Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year!

Don't have plans yet for the big night? No worries, R&R r here to help (assuming you're located near us). Based on your tolerance for loud noises, large crowds, cold weather, your demeanor when unable to catch a cab, your physical condition, your ability to smile through the blisters, lecherous advances, drunken revelers, the stench of vomit, the feeling that you're being price gouged and your ability to dance to the worst song of 2005, we've come up with a few ideas for you to celebrate this most enjoyable night of the year!

Midnight Run in Central Park - No, seriously, some people really do this.

JIVAMUKTI 17TH ANNUAL NEW YEARS EVE CELEBRATION - Apparently people do this, too. Here's what their website promises: Jivamukti opens its doors to provide a yogic place of refuge for all. Mauna, the yogic practice of silence, (yes that's right: no talking) will be observed from 9:00pm-12:00am. All the practice rooms will be open and available to provide a space for individual reflection on this special evening. At midnight we will break the silence with chanting and elevated messages lead by Sharon Gannon, David Life, Kristina Pao Cheng and David Gluck. The Famous Jivamukti News Years Eve Yummy Vegan Chai will be served, along with assorted vegan snacks. (Ed: we assume "yummy vegan chai" means grain alcohol)

New Years Eve on the Water - No kidding, the name of this cruise ship company is "Affairs Afloat," and really, what better way to ring in the new year than sea sick and poised to wind up on Gilligan's Island when the three hour cruise goes horribly awry.

My friend Jann's party - He's thrown this gargantuan party at rotating big club venues for the past 10 years. He manages to make all his income for the year to come on this one night, that's all I'm saying.

Times Square, baby - I've done this. Stop snickering. It was fun. At least that's what I'm told.

But whatever you end up doing on this most unholy of hyped nights, we wish you a wonderful, happy and healthy 2006! We'll see you on the other side...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Thank God I'm Not Rich and Famous

A clarification: In light of my recently posted wish list, it might seem like I crave such tried-and-true cliches as being rich and famous. I would just like to clarify that, despite wishing for a wee bit more income and a little bit more Money, Status and Power, I don't want to be rich and famous.

In any case, it's not like increasing my income by 50%--which was my modest specification--would even fucking make me close to rich. And it's not a little power and status would do much more than raise me from pathetic anonymity to, say, anonymity. Certainly not famous.

Which is good because I don't want to be rich and famous anyway--in fact, I thank God I'm not rich and famous, because if I were rich and famous I might say some unbelievably stupid things, not unlike what the very rich and famous Celine Dion said to Larry King in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, when she gushed and cried and gave free reign to her compassion, explaining to Larry that some of those looters in New Orleans were so poor they had probably never even touched a television. Watch the video, it's delicious. Celine is so out of touch, so phenomenally, hilariously embarassing to herself, you wanna take the poor dear by the hand and ask if she's heard of modern innovations like telephones and motorcars and refrigeration. It's just so terribly isolating being rich and famous, n'est-ce-pas, ma Celine?

So, here's to poverty and obscurity and touching televisions.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Funniest News Story 2005

Phew, they got it in just under the wire! From yesterday's NYT headline, New Theory in Phone Case, you wouldn't necessarily suspect it. That's why occasionally it is important to read beyond the bold print, if only to spot a gem like this. The first sentence begins, "A woman who the police thought had tried to swallow her cell phone in an argument with her boyfriend last week..."

Here's a question: what the hell would make the police think a woman tried to swallow her own cell phone?!? Now sure, you're thinking, well, a woman with a celly stuck in her throat might have a tough time answering that question. And ah, the irony, because clearly this is a woman who likes to chat. Talk about the gift of gab.

But what sort of ace police work forces an officer to tell the paper of record that the initial theory on the case had been discredited because, "It appears she didn't voluntarily swallow this phone"? I'm no Miss Marple, and I'm aware of the theory of Occam's Razor (Numquam ponendo est pluritas sine necessitate, duh), but really, this is not some stupid Verizon commercial wherein the angry dog swallows Master's phone while he's roaming and on hold with Tokyo during daytime minutes. This is a woman with her cell phone stuck in her mouth.

Still, it's stories like these that make this unpaid, unappreciated blogging gig--a gig more akin to a gurgle really--worth doing. So here's hoping that 2006 will not only be a happy, healthy year for one and all but that stories like this continue to proliferate in all their raging stupidity.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Unfulfilled Wish List

There are still a bunch more nights of Hannukah left, so I shan't despair yet as I have heard that the wisdom and generosity of God is great and that he moves in mysterious ways and stuff, but there are a few gifts I would have loved to receive this holiday season, that I just may have to continue waiting for. So, forthwith, my list of not unreasonable, still unrequited wishes:

1) A wife. You know, someone to make sure the bathroom sink's always clean, to pick up packages from the post office, to return the crap vacuum cleaner to Best Buy, to drop off the old clothes at Salvation Army, to file last month's bank statements, to deposit the checks, and to make sure I undress before I go to sleep even if I'm really really drunk and really really tired.

