Monday, January 31, 2005


thank god for this rational article from the post and even more so for this one from slate about -- yes, we're still talking about this -- larry summers' decision to go all retro in front of a room full of feminist academics and use the word "innate." oh dear. didn't this man go to college before he became the president of one? even frat boys where i went to skool would know better than to spout something like that. at the very least they would expect the roof to come down on their heads.

and no, william saletan, before you get your hackles up, not because of "political correctness." george will, over there in the corner, don't think i don't see you. the word "hysteria" is forming on your lips -- swallow that impulse right now, mister. you should be ashamed of yourself. for christ's sake! don't have you any knowledge of the history of that term?
that aside, you're both wildly off the mark, and if you think i'm going to patiently withstand 55 pounds of backlash where there'd been say 5 pounds of well-deserved lash, you've got another thing coming.

no, the swarthmore frat boys would understand you can't cheerfully claim that "innate" difference between men and women keep women from the top tiers of math and science because:

(a) doing so is not radical. it's a fall back on ages-old, comfortable, and unprovable explanations of why women are inferior at everything;

(b) doing so ignores that women also don't place in the top tiers of many fields in the humanities in which they supposedly are more adept. for instance, ever read Variety? where are all the women running studios or directing movies? are women innately less good are wrapping our flimsy brains around celluloid? what about literature? how many nobel prizes for literature have gone to women? yet we're better at english, right? right?;

(c) doing so encourages people to reach for lazy, easy solutions like sexism instead of trying to determine where their own prejudices may be hiding deep down in the parts of themselves that the searchlights of polite society don't reach. it's not pleasant to realize that maybe you instinctively feel more nervous when you pass a black man on the street than when you pass a white one. or that, on some level, you make a quick association between "muslim" and "terrorist." you may think you're better than that. but the vast majority of us who are white and/or non-muslim are not better than that; we're conditioned, subtly, all our lives, to be exactly that. which brings us to:

(d) conditioning plays a HUGE role in our lives. in quiet ways, over and over again, i was told science & math were not for me. maybe i knew it already. my fear of numbers is so entrenched it's hard to remember when it developed. and yet i have a vague sense it developed when i was around 9, when unhappiness introduced itself to me, when something in me rebelled against the very idea of having people look at me. what i'd relished the year before -- standing out -- i could no longer stand. i started thinking too much. most of the boys in my classes didn't have that problem. they weren't mortally afraid of being wrong, of being laughed at, of simply being seen.

in this respect, i'm the most conventional of my close female friends from skool, more of whom went on to study physics, biology, or advanced math at college than film, lit or art. my close friends are the exception; i am the rule. but it's heartening to me that they were able to succeed in fields that no one associates with females and against larry summers' expectations. (i don't think mr. summers is a bad man, by the way. see (c), above. i think he needs an experience that would make him question his assumptions more rigorously. perhaps this, for him, is it.)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

the sixth estate: real estate

well, the week only tepidly improved, just like the week before that AND the week before that, leaving me to conclude that january must have simply been a plagued month and perhaps february will be better. humans do have an amazing capacity for optimism, hmm? multiple marriages, land wars in asia, a 2nd term for the bushmen ... even if we do recognize it as self-delusion necessary to maintain forward motion, we can't stop. optimism, ho!

speaking personally, if i let myself feel that not simply the month of january (only 3 more days to go ...) but the rest of my foreseeable future would continue this way, i'd be cutting my own knees out and watching myself fall. so instead i find things to cling to and soldier on. vis: the craigslist real estate section. i check it daily, after i play set, habit being the only way to unlearn intimidation. at least for me. and i don't function well on any terrain until thoroughly unintimidated.

