Friday, April 29, 2005


Get our your magnifying glasses kids, and hie thee to the NYTimes Metro Section because there you'll find a mention of SHAKING HER ASSETS! Okay, no, it's not in the form of a glowing review from Michiko. No, it's not a Public Lives feature on Renee and me. And no, it has nothing to do with the story on the Episcopal priest and what he may or may not have done to someone else's assets.

But flip that Metro section over, and check out the full page ad from Barnes & Noble that says "Meet the Writers." Got it? Good, now look all the way down towards the bottom left column, under Monday, May 9. Don't be distracted by the picture of Sly Stallone, and skip straight past the mention of Nicole Krauss and her History of Love Blablabla. Cause if you do, I think you'll focus in on the important thing listed there: Robin Epstein & Renee Kaplan - Court Street, 7:00 PM - Shaking Her Assets.

Exciting, no? Exciting, yes!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Very Mature

A Florida social services agency has moved to block an abortion sought by a 13-year-old girl living in a state shelter. They claim she's "too immature to make an informed medical decision." Let's follow the logic on this one: The state of Florida has just said that though the girl is not mature enough to make a medical decision, she is mature enough to become a parent and make decisions for an infant. Brilliant!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wine and Women

Did you know women buy 77% and consume 60% of the wine in America? I had no idea. But I think it's high time the wineries came out and thanked Renee for her help.

The New York Times drew my attention to the "wine is for girls" phenomenon in its article today appropriately titled, "Luring Women With the Chick Lit of Wine." It seems wineries are finally stepping up to give us girls what we really want: prettier bottles to get sloppy with. One wine, called "White Lie Early Season Chardonnay," even comes printed with little white lies on its cork like, "I'll be home by 7," and "It's my natural color." If I were to suggest a few others, I might try using, "You are valued for your intellect," "What cellulite?" and "Your cats will not eat you when you die alone in your studio apartment."

The Times also notes that the backlash against Vaginal Vino has already begun. Apparently some women find this type of niche marketing demeaning. Me, personally? I couldn't care less, but still, I won't be consuming this kind of wine any time soon. Turns out the alcohol content on this crap is lower than regular wines, and if I'm going to remain a pleasantly cheap date--somewhat of a point of pride for this chick--I'm going to need all the help I can get.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Gotta Admire the Honesty...


Okay, I realize this man's posting to Craig's List didn't apply to me in any way, shape or form. But when I saw the headline, I found it utterly irresistible. Yes, I clicked through -- of course I clicked through -- and I must say, I was smitten. No, not by the rather disturbing photograph of the gentleman playing handball (this is not a euphemism), not by his enjoyment of poetry, nor his desire to spend time at home with his 16 year-old Siamese cat. Rather, I was just impressed that here's a man who knows what he likes and knows he can give a "great half-hour tickle-free massage."

Sadly, I'm not the superior Asian female he's looking for. But if you are, or know someone who might be, I urge you to check him out. Hey, people, can I help it if I'm a hopeless romantic?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Desperate Writer Seeks Same...

“Literati are increasingly turning to the blogs… Inevitably, publishers have noticed the power of these informal networks to generate word-of-mouth buzz—the holy grail of marketing—and are looking for ways to harness it.” Joy Press, The Village Voice, April 19th, 2005

SUBJECT: My Book-Your Needs-Tell Me Where To Scratch

Greetings and Salutations my Well-Read Friend:

It has come to my attention that you have been burning up the book world with your reviews, authorial shout-outs and publicity generating literary blog! In short, it seems you, dear Blogger, are a sensation in a pajama top – devil may care with the bottoms, eh?
Well, as someone who has a book coming out this, say, MAY 3rd, I just want to say, I adore you. And I mean that in the least ass-kissy/my publisher didn’t put me up to this way possible.

