Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dispatch from Suze's Reading

Okay, not really "from" Suze's reading, but more like "three hours after" Suze Orman's reading this evening at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. I know how boring these recaps can be, so I'm going to do a tick-tock of my experience at the event:

6:20 p.m.:
I arrive at the top floor of the B&N, 10 minutes early, no less, and the place is packed with mostly women -- young, old, black skin, white skin, bright-pink hair, gray hair. It's kinda inspiring. All seats are taken, and they're corralling all the Johnny-come-10-minutes-earlies into a holding pen behind all the folding chairs. We all stand together in a more-or-less orderly fashion. I position myself directly in line with the podium. Five minutes later, a television cameraman places his equipment directly in my line of sight. Awesome.

6:25 p.m.:
I stare at the quite-nice background B&N has set up for Suze. Or perhaps CNBC has set up for Suze. Not sure who foots the bill for this kind of extravagance, but my money's on CNBC. It's a large, colorful backsplash: a Warhol-esque checkerboard of pictures, plus the logo for her show, plus her "People First, Then Money, Then Things" mantra. This stage and cultish enthusiasm reminds me of a scene I've seen on TV or in the movies, but I'm not sure which one....

6:30 p.m.:
Suze comes out wearing a fabulously gaudy soft-yellow knee-length jacket over a black top and black pants. And orange eyeglasses. I love this woman and her take-no-prisoners fashion sense.

6:40 p.m.:
Suze's been speaking for a few minutes now. There's no denying she's messianic, and there's no denying that she's trying to sell her book. For me, the quintessential Suze moment came when a woman in the audience shouted, "[Women are] biologically wired to take care of others!" With that, Suze got visibly angry and said, "Are you NOT biologically wired to take care of YOURSELF?" (Clapping from the audience.) "THAT is the question!" Suze continued. "And THIS is the answer!" She slammed a copy of her book down hard on the podium. (Wild clapping.)

6:41 p.m.:
I realize what this all reminds me of: Tom Cruise's over-the-top mysogynist character role in Magnolia. "RESPECT the COCK!" Except, well, this is the opposite of that: empowering women rather than desiccating them. But the medium and method are similar.

6:45 p.m.:
Suze has given out a few pointers (after maxing out the match on your employer's 401(k), put any extra retirement savings in a Roth IRA -- good advice) and revealed her big plan to get women saving and supposedly change the savings rate in America (which is in the toilet -- literally, the red -- now). I expected there to be a catch to her Save Yourself plan, but I can find none yet. If you go to the site and enter the code in the book (701 -- she gave it to us during the signing to prove she's not coercing women into buying the actual book if they can't afford it), open an account with TD Ameritrade, and put at least $50 a month into your account for one year, for a total of $600, TD Ameritrade will put a free $100 into the account at the end of that time period. Skeptical, I did some research online, and it's a good deal: The interest rate is 4.50%, which is competitive with the other high-interest money market accounts, including online darling ING Direct.

6:55 p.m. (ish):
Suze says she asked several banks and brokerage firms to help her implement the aforementioned plan, and only TD Ameritrade stepped up. She asked the TD Ameritrade reps who saw the deal through to stand up, and four women rise from their seats. That was a lump-in-the-throat moment for me. It was incredibly inspiring to see that these women implemented an admittedly risky business plan in order to help other women. She also introduces her friend from an organization called Count Me In that gives loans to women who want to start their own business. I am feeling the sisterhood here, people.

7:00 p.m. (ish):
Suze takes a few questions, but not that many, which is good, because I can only listen to people who live in the tri-state area talk about being a in a position to buy a house "within the next two years" for so long. (Lucky bastards.)

7:10 p.m:
Suze cuts off the Q&A to outline her "Eight Qualities of a Wealthy Woman." UGH! I hated that story online the first time I read it, and I don't want to listen to it now. But I do anyway, of course, and it's more entertaining as she tells it in person.

7:11 p.m.:
A short woman slurping a Frappuccino sidles up next to me, ostensibly to ask Suze a question, and keeps bumping into me intermittently while making a lot of noise with her Frappuccino straw. I give her the "Seinfeld" half-turn. She doesn't stop. I give her the "Seinfeld" full-turn. She doesn't stop, but she does say, "Oh, sorry," before continuing to bump into me. I can smell her Frappuccino. I consider leaning down and giving her a lecture on personal space. After 10 excruciating minutes, the woman in front of me leaves and I take her place, out of the literal reach of this annoying little woman.

