Monday, October 31, 2005

Now That's Scary!

Oh, Halloween! When I was growing up Halloween was my second favorite holiday after my birthday. Today, as a resident of downtown NYC who lives horrifyingly close to the Greenwich Village Halloween parade route, where ghouls, ghosts, and drunken stumblebums litter the street with broken bottles and festive green vomit, I find it slightly less appealing.

But today I'm really getting into the spirit of things and believe I have hit upon the most frightening activity that I can to celebrate the day: I'm going to a double bris! (for any of you out there unfamiliar with the Jewish term "bris," it means "to cut off a baby's penis while friends and relatives stand around cheering and eating lox & bagels with a schmear.") My friends Joanna and Derek had twin boys last week, so a Monday morning Halloween bris means two-times the fun! Talk about a good way of instilling a hatred of Monday mornings in this two little pishers, eh?

I've got to dash now to get into my costume, obviously I'm going as the mohel.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hearting Harriet

She looks like a loving church lady, a little lost and eager to please, with her skinny legs crossed demurely and her baggy suits hiding her shape. We always saw her smiling politely, as though afraid to offend, as she sat in the over-stuffed chairs in the offices of various senator-inquisitors, enduring her grilling with hands clenched neatly in her lap, her pleasant features framed by her 1950's fringe of short bangs, like a an old high school yearbook portrait.

So inoffensive, so unqualified.

And I feel so bad for her. She was a phenomenally inappropriate choice, with not even a semblance of the necessary legal experience to be a Supreme Court justice. She had difficulty articulating her legal views, she gave up almost no useful opinions in her Senate questionnaire, and, frankly, you had to wonder if she had any views at all on constitutional law. And why should she? She was a corporate lawyer, a personal lawyer--not a scholar, not a prosecutor, not a judge. I'm sure Harriet is very good at what she does, but this nice lady doesn't do anything that would qualify her for the most important legal job in America. But her her best boy, her favorite governor, nominated her, and she went for it.

She went for it, and got publicly excoriated. Rightfully so, of course, it's the necessary part of a healthy democratic process--but ouch! Can you imagine interviewing for a job you are grossly underqualified to front of the entire, harping world? Being parsed into a series of under-qualified, wimpy, psychophantic parts by not one, but dozens, of unsympathetic interviewers...for everyone to watch? For three weeks and three days?

Harriet, I'm very sorry your favorite president did this to you. It was heartless and inconsiderate. And I heart for you.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

BREAKING: Renee is NOT Jackson's Daughter

Things are a bit in a frenzy here at R&R headquarters as phones continue to ring off the hook and reporters bang at the door, hoping to get a response from Renee regarding Janet Jackson's damning statement that she doesn't have a "secret" daughter, never did, and had she, she certainly wouldn't have named her Renee.

Apparently the "Renee is Janet Jackson's secret daughter" rumor started when Young DeBarge (wait... who?... He would be the "young" Debarge brother of James "Ryhthm of the Night" DeBarge, former husband of the former child star Janet Jackson, aka Penny on "Good Times.") Anyhoo, Young was on the radio the other day promoting his new album when he let it slip that his ex-sister-in-law had had baby Renee more than 20 years ago... then hid her!

Jackson immediately denied the rumor, but her former mother-in-law, Etterline DeBarge, re-stirred the pot with this gracious quote: "I knew she was pregnant. She was heavy. I have an instinct. I can tell." (Ed. Note: we are somewhat awed by the magnificent cunt-iness of that statement, and we are especially impressed considering the source, a woman so genius, she named her younger son "Young.")

Though Renee will be releasing her own official statement later in the day, we just ask that you reserve judgment until all the facts are known. And though the physical resemblance is not terribly strong (except in the abs & boobs where it's uncanny!), and though when Renee lets her nip slip on national TV, she doesn't call it no stupid "wardrobe malfunction," she calls it a good way to get a Girls Gone Wild trucker cap, we still think she might be entitled to some cash money out of this. So until then, please continue to call her Miss Kaplan, especially if you're nasty.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Corn Syrup Zone

The relentless obsessing over carbs and proteins that peaked in a frenzy of name-brand diets seems finally to have passed quietly into the eggs Benedict night. All these people and places--Atkins, Sears, the Zone, South Beach--have faded peacefully from the dietary map, to be recalled in the same notalgia trip as the blood-type diet and the orange-food diet. People have probably quit scooping out their bagels and ordering sides of sausage with the blissfully self-deluding idea that they were doing right by their carb count. But what are they eating now? A balanced diet? Everything in moderation?

