For the past five years, I've started writing out recaps for the previous year on January 1st. I find it a great way to review my life, see how I've grown, and to help me loosely map out my upcoming goals. (I seem to have "take Pilates" as a goal every year, but I somehow keep managing to fail at that one. Urgh. Maybe 2008 will be my year.)
Sometimes I'll even create a tag line that thematically describes the events. For example, my recap for 2002 was best summed up as, "Revisit the past/Envision the future" because it was largely about self-acceptance, reaching out to those I'd lost touch with, focusing on inner-peace, and then spiraling into the unknown with job loss and a very tumultuous romantic relationship. Thematizing one's life doesn't always work, but it's kind of a fun way to think about a year holistically.
I begin by chronologically writing out all of the major events/feelings/happenings that I can think of in bullet-point form. I don't spend an insane amount of time trying to come up with every little thing. Simply brainstorming the most immediate things that come to mind and then placing them in chronological order seems to give a clear picture of the most impactful moments of the year.
I then write out two lists--one for the people who have been of primary importance in my life this year, and a list of the more peripheral yet still important people in my life during this time. It may seem strange to attempt to categorize friendships, but this allows me to see how people move in and out of my life, and who remains most constant.
I also make a list of the trips I've taken, and the dates (at least the months in which they took place).
Future goals for the new year follow. I don't make this list overly-rigorous as I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, or that you have to follow through with everything (see Pilates). It's more about things I want to keep on my radar so I can glance back at the list throughout the upcoming months and remind myself of things I'd like to accomplish, aspire to or think about. These might be financial goals, things to do with improving my health and well-being, education, politics, trips to take or things to do for fun.
Recently, I've taken to adding a short list of things I'm most grateful for, and occasionally, I include a snippet or two of things I've learned. For example, in 2006, I came to the realization that it's rather fruitless to try to guess other people's motivations. Reasons are irrelevant, and trying to ascertain reasons for others' behavior is unprovable and somewhat hubristic. It's better to simply deal with the facts of a situation and make decisions based on what appears in front of you, and not worry so much about what other people are thinking or why they do what they do.
I won't be posting my list of 2007 life events. That's one for my journal and not for online. But, I highly encourage everyone to do this exercise to see what you come up with. Starting a new year by bringing greater consciousness to one's life is comforting and sets the stage for greater awareness and an openness for new things to come.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
For the past five years, I've started writing out recaps for the previous year on January 1st. I find it a great way to review my life, see how I've grown, and to help me loosely map out my upcoming goals. (I seem to have "take Pilates" as a goal every year, but I somehow keep managing to fail at that one. Urgh. Maybe 2008 will be my year.)
Friday, December 28, 2007
No, I'm not talking about Judy Chicago. As I was drifting off to sleep the other night while home for the holidays, it occurred to me that I've never actually compiled a list of the famous, living or dead, I'd like to have over for dinner. So, without further ado, here is the start of mine, in no particular order:
John Waters--I'm not even the biggest fan of his films, but he's hysterical and makes some good art to boot.
Grace Slick--She's sarcastic, bombastic and honest. She's always given good interviews, and I've always had a soft spot for her drug-addled lyrics ("You are your own best toy to play with/remote controlled hands/made for each other/made in Japan"). A representative Grace quote, "The wiser you get on the inside, the uglier you get on the outside. The world's great gurus have beautiful things to say but they generally look like shit."
Jennifer Tilly--If you can get past her voice, she's extremely intelligent for someone from Hollywood (I realize that's a back-handed compliment), hilarious, quirky and apparently talented at poker. She's definitely not the girl next door. As she says, "I think it's kind of harder for me to play the kind of normal girl that you would meet at the supermarket squeezing the Wonderbread." Plus, she spoke one of my favorite movie lines, "I'm not apologizing for what I did. I'm apologizing for what I didn't do." (I can hear Gonzo throwing up down there on Carroll St.)
Gore Vidal--Who doesn't love a man who says things like, "Andy Warhol is the only genius I've ever known with an I.Q. of 60." More Vidal quotes.
Carl Sagan--Quite literally the straight man of our party, Carl would have a pretty big burden to shoulder with all these wiseacres surrounding him. But, he's used to billions and billions, so a party of fewer than ten should be no problem.
Hmm. I think I like provocateurs.
I find this exercise very difficult. It's hard to think of celebrities I'd actually want to dine with. I expect to keep adding more.
Who's on your list?
Thursday, December 20, 2007
At the risk of my blog becoming less general and more about sex and sexuality these days (ah, what the heck!), I've just found out about this study that could be worth participating in:
To Whom It May Concern,
Our research team at Indiana University is recruiting adult women (18 and older) to participate in what is, to our knowledge, the first ever systematic study of lubricant use among women.
Many women use lubricants during sexual activity alone or with a partner and for many different reasons including to make sex more comfortable, to reduce pain, to reduce the risk of tearing during sex, to feel more pleasure, because they are curious, or because their partner wants to use a lubricant. Other women have never used a lubricant during sexual activity that occurs alone or with a partner.
The study that we are recruiting for, the Women's Sexual Health Study, takes place entirely online. Women who participate in the study will receive three bottles of water-based lubricant or silicone-based lubricant and will be asked to use it during sexual activity that occurs alone or with a partner, and to respond to online questionnaires about their experiences.
