Friday, May 27, 2005

Life's a ... oh, you know

I was about to write a post saying that I'd be on hiatus for the Memorial Day Weekend, when I stopped myself. Who are you, my Mom? Why do I feel I need to tell the internets when I'll be gone for a few days? Screw you, internets! I'll write when I want and I'll hiate when I want, and it's none of your bizness, is it?

Happy Memorial Day, everybody!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I'm It

In a satisfying departure from my childhood, I have been tagged "it," and not left to hide in Chris Bradfield's front bushes even after the game is over. The lovely Kate has asked me to bare my book shame for your pleasure.

I'm changing the prompt a bit from the benign "books you feel you should read" to "you are a worthless fake for not having read these books." Here we go:

1. Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, Anna Karenina.

Yes, am fully aware that I have listed 3 books. But when we do shame, we do it heapin' helpin' style with flagellation aplenty. I was, dear readers, in my undergraduate years, both a Russian/East European Studies major and an English major. I have not, however, read shit. I did my thesis on the Russian postmodernists. I've read Pelevin, Sorokin, Erofeev. I have not read mothereffing Crime and Punishment and should not be spoken to seriously until this is remedied.

2. International Relations 101

That's just a placeholder for my scandalous failure to read anything longer than article length by any serious IR scholars. I could tell you a thing or two about international development and fumble my way through democracy promotion, and for the ins and outs of spurning a smitten Tajik interpreter, I'm your gal; but there are 19 year-olds who have never stepped a precocious toe outside Sheboygan, WI who could kick my ass on game theory, rational choice, democratic peace theory, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, amen. I'm hoping the going-to-grad-school plan, when that kicks in, will take care of this deficiency so I won't be such a total phony.

The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Inferno, Paradise Lost

One big fat English major degree down the toilet. Maybe Harold Bloom is right, after all?

4. The Bible

Ha ha! Just kidding. What a snooze.

5. Black Lamb and Gray Falcon

Alright, this isn't a shame, but I'm feeling pre-emptively guilty because weighing in at over 1000 pages, I don't know that I'll ever read this celebrated work on the Balkans. It's a travelogue, which I like, and a history as well, which is the only way to save a travelogue from mind-numbing self-congratulations. I'm also sort of ashamed that I only know about it because of Balkan Ghosts, like every other bandwagon Rebecca West reader.

Okay! So there we go. What now? I can't stay "it"? MMkay. I summon the joint powers of the Zunta. (You guys didn't already do this, right?)

Give Her Some Reese's Pieces

I couldn't figure out why I found this terrifying shot of insane gremlin Mary Kate Olsen so strangely touching and poignant.

And then I realized it was tapping into a hard-wired sentimental part of my brain that reacts fondly to moppets who have just stumbled out of closets:

The Superficial is thinking like me. Three days later, but who's counting?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Mission Accomplished

Star Wars Episode III, The Revenge of the Sith, did not make me want to puke into my popcorn or gouge out the eyeballs with Twizzlers. Thus, a smashing success. In fact, I think I came out less dissatisfied than actual fans of Star Wars. It's all about expectations management. And ignorance of subtle continuity snafus, apparently.

I did require a brief primer, so a few minutes before the dimming of the lights, I asked Kriston, "so what happened in the other movies." Although I watched them all, I remember little past Natalie Portman's crazy lipstick. Okay, so there's a trade federation and there are wars and there are clones, and whatever you do, do not ask your boyfriend "so what is a Sith?" because it gets his nerd guff up and that's also around the time you should stop calling General Grievous "Captain" on purpose because he doesn't find it cute anymore.

So in what could possibly count as the nerdiest 3 minutes of my life, Kriston explained to me the story of the Star Wars and while this amply prepared me for the intrigue of the Republic, it did not prepare me for what history will likely remember as the absolute worst depiction of romance in the entire cinematic history of the universe. I know ours couldn't have been the only theater in America splitting its collective popcorn-fed sides at this exchange: "You are so beautiful." "I am only beautiful because I am in love." It was a theatrical depiction of passion on par with my 6th grade production featuring yours truly as Juliet and Jason Chadderdon as Romeo (I had a crush on him and was therefore terrified to be in the same room) and through the mortal embarassment of pledging eternal love in front of my friends and my Mom to this boy, all I could think was "Oh my god can he see my training bra?"

