Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Flurry of blog posts

Sorry, but I was so lazy (weekend) and then so busy (Tuesday) that I haven't had time to blog at all and I'm relishing my "free time" (read: stolen time) at work today to post stuff. Like this, a New York Times review of The Hills, which as I've mentioned before, will be awesome. Mostly I just can't get over how seriously the reviewer takes L.C. and the whole Laguna Beach myth (although she does of course clarify that she watches the show "as fiction"). I never thought L.C. was "watchful," mostly just "boring." And maybe a little "dull."

Oh well, maybe now she finally has the limelight (at least until I see the show, which may be stolen from her by her entourage of dumb friends, a la Laguna) she'll perk up a little.


On a random note, my friend Rachel works for New York Magazine (until this Friday, that is, although she wouldn't like to be reminded) and totally pissed off Norah Jones by writing this.


Op-Ed in the New York Times about Summer Internships

In an information economy, productivity is based on the best people finding the jobs best suited for their talents, and interns interfere with this cultural capitalism. They fly in the face of meritocracy — you must be rich enough to work without pay to get your foot in the door. And they enhance the power of social connections over ability to match people with desirable careers. A 2004 study of business graduates at a large mid-Atlantic university found that the completion of an internship helped people find jobs faster but didn't increase their confidence that those jobs were a good fit.

Just for the record, I'd like to point out that this Anya Kamenetz person is the daughter of two writers, worked as a researcher for Susan Orlean, is a columnist for the Village Voice, went to Yale, writes NY Times editorials, and went to Yale (so did her little sister) and is, yes, twenty-five. I don't want to say she's missing the point, but, well, I think she is. Her editorial was full of mainly vague economic reasons for why unpaid internships are bad, but I think the main problem is just barely hinted at in the paragraph above - or at the very least not elaborated on. Internships are incredibly unfair to anyone poorer than upper-middle class, because not only do you have to work summers for free instead of making money, but you have to pay for housing (especially if you are going for a top internship in NYC, DC, SF, etc.) and food and what have you. And a decent number of internships you only get by having connections to begin with, which you then strengthen through internships, and so those who can afford to intern have better networking resources than those who can't, PLUS they have experience on a resume that looks better than working for a family business or in a restaurant for tips all summer. The luxury of good jobs is unfortunately exactly that in many ways - a luxury. And I have this feeling that Kamenetz, with her writer parents and Yale education, might be missing that point because it doesn't apply to her - and that point seems more valid and more urgent than anything about how young people don't join labor unions.

It all makes me sort of disgruntled, partly because I have no internship experience and therefore am not marketable to employers, and partly because I am pretty sure that when I am 25 I will not be publishing a column in Village Voice, much less a book about the economic plight of our generation.


Yes, and more on TV/celebrities...

I really didn't like Denny but it's true that now I won't really know who to yell at the TV for if not Izzie for being a total idiot.

I have this fear that Izzie will now be depressive and self-loathing like Marissa and Jen Lindley (and Joey Potter for that matter) and Julie on Felicity and I don't deal well when potentially strong female characters fall apart and become boring alcoholic/druggie/lesbian/gun-toting plotlines until they are eventually killed off (literally or figuratively). I hope that doesn't happen to Izz. But it's sort of the curse of those characters. They just run out of stuff for them to do.

It's Shallow Day

This and my next post, I'm warning you, are about my stupid fascination with bad TV drama and celebrities. Not in that order.

My theory has been, but is not really anymore, that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's kid (whose birth, I'm sad to say, I eagerly anticipated) will end up being ugly, because Angelina is curvy and voluptuous and Brad is angular and square-faced. Apparently I am not the only one thinking this.

That is all.

Chicken Soup for the Blogger's Soul

More about all that chick-lit anthology "confessional lit" stuff. I guess I like confessional lit, within reason (I think it can go too far, to, say, Chicken Soup for the Soul essays), since I love the NYTimes Modern Love column (confession: and kind of want to write for it, someday, wisely, smartly). I am not particularly interested in the overkill of anthologies, especially these pseudo-Chicken-Soup-for-the-woman-who-wants-it-all-Soul ones, but I think that's because they usually come off as slightly forced to fit the theme (even Modern Love sometimes I'm like... uh, what?), and also because, even if the anthologies are split into 30 short essays, they're still full-on books about God knows what. A little too much for me at a time.

This entry really had no point except for you to read that article and reflect a wee bit, should you feel inclined. I'm bored at work and catching up on my reading and blogging and I can't help but post.

God, People are Stupid

Thanks to Pablo for pointing out this lovely act of patriotism/xenophobia/racism. Look, I understand it's important to have functional immigration laws to try to staunch a flow of illegal immigration... (although really why it matters is sort of obscure to me. Seriously, I understand economic arguments against illegal immigration, but the main argument always just feels a little indignantly jingoistic/petulant child to me - "They're not paying taxes! But I am!! It's not FAIIIRRRR!" I guess what I mean is, I recognize the point, but I just don't care to argue that side.) I also firmly think that it's important to offer a path to citizenship, Senate plan as opposed to House plan, whatever. I also think a wall is a dumb idea, but who am I to say so, since I'm not sure that it isn't effective (although, really, a wall!?). I haven't looked that up. All that said, which is basically me claiming ignorance and, well, sort of progressively sounding more and more ignorant, I still think that people who are adamantly in support of a wall have some serious waking up to do. It clearly isn't the only answer, first of all. Second of all: They frighten me. Look at their home page!! Notice that it says "Look at today's article about linked from the Drudge Report!" In other words, "Just to clarify, guys, this site does not promote the daily reading the NYTimes. Damn liberal bias in the media."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dreaming, of that lake clinic I'm dreaming...