Women who would like to read additional information about the study and decide whether they would like to participate can go to this web site: www.womenshealth.iu.edu
If you have additional questions about the study, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 812.855.0364.
Debby Herbenick, PhD
Associate Director, Center for Sexual Health Promotion
School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation
Bloomington, IN 47405
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Get cold hands and feet often? I sure do. I also have a lot of back/leg pain from sitting too much at my day job. I started looking around for something that might help my circulation and discovered dry brushing. I've been doing it daily for two months now, and I believe I've noticed a difference. But let's back up:
What is dry brushing?
Dry brushing is the act of using an exfoliating brush over most of your skin. Dry brushing has apparently been done for a bazillion years by Russians, Turks and Scandinavians as a means to cleanse the skin and release bodily wastes.
Why do it?
It's supposed to help with a wide variety of issues, from improved circulation to getting rid of cellulite and varicose veins, both of which most of us have or get with age. It obviously also removes dead skin, so do it while standing in the shower before you rinse off.
I'm pretty sure I'm noticing a decline in cellulite over the past two months. Will be interesting to keep an eye on it. My hands and feet are without a doubt less cold than they used to be, and I'm finding that my back/leg pain is lessened. I'm also being treated via acupuncture for my back/legs, but I'm seeing faster results since I've combined that with dry brushing.
The other reason why I'm giving it a shot is because I have a tendency towards fibrocystic breasts, and I'm hoping that by stimulating my lymph glands, I might help lessen the development of cysts if I'm assisting in getting fluids circulating around my body. I thought to do this after reading several articles that claim that wearing a bra can significantly contribute to fibrocystic breasts because the elastic of the bra traps lymphatic fluid. Kind of makes some sense to me, and maybe brushing will help.
Read more about the Dry Brushing Technique.
How do you do it?
This is the protocol I'm using: start on the bottoms of your feet and brush six times towards your heart. Then move up your calves, six times all around, then your thighs, up your butt, back, arms and breasts. Be careful with delicate areas, such as the insides of your thighs. Personally, I'm actually finding the arches of my feet to be super-delicate, and I've cut them up with the brush, so I'm learning to adjust the pressure.
The trick is that you always, ALWAYS brush towards your heart so that wastes from your lymph nodes can be carried via your blood up towards your heart and then out of your body, and there will be less pressure on your veins.
You can buy a dry brush at Whole Foods for about $9. Sure, it's another thing to add to your daily routine, but it seems to be beneficial. I recommend giving it a try.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
A cadre of my lesbian friends have requested that I write this post on their behalf:
Dear straight ladies of the world,
Please, PLEASE stop using the word "girlfriend" to describe your platonic, friendship-only relationships with other women.
We understand that straight people don't generally think about us. It's human nature to ignore people's issues that have no direct effect on our lives. But your continued use of the word "girlfriend" makes queer women invisible. And it really sucks.
You get to have your boyfriends. Why not let us have our girlfriends? We can't get married (except in Massachusetts), so we're stuck with lame and ambiguous descriptors for the women we love like "girlfriend" and "partner." It's tough enough as it is to get recognition for the relationships that we have when there is no overt cultural support. And when the general lexicon gives us easily misconstrued words to describe ourselves, it's an uphill climb to get noticed. You may not realize how easy you have it--as soon as you say, "boyfriend" everyone knows you're talking about the guy you sleep with.
When we are out with our partners and introduce them as our "girlfriend," it often takes several introductions for people to get it through their heads that we're talking about romance, not about our buddy.
Is it so hard to imagine that we might be a couple? We're tired of people assuming that we're genetically related sisters when, for example, one of us is clearly of Indian descent and the other is Italian. Why is being a couple the very last thing so many people think of? How many times do we have to go to our doctors, take our partner with us, and have to explain, over and over again, that this person is not just with us, but "with" us?
So, what can you, the straight lady, do? Since many names are gender-specific, why not just say, "I was out with my friend Sarah this weekend...blah, blah, blah" instead of, "I was out with my girlfriend." Or just say you were out with a friend or friends. Why qualify it at all? Get creative.
But do your queer sisters a favor and give us a chance to take hold of a word whose meaning, for us, is far more specific and truly needed.
The Lesbians of New York
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I had another “Only in New York” experience on the outskirts of Soho on Macdougal. This was my first time getting a document notarized. (I clearly haven’t lived.) The place is called, “Something Special,” and boy is it ever. From the hand-written cardboard sign in the window that says, “Notary Public,” to the somewhat dingy curtains, it’s completely unclear as to what lays inside.
Once I wrenched open the door, I found myself facing the proprietor and his wife, who sit amidst a ramshackle space papered with celebrity autographs (Sarah Jessica Parker, most conspicuously) and discombobulated mailboxes for rent. I find it hard to believe that celebrities frequent this joint, but I suppose even they have their notarization needs. I waited for the owner to finish up a conversation before he nodded in my direction. He instructed me to place my paperwork on a specific square cutout on the counter. I put the letter down and backed away from it slowly.