Now some other writers who’ve also been struggling to get a novel published for, say, the past twelve years, might be a bit frustrated that when their life’s goal finally appears to be materializing, their publisher tells them they don’t have any money to spend on first time novelists—neither on the advance nor on the publicity. Apparently that money has to go to established writers (because I’m sure Dan Brown really needs it.) Other writers who also might have, say, gone into debt, in the neighborhood of, say, $60,000 to get an MFA, might be a little put off by the fact that their publisher won’t even give them train fair to do a reading they’ve arranged for themselves. Apparently that $18 NJ Transit ticket hasn’t been budgeted by the German media monolith that holds the purse strings. Other writers might be a smidge bitter that a premium is put on authors who photograph well or have a rabid conservative agenda to promote. But not me, no bile here because I read the great Guru Gladwell, I get tipping-pointonomics, and I now know it’s about that word-of-mouth buzz.

So here’s my offer to you, oh Captain-my-Captain: Give me a mention on your website and I will personally deliver a grande mocha-frappuccino to wherever you’re blogging from, be it your home, a coffee shop, an office. And fear not – I can be discreet. (I mean it’s not like I’d be posting my adventures on a publicity generating blog or something!) Now for a rave review on your site, I’d be willing to do far more. I’d happily write into your college’s alumni magazine and tell those idiots who wrote you off that you are, in fact, doing extremely well. And if, by repeatedly referring to me on your site as “the best voice you’ve never heard of,” you help me get in tight with the McSweeney’s/Believer kids, I will give you piggy back rides to wherever you need to go for the next three years regardless of the distance or weather conditions – I’m like a mountain goat on black ice, I assure you.

Look, I know yours was a venture genuinely begun to support literature, and I’m aware that you have thus far actually used your growing influence for the purpose of good. And, yes, I suppose part of me would mourn the idea that you could be bought, either by a publisher who might, say, offer you a lucrative book deal for the novel you’ve had running through your veins for years, or by the promise of a return back scratch on the lit blog I intend to launch. But as we both know, the literary marketplace has changed. And at least until Oprah can be convinced to revive her book club to promote contemporary writers and I can begin stalking her, I tilt my windmills at you, Lit Blogger, and I urge you to use that broadband connection to help me shill.

Peace, Love and a Fast Internet Connection,
Robin Epstein
Author of the forthcoming SHAKING HER ASSETS, published by Berkley Books in May, 2005

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sunless Tanning Debacle

Okay, originally I was going to write about the PEN festival lecture I attended last night. International writers talking about cultural appropriation versus assimilation, very heady, passionate stuff. Can a male writer write from a woman's point of view, should a white person be allowed to write as a black person? But truthfully right now I more interested in discussing the color of my own face.

You see I had a bit of a run in with some self-tanning cream last night. And unfortunately, far from turning this Casper-white girl into a bronzed goddess, it basically makes me look like I've rubbed my face in dirt. Very glamorous. Of course the worst part is, I have the feeling that if I just apply a little more, somehow I'll even out the whole look... so if you happen to see me at some point this week and I'm 12 shades darker than usual (which would make me beige), know that I'm well aware of the problem, and that it's not a result of too much brown liquor.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

"My Conscience Got Me"

Now there's quote you don't hear everyday from an elected official. But apparently, after actually listening to his colleagues across the aisle (who knew they could do that?), the Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio decided he couldn't vote to approve John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations.

What was it that Senator Voinovich found troubling about the diplomat Bolton? Well, among other things, seems he didn't like hearing that when Bolton was in Moscow in 1994, he routinely "pounded on the door and shouted threats" to a female contract worker for the Agency for International Development at her hotel room because she had criticized one of Mr. Bolton's clients as inefficient.

But otherwise, this Bolton guy seems like a model of diplomacy. He's joked that if the UN Building lost 10 stories, no one would notice. He's tried to get State Department people reassigned when they don't agree with him. And he's said that if he were making the Security Council today, he'd only have one permanent member because that was the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world today. If those things don't shout "diplomat" to you, well, I bet Bolton would have some pretty spicy words to yell in your direction.