Boooooring. What you need, what everyone who skipped sugars for all those long, fatty, cheesy, protein-rich months really needs now is candy corn. It's a balanced mixture of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and in the exceptional instance of a quality Brach's product, even honey. Not just one varietal of sugar, but three. It's a quick fix on this accumulated carb-deficiciency, that comes in a variety of appealing shapes like pumpkins, leaves and original corns, which, if you think about it, distribute nicely between breakfast, lunch and dinner: pumpkins with a latte and some fresh berries, leaves with an apple or a few pretzels (remember, carbs), and a bagful of original corns with a glass of Pinot Grigio, and it's like you'll never know all you ate once was protein.

It tastes delicious, and you may even begin to experience something called the candy corn effect which manifests itself as the sudden inability to eat even one more piece of candy corn. You'll see the pound peeling off, and your teeth falling out. And you'll enjoy it.

And in case you're worried this might be just a seasonally-available diet, don't! Candy Corn is not just for Halloween anymore. Candy makers have made Reindeer Corn for Christmas, Cupid Corn for Valentine’s Day and Bunny Corn for Easter. the corn syrup never needs to end.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The 'Why Not Me?' Effect

When I worked for Al Franken a few years back, I helped him on a book he was writing called "Why Not Me?" which was a satirical account of Al's decision to run for President of the United States. The book is essentially his campaign diary and journal of his 144 days in office before impeachment, but the preamble explains why he decides to get into the race in the first place. His idea is that since the people who run for elected office in this country are generally incompetent, ineffective boobs at best, and hateful, fear mongering demagogues at worst, surely I, Al Franken, a well-educated SNL alum could do no worse--I can be both an incompetent boob and a demagogue--so hey, why not vote for me?

In retrospect the book, a frighteningly prescient tome on the state of politics today, can be seen as a playbook for many of those seeking office now, or who have, say, sought an oval office in the past two elections. The book must have also in some way served as inspiration to Richard Grayson, a self-described "emo-loving vegetarian short story writer" who, in 2004, ran against a right-wing incumbent in Florida's most Republican congressional district.

Grayson sounds much like a candidate this R of R&R would support since he favored abortion on demand, gay marriage, and immediate withdrawal from Iraq. (The vegetarian stuff I find distasteful, but that's just cause this blue state girl still really loves her red meat.) Grayson also chronicled his hopeless run in a campaign diary for McSweeneys, and has just published the book, Diary of a Congressional Candidate in Florida's Fourth Congressional District, describing the events.

Of course what makes this all the more amusing to me personally is that not only has Al's brand of "I can at least be as good as this moron" politics now seems to have some real reverberations, and that he, too, has another book out today, The Truth (with Jokes), BUT that he's actually taking his own satire seriously: He's literally moving to Minnesota because he's very seriously considering running for Senator of the United States of America.

Though part of me is, of course, tickled by this, another part--the part that realizes leaders currently in office are incompetent fabulists themselves--is somewhat horrified. But if there's a lesson to be drawn from Al or from Richard Grayson, perhaps it's this: maybe I should take my righteous rage to the ballot box and write in the name of another equally unqualified candidate -- my own... Yeah, that's the ticket!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Shaking Her Assets: The Reality Show

If you've ever read--or even heard of--a novel called SHAKING HER ASSETS, you'll be familiar with the story of a young woman who takes the not-always-predictable path to success, upon which she takes not a few unmarked forks in the road, before suddenly discovering that, well, She's Arrived.

And if you think it doesn't happen in real life, think again! Our fellow GCC writer, Megan Crane, was, at various points: a customer service representative at a medical laser company, a temp at various industrial sites and one weird design firm in Georgia, a paralegal, a data entry clerk, a special events assistant, a bookseller and a donor relations coordinator for an alumni association. She claims that she distinguished herself at all of these jobs with her bad attitude and all the writing she did on the sly, using company resources. Add a few more years of studying and writing to earn her PhD, and what does all that peculiar meandering add up to? A book deal!

In fact, Megan's already on her second book which has just hit the shelves of your local superstore. EVERYONE ELSE'S GIRL has all the fixings of a delicious read: independent girl suddenly summoned home by her father's car accident, a hot guy from back in high school with an axe to grind, a best-friend turned enemy turned soon-to-be-sister-in-law, and, of course, the, um...delightful members of her own family. Meredith, the heroine, discovers that sometimes a little trip through the past is the best way to move forward.

"Amusing, heartfelt and emotionally sophisticated chick-lit," says the Kirkus Review. Good luck putting this one down.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Go East, Young Man

Do you ever feel like the world is just too tiny and civilized these days?

It's all so globalized and homogenized--every kid on earth has a profile on MySpace, every country has its Lonely Planet guide, everywhere you've been someone's been before you and started a blog about it. Where has the rugged and unexplored gone? Where has the perilous heart of darkness disappeared to, that place where cowboys and adventurers could expect to find the unexpected and possibly never come back?