7:21 p.m.:
Right before Suze leaves, she tells the members of the audience to write down the "Eight Qualities of a Wealthy Woman" on a piece of paper and look at it every time they're not happy. Um... I love me some Suze, but this is a book called Women and Money. It isn't the Bible. It's not even What Color is Your Parachute? Perhaps this kind of thing works with women who recite mantras and use aromatherapy, but I'll just stick to automatically funding my online savings account, cool?

7:25 p.m.:
Suze heads out to do Larry King's show after we all recite her "People First, Then Money, Then Things" catchphrase. There will be no receiving line for signing books. I will not get to meet her. But everyone can buy a pre-signed copy of the book that Suze asserts will be even more valuable as a first edition since it's not "personalized" and will be worth more if we're ever in a jam and need to sell it for fast money. Riiiiiiiiiight. I'm sure that has some truth to it, but I'm also relatively sure that most of the women at this signing are going for Suze, not to score some sweet eBay merch.

7:26 p.m.:
I'm swept along in the crowd to the escalator, and Suze is with her small entourage several feet behind me. We sort of pass each other on down escalator after down escalator. I LOVE her orange eyeglasses. I was so close to her that I could have said something to her (and it was relatively quiet -- we are talking about well-behaved women here), but I didn't. Because I am a big, flapping, shiny, clucking mechanical chicken.

My verdict:
It was great seeing Suze, and I'm definitely looking forward to reading my pre-autographed copy of her book. It's a bummer that there wasn't a signing, though, because I was all prepared to speak clearly and concisely about why I think she's amazing.

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Happy Suze Day!

I can't believe it's here, but today is the day that Suze Orman signs copies of her newest book, Women and Money, at 6:30 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. (Be there or be, um, square, as it were.)

I'm already mentally preparing things to say to her that won't sound stalkerish or vapid. I might have to create and memorize some crib notes.

Yahoo Finance has been giving her a sweet deal lately: They've published two excerpts of her new book so far, which will work publicity wonders, to be sure. Problem is, I haven't been so impressed with what I've seen of the book so far. I liked today's column about what we women tend to do wrong moneywise, despite its lack of useful info, but this other column about what makes a wealthy woman was horrible, peony-scented tripe. I'm sorry, but when I'm reading a column about money, I don't need to hear about things like "harmony and balance." That's for yoga class. (Which I also don't like. Too sedentary.)

So many "women's finance" books make the mistake of oversaturating the point of the book (be a good steward of your money) with wishy-washy, sugar-coated talk about feelings (you're a nurturer, so you give too much of your money away). Personally -- and I think I speak for a lot of women out there -- I'd just rather have the facts and tips that will make me rich and secure. The only good thing about making a book specifically targeted to women is that I believe women who don't know much about money will feel more inclined to pick up a specialized, gender-tailored book rather than something by, say, Jim Cramer.

But because I love Suze and her show and because she's helped me and people every where be better managers of our money, I am going to give this book a shot. And I am going to speak clearly and intelligently when she signs my copy of her book.

Hear all the details of my meeting with Suze (fingers crossed, anyway) TONIGHT at 9 p.m. EST on Dr. Blogstein's Radio Happy Hour on Blog Talk Radio! Just enter blogtalkradio.com/drblogstein into your browser (or click my handy text link) to listen. I'll share my thoughts on the signing as well as gossip about whatever predictably odd outfit Suze was wearing. You know you want to know!

P.S. In case you've missed it, Suze recently revealed to the Times magazine that she is, indeed, a lesbian. Why this is even top news, I'm unsure, but, strangely, I think I like her more because of it. You go, Girlfriend!

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Some Ramblings

I started a bad habit a year or so ago. At my desk at work, I happened to lean over a sheet of white paper. Because my hair sheds a lot, a strand of my hair wafted down and fell on the paper. I dye my hair blonde, so the strand wasn't entirely yellow. At the top of the fallen hair was about a half-inch of brown, my natural color. It was oddly beautiful.

