Monthly Archives: February 2008

words had forked some lightning

2/28/08

Right, well, I hope none of you think I meant to take that article as gospel truth. I think we all know that most non-fiction writers (like those authors) have one of three agendas: to sell a book, to further their political ideology, or to bask in reflected glory. Many of the statements in that piece seem somewhat excruciating (especially the Muslim one) but… #7 hit a chord in me, which is why I did this:

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I can only speak for myself, but I had to make a huge psychological break between the person I was before I began my family, and the person I am now. I’m pretty good at assuming the same attitude I had in 1997 (or 1987, for that matter) and thus I don’t have the wide-eyed creepy evangelism of the utterly converted, but I really couldn’t stand the way I behaved before the millennium.

As such, I had to change into someone who didn’t think he was going to live forever, didn’t want to have sex with everyone on the planet, and didn’t sink into a spiral of paralyzing depression during daylight hours. However, there was one thing from those years that remains invaluable: a burning, raging desire to create things that make an impression on people. I would call it “my art,” but that phrase makes me want to throw up on my laptop.

As hard as you try to fight it, there is something about getting married and having a child that necessarily changes you, unless you’re a runaway narcissist or an emotionally-shut-down wreck. This change is obvious to peers who don’t have kids, or younger friends who aren’t in that stage yet – to them, you go to BabyLand™ and cease being remotely interesting. I felt the same way when I was 25 and saw people have kids. I couldn’t fathom it.

While you can never quite resurrect the same symphony of ecstatic happenstance you experienced with your twentysomething friends, you can control one thing: how quickly you plan on aging emotionally. Our grandparents became 60 the moment they turned 30 – check out the beehive hairdos and horn-rimmed glasses – but we’ve got more tools at our disposal.

Whether you’re an “artist” or not, you can choose a way of living that nourishes itself on vitality rather than the easy sway of predictable manhood. You could, if you wanted to, gain another twenty pounds, get really addicted to primetime television, stop returning phone calls from old friends, stop playing sports, and start referring to yourself as “old”. Or you could do it differently.

I don’t pretend to speak for anybody, and god knows I’m no paragon of eternally-vibrant pixie chutzpah. I, too, feel the inexorable pull of “not giving a shit”, which is something I SWORE I’D NEVER DO. I had to give up all of my low-level addictions, whether through hangover or heartburn, and sometimes I can’t BELIEVE what my Saturday nights have turned into.

I can’t say “the birth of my first child” had everything to do with this relaxing of rage (in fact, our first real artistic success together happened only after Lucy was born) but I know this: if I ever allowed myself to settle into artistic or career complacency, I would be completely useless. I would have to start sniffing superglue to sedate my misery.

So I’m trying to do it differently. Lucy is a constant source of energy, not a depletion of it. The Jartacular in May is a pain in the ass to organize, but it is absolutely essential. We have our own Occam’s Razor: all things being equal, choose the most adventuresome option. And when I feel my thoughts slack into a double chin, I slap myself and get back to the inkwell glowing with lava.

seven habits of ineffectual people

2/27/08

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God knows I hate salacious articles more than most people – it seems like the only pieces getting published these days are ill-thought-out rants with catchy titles (and I should know). However, it’s always awesome when a salacious article gets put out by Psychology Today, and it’s even awesomer when it’s backed up with vague research.

Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature is just such an article, the kind of piece that can really fuck up a dinner conversation if that’s what you have in mind. Give it a read, because I’m going to write more about it tomorrow, but I’ll give you the ten statements it proffers right off the bat:

1. Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them).

2. Humans are naturally polygamous.

3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy.

4. Most suicide bombers are Muslim.

5. Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce.

6. Beautiful people have more daughters.

7. What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals.

8. The midlife crisis is a myth—sort of.

9. It’s natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they’re male).

10. Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist.

After reading this piece, I cut and pasted an entire paragraph, yanked it up to 24-point font, printed it out and stuck it on our bulletin board. I will buy a nice, neat, ancient dram of scotch for anyone who reads the article and can guess the right paragraph. (Hint: I don’t think it’s entirely obvious.)

sausage party

2/26/08

Hey single readers!

