Sunday, December 30, 2007

Celebrity Chefs

Exhibit A: Celebrity Chef Michael Symon of Lola's

I like eating. And even as a vegetarian, a breed of eater fine chefs call "grade A celery munchers," I enjoy really fine food. This week I had my first celebrity chef experience. I went to Lola in downtown Cleveland, the restaurant of Chef Michael Symon (see above photo), who is currently competing on the Next Iron Chef. I went for lunch and among the delightful foods on our table, there was beef cheek pierogi, pork schnitzel, lola fries, great lakes beer cheddar soup, and an unbelievable macaroni and cheese. And who was cooking in the kitchen? None other than the cackling Michael Symon himself. I was pretty darn geeked, I don't mind telling you. It took a great deal of reserve to refrain from snapping photos. I really felt quite starstruck.

I didn't take a photo. I was civilized and well-behaved even as Symon walked around schmoozing with the VIPs. And the food? Honestly, it was very, very good.

Exhibit B: Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain of Les Halles

In a month, I will be eating at Les Halles in New York, home of Anthony Bourdain who I have more than a mild crush on. Fortunately, there will be little chance of me making a fool of myself as Bourdain is now travelling so much that it is unlikely that he will be in the kitchen. But still, even in his absence, I'm guessing several tourist-like photos will be taken. I can only remain restrained for so long.

Friday, December 21, 2007

My Hair and Scary Mandy Moore Obsessions


I would like to do something new with my hair. Yes, this style is adorable. But it is time to move on, go a little darker, maybe slightly lengthier. Here is what I am thinking about, which is really similar to my natural hair color. (Gasp! That's not her real hair color! The horror!)

As I was looking around for a photograph to give to my stylist, I found the above picture of the lovely Mandy Moore and a site with the headline, "How To Be Like Mandy Moore." Now, granted, it's a little hypocritical of me to cast dispersions on those who might follow these guidelines as I clearly want my hair to look like hers, however, I assure, I am a much different breed. Read on.

This is what the site suggests:

"1. How did Mandy get her fame? With her breathtaking voice. If you can sing, take voice lessons and practice. Listen to her music and her singing styles and without copying, try to throw in some Mandy with your own voice.

2. Mandy likes changes, whether it's blonde hair to brunnette or short to long. Be sure you are ready to do something wild about your hair. Look at pictures of Mandy Moore and her hairstyles. Go to your hair stylist and ask them to cut or style your hair the way Mandy does. (remember, now she's into the hippie style hair.)"

Those are just the first two. Here are the last "tips":

"* Watch her movies.
* Listen to her music from the first cd to her most recent one.
* Read more info on mandy for more inspiration.
* Try to meet her in real life."

Above all -- this is Molly speaking here. You can tell from the lack of typos and misspellings -- the site clearly is not interested in teens (their audience?) being themselves. Be Mandy in all things, it suggests. Think Mandy. Sing Mandy. Walk Mandy. Stalk Mandy. Then you will be one with Mandy. ONE WITH MANDY! Awesome! I can't wait to get my hair done!!

In case you were further interested in how to be Mandy, go here:

Happy stalking.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Kansas City Has Gigantic Books

Friends, this is really freaking cool.

For more on the why and the how, go here:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

But I Did My Work

Ahead of me lies a meeting with a student and an academic advisor and a whole pile of guilt that is not rightly mine.

When the fall semester began, I found a student in my class whose writing skills were more problematic than any I have encountered in my five years of teaching. It was jarring, disheartening, and upsetting to come across a person in their thirties who could not construct a simple sentence, but this student really wanted to learn. So I did what I've never done before and I said to myself, Okay, this student is your project this semester. You're going to teach this student to write.

Honestly, I've never made that sort of goal with an individual student before. Sure, I've thought things like, I hope he cleans up his sentences or I want her to understand how to identify a run-on, but I've never decided on as a student as a project. I've never become quite so invested in such an intentional and planned way.

I worked with this student, took extra time out of every class to sit with the student, and encouraged the student to meet with me during office hours and to go to the writing center. The student came to my office hours once and never went to the writing center, despite insisting that they really, really wanted to learn and really wanted to become a better writer. I gave this student lots of chances on revision and I used up loads of patience waiting for this student to tell me where the verb was in a sentence.

But now, as we near the end of the semester, the student is failing and cannot pass despite my efforts. I let the student know and the student is very angry. The student will fight it and so now, I will be meeting with the student and an advisor today to discuss the student's options.

I'm disappointed because I really wanted the student to succeed and I feel like it's my fault - not because I failed the student, but because of the implication that the student should get yet another chance when what the student really needs is another semester to get the basic principles of writing down.

And I'm annoyed because the fact of the matter is this: I did my work. The student did not. But I'm guessing between the two of us, I'm wearing more of the guilt.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Woe is I

It's a bad teaching week. I asked my students to name some American authors and after Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, and Robert Frost (who they were not sure was American), they had nothing.

I feel pretty shelled out. I feel like the expectations I have for students are increasing while their ability to meet them is waning. Shouldn't they be able to reference Hemingway? We do, after all, live in Michigan. I didn't even suggest that they should have read Hemingway, only that they should be able to put him in a list of American authors.

I'm confused and pissed off and worried that I am not the teacher I thought I was. And more than that, I'm worried that the teacher I am is anachronistic in an education system which does not require the reading of Shakespeare or Fitzgerald or Whitman (because if it was assigned in high school, "No one would read it.") I do not believe my students should want to get published or that they should be able to explicate a poem by Dickinson or even know what the word explicate means. But I do believe they should have heard of Emily Dickinson and they should have some awareness of her as a poet in America.

This is, I am learning, far too much to ask. I think I'll just quit and join the Grand Raggedy Roller Girls. I need to express my anger in more positive and apparently useful ways.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Okay, here's seven facts ...

I was tagged to write seven facts about myself, ostensibly, facts nobody knows.

1. I like to use big words like ostensibly.

2. I was electrocuted when I was five. The scar on the right side of my mouth is evidence.

3. I peed my pants while giving a book report in the first grade. I was standing at the front of the class -- wearing a skirt.

4. I used to make up stories, elaborate additions, and altogether different directions for the books I read for book report day in the first grade. The way I told it, the Berenstein Bears had adventures they never really had. This may or may not have something to do with the peeing.

5. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Catherine Laboure, and Gwen Stefani are three of my personal heroes.

6. I became a vegetarian when I was 14. I did it because I wanted to be cool.

7. Sometimes I wonder if I should be a nun.

So I am to tag seven people now, but I don't know how they'll know. If you happen to read this, I tag: Mandy, Bethlynn, Robin, Anna, Jason, and Sue.