Monday, April 18, 2005

I Know That Alleged Murderer...

I’m not sure whether it was from fatigue, disgust, a sense of helplessness or a combination of the three, but I admit I’d stopped paying attention to the details of stories coming out of Iraq months ago. So when I first heard about the U.S. Marine charged with premeditated murder in the killing of two Iraqi insurgents last April, it was another horror story I simply let go. I probably just shook my head, condemned the Marine for his bloodlust, and thought, “two more dead courtesy of the great liberator.”

Yes, I know war is more complicated than this. I know mine was a knee-jerk reaction that didn’t take into account the nuances of danger our soldiers feel, or even the possibility that this American soldier was innocent of the crimes for which he stands accused. I realize I should be more thoughtful on these matters. However, it wasn’t until I learned—just yesterday—that I actually know the Marine who now faces the death penalty for these murders, that this story’s full impact rocked me.

I worked with Lt. Ilario Pantano on “Lateline,” a sitcom starring Al Franken, a few years ago. Ilario, who had already faithfully served in the Marines during the first Gulf War, was truly beloved by the cast and crew. He was gregarious, incredibly friendly and always respectful. And, with his floppy Hugh Grant hair and easy smile, he was so attractive, he had a fan club of female admirers, myself included. To think that this man now stands accused of a premeditated double murder is beyond surreal.
This is part of the story as reported in the New York Daily News:A Warrior Faces Toughest Battle

Pantano and his men, a Marine sergeant and a Navy hospitalman, opened fire on a white sedan fleeing a suspected insurgent hideout in Mahmudiyah, near Baghdad.
Two men were pulled from the disabled car. Initially they were handcuffed, but Pantano ordered the cuffs removed and told the suspects to take out the seats to see if there were any hidden weapons or explosives. Pantano would later tell investigators that the detainees began talking to each other in Arabic. In his limited Arabic, he ordered them to stop. They pivoted toward him, he said, and, fearing they were attacking, he opened fire.

The charge sheet presents a dramatically different picture. After ordering the hospitalman to remove the handcuffs from the detainees, the report says, Pantano told his men "to take up posts facing away" and then shot both suspects - identified as Hamaady Kareem and Tahah Ahmead Hanjil - "in the back with an M16A service rifle." He then placed the bodies "on display to send a message to the local people" and placed "a sign stating 'No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy'" above their corpses.
The slogan is the 1st Marine Division motto, oft-repeated by its commander, Maj. Gen. James Mattis, one of Pantano's heroes. But weeks before the incident, Mattis had added an admonition: "First, do no harm," he said. It was a pointed warning not to engage in unnecessary bloodshed.

Pantano's defense team maintains the case is based solely on the allegations of the sergeant at the scene, who did not report it for two months. They describe the man as "disgruntled" because Pantano had removed him as a squad leader.

Frankly, I don’t know what to think. I can’t imagine that the man I knew could possibly be capable of anything like this. And yet, I’ve never been on a battlefield. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress these men and women are under. I can’t conceive of what must be going through their heads on a daily basis, seeing the violence, death and bloodshed, knowing that they could be hurt, maimed or killed at any moment. Certainly this knowledge doesn’t excuse behavior like that depicted. But we are at war and war is an ugly enterprise. Bad things happen in wars, bad things are supposed to happen in wars, that’s why they’re wars. That’s why using war only as a last resort seems the only sensible option.

I’m sure I’ll never hear what really happened on that day in Iraq, to be honest, I don’t really want to. Either way it’s a tragedy, two men are dead and another’s life has been changed irrevocably. Ilario’s mother has set up a website for him,, and more information is available there.
I would very much like to believe that Ilario is innocent of these charges, and I will gladly donate to his defense. It’s absolutely excruciating to think that I would ever have to do this though.

I’m now more convinced than ever that we must take a stand to end this war before more senseless tragedy occurs and more lives are ruined.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Should We Be Offended?

