Thursday, August 28, 2008

Also, Remember This?

On a day when Obama prepares to speak again, let's all take a moment and review where we were four years ago, when a state senator for Illinois ascended the national stage for the first time.

Four years ago, when that speech first blew my mind, I had just begun working at what I like to call the Very Important Talent Agency, a place where I was sworn at, berated, objectified, and sexually harassed, and generally introduced to the "real world." Although we peons were encouraged not to let a lunch break distract us from our ten-hour days, I would sometimes slip out for some stabilizing fresh air.

On one of those days, which coincided with the Republican National Convention's takeover of NYC, I had the good fortune to be hit on by an aging delegate:
i was eating lunch in an outdoor plaza and a delegate (complete with cowboy hat -- they seemed to come standard) started a conversation. his mother sat next to him, spilling things on her blouse and sometimes chiming in.

... him: so where are you from?
me: dc
his mother: she's from new york, of course.
him: no, mom, she's from washington.
his mother: ohhh. (clear implication: if there's any place worse than new york ...)
him: so what's your name?
me: ester.
him: that's a great name.
me: it's a little old-fashioned.
him: i like old-fashioned women.
his mother: [spills something on herself]
And, to keep injecting sex into this political conversation, here's Rude Pundit's totally obscene take on the Convention so far. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Remember the Maine

On our trip to Maine last week, we decided that we had to eat either blueberries or lobster every day. In effect, we decided to eat lots of blueberries, because it turns out that lobster is hella expensive even in Maine, where I figured they basically give you two just for waking up in the morning. But we all got gold medals in blueberry eating: in pie, in muffins, on yogurt, on ice cream, and straight off the bush.

Also, I learned that Maine is about much more than food. It's also about really cold water. The water up there was clearly on loan from Titanic. One lovely day, just outside the idyllic, remote town of Machias, we decided to risk hypothermia, just for fun. We swam out to a bridge, let the river's rapids carry us, screaming, to the other side, and then swam quickly towards shore to avoid getting dragged out to sea and ending up dropped on a beach in Newfoundland looking like the Montauk Monster.

It was awesome. And, to thaw out our purple fingers afterwards, the lovely family we were visiting gave us all china teacups of homemade lobster bisque. It was as salty as the many locals who cut their eyes at us at rural gas stations along Coastal Route 1.

We also spent one long, hilarious night playing Settlers of Catan, a German colonialist board game. It's like Diplomacy meets Monopoly meets Sim City, and it's so absorbing we were up til 2:00 AM. We didn't even remember to watch the Olympics.

The area where Ben's dad has a beautifully decorated house is peaceful and small; there was very little to do except to tire ourselves out walking in the woods or on rocky beaches during the day, cook a lot, and then fall into a stupor not long after sunset. We did make it to an adorable little library, watched over by a woman who knew the name of everyone who came in. I listened to her making personalized recommendations and I realized that, in another life, I would totally be her. And pretty happy, too.

A Country Song

I had to agree with George Stephanopolous about the DNC stage: gross. Barack Obama's head appearing in that screen, framed by neon lights, made him look like he was inside a jukebox, some kind of alien warlord informing a fifties diner that he is going to attack.

But that's my only complaint. Ted Kennedy looked even stronger last night than he had the last time I saw him, speaking at my little brother's high school graduation. How can you not go all mushy and sentimental when you hear him he say, "I promise you, I will be on that Senate floor on January 5"? Remember to factor in that you have your period in this scenario, with hormones coming out your eyes. Okay, go.

Michelle, meanwhile, is a goddess, and her brother is adorable. You don't get to see that kind of close sibling relationship too often; the narratives of Father-Son, Mother-Daughter, Parent-Child, or Feuding Siblings take up too much space. And, of course, with this convention, the narrative of the Clintons Hate Obama but Love the Kennedies who Love Obama. It's a country song!

God, I'm tired of thinking and hearing about Clinton and her disgruntled, spiteful supporters. It's like no one ever lost a primary before. "It is a fact that millions of Americans voted for Mrs. Clinton this year," acknowledges the NYT. Well done, factcheckers! Millions of people also voted for Jesse Jackson when he ran, but you didn't see him hosting cry-ins about not making it to the White House.

Silver medal, Hillary! It's not so bad! Other fabulous women have had to settle for silver. Try to do it with some grace.

Meanwhile, in *actual* drama, four people have been arrested for plotting an assassination:
The police said they had found two rifles, one with a scope, in the car, along with walkie-talkies, a bulletproof vest and licenses in the names of other people.
And enough meth to power ten long-haul truck drivers.

Luckily we're being prayed for: the DNC even has an official prayer guy! And Tara Leigh knows him! Because apparently the world of Christians who are willing to chill with Democrats is very, very small.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Remember the Maine

Kicking my feet up in Bath, Maine, en route to Macchiasport. The houses are old, the locals are salty (and eco-friendly!), and the lobster rolls are very tempting. Thus far in my life the only lobster roll I've ever had was in Chelsea Market in Manhattan. That's gotta change.

Back next weekend!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympic Madness

This is like the movie version of My Fair Lady, with the studio casting Audrey Hepburn instead of Julie Andrews and then using Marni Nixon's voice: the little girl who sang in the opening ceremonies was the face China was looking for, but the voice was provided by a less adorable seven-year-old. God, how depressing. We'll never get over our perfection-obsession, will we?

(Because I can't resist the Biblical reference, I have to admit this quote also sprang to mind: "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.")