He asked for ID to check against my signature, which I provided. I’m always afraid of comments on my driver’s license. In actuality, I don’t get comments so much as a chuckle here and there. I look very different now than I did nearly 5 years ago when I had the photo taken—my hair was dyed black and cut far too short because I had just moved to New York and had no idea when I’d find a stylist, so I erred on extra short to buy me time. A dyke look if there ever was one. I eyed him as he perused my picture. He looked up at me. We both had the slightest twist of a grin, but he said nothing. He took out his embossing tool, stamped and signed.
I told him and his wife that the paperwork was for my stolen credit card, which had over $3000 in charges. He said he notarized about three of these forms a week. That’s a lot of fraud! He eyed me and said, “Are you really sure it wasn’t an ex boyfriend…(pause)…or an ex girlfriend?” I was totally pleased that he failed to presume. Perhaps it was my driver’s photo that gave him pause. But pause he did, and I liked that a lot. Kind of reminds me of the time this guy on the subway came up to me and said, “I really like your ring. Is it an engagement ring? Who’s the lucky man or lady?” It’s great to know that there are people out there who don’t always take the status quo for granted—who admit it’s sometimes (and often) difficult to tell what’s going on with someone else, and that you can’t really assume anyone’s preference. Sometimes it takes a notary to get noticed.
Someplace special, indeed. This is one of the great reasons to live in New York.
I rather hope I have to get something notarized again soon.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
<-- Subway passengers with their ams in straphanger position
The subway has been a good bit more packed this week (perhaps due to the holidays?), which is always compounded by train problems. Yesterday, one of the doors on the F train failed to close, so they took the car out of service. As we were stalled, waiting for them to come to a decision, I found myself increasingly pressed up against other people as new people entered the train. (fools!) Then, when they finally decided that the door was definitively broken, they had us cross the platform to board the A train, where it was twice as crowded.
Only one thought kept me sane: Thank GOD almost everyone on the train was clean. I looked around me and noticed that most of us on the train had the same level of cleanliness, which is kind of shocking. We didn’t collectively smell that bad, even when making full-body contact. Why? It has to be Madison Avenue advertising. One thing our culture does very well is teach us to be clean. Heck if we’re creating super-germs due to our cleanliness. Not having to smell horrific B.O. is worth every cost.
Posted by Major Generalist at 3:25 PM
Sunday, December 2, 2007
I finished Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man this past week, and I was impressed by her audacity. Despite being a somewhat butch lesbian, spending 18 months disguised as a man ended up inducing a level of cognitive dissonance that caused her to have an emotional breakdown, seemingly speaking to the innate and fixed properties of our individual sense of our own gender.
I was most fascinated by other people's assumptions about her gender and how female masculinity was perceived as effeminacy once ensconced in a "male" persona. I was further intrigued by her comments that once she established herself as a man amongst the men she socialized with, she later removed her glasses and stopped applying her fake stubble, and yet still no one guessed that she was a woman. This proves that people don't so much see what is in front of them, but rather only the rough outlines of gender. Once our brains create a categorization, we cease to question and move on to the next level of human interaction. And when we come across someone of indeterminate gender, it's a puzzle and stops us in our tracks.
I've never dressed in drag, although I find the idea somewhat titillating. However, I don't think I'd make a terribly convincing man. The only thing I have going for me is my height and that my hands are kind of square. That said, I have been addressed as "sir" about 5 or 6 times in my adult life, perhaps most embarrassingly by a proctologist who was looking down at his notes as I walked into his office. I suspect that my height, my short hair at the time and my black leather jacket may have contributed to his reading of "male" out of the corner of his eye. (And I suppose I should be thankful that I wasn't pants down, prone on the table when he made this error.) Still, I doubt most women would be mistaken for a "sir," so there must be something about me that reads as unfeminine when viewed in a certain context. I'm guessing it's my comportment.
Since I was a teenager, I've had an acute sense that my posture and the way that I walk isn't typical of most women, but I didn't recognize it as "gay" until after coming out and spending more time with other lesbians, where I saw aspects of my physical self in them. There is such a thing as lesbian body language, and it reads as more "masculine," but not all lesbians have it, so it can't be conclusively stated that lesbian = more mannish in mannerisms. This tells me that gender correlates to sexuality in some fashion, but the exact nature of the relationship still seems to elusive. I suppose that's the beauty of the complexity of human beings.
I strongly feel aspects of masculinity and femininity within myself, almost equally, which translates, to me, into a kind of androgyny inside myself. When I was a kid, I wore my dad's ties, baseball caps and refused to put ribbons in my hair much to the consternation of my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Cohen. As a teen, I was super-femme with long curly hair, skirts, and a lot of makeup. For a large portion of my adult life, I had extremely short hair and nondescript fashion. That changed once I came out and decided to remake myself physically. I dyed my hair electric blue and black and created rules for my wardrobe (solids, stripes and argyle = OK, patterns = absolutely not). I became more aware of how my appearance reflected my inner life, and now, I consciously choose certain outfits to reflect aspects of my gender.
I enjoy the interplay of masculine and feminine as I allow it to manifest on my outward body. I feel most whole when I appropriate masculine symbols of power into my dress (like my stylized sheriff's badge belt buckle, or my military jacked by Laundry). The twist is that I never wear a literal translation of male symbols--my belt buckle is not an actual sheriff's badge. And, I wear these items at the same time I emphasize my femininity via tight denim that shows off my female ass and hips. Along with my sheriff belt buckle, I wear a cowboy shirt cut for women that happens to have line drawings of cowgirls with lassos. It's a costume, and I see it as such, but at the same time, it represents a deep part of my psyche. I can feel my masculinity and femininity at the same time, and it lends me confidence. It is sexually charged, at least for me, which is how I know there is a connection between sexuality and gender.
