaire consciousness, think of most black men as thugs? Perhaps; and in any case he should probably take a workshop just to make sure. In this particular case, however, I think that calling the union leaders' tactics "thuggish" simply went along with the general administrative theme of their holding the city hostage & he would have used the same description whether the striking workers were Italian-American or Irish-American or plain old Mayflower borne. Inasmuch as he accidentally caused offense, he should apologize, the way any of us would. And Touissant and Sharpton should make sure that their knee-jerk reactions played out loudly in the press don't give them a black eye.

#2) Kong is king! -- And racist?

Maybe. More importantly: the movie is too damn long, tonally inconsistent (are we in the 30s or aren't we?) and kind of boring, actually. Lots of soulful staring into eyes. If you're in the mood for a tension-saturated love story, I recommend Brokeback Mountain, or even Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Kong was my favorite character. They did do him proud.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"here's your bonus, happy holidays -- oh, and you're fired"

Things I am grateful for:

I never acquired expensive habits (cocaine, which I hear is fun, for example. Or gym memberships.)

I didn't run up credit card debt.

I'm only on one prescription medication. (Still, health insurance is the worst habit to have to kick. It feels so great to know that even if you step on a crack and you fall and break your back, or your kidney's suddenly throbbing and you have to go to the ER, you'll be covered.)

They're going to pay me for the next two weeks, during which I don't have to come into work because, duh, it's vacation time anyway.

Mr. Ben, who, like a good daddy bird while mommy bird recovers in the nest from her 1.5-hour-long 32-degree walk of shame, went to fetch some hot food.

My friends and family who I'm sure will be very supportive and love me even though i've just been "let go." In their position, I wouldn't be, that's for sure. I'd be like, "Bitch, get you to an ice floe. Space is valuable in this city. Shit, even air is valuable, and it's for winners only, okay? Thanks."

At least I have tomorrow off now. And gosh darn it, I can do whatever I want.

If only I could figure out what I want to do. Well, except this: they stressed how smart I am -- how responsible, but mostly how smart. Maybe I can find a job that will actually value that.
from the front lines

My radio alarm went off at 7:15: "... first transit strike in 25 years and it is 22 degrees outside! Plus wind chill! Ester, it sure is a good thing you have that amazing, cold-defeating Russian Shearling coat and those fleece-lined Canadian boots for your trek across the bridge!"

I made it to work almost an hour early, still riding the adrenaline. The thing is, this shit is kinda fun for the first day, but if it continues, I'm going to lose my sense of humor right quick. MTA, Transit Workers, I feel your pain; now feel mine. Get your selves back to that negotiating table before we have to hear Bloomberg make another speech about how "determined" he is.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

To Minnesota ...

Dear Minnesota,

How are you doing? Great, great. Listen, we seem to have gotten some of your weather by mistake. I know, crazy, right? What are the odds, considering we're like half a country away from you and on a completely different latitude. So, um, I'm sure you're enjoying the unusually temperate winter but if you wouldn't mind dropping off ours and letting us return yours we'd be super grateful. Especially because the transit workers might be going on strike at midnight tonight and some of the 7 million of us left without means of transportation will have to WALK OVER THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE AT DAWN IN THE SNOW in order to make it to work in Manhattan on time. And that's frikkin harsh, man. So harsh that we might have to take a flask with us, get loaded, beat the shit out of Ohio and say you did it.

Thanks! Love the cheese hats (or is that Wisconsin ...?)
New York City

PS - A certain new inhabitant of the city has misplaced her good luck. Maybe it went the way of the weather? Would you mind checking, and, if you find it, sending it back to her, posthaste, at [address redacted]? She'll be waiting for it expectantly while she searches the want ads and moans periodically to herself.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

a happy day ends in a muddle

It is impossible for me to regard the success of another without it throwing my mental processes into disarray. After I first heard Bernadette Peters sing for the first time at the age of 11, it was years before I could listen without weeping or raging (inside) that I'd never have a voice like hers. For example. Conversely, I overidentify very strongly with those who try and fail: it took a long time for me to recover from Bobby Baseball, a kid's book about a kid who wanted more than anything to be a pitcher but he couldn't, he just couldn't, he wasn't any good. And that's how it ended! No fake reassurances, no hope, just plain truth.

The book The Princess Bride -- though not the movie, which is why the book is better -- makes the same point: life isn't fair, some people don't get what they want or deserve. I remember being shocked by its matter-of-factness. Yet somehow I think fairness was never an illusion I had. Against all evidence of my well-cushioned childhood, I knew that into every life some hailstones must fall.

Applause in general, being antithetical to hailstones, still makes me tear up. Semiotically. It represents achievement -- and to my brain, recognition of same connotes that maybe whoever produced it will never be on such a peak again. Maybe I'll never be there at all.

The most recent trigger of this sort of embarrassing outpour of emotion is the novel Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, which I heard about while still working at the Very Important Talent Agency. (Before I had to, you know, flee like the Hebrews from Egypt.) The fact that it's been on top five lists piqued my interest in a way that its initial buzz didn't -- because, again, applause does that to me. You know how good it is? I read it all day today, from beginning to end. I scarcely did anything else. When I finished, before I finished even, I wailed.

Then I read Curtis Sittenfeld's pedigree off the back jacket and wailed some more. Stanford. Iowa Writer's Workshop. Prizes, fellowships. It made me start researching graduate MFA programs again and only the intense exhaustion that came back to me as I recalled how awful the experience was the first time around swatted my fingers from the keyboard.

I think my life needs to be about more than office work. For some people, I think the more is their children, and more power to them -- I just can't imagine that being enough for me. Oh dear. Life is going to be awfully disappointing for me unless I can wake up tomorrow morning trilling like Bernadette Peters.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

surreality television

Utterly bizarre. First Nicole wins America's Next Top Model. Nicole! Bland, sweet, dimwitted, boring-with-a-capital-NORTH-DAKOTA Nicole over edgy, cool, model-in-a-bottle Nik. In six months of course I won't remember any of this but for now I feel disgruntled, not because I was invested in the show as much as because I like calling the winners and I called Nik several weeks ago. Bah.

THEN one of my bosses from work made a guest appearance on a different reality show, one of the ones I don't watch. Of course I made an exception for the occasion. My boss had about 10 seconds of screentime and one line of dialogue but he'd brought branded materials that I deal with all day, every day, and it was a trip seeing the name of the my company splashed across the screen. I'll admit it: I squealed.

End of the TV season! Wow. Everything's winding down. Only nine more workdays before the Entertainment Industry shuts its doors for winter break. For sure Mr. Ben & I will go to the Adirondacks for New Years again, meet up with a whole bunch of like-minded people, and for sure I could use the relaxation. Writing frantically has been my most reliable stress-reliever recently but mountain air, silence, trees twisting upwards like staircases ... That could probably help too. Especially in conjunction with some good drinking and some good people.

O 2006. I haven't given you too much thought before now. Let's hope you're the year wherein control of Congress changes hands again, great humanitarians get what they deserve, various elements of my life continues to stabilize, and a movie finally knocks my socks off again. Seriously, what have you LOVED this year? My top movies so far, Me, You, and Everyone We Know, the Squid and the Whale, Capote, Pride and Prejudice, and Good Night, and Good Luck, put together don't generate as much excitement in my bosom as Eternal Sunshine did, lo these many months ago. I'm not overly optimistic about the late in the game possibilities either. What, 2005, are you going to gesture meaningfully at King Kong and grunt? Hint darkly of Munich?

Well, we'll see, I guess. Maybe those studly gay cowboys will move me in a way I've never been moved before. (Recite with me now, spinmeisters: it's not about butt-love, it's about love-love. Everyone can relate!) But I know I'm not alone in my underwhelmedness.

Friday, December 02, 2005

King of the Wild Brassiere

My family has officially moved from Residence 1 ("Real Grass, Real Unicorns!") to Residence 2 ("Real High in the Air!"). Many accompanying headaches were apparently had, and I feel removed from everything in an vaguely anxious, upset way, much like I did when I found out, from a distance, that my dog had died. Although then I cried more and was talked into buying a pair of shoes that didn't fit by an insistent clerk.

Even after my family gave away/sold a lot of our furniture and possessions, what remained filled all available floor space in the new apartment AND THEN had to form a second layer on top of the first. It's like archaeology in there! I guess they're going to have to be creative so as not to resort to stacking sofas, or putting bookshelves in the bathrooms.

What's really amazing to me is that they won't have stairs. My house was always distinguished by its many staircases, carpeted a strange color somewhere between "sunset" and "salmon." The dog (before she died) used to slide down on her butt because she had worms, I think? I never entirely understood but it was funny to watch. My friends and I during our "wacky" phases used to slide down them in laundry baskets. Stairs! are very important in separating people, such as those who prepared dinner and those who are invited to eat it; bellowing "DINNNNNERRRRR!" in a one-floor space isn't going to produce the same satisfying flurry of staircase-related activity.

I'm trying to withhold judgement, though, of course, inasmuch as that's possible for me. My mother's been working almost nonstop on the new habitat, so hard that if there were a Nobel prize for that sort of thing she'd at least be a Finalist. I continue to send good wishes in her general direction and hope that they pierce the fog of her exhaustion.