How is it out there these days? Any predominant theories in play? Any trends you’re seeing? You can post anonymously if it’ll make for more juicy reading…

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we really gotta get New York and LA together

quiet angel forget their lies

2/25/08

Oh, come on. Just when the taste of fetid political horseshit begins to leave your mouth, along comes a picture of Obama wearing the traditional robes of a Somali elder leaked by the [fill in whomever] campaign to re-stoke the fears that Barack is somehow going to make our daughters wear burqas and recite the Koran. Excuse me, is it fucking 1954 again? Because if it is, I’ll get my wife to give me a foot massage in the Barcalounger so I can daydream of lunchtime at the office when I pork my secretary.

Obama shouldn’t have to defend himself against such things, because it brings ugly, thoroughly false suggestions into the realm of possibility, but we all saw what happened with the Swift Boating of 2004. Thus each of these pathetic smears, no matter how small, should be squashed with overwhelming force. So here it is, slowly: it would take a 3rd-grader’s education to remember that many foreign dignitaries adopt the singular dress of the countries they visit – it’s a sign of “respect”, you know, like not wearing a “POPE CAN SUCK MY BALLS” T-shirt when you visit the Vatican.

If you don’t understand the picture of Obama, and it makes you think he might sympathize with terrorists, you need to find the nearest crowbar and hit yourself in the face. As hard as you can. Seriously, I’ll wait.

Here’s the simple truth: it is not George Bush’s fault he won in 2004. It is not Ralph Nader’s fault. It is not Swift Boat assholes’ fault that Kerry lost in 2004. IT IS THE FAULT OF THE VOTERS WHO WERE SIMPLY FAR TOO STUPID TO VOTE INTELLIGENTLY. Did you ever vote for Ralph Nader? I’m sorry, that was really goddamn stupid. Oh no, I get why you did it, no need to explain, I’ve heard it all before. But it was still moronic. And it wasn’t just moronic in retrospect, it was moronic at the time.

Were you swayed by the Swift Boat ads? Did you get cold feet after Bin Laden delivered his message before the 2004 election? Did you fall for all the terrorist alerts every time something good happened for the Democrats? Well, you deserved what you got, don’t you think?

As for the picture of Obama, if the Clinton campaign was behind it, they’re disgusting – and if they weren’t, they should have come out today with a strong condemnation against it, instead of guilelessly shrugging and seeing where it takes them. You can’t control the behavior of ignorant voters, who would probably vote for Huckabee, shave their heads and buy purple Nikes if a comet told them to. But you can control your own behavior, and you can certainly conduct yourself with a remnant of integrity.

seed finding purchase

2/24/08

I try, I really do try to care about the Oscars, but ever since I was a little kid, something about them seemed so… I dunno, like school convocations in the gym. Of course, if we ever happened into a project headed that direction, that would be fascinating (and you know Tessa’s film was on the short list for the Documentary Oscar in 1999, right?) but I just can’t auto-conjure the magic.

But I have to say this: thank god the talents of Ethan and Joel Coen were finally recognized by the Academy. Yeah, they won 11 years ago for the screenplay of “Fargo”, but this was a full sweep of the three best awards. These two men have made “Blood Simple”, “O Brother Where Art Thou?”, “The Hudsucker Proxy”, “Miller’s Crossing”, “The Big Lebowski”, and my favorite movie of all time, “Raising Arizona”.

In sophomore year at Carolina, I rented “Raising Arizona” and watched it in the basement of the Lodge, and it was truly one of those experiences when you stop, relax your muscles and say “I want to do THAT.” Yes, they have their misfires along with anyone else – you don’t make a movie every two years without running into trouble – but I dare anyone to find a more consistently brilliant pair of artists currently at the top of their form.

Here’s to the boys, and their coveted Best Picture Oscar – like Nathan Arizona said, “Chairs, you got a dinette set. No chairs, you got dick!”

the game is a foot

2/21/08

This just in: Hillary Clinton’s bulldog Tom Buffenbarger just said of Obama:

Give me a break! I’ve got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies crowding in to hear him speak! This guy won’t last a round against the Republican attack machine. He’s a poet, not a fighter.

Now it’s one thing to denigrate my candidate for the president of the United States – but it’s another thing entirely to talk shit about lattes and Prii. First off, lattés are good. Really good. Do I need to post a picture of my various syrups again? Oh, well, okay!

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I use the Francis Francis X1 with espresso pods, and let me tell you, that machine is both a poet and a fighter. I dare you to get out of my house, having downed a triple-shot Chocolate Biscotti latté, and NOT WANT TO FUCK SHIT UP. That caffeine crosses your blood brain barrier quicker than crack, and it won’t be long before you pick up an aluminum baseball bat and go wilding for Republicans.

