Friday, March 31, 2006

Baby Got Back

I was running late this morning and grabbed my coat out of the closet, and something in my back went ping! followed by a bolt of breathtaking agony. I moved again in the same direction, not because I'm a masochist but because I figured, "It's some kind of fluke" or a momentary spasm. Nope. I screamed as an identical bolt of agony shot through my lower back.

"Stay home!" advised Jim.

"I can't! I've gotta keep my dental appointment and we're busy at work!" I hobbled downstairs, gasping, and made my way slowly down to the subway, followed by the crosstown bus.

Those who know me very well will tell you that I would rather staple-gun my tongue to my forehead than ask for help with anything. But when it came time to hop off the bus, Gus, instead of pushing the door open and making a graceful semi-leap to the curb, I asked the woman ahead of me, "Could you hold that open, please?" Keeping my tone light and airy, as if we were both at a delightful dinner party, when I felt so absolutely sure that my voice was coming off as a needy, lugubrious whine.

Likewise, when I got to the dentist, the new hygienist, this little slight Russian woman, was having trouble moving the chair and the arm of the tool tray. I was about to offer my assistance when I realized that I wouldn't be able to actually assist. In fact, I could barely sit up, and every time I moved the pain reasserted itself. So I just had to sit there helplessly watching this woman struggle. As she got the tools in place and scraped my teeth, I reflected, "This is a sneak preview of being old."

I was hoping the dentist would prescribe some Percoset, especially since I was getting a temporary crown. But he advised Advil and exercise and said, "Yeah, once you hit fifty, it's all downhill." Great.

So now I'm sitting here blogging and waiting for the Novocaine to wear off so that I can eat my sandwich without it falling out of my mouth onto my lap. I have a new sympathy for the old, the halt, the lame, and people with speech defects. Where I really need the Novocaine is somewhere between my sacro and my iliac. I'm looking forward to home and a heating pad and perhaps a muscle relaxant. Thank God it's Friday.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Picture This

Driven by Apartment Therapy's "eight step home cure," I had the inspiration last night to switch two framed posters, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. Since our apartment is one big room with an arch in between, the idea of having separate rooms is an illusion. Or a delusion.

One is a black and white poster of a Cartier-Bresson photograph that I bought on my one and only trip to Paris in 1987. The other is a colorful poster by a Montana artist named Monte Dolack.



My rationale was that since most of the stuff in our living room/kitchen area was black and white, and most of our stuff in the bedroom is pastel, the Dolack poster would be happier in the bedroom and the Cartier-Bresson photograph in the living room.

So we switched them, and this morning I'm looking at both of them and thinking, something is still not quite right:

And here's the kicker:

This last realization caused me to probe way down deep into my psyche, and come up with a daring scheme...color scheme, that is. Since I liked the poster, why not re-do the bedroom to match the colors in the poster?

A couple of pieces are already the light color of the coffee table in the picture. A wardrobe cabinet that I bought unfinished when I first moved in and stained dark brown at the end of my provisional adulthood is now so full of marks and scratches from two generations of cats that painting it would improve it. The only dark pieces that I wouldn't paint/refinish/get rid of would be a hutch and bookcase we got a couple of years ago. And of course, the Cabinets of Dad are sacrosanct.

I related my brainstorm to Jim. Whenever I'm really enthused about some idea, I'm always afraid he's gonna go all Ricky Ricardo on me and go "Looooocy!" and start jabbering in Spanish, which would be very strange because he doesn't speak Spanish. And then I would have to sneak around behind his back and it would involve some escapade with a side of beef and a loaf of bread ten feet long.

Instead, he said, "Why don't you paint the molding around the windows one of the colors in the poster?"

So we're all set. Oh yeah, and some new bedding. Century 21's basement is excellent for that. And K-Mart--I'm totally serious. Oh boy!