And I continue to distract myself. As you may or may not be aware, Salon has started letting people post "letters to the editor" at the end of any article, because what the overeducated, overarticulate, overprivileged readers of Salon really need is a Voice. The results are frequently hilarious, especially in reponse to Cary Tennis's advice column. I have found that burying myself in these avalanches of letters works like almost nothing else to help me forget my own anxieties and upsettednesses. Family leaving childhood home? Possible promotion dangling overhead? At least I'm not in love with an exception prostitute or deeply NOT in love with my husband's offspring.

Mr. Ben, by the way, is singing in the background to the tune of Davey Crockett: "Baby, baby boyfriend, king of the wild brassiere ..." Welcome to the weekend. Ahhhhhh.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

the november of novembers

In the middle of cooking Thanksgiving dinner last year in DC, the power went out, leaving a turkey half-raw and the ice cream in a perilous position. By the late afternoon light, we conferenced and decided our best option was to move our feast to our family friend's house which was far enough away, in the velvety confines of Dupont Circle, to be untouched by the outage. Once we obtained his permission, we loaded up our caravans, made it safely down there, and everything went remarkably smoothly after that.

Nothing so exciting happened this year. The family gathered in Westchester, ate, dropped in on the Met, watched Mad Hot Ballroom and, yes, All the President's Men -- remarkably, not on my suggestion. I guess it's been on everyone's mind. My older brother is usually the center of attention during such events but, busy being a 1L halfway across the country, he couldn't make it, so I had to step up from time to time and command the spotlight. Viz:
COUSIN: Hey, what happened to your brother? Something with the car?
LITTLE BROTHER: Yeah, he was leaving the gym, right? And he realized he forgot his ID. He turned around to go back to get it and he was also going to get a bottle of Gatorade, either a 12 oz or an 18 oz --
ME: He was in a car accident and he wasn't wearing his seatbelt and he ALMOST DIED.
That's a true story, by the way. My little brother didn't mind that "Gatorade" instantly became the laugh trigger for the evening because he won around $600 playing internet poker one-handed and with his eyes closed. He was going to use some of his ill-gotten gains to take all us cousins out to see Walk the Line but right before we walked out the door, an insidious rumor spread that that was "a chick flick" and before you can say "vulnerable masculinity" my cousins & my little brother had decided they had better things to do.

Usually this is a weird time of year for me. The buildup to Christmas starts for real, which means I start feeling more and more alienated. Factor in the increasing absence of sun and warmth & I really have to struggle to keep cheerful. At least after the solstice, the balance shifts -- February and March may be hellishly dreary months, but you know while you're suffering through them that they're leading up to something better. December only leads up to ... January.

While I wait for them to roll around, I try to think positive! Here's an abbreviated list of things I'm thankful for:
- Netflix
- The astonishing beauty of my neighborhood and that I get to live in it, & the person I get to live in it with
- My residence at 2756 Unicorn Lane (1982 - 2005)
- Dogs on the street
- Not so much the dogshit on the street. But the dogs
- Election years and the potential they hold
- Airplanes
- The New York Public Library system
- Whole Foods
- Snark
- WNYC, WFUV, and public radio in general
- Jon Stewart
- My health
- My laptop
- Google
- Cobblestone streets

Thursday, November 17, 2005

heroes fall

Not that Woodward was a particular hero of mine; Washington is too cynical a place to have heroes. I do like the movie of All the Presidents Men though -- not to mention the idea of it. Bravery in the face of peril! Nighttime skulking! Persistence leading to, finally, success!

So the most depressing, discouraging aspect of the recent revelations about Good Old Bob, to me, is that he didn't admit to his involvement in the case while the investigation was going on because he DIDN'T WANT TO GO TO JAIL. He was working on a book, you know ... It just wasn't a good time.

Awesome, Bob! Way to go, invoking the old Chicken Defense. You've made JUDY MILLER look noble by comparison.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Potent Quotables

Girl with Jewish Last Name: (faking child's voice) Why are there eight days of Hannukah?
Me: ... ?
GWJLN: You know! When you read that book, and the little kid has to ask: Why are there eight days of Hannukah?
Me: You mean, why is this night different from all other nights?
GWJLN: Yeah! ... Oh. Different holiday, huh?

Me to boy: I like your watch.
Boy to me: Thanks! I like your face.

I wrote a whole entry about my emotional trip home this weekend to see my beloved house on Unicorn Lane one last time -- and of course the internets ate it. Just as well, I guess. The gist of it was, in my mind's eye, it's as though the only house I've ever lived in is being whipped away into space like in the ads for Zathura. Through the crack in the door, you can see Little Ester -- angsty, skeptical, morbid, safe -- and Sheba and a thousand Shabbes dinners with my grandparents and a thousand horizontal afternoons spent watching Jack Nicholson or the Marx brothers and the hole in the wall from when my older brother hurled his toy bat and my little brother's myriad scattered computer parts and the Steinway Grand piano none of us learned to play well and the Mexican death cart that used to totally freak me out and all those books. My god, will I ever have access to so many books again? And my parents, in the kitchen, reading the newspaper, drinking coffee or tea, cursing the Republicans, immediately jumping up to offer food to anyone who came in.

Of course, when I returned to New York, having triaged my childhood memorobilia from my room and bid farewell to all the other rooms too, one by one, I was exhausted. I turned on the TV and there it was, The Wizard of Oz, my own reference come back to bite me in the ass. I turned it off again before Dorothy could say what I knew she was going to. For my own mental health. But that doesn't mean I don't know she's right.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Um, maybe God likes science

Get ready for this week's roundup of GOD versus ENLIGHTENMENT, a battle that's been raging since Adam and Eve considered a future of roaming naked in tropical paradise peacefully forever and decided to look behind Door #2.

First we have the great state of KANSAS, which as we all remember was black & white in The Wizard of Oz for the very important reason that it represents everything dull and confining about America. (Technicolor technology was new in 1939 and this gave the studio a chance to give it a splashy debut. But did the studio choose California as the best contrast to the Techniolor wonders of Oz? Did it choose Vermont? No, sir, it did not.)

Kansas's school board voted this week 6 - 4 to hang a big picture of Charles Darwin over the doorway of the capital courthouse, circled and slashed through in red, with the inscription underneath, "'ORIGIN'-AL SIN! NOT IN OUR SCHOOLS." Next to it, they hung another sign whose text reads, "SCIENCE MEANS WHATEVER WE SAY IT MEANS" and a third, "CLAY AIKEN, WILL YOU MARRY ME??"


A hop, skip and a galaxy away in Pennsylvania -- a swing state in the sense that it shifts in a positively bipolar fashion from good decisions to bad -- every member of the Dover school board that suggested teaching Kansas's preferred Intelligent Design biology curriculum got voted out.

By the way, the curriculum, a copy of which was given to me by a high-level source familiar with the material who wanted to remain anonymous, goes something like this:
"God is the answer to every question. Go ahead, try me! What's the first law of thermodynamics? GOD. What does thermodynamics mean? GOD. What's the name of Margaret Atwood's novel that incisively portrays what happens when religion mixes too prominently with government? GOD! Is literature science? Sure! It's a new world, kids: science can be anything you want, especially fiction."


It would look like we had a tie to end the week. BUT, with an addition that makes it just under the wire, Pat Robertson, America's favorite candidate for hospitalization this side of Lisa on America's Next Top Model has warned Dover, PA of its impending doom:
"God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever," Robertson said. "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."
Wow. He's frikkin Jonah in Nineveh, isn't he? Except Nineveh was NINEVEH and Dover, PA is DOVER, PA.

Also, if voting out creationist school board members is poking God in the eye, what's allowing the continuing genocide in Darfur? Pat, your thoughts, you bloviating pious piece of monkey shit?


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hey! Hey! Over here!

I wish I had a siren. Oh well.

Judy's gone! They shipped her off to Bolivia, just like I recommended. (Maybe to one of those new top-secret Eastern European prisons I'm hearing so much about. [From Republican senators, of course.])
Sulzberger's press release in response is precious. Aw. I do believe he's going to miss his Miss Run Amok, even if she devolved into a self-righteous irresponsible harridan who dug her own grave, shot herself in the foot, and left herself with no friends at all.

Might I now reccommend, as a replacement, the always entertaining and insightful Dahlia Litwick from Slate? Or if the Times doesn't feel the need to plug a woman in a woman-shaped hole (which is so popular nowadays) how about a staff member from The Onion? If they're going to make up news, they may as well be hilarious about it.

Monday, November 07, 2005

a small but vital point

As most of us know, a cinematic version of Rent, directed, frighteningly, by Chris Columbus, will grace our theaters in a few weeks. What is less well-reported is that it has received a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. Why, you may ask, is that newsworthy? There's little onscreen nudity, sex, and violence, and the language is far less risque now than it was 10 years ago.

Bless you for your naivete. The truth is, there was a time, not so long ago, when any movie seeming to advance a homosexual agenda got an R, no matter how tame. Really! In fact, the last time I checked, this was still the case. Except Rent, which features numerous sexually-active gay couples AND one transgendered character, now merits the same rating as the latest child-friendly Harry Potter installment.