And so started the bad habit: When I'm nervous or bored, I pull out my own hair. It's completely disgusting and disturbing. There's a name for it, because it's apparently a "condition": trichotillomania. I don't think it's a condition. I think it's a bad habit, like nail biting, that can be controlled with willpower and maybe a few behavioral diversions. I don't do it enough to cause major damage (yet), but on the top of my head, around the part of my hair, baby hairs are sprouting continuously. I hate that I do this. I want to stop. But it's become a part of my life.

It's strange, the mundane things I fixate on in the midst of a rather large life crisis. I think about the differences in my life if I made a crucial decision I'm thinking about making now. If my answer is yes, I think I'll end up pulling my hair more. If the answer is no, I'll probably pull at the same rate.

Decisions are not really about the actual decisions, are they? The superficially correct, left-brain, most pain-free answer is usually pretty cut and dried. But it's the fallout from decisions that's a bitch. At the fork, you have to choose the road that's less likely to have thieves and bramble and disappointment a mile down -- the road you're less likely to twist your ankle on a year from now, two years from now. That judgment call is hard to make.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pool It!*

I pitched a crisp Lincoln into the kitty today to join my office's Oscar pool. I love -- love -- the Oscar pool. I sat down with my ballot and began wrinkling my forehead, deep in thought. I checked boxes. I erased those checks. I checked other boxes. I kept those checks. And then, by Category 12, I had a Mystical Revelation:

I had no idea what I was doing.

And, does anyone, really? (With the exception of film critics or anyone who works at Premiere or EW magazines.) There are some locks, sure (see: Helen Mirren for Best Actress), but how is any layperson supposed to discern whether the Academy will favor Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest or Apocalypto for Best Achievement in Sound Editing? (P.S. I went with Pirates. The Academy can't totally ignore the blockbuster, and I think there's no way Mel Gibson is going to win anything, based solely on my "he craaaazy" theory.) I even went to see the short live films at IFC this year, and I don't feel much more informed than before.

But, down at the bottom of my ballot, there was something tiny and awesome. Waaay down in the Best Achievement in Makeup Category, there was the name of a very bad movie: Click, starring Adam Sandler. Yes, that Click. And something about that made me really, really happy. The nominees, Kazuhiro Tsuji and Bill Corso, have some serious makeup work under their belts, particularly Corso. I mean, this guy was "Ape Makeup Artist" for the remake of Planet of the Apes, and he's already won an Oscar for his work on the Lemony Snicket movie. I just like to think about Tsuji and Corso getting up in the morning to go to the set of Click and thinking, "Dear God, how low have I sunk?" And then, months later, they hear they've been nominated, and they feel justice has now been served after the indignity that was watching Adam Sandler's unfunny antics for weeks on end. I imagine them clinking wine glasses filled with a $15-a-glass Bordeaux in front of a ski lodge fireplace and saying "Well done" to each other. That fictional scenario amuses me to no end.

*For those of you who didn't know, this is the title of The Monkees' first reunion album, which came out in 1987 and included such songs as "She's Movin' In With Rico." It was not good.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Idol Hands

Depressed today.

And I know I should so not be blogging right now. These are the kinds of posts I get embarrassed by in my sleep and delete when my alarm goes off, before 8 a.m., before anyone has the chance to read them.

Tonight was the kind of night when, even as my hands are puncturing the wine seal and pushing "0-5" on the remote control, I know I should not be opening a bottle of Three-Buck Chuck Cab and watching two hours of American Idol. I know I should be pitching stories to amazing publications and readying a fiction manuscript for a first read. I know that the difference between the movers/shakers and the wishers is action. I know that. But that's not the way it happens for me.

Because about an hour into Idol, I start realizing that this 24-year-old I see butchering a rock classic had a pizza-parlor job up until about two weeks ago, and that she'll probably make more money this year than I will in 10. And I'll start thinking about how I actually tried to do something with my life, and I'm not much better off than she was, working at her pizza parlor. And I'm certainly not as good-looking.