Yes, I know. I can count. That's only six, but I've been thinking about Billy Collins and sonnets and the line: "All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now ..." I like the reduction and the doing and undoing, and yes, I am quoting Thomas Lynch from an interview I did with him last week in case you were wondering.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

No Place Like Home

I found a place. In case anyone was worried, I did indeed find a place to live.

And for nikwalk in particular, we will be living in close proximity of each other. I think a weekly walk with Z is in order.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Living Conditions

We must all decide what we are willing to live with. For my part, I am unwilling to live in a house with paint chipping off the walls. I am also unwilling to live in a place with windows that are painted shut. And I am unwilling to live somewhere that will never look clean no matter how many bottles of bleach are poured into it.

It is the season of apartment viewing, at least for me since my would-be landlord pulled the plug on my apartment at the last minute. Three days previous to move-in day, I received a letter in the mail that "explained" (that word is in quotes because very little was explained) why I may not move in to the apartment I have patiently been waiting to move in for two months. Electrical damage of some kind, it says. Cracks. Extensive. We have no idea when it will be fixed, it says. Find somewhere else, it says.

And so for the last two days, I have been trying to do this, all the while waiting patiently for a return phone call from the would-be landlord. No phone call, no request that I wait it out, no suggestion of another available unit -- I smell a rat.

After viewing exactly 20 apartments in approximately 30 hours, here is what I have learned:

Landlords are in fact landlords.
Of the 20 house owners I met with, only two of them were women. I found this very curious and unsettling and other unpleasant things.

Landlords must be salespersons.
I don't like the strong sell. I don't like being told, "Three other people are dying to live in this unit. They are ready to move in tomorrow." If they are so ready to move in, why are you showing me the place?

Grand Rapids is confused about its housing status.
We are getting very close to becoming a big city. We really are. Grand Rapids is one of those towns that keeps getting bigger and more exciting and the downtown area in particular is thriving. Those in a position to rent out housing to prospective tenants are aware of this and they want to profit from it. The problem is we're not there yet. We're cool, but we're not Chicago cool. Translation: Quit trying to rent out your piece of crap apartment for $850/month.

Slapping paint sloppily around the joint is not really renovating.
Enough said.

Landlords like to explain furnaces and breakers to you.
I don't care how it works until I live there. Seriously, quit taking me to the basement and wasting my time with explanations of why apartment two and apartment three use the same water heater.

Speaking of basements ...
They don't know why it's called a Michigan basement either. And they don't know, despite my asking every single one of them who took me down to that dank, smelly area of old homes, if they call them Indiana basements in Indiana and Ohio basements in Ohio.

Single white female, no smoker, no pets = High Demand.
One of my favorite things, I must admit, about looking for apartments is watching how hungry landlords get when I tell them I am a professional who does not smoke and who has neither pets nor children. I like to have people over for dinner, but I'm not a big party girl. In other words, I am an ideal tenant and they all want me ... desperately. It almost makes up for all the times I was overlooked and ignored as the chubby girl in high school.

After 6 places, I'm toast.
My capacity for remembering layout, how many bedrooms, whether the price was with or without utilities, or whether the fireplace is decorative or working is tapped out after viewing 6 places. You might as well spin me in a circle with a blindfold over my eyes at that point. I'll pin the tail on something - just don't ask me what.

I think I've found a place. I am hoping. I've had enough. Show me nothing more. Stop looking expectantly and hopefully at me as I examine the underbelly of your sinks. I just want a nice place with room and charm and maybe a porch. I am prepared to live with nothing less.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Toward HAPPY as more than an intellectual concept

Happy is almost mythological, isn't it? (Your agreement here would do a lot toward that whole "your misery loves company" thing). I am trying to be happy. I am trying to attain happy. I am trying to embrace happy. 'Odd how many verbs attempt to bridge the gap between "I" and "happy".

Here are some goals:


I. Craft and create more.
A. Make a quilt.
B. Build a dollhouse.
C. Make creepy little dolls that I will love.

II. Divorce self from television while reminding self that television is not the devil.

III. Learn bird calls.
A. How?
B. How? (This second is redundant, but I was trained to never have a B without an A in a Harvard outline - not that this is really a Harvard outline).

IV. Stop being a gatekeeper of the English language.
A. Get new job.
B. Find new career.
C. Care less.
1. Possibly use drugs.
2. See B****.

V. Go to coffeehouse for no particular reason with no papers to grade or books to read.
A. Look out window.
B. Listen to birds.
C. Identify each individual sound.
D. Write them down on paper.
1. Turn into poem.
2. Submit to nice journal.

VI. Stop suspending belief in that neo-academic way and learn to trust own instinct.

VII. Develope new relationship to food.
A. Eating is right and good.
B. Food is God's number one gift.
C. Food smells good.
D. Food can make us very, very happy.

VIII. Watch Bill Murray more.
A. Also, Will Ferrel.
B. Also, Eddie Izzard.
C. Also, Anthony Bourdain.
D. Also, for good measure, Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, and Grace Allen.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Student as Customer

Oh, I am loathe to continue this discussion and so this will be brief. Lately, I have had reason to be concerned over the idea of student as customer as many universities are applying business models to academia and turning the student into that most impossible of entities: the customer who's always right.

I have graded approximately 50,000 essays over the past five years, and I assure you, the customer is defiantly not always right. (That was a little treat for English teachers out there ... I'm sure you'll get it, while the rest of you might think that something in that sentence sounds funny).

Encouraging students to think this way would yield very positive results if 1) the students were highly motivated people, and 2) they knew exactly what they were coming into the classroom for. I'd say one in every ten students is highly motivated and knows what they need from the class they are taking.

I know I'm no math teacher, but I can figure that sum. That leaves nine students who are very busy sending me demanding e-mails, not showing up for class, or deciding to drop my class because "they're struggling" and "it's too hard." And I worry over these things, but not because they are my customers. Instead, I worry over them because I am a teacher and I am invested in these people. (Did you notice that transactional language there? I "invest" in them? Interesting.)

When they walk into my classroom, I am committed to making them as strong and as confident of a writer as I can. But this has absolutely nothing to do with a service I am providing to a customer. It has everything to do with my desire to make the world a more intellectually curious and interesting place. It has to do with me not wanting to see mispelled signs or menus or billboards. And it has a little something to do with the teaching moment, that hallowed thing, when I am sitting with a student and we share a moment of mutual discovery that makes every paper I grade worth the misery. I tell you what - you cannot put a pricetag on that moment. And if you could, I assure you, it would cost a lot more than what they are currently paying.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

14 American Apparel Models Freed in Midnight Raid

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Running Life

That title is a false one, or at least, it is a false one as a description of my life. I do run, sometimes as much as once a week, but I really don't think that makes me a runner - which is really sort of a double standard in my life as even when I don't write I boldly call myself a writer. Some things are more deeply wrapped around every blood cell. Some things are coded even on places that aren't supposed to carry genetic information, like the narrowed tip of the golden, almost invisible hair on my arms, or the lub-dup pump regulating my panic as I run to class, and of course, on all my pretty and busy leukocytes. In all these places, I'm a writer.