** new additions to my internal celebrity roster: elliott gould, the former mr. babs, and lili taylor, who is exactly as adorable as she is in the movies. i give myself periodic checkups after the famous people waltz out of my sight as easily as they waltzed in. did my smell change, however slightly? did their fairy dust rub off? i haven't noticed any differences yet, but i'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

blue around the edges

my father, professing worry about ben, suggests that ben eat lamb chops in order to better compete with the meat eaters that abound at law skool. i thought people mostly considered lawyers leeches, not carnivorous beasts. more perplexing, if people eat an animal to appropriate its qualities, lamb chops seem a funny choice: he should be more sheepish, maybe? wha?

red meat is the answer. well, okay. i didn't know steaks worked to heal emotional black eyes too. maybe i should try it.

two of my library books appeared today, graham greene's our man in havana and, now for something completely different, the jane austen book club. thanks for nothing to all of you who refused to recommend books. i hope i did all right on my own. also, my copy of the angels in america dvd arrived!! -- to my slightly tempered excitement because close inspection revealed it to be a glossied up bootleg. like all those cds in moscow, dammit.

i will focus on what is positive about the world: lemony snicket. the west wing. hbo. (it would be nice to afford hbo.) the nields. scandinavian film (not exactly positive on the face of it ...) scandinavia in general. also canada, i'm told; the last time i was there i was 10. denise duhamel. chris rock hosting the oscars, which otherwise there'd be almost no reason to watch. ... actually, screw this. i'm off to get me some chicken wings.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

stumbling blocks before the blind

why am i restless? this day was so well-designed. i was going to stay in my pajamas until the evening, watch movies and tv shows that are like movies, and eat junk food. the problem arises with that third thing: we don't have junk food. my household, such as it is, subsists on (a) food we buy and make into doubled recipes that become nightly dinners; and (b) crazy healthy pointless shit of which the new government standards would approve, like seaweed, peanuts, curry powder, organic yogurt, and raisins. and we're running low on raisins.

my roommate, purely to tempt me, i'm sure, left a bag full of chocolate chip cookies and a bottle of peppermint shnapps on the kitchen table. both have been sitting there now for many hours. the bible forbids that! bastards. clearly i should forego my red flannel pajamas for real clothes and go get my own damn self some cookies, if it means that much to me, but the wind's still howling outside, glorying over its fresh piles of snow. meh.

so instead, i'm cowering inside, watching movies and feeling half-sated by whole wheat pasta, tofuti cuties, and hummos. oooh, there's the wind again. yesterday night ben and i ventured out in the blizzard to see a play because a college friend is in it -- and there, in the theater, we found a GAGGLE of other college folks. apparently we're a loyal bunch. it was eerie, especially since my other friends/plans for the weekend did cancel (le sigh), and i had expected a night of few familiar faces.

the blizzard was fun. you couldn't tell the street from the sidewalk, except that there were more people on the sidewalk and more cars on the street. on average.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

it's starting

as predicted, in fact, and with impressive accuracy: right at noon. what's now a playground of flakes will develop into a 24-hour three-ring circus. already the mere prospect of the blizzard has halted some of my plans for the weekend, as a dear college friend will no longer be making the trek north. i hope everything else goes as scheduled because a fun, diverting weekend would very much be in order.

i worked two 10-hour days at work this week. this is an adjustment for me. one day i got to depressed about midway through that i didn't know how on earth i would make it to the evening. it was hard to hide, too: one of my favorite voice-over actors, heading to the booth in the care of the boy who now runs auditions, paused by my new desk to tell me my face was scary.

i miss running auditions, that's part of it. in my new capacity, i still get to run some auditions -- the celebrity ones. so this past week i've been privileged to meet stanley tucci, aidan quinn, and oliver platt not as a fan but as someone who also works in This Business. there are downsides. i get close proximity and a certain amount of trust; i get to see stars wear sweatpants. i get small talk. but because they're celebrities, i can't *run* the auditions the same way i could with the scale actors.

and, certainly, the majority of my day does not take place within the booth, my little sound-proof, sealed off corner of the office. god bless it. the boy who took over running the booth is a good kid and he understands my separation anxiety (actually he's not a kid at all, he's older than i am, but i feel like i must be older because i trained him in the arts of boothmanship). at least there's that.

my point is that a weekend would be good. i won't even mind the snow, really, as long as it's not too much of a disruption. it snowed a few nights ago in a careless, whirling fashion. that came at the end of my depression day and for some reason instead of trudging home in the dark cold, i found myself elated. my russian princess coat kept me so sealed from the weather i barely felt it: i could concentrate instead on how wild and beautiful it looked and how completely it hushed the city it fell on.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

full of what?

maria full of grace, which came out earlier this year, was greeted with such acclaim that i never expected that when i saw it i wouldn't be crazy about it. i also never expected to see it. a story about a third-world girl who becomes a mule in order to get to america? couldn't i admire its ideas without having to subject myself to actually watching it?