Well, good news! There's still one last redoubt of bizarroid life, a few crazy outposts where surreal shit happens, where dictators rule like in a bad Cold War sketch, where gory medieval deaths happen randomly, where justice comes out of a book co-authored by Le Carre and Kafka...remember that gargantuan rusty mystery called the USSR? Well, even fifteen years later, it's still waaaaaaay wack.

To wit: Yesterday, in Uzbekistan, a court ordered a 27-year-old woman who was distributing copies of a political caricature to receive "treatment" because she is "mentally ill." Yelena's light daily diet of powerful psychotropic drugs begins today. Undoubtely she'll feel better afterwards. A few former Soviet republics away, in Kyrgyzstan, a member of parliament and his two bodyguards were killed by inmates in a prison, which he'd been investigating because of its poor living conditions. It did not apear that the inmates had any demands, they just took them hostage and then killed them--as one does in the Wild East.

The best news of all? There are dozens of these republics, cowboy. Go east.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Guess That Smell!

I love fall. Always have. I love the way the changing colors on the trees, I love the crispness in the air, and as a once resident of a leafy suburb, I love smelling burning leaves and homes lit with fireplaces. The season might almost inspire me to write poetry if I didn't hate poetry so much. Especially the poetry in the New Yorker.

Now as a current resident of New York city, I experience fall in a slightly different manner than I did in my leaf-pile jumping youth. Since house plants are the trees of choice here, the leaves aren't so much "changing" as falling to the floor of my apartment with exaggerated, melodramatic cries of "you're killing me, Robin! Feed me! I need water! I need sunlight! I'm dyiiiiing!" Everyone's a critic.

Even the smell of fall here is slightly different. Sadly I don't know many people with fireplaces since my friends tend to be--how to say?--po'. And I'm sorry, but a boarded up fire pit that you light your Pottery Barn candelabra-cum-menorah in does not a fireplace make despite what your real estate broker told you.

So I'm left with the scent in the air to remind me that it is, indeed, my favorite season, and thankfully, New York City comes through for me! I'm not referring to the muted whiff of garbage, I'm not talking about the smell of the beery tailgater stumbling out of The Corner Bistro post-game, I'm talking about the smell that fills my apartment every morning come mid-September.

I happen to be one of those lucky NYers who lives directly above a restaurant. Some would say this isn't particularly lucky at all what with the increased potential for vermin, rodents and the hooligans hanging out on my stoop (hello, boys!). But it turns out that my restaurant must make a killer breakfast because each morning I'm roused to the scent of buttered bread baking, eggs frying and arteries clogging. I'm not sure why the scent is strongest in the fall, it just is. And lest you think that this blog post is just a gratuitous ad for the restaurant beneath my feet, I assure you it's not because like any good New Yorker, I wouldn't consider going in there and meeting my neighbors.

So for now, I'm just happy to enjoy the smell and if you happen to see a beautiful young lass jumping into a pile of garbage quite literally trying to return to her salad days, give me a wave.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Department of Totally Excessive Obsession With Our Babies

You went to pre-natal yoga and birthing classes, you bought all Scandinavian bio-dynamic baby equipment, you had a drug-free quiet birth at home with a midwife, doula, guru and Native American spiritual mother.

You breast-fed religiously, hand-made all the baby food with pesticide-free organic vegetables, you limited the vaccinations, made sure your pediatrician voted for Nader, and you co-slept, chanted, massaged ith ayurvedic oils, and kept your partner heavily involved in the psycho-dynamic non-coercive nurturing that the other materialists call parenting.

But did you practice Elimination Communication? According to this budding new movement promoted at, there is yet another way to obsess about baby, and that's by "communicating" with her bowel movements! Remember: Elimination Communication should always be gentle, non-coercive, and based on babies' interests and needs. Communication is the most important aspect of Elimination Communication, and should be the focus.

Basically, skip the diapers entirely, and when you "feel" baby's about to wanna go--plop her on the potty! If you really want to bond with your baby, you'll do it. What kind of a parent are you if you're not giving prompt loving attention to your baby's elimination needs? Do you really not care about the bond of trust that is strengthened when caregivers respond to the baby's elimination needs?

What kind of a parent are you?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

It's Primary, My Dear Watson!

Forgive me for getting personal here for a moment, but today promises to be a rather exciting day for me. You see today I have my first appointment with my new primary care physician as selected randomly out of a giant HIP "these are the only doctors you're entitled to see, since you have shitty insurance, you cheap bastard" books (Okay, really it's more like a pamphlet full of names... well, actually, more like liner notes.)