But a runner? Well, I pretend. And I am pretending to be one this Saturday for the Bridge Run here in the plucky and ever-expanding town of Grand Rapids. The problem is that I haven't run for ... well, I cannot remember the last time I ran. I think it was a week and a half ago. This makes me very anxious about Saturday's run.

The truth is running is brutal.

The truth is running is salvation.

The truth is my goal is to run my first 5k is under 30 minutes and with such little discipline, I will likely barf trying to achieve that very modest goal.

So here's to running and writing and the discipline and physical suffering involved in both pursuits. I have been lax in both activities and at the heart of everything is the aching fear that I am wasting this life, I am wasting this youth, I am wasting this mind. I am never busy enough to make the gift of it worthwhile. So I'll run. And I'll write. Sometimes as much as once a week.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Television is Good

Very busy with the new jobness. I'm happy, but I miss living next to my Kalamazoo people, my bread and butter, my base. Still, I have this to look forward to:

September 19: Season Premiere of ANTM
September 25: Season Premiere of House

Television is no replacement for friends, but it is warm, entertaining, and varied. And when Anthony Bourdain is on, all is well. Here is Anthony so that you might understand. Check your local listings for No Reservations on the Travel Channel. He is the answer to everything that is wrong with every other cooking/travel show.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What is George W. Bush Reading?

Yann Martel is much smarter than I am. You might have been wondering that. It's true. He is much smarter and all sorts of cleverer. Evidence of this is that he has taken it upon himself to send Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, a book "known to expand stillness" every two weeks. A log of each of these selections along with a letter establishing his reasoning behind each book choice can be found at:

Trust me. It is very good reading. It has me wondering which books I might send George W. Bush and what theme I might choose. I respect the role of the president enough to understand he or she doesn't have much time for reading, but then again, this president sure does take long vacations. He could read then. Certainly he ought to read more about people who are different from him, which is just about everybody not in his "base." And certainly he ought to read about the value of the environment beyond sporting purposes. Toward these ends, I am putting out a possible list:

1. Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams
2. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
3. The Light the Dead See by Frank Stafford
4. Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron
5. The Little House on the Prairies series
6. Coming into the Country by John McPhee
7. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
8. 1984 by George Orwell

I need another truly female book. I'm at a loss at present. That's okay. I can keep adding.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I'm living in the eighties. Eighties. I have to push. I have to struggle.

The answer is Killing Joke. If you were trying to remember the name of the band who did that awesome song called Eighties, it's Killing Joke. And shit yeah, it's a good song.

I need help. I have an 80s icon costume party to attend very soon and I'd love some ideas on who or what I should go as. Here are some considerations, but nothing feels right yet. I could be any of these, but am really hoping someone has a better idea:

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

All Hail John Puchniak, America's Best Reader ... Or At Least, Collector, of Books

It goes without saying, I am a reader.

I'm not one of those people who would say they couldn't live without books, but I would say that my life is dramatically improved by books. I might even go so far as to say that books are a part of my reason to live. The characters and the stories and the participation in the lives of others make life sometimes manageable, and other times, downright worth all the weariness of it.

That having been said, I'm no John Puchniak, a man who was evicted from his Philadelphia apartment for having too many books. His landlord told him his collection of over 3000 books was a "fire hazard and an immediate danger to all the other tenants." This is a guy who would probably say he couldn't live without books. Unfortunately, he can't really live with them either.

Who better to get a book suggestion from than John Puchniak himself, who, in addition to reading a busload of books written in English, also reads novels in Hebrew, Spanish, and Polish. If he had all the time in the world to read, he says he would start with Murasaki Shikibu's, "The Tale of Gengi," which documents Japanese courtlife from 950-1050 A.D. After that he would like to read all of Proust's, "Remembrances of Things Past" - the Montcrieff edition, of course.

If I had all the time in the world -- well, I try to read like I do. Otherwise I would just get overwhelmed. They say Wordsworth was the last person who could have possibly read everything ever written. I am striving to read at least 1% of everything ever written. I think John Puchniak might reach 3% of everything ever written. Maybe 5%.

Toward my 1%, I'm currently reading Carson McCullers, "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." Anyone who wants to have a little online book club with me in reading this would be welcomed and appreciated. Also, discussions and insights into other items on my summer reading list would also be appreciated. This includes but is not limited to: Martel's, "The Life of Pi," most of Jeanette Winterson, Coetzee's, "Elizabeth Costello," and Coelho's, "The Alchemist."

For more on the inspiring Mr. John Puchniak, go here:

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Ku Klux Klan in Kalamazoo

Hello friends,

I've mentioned this to a couple of you, but for those who do not know, the Ku Klux Klan will be meeting at Bronson Park on Saturday at noon for a "Rally Against Black Gang Terrorism." I will be there protesting and I'm wondering if some of you might feel inclined to join the effort. We cannot, in good conscience, let this rally happen without letting them know they are in no way welcome. Please, please, please forward this to anyone you believe will be interested in countering this.

Below is more information from Michigan Against White Supremacy.

"On Saturday, August 4, the racist radio talk show host Hal Turner is holding what he is hoping will be a major white supremacist event in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Turner’s event, dubbed a “Rally Against Black Gang Terrorism,” will feature speakers from various Ku Klux Klan groups, a pastor from the racist Christian Identity religion, and various racists not affiliated with any organized group. Moreover, invitations have been extended to nearly every organized white supremacist group from the Aryan Nations to White Revolution. Far from expressing concern about any issues affecting people in Kalamazoo, Hal Turner’s event is designed to act as a means of recruiting more people into the white supremacist movement and advancing their racist agenda.

Michigan Against White Supremacy is organizing a counter event because we believe that the white supremacists cannot be ignored. If we choose to ignore the white supremacists, they will be emboldened. If allowed to rally unopposed, the white supremacists will believe that they have the support of the community to enact their program of racist terror. Many of the white supremacists coming to Kalamazoo have advocated violence to achieve their political goals–expressing support for acts ranging from the “lynching” of African-Americans in Kalamazoo to the mass execution of Jewish people. We must stand up and oppose white supremacists as one of the many ways in which we can and should stand in solidarity and mutual struggle with oppressed groups.

We encourage people to protest in a way that effectively will silence the white supremacists’ message. In addition, we support people using a variety of methods and tactics to oppose the presence of white supremacists in Kalamazoo, provided that their actions are well-thought out and take into consideration their potential impact on the local community and other counter-demonstrators.

Meet at Bronson Park (South Rose and W. South St) in Kalamazoo, Michigan at 12:00pm. Brings signs, banners, noisemakers, and anything else that will help make it clear that white supremacy is not welcome in Kalamazoo, Michigan, or anywhere else.