Sometimes I read things and I think, I should really have stuck it out through Organic Chemistry (long enough to make it past the first problem set, say). But then I remember that Sara and Laurel and I are going to open our women's health clinic and they will be the doctors and I will be the health promotion/speaker/Donnovan angle and write lots of editorials and hate on abstinence-only education, and then I feel better.

And Laurel and Sara will have their carpenter husbands and I will learn how to build a veranda and put a hammock in the back of the clinic (since I recently read an article in Esquire about how you have to do 16 things before Labor Day, including take a nap in a hammock and take a drink on a veranda and go to a drive-in movie which I also want to do), which will be located near a lake with a mini-pier that is too cold even in the summer but really, when you think about it, is just about right, and there might be a rope swing somewhere near the hammock (but not too close) like that pie-selling place near Cambria. And maybe we can swing the rope into the lake and let go. Maybe I am confusing career dreams with Bridge to Terabithia (minus death) and with future lake-house-in-Wisconsin dreams, but I'm letting that go.

It's always about HER! (not really)

Last night I fell asleep at Sean's from around 12am until 2:30am. I woke up and drove home and dragged a 40lb container of cat litter up from my car because if I don't change the cat litter soon, Kitty will hate me. Then I proceeded to mix up the topping for cherry crisp for tonight's reunion-ish dessert with the CDs and Confidential Staff from last year. Calming packing brown sugar, measuring cinnamon, and breaking up the mixed topping with a fork, I thought to myself (somewhat manically) "There are 24 usable hours in every day" a la Liv Tyler (and her unseen father) in the classic Empire Records. In case you don't remember, she makes brownies perkily with the aforementioned mantra, and then an hour later in the movie she is screaming and crying and you find out that she's actually a speed addict.

In other words, I have reached an interesting point in my life and have way too much to do in the next week, and no amphetamines to help me.

Back to work. And writing a to-do list.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Soul patrol!!

Shameless plug.

I don't care what you say, I still want Taylor to win.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Da Vinci Crap

Maybe I should devote my blog to terrible literary crimes. I seem to have been doing that a little bit already with my Kaavya rants and my recent Da Vinci Code grumblings. And I plan on continuing the latter:

WHY do people like this book so much!?!

Okay so the movie is getting not-so-rave reviews, but that does not console me on this matter. I just don't get how intelligent people have been hoodwinked by Dan Brown's bad dialogue. I think it might be two-pronged:

a) the poor writing appeals to people who are not as intelligent and don't have the attention span for chapters longer than a page and
b) the anti-establishment, anti-Catholic sentiment that has enraged Mel Gibson and the rest of the church appeals on a certain level to intelligent people who like to read about Jesus being a fraud and having babies with a hooker. Or at least provokes their interest. I'm not kidding. I'm sure that half the reason I was unimpressed with the scandalousness of the Da Vinci Code was because I already sort of covered the Jesus-Mary Magdalene plotline before - in Another Roadside Attraction (Jesus' body, which was never reincarnated, is found hidden away in the Vatican and is part of a giant church conspiracy) and in Dogma. Been there, done that.

Argh. So this is not to say that you are stupid if you like the Da Vinci Code, but it does sort of amaze me that this book has attracted such undying fans. I really genuinely thought that kind of obsession/fanaticism was (and should be) reserved for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter - in other words, for pop culture artifacts I can get behind (albeit some reservations, like, why does the 5th Harry Potter book suck so much, and why does the 3rd LOTR movie go on for 5890 hours, and why does the dialogue in Star Wars make me want to tear my ears out). I guess my disorientation re: Da Vinci Code is more a result of my lack of participation/inclusion in a pop culture phenomenon than of critical study of why it's such a p.o.s. book. I just don't understand it - and that confuses me more.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Californiaaaaa, here we commmmmme

I hope one day I read an article like this about Uptown Whittier.

Down with the Rocky Cola Cafe!!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Potential for what?

Sadly I haven't read any of the top 5 works of American fiction in the past 25 years (as named by the NYTimes Book Review). But I have read the summary of it written by AO Scott, NYTimes film critic. I like the last page best, it makes me feel like I am part of a generation of potential:

So the top five American novels are concerned with history, with origins, to some extent with nostalgia. They are also the work of a single generation. DeLillo, born in 1936, is the youngest of the five leading authors. The others were born within two years of one another: Morrison in 1931, Updike in 1932, Roth and McCarthy in 1933.

Their seniority, needless to say, is earned - they have had plenty of time to ripen and grow - but it is nonetheless startling to see how thoroughly American writing is dominated by this generation. Startling in part because it reveals that the baby boom, long ascendant in popular culture and increasingly so in politics and business, has not produced a great novel. The best writers born immediately after the war seem almost programmatically to disdain the grand, synthesizing ambitions of their elders (and also some of their juniors), trafficking in irony, diffidence and the cultivation of small quirks rather than large idiosyncrasies. Only two books whose authors were born just after the war received more than two votes: "Housekeeping," by Marilynne Robinson, and "The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien. These are brilliant books, but they are also careful, small and precise. They do not generalize; they document. Ann Beattie, born in 1947, is among the most gifted and prolific fiction writers of her generation, but her books are nowhere to be found on this list; not, I would venture, because she fails to live up to the survey's implicit criterion of importance, but because she steadfastly refuses to try.