Meanwhile, when we took the pictures down, we removed what seemed like a quarter of an inch of dirt, grease and tobacco smoke before we put them back up. And correct me if I'm wrong, but if you accidentally drop a piece of clothing on the floor while you're getting dressed, it should not render the garment unwearable. So perhaps it's time to take time for Step One: A good cleaning.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Peasants Are Back

Peasant skirts, that is. I saw a profusion of them this morning on the subway, worn mostly with boots, although I did see the occasional sandal. It's as if everyone's so tired of wintry weather that they're dressing far warmer than the 51 degree temperature would indicate.

The warm weather look that's being pitched in all the chain stores right now is polished chinos, fitted at the hip and thigh and flared at the bottom. In other words, the exact opposite of the way most adult women are built. But if I recall and link correctly, this was the case last year, too, and most actual women bought some kind of long, flaring skirt. You saw them everywhere at every price, from Saks to street fairs.

I picked up two at the Gap that served me well through several heat waves. They will no doubt be pressed into service again this summer.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Had Enough?"

The Bull Moose quotes a Time Magazine piece crediting Newt Gingrich with creating a campaign slogan for the Democrats:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who masterminded the 1994 elections that brought Republicans to power on promises of revolutionizing the way Washington is run, told TIME that his party has so bungled the job of governing that the best campaign slogan for Democrats today could be boiled down to just two words: "Had enough?"
But I recall somebody beating Newt to the punch. It was none other than James Carville, the guy who came up with "It's the Economy, Stupid!" It was the title of his 2003 book. Here's my favorite part of Carville's "Had Enough?" He's giving a speech to a large group of Democrats at an annual dinner:

Then just when I had them whipped into a good frenzy, I hit them with: "And I'll be got-damned if we are going to let them stop us from passing the transgender amendment."

Cheers and applause. People were out of their seats. It was thunderous.

There's only one problem. There is no transgender amendment. I don't even know what would be in a transgender amendment.

That's when it really hit me. People went wild because it sounded like something Democrats are for. I almost felt guilty. After all, it wasn't that audience's fault for being gullible. It was our fault for sounding like a party that is a sum of different things targeted to different groups. Maybe someday someone will write a transgender amendment--and we will stand for it. But we need to stand for more than that.

A footnote states that Carville subsequently heard that there was a transgender amendment, in New York and in Australia. He had no idea what was in it, and said that his point still stands.

Update: Here's an excerpt from which the foregoing was taken.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Couple of Videos 4 U

Continuing the theme of a cat's head superimposed on other things, here's a cute and strange video featuring Otto the Feral Cat in "Valentine for Perfect Strangers." (H/T "Fine on Media")

And here's one called "Big Book of Porn" which isn't really pornographic--okay, maybe for a nanosecond--but is funny and has a cute little dog. (H/T "Mediabistro")

BTW, Andy Samberg is my illegitimate son.

Okay, I'm kidding, but if he were I'd be very proud.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"If Your Cat Tasted Like Chicken, Would You Eat Her?"

That's the headline on an ad on the back of the latest PETA newsletter, "Animal Times." It has a cleverly Photoshopped picture of a chicken with a tabby's head.

If my cats tasted like chicken, wouldn't they eat each other?

I'm The Man

A while back, a politically correct acquaintance said to me, "Why do you like The Rat Pack? They were a bunch of sexist homophobic drunks. Why are you complicit in your own subjugation?"

My immediate answer was, "Go sit on a tack." But I thought about it, and I realized that when I'm enjoying Frank, Dean, Sammy et al., I'm imagining that I'm them, or the image of them. I'm not imagining that I'm one of the wives, or the broads they screwed around on. Although the alimony would be spiffy.

Twenty years ago in a comedy improv class, we had an exercise where you pick one of your heroes, somebody you admire, and you do your improvised scene as them. I chose a guy comic whose work was influential to mine at the time. During the critiques, where we had to reveal our sources, people were surprised to hear that I'd chosen a man. One classmate said, "You just seemed like you, only more assertive."