Many’s the time, after a quadruple Americano, or a 32-ounce Pistachio Vanilla Red Eye (served with frothed milk and a sprinkling of nutmeg) that I’ve had to stop major revolutions from brewing out of my kitchen, and spilling over into violent demonstrations in urban areas. The revolution may not be televised, but it will be powered by my powder-puff pink espresso maker – BITCH!

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As for our Prius, where does Tom Barfenburger get off? Perhaps he hasn’t seen the latest addition to our already-cock-rocking hybrid sedan, the SHARK FIN ANTENNA:

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As if we didn’t already get 60 mpg, this aerodynamic little puppy shaves another .003 mpg off our consumption, not to mention that it says “Enormous Sperm Count Contained Inside Vehicle.” Also, I might add that the Prius is virtually silent when going down alleyways, due to the electric engine, which scares the shit out of unsuspecting pedestrians. And what do Republicans fear more than anything? That’s right, being attacked by silent thugs in alleyways.

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Lucy preparing to kick ass in the Prius, August 2005

All I’m saying is this: when we use our trust fund money to buy our Prius, shove a Macadamia Nut soy latté in the cupholder, and crank NPR, we’re a SEARCH AND DESTROY REPUBLICAN HUNTING MACHINE.

 

 

He’s got a point about Birkenstocks, though. Yuck!

 

psyched on various bikes

2/20/08

Except for the scandal nicely brewing around the execrable McCain, the other meme going through the internets this week is a combination of “Obama supporters are freakish weirdos” and “Obama holds no viewpoints on substantive issues.” Chris Matthews ambushed a hapless Texan moron the other night by asking him for one piece of legislation that Obama had championed, a question which was no doubt supposed to be a transitive reflection of the senator himself. Of course, the Texan shat his pants, reminiscent of the time Stephen Colbert asked that God-fearing Georgia congressman to name the Ten Commandments.

As for the Obama crazies, I see articles like “I Refuse to Buy Into the Obama Hype” as well as Hillary’s favorite “I’ve got sound solutions instead of sound bites” attack. More? How about:

Kathleen Geier: “I’m getting increasingly weirded out by some of Obama’s supporters… people who should know better – hard-bitten, not-so-young cynics, even – are gushing about Barack, raving about his ‘game-changing’ politics, about his ‘power to inspire,’ about how they wept while viewing the now-famous Dipdive video, and on and on.”

Joe Klein: “…there was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism…”

Even Jake Tapper, an awesome reporter whom I usually like, says “Let me be clear: I’m not saying there shouldn’t be enthusiasm in politics. I’m merely touching on the fact that some Obama supporters’ exuberance seems to be getting a little out of hand.”

I’d like to formally invite everyone complaining about the passion of Barack Obama’s supporters to kindly suck my balls.

ARE YOU PEOPLE KIDDING?!?!? Here we are, in the seventh dolorous, soporific, horrifyingly numb year of an administration run by an ass monkey, caught in blood-soaked war on the other side of the globe, paying $101/barrel for oil, tumbling into a recession, feeling utterly hopeless. The president has used the Constitution as toilet paper and blocked every single measure to move us forward socially, environmentally and ethically, and has an approval rating of 19%, right around Josef Stalin and “the stomach flu”. He’s the worst president at the worst time in history, period.

Then along comes someone who lifts Americans out of their paralyzing sadness, offers hope for the first time in a decade, does it without blaming other races; in fact, preaches unity, acceptance and responsibility, giving them a glimpse of what America could be again… AND YOU THINK THEIR EXUBERANCE IS OUT OF HAND? Seriously, when did that part of you die? Just because your snark robs you of the ability to get excited doesn’t mean millions of other voters share your torpid indifference.

These Obama supporters that creep you out – they’re the kids in their 20s who have only known the fearmongering cruelty of the Bush years, and understand the early promise of Bill Clinton’s term only by story. They’re waking up to a world that seems to give a shit about them, feeling empowered in a way we certainly didn’t when Reagan and Bush shuffled geriatrically through our adolescence.

They’re also the middle-aged moms and dads who cannot express their delight at the prospect of an African-American President, remembering (as my mom does) the different drinking fountains and white lines on the floor of the bus. They remembered the death of their idealism through Vietnam and Watergate, only to encounter something they thought was impossible: a president worse than Nixon.