Expand beyond the immediate parameters of this exercise, and the generational discrepancy grows even more acute: add Thomas Pynchon and E. L. Doctorow, Anne Tyler and Cynthia Ozick, John Irving and Joan Didion and Russell Banks and Joyce Carol Oates and you will have a literary pantheon born almost to a person during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. Further expansion - by means of a Wolfe here, a Mailer there - is likely to push the median age still higher. Think back on that 1965 survey; it's hard to find an author on the list of potential candidates much older than 50.

Is this quantitative evidence for the decline of American letters - yet another casualty of the 60's? Or is the American literary establishment the last redoubt of elder-worship in a culture mad for youth? In sifting through the responses, I was surprised at how few of the highly praised, boldly ambitious books by younger writers - by which I mean writers under 50 - were mentioned. One vote each for "The Corrections" and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," none for "Infinite Jest" or "The Fortress of Solitude," a single vote for Richard Powers, none for William T. Vollmann, and so on.

But the thing about mythical beasts is that they don't go extinct; they evolve. The best American fiction of the past 25 years is concerned, perhaps inordinately, with sorting out the past, which may be its way of clearing ground for the literature of the future. So let me end with a message to all you aspiring hippogriff breeders out there: 2030 is just around the corner. Get to work.

Speaking of the Daily...

I was skimming an article this morning and thought to myself, I think something is wrong here, and moved on, and then Bookslut put its finger on it:

It's the wrong effing writer, dumbasses.

Daily Editorials SUCK

This is not news.

But this is a great example of how stupid the Stanford Daily Editorial Board is. Here's the thing: I sort of agree with them. I hate some of ResEd's policies - they're a little overbearing and sometimes it's just not worth it to have something for everyone because a) people don't care and don't show up and b) people should get used to disappointment and with being challenged by people who are different from them. I think ResEd should focus more on dialogue and information than programprogramprogram of non heteronormative blandness. But I was also an RA and as such I have great respect for the community that ResEd does build. True, it's most successful because the people they hire (RFs, RAs, etc) are naturally good community builders who manage to create welcoming living spaces and smooth over (or at least deal with) conflicts and differences. But complaints like this:

if two freshman roommates have incompatible living habits, they still have to jump through ResEd’s administrative hoops to change rooms, even if they have come up with a solution themselves. Why can’t freshmen have a greater say in their own situation?

are completely off base. If freshmen were to have a greater say, then half of entering freshmen would be living in singles, because from Day 1 freshmen are angry about being stuck with this or that roommate or in this or that dorm or this or that part of campus. Letting them switch rooms whenever they feel like it is a recipe for disaster and prevents learning how to compromise and deal with other people on a mature (collegiate) level. Sometimes switching rooms is necessary, but in those cases ResEd is actually very good about cooperating. But if your roommate is too quiet or too loud, you should be learning to deal, and if that is an administrative hoop I'm sorry.

I have strained against my fair share of ResEd handcuffs. For example, the Red Light policy. However, I allow that such a policy should exist (although the new rules that RAs/HPACs/RCCs etc cannot date a single frosh on campus, even one of their own, is pretty damn stupid). I resent enforced community - I think the ideal dorm is one in which the RAs and other staff guide residents just long enough that they want to lead the dorm themselves, provide a safe community in which people can experiment with new activities and hobbies and social groups, and then let your froshies fly on their own (this usually happens late fall quarter, maybe early winter). Bottom-up community, not top-down. So yes, sometimes the panels on date rape are annoying, but their ultimate purpose isn't to be vapid and pointless, but to make sure people know those issues are there and that people (RAs, etc) are prepared to deal with them. Much of the programming ("formal teaching") drops off once you no longer live in a freshman dorm and no longer need your "hand held" (and besides, who is to say that seniors don't sometimes need a little support from their RAs, past and present?). And overall, the "little people" of ResEd are doing an excellent job, even if they do fudge the rules now and then. The Daily just makes the fundamental mistake of always going too far because they aren't smart enough to work with subtle nuances. (This is something I often did in my column as well and I'm working on changing it - let me know if it's working.)

I personally liked the comeback in today's letter to the editor:

Finally, consider that without programming and dorm food, students would have fewer neutral issues to complain about socially. Who hasn’t made a new friend during orientation by decrying a lame dorm event or the sub-par pad thai? The Editorial Board shouldn’t forget that if Stanford students didn’t love bonding over mediocre university institutions, they’d have no readership.

Do you think Daily Editorials are actually written purposefully to piss off their public and lure letters to the editor? I actually don't. I think they are just a disaster.

God I hate sub-par pad thai.


If only this was in effect last summer.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


If you find that my blog entries are suddenly grammatically perfect, it's because I have to buy this book for my publishing course. Whew.


Bored with your pastor's ramblings? Select a peppier sermon from among hundreds of "godcasts" online.

These are the people who made WWJD bracelets popular in the early 2000s.

"Christ didn't come to Earth to give us the willies... He came to help us out. He was a booster. And it is with that take on our Lord in mind that we've come up with a new, more inspiring sigil... I give you... The Buddy Christ. Now that's not the sanctioned term we're using for the symbol, just something we've been kicking around the office, but look at it. Doesn't it... pop?"