When I'm inspired by Elvis' sneer or Mick Jagger's strut, it's not like I wanna shoot my TV set or impregnate a whole bunch of women. It's more like when primitive hunters would eat a small piece of the heart of the beast that they killed, to give them the courage of that animal. Only it's a whole lot less bloody, and hopefully I'll use that power for Good.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Doing My Spring Cleaning

Busy, so I'll cop out and post a few of my favorite spring cleaning/homebody/pulling my head out of the winter doldrums links while I eat my lunch from the cafeteria ("Festival of Cheese").

Apartment Therapy's having their "Smallest, Coolest Apartment Contest." Ours isn't ready this year, but this contest is giving me some fresh ideas. There's also a good kitchen cabinet thread, which is important for when you want to sew your kitchen cabinets together.

Discardian: One tip a day from the creator of "Discardia," which is a holiday for letting go of stuff. For me, sites like this are like an anorexic reading dieting tips, but there's always something I didn't know. Go know.

Shelterrific: This is a new one, and a bunch of the editorial staff of the now-defunct "Budget Living" magazine now blog here. So if you liked "Budget Living," you'll probably like this. Tonight I'll do their recipe for fake lasagna. I can make real lasagna, but like I said above, I'm busy.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Blue Period

Last Wednesday we attended a reception for our friend Mark Wiener's exhibit at the a4L Gallery. Entitled "Barcodes and Other Self-Portraits," it's a group of paintings "concentrating on the colors blue and black and line in motion to a staccato beat, a reflection of patterns that move our lives--from binary code to DNA to the UPC codes on products."

The painting on the right is called "Barcode Studies VI" and it has sort of a roller-coaster feeling to it. In person, the vivid blue of this and the other paintings in the "Barcode Studies" series stood out brilliantly against the white walls of the gallery; those dazzling white walls you find only in galleries.

I've decided I'm painting my living room "Gallery White." No more pishy "eggshell."

Also, there was cheese at the reception.

"Barcodes and Other Self-Portraits" will be at the a4L Gallery at 45 East 20th through April 10. You can see some of Mark's other work at his site.

barcodes studies VI - Copyright Mark Wiener

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Made It Through Another Winter!

The first street fair of Spring:

With temperatures in the 30's, let us celebrate the delights of Summer:

We have royalty:

The Sock Guy, the Pita Guy and the Sausage Guy:

Friday, March 17, 2006

Gay Lick

Begorrah, it's Rick O'Santorum!

From NY1 News:

Meanwhile, the chairman of the St. Patrick's Day parade is offering his own explanation for the parade's treatment of gay and lesbian marchers. John Dunleavy's comments are sure to raise a few eyebrows.

In an interview with the Irish Times, Dunleavy says: "If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?"

Okay, call me madcap, but I've never heard of gangs of Gay Irish Catholics lynching straight Irish Catholics. Maybe some cutting sarcasm, but that's about it.

He went on to add: “If we let the [Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization] in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?"

Why Jaysus, Mary and Saint Joseph! If ye go down that slippery slope, what's next? Irish Child Molesters?

Oh, wait a minute...

Seriously, the real argument for several years has been: Is the Parade a private thing, since it's organized by a private group (The Ancient Order of Hibernians) or, since it's on the city streets and you have to pay overtime to a lot of city cops, is it a public thing? If it's private, then the organizers have the right to exclude anyone they want to. If it's public, then they're bound to the anti-discrimination laws of the city.

But then, what do I know? I'm only a quarter Irish, like Jimmy Cagney.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Apartment Therapy, The Book

I've placed an order for Apartment Therapy's new book, so that I can get it as soon as it's released on March 28th. Except that I don't have a comfortable spot around the house to read it. So I think I've just pinpointed my first problem.


I realized the other day that I am now old enough so that if my life were a biopic, the twenty-year-old me would have to be played by a different actress.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I was shopping on a side street in Chelsea on Sunday when two little Chinese-American girls, about nine or ten years old, came running up to me.