Predictably, people are pissed:
The outrage was especially heated over the cold calculation used to appraise the girls. “Please save the last bit of trueness in our children,” wrote one person with an online name of Weirderhua. “They think Yang Peiyi’s smile is not cute enough? What we need is truth, not some fake loveliness! I hope the kids will not be hurt. This is not their fault.”

Another person added: “Children are innocent. Don’t contaminate their minds!”
Though I'll happily debate the "children are innocent" canard, otherwise I agree. It's this kind of stage management that makes people either strive for the unattainable or become cynical about everything. Like the New Yorker article about photoshopping, which made it clear you can never fully trust what you see. Do you think there would be so much conspiracy theorizing -- about the moon landing, 9/11, and Britain's 7/7 -- otherwise?

The idea that a child needs to not only have the best voice but the best look is American Idol-type nonsense. So is the idea that no female Olympian is complete, not even with a gold medal, if we don't know that she also has a husband and a baby in the wings, as a Johnson & Johnson ad last night made clear, or is about to start a family, as the media and announcers during the women's beach volleyball competition kept stressing. Already they have to compete in bikinis, so that we can objectify them even as we admire them.

Seriously, isn't it enough that these athletes do unreal things with their minds and bodies to perform for us on an international stage? Do we really need them to shrink back to human size once the cameras are off?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Welcome to the Team, Condi!

Everyone's letting the masks slip these days! Is it the August heat? First Paris Hilton reveals that she's actually shrewd and funny. Then Morgan Freeman decides to stop pretending his marriage is working (he and his wife have been secretly separated since December!). Now Condoleeza Rice has admitted she's an Obamaniac:
"Look, I’m a Republican, all right? Senator McCain is a fine patriot and he would be a great president. But there’s something to be said for fresh blood." ... Rice was also asked “Would you feel safe with a President Obama?” to which she responded, "Oh, the United States will be fine."
Check out that future tense! Very sly.

I'm going to try to move away from thinking about politics and polls all the time, the ridiculousness of which this New Yorker piece captures nicely. If only there were more distractions. At work, we're grinding through the last month before we go live -- exciting but stressful -- and mourning the sudden loss of our CTO. The office feels a bit like a bachelor pad these days, lacking necessities like toiletries and water (not to mention an HR department and an Office Manager) but boasting a big-ass flatscreen TV and an X-Box to go with it.

When I told a friend about the X-Box, she replied, impressed, "Are you guys like Google now?" The answer is, Absolutely, if the employees at Google have to fish used paper towels out of the trash can to wipe their hands.

Largely, the boys in the office are thrilled to get to play Rock Band and Avatars Play Soccer and Shoot That! And That Too! Get Him!. But I'm past the point in my life where I can enjoy watching other people work a controller. At least you can use the X-Box to play DVDs. Chipper McCheerful and I are staying after work to watch Season 3, Disc 3 of The Wire.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Good Year

dancey dancey
Originally uploaded by shorterstory.
Instead of doing work, I'm reading archives, since work right now makes me cranky and archives make me agreeably nostalgic.

One year and sixteen days ago, Mr. Ben studies -- hilariously -- for the Bar.

One year and five days ago, I reflect, "I’ve had over a year to get used to the idea of being a "wife." I’m not quite there yet. I am more comfortable with the idea of being a "bride," anyway, but that’s largely because my mother has made it easy on me. And now the wedding is in five days. FIVE DAYS!"

And one year ago, a woman on the street gives me a pre-celebration blessing: "'My GAWD,' she twanged, hand over heart, 'you look so beautiful! You look just like I did before MY first marriage!'"

Here is the wedding entry. Thanks to mystical good fortune, I am as happy now as I was then, although I am still not yet okay with the idea of being a "wife." Perhaps I can just be a Newlywed for a really long time.

Happy One Year, baby.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Top Five Things Wrong with McCain's Newest Ad

#5) Britney Spears <3s President Bush. Remember this, from 2003?:
CARLSON: You're going to be on the National Mall [in Washington, D.C.] soon performing for Pepsi and the NFL and also to support our troops. A lot of entertainers have come out against the war in Iraq. Have you?

SPEARS: Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.

CARLSON: Do you trust this president?

SPEARS: Yes, I do.
This interview also includes the following unrelated, hilarious exchange:
CARLSON: You worked with Pepsi for a long time. Candidly between you and me, how much Pepsi do you think [you drink] on an average day?

SPEARS: I really do like Pepsi.

CARLSON: Really?

SPEARS: I really do.

CARLSON: What's your favorite kind?

SPEARS: My favorite kind of Pepsi? Pepsi's Pepsi.

CARLSON: You don't drink Diet Pepsi.

SPEARS: No, just regular Pepsi.
Britney is my idol. Okay, back to the list!

#4) The Hiltons <3 McCain, or <3ed, anyway, to the tune of $4,600, the maximum allowable donation to his campaign. Now, not so much.

#3) McCain <3s 25-year-old blond heiresses. His own wife was one when he met her.

#2) The world <3s Obama -- why isn't that a good thing?

#1) The GOP <3s celebrities.

This shit makes me tired. Worse is the most recent deflating Gallup poll, which puts Obama only one point ahead. In one corner, you have a young, dynamic, intelligent, good-looking, thoughtful, church-going family man. In the other, you have the technologically illiterate Grampy LaGrumps who traded in his first wife for a far younger lady, one who came with a well-connected political father and no embarrassing personal disfigurements. And voters are painfully divided?

Well, as I do every four years around this time, I will try to keep from sliding into cynicism about the American people.