And your charges that Obama has no substance? That’s your oversight, not theirs. Most of them know where he stands on all the issues, and if they don’t, they know how to use the Internet Tubes:

1. Click here.

2. Read.

Obama’s stump speeches are stump speeches, for chrissake. As my 23-year-old nephew says, “stump speeches aren’t directed towards the staff at the fucking Brookings Institute, they are directed towards voters.” I agree with Robert Creamer – if you’re vilifying Obama for being inspiring, you’ve learned nothing from thirty years of progressives losing elections. The way conservatives have won is by yanking at our emotions – usually the basest, worst emotions (hate, racism, greed, blame) – but emotions nonetheless. Obama is doing the same thing, only with visions of hope and empowerment.

As for me, my heart was broken in 2000 with the fraudulent election, and in November 2004, my spirit followed suit. I was done, and if we hadn’t been pregnant, we were close to moving out of the country. Two things have changed that, and brought us back into the fold. First was Kirsten Gillibrand, who ran an amazing campaign for the House of Congress in our district (NY-20).

Tessa and I, against all wisdom, decided to throw our weight in the ring because we liked Kirsten so much, but didn’t have much hope; NY-20 had been hard-core Republican since the 15th century. She was an unknown and was told it was impossible. She won by six points.

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Tessa and (pregnant!) Rep. Gillibrand (D) last night in LA – read about Kirsten and donate to her tough re-election campaign!

The other inspiration? Obama. It has been a long, long time since we felt this kind of excitement, and yes, we are “not-so-young cynics” who “ought to know better”. And even if we’re dabbling in “creepy messianism,” allow me to re-phrase an early translation of 1 Corinthians 13:13… there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these, at least right now, might be hope.

nothing says rich like swedes

2/17/08

I’ve often talked about how I adopted the weird, often irrational habits of my former roommates and housemates – like not putting certain paper items in the toilet (Andy Taubman), drying off while IN the shower (Salem), watching TV with only my neck elevated (Scotty, and before that, Kent), baby powder (Mr. The Budster), hiding sugar treats on the top shelf (because of Jiffer), noticing the dogs howling every time the sirens go off (Matt McMichaels) and no doubt other things the rest of you gave me.

However, one of the housemates most influential to my thought processes was Jon G. (or “noj”, as he is still known), whose loopy, absurd-yet-dead-on observations still stick with me, even though they were things he said offhandedly in 1994. I realized this today when Lucy jumped off the couch and yelled “GURGEN FLURGEN!” As far as I know, “gurgen flurgen” was noj’s catch-all phrase for whatever part of a sentence you couldn’t be bothered to say – or, better yet, used as sample conversation of some cretinous buffoon we’d had to endure. Anyway, I must have been using it for decades without noticing it had passed into my family’s lexicon, and now, proudly, on to Lucy.

There was also another bizarre story he’d told us about middle school – apparently he and a friend eliminated all the hard consonants from their speech for several weeks, rendering “I hope we can practice hoops after lunch” into “I hobe we gan bragdiss hoobz avder lunzhh.” I think they were actually sent to the principal because it was so unbelievably annoying. I can only hope Jon and Catherine’s kids are getting quality mileage out of these techniques.

However, the one that sticks with me most is this: he and another friend were talking about using the bathroom in somebody else’s house. His friend said, as a guy, you have aim your pee at the precise space in the toilet that is between the water and the rim of the bowl. Too close to the rim, and (as evidenced by any visit to a Chevron men’s room) we’re not that good at marksmanship. But you can’t pee straight into the water when you’re a guest, because the sound emanating from the bathroom is so heinous and uncouth. Thus we have to be very specific.

But, added Jon, guys always do the same thing when we’re at home, and why? Because WE’RE ALWAYS PRACTICING for the NEXT TIME WE HAVE TO PEE AS A GUEST.

All I can say is… that is something only noj could have thought of. And it is entirely true and I’ve thought about it whilst peeing for fifteen years.

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Tessa’s shot about to go in over Jon, in the barn upstate March 2002

two and three quarters, sir!

2/14/08

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Lucy every three months from May ’05 to present – click for bigger

Hi there my wonderful awesome Lulubeans! Well, I’m only one month late with this quarterly missive, so things are lookin’ up, wouldn’tchya say? I tried to find a picture that best encapsulates this little era for you, and it was obviously this one:

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I defy to find anyone as psyched to wake up every day – your energy is boundless, even veering into mania, as there is just SO MUCH FOR YOU TO DO each minute! No, we are not freakish over-scheduling worrywart parents carpooling you to Mandarin classes. Your schedule is all your doing, and I feel pretty lucky to hang out with you between projects you’ve invented.