Which leads me to explore the notion of cross-dressing, spectatorship and empowerment. I haven't been to a drag king show in quite some time, although I've seen about four performances in my life thus far. As a spectator, it's not something that I ever really understood. There's nothing particularly sexy to me about watching women dress up as strange male archetypes such as a trucker-hatted guy wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt swilling beer while lip-synching to some Hootie and the Blowfish song.
I'm sure this may be a turn-on for some onlookers, but I'm guessing it's the minority. It's like a gay man in drag among the Chelsea boys. He has a place there, but it seems unlikely that he, as a woman, is an object of desire for most of those men.
As I think more about my own style as well as drag, it's becoming clearer to me that cross-dressing is more about harnessing the personal power inherent in gender than it is about transforming oneself into an object of desire (although paradoxically, invoking that power may make us more attractive to those who appreciate the confidence it creates). A man in drag invokes the sexuality and sensuality of female power over masculine energy. And a woman expressing herself through aspects of masculinity is doing much the same, in reverse. Masculinity can't exist without its opposite, and vice-versa. Dressing in drag is a touchstone to our innermost expressions of ourselves.
Markers of gender have definitive meanings and power in our culture, and as Norah Vincent has proven, clothes do indeed make the (wo)man.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I was once a jeans whore, a connoisseur.
Last night, my favorite pair of jeans EVER, the Rock and Republic "Scorpion," bit the dust. I found a huge hole in the crotch when I plucked them from the wash. My grief was boundless. Shite. I needed another pair of medium-to-dark distressed jeans, and quickly. Shopping was in order.
As I gathered 20 pairs of jeans in my arms this evening at Bloomingdale's, I thought back to that fateful day some seven years ago in Nordstrom on the Magnificent Mile when I realized that my jeans were absolutely massive--I was wearing one or two sizes too large. It took me until I was 27 to figure that out. Such a shame that my best years of a youthful ass were behind me. But, better late than never, one supposes.
I had thought I was improving by moving up from Levi's to Lucky, but then I saw and felt the curve-hugging rightness of premium denim, and suddenly, I was more than willing to fork out $150 for an item that used to cost me $45. In any case, I resolved to find the perfect pair of jeans. But, I was alone. How would I ever know what fit? I whipped around the store, trying on every brand and purchased 12 pairs of jeans in total.
I took them to my sister's place on Belmont and started modeling. With her approval, I settled upon my first pair of an impending obsession. They were black, low rise and bootcut, made by 7 for All Mankind. They were a triumph of perfectly emphasized ass. (And I do thank the Lord that I have an ass to fill such denim. I would be inconsolable otherwise.)
From that day forward, I was consumed with the notion that I could find the perfect fit that obliterated camel toe and mitigated my hips. There was always that pesky butt-crack problem when bending over or sitting, but what a small price to pay for priceless curves.
I used to go shopping for jeans so frequently, even just for fun without purchasing, that I could tell you the cut and fit of each major brand, and I often took my friends shopping, analyzing their bodies and fitting them with the perfect pair of jeans.
Lost in the reverie of those glory days as I sauntered through Bloomingdale's, I plucked denim off the racks, seeing brands I no longer recognized, and something shocking happened. Something that I've been burying deep in my soul for probably the past year or so, ready to erupt: I just didn't care anymore. Sure, I want my ass to look great. Sure, I want my jeans to fit well. But, the obsession has died. More than anything, I just wanted a pair that made me happy and got a thumbs-up from me in the butt department.
I tried on pair after pair. Too big in the waistband! (And what is WITH the jeans right now--20% of the jeans i tried on were like that.) Too tight in the legs! Too stretchy! And then: my holy grail. The brand I haven't worn for several years now, yet the brand from which I started: a bootcut low rise pair made by 7 for All Mankind. They were the second to last ones I tried on, and they were by far the best fit. I took them to the counter and made my purchase.
My days of denim highs are over. I was pleased to find serviceable jeans, but not ecstatic. These were not as stylish as my Scorpions, but they were the right color and would fill the gap until I stumbled upon another superior pair. I am not sure when I'll find them, but unlike before, I'm in no hurry to rush out to look. They'll come to me when they come, and until then, these Sevens will get me through my daily commute.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Observer. Spectator. Cheerleader.
What does it mean to be a witness?
The holiday season is the time to spend with family, and seeing my parents made me think about witnessing--witnessing life. Parents are first-hand witnesses to their children. They were there at the beginning--they held us, and nursed us and literally and figuratively carried us until we could walk on our own two feet. Parents are the most open to entertaining the minutia of our lives. Who else might care that your childhood action figure's head accidentally popped off but your mother?
As our awareness develops and our focus moves from self-centeredness to empathy, we find that we observe our parents just as much as they observe us. We are more historically entwined with our parents than with any other relationship in our lives, and as much as they might drive us crazy or amuse us, we are indelibly linked to them, and their pain and their joy is ours.