This, America, is progress! I'd say write the MPAA and thank them for their increasing openmindedness but those bastards would probably turn around and sue your grandfather for those movies you downloaded onto his computer. As far as the MPAA is concerned, it's probably better that you don't even exist. But from your bunker in your undisclosed location, whisper your thanks.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


To: Sen. Reid, Minority Leader and All Around Important Congressional Guy
From: Me. Blogger.
Re: Recent strategy



A lot of people spend a lot of time talking about how the Democratic party is unfocused, quarrelsome, and stultified by its own stupid slogans. Sure, others argue, we don't march in lockstep like the Republicans; on the other hand, we're not wearing JACKBOOTS either! (Ouch!)

In the middle of the fray, Harry, there you are, unobtrusively going about your business. But some of us have been watching. Or at least I have. Here's what I've deduced and don't hesitate to tell me if I'm wrong. I can take criticism. Only from Mormons though! (Just kidding!)

1) You recommend Harriet Miers to President Bush, encouraging him to follow his worst instincts. He totally falls for it! He takes an embarrassing and painful pummeling from the right flank, most notably from his own former speechwriter.

2) While said pummeling occurs, you lead Democrats in moments of silent prayer. This wise move garners us admiration for the first time in ages.

3) After Bush testily nominates a replacement candidate, you shift some attention and, taking the enemy completely by surprise, call a "closed session" of Congress in order to talk about -- drumroll please! -- Iraq! Are Republicans steaming? They sure are; and if they're steaming buddy you know you're doing something right. They wanted to talk about Alito and you threw a wrench in their plans. Now they have to talk about this crazy, awful, mismanaged war that they and their constituents hate. Excellent!

4) Plus, you get what you wanted: the bipartisan review of the lead-up to war. This can only reflect badly on the White House. AND any article written on the subject must mention the indictment. Thus, instead of letting the White House shuffle this latest embarassment out of sight, you keep it solidly on the front burner.

You're not perfect, Harry. We disagree on a number of issues, including abortion, and why would anyone choose to live in Nevada? Still, you've managed to accomplish all of this under the radar. No one realizes you're smart enough to be so stealthy; they think Karl Rove is the only brain around here. Or maybe, hey, this is all a coincidence or an accident and I'm overreacting by attributing it to you.

Must be my mistake, Harry. Sorry about that!

Wink wink, nod nod,

Friday, October 28, 2005

it's FITZMAS and Santa delivers

America has a new hero. We tip our collective fedora to you, Former US Attorney from Chicago; you are a fine example of the sort of tough, principled and well-spoken men we weren't sure we had many of anymore.

Sure, we ragged on you a little when you insisted that Judy go to prison -- what about the 1st Amendment?, we cried: Won't someone please think of the 1st amendment? -- but now that it turns out even her paper thinks she's a twat, and further now that we know that prison did nothing to chip away at her twattiness (twaticity?), we agree that you made the right choice. I hope someone keeps her foam mattress warm for her friend in tree poetry Scooter L.

We don't even mind, really, that you steadfastly refuse to talk about anything "beyond the four corners of the investigation," even as we salivate over mental images of a federal agent forcing Karl to kneel in his flower bed and slapping cuffs on Karl's pale, delicate wrists. Restraint is admirable. You keep us in check, Fitz. Following your example, we stick to the facts: Dick Cheney's chief of staff, who is also a senior advisor to the president, stands accused of five crimes. Even Ken Starr, for all his tireless work, could get eke out two.

Jail time, assuming Scooter is convicted, ranges from 0 to 50 years. Judge's choice. But that will never happen. We can all smell plea bargain when it wafts through the autumn air, can't we, Fitz? It bears no resemblance at all to pumpkin.

We praising the name of the Lord, Fitz, and you should know your name is also on our lips. You are our Ambassador of Coin, to coin a phrase. You are our Moses, bringing us to the border of the Land of Republican Downfall -- even more so for being so apolitical about your responsibilities. You give us a straight face to hide our glee behind. Thank you for your two years of service to this country.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

adventures in yoga

show up (first time in 6 months)

smile through fear

smile at superfriendly superpositive teacher

fear superfriendly superpositive teacher

begin: oh jesus: muscles feel napalmed

sweat so much you're scared the superfriendly superpositive teacher will think you're crying

muscles ... burning ...

ouch! arm. ouch. superfriendly superpositive teacher puts her hand on your back and says kindly, "i know that sometimes I get hurt when I try to get out of positions too quickly."

lie in the darkness and try not to hate superfriendly superpositive teacher. and all superfriendly superpositive people in the world who are good at yoga and dance and not crying and probably sex, childbirth, motherhood, and death with dignity too.

walk home in the rain and say to self, "see? that wasn't that bad, now, was it?"

Sunday, October 23, 2005

the estrogen's finally caught up with me

Maybe it's all the tofu I eat -- I've been recently told the stuff is chock full of girly hormones. I've accomplished the following things this weekend:

1) bought a pair of somewhat pricey but exciting boots
2) curled up in bed ALONE and watched TWO (2) renee zellweger movies. neither of which was the fantastic and excusable Empire Records!

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention I -- also cried. And not over the boots. I guess I should lay off the cuties. But god, between the girly hormones in soy and the mercury in fish, what am I supposed to eat? It can't be Smart Puffs all the time, can it? They're just not that filling.

I've also meant to blog all week about various hilarious news items. Did you hear about the millionaire Republican senator from New Hampshire who won $800,000 in the lottery, for instance? When asked whether he planned to donate any of his newfound, superfluous wealth to worthy causes, he replied with great sensitivity, "Are you kidding? I'm going to spend it." One can only assume he then went on to kick a small child in the face, laugh about the holocaust, and spit on a picture of New Orleans.

Also, the Panties in a Twist Council: Determining What's Appropriate To Watch On Television released their list of top ten best and worst shoes for family viewing. Except they were so disappointed by this year's offerings they could only find NINE shows to recommend. Can you believe that?
Personally I think the Panties in a Twist Council got it wrong on all counts. They listed the O.C. on the "bad" list because of superficial sex and violence, and in doing so they overlooked the moral center of the show: the Cohen family, which eats together, talks to each other, helps each other out with their legal and substance abuse problems. Surely they're as good an example of responsible family living as 7th-freaking-Heaven. I mean, why not? Just because they're Jews?

Speaking of Jews, what does the PTC have against those lovable, wacky Bluths? Let's see:
Arrested Development also employs some of the most outrageous double-entendres ever to find their way into prime-time. In one episode, for example, Tobias says he was an analyst and a therapist, making him the first "analrapist."
BWAHHH! Did you see that episode? That was fucking hilarious. Clearly, the PTC didn't get the joke.

I can only imagine what they'd make of Sarah Silverman. She has skyrocketed, hasn't she? I guess I wasn't the only one who thought she was the best part of the Aristocrats (in part because she TOLD the bloody joke and didn't just half-ass it or talk about it.) The New Yorker -- which I get now! I'm totally cool -- has a great profile of her that you can read online. My favorite line:
“I was raped by a doctor,” she says. “Which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.”

Sunday, October 16, 2005

shocked out of my socks

Is there anything capable of truly shocking us anymore? Consider the headline news report from the Post today: How a Lobbyist Stacked the Deck -- whose title metaphor should more appropriately be, How Abramoff Played the United States Congress like a Jewharp.

You know you're in for a good ride when a five-page article begins with, not a dry summary of events, but a line like "Lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his team were beginning to panic." Oh good, you think: this is going to be a STORY. You settle in, preparing yourself for congressional manipulation, right-wing hypocricy, conveniently blank memories, forgery and fornication, performed by the starlets of the GOP, including Grover Norquist, Tom DeLay, James Dobson, and featuring an appearance by the First Brother Jeb Bush himself. You expect a pageant; you are not disappointed.

But my point isn't "Gee, isn't this fun?" Of course it's fun. What's amazing is that IT ISN'T SHOCKING. This is all breaking news and it reads like it's obvious. Well, except for bits like this:
According to the e-mails, Reed provided the name and address where Norquist was supposed to send the money: to Robin Vanderwall at a location in Virginia Beach.

Vanderwall was director of the Faith and Family Alliance, a political advocacy group that was founded by two of Reed's colleagues and then turned over to Vanderwall, Vanderwall said and records show.

Vanderwall, a former Regent University Law School student and Republican operative, was later convicted of soliciting sex with minors via the Internet and is serving a seven-year term in Virginia state prison.
That's got to be a humiliating guy for Norquist's name to be linked to. I'd almost feel sorry for him, if he weren't the asshole of the universe. Did you get catch the subtle irony, too? Soliciting sex with minors VIA THE INTERNET after helping to launder money for INTERNET GAMBLING? Okay, maybe it's not that subtle, especially when spelled out in caps.

In fact, the whole cast of characters, who should be exiled posthaste to Nairobi or the (melting) polar ice caps -- their choice --, seem blessedly unaware of their puppetmaster. Witness: "'This is all tied to Jack?" Sheldon said. "I'm shocked out of my socks.'" These losers have made me tired. Exile for the lot of them!