The taller of the two said, "Do we look like sisters?"

I thought for a second. If I said "Yes," would that make it look as if I thought all Asians looked alike?

My instincts told me to say "Yes."

The two girls whirled, beaming, toward each other, and then scampered off to join an older Caucasian woman who was calling their names.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Comedy in the 80's: I'll Sayet Again

This caught my eye while reading Marc Cooper's coverage of David Horowitz's Restoration Weekend (kind of a political retreat weekend for conservatives):
Conservative L.A.-based comic Evan Sayet was wisecracking on the stage in front of us and was clearly working his rhetorical shtick slowly toward the former attorney general.

He’s a funny guy, and he had the crowd howling.

I headed over to Google to confirm what I was pretty sure of: Yep, it was the same Evan Sayet I'd known from comedy open mike nights twenty years ago. I'd lost track of him after he headed to L.A. to write for TV, which he's done successfully. I don't remember him as having been particularly political at the time, yet apparently he's now acquired the appellation "Conservative Comic." Here he is on his home page with conservative icons Ann Coulter, Michael Medved and...Elton John? Whatever.

In fact, I was probably more conservative twenty years ago than he was, although I considered myself cynically non-political. I was a "beatnik libertarian" living on the drips from the Trickle Down Theory as a temp in several gleefully litigious corporate law firms.

If I recall correctly, Evan's big joke at the time involved Queen Elizabeth and the penis of a moose. Maybe Elton liked that one.

I don't remember a lot of political comics from that time, overall. There weren't many in the mainstream, except for Jim Morris, who impersonated Reagan. Bill Maher was picking up steam, but wasn't especially known for politics yet. Lew Black held court at a small, theater-like club as part of a weekly line-up of smart, left-leaning performers, the "smart" making them more "out of the mainstream" in the stand-up game than did the "left-leaning."

I did find, whenever I was asked to "do something political," that one could create servicable Dan Quayle jokes by repurposing Polish jokes. What's surprising to me now is that I didn't realize that to many in the audience, my very presence on stage was a political act. I was part of a bumper crop of females born at the crest of the Baby Boom and headed into her 30's with no immediate intention of marriage or family, and taking for granted the idea that I was going to make a name for myself. The sheer number of us alone stopped us from being outright freaks, and we slowly changed the status quo just by following our own personal agendas.

The past few years have been a boon for political comics and political humor. But reading the rest of Cooper's article, you get the idea that people are getting pretty durn tired of what's been going on for the past few years. Many Republican elected officials do not want to be identified with the party that's been running this country like one big party. Voters are turning off to "politics as usual" and politics in general.

This will mean that being a "political comic" won't be an automatic ticket to steady bookings. Trends come and go. When they go, you can stay and play to a smaller, specialized audience, or you can morph your talents into the next trend. If you're funny--which I remember Evan being--you'll be funny no matter what your hook is.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Life, Already in Progress

So far this year, I've thrown out three things that I haven't bothered to replace: A fleece jacket that made my arms itch, a medium-sized hairbrush with half the bristles melted, and our food processor.

The food processor had been a wedding present twelve years ago and it expired from motor burnout early in January. I was waiting for a sale on food processors when I realized that there wasn't one thing in my regular repertoire of meals that I hadn't been able to make in the past month with a chef's knife and a blender.

Sometimes common sense sneaks up on you like that.

It snuck up on me this weekend when I was shopping for a dish rack. Not a drying rack, but the kind you use to store dishes in a cabinet. Specifically, the "good dishes" that we hardly use except for two soup bowls, which we've been using whenever we have soup or pasta. The whole 44-piece set has been relegated for many years to a dusty shelf high in the cabinet, stacked one dish on top of another and eight bowls on top of that, with me making jump shots three or four times a week to retrieve two bowls.