but the other night, there we were, a bunch of us, in a room with a tv, a vcr, and maria full of grace. none of us could fit into the vcr, so she did. that was that.

it's not that i didn't like the movie. i admired its ideas, its forthrightness, its ability to wade right into melodramatic territory without becoming melodramatic. the best part was its representation of the drug smuggling itself: maria, the main character, and a couple other girls undertaking the same daunting task, must each swallow over 60 balloons of cocaine. (or heroin, it's never made clear.) as someone who could only force my body to take pills THIS YEAR, this was beyond harrowing, and truly visceral, to watch.

then it gets worse. the girls must fly to new york with 60 pellets in their stomachs and nothing else, since they're forbidden from eating and drinking 24 hours in advance. the girls' inital awe of being on a plane for the first time gradually morphs into intense discomfort. and the film doesn't flinch from showing digestive distress: over and over, the girls make their way to the bathroom, expel some pellets, wash them with toothpaste, and swallow them again. it takes tremendous, quiet willpower.

while the movie gets points for not sugarcoating its subjects or casting judgement on its protagonists for ... well, drug smuggling and illegal immigration, it loses some for its treatment of its star. everything and everyone besides maria is treated with gritty naturalism, but she herself never gets dirty. true, maria is startlingly beautiful -- and graceful (hence the title?) -- but no one could make the journey she made without a hair out of place or a moral fiber torn. by keeping her above the fray, the film keeps our admiration for maria unchallenged.

the other big issue, not unrelated to the first, is maria's pregnancy, the weirdest portrayal of a pregnancy i've ever seen. on a personal level, with maria, you never see the conflict play out: she doesn't love the baby's father & she expresses her fear of being trapped by a child the way her sister has been. she's not a romantic. yet she never seems upset by her own pregnancy. she merely accepts it.

on a physical level, the portrayal is all over the place. she vomits once, and that's it for morning sickness. her stomach is perfectly flat (she's only about 2 months gone) yet once in the united states & she gets an ultra-sound at a free clinic, there's a fully developed baby on the screen!

there's also the fascinating and undeveloped parallel between muling and pregnancy -- in both cases, maria's body is used to transport precious cargo from one world to another, and that the world cares more about the cargo than the woman. in any event, maria's performance is an achievement and the movie does stick with you. i just wish the film had a little more of the courage of its convictions.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


david brooks, that god of reasoned judgement and analysis, has informed me that i'm doing things all wrong. currently in my "fertile" season, i'm putting family-making on hold to pursue a career, instead of waiting til my "mid-30's, when [i] ha[ve] acquired the maturity and character to make intelligent career choices." he implies -- calmly, logically -- that this trajectory, while all right for men, doesn't work for me. it's almost as if he thinks that my "fertility" and "maturity and character" are mutually exclusive. i can only enjoy them in sequence, not at the same time.

at no point does he castigate 20-something men, who go straight from college to work, for not waiting until they have "maturity and character to make intlligent career choices." why not? are they not young in their 20s too? if you prick them with adrenaline, hormones, seritonin, do they not bleed?

people in their 20s want to have fun. they want irresponsibility, men as well as women. the young have gotten younger. george w. bush, our moral scimitar, didn't emerge from adolescence until he was 40! so even if the vast multitude of college-educated girls shook off the influences of sex and the city and network sitcoms and decided to be responsible, use their wombs while they got em, and put off job-searching until they were emotionally equipped to it right, do you think college-educated boys would hallelujah en masse and shout, "tied up in apron strings, tied down with children -- how did you know, in contrast with every message you've ever received from society, that's just what i always wanted?"

think of what harm this phenomenon would do to the cities! waves of newly-married and itchin-to-be-responsible young couples would exodus in search of suburban comfort, leaving devastated ruins of empty clubs, movie theaters, bars, and studio apartments in their wake. culture would collapse! the economy would collapse! the democratic party would collapse (at least according to this article about red america)! perhaps this is david brooks' devious master plan. devious, david, but i see through you. i hereby pledge not to abandon my life as a young, unmarried new york woman -- not, at least, until i've gotten a chance to vote democratic a few more times and enjoy the immoral guilty pleasures of supporting myself.