And don't even get me started on Judy Miller's pathetic defence of herself in the NYT. Even the paper of record itself doesn't seem to buy it. A separate "objective" report on the subject, by three people who will not be invited for martinis and manicures by Bill Keller anytime soon, does an excellent job of seeming respectful while actually dragging Judy through the mud like a ragdoll tied to a pickup truck. My favorite section:
On Oct. 3, four days after Ms. Miller left jail, she returned to the headquarters of The New York Times on West 43rd Street.

Before entering the building, she called her friend Ms. Payne and asked her to come downstairs and escort her in. "She very felt frightened," Ms. Payne said. "She felt very vulnerable."

At a gathering in the newsroom, she made a speech claiming victories for press freedom. Her colleagues responded with restrained applause, seemingly as mystified by the outcome of her case as the public.
BWAH! Still, in its own hilarious way, predictable.

What, friends, are we going to do with our jaded, unshockable selves? In the meantime, while we mull that over, exile for Judy too. We don't do enough banishing anymore.

Monday, October 10, 2005

day: decadent

What frikkin brilliance, huh? Chris Columbus "discovering" America means I get to spend the day luxuriating indoors, stepping out into early-season cold only to purchase my favorite cereal. (Which, at nearly $5 a box, counts as a treat. Fucking NYC.) This whole day is a treat though: Chris never merited us a day off from Swarthmore. On the other hand, why would it if our beloved pinko-commie institution, that Kremlin on the Crum, didn't even recognize Labor Day? We started classes on Labor Day.

In fact, I had one history professor who found this so insulting she continued to rebel against it, year after year. Once, I remember, we spent our first day listening to the Monica Lewinsky tapes. I remember thinking, they sell this shit commercially now? You should try them: they're spell-binding and vomit-inducing all at once. You can hear Linda Tripp working on potato chips in the background as she tries to smarm more information out of poor, clueless Lewinsky. It's worthy of the Sopranos.

Speaking of which, the Sopranos are what I've blockaded myself inside with today. Entirely by accident, among the episodes I've been enjoying is their personal Columbus Day pride parade. The best part, in my opinion, is AJ reading Howard Zinn, as assigned by a teacher at his new skool, and parroting from it that Columbus would be tried for war crimes if he were alive today. Tony, incensed, retorts, "Great - he finally reads a book and it's bullshit."
The episode's moral, that there's too much ethnicity misery poker going on nowadays -- and its sub-moral, that no one will ever truly understand anyone else's history as long as everyone wants to claim equal-time suffering -- is a little heavy-handed. Still, having stayed away from the show for a while, it's refreshing to be brought back into the brilliance. That's how I advise anyone interested to approach the widely disregarded season four.

I saw Capote also this weekend. It was a wonderful character study and acted as well as befits the first star vehicle for one of my favorite actors. But it didn't shake my world -- it was too small for that. I wonder whether a more seasoned director could have done more with it or if the limitations are inherent to the story.

Nothing's blown my socks off this year. It's sort of disappointing. Well, Hollywood has the entire autumn to make it up to me. Ironically, one of the contenders Good Night, and Good Luck, tells the exact story I told in a seminar paper for that same history professor mentioned above. If only I'd thought to make the paper into a screenplay THEN. If only someone had told me.

Friday, October 07, 2005

if wishes were horses

Someone asked me today at work whether I took the subway today despite the warnings of bombs! in baby carriages! and when I said yes, she goggled at me. But what's the alternative? Even if you're not in the subway system, you're twenty feet above it: a nefarious baby carriage out to destroy us all will get you up on the grate as well as me.

So yeah, I'm still alive. It's the new year, I'm doing pretty well. I enjoyed the small, homely but charming service Mr. Ben and I sought refuge in for both days of the holiday. (Memo to New York jews: Rosh Hashanah lasts two days. TWO. You don't get full credit unless you heard that damned ram's horn blow Tuesday and Wednesday. No fair sneaking back to the office with your assignment only half completed. You work too hard anyway. Now feel guilty for putting your money-making over the spiritual health of your soul.)
(Memo to Judaism: Thanks for the cover. Those two free days were bliss and the self-righteousness is the bliss-cherry on the bliss-sundae.)

I also thought of this idea for a piece of fiction. I can't say "book" because I'm afraid of grand nouns. Even in high school when I wrote two pieces of fiction, each spanning over 150 pages, I had a clunky tendency to refer to them as long stories. But I want this to be a book. I want a channel for my ambitions. I have written just over one page so far. Worry not, though, friends: life is long. Unless it gets cut short by a nefarious baby carriage.

How can you take that seriously?? A BABY CARRIAGE. Somehow my brain can't process it. Harriet Miers, cipher that she is, is scarier. (Miers reminds me a bit of an anthropomorphic mouse in a Disney movie along the lines of Rats of NIMH. Would that make Karl Rove the Great Owl?) Well, in any case, I hope I live to snark about such threats another day.

Monday, September 26, 2005

My brother tells a story, vol. 46

So I'm in this car with my friends and this obnoxious girl, right? Obnoxious girl is the designated driver and she likes my friend K. K. won't touch her when he's sober but when he's drunk, all bets are off and he lets her glom onto him. She's our designated driver a lot.

So she's driving and I'm bombed and in the backseat. My friend J. has bought some beef jerky, cause he's bombed too. So I take the beef jerky from him and I look for places to hide it in her car. I find these stupid tanning glasses -- you know, glasses you wear in the tanning booth? They're really stupid. I throw them out the window. Then I put the beef jerky in where the glasses were. Then I stuff some in the back of the headrest too.

She didn't find it til the next afternoon. The beef jerky was just baking in her car for 12 hours. I thought it was so funny for like a day -- and then I started to feel kind of bad. But I really do hate her and I wish she'd stop hanging out with us.

Monday, September 12, 2005

city living

Despite the still beautiful weather, I'm finding city living a little dispiriting of late. First there's all the gross shit you see (and smell) on a daily basis: normal, business-suited men masturbating on park benches in full view of small children; dead rats on subway platforms, lying in neat red pools of blood, like they were shot by rival rat gangs or bitten by vampyres; used condoms; birds smashed beyond recognition.

Then there's men. Men everywhere in the city! Can't escape them. Today one, who I had just spent about 30 minutes treating very considerately, remarked, "sweetie, I've been checking out that leather skirt, and I just wanna say, nice." I would have liked to throw him through the plate glass door but since I'm basically a six year old, I said thanks. THANKS. Oh, for the days when male relatives would avenge such a slight, and I mean avenge with a flame-thrower -- or the 19th century equivalent of one.

Why do men say anything to me at all? That's what I want to know. I chalk it up to the babyface. That, I assume, is also why, when men do speak to me (and they speak to me frequently) they call me Sweetie or Honey or Darlin. Maybe, come to think of it, THAT'S why I feel six years old. (But there is, still, undeniably, the babyface.)

And then there's work. Work. The entertainment industry has its own variation of Misery Poker. It's like Seven Card "I had to work over Labor Day weekend for no extra pay so what exactly are YOU complaining about?" Stud.
Which is to say, work has been brutal and no one has any sympathy to spare. I've been reading a lot to take the edge off. When will I graduate to tequila and cocaine, you ask? Any day now, my brother. One more used condom ought to do the trick.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

the myth of progress

Is the idea that the fate of the world moves slowly but inexorably in the right direction a human fantasy? Is it a necessary comfort, like religion? Is it impossible to determine and thus pointless to discuss?

Last night at at my friend Ilana's new brooklyn flat the queer lefty jewish intelligentsia gathered to greet the sabbath queen by eating potluck on the floor with improvised flatware. One girl, who reminded me acutely of a swattie though she wasn't technically one, said in passing that of course she didn't believe in progress. I couldn't believe my ears. At first I teased her, told her that's an unamerican worldview. She didn't crack a smile.

So a conversation commenced. On my side was the notion that Things Get Better. Overall. On average. Look at any numerical figure we have to judge history by: literacy, education, infant mortality and life expectancy. Consider: no nation can now wage war in a vacuum; no individual can own another individual with complete impunity. The world watches now. The still-imperfect world, washed with its own blood, scarcely done recovering from one atrocity before it begins perpetrating another, yes, but the world from which we have all but eradicated polio, invented the internet and sent spaceships to the moon and beyond. How could that not be considered progress? How can you argue, even if you limit the discourse to the past 7000 years of recorded history, that things haven't gotten better?

On the other side were the skeptical faces of the seven other girls in the room. They looked at me like I was western imperialism personified. It was a chilling feeling and eventually I gave up. It seemed good manners to do so: one of the girls had already risen and left rather than (I sensed) say something rude to me.

I was already, going in, on edge because of this book I'd taken out of the library. Some previous reader had recorded his/her outraged reactions to the main character, starting on the first page where s/he added a foreward: "Warning! This book contributes to negative stereotypes about Asian people." I thought of the warning stickers that school board tried to put in textbooks about evolution. This one seemed just as stupid.

The unnuanced marginalia went on to call the main character an idiot and a colonialist bastard; it got increasingly heated and self-righteous as the book progressed. Clearly its author has some issues, not the least of which, to my mind, is his/her appaling sense of entitlement. I don't care how angry you are, you don't have the right to scribble all over a library book! Go write a book of your own pointing out the flaws in Graham Greene but get the hell out of my reading experience.