And then I'll start thinking about how I'm so pathetic, sitting here and watching this American Idol trash, just like every Midwestern household I've fought my way out of. I'll start thinking about how I should be reading the New Yorker right now and muttering to myself about the state of the country. Or at least I should be reading the Times in print form and bringing it up in conversation tomorrow. But I don't. Because, at my core, I am from the Midwest, and I am not an intellectual, and I am not as motivated as my parents' generation, and that makes me sad.

And then I'll have another glass of wine and start thinking about how lacking that extra iota of determination means the difference between watching American Idol and coming up with the idea for a show like American Idol, and I'll start willing the Cab to push me deeper down, until I hear that loud attic fan going on in my head and I don't think about stupid things like American Idol anymore.

Then about halfway through that last glass of wine that had rested in the very bottom of the cheap bottle before I started pouring, I'll start thinking about the past.

And then I'll start thinking that I should really not be blogging. Not in this state. And that I will delete every single word come morning.

I cannot get out of my own head. And to make up for that in some ridiculously short-falling way that can never truly atone for how selfish I am, I am going to mail a package to a group of female soldiers in Afghanistan tomorrow. I am going to send them cotton balls and hair elastics and tampons and some good-smelling body wash and tell them that there is at least one young woman in New York City who thinks of them and how large their sacrifices are, especially compared to those of us in the tri-state area.

Go to anysoldier.com for details on how to send your own care package.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mother Grandma

Tonight I feel like I'm about two steps away from wearing a housecoat, bonnet, and slippers 24/7 and offering strangers freeze-dried fruit and stories about the good ol' days. I am becoming Mother Grandma.

For my birthday this year, my friend D the Williamsburger very kindly gave me two homemade DVDs. On them were no fewer than 2,188 songs that he had burned from his computer. We're talking all the "good music" I should have been listening to in my youth but somehow couldn't find the time or the will: Radiohead. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Miles Davis. Sonic Youth. Don't get me wrong: I know my Ella from my Billie, and I like alterna-music. It's just that my tastes don't diverge much from compact discs released between 1994 and 1998. (And a college boyfriend who told me my musical tastes sucked didn't help things much.)

I am neither musically nor technologically savvy anymore. Figuring out how to install the songs into my iTunes player was hard enough for me. D had to walk me through the whole process over IM. But even tonight, as I sat down to listen to some tunes and was faced with hundreds of songs on my computer screen, I became overwhelmed. I got a little nervous. What if I played Thom Yorke and hated him? How long was it going to take me to listen to one of these albums, let alone all of them? What if my musical education has been irreparably altered by my not caring about "cool bands" in college (or, um, ever)? So I took a deep breath and selected a Tool song. I became impatient and paused it. I selected a Spoon song. I became impatient and paused it. And then I selected one of the only songs I knew from all 2,188 selections: "Gold Digger" by Kanye West.

Lulled into relaxation by baby mama drama, I became confident enough to surf on over to iTunes and download an album by The Knife, which is a kick-ass band. But iTunes was confusing. All the albums by The Knife were released in 2006 or 2007, according to the screen. There were lots of options. And cover art. And buttons. And holy...hell. I was hyperventilating again. Which music site was I supposed to look at again to figure out which Knife album was the coolest? Pitchfork? Stereogum? Some other blog? And should I even be spending my money on this stuff? Shouldn't I be reading Twain or at least Bookslut?

And then, when I thought it couldn't get any worse, my cell phone rang. And I was saved from my own ignorance.

I will never be a hipster at this rate.

I will never even be a cool grandma at this rate.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

High Drama

I usually try to keep my relationship dirt off of the virtual pages of this blog, because, seriously, who really cares other than the Boyf and me?

But today I think I had a little breakthrough, a la this previous post about drunkenness and relationships:

Late last night the Boyf and I had a rattle-the-rafters fight about...something. I can't really put my finger on what started it, but it had something to do with bedtime, too much "relationship cuteness," and television. There was cursing (the Boyf), there was screaming (mostly me), and there was even a little bit of crying (me again).

Ladies, I'm only speaking for myself, but feel free to chime in here if you desire: It is the LAST STRAW if a man tells me, after listening to a rant of mine, that I am "being dramatic." When I hear those words, it's akin to Marty McFly being called "chicken" in all three BTTFs. My blood boils. My face turns red. And my voice goes into this supersonic high-pitched fightin' tone that only women can truly master. I always suspect that when I go into that mode, dogs start howling in some alley somewhere and the neighbors put glass cups up to the wall to better hear my diction.