Friday, January 14, 2005

not so much better

still wintry-mixing outside, still static-y inside. all of a sudden january got harsh. dealing with emotional situations is, of course, exhausting. last night i took a break and hopped over to park slope to have coffee with a college friend. see, they still have coffee shops with atmosphere over in brooklyn, possibly because they have less outlandish real estate prices. i spent an entire afternoon circling the east village once looking for just such a place and coming up empty. in fact, the hangout at which i finally landed played distractingly loud, abrasive music, wasn't terribly warm or comfortable, and had signs posted on the walls saying "no plugging in laptops" and "please restrict to your visit to the length of one hour."

yes, benefits of living in manhattan outweigh irritations. now that i've lived here, brooklyn seems ... small. well, anyway. the coffee was nice. or, rather, the pumpkin muffin. i didn't drink the coffee.

what the hell am i blathering about? new links on sidebar -- check em out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

wintry mix

this has not been the easiest entry into a week. no, it has not. first there were House Issues. then Family Issues, Grade Issues, and Job Issues. just because those words have capital letters doesn't mean they were dealt with Professionally and Calmly, either. no sir.

on the flip side, they were dealt with, and already i can watch the past bear away the worst of the unpleasantness. having invested so much emotional energy by TUESDAY seems a little ludicrous, but complaining about that is a bit like yelling at birds who decided to shit on you all at once, together, instead of one after the other.

today was my first at work in my new position. my new title, XXXasst, when you pronounce it, actually sounds a bit like "jackass." i should totally put that on my business cards. make it my email address.
my family sent me a congratulatory pot of mini cacti. best ever. cacti set a great example: they're strong, resilient, persistent, and most importantly you don't have to get them dry cleaned. no, most importantly, you can't kill them. come at them with axe, mudslide, torch, it doesn't matter -- cacti will merely raise an eyebrow and render you impotent; you will withdraw with your humiliation and they will resume their business of being impervious and prickly. then birds will shit on you, all at once, together. don't mess with cacti.

maybe that should be on my business cards. that whole little rant about cacti, in tiny green print. i'd love to hand those out at cocktail parties. and maybe the print could be prickly, and make your fingers bleed if you pressed it! yes, this idea is gold.

i've done so much goddamn reading lately. i can't stop myself. i finished cloud atlas and breakfast at tiffany's and i need more, more. both were terrific, incidentally. i almost didn't read the first because i thought it looked like work, and because when i saw that someone'd branded it "postmodern" on the back and my eyes rolled so hard i almost hurt myself. luckily i found myself shut up with it in wanakena over new years and i decided to give it another chance, only to become enthralled. read it so we can talk about it!

or give me suggestions. i'm open to anything, as long as it's quality.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

the coincidence!

for the second time in as many days, i ran into a friend of mine from college. there she was, standing among the fruits ben n i were gathering for an improptu, late-nite fruit salad. of all things, she's performing in a show in our neighborhood.

the other, first friend run-in happened in a 9:45 showing of the life aquatic yesterday. that that friend chose not only this particular theater but this particular SHOWTIME, when there are 12 possibilities, seemed serendipitous. but now two in a row! that's extra-special-bonus serendipity, at your service. it's almost as if the universe were trying to contradict my anxiety about being Friendless. that anxiety, which hovered through the fall, settled in again recently. being in wanakena over new years, surrounded by compatriots, makes not being in wanakena -- or college, or cty, or anyplace with ready, varied society -- hard to accept.

it is 05 now. 05 is the first year of my conscious life in which i will not be in any form of skool. i will have to accept that, and i will have to find other ways of meeting Friends. like in movie theaters or among melons, or -- requiring more activity on my part -- while taking yoga and while in a creative writing group that i will actually attend. these are my firm resolutions. yes. i will be firm. reality television is not so important that i should plan my life around it. at least it will not be until someone pays me to write about it.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


a nypost headline i spotted over a gentleman's shoulder in the subway read "TIDAL WAVE OF DEATH." that must win some sort of prize: for redundancy, for idiocy, for pure inappropriateness ... i know, the nypost prize!

today was a weird day. for one thing, i was promoted. as you can perhaps tell, i'm somewhat ambivalent. certainly i'm glad to be getting more security, more stability, marginally more money and a swankier email address (all lowly employees get a generic handle, but my new generic handle will be XXXASST -- for "XXX's assistant" -- instead of NYFLOATERXX -- for "office bitch # XX"). i will miss what i've been doing tho and i'm scared i won't be as good at what i'm about to do.