For more information, please consult our website at

Friday, July 27, 2007

Marco! Polo!

Earlier this summer, my neighbor in the lot behind me installed an upground pool and it has been delighting and comforting me all summer long. None of this delight has come from actually setting foot in the pool itself, but from the sounds of the kids who swim in it from 9 in the morning to late in the evening.

I grew up with a pool. The shouts and splashes and inevitable angry screams when an unsuspecting child gets the occasional dunking is the soundtrack to my life that I hadn't even realized had stopped playing.

The most quintessential pool sound comes from the class game, Marco Polo. The person who is "it" closes their eyes and yells "Marco!" while the rest of the players dart out of the way responding "Polo!" In the pool of my youth, this included tactics of varying torture, such as bopping the person who is "it" on the head and leaping out of the way before they could tag you, or yanking on their ankles from underneath the water to pull them down whilst they swing and swing for you. I didn't say we were nice children, but we were very, very fun.

I was big with the "Fish Out of Water" thing because I was little and fast. Our house rules said that as long as one part of your body is in the water, it counts as in. This is the best way to get a bop on someone's head. You wait until just after you've responded with a "Polo!" then you dive over their head, give it a good, satisfying bop, and then swim away underwater to safety.

I don't know if the kids behind me are as vicious as we were, but they do play the game, evidence of which echoes throughout our neighbor like a call to summer. I love it.

I also love this little snippet of conversation I just heard clean as a bell:

Mother: Benjamin! Did you throw rocks in the pool?
Benjamin: Nooooo ...
Mother: You have all those pool toys and you're throwing rocks in the pool that I worked so hard to put up for you?
Benjamin (a little more softly this time): Nooo ...
Mother: Don't lie to me, Benjamin! Your father seen it!

This conversation could have happened at our house, except my mother never would have said "seen it" because she's better educated than that, but still ... we did throw a lot of golfballs in there and we did put some holes in the pool that my dad had to patch. Our pool's still there. It's a beauty of an underground pool with a slide and a diving board. And thank God, my nephews and nieces are still playing the TV Game, the Quiet Game (damn, I can't remember what we called it), and of course, Marco Polo. I hope my parents' neighbors are as caressed by the raucous sounds of it as I am.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Best Nude News Ever

This is by far the best thing I have read in the newspaper in a long, long time:

"Man who ran nude to spice up boring life gets 30 days in jail"

A 49-year-old man who told police his life lacked excitement was sentenced to 30 days in jail for running while wearing only a stocking cap, gloves and reflective tape.

Russell Rotta acknowledged to police that he had been running naked since he was a teenager and generally woke up each day around 4 a.m. to conceal his activity from his wife.

The Blackman Township resident pleaded guilty to a charge of indecent exposure May 22 in Jackson County district court. Judge Joseph Filip also sentenced him Tuesday to 24 months probation and $1,500 in fines and costs.

Rotta was arrested early April 4 after a caller reported seeing a naked man running in the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 127 in Blackman Township, north of Jackson and about 70 miles west of Detroit.

In the police report, the responding officer wrote that he recalled several reports over the years of a naked man running in the area. The officer said he spotted Rotta by his shoe reflectors as he attempted to cross a road.

The man was arrested following a foot chase.

Rotta told police he didn't indulge his habit to disturb anyone or receive sexual gratification and generally confined his running to open fields and wooded areas away from roads. He wore reflective tape around his arms, ankles, waist and thighs to avoid being hit when he crossed roads, the police report said.

Rotta reported running in the nude six miles a day every day, weather permitting. "That is the one wild, crazy thing that I do that makes me feel alive," police quoted him as saying.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Fundamentals According to Lloyd Dobler and Co.

It occurs to me that the core fundamentals of my life have come from very few sources and they amount to an odd collage of manifesto-esque soundbytes. You know what I mean - those things you read or heard that screamed at you like your own personal prophet coming down, grabbing you by the lapels, and saying, "Now hear this! This is how you will live, according to these principles!"

Here are a few of mine, for good or for awesome, in no particular order:

1. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived ... I wanted to live deep and suck the marrow out of life" (Henry David Thoreau, "Walden").

2. "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that" (Lloyd Dobler, "Say Anything").

3. "Nobody knows anybody. Not that well" (Tom Reagan, "Miller's Crossing").

I could only come up with three at this moment, but that second one is really resonating with me at the moment. 'More to come. Maybe.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Formerly of the MTV Generation

Early this morning, even before my neighbors started their early morning running up and down the stairs, I was awake and watching VH1 Videos. It was both a thrilling and nostalgic experience. The music felt bigger to me than it had a long time. It felt like it had a chance of actually being affecting and not just being the music I run to or clean the dishes to. It was a moment of clarity at a very early hour in the morning, all made possible by the artistry and dentistry of videos.

I was born in 1974. This means I was around for the Buggles first video, "Video Killed the Radio Star," which was the first video ever shown on MTV. It was August 1st, 1981. (Go here to view said video, which is very hard to embed:

We had one of the brown box remote channel changers that you zip up and down like a keyboard to change the channel. (I have searched in vain to find a picture of this to jog all our memories, but I can find nothing. If you know what I'm talking about and can find a picture to send me, I would be extremely grateful).

But as we all know, it is very difficult to view videos anymore unless we are up at hours we do not intend to be. Sure, we've all seen The Beastie Boys "Sabotage" (, and The White Stripes lego-riffic fantasy "Fell in Love With a Girl" (, and personally, I still feel artistically indebted to A-Ha's "Take On Me" (

But surely there's more to inspire us that the four or five stations out there are withholding from us, choosing instead to expose us to yet another Sweet Sixteen, mind-baffling bitchfest.

To misquote Jason Compson, "Once a video enjoyer, always a video enjoyer, what I say!" And let it begin with the following, a song and video called "Young Folk" by Peter, Bjorn, and John. It f-ing rocks:

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Because Fat is (Apparently) Disgusting

I've come across these images many times of late in the blogosphere and felt a sense of obligation to continue the discussion they stimulate. The following images are from a Brazilian yogurt ad campaign intended as a warning to women that no one likes fatties. Keep in mind that the tagline for the following ads is: Forget about it. Men's preference will never change. Fit Light Yogurt.

I say we suggest new taglines for this breathtakingly offensive ad campaign. Here are some suggestions for 1-3:

1. Men's preferences will never change. This chick will always be hotter than Mena Suvari (except when Suvari is playing a lesbian on Six Feet Under, because guys can't help themselves in thinking girl on girl is very, very hot).

2. It's true. Man's preferences will never change. Every stolen glance of panty is an awesome glance of panty.

3. Smart women prefer to keep their legs closed no matter what that crafty cameraman said.

That's all 145 pounds of me has to offer today.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Short on Obsessions

Obsessions get sort of a bad rap. Personally, I'm always envious of someone who is obsessed with something because it shows that they care about something with a great deal of passion. Trust me, as someone who cannot remember what it's like to get really, really excited about anything, I think obsessions are altogether healthy and valuable.