So, yeah, the Boyf called me "dramatic" last night, and I was none too pleased. So I did what any reasonable twentysomething New York woman with leftover Valentine's Day baking ingredients would do: I took it out on the kitchen.

Behold, the delicious brownies I made today:

But that's not my central point. My central point is that while I was wreaking cocoa-powdered havoc on my tiny kitchen, I had Dr. Phil's TV show on in the background. I think we can all agree that Dr. Phil is a charlatan, but I was thoroughly amused by Dr. Phil's "Man Camp," which is supposed to rein in chauvinistic husbands and prevent couples from divorcing, but, as far as I can tell, only succeeds in making the men madder and madder until they say wildly hurtful and inappropriate things to their wives. One guy called his wife not only "dramatic" and said she was seeking "attention" with her litany of complaints against him, but that she was also "a Hollywood actress from hell."

If I were his wife hearing that, I would have started packing my bags already. But the problem was that I was actually on his side for most of the story (which involved an overbearing mother-in-law and some issues about "sincerity" [WTF?]), so I couldn't place all my ire on him.

After seeing that, though, I had a thought: No matter how right you think you are during an argument, I think calling someone "dramatic" is incredibly dismissive. I think it's true that sometimes women and even men (I definitely dated some male drama queens) use tears to get a reaction out of their partners. If the fight isn't going well, if he's being cold, if she's being an ice queen, or if you're on the verge of being broken up with, turning on the waterworks is going to garner some sort of a shift in power, whether it's "Oh, honey, I didn't mean it. Please stop crying," or "I'm...I'm sorry. Please...uh, here... Kleenex."

But if an issue is going to be resolved, there needs to be some crying, some anger, some hurt -- all of those things that get labeled "drama" -- that shows you care. Because if you can have a knock-down, drag-out fight with your significant other stoically: without yelling, without crying, and without feeling, I think there's something wrong with that relationship.

In relationships and life, I would rather feel some ups and downs and highs and lows rather than a lulling, even keel of vanilla contentment. And if that makes me a drama queen, I'll take a one-way ticket to L.A.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Canceled Checks

I was watching "The Real Housewives of Orange County" the other day to kill some time before picking up a gigantic order of buffalo wings downtown. I hate that show, but I watch it both because I am easily entertained and because I like observing rich people so I have more fodder for my middle-class cannon. I wasn't disappointed.

One of the blond women (I realize that doesn't narrow it down much) was going to a fancy fund-raiser for the Republican party. She looked straight into the camera, her leather skin well-tanned and her wrinkly cleavage showing and said, "I am a Republican. I don't really know what that means, but both of my parents are Republicans, so I've checked off 'Republican' on the ballot every year since I was 18." And then she laughed, like what she just said was so totally hilarious.

Let that sink in for a moment.

I remember a Rock the Vote-type television PSA from a few years ago, with all of these young people standing up and saying things like, "I vote because I deserve to be counted" and "I vote because I want to be heard." One kid said, "I vote to cancel out my dad's vote" (or something like that).

With that in mind, mark my words: In 2008, among many other reasons, I am voting to cancel out that particular blond housewife's vote.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This Is as Domestic as I Get

Cake Caddy: $19.95 at Bed, Bath and Beyond

1 pound of Domino Sugar: $1.19

2 boxes of Domino Confectioner's Sugar: $2.38

Arm and Hammer Baking Soda: $0.55

Quart of buttermilk: $1.99

Nestle Baking Cocoa: $2.69

Quart of 2% milk: $1.09

Red food coloring: $3.19

White Rose unsalted butter (4 sticks): $4.29

Land o' Lakes Butter (4 sticks): $5.79

Heinz White Vinegar: $1.09

2 pounds of Pillsbury flour: $1.49...all at Associated Supermarket

Cab ride 9 blocks so as not to damage the cake: $7

Sharing a sugar high with the Boyf that resulted from the richest made-from-scratch two-layer red velvet cake with buttercream frosting ever to pass either of our lips, thereby securing food bragging rights for me for the next month or so (we won't mention the Great Cocoa Spill and slippery-frosting mishaps along the way): Priceless

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Dear Future Husband...