Anakin's turn to the dark side was pretty sweet, if you can overlook the fact that the whole motivation for his transformation was "love." Uh-huh. Anakin will betray his innermost convictions for all-night cliche-fests with his weeping cardboard box of a wife. But who cares, really, if the motivation is "love" or "cheeseburgers." He gets awesome and evil-eyed and electricity will be shot from people's fingers and there will be evil laughing, and a battle scene that ends in a manner strangely similar to a Monty Python Holy Grail scene. Just a flesh wound.

So long, Star Wars. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I come to you at the turning of the tide

The Duff:

...has finally taken The Lohan:

Man. Lindsay used to have sass and curves and now she just looks like she'll stick you with her needle if you get too close.

Sith Happens

Tonight, we finally peel off the last painful corner of the galactic Band-aid that has been the never-effing-ending Star Wars saga. Praise Jesus.

I have a question about men.

Why do you insist that I watch things that you know I don't enjoy? When I plop down for Ab Fab, or for my variations-on-a-theme-of-elegiac-despair-with-subtitles film fests, I do not require that my boyfriend joins me. In fact, I make sure he's nowhere around to poison my viewing pleasure with his terrible taste. When I watch a film with somebody who is not enjoying it, I start to view it through the prism of their distaste and then I become uncomfortable and I feel guilty and my entire evening is shot. I am a utilitarian when it comes to movie viewing, which if I remember Philosophy 101 correctly, means that the world is a better place if we both receive mild enjoyment from watching Ed Wood than if you rent Dawn of the Dead when I specifically said, "I don't care what you get as long as it's not a zombie movie." I'm sorry, where was I?

Right, the inverse doesn't hold. It is, for some reason, extremely important that I watch zombie movies and weird cartoons about superheroes and of course, Star Wars. And I know I'm not the only one. Back when Episode 2 was preparing for its inglorious debut, he and I were chowing at a local eatery in Austin when we overheard a conversation at the table next to us:

HE: But you're not going to know what's happening in Episode 2!
SHE: [tightly] It's fine.
HE: But you said you liked them!
SHE: [exasperated] I said they were okay.
HE: I don't get it. It has everything you like! Romance, adventure, a great story! [At this point Kriston and I have stopped eating and he is gesticulating wildly in adamant solidarity with this stranger's keen analysis.]
SHE: I'm just not that into it. [I start gesticulating in support of her insightful rebuttal.]
HE: Okay, okay. I've got a solution. You don't have to watch Episode 1 with me, IF you watch episodes 4, 5, and 6. Okay?

I don't hate Star Wars. I just don't care about Star Wars. I don't go see 75% of the movies that I'm genuinely interested in seeing, and yet, somehow I have seen every Star Wars debut on opening day and also, Blade. Twice.


So remember hearing how they found that dud grenade near where Bush spoke in Tbilisi? And how they determined that it was inactive and posed no threat? Yeah. Not so much a dud after all, it seems. It was a live grenade, tossed at the two Presidents, which simply failed to function.

It didn't get quite close enough to be an immediate hit, but it was in shrapnel range. Scary. Not to view near assassination attempts through the prism of ME, but you know? I'd just about convinced Mom that Tbilisi was an oasis of calm and civility and they go and try to level her hero. Fab.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Man, this site is something else. Funny, horrifying, and addictive. Some of those, well. Ouch.
[via Andrew Sullivan]

We Don't All Run Marathons

Another Memorial Day weekend, another beach house on the Outer Banks with my friends, another opportunity for those bitches to take pictures of me in my bathing suit and post them on the internet. It's anorexia nervosa from here until next Saturday, people.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Joe's Backyard

One of these days I'll snap a shot of the elusive Joe and his horror window. For now, I've only managed the guts to capture the creatively landscaped backyard. But I'm getting emboldened.

Joe's Backyard

Viva la Revolucion

Alright. When Serbia booted Milosevic, I wasn't really paying much attention to world events, as it was my junior year of college and I was probably drunk.

When Georgia brought down Shevardnadze, I didn't see it coming, and also incorrectly predicted massive violence.

When Ukraine ousted Yushchenko. Okay; I saw that a mile away but everybody else did too.

When Kyrgyzstan shuffled off Akaev, (despite all the chatter nowadays at all the what-happened-in-Kyrgyzstan roundtables in which everyone embarrassingly tries to pass off their perceptive hindsight as foresight) nobody saw that coming.