So it turns out the author photo of Renee and me (that casually glam shot that appears in the About the Authors link) appears NOWHERE on or in the book. Of course we both assumed that the photo would be featured rather prominently, say, splashed across the back of the jacket. But after receiving a review copy of the book, we found out that our smiling faces are absent from the back flap and the picture doesn't appear in black and white on the About the Authors page, either.

I find this upsetting for several reasons, but primarily for the idea that our publisher thought the book would sell better without our images. In fact, it causes me to recall those dark and ugly middle school years, when photos of me were like acts of violence, and people would ask if I meant to be making "that face" in my yearbook picture...

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Good News For Boobs

Praise the Lord, big boobs are back! The Food and Drug Administration voted 7-2 to approve the sale of silicone implants from one California manufacturer to women seeking breast enhancement/intelligence depletion.

First, let me say thank you, FDA, for allowing the sale of silicone implants to small chested women like me. See, for years I've been looking for a confidence booster/self-esteem enhancer. And after much soul-searching, reading, and academic study, what I've come to realize is that putting two packets of silicone under my nips will do just the trick. I don't care if they're likely to rupture, causing me to spew silicone out of my orifices like those women who testified before Congress to say they had silicone squeezing out of their eyes and ears. Who cares? We're talking bigger boobies, people!

Secondly, let me thank The New York Times, for placing this story above the fold on the front page, making me realize that boobs are, in fact, the most important thing going in the world today. Iraq-Schmiraq. Boobs, people. Boobs. Keep your eye on that prize.

Thirdly, a big shout out to the culture. It's a proud day when I learn that this is a several hundred million dollar industry, one which fulfills the big boob dreams of 250,000 women a year. That's half a million bigger boobs each and every year!

Yes, this is exactly the type of feel good story that warms the cockles of my heart and the mosquito bites on my chest.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Criminal? Sure. But I Bet He'd Make the Trains Run On Time...

For "stealing a subway," the NYPD has again locked up Darius "Downtown" McCollum, the one man in New York who actually wants to drive a subway train. This most recent arrest is Darius's 21st for posing as a transit worker -- 21! -- talk about commitment and job loyalty, eh?

By all accounts, Darius proves to be a courteous and skilled driver, which makes me kind of wish real MTA employees would begin posing as transit workers, too.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Partially Used Underpants

It was not without a certain amount of horror that I read a story this weekend concerning pre-worn panties.

But it was neither the Gray Lady's mention of unmentionables nor the idea that I could have potentially purchased skanky skivvies myself that bothered me. No, instead it was the fear that those who have received a mysterious package containing nothing but SHAKING HER ASSETS boy shorts might now be even more concerned than ever about their provenance.

So let me just set the record straight: The stylish green underpants to which I refer came to you from the incredibly reputable company Warnaco, an intimate apparel company par excellence. And please rest assured that those adorable underpants have been worn before by no one, save Renee and me.

Friday, April 08, 2005

This Strategist's Advice to Bloomberg


To: Mike Bloomberg, Billionaire Mayor
From: Robin Epstein, Concerned Citizen
Date: 4/8/2005
Re: Your So-Called “Strategists”

Mr. Mayor, I read the very troubling report in The New York Times this morning about your strategists’ advice to win you reelection, and I just wanted to tell you a little something-something: they’re clearly working against you.

Apparently these “strategists” of yours are advising you to soft-peddle your standing as an elitist rich dude snob with more money floating in your petty cash envelope than they’ve got in the entire national bank of Argentina. Your advisers are also recommending that you “show you care about the concerns of average New Yorkers” because they seem to think that this is what voters want: a mayor who cares about them.

Well, sir, as an “average New Yorker,” I say bullshit.

People love the rich, and totally want to be rich themselves. I mean, think about it. It’s the rich kids who form the center of every popular clique in high school. They get to wear the finest clothes, drive the coolest cars, live in the best places. Everyone aspires to being a rich sonofabitch, so to downplay this trump card, to make it seem like you’re one of the smelly masses, well, sir, yuck. Bad call.