Ultimately, though, these interactions don't make me feel angry so much as lonely. They throw my lack of community into high relief. I wish you could find community for sale at Target at $9 a yard. I don't know where to look for it exactly as things stand.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Mr. Ben and I diverted ourselves down to Washington DC to see my parents this weekend. They rewarded us with a room of our own, more seafood than we could shake a stick at, even more hugs, and a bag of chocolate truffles that melted on the ride back to NYC.

I'm not kidding about the seafood. My body is, I'm sure, now stockpiled up on protein: lox, chubbs, whitefish (which are technically just chubbs that got bigger), herring, salmon, and best of all freshly and inhumanely killed crabs. Maybe there isn't a humane way to kill a crab and this is my guilt talking, but I personally wouldn't want to be showered with hot spices and then slowly boiled to death. Though at least I could go to my hot-watery grave knowing I was about to taste delicious.

The vegetarians reigned supreme last weekend, since my cousin Pedro and his new wife Sandi were visiting my parents as well and they are cut from the same cloth as Mr. Ben and me. (The cloth smells vagely of tofuti cuties.) We will not eat anything that was once warm-blooded and died for our sakes. We did discuss a bit why none of us are equally bothered by the consumption of fish. My excuse is that when I tried to give up eating fish I discovered it got in the way of religious devotion and community connection. Really! I have only one friend who manages to avoid all culturally mandated Jewish fish-eating and remain a good Jew. It was certainly too difficult for little me.

And once you allow for culturally mandated Jewish fish-eating, you get inhumanely killed and oh-so-tasty hard-shelled crabs too. O, the fringe benefits of consistency.

Two of my friends and one of my brothers are starting law school right now at very different law schools across the country (UW-Seattle, U Arizona-Tuscon, and Georgetown). That's apropos of nothing, really, except that I'm awfully glad Mr. Ben never has to go through that again. And that by "Mr. Ben" and I mean "me." And that clearly my two friends and one brother should be on a reality show. WHO will be eliminated FIRST?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


This is just the way I'm wired. There is nothing cuter in the world to me than babies attempting to walk, fluffy dogs, and gays. My heart turns to jello pudding. This ad, therefore, despite being strangely off-topic and -- well, just plain strange, is utterly redeemed by its ending.

On the less bright side, though it makes me glad, it won't make GLAAD happy. I guess I can sympathize with their point: as always, white males forefront, possible dykes out of focus in the back. Still, I take my jello pudding moments where I can get them.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Math is hard. ... No, really

Try your hand at 8th grade math. If you make it past the first question without turning internet tail and running as fast as your mouse can carry you, you're a better mathman than I am. Hell, I'll go ahead and proclaim you a better mathman than I am right now cuz the odds are seriously in your favor. (Ask me what I got on the Math GREs! Actually, please don't. I almost committed ritual suicide right there at the computer screen as it blandly displayed my results.)

I feel like if I were a better feminist I wouldn't be so crappy at math, or vice versa. I feel like I'm letting the sisterhood down every time I get scared my a number -- or 2 numbers -- or worst of all having to DO SOMETHING with those numbers. Maybe a number killed my mother in a past life or something, I don't know.

I can still read though! And continuing on my Burning Through Books streak (and, though coincidentally, books about love triangles and Christianity) I finished The Queen's Fool yesterday. Historical fiction about the Tudor court at a time when it was having dynasty problems. Yum.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The inappropriate entry

This is going to be short, but it is also going to unsuitable reading material for adults of any relation to me. ADULTS: I'm not kidding. Read on at your peril.

First of all, did you know sells sex toys? Fo shizzle! And get your credit card ready to call now, cuz they're just-fell-off-a-truck cheap. (Not used, though. Just fell-off-a-truck.)

Secondly, remember that story about the man who was fucked to death by a horse in Washington state? (ADULTS! I told you: PERIL.) Apparently its ripple effect has yet to subside. A Republican state senator has introduced legislation making beastiality officially illegal. Although such a law makes sense to me -- especially as a vegetarian -- I gotta wonder whether that horse fucking guy could have been deterred. I mean, someone whose need for horsecock fudgepacking is so strong that he's willing to die for it has gotta be bigger than the laws of man can contain. (ADULTS! What'd I say? Why are you still here? Mom? Mom? Did you think I was joking?)

Last but not least, I've gone from Anna Karenina to mysteries of small houses, towelhead, and now the end of the affair by one of my emerging-favorite authors, graham greene. A good multi-culti mix, although I didn't plan it that way. I've enjoyed/am enjoying all of the above, despite the (in my opinion) cop-out ending of Anna K. -- such a wonderfully nonjudgemental book, and then the moral, appearing in the final 50 pages, is, Got Religion? ugh! -- and the intensity of towelhead. In fact, I found the only way to get through the latter was to flip to the end of various sequences to assure myself they ended okay ("okay" being relative) before I could go back and read each through.

Okay, so that last part wasn't obscene. ... But it could have been. ... Horsecock pudgepacking! (Mom!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

before the fall

There are freshmen -- everywhere. On my way from the subway to my apartment alone there are two dorms and like salmon upstream go the new students up the stairs with their lamps and laptops and big comfy pillows. I kind of can't stand it. This is the first year I haven't moved anywhere, changed anything for the coming of fall. Fall will be here and it will mean nothing, for the first time since I was a toddler, except No More Summer.

Maybe that's why I've been in a little bit of a funk lately, because I'm running out of opportunity to be a child prodigy. (Memo to self: if you make it through college without being Discovered, that window may be officially closed.) A friend of mine from college who's been abroad for a year came home and, as we sat in Washington Square Park watching the little new-to-NYUers swarm by, he mulled over the dilemma that faces anyone interested in being an artist: will grad skool kill your ambition or refine it? Is it soul-killing or basic and vital to earn money? If you decide to be a teacher, are you giving up?

Yesterday at work when everything felt hopeless and pointless for a minute, I stepped outside for some fresh air. I collected myself and started back, and, while crossing 10th Avenue, I glanced at the window of a mud-splashed blue Ford Expedition and recognized the driver. He looked right back at me and looked like he was trying to place me too, although I had already placed him: I'd know Tony Soprano anywhere. I smiled slightly and nodded, the way I would to an acquaintance, and kept walking. I didn't even look back. But that was all I needed to make it through the rest of the day. Thanks, Tony!

I just hope I don't need too many celebrity sightings to make it through the fall.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A beautiful mind

It's sad to me that not only did this White House not nominate a woman to fill Sandra Day's seat, but it decided to nominate an anti-woman man. Sure, he's married to a feminist now, so Phillis Schlaffley, to name one notable perturbed by the recent relevations about the future justice, is mollified. Sure, he wrote some of his most objectionable opinions while still in school. I've said some pretty stupid things myself while in school and I wouldn't want them held against me. But at this point I won't feel comfortable -- and more importantly, I wouldn't want the country to feel comfortable -- with this man until he gives some kind of explanation. "I was being hit on the head, repeatedly" would do, for a start.

I hate who this man is turning out to be. I hate the Good Old Boy behind the shiny apple cheeks and how we're only supposed to see the apple cheeks and no further. We're supposed to think he's friendly. Look how friendly! He's smiling in all those pictures, isn't he? He's not all straight out of the 1950s, no! But let's someone get this man's opinion on Joe McCarthy, just to be safe, hmm?

I'm going to put on my own tin-foil hat for a second and speculate. Welcome to my version of The Seduction of John Roberts.

TIME: some years ago. PLACE: a home in Bethesda, MD.
JOHN (male, white, single, conservative, good-looking in an All-American, all-boys prep school sort of way) sits at his desk with a glass of scotch late one night, chuckling at a book.

JOHN (to himself): Oh, that Ann Coulter. What a sparkplug!

Bang! An APPARITION appears in a puff of black smoke right by JOHN. She is a severe, prim woman in a suit. JOHN screams.

JOHN: Who are you?
APPARITION: I'm here to help you, John. Don't be alarmed.

JOHN does his best to catch his breath. After a moment, he looks more closely at the APPARITION.

JOHN: You seem familiar ...
APPARITION: I should. I appear to Republicans fated to serve our glorious cause, good men who need a little help.
JOHN: No, I've seen you somewhere.
APPARITION: You've seen me everywhere, John. I've served as secretary to Oliver North, before that as secretary to the great president Richard Nixon ...
JOHN: Rosemary! Of course!
APPARITION: Aliases are necessary in my line of work, yes. But you can simply call me Guidance Counselor.
JOHN: Well -- okay, Guidance Counselor. What can I do for you?
APPARITION: You're not married, John.

JOHN's game face droops. He plays with his glass of scotch.