So now there's unrest and protests in Uzbekistan, and although it doesn't look like too much, I'm tired of being the doubting Nancy behind the curve. So listen up, people. I'm kicking down the domino. Karimov is going down in 2 weeks. You heard it here first. (This post will self-destruct upon non-realization of the preceding prediction).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Diary of a Gentrifier

It would be easy to mistake Joe's famous digs for a charnel house. His house crouches on its foundation at 10th and U as if somebody dropped it there from the sky and it never bothered to straighten itself up. Remember back in your early education days, when you had to learn to write a how-to paper, and a persuasive paper, and then they'd give you a picture and you had to write a descriptive paper? Joe's house would make the most awesome descriptive paper ever, if it weren't for public education's reluctance to promote crack houses.

But I'll give it a shot.

The skinny rowhouse looks for all the world abandoned and condemned. If you suspected that somebody lived there, you'd assume a squatter. The yard is a small square of dirt with a decrepit and utterly useless, or perhaps fully victorious lawnmower chained to the gate. There's one barred window in the front, on which hangs the upper torso of a Ken doll, his arms above his head, bound together and tied to the bars. Next to double-amputee bondage/ritual sacrifice Ken is a ratty, matted, once-purple? stuffed bunny that has one of its arms pulled off. Bunny is shoved sideways between the bars. Sitting on the ledge below the barred window is a pair of what appear to be jackalope horns. Whenever friends visit from out of town I stop and point at the psycho diorama and laugh, and they keep walking and acting like they don't know me.

We first learned Joe's name from Joe's many, many friends. Joe's friends are devoted and visit him often, and insistently. Why, they will bang on his door at all hours of the night, bellowing "Joe! Joe man, you gotta help me! Joe!!!" So eager are they to see their friend Joe! Joe's friends are also very generous and leave him offerings in the dirt yard next to the victorious lawn mower. Joe has been left, by my reckoning: a broken television, a tape deck, an eight-track player, a destroyed espresso machine, a grocery cart, and a little red wagon chock full of lettuce heads. For the man who has everything. Lettuce.

And then there's Joe himself. How to say. Okay, you know if you leave a cigarette smoldering propped on a tray and it develops that long trail of ash that seems as though it should disintegrate into millions of fibers but remains impossibly cohesive? That's Joe. When the weather's nice he'll prop open his door (so you can see the walls caving in, the ceiling bowing to meet the floor, the trash carpet) and sit on the stoop, crazy gray Don King hair up to the ceiling and wildebeest eyes and a body shaped like a question mark when he tries to stumble out for a stroll.

But Joe? Aw, he's just a big spoonful of sugar. The man minds his business, and more to the point, his customers many devoted friends mind theirs. Nobody's ever given us a second of bother. He's a neighborhood institution. Tommy, once strolling up to visit Kriston at 10th and U happened into a conversation with a street man who was trying to give Tommy massage oils for Catherine. When Tommy told him that he was heading up to 10th and U, the man told him that he had a friend up there, Joe, but he's cleaning up his act and doesn't visit Joe so much these days.

The neighborhood is changing rapidly, and all the old rowhouses on 10th are being snatched up and renovated and churned out to white people at exorbitant rents. Several owners have tried to buy Joe's place from under him, but the place is owned by his realtor sister in North Carolina and she put on some sort of clause so that he can't sell the place just to earn more crack funds. He's essentially a homeless guy strapped with a home, and he's trying to make it disintegrate.

You'd think that the gentrification of U St. would spell bad things for Joe. That he'd resent the intrusion and disruption of his way of life and want the neighborhood back the way it was, when he ruled the block. But last night, Kriston happened to stop and chat with Joe, for reasons surpassing my understanding. (I thought we had a tacit agreement to all mutually ignore each other). Kriston confirmed, yes, he'd moved out of the house on 10th and U, but really he was only around the corner on V. "Well we can't have all the nice white people moving out of the neighborhood," Joe opined. "Then all the mean folks move back in."

U St. Joe. A voice for moderate gentrification. Did you hear that, white people? Mount up!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


There was a time, when I was first moving to Washington, DC from Texas, that my uncle handed me a tiny shrill little whistle for my key chain. "This here's a rape whistle," he told me. "So if'n you ever wanna get raped..."

I thought this was all very funny.