I think I might propose to whomever sat down and parsed out this Back to the Future timeline of all three movies.


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Monday, February 12, 2007

Showbiz Debut

Okay, guys, Tuesday night is a big one: Dr. Blogstein and I will be hosting our first official show on Blog Talk Radio: "Dr. Blogstein's Radio Happy Hour." (You all know me as Newbie, but my oh-so-sophisticated stage name is Jane.)

I will be forever indebted to you, reader, if you go to this link at 9 p.m. EST Tuesday night, Monday, Feb. 12 and either call in, listen, and/or send me some good vibes over the blog waves. Blogstein's a great guy, and I'm thrilled to be hanging with him on the air. Tune in for the undeniable chemistry (or is it sexual frustration?) that's sure to abound on our pre-Valentine's Day show!

And another thing that I couldn't resist mentioning (see? I talk about things in twos.): I'm a huge fan of Crazy Aunt Purl. I've been a reader for about a year, and love her writing's high energy level, her POV, and the unapologetic way she puts her sweet self out there. That's why I was psyched to see her post today about getting her finances in order after a huge personal setback. A little snippet:

I devised a repayment plan that was slow and painful but manageable. I had a fixed amount I repaid each month, plus anything extra went toward the debt. My bonus from work that one year? 100% went toward my debt. Yard sale money? Pay down the debt.

I had setbacks along the way (all the cats got sick AT THE SAME TIME. My car died, and then died again. And so on.) but I kept plugging along, even when it wasn't fun.

Budgeting is not for the faint of hard, kiddies, and Purl's entry nails down exactly why we need to win our financial independence back from the the credit card companies, the loan officers, and our bookies. (Kidding on that one.... I hope.) I'm especially convinced that women, who sometimes give the financial reins over to other people too quickly, need a pep talk like this every now and again to remind ourselves (pardon me as I get all Stuart Smalley) that we are absolutely capable enough to take charge of our own financial destinies. (See: This thing I'm really, really excited about. Love you, Suze!)

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Too Cool to Be Forgotten

There were two particularly compelling stories in the Times today. (Has anyone noticed that I really like talking about things in twos? Weird.):

First, I have to restate that I adore Ben Stein. I don't agree with all of his politics, but I never fail to learn something from every column that he writes. Today's Everyday Business column was no exception. When a card-carrying Republican gets fired up about greedy executives and the wealth gap, that means our current state of economic stratification is baaaad, y'all.

There is another interesting aspect to [stock buybacks]: the immense mass of stock that is owned by the wealthiest 10 percent of families in this country β€” by some measures as much as 80 percent of all stock. And a very, very large portion of it is owned by the wealthiest 1 percent of families. In fact, the upper 1 percent owned about 44 percent of financial assets in 2001, the most recent year for which I could get data.

(If you said that the $2.6 trillion of cash owned by American corporations was yet another asset of the very rich, you would not be terribly far off. This makes it a bit sad β€” no, heartbreaking β€” for the roughly 80 percent of Americans who have no or virtually no savings.)

Or, to put it yet another way, this is a great, magnificent country, beyond all reason, with the doors of opportunity open to all. But it’s really, really great for the rich.

You're preaching to the choir, Ben. But I liked the way he ended the column, returning our focus to that important but oft-forgotten resource we all have: our ability to affect others in a positive way.

Second, I loved this little nugget of an article about hipsters in Williamsburg and the cool quotient that is required before one creative type can become another creative type's roommate. I am endlessly fascinated by the Church of Cool. I wish there were a way to quantify how hard one has to work to maintain an aura of hipness or holier-than-thou-ness, especially here in New York. Loyal readers, you know that I am not cool in any way, shape, or form; I don't have the time or feel the need to discover obscure bands before everyone else and debate the merits of the various Safran Foers, though I am enthralled (in a Jane Goodall sort of way) by those who do. And maybe this is why I don't aspire to live in Williamsburg, but I'd much rather have a roommate with whom I can sit down and dissect "Beauty and the Geek" over cheap wine rather than one who wants to talk endlessly about cool bands, Misshapes, and blogs. Yes, I said blogs.