More Da Vinci

God, I never thought I'd be posting about The Da Vinci Code, but I have a real reason. This is an article (I linked to it from Bookslut) about the 12 things that make a bestseller (which according to this prof/writer are all features of The Da Vinci Code). I like this kind of research since it seems to be mainly the result of someone sitting around coming up with theories about why bad things are so popular (and I am an avid Dawson's Creek fan, after all), and the theories end up intellectualizing the bad things to the point where it's okay to like them, because you're just a cultural observer and you have to pay attention to low culture in order to write about it and come up with more theories. I'm sensing an alternative career path...

However, what struck me suddenly is that the reason I want to see The Da Vinci Code is that it's sort of like an Indiana Jones movie. Here's why:

"That's another characteristic of American heroes, they're usually anti-intellectual. Langdon's a professor, but he's more a blue-collar kind of scholar. What he knows comes from books, but he solves things in the real world. He works in the classroom, but he's still a cowboy."

Yeah! Intellectual type gets involved in a mystery about evil groups (Nazis, priests, cult leaders, what have you) determined to hang on to historical secrets and/or scandals. Has an adventure. Figures it all out with superior intellect and chutzpah. They should have gotten Harrison Ford to play Tom Hanks' role! Let's admit it - Tom Hanks is not really a cowboy. Harrison Ford is, and both of them are sort of jowly and have bad hair now. It would have been a win-win situation. Harrison Ford could avoid his desperate move to bring back the Indiana Jones franchise, and Tom Hanks could avoid being in a movie based on such a shitty book. Plus, then we could enjoy a whole movie where Indy is sort of the awkward professor type, like he is in the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, when he has Clark Kent type glasses and wears corduroy suit jackets. I miss that Indy. He reminds me of a character in a Laura Bow mystery game (Mom? Caryl? I know you got me on this one).

Ah well. I leave you with this closing point:

"The most important thing is that Dan Brown is not cynical," Hall says. "He believes everything he writes. You can't fake this, which is why most of his imitators are doomed to fail. Dan Brown wrote the best possible book he could write."

Wait, you mean you don't think Angels and Demons was better?

Da Vinci Code

This killed me.

I really do want to see that movie. I hated the book. Hated it. But I can't really miss a movie with such an all-star ensemble cast. Ian McKellan! He's in LOTR and X-Men!

(Which reminds me X-Men 3 is coming out and I am fricking excited.)

More weddings, plus tv musings

Another new ABC comedy, "A Day in the Life," will borrow a little from the Fox hit "24." It will devote all 22 episodes to the events of a single wedding day of a young couple, complete with the usual disasters involving catering and photography.


On the other hand I'm half-tempted by this just because of Jessica Stein:
The fifth new ABC comedy is "Notes From the Underbelly," based on a novel by Risa Green about a young wife dealing with a pregnancy she never wanted because of her job working with obnoxious children at a prep school. It stars Jennifer Westfeldt, who played Jessica Stein in "Kissing Jessica Stein."

TV shows are so weird now. It seems like 90% of them are either nostalgic/coincidental or 24/Lost ripoffs ("A Day in the Life," yes, but also the terrrible "Reunion" of last year's Fox lineup, and also "In Case of Emergency" which is a bunch of college friends accidentally reuniting in an E.R., and "Six Degrees" which is about people mysteriously connected like all the people on the plane in "Lost." And this is just one channel.)

How come no one is copying older JJ Abrams shows (no, "What about Brian?" doesn't count)? I miss my Felicity.


Remember me? A week and a half ago? Dying of allergies? Complaining that no one really can sympathize because allergies are such an unsexy ailment?

Well, now read this:
I Am Allergic, Hear Me Sneeze

I'm very annoyed.

Monday, May 15, 2006

More on women's roles

Oh Goody.

I guess this is a good sign? It kind of makes me feel more tired. I think these women are just more productive and well-organized and so they manage to fit in a workout and cooking healthy food. All the more pressure for the distracted and disorganized like me.

This is a tangent, sort of.

Where the hell is my Modern Bride when I need it!?!

Today is like most other days. I sign online at work, open up my Times, my Bookslut, my Pinkisthenewblog, and I begin to distract myself from the very little work I have to do. Like most other days, I discover that I have more tabs open in Mozilla Firefox than I could read in a day off work, much less one where I am occasionally called to duty. Also, like most other days, I read something in a blog that is tangentially related to something I once wanted to blog about but since I am blogging for a very small audience and have no connections in the writing world, I either did not blog about it or already did but half-heartedly and to no critical acclaim (no offense).

Today the subject in question is bridal magazines. A couple of months ago, I became fascinated with the cover of a Martha Stewart Weddings mag - the one with a background the cover of a Tiffany's box and a zillion alluring sparkles in the form of a few perfect (ridiculous) engagement rings. Have no fear anyone (this applies equally to friends, family and Sean) - I am not obsessed with marriage nor am I anywhere close to joining the wedded world - but I am like a magpie when it comes to sparkly things and I'm sorry to say that engagement rings are included in that category. Each time I went to the grocery store, I struggled with the temptation to buy a copy of Martha Stewart Weddings, and I finally triumphed. (It's no longer in stores.)

Around the same time, Sean (the bargain obsessed) discovered a way to get a bunch of random, second-tier magazines for free, including Modern Bride. Never one to pass on a deal, he subscribed (and by the way, now gets about 5 totally free magazines in his p.o. box every time he checks his mail), and my Modern Bride arrived soon after.