But reading over some well-intentioned security guidelines for personal safety when traveling overseas, I see, "Do not use tear gas or a rape whistle, as they may be used against you."

The tear gas, I get. But if I'm in a situation such that the rape whistle is warranted, I can only imagine that having a whistle used against me, whatever that could possibly mean, will be the least of my worries.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Not so fast

I don't really know how to approach this, but it seems I'll be putting off grad school for a year to move to Tbilisi, Georgia on a Fulbright fellowship. I'm still a bit overwhelmed and flabbergasted, so I'm still working that basic fact through my head before I move on to anything else. But I love Georgia and once my extended panic attack settles, I'm probably going to be really excited.

I hate to give in to self-indulgence in my posts if they don't have a punch-line, so forgive this one. But since I'll suddenly be posting from Georgia in a few months, I thought I should at least explain why... As has been my practice thus far, I'll keep my research interests off the blog and reserve this space for stories about how foreign people sure are funny!

(Note to Fulbright committee: Am kidding. Am cultural ambassador of highest degree.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Last Tango in Payroll

I know, I know. Everybody thinks that their work environment is straight out of "The Office" or "Office Space" or some such. And normally, I don't consider my otherwise charming place of business to be this way. But I defy you to come up with a more horrifically awkward, cringe-inducing office story this side of Ricky Gervais leading the staff in a guitar singalong.

Our Vice President sends out an e-mail announcing that an All-Staff meeting will take place, during which important initiatives of varying sorts shall be unveiled, followed by—get this—"entertainment provided by [our company's] own Latin Dancers."

Come again? We all asked in huddles in the kitchen. We have Latin Dancers?

A clarifying e-mail is sent to select staff:

Company Salsa Dancers!

I recently confessed to our vice president that I am a salsa dancer, and since then we have found many hidden salsa dancing talents at our company. In order to encourage this fun trend at our company, we will have a salsa dancing session after the All-Staff meeting. We invite all "exposed and hidden" dancers at the company to join us in this fun activity! There will be a 5-minute salsa performance after the meeting, followed by all staff joining in a 15-minute salsa session! Please let me know if you are interested in joining the performance team.

I ask you.

Anything more catastrophically terrible? Than a room full of our cubicle-kissed complexions staring glassily as a few of our colleagues push the PowerPoint projector aside, roll up their blazers, and start to shimmy? Our eyes desperately avoiding one another's? Followed by the entire staff, bosses down to interns, nudging our notebooks and logo coffee mugs to the walls to perform a dignity-destroying, desperation-soaked salsa in ties and pantyhose to please our vice president?

Because, pretty much, this is the most awesome event in my brief tenure as a career woman, and I wouldn't miss it for anything.

Monday, May 02, 2005


So a senior staff member walks up to my office door, pauses in the entrance, looks at me for a moment, then seems to change his mind and walk into the office next door where I hear him say, "Hey Linda. You're a smart person. I've gotta question"

(Course, the question was about PDFing documents, so we'll just go with the following theory: he assumed the question was beneath my lofty mind. Now. Back to my Jolly Rancher color coordinating.)

The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away

The precious PowerBook has returned from the clutches of the Apple Repair Department, complete with shiny new hard drive, newly installed operating system, and a battery that is so bent and gnarled that it can no longer fit into the case of the computer.

Now, I am normally a supremely patient and agreeable customer on the telephone. I figure, these poor schmucks have to take so much verbal abuse that the rare agreeable patron will be lavished with flowers and greeted as a liberator. When I was preparing to send them my laptop, I was practically British: "Right, hello there. So I've got this exorbitantly expensive piece of machinery that's utterly failed twice in the four months of its brief sojourn on this planet. Terribly sorry to bother you."

And let's not forget the extraordinary care I lavish on this machine: swaddled in scarves, daily baths, seriously anal retentive dust control. And they send me back a bent-up battery? The fuck?? Now, I have never had to wait for an Apple customer care representative, until today, which leads me to the conclusion that wait times are calculated in direct proportion to the pressure one uses whilst pounding the keys or the sternness in voice used while issuing voice commands. Barking "POWERBOOK" instead of sweetly cooing will set you back an extra 10 minutes so you'll cool down. "POWERBOOK YOU WORTHLESS BASTARDS" will trigger a mandatory 20 minute wait.


If there's anything to dissipate my anger, it's the news that this has now been released on DVD. Netflix, you heard me?