As we grow older, our lives are less immediately connected, and perhaps if geography stands in the way, we cease to intimately know each other as we are now, instead relying upon memories and prior experience as our markers for understanding one another. But the bond is still there, and it's fraught with fear and tension and most of all, love, in whatever form each of us knows how to give.
And as our parents age while we're still in our relative youth, we begin to witness certain apects of their decline. In my case, I have a chronically ill parent and I can see how my mother struggles to adapt to her changing life, and it breaks my heart. I want so much to be this fountain of compassion, and yet I find myself hard pressed to keep my heart open and express tenderness because I am afraid of the tidal wave of pain that I know is under the surface of all of our hearts. I find myself sometimes becoming most emotionally detached at those moments when I should be most present. It's hard to love. Love is a kind of loss that can turn prickly and hard. But, it is also healing. Thankfully, I can admit to any faults and ask for forgiveness, and best of all, I know my parents will grant it.
As a witness, we are paradoxically
a part of
We are a part of our parents, yet apart from them at the same time. We also occupy space in other people's lives that is tangential and paradoxically central. There is a fine line between being a witness and becoming an interloper (and sometimes we do both), but for the most part, as adults, we are witnesses to our friends' experiences. We watch from a short distance as our friend, in only three months time, applies for and gets into a world-class grad school for her MBA. We see a lesbian couple wed using honored traditions from their respective religions. We see babies being born and share in the agony of an illness and their (mercifully) brief stay in the hospital. We see yet another reach out across the years to get back in touch with her estranged father. These are momentous events, yet also just life.
We are witnesses to ourselves. We can see our own growth and change if we choose to. We can think about it, but if we record it in journals, or write about it, we can make our own personal witnessing something that someone else can witness too. (And let us hope what we share is not shared entirely out of narcissism--I only mention this because it seems like such a danger that culturally everyone wants to be famous these days.)
Taking on the role of witness is an outward view that exposes us to potential hurt and the chafing of our hearts, but also opens a door to the joy and triumphs of the experiences of those around us. We live vicariously through each other all the time, and we can strive to be beacons of encouragement and hope for those we love.
What does it meant to be a witness? It means opening our hearts. It means being involved.
Being a witness means you're not alone even as you stand on the sidelines.
You are not alone.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I spent a half-hour blogging from my iPhone and the post never made it online, but the photo did. I added some other pictures. This is the rewrite:
The weekend of the 17th, I took a trip to DC flying out of LaGuardia. When I got to the Delta terminal, I was informed that because I was booked on a Delta *Shuttle*, I was in the entirely wrong place. Of course, nowhere on my ticket or in any of my pre-boarding materials did it mention that I was on a shuttle or that I had to go to some other terminal entirely. Thanks for the heads-up, Delta! The guy at the ticket counter informed me that I had to go downstairs, outside, and take Bus A to the Shuttles. Uh, OK. Thankfully the airport wasn’t too congested and I had arrived with 60 minutes to spare. I made my way downstairs (again, thanks for the lack of signage!), found where I needed to be, and waited for Bus A.
Once I got on Bus A, I wondered where the heck we were going. We passed every other airline terminal I could think of…American, United, US Airways…and then drove through green pastures. Perhaps they were taking us out to the fields to kill us?
Just as I was going from annoyed to supremely annoyed, they dropped us off in front of this small art deco terminal with a frieze of flying fish. My dismay turned to joy: an unexpected architectural gem! And it was in seriously good shape! And it was OPEN! I went inside and glimpsed a small rotunda with murals and nice art deco doors with steelwork reminiscent of airplane wings. A sign for "restaurant" was off to the left and a sign for "gates" was directly ahead. Beautiful!
But, it was pretty much deserted. Clearly, this wasn't it. Dammit! (After doing some web searching, I discovered that this is the Marine Air Terminal, the last remaining active airport terminal from the days of the "flying boat" in the 1930s and 40s.)
I went back outside and saw a slapdash, makeshift short white box of a temporary pile of terminal poo. Great, that was my craptacular destination. I went inside, did the security bit and sat in this minimalist-due-to-cheapness drab interior. Barf:
And please explain those bizarre magazine racks of free reading materials. It's like someone deliberately set out to make as sterile an environment they could muster, but figured if they could toss in some free toilet reading, all would be forgiven.
If I were applying to architecture school, this is exactly what I would write about in my application essay. Since I have no intention of going back to school, I simply sat in the nearly windowless space, nostalgic for a time I wasn't a part of and yet also grateful that I caught that tiny glimpse into the past.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Thursday, November 1, 2007
The past few months my sugar addiction has returned due to me stuffing my face with organic cookies and gluten-free tasty treats. Why, oh why, are there so many new gluten-free products of late??? All day today I've been thinking about going home and eating chocolate. Or gluten-free licorice (which, by the way, Candy Tree makes amazing GF licorice. WOW! A pack of 12 is only $27!!). Even though I've been having allergy-induced headaches from corn syrup, I still want it. I find myself justifying reasons for stopping by the store to pick some up tonight, like the fact that if I take that route home, I'll have to walk an extra 15-20 minutes, and that's good for me even if the licorice is not.
In any case, some new research blogged about on Cognitive Daily shows that looking at something distracting while you're having cravings may stop the desire for that food. The image above, when animated, is an example of something distracting. The next time you want pizza, or soda or pie--take a look at the animated faux-crossword puzzle and stop your bad self before you're sobbing about those extra zits at the same time you're clutching your leftover bag of Halloween candy corn.