Now normally I avoid doctors if I can. It's not that I don't like them--I do, I do, I really do--and I'm a huge fan of Western medicine. Why if there's a pill that can fix it, I say, throw me a handful! But ever since I went to a doctor to see if there might be a problem with my elbow since it was making horrific cracking sounds every time I extended it, and he eyeballed it--without touching it--and said, "well, it looks okay"--then made me get an MRI and sent me home with bills totaling around three grand, I've tended to avoid the healthcare system in favor of Advil and ice.

But, friends recently convinced me that the hacking cough that I have could well be the bird flu and maybe it's time to do something about it before I infect everyone in Manhattan (...again). So I'll be seeing my first PC here in years and I'm a little nervous. Why nervous? Well, years'n'years'n'years ago I'd also rather randomly selected a physician based on proximity to my apartment, and it didn't really go so well.

Granted, maybe I should have put 2+2 together and thought, "gee, Robin, you do live in Center Gayville, maybe the health clinic you've chosen, the one with the colorful flag flying out front might not cater to your needs exactly." But I'm very open-minded and who cares if I walk into the Audra Lourde pavilion behind a group of teenage tranny prostitutes?

Well, it wasn't so much the teen tranny prostitutes that bothered me (in fact, they were big fans of my eye shadow!), but what did irk me was that my doctor, after stripping me nekked and looking at me in the paper dress asked me how I gender identified. I would've punched her, but let's just say I think she'd been a line backer pre-op herself.

So one can only guess how my experience will turn out today. But if my new doctor asks me to turn my head and cough while trying to test me for testicular cancer, I promise you I will become a health care advocate just as soon as I've very aggressively spread my bird flu all over town in protest.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Bluffing With Jesus

Since I'm sure that you, like me, are always looking for personal ways to evangelize, I thought you'd be excited to know that Jesus has just been delivered unto us in yet another new form. This time it's not a president, it's not an attorney general, it's not even a Supreme Court nominee. It's poker chips! Because if God is not in the money, where is he?

So go and gamble, Jesus and Lady Luck be with you! You'll be bringing a little more than salsa and chips to poker night if you bring these: you'll be bringing Bush's best boy to the table.

Keep in mind that the Lord likes to go everywhere with you, and he doesn't take kindly to the advances of others, be they suicide bombers, evil dictators, freedom-hating insurgents, or frankly, any other guy. So wear this t-shirt and let the world know who's your daddy. As Corinthians 6:20 puts it, "I will glorify God in my body, and in my spirit, which belong to God." Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Rotten Eggs

Sometimes an idea or catchphrase or song will suddenly take root and before long, everyone you know is unwittingly humming that terrifically awful tune by the Black Eyed Peas referring to “my humps, my humps, my lovely lady lumps” without even thinking twice about it. Richard Dawkins dubbed these cultural replicators “memes” because they “parasitize” the brain, taking hold like a mutant gene in the host cell.

Well, seems like the New York Times and New York magazine have struck on a new cultural dilemma for us to mull, since both publications feature big stories on what to do with one’s basketful of unused eggs (those of the mutant replicating kind) this week.

The publications come up with different solutions to this problem: NY mag suggests we rapidly aging ladies consider sticking our eggs in the freezer until we’re ready to crack em open later, and discusses the improving technology for deep freezing our human caviar. The NYT comes up with the revolutionary idea of “sperm banks,” and let’s us know that Sperm Bank National is not just for kooks and comedy plots anymore.

Now I must admit, I’m not particularly concerned about my crap down there at this point, despite all the other articles I’ve read recently that suggest I should be. But I am flummoxed, no, I’ll go with irritated, that the underlying message of these ostensibly “you go, girl” articles is that there’s a baby panic afoot amongst the women in my age group.

Hey editors, maybe if you’d stop shrieking about half-baked fertility ideas, suggestions and worries, we gals wouldn’t be freaking out at all.

I dunno, just a thought… which I’d love to see become a meme of my own.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Job Opening

Position: bear bile extractor
Location: Jilin Province, China
Salary: subsistence
Requirements: experience in surgically implanting catheters in bears and/or sticking a hollow tube through the bear's tummy in order to extract its bile, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine; the ability to imagine the many uses which bile extracted from live bears might serve; the ability to not question how in the dawn of time, or whenever it was, someone in Jilin province ever had the occasion to experiment with bear bile (this disqualifies me as I fail to be able to imagine the situation in which that occasion would arise).
Occupational hazards: risk of becoming bear lunch, most likely resulting in death as it did for one fine young bear bile extractor who eaten by six of his bears. Burp.
Other: I'm seriously not kidding. See the New York Times story.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful!