JOHN: I know. And Genesis says --
APPARITION: I'm not interested in Genesis. I'm interested in the future of the GOP. We're going to call on you, John. You're going to help our glorious cause cement control of all three branches of government. Oh, it's going to be brilliant, John. Just wait til you see it.
JOHN: When?
APPARITION: The year 2005. President Bush --
JOHN: Jeb?
APPARITION: No, the other brother, George.
JOHN: George? That monkey-faced alcoholic do-nothing?
APPARITION: Things are very different in the future, John. George has cleaned up and found God. He can't do anything about the monkey-face, it's true, but we all have our crosses.
JOHN: George ... huh. Who'd have guessed.
APPARITION: The problem is, however, that you're not married. And you've written a couple things that are going to make you seem a little insensitive to women's rights. You're going to take a beating.
JOHN: How bad will it be?
APPARITION: It'll chap your ass like a plague of boils, that's for damn sure, but you'll get through it, John, because I've got a plan. We're going to marry you off. Oh yes. And here's the stroke of genius: to a feminist.
APPARITION: I'm afraid there's no other way.
JOHN: Well, why don't I cut off my own johnson right now and save her the trouble?
APPARITION: Hear me out. She's not going to be just any feminist: she'll be a Feminist for Life.
JOHN: Feminist for the Life of Unmarried Career Women who want Vending Machine Abortions?
APPARITION: It's an anti-choice group but it's one the Left can't argue with. The f-word in the title acts as a sort of stun bomb on them. It's a terrific weapon: it leaves them gibbering and staggering about for hours.
JOHN: Okay, but she'll still cook for me and everything, right?
APPARITION: Everything.

JOHN reflects.

JOHN: I've always sort of wanted a wife. She'll be pretty? She has to be pretty. I can't stand ugly bitches.
APPARITION: Who can? Yes, she'll be pleasant-looking and well-groomed.
JOHN: Okay, then. I guess I can take this one for the team. Anything else?
APPARITION: Everything else, we'll take care of.

SHE moves to leave. JOHN stands up.

JOHN: I -- I want you to know I appreciate this, guidance counselor. I won't let you down.
APPARITION: Not me, John. Our glorious cause.
JOHN: Right.
APPARITION: Oh, also. There will be a senate page in 1999. You’ll meet at a dinner party at Grover Norquist’s and you’ll have … feelings. You must not act on them, John.
JOHN: Yes, ma'am.

He hangs his head. She tips his chin up with her finger.

APPARITION: No apologies, John. Remember: you're a Republican.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

emooooo, emoooooo

First: My sympathies for Cindy Sheehan decreased. Usually I hate Hitchens. In this case he happens to point out a relevant on-the-record quote. Boo, Ms. Sheehan! Boo to your tin foil hat propoganda!

Oh, but then: Wait a minute! Cindy insists those quotes are made up. She doesn't believe the elders of zion are behind her son's death and bush's war after all. Phew. We can be friends again, Cindy! Let's have fun. Except ... you're still scaring me a little. With the taxes stuff, you know? That was Thoreau's game. It's been done. Oh man, I'm so confused.

Let's let the kittens decide.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

file under: WHAT?

Supposedly, Nicole Kidman, who looks like Nicole Kidman, would prefer to look like me. This is like Madonna renaming herself "ester" folks -- okay, "esther" but close enough. Maybe I should abandon my femmey instincts towards self-critcism, accept the fact that Hollywood wants to recreate itself in my short, curvy, jewish image, move to the West Coast and let the money pour in. Then I could afford cable!

"How to be like me" lessons I could offer to the insatiable elite:
Withering glances and eye-rolling
Web surfing for eight hours a day -- not as easy as it sounds
Forget this boho shit and rock the pleather!
Tarot cards
What the Rabbis Say (about any given topic. Whatever I don't remember, I'll make up)
How to make things up but sound really convincing
What's Going on in Washington DC -- Who Are All Those Ugly People and What Do They Do Again?
Movies you've never heard of
Why the movies you know are sexist/racist/classist/objectionable and, now that you mention it, why you are too

Yes, that would be fun. The trick would be to capitalize on my inexplicable appeal before my fifteen minutes are up, then take my money back to NYC, buy real estate in the one up-and-coming neighborhood that's been curiously ignored until now, kick my heels up and eat Pirate's Booty on my ivy-drenched balcony until I'm financially set for life. Man, why didn't I realize getting rich would be this easy?

the other day, mr. ben and i were talking about starvation in niger and i was like, oh man, what's that word for when the belly distends and the limbs have wasted away? and mr. ben was like, starvation? and i was like, nooooo, there's a word, a medical word, i learned it in bio 2 with mr miller ...

for several days i've tried to remember, refusing to look it up. and THIS MORNING this word floated into my head: kwashiorkor. no way could that be it, i thought. kwashiorkor? but google affirmed me. i even spelled it right.

thanks, mr miller!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Adulterous Russian snakes!

coworker C: I need a book to read. A classic.
me: Well, i'm reading Anna Karenina ...
C: Is that about snakes?
me: *howling with laughter*
C: It's not like Sense and Sensibility right? I hate that shit ...
me: *still laughing*
C: *protesting* Well, maybe you have a funny accent and it sounded like "anacondra!"

Speaking of which, I am enjoying the book, which is not at all like Sense and Sensibility. Some mental block keeps me from "classics," generally. At least the Russian ones. I assume that the hordes of people over the centuries who have enjoyed these books have been masochists; that the people who labeled them "classics" in the first place were stern, humorless English professors who read everything, even magazines, with pens in hand.

Or quills.

But see, then I start reading one, like Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, and LOVE it. Read passages aloud to friends. Laugh when remembering bits and pieces. Then, when the next stout little paperback with the familiar name rolls around, I regard it with distrust all over again. Someday, perhaps a year from now!, I'll learn.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

dry soup

Sundays I cook. I did not grow up cooking -- no indeed. When I saw ovens, I thought of Sylvia Plath. (I was a precocious child.) Okay, that's a lie. The word "oven" though does have seriously creepy implications for me, even now. Too much Jewish schooling.

Last August, when Mr. Ben suggested this as our game plan to save money and efficiently use time, cooking every Sunday in bulk, for the week, was an intimidating chore. I mostly followed along what Mr. Ben did, chopped vegetables faithfully and mixed sauces, under a cloud of fear that I would somehow fuck everything up. It didn't help, perhaps, that this process began when Mr. Ben and I co-habitated in Apartment #1 with the Supremely Untalented, Touchy, Passive-Agressive 30-Year-Old Graduate Student in Art Therapy Who Hated Us for Unknown Reasons. Her omnipresent bad art made her presence inescapable, even when she herself was taking one of her endless, expensive, frequent and apparently ineffective hot baths. (She hated us just as much when she emerged, wrapped in one of her purple towels.)

Our adventures in cooking proceded apace while we lived under her gloomy, disatisfied eye, to be sure. We made two risotos and one my favorite dishes to date, a pasta with a carmelized onion sauce. But I could never really enjoy the process.

But Mr. Ben and I have moved on to Apartment #2, our very own small but noble studio, and gradually, now that I'm in a happier environment, Mollie Katzen and I have come to an understanding. She doesn't tell me to do anything too difficult -- she tells me everything slowly and calmly and as many times as I like -- and I don't disappoint her.

Over the past few weeks, Mr. Ben and I have succeeded in making Italian gratins, Sicilian stir-fries, sweet-and-sour tofu with cashews, tofu with black bean sauce (from fermented black beans, if you please: no ready-made sauces for us!), brocolli with spicy peanut sauce, and this week, eggless egg salad and sopa seca, a Mexican casserole-type dish whose name literally translates to "dry soup." It has put me over the moon. Maybe it's simply because I don't do much that I can be proud of anymore, but it feels thrilling to put something together that works. And I'm going to work myself into a self-approving lather over it, if that's okay with you.

It has taken me almost exactly a year to feel more or less confident and comfortable with the kitchen. That's a steep learning curve. Next time I challenge a deeply-seated notion about myself like I Can't Cook I'll try to halve the time it takes.

Meanwhile, I've been appointed Vice Mistress of the semi-weekly card game I attend with the aging bohemians; my brother's returned safely home from China leaving only three people I know currently there; and it's going to be August, which means soon I'll get to celebrate One Year as a Budding New Yorker.

Monday, July 25, 2005

"For where?" "For BEAR"

Three cheers for Pooh!
For who?
For Pooh!
Well, what did he do?
I thought you knew ...
He made law review!

Yayyyyyyy! Not an easy feat, that.

What have I done, you ask? Well ... I got my hair cut, a bit like Miranda July's, only she's cuter than I am. Also my hair, though redder than hers, has gotten less curly over the past few years.

I dragged a couple folks out to Coney Island because I'd never been during the season. (I just went once, alone, one deserted winter afternon, to walk poetically along the water.) Let me tell you: it's pretty different. And by different I mean "loud, dirty, and not at all like the mental picture I had from social history classes of prim, well-dressed young couples courting nervously and enjoying their newfound public freedom." Although of course even that vision was romantic: Coney Island was from the beginning pretty much as seedy as it is now.

But we shelled out the absurd amounts of cash required of us and had fun. We rode the famous cyclone and the wonder wheel and sat on the beach for a bit and watched paddle boats paddle by. We also ate perhaps the best pizza to be found in all five burroughs, hidden though it is along a stretch of dilapidated houses, dotted with young Russian hussies in platforms, miniskirts, and tops that read "REAL BOOBS." I need me one of those: that way, the many men who like to begin conversations with me based on my t-shirts will be able to cut right to the chase.