In fact, I think what you should do is make campaign posters for yourself in the shape of hundred dollar bills – and go ahead, replace Ben Franklin’s head with your own! As a girl with champagne tastes, I love the idea of a fabulously wealthy man massaging my budget. And far from being a turn-off, that coldish demeanor of yours spells “bizness” to me.

Yes, that’s my free advice for you. Please take it for what it’s worth.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Delivered In 3 Days or Less

Hello, Happy Dragon Restaurant? Yeah, this is one very hungry customer calling you...

Now look, I don't want to make a fuss cause normally you guys are frighteningly prompt with your deliveries -- in fact, most days I shudder to think how quickly you make it to my door with the piping hot mooshu -- but this is ridiculous. I placed my order for that Chicken Chow Fun THREE DAYS ago!

What's that? Your delivery guy has gone missing? Uh-huh, yeah, that's a drag. But maybe you're not appreciating my dilemma here. See, a girl's got to eat. And all I've got in my fridge are a wedge of brie, a bottle of champagne and some pudding pops.

What's that? You think there might have been foul play? Uh-huh, yeah, so maybe you could send one of your more reliable delivery guys over then because I'm like starving to death over here.

Okay, so are we clear? No, of course, yeah, extend my deepest concern to the guy's wife in China. So can you include an extra set of chopsticks in my order? Okay, that's great, thanks. Oh, and I expect you'll be giving me some of those sesame noodles for free, right? I mean, three days I've been waiting for this delivery!

3 Hungry Days For Deliveryman Stuck In Elevator

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Reminder: Marriage Is Cool!

I'm not against marriage. But as soon as I see some of the pro-marriage billboards in the New York transit system sponsored by Campaign for Our Children (an abstinence advocacy group), I intend to deface them.

One of the slogans the group intends to plaster across the subway platform is: "Married People Live Longer!" And under this, I'd have to scribble: "Unless You're a Woman, In Which Case You'll Die Sooner!" Another one of their quippy mottos is "Marriage Works," and to this I think there are any number of addendums one could scrawl like, "Until It Doesn't!" or "As Do Prunes!" or "For Those Who Willingly Ignore Statistics!"

They say the idea of the campaign is to prevent kids from impregnating one another until they've officially affixed the ball and chain. But once they get that "working marriage" up and running, they can copulate to their hearts' content or until they realize that marriage kills the sex drive (Michael Chabon's wife excluded.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

There Oughta Be a Law

If I were better recalling the Schoolhouse Rock song lyrics to "I'm Just a Bill," I'd do my best to ban all former boy band members from running for public office. Today's Times relates that former 98 Degreer, Justin Jeffre (and no, this is not even the "good" Justin), wants to run for mayor of Cincinnati.

Sure, Cincinnati once elected Jerry Springer mayor. Sure, Cincinnati has a rich musical tradition (hello? Cincinnati, WKRP), but does that mean the town really deserves this?

98 Degrees of Hotness Posted by Hello

One should hope not.

Perhaps this is cynical on my behalf, but for some reason the fact that Jeffre wants VH1 to follow his campaign for a new reality series kinda strikes me as, ooh, let's say at least as opportunistic as desperate.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Wily Ways of Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin

When I saw the story, I thought it was an April Fool's Day joke:
'Ms. Wheelchair' Loses Crown For Standing

Evidently when Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin, Janeal Lee, a woman with MD, got off her scooter to take a picture with some of her students, it was the disabled woman's equivalent of Vanessa Williams posing naked and smutty for Penthouse.

I, for one, am horrified. What is this world coming to that an only mildly disabled woman would be crowned Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin? Talk about being a ringer in the talent competition! And if one wanted to be truly offensive, one could even ask if standing were her talent. But one would certainly go straight to hell for a comment like that...

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