I’ll say this about the language thing, however: your Spanish is impeccable, and quite frankly, a bit embarrassing for me. You, your babysitter and your mother talk all day using those crazy-ass Spanish verb forms, and while I can follow the general topic (“someone did something to someone at pre-school”, “Tyler has to learn to pass out of the double-team”) I’m totally lost as to the finer points.

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kissing our babysitter Laura’s grandson Johnny – he’s your absolute favorite

As I’ve said, you have no unexpressed thoughts, which means every morning I get a run-down of the Night That Was or The Day to Come. Occasionally, I have my camera, giving us important documents like The Night of Much Vomit (or, in the original German, “Bärffenacht”):

With your ever-blossoming linguistic powers, there’s a concomitant upswing in your inability to be conned. Put frankly, you can simply overload the environment with enough words (and your lungpower, now measured in kilojoules per hour) that lesser souls would cave in to your demands. Fortunately, you’ve got to deal with your mother (who is better at it than even you) and me (and I can’t stop laughing).

Case in point: You have gone off the deep end for Pingu the pesky claymation penguin, and I have to admit, the videos are kind of awesome. We normally don’t watch any TV except for the Tar Heels (to paraphrase H.I. from Raising Arizona, “either educational or basketball, so you don’t ruin your appreciation of the finer things”) but when any of us gets sick, we’ll throw on a DVD. This month, you discovered Pingu.

“Can I watch Pingu?”

“No, sweetie. Only special occasions or when we’re not feeling well.”

“But I want to watch it.”

“Yes, but that’s not a good enough reason.”

“I have to watch it. Or else I’ll miss my chance!”

“Miss your chance? What are you talking about?”

“I’ll watch the Carolina guys. And Tyler. Then I’ll watch Pingu.”

“Yes, we’re watching the UVA game later, but no Pingu!”

“But I want to.”

“Lulu, here’s the thing about television. If you watch a little bit of television, you can stay smart. But if you watch too much television, you get dumb.”

Brief pause. “That’s right. So I want to watch a little bit of Pingu.”

“Argh! Sweetie, we only watch Pingu on special occasions or when we’re sick.”

“I think I’m a little sick.”

And so it goes from there.

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it’s impossible to take these pictures without it looking like an ’70s album cover of Mormon Christmas Songs

Your biggest accomplishment, at least by our standards, is your potty training. We’d already read the special chapters on toddler wee-wee, we bought Pull-Ups™, read that silly “Big Girls Use the Potty” book to you, and got you your own li’l plastic poo-poo seat. You ignored ALL OF IT for months, and then one day you said you wanted to use our toilet and didn’t want to wear diapers anymore. And that was that.

We did have to get that adapter ring you put on the toilet seat so you won’t fall in, but toilet training took all of thirty-five seconds. And now you wear just panties, occasionally disappearing for a few minutes, saying you need some “privacy.” It’s a far cry from six months ago, when you would ignore your mother’s cries of “Daddo needs his privacy!” and barge in on me in the bathroom, point at my nuts and yell “PRIVACY, DADDO!!!”

yep, and there’s even part II

Your persona is so loud, chimerical, fantastical and endlessly entertaining that I began to rue the day you’d ever lose it. You’ve got a long way to go before we have to worry about “reviving Ophelia,” but I don’t ever want you to lose this surreal, brash, analytical temperament and go the way so many girls go – tamping down your personality and throwing away all your interesting hiccups en route to the affections of dumb teenage boys. It is why I will NEVER tell you to be quiet, even when your squeals are scrambling the innards of my brain.

Maybe in your future, gender roles will be so different that I’ll seem quaint for caring. Or maybe you’ve got the perfect role model in your mom – someone who never backed down from an argument or lost her sense of self, even in puberty or the hyperjudgmental hallways of high school and college.

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mid-smile, steamy bathroom

Your favorite sentence ending is “…because I’m a big girl.” Which is so true, but every once in a while, I’ll look at you and see that little blue-eyed bug we took home from the hospital not so long ago.

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above, sleeping on couch April 2005; below, same couch, December 2007

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Lindsay and Dana said something at our baby shower in March 2005 that stuck with me: some elderly relative had told them “the days last forever, but the years go by so fast.” I’m not usually one for such fridge-magnet sentimentality, but lately, I’ve come to appreciate it deeply. And on this Valentine’s Day, I just want you and your mom – two incredible, powerful women – to know how blessed I feel to see you every insane day. I love you both like crazypants.

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love, Daddo.