Don't know what the weather's like where you are, but if you're anywhere near the NYC vicinity, you know today's one of those crap-ass "should-i-really-bother-going-to-work-since-i-know-by-the-time-i-get-to-the-office-my-shoes-will-be-soaked-through-and-my-wet-jeans-will-stick-to-my-inner-thigh-in-an-incredibly-uncomfortable-fashion-at-least-until-I-can-sneak-into-the-bathroom-and-point-the-handblower-at-my-crotch-and-pray-that-the-blowing-will-be-complete-by-the-time-any-of-my-co-workers-come-in-see-me-and-think-I-have-some-sort-of-weird-hot-air-fetish-so-there’s-no-way-I’m-going-to-be-productive?” days. So my vote would be, “No!”

But yeah, it’s just that gross out. Still, there is some happy news to report today!

Don’t know how I missed this story a few days ago, but the British News Telegraph reported an amazing story about how one of my favorite products, The Wonderbra, LITERALLY saved a woman’s life (it has saved my life in a much more ‘figurative’ sense since puberty).

Anyway, apparently this woman, Helen Kelly (no relation to Helen Keller, I don’t think, but I’ll bet she gets teased plenty, nonetheless) was caught in the crossfire of a shootout. However, Miss Kelly survived the incident almost entirely unharmed thanks to the fact that the underwire in her bra foiled the bullet!

Here’s the hyperlink to the story, which I encourage you to read for yourself because it’s hilarious and not just because the whole idea of a bullet bra stopping a bullet is so delicious. See if when you read it, you, too, are struck by the notion of how little attention is paid to the actual fact that a bra stopped a bullet. Instead, the reported piece seems much more interested in describing the events of the shootout.

I also love that the woman, realizing she’s been shot but not knowing if she’ll survive, is quoted as saying: "Then things started going through my mind. I sat down and thought, 'Well, this is it. I have done all my washing so my mum won't have to go through all my dirty clothes when I'm dead.' " Brilliant!

And I hope by calling attention to this story we’ll encourage our department of defense to look into the bulk purchase of Wonderbras to better outfit our troops in Iraq. I’m almost certain that if the insurgents see our troops properly outfitted in flak-catching Wonderbras, they will realize their battle has been hopelessly lost.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Few Things I Forgot to Miss While I Was Away

1) Discussions of one Harriet Miers, whose outstanding qualities appear to be her gender and religion. She is female, if one is to believe reports, although she suspiciously lacks husband and children, but does appear to engage in this thing called "Girls' Night Out" with other proto-women in the beltway, like Condi. The men in the beltway go out to have steak and trade pork, but the women--as the NYT reports yesterday--go out to have wine and just "talk about life." She is a born-again Christian: having failed to find a man, perhaps, she decided to find God and George Bush, two eminently satisfying substitutes if one is to judge masculinity by power, as Henry Kissinger advises us all to do ("Power is the greatest aphrodisiac" and all that). Ah yes! And James Dobson appears to have had some revelation about her, too holy to reveal to the public or the Senate Judiciary Committee, but enough to allow Dobson to give the nod to Harriet, knowing that the blood of all those babies won't be on his hands.

I wonder where Harriet stands on abortion?

2) Avian flu. If a chicken infects a chicken infects another chicken in the forest in Indonesia...does anybody hear it?

3) The F train. Still a bad fucking joke.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Christopher Columbus: A Man Who Really Couldn't Bring Himself to Ask For Directions

Today’s going to be a tough day to get any work done since deep in my heart I know I should be spending the day honoring Christopher Columbus, discoverer of the “New World,” master bargainer, title wriggler and generous spreader of all manner of diseases.

Interestingly, I’d never bothered making a comparison between Senor CC and other great leaders of the world, like Dick and Dubya before today, but once I started doing some research, certain things seemed oddly familiar. Listen to this, for example:
After five centuries, Columbus remains a mysterious and controversial figure who has been variously described as… a national hero, a failed administrator, a naive entrepreneur, and a ruthless and greedy imperialist…. By 1502, Columbus had every reason to fear for the security of his position. He had been charged with maladministration in the Indies…Queen Isabel and King Fernando had agreed to Columbus's lavish demands if he succeeded on his first voyage: he would be knighted, appointed Admiral of the Ocean Sea, made the viceroy of any new lands, and awarded ten percent of any new wealth.

And this sums it up pretty nicely: “Some – including many Native Americans – view him as responsible, directly or indirectly, for the deaths of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of indigenous peoples, exploitation of the Americas by Europe, and slavery in the West Indies.” ...My hero!

On the other hand, before we get too worked up on the subject of imperialism and holy delusions of grandeur, let's please remember if it weren’t for Columbus, there’d be no Columbus Avenue, and Upper West Siders would have no way to orient themselves concerning the direction of Broadway and Amsterdam. Plus, were there no Columbus, we all might still be somewhere in Spain, possibly in Ibiza, dancing in clubs full of bubbles and that would, um, suck.