Posted by Major Generalist at 6:04 PM
Saturday, October 13, 2007
I'm sure there are plenty of evolutionary theorists out there who have already beaten this subject to death. What I'm about to write is hardly anything new. But for someone like me, an armchair theorist who has been out of college life for over ten years since grad school, my pursuit of knowledge is nowhere near as concentrated as it was years ago. I fit in my "intellectual" time when I can, which nowadays is mostly either on the toilet or on the train. In any case, on those days on the subway when I don't have the New Yorker or a Savage Love podcast, my thoughs wander and I find myself in contemplation.
This week, as I passed by from Brooklyn to NYC overlooking the Gowanus canal (which apparently has gonorrhea), I started to think about waterways and how things came to be this massive city, and how it took millions of years for us to be where we are right now, smack in the middle of advanced civilization. I started to wonder what the first man and woman were like, and whether they had any idea that this was what we would become. I really tried to feel those millions of years, and of course my little brain couldn't wrap its head around that much time (and if my brain is inside my head, then that phrase can't be logical, but I digress...).
I found myself awash in visions of Adam and Eve, cavorting in the jungle. Then it hit me: there never really was a first. Not explicitly, and not in a way that those "first" would ever have realized, nor would be possible to pinpoint. Humans didn't just spring fully-formed from the head of Zeus, er, God. No! As with all other living things, we are an accretion of those very first cells that came together somewhere in the water and eventually merged and divided until increasingly more complex forms of life were created. There never was a "First Man" or "First Woman." It was all a chain of succession where beings came to be, somehow reproduced, and continued to "refine" themselves genetically over millions of years.
If one could actually pinpoint the first "man," it's possible that he actually mated with a slightly genetically inferior version of a female (meaning that Adam and Eve were not genetic "equals"), which then maybe produced the first genetically superior female, or vice versa. And so on. There is no such thing as a first. Ever. We just came to be. But not out of nowhere. And the truth of our origins is a slippery, but not impossible mess when we realize that our human need to categorize, label and contain is both our weakness and our strength. There are times when we have to let go of our cultural fantasies that try to explain to us the unknowable. There is no Adam and Eve. But, we did come from an unplottable somewhere (from where we currently stand in time) and that is what we have to take on faith.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
My iPhone touch screen broke. Half of it just stopped working--the bottom two inches no longer responded to touch. Which, in effect, turned it into the brick that so many others have experienced due to downloading unauthorized software (for the record, I think it's total crap that Apple is trying to prevent people from putting non-Apple software on their phones). In any case, between the horrible price-drop that screwed me, the Apple software fascism and my now-useless iPhone, I was really, really annoyed and concerned about my iPhone breaking. I assumed I'd wait in line for hours and from what I've read online, I'd have no phone for 3+ days while it was sent out for repair. V suggested I book an appointment at the GBar (I refuse to use their stupid name). I arrived 5 minutes early, waited about 5 minutes, was seen on time. The Apple employee was super-courteous, pleasant and replaced my iPhone immediately. I walked out very happy. Now I just have to go home and re-sync it to get my contacts back. Fantastico!
Monday, October 1, 2007
This Saturday, I was extremely tempted to buy a Burberry jacket for $400. The fit was far superior to anything else I've tried on. The only drawback was that it was a slightly lighter weight than I wanted. Still, the fit was so good that I was nearly ready to plunk down the money on the spot even though the price was greater than I wanted to spend. It hugged my shape in the right spots, and clearly could be dressed up or down, and wouldn’t go out of style any time soon. I’d consider it a legitimate clothing “investment” piece that would last for years. (And “years” it could give me--when I went up one size from the XS to the S, I suddenly was swimming in it and looked like a 50 yr. old well-to-do housewife.)
I held off, kept looking around, and picked up a nice but clearly inferior and more casual Kenneth Cole Reaction jacket, which I was able to get for $100 on sale on the assumption that I would just return it if I got the Burberry. I tried on the Burberry again for about another 30 minutes. In the end, I decided to pass for the moment because it was an item I could pick up in the city (we were in a large suburban mall) and there was no need for an immediate purchase. V, on the other hand, found something a lot more unique—a Mackage trench coat. Mackage makes the hottest jackets around. V bought herself the “Lujane" in black and it's incredible--looks like she should be pulling major weaponry out from under the jacket and spinning in slow-motion a la The Matrix. It's better a) in person and b) in black
But back to Burberry. On Sunday morning, I opened the New York Times and saw an ad for some new development on the Upper East Side depicting a doorman holding the door for a woman with a stroller and two children wearing the very same Burberry jacket. I nearly tossed my cookies. Not because of the children. Because of the particular class and type of woman that was represented. Is this the Burberry-wearing self-image that I want to show the world? I have no doubt I can rock the Burberry. I have a Burberry bikini that I wear with irony because it's so not who I really am, yet it’s cute at the same time. I am naked with the bikini, my barest self--and yet I somehow feel I can “win” and be more than just $140 worth of skimpy tartan spandex.