I have decided just today to become obsessed with Zach Braff. He's earned it. If you don't believe me, just take it from this guy:

Also, for those of you who need a crib sheet for my last post - don't be shy, that's a lot of damn books - go here:

Off to become Zach Braff's number one friend on Myspace.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Top 100 First Lines in a Novel - Can You Name the Novel?

1. Call me Ishmael.

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

3. A screaming comes across the sky.

4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.

6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

7. riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

9. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

10. I am an invisible man.

11. The Miss Lonelyhearts of the New York Post-Dispatch (Are you in trouble?—Do-you-need-advice?—Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard.

12. You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter.

13. Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.

14. You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler.

15. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.
16. f you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

17. Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.

18. This is the saddest story I have ever heard.

19. I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost:—Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,—I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me.

20. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

21. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.

22. It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

23. One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary.

24. It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.

25. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.

26. 124 was spiteful.

27. Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.

28. Mother died today.

29. Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.

30. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

31. I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man.

32. Where now? Who now? When now?

33. Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. “Stop!” cried the groaning old man at last, “Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.”

34. In a sense, I am Jacob Horner.

35. It was like so, but wasn't.

36. —Money . . . in a voice that rustled.

37. Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.

38. All this happened, more or less.

39. They shoot the white girl first.

40. For a long time, I went to bed early.

41. The moment one learns English, complications set in.

42. Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.

43. I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / By the false azure in the windowpane;

44. Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.

45. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

46. Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement . . . anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa's antipodal ant annexation.

47. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

48. He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

49. It was the day my grandmother exploded.

50. I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

51. Elmer Gantry was drunk.

52. We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.

53. It was a pleasure to burn.

54. A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.

55. Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes' chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression.

56. I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho' not of that Country, my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull; He got a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade, lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my Mother, whose Relations were named Robinson, a very good Family in that Country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual Corruption of Words in England, we are now called, nay we call our selves, and write our Name Crusoe, and so my Companions always call'd me.

57. In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.

58. Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.

59. It was love at first sight.

60. What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems, in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the tops of her stockings?

61. I have never begun a novel with more misgiving.

62. Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

63. The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.

64. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

65. You better not never tell nobody but God.

66. “To be born again,” sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, “first you have to die.”

67. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.

68. Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden.

69. If I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.

70. Francis Marion Tarwater's uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up.

71. Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peephole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.

72. When Dick Gibson was a little boy he was not Dick Gibson.

73. Hiram Clegg, together with his wife Emma and four friends of the faith from Randolph Junction, were summoned by the Spirit and Mrs. Clara Collins, widow of the beloved Nazarene preacher Ely Collins, to West Condon on the weekend of the eighteenth and nineteenth of April, there to await the End of the World.

74. She waited, Kate Croy, for her father to come in, but he kept her unconscionably, and there were moments at which she showed herself, in the glass over the mantel, a face positively pale with the irritation that had brought her to the point of going away without sight of him.

75. In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.

76. “Take my camel, dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

77. He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull.

78. The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

79. On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen.

80. Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.

81. Vaughan died yesterday in his last car-crash.

82. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.

83. “When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets,” Papa would say, “she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing.”

84. In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there was to be found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talented, and yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point.

85. When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

86. It was just noon that Sunday morning when the sheriff reached the jail with Lucas Beauchamp though the whole town (the whole county too for that matter) had known since the night before that Lucas had killed a white man.

87. I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as “Claudius the Idiot,” or “That Claudius,” or “Claudius the Stammerer,” or “Clau-Clau-Claudius” or at best as “Poor Uncle Claudius,” am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the “golden predicament” from which I have never since become disentangled.

88. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women.

89. I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.

90. The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods.

91. I will tell you in a few words who I am: lover of the hummingbird that darts to the flower beyond the rotted sill where my feet are propped; lover of bright needlepoint and the bright stitching fingers of humorless old ladies bent to their sweet and infamous designs; lover of parasols made from the same puffy stuff as a young girl's underdrawers; still lover of that small naval boat which somehow survived the distressing years of my life between her decks or in her pilothouse; and also lover of poor dear black Sonny, my mess boy, fellow victim and confidant, and of my wife and child. But most of all, lover of my harmless and sanguine self.

92. He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.

93. Psychics can see the color of time it's blue.

94. In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together.

95. Once upon a time two or three weeks ago, a rather stubborn and determined middle-aged man decided to record for posterity, exactly as it happened, word by word and step by step, the story of another man for indeed what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal, a somewhat paranoiac fellow unmarried, unattached, and quite irresponsible, who had decided to lock himself in a room a furnished room with a private bath, cooking facilities, a bed, a table, and at least one chair, in New York City, for a year 365 days to be precise, to write the story of another person—a shy young man about of 19 years old—who, after the war the Second World War, had come to America the land of opportunities from France under the sponsorship of his uncle—a journalist, fluent in five languages—who himself had come to America from Europe Poland it seems, though this was not clearly established sometime during the war after a series of rather gruesome adventures, and who, at the end of the war, wrote to the father his cousin by marriage of the young man whom he considered as a nephew, curious to know if he the father and his family had survived the German occupation, and indeed was deeply saddened to learn, in a letter from the young man—a long and touching letter written in English, not by the young man, however, who did not know a damn word of English, but by a good friend of his who had studied English in school—that his parents both his father and mother and his two sisters one older and the other younger than he had been deported they were Jewish to a German concentration camp Auschwitz probably and never returned, no doubt having been exterminated deliberately X * X * X * X, and that, therefore, the young man who was now an orphan, a displaced person, who, during the war, had managed to escape deportation by working very hard on a farm in Southern France, would be happy and grateful to be given the opportunity to come to America that great country he had heard so much about and yet knew so little about to start a new life, possibly go to school, learn a trade, and become a good, loyal citizen.

96. Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.

97. He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.

98. High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour.

99. They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did.

100. The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dying Harder All The Time

My aesthetic is in a serious state of decline. Two days ago, I had to fight tears while listening to an Ashlee Simpson song, and not because it was bad. I was just honestly moved.

And today, I left the latest Die Hard completely and totally jazzed. Michael, my viewing partner and partner in general, was completely disappointed. Me? I wanted to go skydiving or something. I was puh-umped!

I might lose friends with these admissions, but I find it necessary to be honest about my likes and dislikes. I am closeted no more. I like Justin Timberlake. I think Avril Lavigne writes some damn good songs. Don't even get me started on Fergie.