still, whatever. i'm promoted, and that's better than being passed over. it's good that someone in this agency has faith in me, believes that i'm "smart as hell" and that i have "zeal". and it's a new challenge. new challenge for a new year. can't turn that down. (did i mention, marginally more money? about enough to buy a muffin a week, but a muffin is a muffin.)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

history rounds off skeletons to the nearest zero

that's why people should want to be poets. to write lines like that.

my current mood is nowhere near that dark at the moment. for one thing, i'm less sore. on monday evening i took my first yoga class ever and all of yesterday, as i ran around trying to coordinate my busiest day of work yet, i felt the effects in muscles i don't even know the names of. also, the yoga instructor had this habit of just calling out poses: "plank!" "child!" "prayer!" around me, my fellow classmates had pavlovian reactions to these words; their bodies immediately contorted properly, while mine was stuck at "huh? who? what?"

still, it is blessedly relaxing to turn your mind off for a while. i was too busy scrambling to catch up with the contorting to ruminate on my the bizarre sequence of boy-oriented dreams i had over break.

#1) dating a boy, let's call him KODAK, from high skool. turned out KODAK was cheating on me! bastard! he begged me to forgive him, following me around until i was exhausted and had to comfort him. bastard! then i realized i could break up with him. oh glory glory hallelujah. i woke up smiling.

#2) met dennis miller. he asked if he could walk me home, although we ended up at his apartment, which brimmed with white furniture. we dated tentatively for 3 weeks and he became fixated on me, asked for my hand in marriage. dennis miller, i said, you barely know me. i do!, he said. but he didn't.
tried to get away from him but he followed me. ben, i remembered. poor ben! ben was sad i had been dating dennis miller. poor ben! i resolved to be better to him. but dennis miller kept following me, eventually squeezing into a full car and forcing me to decide whether to sit on his lap or ben's. unhappy car ride.

#3) dating a gay friend of mine from college. why? we always kept our clothes on. one time his father walked into the room. i was mortified but my gay friend started casually talking to his father, like i wasn't even there.

i'm not sure what any of this means, tho it's interesting to have such similar dreams one after the other. back in the real world, i'm pretty resolved to keep taking the yoga class and maybe start dry cleaning my clothes, too, if i'm really ambitious. look at me go!

Monday, January 03, 2005

next year in wakanena!

spending new year's eve in a small, secluded house in the adirondacks with no television and 11 other people, three of whom i knew not at all and three more only a bit, turned out to be more fun than expected. yes, really. there was much cooking and eating and drinking and revelling. one late night we even played charades. my team consisted of three young curvy curly-haired women and one young man -- hence we christened ourselves, "Bobby and the Boobs." with a name like that, how could we not triumph?

our decision to save money and drink sparkling white wine to ring in 05 was mocked this morning when i arrived to work to find a tardy christmas present: Brut champagne. guess i'll have to do the whole new years thing again. party in new york! 05 is going to be so great, we'll celebrate it twice!

fo real, i hope 05 fulfills its potential. i hope enough Actually Good movies come out that making a top 10 list isn't an exercise in futility (i could only get to 5 this year: dogville, eternal sunshine, the 5 obstructions, the incredibles, kill bill 2). i hope i manage to put the past far enough behind me that i can write again without feeling iowa admission demons looking over my shoulder and snickering at my meager efforts. i hope i can learn to hope again, the way i did before the election, instead of descending into weariness and cynicism. especially as the weather gets colder.

my friend rebecca in sri lanka has thrown herself into helping with the relief effort there. you gotta figure, if people in southeast asia can be hopeful, or even, at least, active ... visit her links and and send her your well-wishes.

swarthmore seems so far away from me now, despite my recent visit and despite the fact that the new years in the adirondacks felt like a mini-reunion. so much has changed in the past 3 months that when i think about this year it's hard to push my brain further back than august. but as time rolls on, i think i'll think of 2004 not as the year of demoralizing mfa rejections, seemingly desperate political situations, the tsunami, the blogs, or the sale of my grandmother's house, our touchstone, in vermont. i'll think of it as the year college ended and life began.