But there's nothing ironic about the jacket. Per that advertisement, that kind of jacket says, "I have money. I am socially conservative and tasteful. I have a wealthy husband. I'm popping out the requisite 2.2 children so as to genetically replace ourselves in fulfillment of our reproductive duty. And I am flaunting it all in my Burberry way." Egads! This is so not the style in which I choose to live my life. That kind of grossly conspicuous consumption is sort of sickening to my ingrained Western sense of individuality, but clearly that’s just my own internal set point. Is my wearing the Burberry jacket a subversion or a sign of complicity that I long for a social status that is the envy of the majority of the population? I’m drawn to it, so in some way I must want what it represents. I do like representations of power through wealth. But at the same time, I’m frightened of being overshadowed by that very brand. This brand is iconic. I’m not sure I can subvert the implications of that jacket merely by my very existence. Do we control brands or do they control us? Is our individuality eroded? And to what degree? It’s never erased in the spiritual sense that what we are inside is indelible, but people make assumptions about us based on our style every day.
Style is important—what we wear can make a world of difference in our self-esteem. However, we risk being trampled by the meanings associated with brands. Take a brand like Mackage—it’s a luxury brand. No denying that. But, it’s also not a household name, and the designs are very, very stylized, which means it’s not something that will be worn by very many people simply because few can carry it off (and for the record, that trench coat looks a LOT better on V than me—it doesn’t fit my body). However, that trench coat can make a person feel powerful, but seemingly in a way that I personally find less threatening to my sense of self, or rather, sells me a version of a person that I want to be that is very different from Burberry. The trench coat gives the person a fantasy of looking like a kind of comic book hero—a high fashion maverick, full of autonomy and agency, imbued with super powers to save the world. Maybe that fantasy appeals to me more than the fantasy of an Upper East Side socialite, and my own personal illusion of control over a brand to augment or diminish my personality is really the arbiter of my taste and the appeal. After all, brands are castles in the sky, or co-ops on Central Park West or the Bat Cave. And through our brands, we show people where we emotionally live.
So, where did I decide to live? I couldn’t find an exact match online, but this will give you the idea.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
284 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10012
Ghenet caters to the gluten-free if you call up the day before and ask them to make you Teff-only Injira bread. However, ONLY DO THIS IF YOU ARE GOING TO SHOW UP FOR CERTAIN. I actually had to beg over the phone the last time I called because so many gluten-free jerks have called up and then never arrived at dinner, causing them to have to throw out their uneaten bread. Teff is really expensive--a small bag of Teff flour costs $4.50+ at your local health food store. So, respect the restaurant and follow through. I really like eating here, and I don't want to have to stop. Enough ranting.
I've eaten here several times. The first time, I had the Dori Wett because I honestly didn't know better, and I wasn't so happy with my selection--1 tiny chicken leg and a whole hard-boiled egg were not what I was expecting. So, my experience wasn't the greatest.
My date always gets the vegetarian combination platter, and it's definitely the one to beat. Don't bother with the other items on the menu--this is the one. You can choose a great selection from the back of the menu. You'll be filled up and you'll have leftovers to take home. Enjoy!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I just caught wind of a brilliant new game that relies on total non-competition to win. It's Brainball! The players' brainwaves control a ball on a table. The one who is able to relax more pushes the ball further and "beats" the opponent. Sheer genius! How soon can I try one of these?
Don't forget to get the Mindball Multiplayer accessory so three people can play....
I read about Brainball in Wired's article, "The Future of 3-D Printing, Pilot Communication and Weather Reporting." Speaking of which, who doesn't need a 3-D desktop prototyping machine? Now you can make the cardboard replica of a Shermann tank that you've always dreamed of...for only $4999!
Friday, September 14, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Some have said my totemic animal is the chipmunk due to its high energy and chatty nature. I also have a pretty intense sweet tooth. This is perhaps the ultimate expression of my
inner animal self. (The pic was found randomly on some user's profile on a social networking site.)
Posted by Major Generalist at 5:50 PM
Saturday, September 8, 2007
The cathedral is apparently the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. I was glad I got to see it, and I was saddened to see the damage by the massive fire in 2000 that ravaged half of it (and is now under reconstruction). However, it is clear that America's propensity for "larger" doesn't equal better. Once you've seen Notre Dame, it's hard to be impressed by American rip-offs. American cathedrals are a pastiche homage to their European counterparts.
Speaking of cathedrals, my favorite is a comparatively smaller cathedral, St. Albans in England. Obviously, cathedrals take hundreds of years to build, and times change. As a consequence, St. Albans has a nave that is partly Romanesque (with rounded arches) as well as Gothic pointed arches. It took so long to build that they switched styles to keep up with fashion. I couldn't find a great photo of it online, but I did find this old postcard where you can see the difference.
Posted by Major Generalist at 4:28 PM
My two previous posts have gotten me thinking: Does the general public know a good thing when it sees it? Harry Potter. The iPhone. Both are lauded by the public, which begs the question: do the masses actually have taste?
In my opinion, the Potter books are average in terms of literary merit. The only way they've revolutionized the publishing industry is by sheer volume of sales, which is nothing to sneeze at, but the books themselves have not intrinsically changed the literary world (although some would argue they've encouraged kids to read, which I suppose is true, although I would counter-argue with the question: isn't it the parents responsibility to inculcate a love of reading from a very early age? I'm betting most of those parents out there haven't been reading to their kids since birth...). In any case, the act of publishing books has not changed because of Harry.