I'm sick of being a snob. I am a closet Top 20 girl. There it is. It's out there. It's been said. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to do some shopping at Hollister. No, just kidding. Not even I would stoop to this.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Russian Cautionary Cartoons

My thanks to the good country of Russia which is responsible for a delightfully cautionary book intended for bad children.

The caption for the following (I swear to God) is: “You haven’t cleaned up your room? Then ugly monks will come to you soon.”

But perhaps better than this one is the following, the caption of which is: “If you are greedy as old and don’t share balls, probably you would be eaten by wolves.”

So let that be a lesson to you. For more, go to:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Visual Mapping of Your Life

Try this:

Make a visual map of something. Mine is forthcoming, in the process of raw creation. Let's both watch for it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What's so impressive about diamonds, except for the mining?

I've been giving a lot of thought to diamonds lately and other marital traditions like the woman changing her last name. A friend of mine says he believes this will be the last generation of women to change their last names to their husband's. I think that's a possibility, but there's still that whole sticky what-will-the-children-go-by situation.

The ring's the thing, though. I just don't know where to fall on this one. Part of me wants a ring, but part of me agrees with Fiona Apple who provided the subject line of this blog entry.

Below is an article taken from Slate and written by Meghan O'Rourke about this issue. I'd like some feedback on this one. I just don't want to end up like one those women Iona from Pretty in Pink (Annie Potts's character) talks about who wake up one day and realize that something is missing in their lives and then they are horrified to realize that it's that they never went to Prom. Well I went to Prom and had a seriously hot date. But I don't want to wake up one day and realize I really, really wanted a diamond ring.

Diamonds Are a Girl's Worst Friend
The trouble with engagement rings.

By Meghan O'Rourke
Posted Monday, June 11, 2007, at 10:07 AM ET

The retail fantasy known as a "traditional" American wedding comprises many delicious absurdities, ranging from personalized wedding stamps to ring pillows designed for dogs to favors like "Love Mints." Of all these baubles, though, perhaps the most insidious is the engagement ring. Most Americans can say no to the "celebrity garter belt" on offer for a mere $18.95 from Weddings With Class. But more than 80 percent of American brides receive a diamond engagement ring (at an average cost of around $3,200) before they get married. Few stop to think about what, beyond the misty promise of endless love, the ring might actually signify. Why would you, after all? A wedding is supposed to be a celebration. Only the uncharitable would look a sparkly diamond in the eye—never mind a man on his knee—and ask what it means.

But there's a powerful case to be made that in an age of equitable marriage the engagement ring is an outmoded commodity—starting with the obvious fact that only the woman gets one. The diamond ring is the site of retrograde fantasies about gender roles. What makes it pernicious—as opposed to tackily fun—is its cost (these days you don't need just a diamond; you need a good diamond), its dubious origins, and the cynical blandishments of TV and print ads designed to suggest a ring's allure through the crassest of stereotypes. Case in point: An American couple stands in a plaza in Europe. The man shouts, "I love this woman!" The woman appears mortified. He then pulls out a diamond ring and offers it to her. She says, in heartfelt tones, "I love this man." And you've probably noticed that these days diamonds really are forever: Men are informed that their beautiful wife needs a "Twenty-Fifth Anniversary" ring (note this ad's reduction of a life to copulation and child-rearing), and single women are told not to wait around for guys but to go ahead and get themselves a "right-hand ring."* Live to be 100 and a woman of a certain class might find her entire hand crusted over with diamonds. A diamond company, you see, is unrelenting. In their parlance, "the desire is there; we just want to breathe more life into it."

But the desire wasn't always there. In fact, the "tradition" of the diamond engagement ring is newer than you might think. Betrothal rings, a custom inherited from the Romans, became an increasingly common part of the Christian tradition in the 13th century. The first known diamond engagement ring was commissioned for Mary of Burgundy by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria in 1477. The Victorians exchanged "regards" rings set with birthstones. But it wasn't until the late 19th century, after the discovery of mines in South Africa drove the price of diamonds down, that Americans regularly began to give (or receive) diamond engagement rings. (Before that, some betrothed women got thimbles instead of rings.) Even then, the real blingfest didn't get going until the 1930s, when—dim the lights, strike up the violins, and cue entrance—the De Beers diamond company decided it was time to take action against the American public.

In 1919, De Beers experienced a drop in diamond sales that lasted for two decades. So in the 1930s it turned to the firm N.W. Ayer to devise a national advertising campaign—still relatively rare at the time—to promote its diamonds. Ayer convinced Hollywood actresses to wear diamond rings in public, and, according to Edward Jay Epstein in The Rise and Fall of the Diamond, encouraged fashion designers to discuss the new "trend" toward diamond rings. Between 1938 and 1941, diamond sales went up 55 percent. By 1945 an average bride, one source reported, wore "a brilliant diamond engagement ring and a wedding ring to match in design." The capstone to it all came in 1947, when Frances Gerety—a female copywriter, who, as it happened, never married—wrote the line "A Diamond Is Forever." The company blazoned it over the image of happy young newlyweds on their honeymoon. The sale of diamond engagement rings continued to rise in the 1950s, and the marriage between romance and commerce that would characterize the American wedding for the next half-century was cemented. By 1965, 80 percent of American women had diamond engagement rings. The ring had become a requisite element of betrothal—as well as a very visible demonstration of status. Along the way, the diamond industry's guidelines for the "customary" cost of a ring doubled from one month's salary to two months' salary.

But behind every Madison Avenue victory lurks a deeper social reality. And as it happens there was another factor in the surge of engagement ring sales—one that makes the ring's role as collateral in the premarital economy more evident. Until the 1930s, a woman jilted by her fiance could sue for financial compensation for "damage" to her reputation under what was known as the "Breach of Promise to Marry" action. As courts began to abolish such actions, diamond ring sales rose in response to a need for a symbol of financial commitment from the groom, argues the legal scholar Margaret Brinig—noting, crucially, that ring sales began to rise a few years before the De Beers campaign. To be marriageable at the time you needed to be a virgin, but, Brinig points out, a large percentage of women lost their virginity while engaged. So some structure of commitment was necessary to assure betrothed women that men weren't just trying to get them into bed. The "Breach of Promise" action had helped prevent what society feared would be rampant seduce-and-abandon scenarios; in its lieu, the pricey engagement ring would do the same. (Implicitly, it would seem, a woman's virginity was worth the price of a ring, and varied according to the status of her groom-to-be.)

On the face of it, the engagement ring's origins as a financial commitment should make modern brides-to-be wary. After all, virginity is no longer a prerequisite for marriage, nor do the majority of women consider marriageability their prime asset. Many women hope for a marriage in which housework, child-rearing, and breadwinning are equitably divided. The engagement ring doesn't fit into this intellectual framework. Rather, its presence on a woman's finger suggests that she needs to trap a man into "commitment" or be damaged if he leaves. (In most states today, if a groom abandons a bride, she is entitled to keep the ring, whereas if she leaves him, she must give it back.) Nor is it exactly "equitable" to demand that a partner shell out a sixth of a year's salary, demonstrating that he can "provide" for you and a future family, before you agree to marry him.