So let's break out the commemorative Nina, Santa Maria and Pinto Bean dip and throw a party to celebrate our first of many "ruthless and greedy imperialist" leaders of the New World! After all, it's probably what God, or at least Bush*, would want us to do.

(*from the Guardian Unlimited: "George Bush has claimed he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a senior Palestinian politician in an interview to be broadcast by the BBC later this month...
One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did." Mr Bush went on: "And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And, by God, I'm gonna do it.")

Friday, October 07, 2005

Oh, Happy Day!

Sometimes when an accomplishment is so big, so impressive, so exhaustive and so amazing, it's hard to know how to celebrate it properly. In fact, whenever I've completed something that could be considered “mighty, mighty,” which happens approx. once every ten years (I know, you’re saying to yourself, “but Robin, you’re only 19, so how can you even know this? Well, I’m smart, okay, so just leave it alone) I tend to do an Ashlee Simpsonesque jig of happiness around my apartment then fall dead asleep for anywhere between two and twenty-four hours. Not particularly glamorous, but that’s what happens.

However, when my friends do something tremendously cool and of great note, I first like to crack open a bottle of hooch to toast them, then I like to tell everyone else I see how utterly impressive my friend is and I begin launching into the nature of their particular achievement until the person I’ve accosted runs away screaming.

Well, today happens to be such a day! You see my friend Joshua Bell (no, not the musician, my friend Josh is the IMPRESSIVE one), who also happens to be an incredibly wise man for asking my dear friend, Dr. Marlorie Stinfil, to marry him (which might be why he looks so chuffed in this photo), handed in his dissertation today! See, impressive, I told you. And get this: he wrote it on materiality and social transformation in the Purari Delta in Papua New Guinea. Who even knows what that means? Who even knew Papua New Guinea was a real place? (Seems like the name out of a Maurice Sendak book, no?) Well, the answer is: my soon to be doctor friend, Joshua A. Bell, professor at the University of East Anglia, outside London.

Unfortunately due to Josh’s current location across the pond, I can’t clink glasses with him, but be assured that I’ve already twisted off the cap to my Boone’s Apple Wine and am slurping some in his honor right now. But I do want to give my (and Marlorie’s) boy HUGE props for this great achievement. I’m very proud of him!

And if any of you have accomplishments you’d like announced to the billions and billions of people we serve on this site, drop us a line cause we’re always happy to promote the genius of our readers.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Off The Record

When Jennifer O'Connell , a fellow member of the GCC, and author of the critically adored new book, OFF THE RECORD, "toured" Shaking on her website, she asked Renee and me the following two questions:
1. What song would you love to find out was written about you? and 2. If you were going to be the inspiration for a song, what would its title be?

Well, Renee answered 1. "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You," by Colin Hay, and I answered, "Your Song," by Elton John (and embarrassingly, I think I wrote the same thing in my diary when I was in high school after I'd first heard it.) As for question #2, what's the title of a song you would inspire, Renee said: "Skinny and Mean, But I Love Ya Anyway" and I replied: "Hey, That Tickles!"

I thought these were really great and telling questions, and though I'm sorry to say R&R failed to come up with equally thought provoking questions to ask Jennifer for her GCC tour, what we'll do instead is give you as much dirt on the author and the book as we could dig up, and the responses that this provoked in us.

Okay, so here are her critical deets and our comments: Jennifer O’Connell received her BA from Smith College and her MBA from the University of Chicago. (Ed. Note: V. Impressive) She lives outside of Chicago (Ed. Note: V. Cold) and is currently working on her fourth novel (Ed. Note: V. Jealous)

When Kirkus reviewed OFF THE RECORD, here's what they wrote: “Decadent fun... O'Connell makes this sweet treat go down smoothly" (Ed. Note: Sounds V. Dirty, always suspected they were horndogs at Kirkus)

The book focuses on Jane Marlow, an estates attorney from Chicago whose life is thrown into disarray when she finds out she's the surprise inspiration for the chart topping song, "Janey 425." (Ed. Note to Self: Inspire Song about Self) Jane must now figure out what life it is she wants to lead (Ed. Note: V. Uncomfortably Familiar Dilemma) and if she's willing to live "off the record." (Ed. Note: Not Sure What this Means)

I'm sure anyone who recalls the hit song "867-5309eee-ine" will also love this book, so do yourself, Jenny, Janey and Jennifer O'Connell a favor by checking out her great new book and fun website!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mmmm, Salty

In this picture, if you look hard, you'll see it's not actually me--but the grin, the glasses, the all-consuming dorkiness, well that's close enough. And in any case it will be me tomorrow. I'm headed to the Dead Sea, where I hope to experience heat, salt, mud, and redemption. I'd also like to find myself, and God, in that order, since I failed to do so in Jerusalem. I did find women walking backwards, furry-hatted Jews from Chagall paintings, glistening white rock, boomerang-shaped bagels, AK-47's, but no spiritual awakening. I know, so frigid.

