Thursday, July 31, 2008

Everybody wins!

Everyone has a flatscreen today these days. I was thinking that as I sat on a wooden bench in the DMV this morning, clutching a see-through bag which contained everything anyone would need to steal my identity and take it to Bolivia without first making sure it has its shots. The DMV has no TV, flatscreen or otherwise; it doesn't even have a clock. I was looking around for a telegraph machine, whose clicks could perhaps be pleasantly distracting, but all I saw was a small fuzzy scrolling marquis comme ca:

In between text ads for the jewelry store next door and jobs in the police department, the marquis informed me, in its Lite Brite way, that there would be a TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE tomorrow but that no one would be able to see it but NASA. This struck me as a little bit unfair. Then again, anything seems unfair when you're shuttling from window to window only to pause and smile hopefully at a machine that decides whether bouncers will smirk at you for the next five years.

They took my DC license -- goodbye, friend! -- and gave me in exchange a woeful slip of paper that functions as both a temporary ID and a receipt. Thanks a lot, fellas.

The office now has a flatscreen, which makes it that much more pleasant than the DMV. Right now it's leaning up against the wall, but some point it will hang gloriously above us, attached to cable and everything and maybe an X-Box. This led my coworker, Chipper McCheerful, to say: "I've been looking for a game for our conference room, but it's difficult. It has to be a game that everyone can play and a game that nobody loses."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lifestyle Justified!

Studies in newspapers exist to confirm what we already know. All the same, sometimes it's nice to get that little refresher, like someone handing you a towel when you've just stumbled into a puddle of doubt. Two studies recently have functioned in this cheerful way: first, this one showing there is no difference anymore between the math scores of boys and girls. And second, this one, letting us know that living together before marriage decreases the likelihood of divorce!

None of this would have happened had Betty Friedan not thrown down her apron.
The researchers found no difference in the scores of boys versus girls — not even in high school. Studies 20 years ago showed girls and boys did equally well on math in elementary school, but girls fell behind in high school. "Girls have now achieved gender parity in performance on standardized math tests," Hyde said.
And as for the "living in sin" business:
The odds of divorce among women who married their only cohabiting partner were 28% lower than among women who never cohabited before marriage, according to sociologist Daniel Lichter of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
For people who believe in sin cohabitation can still feel wrong, of course. But I like that it has been proven to have the social utility I instinctively believed it had. What pleasant news to come along right before my very first wedding anniversary.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Not a Novelist

On Saturday, Mr. Ben and I went up to Chappaqua where his father, in an expansive mood, was hosting a party for MDs who can hold their liquor. At one point I found myself out on the patio with a small crowd of them, all women.

Russian #1: How is your novel?
Russian #2: It has a happy ending, no? After all, you are American.
All Russians: [Laugh]

I admitted that yes, my book has a relatively happy ending. They cut me with their eyes, then began talking with each other about ballet.

A half-sloshed neurologist told me about his new apartment and his new wife. "I've had three of these already," he said, holding up his vodka glass. "I plan to get drunk."

"I'll be right back!" I replied, escaping.

I ended the evening playing ping pong in the basement with a seven-year-old who looked like a Hanson. He told me he was from Maui and that I was 35. Neither of these things turned out to be true, but he was very convincing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Winners of the Hot Stuff Competition!

ben brunches with hotties
Originally uploaded by shorterstory.
Pictures from birthday brunch (and another recent outdoor foodsy events) are up on Flickr. I wore a pretty dress! And for once, I was not out-boobed by Rebecca (to my left in that picture, in the amazing bright red 1940s number).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Whatever happened to the eye of the beholder?