I can't say I've accomplished much, which makes me a little gloomy. Sienna Miller is my age and look what she's done already! I have no children, no nanny, no fiancee, no scandal to try to ignore in favor of my career ... no career even, and the NYPost couldn't be paid to care even if I had. At this rate, I seriously fear I'll never catch up.

Friday, July 22, 2005

ester and the birthday of minor importance

I'm glad the left seems to be treating John Roberts Jr. as the pinata that he is and reserving their energy for the real elephant in the room. Not that, of course, we can't all tap our heads while simultaneously rubbing our bellies. But we do seem to have our priorities straight. Heads over bellies, guys, right? Right.

And not that I don't understand the blistering anger Roberts is generating in certain circles (bellies). When the anger is funny, I appreciate it even more. But guys, a Republican wormed his way into office. I know: ewwww! I don't want to believe it either. Sadly, we have no choice; and that means a Republican gets to pick a Republican judge. Considering that Bush could have taken this opportunity to throw serious raw meat to his more rabid and demanding followers, I figure, with Roberts, we almost got off easy.

On the other hand, I wish people would stop giving Bush points for courage for selecting a straight white male. As though any old pansy-ass wuss could do the "PC" thing and place someone in position of power to immediately face accusations of tokenism, but it takes balls of true Pennsylvania steel to do things as they've always been done.

By the way, I'm 23 now, and I've officially worked at my new job for a month, which means my health insurance is seconds from kicking in. I'm going to Coney Island tomorrow to celebrate and if I get thrown from the Cyclone, don't worry, guys -- I'll be covered.

Monday, July 18, 2005

ester and the little scandal that could

Considering that I've been waiting for two years, with my outrage on simmer, for Plamegate to break wide open, it is bizarre that I haven't blogged about it. I read everything I can get my virtual hands on: media commentary from Howie Kurtz in the WashPost and the pundits at Slate and Salon. The more I read, the happier I become: the updates drop hard and fast, like hail on Bush loyalists that appear to the rest of us as raindrops. And we're gleefully dancing through the raindrops, whoooooooeee are we dancing. The Democratic party has become frikkin Gene Kelly with these raindrops, though of course we're keeping our Stern, Shocked faces on and occasionally feeling a stab of guilt when we remember poor Judy Miller and mattress of foam.

Today I was pleased to discover that Matthew Baldwin has woven my two fixations together. Thus he has given me an opening.

This case sickens me. It has from the first day I heard of it. You lie; a man, who happens to be an expert on what you lied about, calls you on it; and in response you viciously, wantonly take down that man's wife? Shouldn't this be obvious, even if our deranged day and age: a person's family is off-limits. Christ, even in the Sopranos they understand that.

Karl Rove wanted to hit Joe Wilson in the balls and he did; he acted without the slightest concern for collateral damage even though the shrapnel would fall in his own backyard. The woman worked for the CIA! How can the people who are risking their lives to protect this country do their jobs when there's a man in the White House willing to blow their cover for the smallest, most pointless bit of political retribution? Retribution for something they themselves didn't do? Now Republicans are pissing and moaning that Rove may not have have known she was covert, as though that's a defense, as though a reasonable person, faced with even the possibility that she was covert, wouldn't consider finding out -- because whether or not it's a technical felony, it's a national security matter and on those it's important to have one's facts straight.

This may be the obvious point of all, yet I haven't sufficiently heard it raised. Karl Rove's actions paint him not only as a ethically-void, cold-blooded, cheerfully malignant plop of birdshit on the windshield of this country, but also as a sexist of the first degree. That's why, to my mind, he didn't think twice about outing Valerie. She was a woman: how vital could she possibly be to the CIA? How important could her career be? Whether consciously or not, Rove was sending her back to the kitchen, and/or the cover of Vanity Fair, where she belonged.

The press and the Republicans, whether consciously or not, have gone along with it to an alarming extent. If Joe Wilson had been Josephina and it had been her husband working as a spy, my god, can you imagine the outcry? The part of the story where Valerie suggested Joe for the trip to Niger only has teeth because of the gender dynamics. That revelation is supposed to be another kick to the balls not because of possible nepotism but because -- hee hee! -- his wife had power! Ergo pansy est. It's sick.

It's the same kind of subtle but prevalent attitudes about men and women that guarantee female superheroes have the "powers" they have. Bear with me here, I just finally saw Batman Begins and I have comics on the brain. Still, it's an interesting comment on our nation as a collective that female superheroes tend to have defensive, not offensive, capabilities. They disappear, they create force-fields, they read minds, they become -- half-cat? (Which, by the way -- what??) It seems to be because superheroes have been to believable. Sure, they're bigger and stronger than we are, but in ways that are consistent the individuals as we understand them. A man's anger could swell him up into the Hulk; a boy's tragedy and fear forms him into a dedicated crime fighter; blah blah blah. We don't like to believe women can or want to hurt people. Not really. And so their powers are correspondingly dinky and unaggressive.

That's why this story is really only gaining traction now that we have a (male) figure to focus on, and a supervillian at that. Two supervillians, in fact, and Fitzgerald's not done yet.

Valerie Plame is being portrayed as a suburban housewife who got caught up in this mess, at best a desk jockey in the CIA and ultimately just a victim with a shrill husband. But consider: what if she were Batman and Karl Rove leaked her secret identity for no better reason than because he could and it would hurt someone she loved. I hope she finds a way to strike back and, in the meantime, that everyone starts giving her a little more credit.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

ester and the well-cooked chinese food

This morning, I finally finished Harry Potter VI. That scream of woe you heard around 10 am? Yeah, that was me.

Mr. Ben and I took turns with the tome once we acquired it at an adorable lower east side bookstore that stayed open Friday night with a party for adults. Of course, kids were there also drinking punch, getting their palms read, and blocking the aisles talking in hushed voices about what the remembered from Book V. I looked at them from the height of my almost-23 years and at once envied and pitied their innocence. Except not really. I looked at them and was jealous that they had parents shelling out the $25 for them.

From that point on, Mr. Ben and I took turns staying up late / getting up early to read. We found it hard to separate ourselves from the book, going so far as to drag it showing of Me, You, and Everyone We Know at BAM. I rarely pay the full $10 for movies in New York; I can't really bring myself to. But Me and You managed to be heartfelt and enchanting, as Sundance winners are supposed to be, without also being self-indulgent, overly quirky and unresolved, as they so often are (viz, The Station Agent.) From the depths of Mr. Ben's messenger bag, I can't imagine, however, that HPVI had a very clear view. I imagine it was too busy stewing its dark, antsy juices to enjoy the film anyway.

Once we finished, Mr. Ben and I were so shocked that instead of leaping into our chores like bunnies of efficiency, as we usually do, we moped around in our underwear, rereading key passages, speculating about what would happen in the final volume, and -- I'm not proud of this -- even turning to the internets for support. We were indeed comforted by how collectively stunned all Harry Potter fans everywhere seemed to be, but it still took us several hours to recover. Even then, showered, dressed, shopping for food to do the week's cooking, we kept hashing and rehashing the novel. Yes, we are dorks. But come on! That book frikkin ends with a bang. I can't wait to read it again.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

little ester and the big scary men that populate this city

Chapter 1:

Ester leaves the apartment, walks down the street to the A,C,E. The stairway down to the train creates a wind-tunnel and she holds her skirt futilely against her legs to try to avoid a Marilyn Monroe moment. (It's only sexy if it happens to Marilyn Monroe.)

Chapter 2:

Walking down a street at the other end of a subway trip. Her hands continue to flit toward her skirt to protect it against a sneaky wind-tunnel, the kind that would burst onto the scene and yell "boo!" and pull the fabric up. Especially as she passes the lumberyard that she must pass every morning before she arrives at the office. What sort of crazy block in Manhattan boasts of fashion studios / casting offices AND a lumberyard? She curses the schizophrenia of Chelsea and tries to ignore the various men wishing her a good morning. Although they are never obscene, their attention feels unpleasant and she wishes they would pay it to someone else.

Chapter 3:

At her desk, trapped. A barrel-chested 45 year old man with a gleaming smile is flirting to pass the time. He gestures toward the white lilies on her desk: "Men send those to you every week, don't they?" Playing along (what else can she do?) she jokes, "Yup. There's a sign-up list and everything." He leans in: "I'll bet I'd be number 250 on that list."

The number 250 is hi-larious enough. But the man does not leave. He ruminates on the gym. How he used to go, how he stopped, how sad that is. He glances at Ester. "You must work out, right? You're in great shape." When Ester laughs, "No," he says, "Oh, you're a natural!"

Chapter 4:

Swishing home in her army green platform boots, salmon pleather skirt, and fancy black tank top, feeling pretty good about having managed another day in the big city. A voice from the sidewalk calls out, "Ester!" She turns, stares. There sits a boy she barely recognizes, someone from the depths of the margins of the past: a high school classmate's younger brother she hadn't seen in at least 5 years. "Hey!" he says. "You look exactly the same!"

Monday, July 11, 2005

Wait for it ...