I feel that Robin really ought to be be with me in the Dead Sea, because along with an undying love for Tasti-Delight and Gumby-like flexibility, she is also semi-famous--sort of like Paris Hilton in the late 90s--for kind of completely adoring salt. I hope I'm not revealing too much, R...

So: I'm off to the dead, salty and ancient...not so different from dating in New York.

Spamalot, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Crap

Now this may be a sign of age, wisdom or the gradual numbing effects of a dirty martini too many, but spam--that of the e-mail variety--no longer bothers me. (The pinkish meat-ish product in a can, well that still disturbs me, at least on a scientific level.) But rather than getting upset or annoyed by the tons of unsolicited shit that winds up in my mailbox regardless of spam filters, anti-spammy government legislation and a concerted effort to give only fake e-mail addresses to companies seeking to put me on a mailing list, I still get it by the steaming shovel-ful, and I've decided I'm okay with it. Why? Read on...

For any of you who have visited the comments section on our blog here, you'll undoubtedly have noticed that our most faithful contributors are, for the most part, not admirers of the R&R brand, they're not thoughtful respondants to the deep questions we pose, rather they're agrammatical pre-programmed messages that generally start, "You have great blogcome See myne!!!" then they link to their "low interest" credit card site, their dating for lonely losers site, and their member-extender site(s). They generally have nothing to do with the subject of the posting that day, but occasionally, like just the other day when I wrote about Israel and the first comment to appear was a site promising to help you "MAKE MONEY NOW," or on the especially spirited discussion on 9/27/05 which started with a post about not getting a job, and the first comment directed me to a site on bipolar depression, which led to 5 more spammers chiming in about their sites on penis extensions. These are happy coincidences to be sure, even if they are tinged with crude assumptions and potential prejudice.

But since there's no real way to fight back (read: since i'm not technologically savvy enough to know how to delete these comments), I've decided if I can't beat them, I might as well join them. And if you check the comments section, you'll notice that I do tend to answer right back to the spammers and encourage you, you brilliant bastards, to do the same.

No doubt if I include a few key words in this post like, say, "throbbing," "date-less," "debt-ridden," and "donkey love," I'll wind up getting a number of good comments for spammers with finely-tuned search functions. I'll actually be away from my computer for most of the afternoon, so if anything pops up before I can respond, please have it. Not only will it give you an excellent sense of retribution, re-claiming your deep-seated feelings of victim-hood, it'll make this blog look incredibly popular.

I thank you for your support.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Dynamite Test, or as JJ Walker might say, the "Dyn-o-mite!" Test

Apologies for the delayed posting, but being the incredibly religious gal that I am--stop snickering--I was actually in synagogue today! Well, it wasn't really synagogue, it was the concert venue, the Hammerstein Ballroom, but it was repurposed for use by Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, better known as "that gay synagogue in the Village." Or, as I like to call it, "Congregation I Love My Son's Boyfriend."

I started going to high holidays at CBST a few years ago when I learned of their gracious open door policy which encourages anyone who wants to come to attend their services free of charge. How horrendously stereotypical did that just make me sound? But I digress..

The interesting thing about today's service--aside from the fact that I attended with my hot waterpolo-playing friend, Jay Dyckman, who got cruised during the Torah portion--was the rabbi's sermon. This rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum, the woman who single-handedly united Christians, Jews and Muslims in Israel (in a campaign of hate when she tried to organize a Gay Pride March in Jerusalem) related the story of Alfred Nobel to make us think about how we might want to change ourselves for the better in the new year to come.

Rabbi Kleinbaum first posed this question: How many of us knew that Alfred Nobel had been the creator of dynamite? Well, of course Jay and I raised our hands because we're both very smart and are eager to show this off. However, it didn't seem like most of the others present were aware of this fact. Trying to make the dummies feel better, I suppose, Kleinbaum went on to say that it was good most people didn't know this because Nobel had made a very concerted effort in his life so he would not be remembered as the person who created a device that could kill the most people in the shortest amount of time. He wanted--and clearly succeeded--in being remembered as a celebrant of peace first and foremost.

The story goes that when Alfred's brother, Ludwig, died, a newspaper accidentally printed his obituary instead. But Kid Dyn-o-mite was doubly distraught when he saw this because the headline read: "The Merchant of Death is Dead!" It was apparently at that point that Nobel said something to the effect of "Oh no she dit'n't!" and determined that he would improve his image as best he could.