I remember enough from working in textbooks to say with 92.6% certainly that this Natalie Angier piece about mirrors will be anthologized up the wazzoo. It's got everything! References to popular Greek myths, a sprinkling of statistics, some fluff, some science, all in two highly-readable pages. My beef with Angier's latest attempt at channeling Malcolm Gladwell? This graph:
In a report titled “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Enhancement in Self-Recognition,” which appears online in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Nicholas Epley and Erin Whitchurch described experiments in which people were asked to identify pictures of themselves amid a lineup of distracter faces. Participants identified their personal portraits significantly quicker when their faces were computer enhanced to be 20 percent more attractive.
20% more attractive, Natalie? Wow! You mean there's an objective standard to these things?

The fact that people conceive of themselves as better looking than they are is fascinating. But the idea that readers will take it for granted that there is a concrete way to look 20% more attractive -- fewer wrinkles? smaller nose? fuller lips? -- makes me want to walk into walls.

Luckily I've been in too good a mood lately to let an ideological disagreement get me down. Birfday Saturday was all Food-Show-Food-Show, with friends along for the loopy ride. Show #1, the Dark Knight, was great, as I'm sure you've heard: too long -- two movies buckled together, really, and played consecutively -- but seriously well-directed. Still, my favorite parts all had to do with Heath Ledger. [SPOILERS AHEAD!] He has the most compelling performance and the funniest lines, and he gets to mock one of my least favorite cinematic/psychological conventions, the idea that all crazy adults had a pivotal moment in childhood that made them the way they are. It was my father, the Joker says, and you feel for him, you really think he means it. Then, later, equally seriously, It was my wife. He tries to tell a third story when Batman, who, of everyone, understands him best, cuts him off.

Watching the Joker, I found myself thinking about the line from the New Yorker's recent piece on Obama: "Who sent you?" But just like that article ends up shrugging and admitting no one sent Obama (there wasn't much dirt on him to dig up, it turns out) it's not nearly so simple in the Joker's case either. He is chaos, manic, like Twain's Mysterious Stranger. Whether that's intended to be a commentary on terrorism or God or the weather -- whatever we Americans can't control -- is up in the air. But regardless, it works. Throughout the movie, I was scared enough that my hands were shaking. [Okay, spoilers finished. Those were pretty minor/pathetic spoilers too, but I'm trying to be sensitive.]

Show #2 was the very meta, very enjoyable [title of show], which just opened on Broadway. (It moved after running at the Vineyard for a while.) Much like Passing Strange, which Mr. Ben and I saw recently, it's a smart, self-aware musical targeted at young people. Apparently, in the case of the latter, the strategy didn't quite work out, which is really too bad. I'm glad we got to support it a little bit and I hope [title of show] has better luck.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Near misses

1) The just-escaped-from-Jurassic-Park-sized spider on the bathroom faucet. Mr. Ben, kill it!

2) Spider #1's cousin, Spider #2, which was like Spider #1 only on HGH, on the living room curtain. Mr. Ben, kill it! I don't care if you're still in a towel. Are you crazy? This thing could eat me *and* my breakfast of Trader Joe's yogurt and Kellogg's 19s while you locate your pants. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease. Thank you.

3) The bird that shat two inches to the right of my lunch and three inches away from my lap, managing, miraculously, to hit nothing except table. Mr. Ben, kill it! Er, just kidding: vegetarian. Also, Mr. Ben is at work, and he probably doesn't have a bow and arrow.

Birfday tomorrow! In honor of which I have enjoyed much delicious food all week, including an Eat Like Ester sundae bar at my office this afternoon consisting of lo-sugar soy ice cream, fresh fruit, & granola. My coworker, Chipper McCheerful, consulted my mother, who suggested that he "put candles in a banana and pour sugar-free chocolate syrup over it!"

CMcC also contacted my brother who's studying for the bar and thus couldn't contribute. But he replied anyway: "I will not forget your kindness to my family, when I am emperor."