Conclusion: That shit is really hilarious. I learned so much useless information (especially useless to me, now, at this stage in my life, but pretty much useless for all other people, too, as far as I can tell) - like how "Groom's cakes" are coming back in style. Oh yes, that is so helpful since I was terribly worried that giving my hubby-to-be an ugly cake decorated "like one of his favorite hobbies or activities" - in my case those activities are table tennis and shoot dog - was going to be old-fashioned and passe. My main reaction to the magazine was just short of my reaction to shows like "Wife Swap" - somewhere between fascinated, disgusted and awed.

At the risk of repeating past mistakes, I will admit that bridal magazines are also fascinating because they are pretty and show pretty flowers and awesome looking party venues, and the event planner/girl in me likes those things. I'm just sort of amazed by how much energy (and how many publications) is devoted to what amounts to one day in your life. (Okay, maybe a few more if you are either zealous or have bad taste in spouses.) And I wanted to devote a lovely blog entry to Modern Bride and its counterparts.

I left my magazine at Arielle and Beth's room, which for those of you who don't know, is about the size of a solitary confinement cell only filled with 584395408490423 pairs of shoes, books, sheep mobiles, and random other accoutrements of college life, and when I went back this past week to retrieve it, it was gone, even though I looked underneath the bed and in all of Arielle's drawers (sorry).

Then I read this article and I sort of felt like there was no real option for me to write thoughtfully and originally about bridal magazines, even though I also personally think that I come from a different point of view (i.e. I have never planned a wedding for myself, even to this day). But I do agree that bridal magazines should actually condense themselves into vaguely useful manuals with guidelines on how to keep your drunken single friends from saying inappropriate things to you about your honeymoon (cf: Bethany's wedding), or what to do if you forgot to order flowers for the church (cf: Ramona Quimby, Age 8). I could say very pertinent things about wedding magazines, and for that matter, a lot of other things as well.

Hence my conclusion, as I have said in previous entries, that I should be a freelance writer. But I either don't actually have the talent I suspect I could have if I tried, or I just haven't tried. I don't know which is worse.

And it doesn't help, incidentally, that about a million people out there thinking the same thing, and that, in fact, the people who write these articles I read really haven't "made it" either but are still living in tiny apartments in obscurity. Come on, isn't a West Coast Ivy education worth anything anymore? Hire me for my potential!!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Oh Joan

I've been reading a lot of Joan Didion lately because I love her. It's partly her ideas, partly her honest acidity, partly her deft writing, but mostly it's that she writes about a country (and, more particularly a state) that is no longer here but which is infinitely intriguing to me. A Year of Magical Thinking was about her husband's death, but it was also about when she and her husband lived in California in the 60s and 70s. And now I'm reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem which is all essays written in the 60s and 70s. I love the 70s conception of California as this strange, desert-ish place where people really want to have souls but kind of fail (cf. Pynchon). California is a weird place, but I feel like I don't have as unified a sense of it as I would have in the 70s before all the orange groves were mowed down and all the strip malls went up. I think another reason why I love it is because it makes my think of what California must have been like when my grandparents all moved out here from the Midwest ("Of course she came from somewhere else, came off the prairie in search of something she had seen in a movie or heard on the radio, for this is a Southern California story").

Anyway, I could go on and on about my friend Joan but I won't. Here is just a passage I like from an essay referring to Death Valley: "this country so ominous and terrible that to live in it is to live with antimatter." I read this last night and I was actually envious for a minute. I want to live with antimatter - or more accurately, I want to be able to sense that kind of alienness, that strangeness. For all the weirdnesses of California now, I don't feel like it is alien, or fundamentally oppositional to a normal way of life. I think it's faded - maybe because it has gotten older, maybe because the dream of the West is fading, maybe because there are too many freeway overpasses and not enough Dashiell Hammett - but either way I don't believe that "living with antimatter" is possible now. Maybe I don't live in Death Valley or the Inland Empire - but even the Inland Empire has changed since Didion wrote "Some dreamers of the Golden Dream" which is where that quote about the "Southern California story" comes from. It's bland - hot and dull and there are a few meth labs, but it seems bland to me as a whole - there isn't any longing for humanity there.

More from the same passage: "people whose instincts tell them that if they do not keep moving at night on the desert they will lose all reason." Another change - I feel like now, those people have become trapped. The Inland Empire/CA desert is now stagnant. You go there, you do not leave (for those of you who live there, I guess I should clarify that it's not your fault, but the stereotype, the image of the area is one of stagnation. You have to get out to get anywhere - see Julie Cooper on the OC). Perhaps this is because it has become "civilized" to an extent - there are outlet malls and golf courses and music festivals - but as a result I think it's lost its foreignness. And it's lost its status as a land of opportunity, a place where you can move because it has cheaper rent and because it's in California and that's where you want to be, a place where you can move up in the world (also I suspect that the middle-class "moving up in the world" value has changed since Didion as well). You can't just visit the area, get an understanding of it, write a brilliant essay, and leave. You just go. And stay. Or, more accurately perhaps, you are just there.

I guess all of this is complete projection and also sort of abusive to the poor Inland Empire. But I am really fascinated with the concept of place (especially in Didion). Setting is so important. More so, perhaps, I'm interested in the romance of futility and otherness in Didion. And she's writing non fiction. I wish I could be somewhere that was so bizarrely unique as Didion's California - or rather, I wish I could have a sense of somewhere that is as bizarrely unique. I wonder if it's really gone, or if it's just hiding and I just haven't gone looking for it, or if I just don't have the sense to notice it. I hope it's not the latter. (But it could be. Maybe I should go meet random people in Haight Ashbury and keep my mind open and write it all down and edit it well, and then maybe I, like Didion, will find something strange and beautiful in the futility of everyday life. Are people looking for enlightenment anymore? These are things I'm not sure I know the answer to.)