Devoting a tremendous amount of his personal fortune to establishing the peace prize and other awards that improve the quality of life, Nobel essentially got to rewrite that obit, and now most people first think 'peace prize' when they think of him (except Jay and me).

So Rabbi Kleinbaum left us to think about this: how is it that we will be remembered, is this acceptable to us, and, if not, what can we do to change it? Good question, Rabbi!

I think for me, part of the answer will undoubtedly include my uncanny, Gumby-like flexibility, my ability to leave things on the floor even after I trip over them repeatedly, and my addiction to Tasti-D-Lite. I'm actually okay with this, but just to prove I'm anxious to keep evolving as a human, within the next year I'd also like to become known as a Nobel Prize winner. I don't necessarily have to win the award, I'd just liked to be remembered that way.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Shana Tova!

Shana Tova is what the folk song was saying that they piped through the plane's speaker system as the El Al flight landed shabbat morning at BenGurion, and the plane full of religious men coming back to the holy land for the high holidays twirled their curls back into place, put away the prayer book, and tossed the empty bottle of Israeli merlot they snatched from the drink cart as it came by with dinner.

And shana tova is what the juice man at the Shuk Ha Karmel market says as he hands me my current daily constitutional of fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice, and what the bread guy says as he hands me my bagel, and what everyone's been telling everyone here all weekend: happy new year! It's a holiday, and the country is on vacation. Which is why my Israeli friend Dana took me straight from the airport to the beach. Practically--first we stopped by her spacious, spare, totally zen apartment in Neve Tzedek, a Mediterranean village in the city, with winding streets and cascading bougainvillea.

Eighty degrees, brilliant sunshine and bikinis--and it was September 30th. Dana's beautiful people friends met us at the beach: they are gorgeous, speak perfect English or French because they all studied in New York or Paris, and they all live in spacious apartments by the beach. Under the parasols, we had a lunch of grilled eggplant and goat's milk cheese, and everyone played backgammon and passed around a joint. I was digging Fridays in Tel Aviv.

The next day, Dana and her boyfriend, Aluf, took me to Jerusalem. Aluf is the diplomatic and national affairs correspondent for Haaretz, and to say that Aluf knows everything about history, politics and national gossip is an understatement. He was an amazing guide to what is the most surreal melting pot of religious real estate I have ever experienced in my life. Such a miniscule amount of land, such unbelievable conflict. Jerusalem was mighty and confusing and beautiful, but even more surreal and confusing is the mixture of moonscape and forest that covers the rocky hills surrounding Jerusalem, and the Palestinian towns and Jewish settlements that dot the hilltops all around the green line. We stopped by a remote place called Sataf, a goat farm in the terraced hillside between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and made a lunch of half a dozen goat cheeses, from creamy wedges made-that-day to salty shards aged 8 months, along with honey-marinated olives and farm-made sun-dried tomatoes.

Oh--and then there are Tel Aviv's open-air clubs with teak patios and outdoor bars, and the cafes that come at least three to a block...but more about the iced cappuccino and the Jaffa hummus joint later...

Not Married? No Children? Have I Got A Job For You!

Truth be told, Laura Bush actively frightens me. That plasticky smiling clown mouth, the utter blankness behind her eyes, the automaton predicatability of her responses, the mannequin wig hairdo. I could go on and on. But after Dubya tapped Harriet Miers today to replace Sandra Day O'Connor for the Supreme Court, I think he reveals his preference for an entirely different breed of scary woman: the unmarried, unMommy-ed career gal.

Now as an unmarried, childless career gal myself, one would think that I should cheer this nomination of one of my own. And yet.

And yet the idea of Harriet Miers scares the shit out of me. Because though I'd love to believe Harri is just like me and Mary Tyler Moore's Mary Richards (or better yet, a Dame Edna type), my thought is that she's probably much more cut from the Condi cloth. And whenever I see that woman, I feel my breast milk curdling.

But here's my take on Miers: She's been Bush's friend and personal lawyer for years, and for some reason I don't get the feeling that he'd keep a liberal, progessive lady esquire in his employ if she were truly known as a genuinely compassionate gal (and yes, I do believe the term "compassionate conservative" is an oxymoron.) Also, the fact that Bush has selected both Miers and Rice, women who don't live his view on "the primacy of the family and its values" strikes me as somehow weird. What's the deal, girls? If you don't play the game, should you really be legislating the rules?

Though on the surface I'm sure my concern about Miers's ideological position seems anti-feminist and probably self-abnegating, I can assure you I'd be just as wary of a 60 year old unmarried childless male candidate. But let's get real, there's NO WAY Bush would have nominated one of those because the idea of an unmarried man is just a little too questionable to be comfortable, isn't it? Hmmm, interesting...

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