Marrying Mr. Ben apparently entitles me to birfday recognition from his family as well as mine. (This is Reason #32 to tie the knot. Reason #28 is the kitchen gadgets. Reason #12 is that you can leave the lights on when you do it because you no longer need to hide from God.) I walked home from the fancy-pants, totally yummy celebratory dinner last night with an huge potted orchid and a gift card to Anthropologie. Once birfday week is over, I am going to be waddling around town in some very high-end clothes. Look out, world!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Obama shrugs off New Yorker cover

"It's a cartoon. ... I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it."

While everyone else chokes on the foam coming out of their own mouths, Obama manages to convey that he's not angry about being satirized and that he understood the magazine's intent; THEN, he apologizes to Muslims. I will go into a happiness coma if a man this calm and intelligent gets to sit in the Oval Office.

Speaking of elections & cartoons, this Kansan gets my vote, and he'd get my $8.34 too if I could use PayPal (can't. complicated.).

{found @ Gawker}

Monday, July 14, 2008

Quote of the Day

COWORKER 1: Hey, Ethan Hawke married his nanny. Everyone's doing that.
ME: Nannies are the new secretaries.
COWORKER 2, WHO SITS ACROSS FROM ME: Good for him! I had this great nanny when I was eight ...
ME: He didn't marry his own nanny; he married his kids' nanny.
COWORKER 2: Oh. That's not as fun.

please, no more Geniuses

Note: over the course of this narrative, I'm going to put in bold every statement that turned out to be a lie.

On Saturday, I brought my 3.5-year-old iBook into the Apple store in Soho, bypassing the serpentine line of suits clamoring for their new iPhones. The Genius at the bar told me everything was fine. "It's a software problem," he said. "That's easily fixed."

No sooner had I turned to smile hopefully at Mr. Ben than the Genius changed his mind.

"Oops," said the Genius, a word they should be forbidden from uttering. "Spoke too soon. Your hard drive is failing. Luckily you caught it just in time. If you want to buy a new computer today, we can transfer everything over. No problem."

Downstairs we went, kids in a candy store, to pick out a MacBook. Neurotically, I kept urging everyone to hurry. "Don't worry," the saleslady said. "It'll be fine." She entered our info into the queue so that the data transfer would happen ASAP.

At the register, I gave the checkout lady a username and password for the new computer. "Okay, great," she said. "We'll call you in 24 to 48 hours and you can come pick them up!"

Three hours later, my cell phone rang. "I'm sorry," said the Genius. "Your hard drive pulled a Tim Russert -- sudden collapse, nothing we could do. I hope you backed everything up!"

The next day, Mr. Ben and I dragged ourselves back to the Apple store to get our new machine and the sad empty shell of my old one. "At least we'll be able to set it up tonight," said Mr. Ben, trying to be comforting. And indeed, within minutes, shiny white Mr. Macbook was glowing on the desk like a beacon. Forget the past, it seemed to say. I am the future. I am Eve. What is your password, please?

I entered the password. No, it said sweetly. The password.

Mr. Ben and I tried every permutation of the word we could think of. We checked the receipt: there the word was written correctly. But whatever Genius had set up our machine for us must have misspelled it in such an ingenious way we couldn't guess the mistake. Exhausted, irritated, and hot, we shut off Eve and went to sleep.

This morning a Genius in Austin, TX, sounding anxious about my commitment to Apple based on the sourness of my recent experiences, guided me through resetting the password. Once Eve allowed me in, I found a document that reported what the old mis-typed password had been: there was an "e" where an "a" should have been. "Sorry about all of this!" chuckled the nervous Genius.

The Mac is dead! Long live the Mac!

Friday, July 11, 2008

new media

How sweet is this nifty Blogger customization thing? I don't know it took me so long to catch on to it.

I feel very With It, technologically, today: aside from changing this page all around, I started a Facebook group that already has almost 100 members, the vast majority of whom are complete strangers. Yes! I am an accidental activist. You're a feminist, right? Aren't you tired of being bombarded with weight loss ads all the time while you're TRYING TO CONCENTRATE on your word-finding games? Join us!