For those who aren't bothered by the finer points of gender equity, an engagement ring clearly makes a claim about the status of a woman's sexual currency. It's a big, shiny NO TRESPASSING sign, stating that the woman wearing it has been bought and paid for, while her beau is out there sign-free and all too easily trespassable, until the wedding. (There might be an equitable case for pregnancy rings, since bearing children is inherently unequal—but that's its own can of worms.) In fact, many ads, including a recent series by Tiffany, imply that giving a ring results in a woman's sexual debt—as these parodies brilliantly capture.
It may seem curious that feminism has made inroads on many retrograde customs—name-changing, for example—but not on the practice of giving engagement rings. Part of the reason the ring has persisted and thrived is clearly its role in what Thorstein Veblen called the economy of "conspicuous consumption." Part of the reason could be that many young women, raised in a realm of relative equality, never think rigorously about the traditions handed down to them. So it's easy to simply regard a ring as a beautiful piece of jewelry and accept it in kind (I'm guilty myself). But it's also the case that a murkier truth lies within its brilliance: Women still measure their worth in relationship to marriage in ways that men don't. And many are looking for men who will bear the burden of providing for them, while demanding equality in other ways. (It's telling, for example, that in many parts of Scandinavia, where attitudes toward gender are more egalitarian, both men and women wear engagement rings.) Women are collectively attached to the status a ring bestows on them; otherwise more would demand some equal sign of commitment from their husbands. Say, a tattoo. For two. Now there's an idea.

*Correction, June 18, 2007: This article misidentified a certain type of ring as a right-finger ring; the ring in quesion is a right-hand ring. Return to the corrected sentence.

Article URL:

Copyright 2007 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Narrative of History and Knot-Making

I love talking nonfiction, which is a good thing since that is my work. What I love most is confronting people who believe in an essential truth, those people who believe "history" is indisputable fact. In these types of discussions, I encourage them to review U.S. history books from the last ten years and notice all the changes. It could be an easier task than that, I tell them. Just look at the back cover to see the "Newly Included Voices" and then make note of whose voices and stories have been removed. History is not a line with an arrow pointing backwards. We cannot run up and down it with a series of dates plotting our way. I would argue that time is not even real, but that's for another discussion.

I know that my sister died more than ten years ago, but sometimes in my dreams she is still living. In some ways, I must admit, my sense of time is determined by her death. Was that before or after she died? Did I start dating him while she was still alive or was that a year after? And so I confront time in this way, but the history of her is constantly in flux. It is a narrative I am constantly shaping in my head. Yes, she drove up to get me from the bus station in Canada when I could not live on the commune a day longer. Sometimes it was a six-hour drive she made for me. Sometimes it was longer. And then I made her dinner and her husband hated it. That part of the story never changes. He never liked my cooking. Sometimes she did it because she was bored and lonely. Sometimes she did it because she was so good. Sometimes she did it because she loved me. Sometimes at the end of it she tells me I told you so. It depends on the arc of the retelling that day. It depends on the context in which I am telling it.

"Of course that is not the whole story, but that is the way with stories; we make them what we will. It's a way of explaining the universe while leaving the universe unexplained, it's a way of keeping it alive, not boxing it into time. Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. Some people say there true things to be found, some people say all kinds of things can be proved. I don't believe them. The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like string full of knots. It's all there but hard to find the beginning and impossible to fathom the end. The best you can do is admire the cat's cradle, and maybe knot it up a bit more" (Jeanette Winterson).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Delayed Comeback

I have trouble speaking up when I should. 'Remember that scene in "Shallow Hal" ... What? You didn't see that movie? Oh, come off it. It's worth viewing ... anyway, remember that scene in "Shallow Hal" when Jack Black takes, like, 10 seconds before he retorts to Jason Alexander and then Jason Alexander says, "You can't come back with a comeback after eight seconds. You got three seconds. Five, tops. It's called a quip, not a sloooowwwwp."

Me? I usually can't even come up with a sloooowwwwp. Instead, I'm that girl who's still grousing about a missed moment months, nay, years after the fact. For instance, here's one that's been bugging me: I had this friend, well, really, not a friend, who just was really an asshole, but I just figured that out too late. She saw me and someone else playing racquetball at the gym one day and she says to me, "I hope the other person wins."

Now what kind of friend says that? The kind who is not a friend. The kind who just desperately needs to cut you down every chance she gets. The kind who has to put on a lot of makeup to look attractive. I wish I had said those things, but instead I just looked at her with a probably confounded and hurt look about me and asked, "why?"

"Because I don't want you to win," she said.

Still, to this day, I have trouble explaining to people why she's an asshole.

So here's my quip. Here's what I wish I would have said to her: "I hope you win ... a soul!!!"

Okay, yeah, I think we're all agreed. I'm just no good at the art of the quip.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Morning Maps

"The cities of the interior are vast and do not lie on any map."

I am making coffee. It is cool outside and I should run. I used to have a map on my palms and I would slap anyone who came by. I have a friend now who does this. She slaps and says and slaps and says. It is never anything good to hear.

Friday, June 8, 2007

I Blame Little Children

Having just watched the film Little Children, it occurred to me to log into the National Sex Offender Registry to see what was just around the corner. Not good news, friends. Not good at all. Go here:

What was beautiful about the film Little Children was its sympathy, which is a writer's virtue and which is dangerous. I am wondering, mothers and fathers out there, how being a writer and a parent has changed you, how it has changed your characters, how it has sharpened the focus of your eyes and placed necessary boundaries on your world. It is good to live with open palms and certainly becoming a parent widens the heart, but in what ways must it close up and contain and protect and limit?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Global Peace Index

In case you haven't heard, an Australian businessman commissioned (commissioned?) a study to determine the peacefulness of all nations. It's called the Global Peace Index. The study consisted of an analysis of internal violence, as in crime rings busted, gang violence, etc ..., and external violence, as in wars participated in, military spending, etc ... Not surprisingly, much of the study determined there was a direct correlation between poverty/limited necessary resources and war. No surprise there. Now that I'm unemployed and broke, I usually feel like punching people in the face.

Norway was rated #1, the most peaceful. Iraq was rated #121, the most unpeaceful. And how did the wealthy and awesomely democratic U.S. of A. do? We are #96 out of 121. No, seriously. It's good to know we're using our ample resources and "free" way of life in such a useful manner. I'm proud of us. I got faces to punch.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day and the Tower of Babel

I don't know how it happened, but I had a whole lot of Memorial Day parties to attend this year. Very fun. Very good people.