I figured that we would use the set more often if I stored it in a more accessible way, which is why I was perusing the housewares department of K-Mart on Sunday. But I found my attention wandering, no matter how many times I called it back nanny-like, to simple glass dishes and bowls in packages of four. Finally, I got tired of reprimanding my unconscious for tugging on my sleeve and decided to listen to it. And it said, "Why the hell do you have a 44-piece set of dishes that you hardly use?"

Oh, because a relative got me those dishes when I first moved into my apartment in 1978 and I don't want to insult her. Because one day I'll have a big house in the suburbs and then I'll need all those dishes because the family will "do Thanksgiving" at my house. Because I want to have something nice for when people come over. I want to entertain like a grown-up, even though I can't think of one person I know who drinks their coffee or tea out of a dinky little cup and saucer with their pinkies sticking out and my first set of cats broke the sugar bowl in 1985.

Oh, okay. Now here's the deal:

1. Every time I've realized that I didn't want to get rid of something that wasn't "me" (or my husband) out of fear of hurting a relative's feelings, I've also realized in short order that the relative in question either hadn't been to my house in 15 years, was no longer among the living, or had long forgotten what they had given me as a housewarming present.

2. Unless there is a radical change in our lifestyles, we will be living in tiny urban dwellings--most likely the one we're in--for the rest of our lives.

3. If we were indeed to have such a radical change, like we hit Mega-Millions Lotto and can afford a slightly larger apartment, we would also probably be able to afford another 44-piece set of dishes.

And I realized a few other things, as the people in K-Mart said "excuse me" and tried to get around me in the housewares aisles. I realized that when my family had given me all the housewarming presents back when I was the most provisional of adults, they--and I--had visions of my "growing into" the life scenarios that would use these things, the way a puppy grows into its paws. And when I didn't grow into those scenarios--Mother of two-point-five, President of Show Business, whatever--I've felt like a puppy with a bad case of arrested development. But I outgrew the puppy stage many years ago. I just grew into different paws.

So I have a semi-creative life with a husband in an apartment that seats four people comfortably for dinner. The family, the ones still living, have thrown up their hands on trying to control me and have set their sights on the next generation, who are already beginning to confound expectations. I've become whatever I've become, and discarding the other lives I'd thought I would grow into just gives me more room for the one I have.

The Middle On The World

Great post on Monday from Michael Reynolds of The Mighty Middle on how Americans see our place in the world. He divides foreign policy types into four categories that seem at first to be as broad and irrelevant as astrological signs (and by that token, I'm a liberal with realist rising and my moon in neo-con.) But within these types he presents a lot of insightful observations, ultimately this one:

We have these different points of view, each of which has a bit of the truth, and each of which includes a fatal virus. We need the liberal's eagerness to understand, but not the impotent self-flagellation; we need the neo-con's faith in freedom, without the credulousness and naivete; we need the paleo-con's reluctance to leap into every fray, without the head-in-the-sand isolationism; and we need the realist's readiness to occasionally accept moral ambiguity, but without their eagerness to embrace moral blindness.

He also contends that the default position for most Americans is isolationism, and this is why:

The United States grew up in a gated community: safe borders with smaller, far weaker neighbors, and large oceans that seperated us from potential rivals. When we had serious international trouble we generally had to leave home to find it. Even Pearl Harbor happened far away in a territory that wasn't yet a state.

I left this comment:

In line with Michael's post and les' remarks about isolationism, Peter Beinart wrote an article in The New Republic last week about how TV cable news only reports international news in the context of telling Americans about themselves. This was my favorite paragraph:

"Fox News, for instance, constantly trumpets the 'war on terror' but conveys remarkably little actual information about events in the Islamic world. Instead, it uses 'foreign policy' to endlessly retell a story about the United States, in which Joe Six Pack faces off against the appeasing, beret-wearing, blame-America-first liberal elites who want to send Osama bin Laden to their Upper West Side shrinks. Trying to get information about Iraq, or the rest of the Middle East, by listening to Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity is like trying to get information about the Soviet Union in the 1950s by listening to Joseph McCarthy. It's a category mistake. Fox's jingoism and its isolationism are flip sides of the same coin."