Tomorrow I have to bring my poor stuttering iBook into the Genius Bar and they will tell me whether its soul can be saved. Hopefully the fuzzy feeling I get from watching Wizard of Oz for free on Pier 46 tonight with friends will last long enough to carry me through that ordeal.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

free movies!

The NYT just published a chart of free outdoor movies for this summer. Here's my edited list, virtually all of which I'd be interested in going to, though it would take a lot of momentum to get me to Hoboken or Williamsburg on a skool night. I've bolded the ones that are REALLY exciting.

Thursday, July 10: “Stand By Me,” Brooklyn Bridge Park

Friday, July 11: “The Wizard of Oz,” Pier 46, Hudson River Park

Wednesday, July 16: “Almost Famous,” Pier 54, Hudson River Park; “Wag the Dog,” Riverside Park

Thursday, July 17: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” Brooklyn Bridge Park

Monday, July 21: “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Bryant Park

Tuesday, July 22: “Wet, Hot American Summer,” McCarren Park Pool

Wednesday, July 23: “Election,” Riverside Park; “Michael Clayton,” Hoboken, N.J.

Friday, July 25: “E.T.,” Pier 46, Hudson River Park

Monday, July 28: “The Apartment,” Bryant Park

Friday, Aug. 1: “The Iron Giant,” McCarren Park Pool

Tuesday, Aug. 5: “On the Town,” 55 Water Street; “Mean Streets,” McCarren Park Pool

Wednesday, Aug. 6: "The Manchurian Candidate,” Riverside Park

Thursday, Aug. 7: “Pleasantville,” Brooklyn Bridge Park

Friday, Aug. 8: “The Goonies,” Pier 46, Hudson River Park

Tuesday, Aug. 12: “Manhattan,” 55 Water Street; “28 Days Later,” McCarren Park Pool

Wednesday, Aug. 13: "Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix,” Hoboken, N.J.

Thursday, Aug. 14: “Cabaret,” Brooklyn Bridge Park

Friday, Aug. 15: “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” Pier 46, Hudson River Park

Tuesday, Aug. 19: “Velvet Goldmine,” McCarren Park Pool

Wednesday, Aug. 20: “All The President’s Men,” Riverside Park

Thursday, Aug. 21: “Being There,” Brooklyn Bridge Park

Friday, Aug. 22: “Shrek,” Pier 46, Hudson River Park

Tuesday, Aug. 26: “Imitation of Life,” 55 Water Street; “Blue Velvet,” McCarren Park Pool

Thursday, Aug. 28: “The Shining,” Brooklyn Bridge Park

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


The worst writing I've seen in a while comes courtesy of the Washington Post, in an article called (appropriately) Blood on the Mountain:
High on the mountain, the sun has to fight its way down through the thick forest. The light takes on a spectral elegance, as if yellow diamonds are falling to the ground. ... But a murderer was in these woods, too. And he brought darkness to the light.
On the cheerier side of things, this interview with Meryl Streep in the Guardian almost made me want to see Mamma Mia!, despite my hatred of all things Abba. (I couldn't even sit through Muriel's Wedding, and I have abiding respect for Toni Collette.) The paper, for what it's worth, seems to agree with me:
Streep plays an older woman called Donna who runs a B&B on a Greek island which has been infected by a terrible plague: nobody can stop singing Abba songs, until some god, in the form of the end credits, intervenes.
For some reason, the reporter seems to think Streep has never done comedy, which ignores how hilarious she was in Adapation and Postcards from the Edge. Maybe the laughs didn't make it across the Atlantic.

Also, the website Cityfile, for which I had a Secret Internet Part-Time Job last year, has finally launched. I wrote about thirty profiles for them, including ones for such yellow diamonds as Ann Coulter, Lucianne Goldberg, Ken Auletta, the little Foer boy, and lots of others, including agents/editors whose names I've forgotten. Browse! It's fun.