An odd coincidence of the Pentecost falling on the same weekend. (Ha ha, Pentecost falling ... only Catholics will get that). All the readings at Mass were done in different languages in honor of Speaking in Tongues and the goal of the reunification of Babel. This is one of my favorite church holidays as I feel it speaks to me as a linguaphile. Part of my job is language and links of language and loving the evolution of language. Nearly every person I spent this weekend with is the same way, so props to all the Babel Uniters out there.

Here's some Memorial Day highlights:
I'm not sure what Kim is trying to unite here, but I dig her accusatory language.

Beth, our uncontested keeper of language and secrets.

Do not ask Ander if that Erasure song is Duran Duran. He will speak in bird language.

Nik, Zoe, and Erik language.

Sort of Natalie's mantra in body language form.

I bop, she bop language.

Must get out of the way for Jo Jo language.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Zoophile Update

In an effort to earn my erstwhile townie status (granted, that was in another town), I will keep my few readers abreast of upcoming literary and artistic events in Kalamazoo.

The RHINO Reading
In celebration of the release of RHINO 2007, nine poets whose work has appeared in the liteary journal RHINO will read their poems on Thursday, May 31, 2007 at the Portage District Library, 300 Library Lane, in the Austin Lake and Sugarloaf Lake rooms. The reading will begin at 7:00 p.m. (refreshments at 6:30), and the public is invited to attend. Readers include the awesomeness of Emma Ramey, who I'm told has all her eyes, and the splendid wit and people's poetness of Jason Olsen. WMU's own Liz Knapp will also read along with several other poets. Come hear it. Pretend you do not own a television and the reading of poetry is all you have to connect with the larger world.

Kalamazoo Art Hop
Beginning at 5pm on Friday, June 1st, Kalamazoo galleries open their doors and illuminate the mind of Kalamazoo creativity. Come join in being a part of the art world just beyond your welcome mat.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Because Northern Michigan is Excruciatingly Beautiful

This is a picture of the Charlevoix Bridge by some kid I do not know. Per Google Images, his name is Ryan and he is age 10. The reason I put this picture up is because pictures of the real Charlevoix in Northern Michigan are too beautiful and they make me hurt a little. I'm at a difficult point in my life. Having just finished school, I am like this little boat under the bridge, waiting to cross and enter into deeper, scarier, unproven waters. (My education prepared me for that simile). I don't know what's next. But I do know that the likelihood of ever making enough money to live in a beautiful area like Charlevoix is minimal at best.

Here's the other reason I would like to live in Charlevoix. It is adjacent to Horton Bay where Hemingway spent many of his summers. His sister, in fact, still lives there on Walloon Lake, which you might know about if you saw that very bad movie with Sandra Bullock and Chris O'Donnell.
Every year on the Fourth of July, Horton Bay has a very small parade. It is generally themed, very short, and put on by the locals. Imagine a parade in Sicily, Alaska run by such colorful characters as Holling Vincoeur and Maurice Minnifield. It's like that. Here's a picture when the theme was to elect a dog named Hobie:

Now come on. Wouldn't you like to live in a place like that? Yeah. Me, too.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Nonfiction List!

You should know that I love lists. It's a minor obsession with me. Remember when VH1 had that show called The List? Of course you don't. And that's why it's not on anymore and that's why I cry a lot. In a previous post, I misstated myself and said the Modern Library did not have a nonfiction list, which was so wrong, so wrong. They do in fact have one, but it is sucky. View it for yourself here:

Okay, yes. Some of it is good, such as Notes of a Native Son (Baldwin), The Double Helix (Watson), Aspects of a Novel (Forster), Speak, Memory (Nabokov), and one of my favorites: Out of Africa (Dinesen). However, much of the list is littered with historical biographies, and/or religious and sociopolitical texts. What I want is a LITERARY NONFICTION list. Let's start one. Come on. You and me. Here's ten to grow on:

Refuge (Williams)
Salvation on Sand Mountain (Covington)
Going to Ground (Blackmarr)
Century of the Wind (Galeano)
The Undertaking (Lynch)
About This Life (Lopez)
Works on Paper (Weinberger)
Lost in Place (Salzman)
Under the Banner of Heaven (Krakauer)
Leap (Williams)

There it is. Two for Terry Tempest Williams. No surprise there. She sort of rocks it, Utah/Morman style. What else is good. Let's give the Modern Library a run for its government-sponsored money.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

My Bookshelf of Shame vs. Television

Everyone has one. I know you do. Here's a brief, off-the-cuff list of books I should have read by now. (That's a picture of my REAL bookshelf with books I have actually read. Except for Swann's Way. I have not read all of that. See list.):

The Dubliners (James Joyce), Swann's Way (Marcel Proust), An American Tragedy (Theoodre Dreiser), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Carson McCullers), anything by Jane Austen, Absalom, Absalom (William Faulkner), Main Street (Sinclair Lewis)

Also, here is a link to the 100 best American novels, ranked by I don't know who: I am sad/mildly annoyed there is no such list for nonfiction. Maybe that is my next blog. Probably, yes it is.

Obviously there are more books I would like to read, but the problem is twofold: One, great books continue to be written and I fall further behind, and Two, television is so damn compelling, particularly The Riches, which if you're not watching, you're just crazy. This is actually very much like a Faulknerian family in its sense of insistent loyalty beset by internal meltdown. Watch it. Quentin ain't got nothing on Dahlia for angst.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Viva Cleveland!

Cleveland is a very good town if you are like me and you judge a place based on the coolness of stores located in the vicinity. It is Michael's hometown and I think he's rather lucky in that regard. I always thought Grand Rapids was a cool hometown, but I must concede that Cleveland is a tad cooler.

'Just yesterday I went to H&M, Anthropologie, Trader Joe's, and Wild Oats. It makes me sad for Grand Rapids, which I think deserves so very much more. It makes me weep openly for Kalamazoo which has just about nothing going for it if your aesthetic is the aforementioned coolness of stores. The coolest thing going for Kalamazoo is its closeness to Grand Rapids.

Plus, Michael and I went to a Lake County Captains game on Thursday, which is the minor league baseball around these parts and which I thought was awesome fun. Aye, Aye Captains!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Dream Map

I am a fan of dreams. I'll sit through friends' retelling of them in the hopes of confronting that moment of spine tingling. It's one of the last fronts of mystery.

Last night I dreamt I married quickly, within weeks of knowing someone it seemed, and it was intoxicating. Then I had to rush away from him, from the suffocation and ill decision-making of it, apparently on skis, like these ones. ------>

He chased me, my new husband. I skied and skied and skied. I think I was in Canada when finally, he tackled me in the snow. I leapt in his arms and wept. I was tired of skiing. He carried me with my legs cocooned around his waist. It was dark and there were haloes around the streetlights and he skied us away from there with a big smile on his face

This site:, has nothing on skis. I think they are an odd choice for a dream symbol. I cannot figure this thing.