The Boyf said something great today: "Who was it that said, 'Making a blog is like peeing in a bucket'?" I laughed because it was so true. Blogging is not quantum physics. It doesn't require a degree or even a firm grasp of spelling, grammar, and syntax. Any monkey with a keyboard and internet access can do it. So let's stop seeing it as this vaunted possible vehicle to literary stardom and start accepting it for what it is: entertainment, maybe education (depending on the type of blog), and possibly a venue for dialogue. Or at least I hope it is here. Let me know in the comments if you feel I'm wrong.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Two Lives

Two stories affected me today:

Anna Nicole Smith's death and the story of a two-year-old left out in the cold to die.

People can say what they want about Anna Nicole, and most of it won't be very flattering. But even while watching her nauseating reality TV show or seeing her tanned, worn face while she held her newborn baby, I felt there was something undeniably human about her. About this Southern girl who was neither well-prepared enough nor smart enough to handle fame or money. At work today, there was a palpable tittering in the office as the CNN.com news alert went out to some people's e-mail inboxes, followed by hushed, incredulous, "Really?"s or "Man, that's fucked up"s. I didn't know how to respond, other than by saying, "She had a rough go of it, especially at the end." And I think everyone can agree on that.

There's no real comparison with two-year-old Nyia Page, other than a similar feeling that settled in my stomach after reading this toddler woke up from an unconscious haze after a blow to the head and walked around, on her tiny feet, before freezing to death. I've never been particularly fond of the idea of having children or other people's children in general, but the thought of her innocence right up until her end is nothing less than haunting. I am happy police caught the person who would do this to a child: her own father, no less.

Death is inevitable, and as I move further and further away from my religious upbringing, death becomes scarier and scarier. But there is a difference between the inevitable and a tragedy, and I hope the families of these two people find peace. I will remember to pray for them tonight.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Armchair Psychologist

Like a lot of Americans, I went to a Super Bowl party on Sunday, hell-bent on eating at least 15 hot wings and two cups of French onion dip. I accomplished that mission by halftime, but I noticed a quiet little exchange that could serve as the prototype for nearly every male-female relationship quarrel. Read on:

One recently married couple huddled close together near the TV. She was nodding emphatically as he talked her through the game. I couldn't hear a lot of it, but it went something like, "Peyton Manning, blah, blah, blah...You see, this season, the Colts, blah, blah, blah..." You didn't have to be Dr. Phil to see that they were both into the game and into each other.

Another recently married couple sat beside me, sandwiched together in a leather armchair. The woman of the pair was watching the first couple talk.

"Why don't you ever teach me about football like that?" she asked.

"Ask questions!" he said, punctuating the sentence with his clipped, staccato tone.

She laughed quietly and nervously, as if to convince herself (and everyone around her, maybe?) that she had been joking, that she didn't really mean it, and of course, she was so silly, she should ask more questions, and now would anyone like some of this delicious French onion dip?

I liked their short, kind of sad conversation. In a way, it's the stereotypical female question ("Why aren't you more affectionate with me?") followed by the stereotypical male answer ("Because you never tell me that's what you want!"). The exchange sounded the same as a lot of other mundane gender misunderstandings that are drilled into our heads during romantic comedies and morning talk shows: "Why didn't you wash the dishes tonight?" "Because you didn't tell me to wash the dishes!" (See: The Break-Up.)

However, in the armchair couple's case, his answer came off as near-verbal abuse -- in a semi-public setting, no less. And, in a sense, wasn't she asking him right then to teach her about football?

I hoped their problems were as superficial as a Mars-Venus discrepancy rather than what I sensed it as: something more serious and cutting. "I feel so distant from you," followed by, "You bore me."

Babes iiiiiin Spaaaaaace

I can't ignore this trashy, completely ludicrous story about the NASA "love triangle" that's appeared in the news today. When I first read it, I'll admit that my first instinct was not, like most people's, "She craaaazy." That was my second reaction.

My first thought was, "What an unfortunate blow to women's achievement in the space program."

Forget Sally Ride. Forget Valentina Tereshkova. Forget Dr. Mae Jemison.

Let's help the American public satiate its appetite for scandal with a good, old-fashioned catfight between two female professionals for the affections of some dude who still calls himself "Billy."

Way to go, Lisa Nowak. Way. To. Go.