Something to think about. Pardon my incoherent English major thinking.

The quote about a "Southern California" story is from the essay "Some dreamers of the Golden Dream" and is on page 7 of Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The other quotes are from "On Morality" and are on page 159.

It's Editorial day!

I have many short thoughts today, or rather, I want to share other people's short thoughts that I like. That should really be the theme of this blog - short thoughts and occasional rants about subjects I know very little about. Speaking about bloggers who know nothing:

To this day, whenever I hear a reporter say, "I don't do reporting — I just do opinion and analysis," I always think of the reporting basics that Leon pounded into me and want to say, "I doubt that your analysis is very good, because the best analysis always comes from spotting trends that can usually only be spotted by reporting a story day in and day out." I like blogs, but the only bloggers who appeal to me are those who do reporting and aren't just sitting at home in their pajamas firing off digital mortars. - Thomas Friedman

Insert tail between legs here.

Btw, I signed up for TimesSelect for a free trial in order to read: one archived article about Harry Potter by Kaavya Viswanathan, about 20 op-eds by Paul Krugman that Pablo recommended (which I haven't read but which are sitting copied-and-pasted in my inbox for further perusal), and one archived article about Abercrombie and Fitch. I am so cultural. I should really just subscribe to the Sunday Times and get TimesSelect privileges for free (sort of).

Gossip is a legitimate career path!

Editorial in NYTimes:

Overachievers don't generally become writers because the skill set is so different. As I tell my writing students, if you want to be a writer work on the finer points of gossip, eavesdropping and voyeurism; basically the pastimes of the underachiever, ways to while away the hours.

Isn't this the plot of Harriet the Spy?

At any rate, I like it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

In brief

I should be a freelance writer.


Gearing up

I'm giving a speech next Friday to a bunch of high schoolers at Menlo School (private high school in Menlo Park) about Myspace, Facebook and the rest of the internet scene. In that spirit, please read this website about Myspace and the sheer idiocy that goes on there.

More to come as I put my speech together!

Last note on Kaavya-gate.

Another round of Guess the Plagiarism, but instead of ripping off novels it ripped off other articles on the Internet. (So I learn from other blogs.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich

Ever since the Kaavya issue (which seems to be over, which I suppose I should be glad about), I keep worrying that I am not correctly citing my sources on here. I don't put a works-cited type link at the end of every entry, and I certainly don't always say "I found this on x website." I always wonder - when it comes to blogging, what can you take credit for? If you found a link to something (say, that Malcolm Gladwell article) on another site (say,, do you have to credit them? Who told them about it? How did they find it? I just wonder where the lines are drawn. At any rate, I'm not getting advertising money or anything for this little ol' blog and I have about 4 readers (of which almost none comment, which is sad), so I am not so worried about ripping off the results of better bloggers' research.

Moving on - the reason I bring this up is because while reading the Bookslut blog I always come across interesting things, like this article written by Bookslut founder and blogger Jessa Crispin. I don't need to say again how I haven't been educated in feminist issues and things, but I have to say that reactions like hers sort of piss me off, even if books about how to be a better housewife piss me off more. (I think that goes without saying, so instead I'll cope with my problem with her.)

I have a nagging suspicion about my generation, which is that in a way, women have become obsessed with the idea of having it all. As in: women now are under tremendous pressure to have children, be the perfect mom, wear the perfect clothes, have the perfect job, and somehow not break down under all the pressure. Hence books like those that piss of Ms. Crispin so much - with titles like The May Queen: Women on Life, Love, Work, and Pulling it All Together in Your Thirties. Shit, I would like to pull it all together - and preferably before my thirties. All of the women I know are brilliant, ambitious people, and none of them want to settle for second best - and all of them are paranoid about their future and their ovaries. Because their futures are more compromised than that of a man, or at least because they are more away of that compromise - they worry about how to have kids and be a doctor at the same time, or how they are ever going to meet someone if they are going to be trying to get tenure all over the place, or how they are going to make it anywhere in any business. Men I know have different worries - usually it seems like they are wondering about what they are going to be doing for themselves - how they are going to negotiate their future in a tough job market, how they are going to be making a mark. I haven't heard a guy worry about his love life or his kids in a long, long time (Mike and Joey - if you are reading this, I think you may be the exception). So it's like he gets to eliminate a whole other variable.

I think it's remarkable how many women at Stanford who plan on taking time off to take care of their kids - and they're hardly old enough to drink and won't be having kids for years. They are facing tough compromises. Like I said - no wonder there are so many books about how to get your shit together.

I wonder, then, if the best way to react to those books is with utter scorn, or with a little dose of understanding for the perspective. I suspect that the books go too far - and there is definitely something disturbing about our country's newfound obsession with housewives (Desperate Housewives replaced Sex and the City - what does that mean? Of course, I would like to point out that even Carrie, who loved her city best of all, "couldn't help but wonder" about great loves and kids and all that jazz) - but something about Jessa Crispin's kind of reaction bugs me. Maybe it's just the title - "Leave Her Vagina Out of It." What if I don't want you to? I think it's important not to - for several reasons. First of all, I said already that women are facing different problems from men, which need to be taken into account or at least recognized (if not by pop-self-help-lit). Second, if I learned anything in cultural psych/race studies classes, it's that you never get anywhere towards a more progressive politics or equal society by pretending differences don't exist. And no matter what you tell me about testosterone deprivation in the womb or whatever (I don't remember my Human Behavioral Biology), women are not just underdeveloped men. I will borrow a term from my youth and say, "Duh."