My semi-regular pinochle games are memorable not simply for the hostess's vintage card table or glassware, or for the fun of doing something to engage my brain (that happens pretty rarely now that I'm out of the academic world and into the working one). They're also memorable for the low-key famous folks in the aged bohemian crowd.

The thing about low-key famous folks is that they put you on a first-name basis with them and don't act like they're anything special. So if you never think to inquire about a last name, you might go the rest of your life not knowing you just drank beer with and teased Jerry Orbach's son. Last names become important.

At pinochle, in the hostess's kitchen last week, I fell to talking with a pleasant middle-aged woman. Her necklace spoke to me: it reminded me of the jewelry my mother wears and not too many other people do. It could be characterized as "difficult jewelry" -- it's often made of heavy, unrecognizable stones -- or, merely, "the jewelry of the well-travelled."

My surprise, then, was not great to discover that she writes travel guides. Currently, she's composing one about New York. I could hardly think of something more exciting. We talked about it for a while then, and also later, once we started playing the game. Another person at our table asked how she got into the business. It must be kind of tricky, kind of competitive.

It helps that it's a family business, she said.

And to the background noise of bells ringing in my head, I asked what her last name is.

And she replied, Frommer.

I have another pinochle game tomorrow. I can't wait to see who I'll meet.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

the macchias dacha

In brief, I am back from Maine. The trip was not brief. Well, the time I spent in Maine was brief; the travel to and from was not. Eleven HOURS, my friends, it takes to get from Westchester to Maine, and it's an hour from the city to Chappaqua, where the car waits, and since before that I had to work a half day, Mr. Ben and I didn't get to start our expotition til early afternoon. And we didn't get back (to Chappaqua!) til midnight, to return the car, we had to commute with the commuters this morning, revoltingly early, in order to get to work on time.


But Maine was beautiful. Mr. Ben's father, an emigre from Moscow, found a house on property to his liking on roughly the same latitude as the place where he grew up. He recognizes obscure wildflowers that grow on lilypads along the river and remembers from summer camp how to make necklaces out of them. To share in the nostalgia, Mr. Ben's father -- who we could call Dr. Mr. Ben -- invited his extended Russian emigre family, settled lo these many years in Brighton Beach. Everyone grumbled a bit about the driving length, at least until they got an unobstructed view of unpolluted air rolling out over unpolluted waters almost to Nova Scotia. And, at night, layers over layers of stars.

The weather obliged us. In fact, I think it was showing off. The fog retreated slowly our first morning, revealing the scenery in teasing bits, and then it stayed away entirely so we could get sunburned more easily. We went canoeing. We watched waterfalls. We wandered around town (which, though lacking in a single traffic light, does have an organic food store). We ate.

And now we're home. It's my second week at the new job. Things are going well, I think, mostly. It's always stressful to change jobs but I feel a little more confident and that's always good. Even if I'm not actually confident I have to fake it, because in this city I've learned people don't have much tolerance for the alternative.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Justice disrobes! Just in time for Pride

Lady Justice is a dyke!. At the very least, it's an extraordinary coincidental show of support: at the same time that one million raging homosexuals and voyeurs descended on NYC in various states of undress, Lady Justice discreetly shrugged off her drapes. Ashcroft must be rolling over in his grave.

I missed the great event of Pride, the parade, today; I wasn't sure I could handle it, frankly. The dyke march yesterday was a tepid precursor but I cheered it on and thus I did my small part for the freedom of queers everywhere to get drunk and get naked while under the protection of the NYPD.

Plus it's been too frikkin hot. I was almost delirious from the heat yesterday after only a few hours and I stayed out, like an idiot, for ten more. Too much to do to go home! I ended the day at Central Park, watching the premiere of the charming As You Like It in the company of -- oddly enough -- Keanu Reeves. He was scruffy and serene in person but I couldn't get over wondering what on earth he was doing there. Perhaps someone pays him to lurk around Shakespeare and make it awkward by the, er, force of his presence. Perhaps Marlowe pays him from beyond the grave.

The night before I also saw excellent theater: Doubt. Gave me shivers. No star sightings to go along with that, though. It's funny to contemplate what taglines Hollywood would give to Broadway plays if it were assigned to promote them. "Doubt: This Thanksgiving, you won't believe your eyes!" "Doubt: Catholic school will never be the same." "Doubt: When America was on its knees because it was possibly being molested by a priest, she brought us to our feet!"

Thursday, June 23, 2005


I was struck by a thought the other day on my way to work: Taxi cabs unite! You have nothing to choose but your lanes!


Yesterday was my last at the Very Important Talent Agency. I stayed out the night before, somewhat unwisely, playing pinnochle over cocktails, but I wasn't going to sleep well regardless; I was too keyed up about the almighty Exit Interview. With the Exit Interview in mind, I dressed to be taken seriously in my gray Arden B. suit -- I even threw in a little jewelry. Perhaps thanks to my clothes, I walked out unscathed. And did I mention relieved? Very, very relieved.

On my way out, one of the boy assistants bashfully handed me a parting gift. A book! I love books. And a non-fiction book at that, which is interesting because I rarely pick up non-fiction and I certainly rarely receive non-fiction as gifts. The volume in question, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, won me over almost immediately; I finished it within 24 hours and I'm still thinking about it. Gladwell writes like a layman, not a scholar. His sentences are clear and direct and he's careful, as he builds his points, to continually re-process information he's already introduced.

When I read non-fiction -- or did, in college -- my eye has a tendency to get lost in dense paragraphs and wander down the page for something easier to grab onto. In other words, I skim. In praise of Blink, I think I can honestly say I read every word.

Until I start my new job on Monday, I am pursuing the kind of slothful, hedonistic lifestyle that would make evangelicals indignant. And I have earned it. Bye bye, Very Important Talent Agency! Hello, future! Future, you will hopefully find me tanned, rested, and ready.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

undisclosed location

Also, yesterday an Emmy-Winning Actress showed me her ass. She meant it for her sister, who was in the room, and I was caught in the cross-fire. It was by far the highlight of my otherwise giddy and totally unproductive workweek.

I accepted the casting job! I'm going to work in casting! I'm going to pursue a Career in casting and someday maybe have a Casting Couch of my own where Emmy-Winning Actors and Actresses show me their asses on command. That's what being in this business is all about and I'm so excited the pieces have finally and truly fallen into place.

Monday, June 13, 2005

If Jacko is innocent ...

I feel like that could be a good title for a poem: "If Jacko is innocent." Perhaps I will write it on the subway one afternoon and it will be all about tongue in cheek, improbable things, and all the things will add up to a profound whole. I'm reading 180 More, one of the best poetry anthologies I've ever come across, and the poems therein are much like that. Reading them this morning on the train, I was inspired to write something about how Mr. Ben bought two huge bags of Lays potato chips and was so proud of himself for making efforts at gaining weight that he forgot to actually eat any of them.

Inspiration abounds.

Life is good again: I got a job offer. Yes! In a casting office. It's pretty exciting. And right after I got the offer this morning, I got an interview offer from another job, in audio publishing, that I was also excited for. Since I had 3 interviews last week and a follow-up to one scheduled for this Thursday, all told I felt pretty desirable, and my current boss, for whom I've still been working after giving notice, seemed duly impressed. I will continue to work for current boss for another week or so even though, mentally, I have both feet out the door. In fact, my mental feet aren't just out the door: they're tapping impatiently and occasionally breaking out in dance moves to these boots are made for walking ... Soon, I croon to my mental feet. Soon ...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. Smith go to Washington

The free advance showing of Mr and Mrs Smith that mr. ben and i attended last night attracted all sorts of irritating showbiz types and started over an hour late. It meant that for the third night running I got bare-minimum sleep and contributed to my general daziness today and lack of balance. But: it was worth it.

The onion av club agrees with me, for the record:
There's no denying the high-concept gimmickry that has summoned Mr. & Mrs. Smith into existence, but what sounds in principle like a pitch for a TV pilot instead plays like an old-fashioned romantic comedy with updated hardware. Always better as an unhinged goofball than as a bronzed demigod in period garb, Pitt gives a loose-limbed performance that ricochets nicely off Jolie's cool, unaffected sultriness. The knowing glibness occasionally spoils the fun—a problem that also plagued Liman's Go and Swingers—but it's rare that an action-comedy succeeds so swimmingly on both fronts. Rarely does a word like "deft" come to mind when viewing any film released between May and August, but Liman and company make it all look easy.
In case you were wondering, or because you have a genetic weakness for hearing the obvious stated, the hottest man alive and the hottest woman alive do indeed together equal supreme and unparalleled hotttness. Interestingly, this formula should have applied to the clunker original sin and did not - perhaps because m.andm.s has the HMA and HWA playing exactly to type and not bothering with funny accents, costumes, or plot devices.

In addition to showcasing supreme and unparalleled hotness, the movie manages to be clever, smooth, and refreshingly old-fashioned (in terms of movie conventions, NOT in terms of treatment of women. In fact, there are tons of awesome feminist throw-aways throughout). Yes, people, you heard it here first: this movie is better than the Sith. Don't just stand there gaping at me - go buy a ticket! Seriously. It took my mind off the job-search and that's saying something.