I think Susan B. Anthony would be proud.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Blogstein's Trusty Sidekick

Great (or at least acceptable/somewhat-noteworthy/all-right) news for Typing Pool readers: I'll be co-hosting Dr. Blogstein's Radio Happy Hour next Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST on Blog Talk Radio with none other than my cohort and sometime nemesis Dr. Blogstein. (Go to blogtalkradio.com/drblogstein to listen.)

Following Blogstein's lead, below are five possible endings to a story I'll tell on the air next Tuesday. Kicker is, though, that all are made up and false except one. Guess for yourself as to which four are the imposter conclusions:

1. I mean, who does Mandy Patinkin think he is?!

2. After annoying everyone in our friend group, several professors, and her own parents, my friend Leslie had managed to annoy even John Stamos.

3. So if I had to sum up this life lesson, it would go something like, "Dried concrete: proceed; freshly poured concrete: avoid."

4. I stood on the sidewalk saying, "I swear I don't know her, officer. She so not my sister! Nuh-uh! No way! Take her downtown!" And he actually did. My parents were none too pleased when they got the call early that morning.

5. So then he said, "Don't worry. This stays between you, me, and the Sealy Posturepedic."

See y'all Tuesday!

Idiocracy in Action

Recently I've become fascinated with the concept of Idiocracy, the newest movie from Mike Judge. It hasn't made it to my home via Netflix yet, but when it does, I'm quite sure it will be the best movie I've seen in recent memory. I've heard that in it, the American populace is so stupid that the top-rated show is called "Ow! My Balls!" And like any male in the 18-to-34 age category, the Boyf thinks this is hilarious. And I actually do, too.

"I guess today's 'America's Funniest Home Videos' is 'Ow! My Balls!'," I told the Boyf yesterday. "Or at least 'America's Funniest Kids' or 'America's Funniest Pets.'"

"There are separate shows for that?" he said.

"Yeah," I said.

"No, I think the original 'America's Funniest Home Videos' is 'Ow! My Balls!'" he said.

"No," I said, deep in thought. "There are some seriously funny, quality people-falling videos on there that give it merit."

And that, for the time being, was that discussion.

Then this morning, I decided to flip on the latest installment of my favorite guilty-pleasure show: "The Hills."

The Boyf does not like "The Hills." (He also does not like "Laguna Beach," "The Real World," "The Suze Orman Show," "Flavor of Love," "The Surreal Life," or "That's So Raven.") To his credit, sometimes, to appease me, he'll watch the first 10 minutes of one of his most-hated shows if I have one of them on.

This morning, he was (barely) tolerating "The Hills" when one of the characters (Heidi, I think?) was shopping in a boutique and said something like, "Oh my god, my manicure, like, looked good before this, but now it's all messed up."

"AUUUGGGHHHHH!" he said, letting all the tension of the past nine minutes go.

Then he looked at me dead on: "'Ow! My Balls!,' Newbie. 'Ow! My Balls!'"

I turned the television off.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Age Divide

I'm twentysomething. I'm holding onto that, no matter whether age ain't nothin' but a numbah or youth is prized above all else. But when you're twentysomething and not doing exactly what you love but a whole bunch of little things that kind of surround that thing that you knew you wanted to do above all else at 16 years old, well, sometimes time seems limited.

I look good on paper. I've worked hard, I've struggled, and I've done all those cliche Midwesterner-turned-New Yorker things. ("Oh, but Mr. Pendleton! I thought we were just friends! And don't you have a wife? Please put your hands back in your pockets!" Yeah. Me. Sad, but me.) But I haven't made it. I don't feel I have. Or maybe I have, and I just don't know it. Maybe I'll look back and say, "Damn, girl. You had it so good, and you didn't even know it at the time."
Maybe no one really "makes it" in New York. I'm forming a personal theory that the Achievement Demons feed on New York life. They whisper in your ear after you've received a promotion or scored a big account or landed an assignment you dig. They say, "It's not enough. You should do more. Look at everyone else around you: They're all doing more. And they're all younger than you."

Maybe it will never be enough. Maybe nothing in any aspect of New York life -- work, apartment, boyfriend/girlfriend, life, income, achievements -- will ever be enough.

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