Next, I think it's silly to not "think about my femininity" - at the very least it is important to think about it the way you think about your hometown or the college you went to - it's an important part of your development and the person you have become, no matter how hard you work to reject the whole annoying concept now. I know I faced some minor challenges as a woman and I think I still do - in academics and looking ahead to that scary future when my eggs run out before I've settled in a real career path and augh all that (I borrow from a conversation that Laurel and I had freshman year when we calculated out how many eggs our hormonal systems forced to disintegrate and dissolve per year, and how many we would then have left at the age of 35. We were in Human Sexuality. Excuse us for being paranoid). I wouldn't be me if I had been a boy - or if I had been treated the same as a boy. And if it hadn't been for Barbie and all those female images in movies, I wouldn't have the same distorted view I have of interpersonal relationships and body images (even though I have to say at least I am aware of them). But my point is that you can't leave being female out of it because that would be leaving too important of a part out of the equation, and you will come out on the other end worse off.

I recently read an article by the same Jessa Crispin in none other than that paragon of "alternative" femininity, Jane magazine. I used to love Jane because its writers were shameless about their hangovers and their prescription drug abuse and their non-slutty promiscuity (although the modifier may be debated). They never left being female out of it - that wasn't their problem. But recently I grew to not like it (and eventually cancel my subscription) for the same reasons that I don't like Jessa's article here: It's occasionally, or even often, needlessly alternative, to the point that it looks down on the issues that 90-95-100% of women are actually facing, and focuses instead on all those characteristics that supposedly make up a strong woman, like subverting your boss and surviving cancer and trying to get a tubal ligation because you are too lazy for normal birth control (get a 10-year IUD for Christ's sake! It's probably cheaper and safer!). And Pamela Anderson, who is apparently awesome because she dedicates herself to animal rights and boobs and flaunts her sexuality. Jane used to be good because it was honest, and even though I kind of have hope for the new editor (and sort of feel vindictive now because the real Jane, namesake, actually left the mag to be a mom), I am mostly disappointed because instead of being smart, it just got snarky, and its shamelessness became show-offy and its features never seemed plausible (someone went without sex for six weeks?!? Stop the presses). Can't there be a middle ground between female sterilization and birthin' 12 babies? (I think, again, it's called birth control.) Or a magazine (or something) that can strike a balance between
The May Queen: Women on Life, Love, Work, and Pulling it All Together in Your Thirties and Jane?

In the long run, I think Jessa Crispin should be able to get sterilized if she wants (although I give credit to knowing doctors who tell her that she might change her mind, which is possible for anyone although not guaranteed), and I don't plan on reading any of those "Getting it Together" type books that tell me how to cook the perfect quiche and write the perfect legal brief and get the perfect summer beach body in 10 minutes or less a day. I think that's the point. In between the new housewife image (or the old housewife image, whatever it may be) and the new, fab single gal image (which I don't really trust), there has to be some kind of negotiation. Do we have to go to the opposite extreme in order to find a real place for a real modern woman? Do we really have to choose between kids and a career?

Or is that the kind of question that got us here in the first place?

Pablo: You're the expert on feminism. You weigh in.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Guess the plagiarism

I'm not quite smart enough to get all of these references. Comment when you know them:

New Yorker: "How Fred Flintstone Got Home, Got Wild, and Got a Stone Age Life"

Of course I recognized immediately: Lolita, The Great Gatsby, The Raven, A Tale of Two Cities and A Streetcar Named Desire.

Googling, I find: Death of a Salesman, Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow, Song of the Open Road, Herzog (this reminds me that I need to catch up on my modern classics), Rabbit, Run, Prufrock, The Sun Also Rises, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, John Cheever (Seinfeld: "I'm familiar with some of his work").

Do you recognize these parts?

Stonecutter for the world, toolmaker, stacker of meat, player with reptiles and the nation’s cave dwellers, balmy, gritty, city of big boulders, Bedrock.

I recognize it, but I can't remember right now (allergies are making me loopy).

Edit: This part above is from Carl Sandburg's poem "Chicago." Creative Googling.


“Some fun!” Barney said.
“Shut up, Barney,” Flintstone said.

Mom? I feel like this is your territory.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Allergies have a very bad reputation. I remember this kid Jason in kindergarten who was allergic to grass and one day, after a rousing bout of soccer or something on the lawn, he was red and puffy and watery-eyed. It was almost enough to ruin his rep as the cutest kid in kindergarten (but not quite enough because he continued to be some kind of sex symbol until high school graduation, if not longer). Allergies also appear in Sleepless in Seattle in Bill Pullman's hapless character, who sneezes so much he sort of misses the moment when his fiancee falls in love with a voice on the radio. Allergies are the lamest sickness. Allergies, my friends, are for pussies.

Allergies are what have beset poor little me since Wednesday night, and at the moment they have conspired to make me lose my voice, call in sick to work, spray my throat with Chloroseptic every 5 minutes since that's the only option I have, make little whiny crying noises every 10 minutes, and generally be a disaster at life.

Not to mention I have to go see my allergist tomorrow morning at 9:30 am. On a Saturday!

Allergies SUCK.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Kaavya Viswanathan thinks stunningly original thought in June 2005 NYTimes article about how much she loves Harry Potter:

"Each time I reread a Harry Potter novel, I am reminded of the ability of everyday people to reach unprecedented heights for a cause they believe in, as well as of the importance of love, friendship and loyalty -- qualities as essential to the wizarding struggle as to our own. Even adults like to think that somehow, everything will be all right."

fdjafidajklafjdklfdmfdafdaffdgfiruria. This is a perfect example of how articles in the New York Times about pop-cultural phenomena never go out on a limb and always say obvious shit that anyone could have written. Ugh.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Obsession by Kaavya Viswanathan

Fine, fine, I'm not done. I'm still obsessed with linking every possibly interesting article about Kaavya Viswanathan.

Here is an article from the Harvard Independent which reviews the book. It's actually a good review and I think this is part of the "schadenfreude" phenomenon - the book is about someone who in real life WOULD get into Harvard, and in the book, she DOES. Who cares about all the intervening plotlines - they're totally implausible - and so in the end the reader's reaction is, "Oh, well, I knew that would happen" (more so even than in normal cliched books). Schadenfreude comes in because we already didn't feel sorry for Opal since really, her life and her quest for Harvard wasn't so bad. Add to that the fact that in REAL life, the "Opal" character (that's Kaavya) GOT into Harvard and then fucked up big time. It's so freaking satisfying.

Here is Malcolm Gladwell's unconvincing argument about why no one should care - if you check the more recent post titled "Alright, Alright, Alright" you'll see him concede the point - and here is a linguist's response to said unconvincing argument, in which he employs Google Book Search to make a point. God bless Google as usual. (Thanks to Galleycat for these links. I would never have thought to look for Gladwell's blog.)

More speculation about whether or not writing this book was just a "hook" for college admissions processes, dreamed up by Kaavya's IvyWise counselor. Nice one.

One of Kaavya's TAs (maybe) says that she is a bad writer. True dat.

Kaavya sucks.

Yesterday at work, Dena said, "I wonder when they're going to find the one original word in Opal Mehta and then it will be worth a fortune." I thought she was kidding, but now look at this article, which blows up my theory about how all the pretty parts about India in Opal Mehta were real, but the rest was a ripoff. No, I guess it's pretty much all a ripoff.

Caught in the act!

I've seen this girl around campus several times... She always looks very polished (heels, nice gauchos, big sloppy leather white purse, that kind of look) if slightly bitchy/bored. I am almost positive that she was an English major and that she works at the Alumni Center now.

Last night I was at Target (buying myself a sundress) and I got in line behind her at the Express lane. She bought two bags worth of stuff, mostly clothing, and was trying on a Tar-zhey vest while she was still in line. I smiled at her and she looked slightly bitchy/bored as usual but I felt good about myself because even though my hair looked really sloppy, I know that this bitchy/bored girl shops at Target, just like me. Nice.

Stars - they're just like us!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

College Terrace

I added a bunch of pictures today, most of which are from my Saturday walk through the College Terrace neighborhood and Stanford Avenue. I love that neighborhood, because it's wealthy as hell but you wouldn't really know it (except, ironically, for Princeton Avenue on which all the houses are worth more than a million dollars, according to, and are expertly mowed and manicured and all recently redone and all personality-less). It's sort of falling apart in places, there's rampant overgrowth, some of the houses are sagging a bit on their foundations, and in general I feel like it's a cross between Uptown Whittier and the bayous of Louisiana. The houses would be equally at home in LA Confidential and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

The other day as I walked around, the air was full of the smells of springtime in California - poppies and roses and wildflowers and eucalyptus and oak pollen - and I got the feeling that nature was still hanging onto this neighborhood (except, as I said, for Princeton Ave.) and keeping it to itself for its own pleasure - dappled with shadows, quiet except for the occasional bird, and a nice little place for someone like me to walk.

Make sure to scroll down (or check the archives) since I posted quite a lot of pictures but also posted a few real entries today and yesterday, so don't miss them!

the lake! full! can't you just feel the sunshine? Posted by Picasa

notice the silver bells on this tree, which have been there for at least 8 months or so. Posted by Picasa

this house is awesome. it looks like it belongs in "sarah, plain and tall." Posted by Picasa

i love wisteria Posted by Picasa

see? toldja.  Posted by Picasa

there's a house back there! Posted by Picasa

this house kind of looks like it belongs in the south. someone should be in that rocking chair. Posted by Picasa

looking back on this i can't decide what kind of flowers these are. they look like peachy-colored bougain villea.  Posted by Picasa

ghetto-ass truck? expensive education? what gives? Posted by Picasa

more awesome california plantlife. Posted by Picasa

i decided that if people asked me why i was taking pictues of their houses, i would tell them that i was actually researching new ways for my parents to landscape their house. i like these bushes.  Posted by Picasa

so cute! so worth 840,000 (according to Posted by Picasa

jungle on oberlin Posted by Picasa

just to document where i was (so exotic!) Posted by Picasa

i know this is probably a hazard but i like it Posted by Picasa

gotta love california plant life Posted by Picasa

eucalyptus Posted by Picasa

poppies Posted by Picasa

pink-flowered trees on college avenue Posted by Picasa

more "high five" (notice the top of my window at the bottom) Posted by Picasa

the "high 5" Posted by Picasa

sister Posted by Picasa

the laziest cat ever Posted by Picasa

something that sean concocted for kelly's consumption Posted by Picasa

kitty stretching Posted by Picasa