A barrier to entry of the iPhone is obviously cost. Mac products are always expensive and require disposable income. But, the plummeting price means that they'll be in even more people's hands sooner than ever.
Still, $600 (now $400) is an exorbitant and ridiculous price to pay for a device. A Harry Potter obsession would cost the reader approximately $116 if they purchased the entire hardcover boxed set on Amazon. If one had to choose their popular poison, it would be to one's economic advantage to adhere to Harry and shun the iPhone. But what about those of us who shelled out for both?
This brings us back to public opinion: Harry and the iPhone are both a success. One is largely mediocre when taken as a whole, the other is impressive despite its flaws (I really could strangle the phone for not syncing properly to iPhoto, and yet still I love it). Some people buy the books, some the phone, some both. This may suggest that it's not so much that the public is savvy or truly understands how to judge an item's merits, but that the general public likes to engage in public discourse around shared interests. Also, when critical mass is achieved, there is a sense of unity, i.e., I feel less alone in the world when I see someone reading Harry on the subway. Also, we like shiny, new things, we're easily distracted, and we are willing to spend, spend, spend to get that feeling of being a part of something larger than ourselves.
Even if the iPhone is a life-changing device, aren't we still suckers for shelling out half a grand that could be going into our retirement accounts? I can delve into snobbery and suggest that Harry stinks and the iPhone rulez, but aren't I the butt of an economic joke regardless of the intrinsic merit of the books or the phone?
There really is a sucker born every minute. To quote from Barnum the musical, "...the biggest one, excluding none, is me."
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Mr. Jobs has dropped the price of the iPhone by $200.
TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS CHEAPER!
We iPhone owners paid the price to be early adopters.
Maybe we really are just fools after all.
But then I hold it in my hands and I'm charmed. Ach, I'm a sucker!
I've been having an email conversation with two friends, K in Chicago and Weeza in London regarding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the 7th and final installment in the that series you may have heard about. Our emails aren't so much debate as confirmation of how much we agree that DH is as mediocre as shopping at The Gap or eating Domino’s Pizza.
K summed it up best:
"The Harry Potter series was like rooting for a particular runner in the Olympic marathon. Books 1-6 were like my runner getting stronger through the race and surging into the lead as they enter the stadium. Book 7 was my runner tripping over her shoelaces, falling and crawling over the finish line to get the bronze. The epilogue was her copiously shitting her pants at the medal presentation."
So well said. Oh, and ugh--that epilogue--by far the most painful part of the book. A reviewer by the name of The Meteorologist “Don’t call me Weatherman” on Amazon commented:
“...The epilogue was forced and cliché. I really wonder if the publisher asked Rowling to do this because it is so unlike her. I remember reading an interview about her writing this last section in her hotel room while she cried and drank. No wonder why she cried and drank, this epilogue was terrible, I would cry too.”
How Harry Should Have Ended ***Possible spoilers below***
The three of us contemplated possible alternative endings. K in Chicago states:
“I was personally hoping that Harry would die in an act of transcendent self-sacrifice that left behind an artifact to protect the world from the inevitable emergence of the next major Dark Magician. Being a series with a lot child readers meant we were safe from the prospect of him knocking up Ginny with another Chosen One. I was thinking more along the lines of his death being the critical ingredient in a spell that combined the Deathly Hallows into powerful talisman (of course hidden at Hogwarts) that would seek out the most worthy wielder when the need arose.”
Alas, that would have accorded the book actual literary status, which just wouldn't do for the Scholastic stockholders. Perhaps the whole Potter phenomenon bespeaks the problem of success--Rowling could have wiped her ass with each page and published it to massive sales. Is it too much pressure that creates the crap that emerged, or is it resting on one's laurels--a cloud of success that obscured her vision from creating something truly remarkable?
Weeza from London responded:
“There's something preachy and condescending about DH, in the way it hammers home weird little lessons in morality while completely overlooking other (major) points. There was an article in one of the London papers not long ago (wish I could remember which) about how JK Rowling herself has changed since she began writing the series. Then, she was a nobody with little money and a kid, writing a story she loved and believed in. Now, she has Charles and Camilla round to dinner, and turns up at events in glittering gowns. She's come a long way, from working class to borderline aristocracy. Perhaps that's showing through in the book? There's always something superficial about the Nouveau Riche. Perhaps this is the literary manifestation?”
I think Weeza is right. And, I don't think I could come up with a better ending than K conjured. My ending would at least have one character turn gay, Hermione decide she's better off finding another man entirely, neither of the Weasly twins dying, and at least a frikking graduation! I would have kept the setting at Hogwarts, worked in one last quidditch match that is perhaps interrupted by Voldemort, and cut out the Deathly Hallows entirely. Finding the Horcruxes was plenty of plot action.
I’m glad I went back to the series after a 5 year hiatus and finished it off, if only so I could try to understand such a public success. I’m sorry to conclude that only something this mediocre and derivative is probably capable of achieving such public acclaim. (As for derivative, don’t even get me started on Rowling’s ham-fisted barely metaphorical use of World War II references of England versus Germany. Does “Nurmengard” sound like Nuremberg to anyone else?? Sheesh. Some creativity, PLEASE! And let’s not even get into the blatant concept thievery from Lord of the Rings.) I’ll be even more glad to get back to re-reading something much better, like Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass.