Sunday, February 29, 2004

Good riddance

Having seen the musical Rent, and having listened to Fugazi, and having generally been the victim of a liberally minded education, I always considered evictions a crime of evil, heartless landlords perpetrated against honest, unlucky citizens who were trapped in a cycle of oppression.

As it turns out, evictions are like birthdays! What I mean is, when I went over to Kriston's on Friday to take the dog for a walk, and the landlord came by to announce that the cocaine-peddling, prostitution-ring spearheading, phone box blowtorching, illegal-cable extorting, steel-toed tap-dancing cyberqueen upstairs was about to be evicted, well! It felt like someone had just given me a present.

Now, Christmas would be if the city would finally condemn Ye Olde Neighborhood Cracke Haus, so that the proprietor, Joe, and his delightful friendly callers would have to take their business elsewhere. Of course, I pity anyone who bought Joe's place and renovated it. I'm sure they'd suffer months of toothless drifters with wild eyes banging fists on the doors and windows, screaming "JOE! OPEN UP! JOE!"


While I am a purist in many things (no cream with coffee, no ice with good whiskey), I am not this way with language. I like the slutty tendency of English to take on neologisms and adopt slang into the standard lexicon. It keeps the language useful, and alive. The way we talk tells us something about ourselves as people; colloquialisms betraying the influence of class or race or ethnicity.

Today I'm thinking of the seasons, and how we can turn them into verbs. The intransitive verb of season is solely the domain of the well-to-do. "I'm summering in Nice" for example. Or with the holidays: "We'll Christmas in Geneva". One does not "summer" in Dripping Springs, generally.

The transitive form of the verb, however, is far more democratic, if a little gender biased. I may guess that far more ladies assume the seasonal responsibilities of "winterizing" their closet than the lads.

This was the first flip-flop weekend of the year. Only a light jacket necessary, and I could free my toes from the dank imprisonment of socks. When I was a freshman "wintering" in Chicago, I could not adjust to the long winters of the Midwest. When March roared in, still with snows and ice, I made a pact with myself. Sometime in mid- to late-March I decided that I would usher in spring by sheer force of will and retire my socks for the winter. I hauled out my sandals and flip-flops wore them defiantly, miserably through the blue-toed walks to class. I am sure that I defaulted on my pact. Unlike for characters of fiction, the weather does not seem to adjust itself to symbolically reflect my mood.

There is a distinct danger in "summerizing" too quickly. The sandal debacle above, for example. Or as last winter, one of DC's uncharacteristically coldest, when I eagerly packed away my sweaters on 3 different occassions, only to have to pluck them out again with a sneer on my face when the false spring dissipated.

That is why, this year, despite the promise of this flip-flop weekend, I will keep the wool skirts hanging and the cotton skirts stored. If I'm patient with nature, I will be rewarded with a real spring and blossoming parks and brunch on the sidewalk and ritual sacrifice of malicious pantyhose. I've only summerized my car's CD collection. It stops there.

Friday, February 27, 2004

It has come to this

From the Washington Post entertainment guide today:

Super Tuesday Viewing Party: "There are certain things that make me shake my head and say 'Only in Washington.' A 'Super Tuesday Viewing Party' at a bar and movie theater is pretty high on that list. John Kerry fans, John Edwards supporters, disgruntled Deanies, Republican operatives and politicos at large are all invited down to Visions on Tuesday, March 2, where they can watch the results from 10 Democratic primaries roll in on movie screens and smaller televisions in the Bar Noir lounge. Drink specials -- $2 PBR, $3 rail drinks, etc. -- will be available if and when you need them."

Motherofchrist. I need a vacation.
I'm leavin'...on the midnight train to Tbilisi

So if Georgia decides to have another revolution during the March 28 Parliamentary elections, cross your fingers that it will be the non-violent kind, since yours truly will be in Tbilisi...trying really hard not to embarass my organization by being drunk all the time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

None of you care, but TOO BAD.

Last night I saw the new President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, speaking at John Hopkins International Studies school down the way. It's his first visit to Washington since his election, and he put on a solid show for a crowd that clearly adored him. He was just as he has been described: young, passionate, energetic, and maybe a little hotheaded. It's exciting to see a dinosaur oligarch in a post-Soviet state replaced with an active young leader (who isn't former KGB). And it was nice to hear that a former UT Law School grad is the new Minister of Defense. Hook 'em! The fact that Saakashvili himself was schooled at Columbia Law and George Washington is usually enough to convince people on our side of the pond that he is a true-blue dyed-in-the-wool democrat, and people one the other side that he is clearly a high-level CIA operative.

But as we've seen time and again, dissidents do not always make the best leaders. Saakashvili certainly convinced me that he's in it for the long haul, and is truly committed to deep structural reforms. But there have already been a few eyebrows raised at Saakashvili's early measures. To wit: he has already pushed through constitutional amendments that strengthen the presidency with the power to dissolve parliament, he has changed the national flag of Georgia to the flag his party used during the revolution (which, admittedly, is an ancient flag of Georgia), and there is some suggestion that he may be putting a subtle damper on Georgia's remarkably free and open media. People cite actions like this and see in them Saakashvili's autocratic tendencies.

I don't know about that. I'm willing to put faith in the new president, but the West would be wise to keep one critical eye on him. The West let its decade-long affection for Shevardnadze interfere with criticism for his ineffective, autocratic, incompetent regime, and Georgia was the worse for it. The best favor we can do Saakashvili and the Georgians is to keep him from resting on laurels and riding out popularity and make him show his true democratic stripes and commitment to rule of law. This might means he has to watch the demise of pet projects if he can't muster support for them in parliament; leaders in this part of the world are typically loath to take no for an answer, but that's democracy folks. Ain't it a bitch?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Rhapsody in Red

I chose my wardrobe poorly this morning, as a quick glance in the mirror just now confirmed that the blinding red of my shirt only enhances the throbbing red of my nose, as well as the red of the anachronistic zit that has found its way to my post-pubescent chin. If I opened my mouth, I'm sure the piercing red of my strained throat would put Rudolph out of business. My eyes are not as red as one would expect, given the all-night cocaine-fueled furniture rearranging and boot-stomping fiesta that the gay neighbor upstairs decided to partake in last night. ALL NIGHT.

Meanwhile, I have like three hours to come up with a really good way to get Georgian youth to vote. So far, I have MTV and Howard Dean. Ideas?

Our pub quiz team did not perform to our highest standard last night, and Matt Yglesias called me a stupid bitch for vetoing one of his answers and I called him a flaming fag for not knowing Yalta, but as we all toiled under the totally awesome team name of Nader Killed Jesus, I think it all ended up happily.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Making Excuses

I can feel my blog staring at me accusingly even when the screen is down. February 19??? it is saying. You're too busy since the 19th to write anything? You want I should write myself??

(My blog apparently is a Hasidic Jew.)

So I jump in just to say you know what blog? Every now and then I have to work at work, so get off my back, and fuck you anyway, I don't get paid for blogging, and I kind of hate that you exist anyway since I clearly have nothing of use to fill you with and it makes me feel marching-band nerdy.

So I'll be back when the desk gets cleared off here at Work. But first a big shout out to my soulmate Catherine for a very fun Friday, and I'm pleased to know that you were too comatose to do anything on Saturday as well, because my inability to make it out two nights in a row was making me feel very old.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Holy Moly

Forget all that stuff I said about Wesley Clark. Hillary Clinton is the hottness—girl, just go on with your bad self. Never before, in my exceedingly short-term memory of political history, has a politician used Marc fucking Jacobs as a fundraising tool.

In what may be the first successful attempt to get Manhattan fashionistas interested in politics, to-die-for designer Marc Jacobs has designed a line of Hillary t-shirts a la Andy Warhol. Whatever, you don't need to know what they look like. Marc Jacobs, if I may repeat, is designing t-shirts for Hillary. And at $55 a pop, this is about the cheapest you will ever nab a Marc Jacobs anything for, this side of E-bay.

And while you're shopping, why not pick up Marc's darling new Venetia bag. Only $895 while supplies last!

One of the great things about living in DC has to be things like this.

After putting in a lot of work to prepare for the November elections in Georgia, and then watching in dismay as they crumble into a mockery of democratic processes, and then following with delight the demonstrations that peacefully ousted the old regime, and then quickly preparing for the January elections that elected democratic reformer Mikhail Saakashvili to the presidency, you think that things are pretty cool.

Then you learn that President Saakashvili, (messiah, demagogue?) will be coming to DC on Tuesday and speaking about his vision for Georgia in a relatively intimate setting. Intimate, probably, because there are about 12 of us who are really excited about this.

While there's a lot of things about this town that drive me batty, the advantage of being in the epicenter of world events and a destination for international newsmakers and statesmen is not one of them. The margarita crisis, however, is.
In order to utterly annoy Kriston, I'm going to go ahead and proclaim that The Shins are dead. Long live the Shins. You see, they will be apearing on an upcoming episode of The Gilmore Girls, which I think is about this Mom and her daughter and how they love each other sooooooo much (even though sometimes moms and daughters can be annoying!) and it's just so not indie.

But, as Pitchfork rightly notes, there is so much bleed nowadays between mainstream and indie, that it's hard to tell who's a sellout and who's just too cool to be indie. If you haven't noticed, it seems pretty clear to me that mainstream is the new indie. This is what happens when you are so fucking cool, that you don't even listen to The Rapture anymore, you're only into Britney and Xtina and Timberlake, and all you lemming indie rockers out there who scorn the mainstream aren't in it for the music because pop is the real thing and greed is good.

I guess I'm just saying: indie rock is dead and Britney is the savior.

Texas: "A Notch Above Retardation"

A west Texas college prof is in hot water for publishing article that the residents of Alpine, TX are "appallingly ignorant, irrational, anti-intellectual, and, well . . . just plain stupid." His students are "some of the dumbest clods on the planet" and fellow faculty members, "mostly a waste of space." I assume Alpine has plans in place to deport the gentleman in question to New York City or whatever country he come frum.

I see in the Texas Monthly (inexplicably for sale at Whole Foods stores in DC) that a homeless defense attorney is filing suit against the state of Texas for displaying the ten commandments on capitol ground. [Not available online.] The lawyer sleeps in the woods and spends his days researching in the state law library. He practices his arguments for UT Law students, who give him rides to hearings.

Incidentally, isn't it funny how it's never the socially conscious, J.D.-holding homeless man that sits next to you on the bus? It's always the exzema-suffering, nose-picking, hairball hacking caveman who wants to marry you.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Happy V Day

For Valentine's Day, you can keep your dinner reservations at your trendy restaurant crammed elbow-to-elbow with couples trying to out-happy each other. Keep your valet parking and your jacked-up champagne prices. My valentine's tradition is in full effect, and Kriston and I will once again feast on a heart-shaped, deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza and guzzle cheap champagne before (maybe?) heading out to Brit-Pop Dance Night. DC seems to have a dearth of serious Chicago-style pizza, so imagine my delight when I discovered my favorite Chicago pizzeria will overnight ship their famous stuffed pizza. And they'll even make it heart-shaped.

Giordano's. I love you.


At work, we had a meeting at which the guest speaker was Mohammed Odeh al Rehaief—the Iraqi man who tipped off U.S. marines about Jessica Lynch's whereabouts. His family has been given asylum in America, and he has been doing the rounds in Washington and elsewhere, telling his story.

We've all heard the story enough times, that the basic outline is familiar. I didn't know that Mohammed lost his left eye in the process—on his way back to feed the marines more information he was caught in a bridge bombing. It was interesting to hear his story, I suppose, but I was put off by his "handler," a colleague of some congressman who accompanies and introduces al Rehaief at these talks.

"Here's a man," the introduction began, "who knew that the Americans were there to liberate his people. And this man...loved much, that he was willing to sacrifice his life for an American soldier."

Yes, I bloody well doubted it too. We all sat and nodded at this fairy tale, pretending that America is so lovable that any given anonymous foreigner under seige would throw himself under the treads of oncoming tanks to spare the shed blood of a single GI.

It's an unnecessary justification for the man's actions. I think there's a much more interesting explanation, one that rings more true. After the meeting, they were raffling off a few of al Rehaief's books, and his "handler" said:

"Let me tell you a little something about this great story so that you won't think this is just some little book to place on your shelf and never read. It has amazing stories about the hardships that Mohammed endured..."

He then related this story. Mohammed's daughter had a terrible lingering cough. Eventually he and his wife brought her into the hospital. The doctors examined his daughter and told him that they had to remove her lung. Mohammed was distraught, devastated. They told him that she had tuberculosis, and this was the only way to save her life. Like any parent faced with such choices, he was devastated, but told them to go ahead if it would save his daughter's life.

A few days after the operation, he joined one of the doctors for a few drinks. After the doctor loosened up a little, he told Mohammed, "You're a good man. You should know the truth." Mohammed asked him what he meant. Your daughter, the doctor told him, did not need to have her lung removed. But there was a daughter of a Baath party official down the hall who needed a lung transplant, so they took your daughter's healthy lung.

When the handler finished this story there was an audible gasp from all of us listening. Mohammed just dropped his head and, shaking it, quietly said, "They lied to me."

So when he later comes upon a young helpless girl in the hospital at the mercy of those same doctors, what do you think triggered his reaction? His undying love for a country he doesn't know, or a desire to save his daughter by proxy? A chance to take a young girl out of reach of the Baathists he despises? Isn't that a much more compelling story, anyway?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Vlad Putin has launched his new campaign site for the upcoming presidential elections. I didn't see his campaign blog anywhere on there, but I'm sure that's just an oversight that will soon be fixed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

So it looks like Bush is set to endorse the amendement to the constitution that would ban gay marriage.

Part of me takes this as a good sign. His crack team must be running scared if they're already resorting to courting the fear and bigotry vote. Can't win on the issues, or leadership, or foreign policy? Better scare them into thinking the liberals will sell all their sons into gay sex slavery.

Bush is counting on the fact that conservative-leaning voters will respond viscerally to this subject. Well, guess what, motherfucker, so do I. Call me a John Edwards populist if you will, but nothing makes me angrier than politicians appealing to people's basest instincts, especially when it comes to gay rights and economic inequality. I remember nearly frothing at the mouth when a young gal in my economics class in college rolled her eyes about those living in poverty, "Well I'm so sorry that they might have to find a job farther away from their homes. They might have to actually get in their cars and drive somewhere rather than sit around collecting welfare." Cars? Drive? The prof had to tell me to take it outside.

This is Bush the "unifer" once again. This is Bush doing exactly what Dean accused him of: trying to make us debate religion and gays when we should be talking about education, jobs, and foreign effing policy. And the dems have been staying on message, they've not been getting distracted. Bush has a lot to answer for, and they need to make him answer. Don't let him respond to questions by pointing behind him and saying "Look over there! A gay!"

Besides all that, the thought of disgracing the document that gave women and african americans the right to vote, the document that enshrines our most precious freedoms with such bigotry is supremely distasteful. I can't put it better than the recent New Yorker article which commented on Bush's State of the Union:
The rest of Bush’s proposals were either ruinously expensive, socially poisonous non-starters (such as privatizing Social Security) or cheap cuts of wormy red meat for the conservative and evangelical base. Of the latter the cheapest was an exhortation to professional athletes to quit taking steroids, the wormiest a threat to deface the Constitution with anti-gay graffiti.

Hell yes. Just for good measure, here's the closer of that fine article:
In last year’s State of the Union, Bush’s buzz phrase was “weapons of mass destruction,” the threat of which justified the impending conquest of Iraq. This year’s speech subsumed that phrase into the longer, mealier “weapons of mass destruction-related program activities,” a usefully adaptable locution. Were teams of inspectors to fan out across Bush’s domestic policies in search of solutions to the nation’s problems, they would be less likely to return empty-handed if they settle for environment-related program activities (such as logging in national forests), education-related program activities (such as requiring tests without providing the funds to help kids pass them), and health care-related program activities (such as forbidding Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices). Like the speech itself, all this comes under the heading of winning the election-related program activities. Here’s hoping it will prove equally effective.

On further reflection, I may have reacted with my gut a bit too quickly on that one. I should take the advice I dole out to the democratic candidates and not dignify this tripe with a reaction. So, Federal Marriage Amendment, I turn my nose up to you. Ha.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Matt, don't take this the wrong way. I don't mind that you're a "pretentious asshole" as long as you keep those pub trivia answers a-coming. It's part of your charm, just like "snotty bitch" is part of mine. But you have absolutely no business qualifying as a celebrity sighting unless you have a sex scandal, coke problem, or flamboyant fashion flair that I don't know about.

Oh, DC. How you suck sometimes. Isn't there another Hilton foundling jetting about somewhere that we can import to DC for some real scandal?

Monday, February 09, 2004

I'm sorry. I know that this is totally gratuitous. But from now on, I will only refer to Ms. Knowles as My Big Fat Obnoxious Beyonce.

There comes a time in every girl's life when she must stop being a helpless twit and not let her Daddy handle car maintenance and taxes anymore. The former responsibility has therefore been passed on to the boyfriend (I like to call it delegation, and that's a leadership skill), and the latter duty was assumed about two years ago.

Now that I think I have taxes under the belt, I thought I ought to learn about equity mutual index fundsaldkfjaS?DFWAE:R?AWke


Alright, I am generally a very curious individual, and I want to know more about virtually anything new. This curiosity stops flat in its tracks when it comes to finances. A good friend works as a financiazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... sorry...I'm awake...he works to make rich people richer, basically, and whenever he talks about his job, he can't get three words into a sentence before I'm staring at his forehead counting pores.

So it was with great effort that I tried to educate myself about this mind-numbingly boring crap. My friend Tracey tipped me off to a website that explains a lot of this stuff in an entertaining way for short-attention-span liberal arts grads like myself. There was an article on IRAs that was actually helpful until, true to form, I got bored halfway through. But better still, they have these fun little calculators where you plug in numbers and it will answer questions such as "When will I pay off my credit card balance?" and "How much should I contribute to my IRA?"

However when the answer to those questions, respectively, is "Never" and "Half your monthly salary," the game gets a wee bit less fun. So back to Plan A of personal finance: "lalalallaalalIDON'THEARYOUlalalla"

Friday, February 06, 2004

[via Gawker] Here's a really awesome BBC test that checks to see if you can identify fake smiles. I did so bad. I got 8 out of 20. I like to think it's because I was too busy snorting coffee up my nose at the sight of the teeth on these Brits. Of course I can't tell if you are genuine or insincere when all I can see are gruesomely disfigured dental catastrophes! Or maybe this is just another sign that you all aren't really my friends at all and I'm a chump who can't tell any difference.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Melody of Certain Damaged Pitchfork Reviers

Somebody over at Pitchfork doth protest too much:
Blonde Redhead's last three albums were released stateside on Touch & Go Records. Their most recent, 2000's Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons, is a favorite amongst 20-30 year-old female indie rockers the world over. Memorize this tracklist and play your cards right at any of these shows if you wanna get knee deep in some Cyndi Lauper-looking headcase.

Not nice! There are lots of really great, well adjusted girls out there who like Blonde Redhead. And anyway, that was Stacey Q I was going for, not Cyndi Lauper.
The Ladies of the Former Soviet Union

No, this is not a post on mail-order brides. Apropos of nothing at all, I thought i'd share with you the hottest political figures from the former evil empire:

Georgia has their own Jackie Kennedy in newly elected President Mikhail Saakashvili's Dutch wife:

And leader of her own opposition bloc in Ukraine's Parliament, we have Yulia Timoshenko (channeling Princess Leia):

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Le Clark

I haven't posted about the primaries because I feel the rest of the sentient universe is doing that enough for all of us. But some of you may be curious as to my Wes Clark love and how it is feeling these days. The love is still there, and the race is not over, but I'm reading the writing on the wall. As stellar a leader as I think this man is and would be, let's face facts: he's not knockin' 'em down on the campaign trail. He's not running an "aw shucks, I'm a nice fella" campaign [praise the lord], but he doesn't quite have the political chops yet to run a campaign of substantive policy and shrewd political manuevers. He will, I'm sure, be able to eventually field those debate questions with ease, but it's not something that's easy to pick up as you go along, under the national spotlight. He comes off looking like he's trying too hard, and I think people sense that. I know I get nervous for him when he talks, and that's an uneasy feeling. If he doesn't make it any farther than this, I hope the eventual nominee can enlist him for something substantive. He needs to be taking an active role in the upcoming democratic administration (see my positive thinking!), and not just because that will give us lots more photo ops.

Kriston, unclear on the concept, upon seeing the first frost ice up my walkway:[frowning] "They need to get someone out here to hose this down!" Although, after seeing him work his magic on ice skates, maybe he did mean to say that. I hope that wasn't a secret, K. I just can't hide the glory of your sweet triple axle any more.

Discretionary Spending

Here's an exercise in masochism if you have the gut for it. Take that wad of your receipts bulging out of your wallet, and enter them into an Excel spreadsheet to find out what percentage of your income is spent on what. Now, this process is not entirely accurate. I keep most of my receipts, but not all. Plus, I put a lot of things on my credit card, like groceries. This doesn't include rent or bills; this is the appropriation of my discretionary spending. I guess.

We get the following results:
Booze: 22.4% (shockingly low!)
Food (grocery): 2.6% (the credit card...)
Food (dining out): 13.43%
Clothing: 9.44% (and that was only one purchase! oops.)
ATM Withdrawal: 30.6% (aha. that's the rest of the booze money)
Beauty/personal care: 8.8% (modest enough, I think.)
Misc. (CDs, gas, stamps): 12.8%

I bet you think I'm pretty fucking lame, huh? Well shows what you know! I've got your lame right here: I made a pie chart graphing out my spending percentages. I just can't post it because I don't know how.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Good Point

From a Letter to the Editor in today's Post, remembering that CBS refused to air's anti-Bush ad:
I don't get it. During the Super Bowl, I saw commercials for toilet paper stating that the product was stronger for "your end zone." I saw a commercial where a flatulent horse nearly incinerated a woman. I saw a commercial where a dog was ordered to bite a man's crotch.

I was mortified that the kids in our house were watching this.

And the irony of it is that a 30-second commercial bringing attention to President Bush's deficit was deemed "inappropriate."

Somehow, he avoided mentioning the wardrobe malfunction, but the point is a good one. I guess deficits are just so...unseemly.

In other news, the winning Pub Quiz team name from last night was: Even Justin Can Liberate ARack
(say it out loud. get it?)
Dateline: Ass-Backward, TX

Protesters gathered outside a Denton, TX Eckerds after a pharmacist denied a morning-after pill to a rape victim. The victim came to fill a prescription for the pill, and the pharmacists refused to fill it on moral grounds.

Sometimes Texas is a better place to be from than in.