When the US invaded Iraq three years ago, I started reading a lot of books about the history of the modern Middle East. And I was thinking, "Gee, it would be great to read about other countries when we're not bombing them, too."

Right now, I've begun to read George Packer's "Assassins' Gate--America in Iraq." He sets up the account well, with backstories of what was going on with key Iraqi and American players in the '70s, '80s and '90s, so that you really get the whole story in context. I've enjoyed reading his Iraq articles in The New York Times and the New Yorker magazine, and actually felt informed, whereas most of the books on current events for the past three years just seem to confirm whatever partisan feeling you already have regarding the perfidy of Chimpy or the lib-ruls. Although speaking as a moderate left-of-centrist who wants the whole story of everything in context, I suppose I'm looking for somebody to back me up, too.

More on the book when I finish.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar Hangover

Hubby and I nodded and clapped for George Clooney's "Hollywood is out of touch and ahead of the curve" speech. Sure, we think that Hollywood is out of touch a lot of the time, but it was a good comeback at people who want to give liberals liberal guilt over being liberal. Ha-ha, here comes my big brother George Clooney to beat you up, neener neener neener.

A scary moment where I thought that Lauren Bacall was having a stroke on live TV. Jim thought she was just having difficulty reading the prompter and should have worn glasses. I waited to see if an assistant would rush a pair of bifocals to her during the Film Noir tribute. But when it was over, Bacall was nowhere to be found, which just made it seem more ominous--what had happened to her?

What's on the shoulder of Charlize Theron's dress? We decide it's a parrot and she's rehearsing for a role as a pirate.

Enjoyed Robert Altman's speech about moviemaking being like building a sandcastle. Never cared for Lily Tomlin as a comedian, though. And in the seventies, she was the comedienne to be. "You should be a stand-up comic, like Lily," people would tell me, intoning the dramedienne's name with reverence.

"Actually, I like Joan Rivers better." Blasphemy! Joan Rivers with her Vegas clothes and her self-deprecating humor. How anti-feminist for a budding feminist! But I liked Rivers' stand-up and never thought Tomlin, and later Whoopie Goldberg, were comics. I thought they were actresses, and enjoyed them in some of their roles.

Relieved the Palestinian film didn't get Best Foreign. Ever since Hamas got elected, a lot of people who are into causes have been backing off this one: "Whoa, the inmates are running the asylum!" Israel is cool again.

Checked the blogs after the show, and several bloggers simulblogged the telecast. I'm going, "Oh wow, how'd they do that?" Then answered myself, "Schmuck, they just kept adding to the same post and republishing it! Sheesh!" Really couldn't have done it myself anyway, since I was doing household chores all through the broadcast.

Do you think Jon Stewart did a good job? I thought so, and I don't even watch The Daily Show. Jim thought he was too flat. I replied that you've gotta pull your punches on something that's going out to a billion people, but even Jon Stewart Lite was entertaining. A non-scientific poll on NY1 this morning showed 85% of viewers thought Stewart either did a "great job" or "pretty good for a first-timer." And a non-scientific consensus of just about everything I've heard and read says Billy Crystal is the best Oscar host, and I hope he's back next year.

Friday, March 03, 2006

For Your Oscar Consideration...

Brokeback Mountain, done in Lego.

(H/T reader_iam)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Talking Cats

Chico Speaks!

Ashley asks, "What happened to the flash?"

Things are beginning to settle down to a dull roar, and my posting/reading/participating in life should return to normal by next week. Except I think my cats can speak English.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Other Iraq

Just starting to come back to being steadily busy instead of insanely busy. Meanwhile, Michael Totten has been traveling, writing and taking pictures in Iraq...Northern Iraq, that is. Iraqi Kurdistan, the part that likes us. They've been almost a separate country since the first Gulf War, and slowly recovering from the genocide of the late 1980's.


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