2) A 50% increase in my annual income. No more, no less. I'm not greedy, people.

3) Sex on demand. Nothing craaaazy, people.

4) More MoneyPowerStatus.

5) Scarlett Johanssen's epic breasts. And I want them to look like hers--pillowy, natural. No gourd shit.

Meanwhile, I would like to thank my mom for her check, my father for is tasteless re-gift of those awful salt and pepper shakers he got as a wedding gift, Marlorie for the obscene chocolate-cranberry truffles, and the girl at work for the candy bowl that just keeps on giving.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Missed Connections

You picked me up--well, not you exactly, I believe his name was Kahliid Xamaqqethaqraxyz--but you scootched over and muttered, "This is bullshit!" when I got into your cab at Houston and 6th Avenue the other day. Me, lion-maned, Wet Seal-clad artist-type. You, business be-suited, Crackberry talking, derivatives-hocker.

I giggled when you said to our co-driver, "I'll throw in an extra twenty if you toss her out of the cab and get me to Wall Street ASAP." When the driver shrugged, his lovely rose colored turban wobbling back and forth just like the Christmas tree air-freshener dangling from his rearview mirror, you cursed a blue streak then turned to me and said, "Listen bitch--" and I replied, "You had me at 'bitch'."

I let my fingers play mischievously along the hem of my skirt and upper thigh as your foot pounded rhythmically against the dirty floor mat. I batted my eyelashes as your right eye twitched. I smiled with all my teeth as you snarled back at me. I mentioned something about how wonderful it would be if this transit strike led to the birth of our children as you got out your mace.

And when you practically blinded me then threw me out of the moving vehicle, the whole time me singing the words to Natasha Bedingfield's "These Words (I Love You, I Love You)", I think you forgot to give me your business card. So consider this my message in a bottle, my mean-spirited, bile-spewing fellow traveler. Just know, I'll be waiting for you in a yellow-colored chariot, waiting for further mistreatment, complete disregard of my feelings and a refusal to acknowledge my humanity. Seems like we've known each other for an eternity already...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Something to Remember

Now, I know 'tis not really the season to think of starvation, war, and atrocity. Or Nazis.

But sometimes those things resurface, and their timing's not so good. Today, another Nazi collaborator resurfaced, or rather his obituary did. His name was Heinrich Gross, he was 90 years old, Austrian, and died of natural causes in his native Vienna. He was a psychiatrist who worked in a clinic where the Nazis killed and conducted experiments on thousands of children who were considered handicapped or antisocial.

It is eerie to me that there are still former Nazis and Nazi collaborators out there. Nazis seem practically surreal to me, unthinkable caricatures of inhumanity, symbols of evil that hardly seem possible. In the 50 years since the Holocaust, the Nazi regime has been canonized as the greatest horror ever to befall the modern world. But as such, it exists--and I'm embarassed to confess it--only as an abstraction to me. I've heard the countless unimaginable stories, I've seen Shoah, I've read Primo Levi. But who were these people really? How did they really happen?

Well, they were this guy. That's why, as the ghost of his past resurfaces quietly, even stealthily, and before it's allowed to disappear forever with him in death, that's why I think it's important to think about him for a minute. And to think about the unbelievableness of what he was allowed to get away with. He did this, lived, prospered and died getting away with it.

Dr. Gross was a prominent psychiatrist at this Vienna hospital. He was accused of complicity in nine deaths of children as part of the Nazi campaign to eliminate worthless lives. Over the course of his life, he was tried three times. And never convicted. After the war, in 1975, he was even awarded the Austria Honorary Cross for Science and Art. I guess the passage of time forgives all, huh? Evidence presented at one of his later trials even showed that the doctor had done research in the 1950's using the preserved brains of some of those children killed by the Nazis. He published five articles using that research. Five articles that earned him a national honor. I guess science forgives all, huh?

In 2003, he was stripped of that honorary title, after his third trial was suspended when Dr. Gross was deemed unfit for trial because of dementia. This was over fifty years after he helped kill "worthless" kids.

So Dr. Gross was an old, old man when he died last week. An old man probably like hundreds of other old men you know and see everyday. The difference is that this old man killed nine worthless kids and got away with it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ms. Subways 2006

Just last weekend I mentioned to a group of friends that I'd really like to be the next Ms. Subways, a largely ceremonial office here in New York, one akin to the Vice Presidency in years when someone competent runs the Oval Office. And as some of you readers may recall from a recent posting, I never met an election I didn't like. So the more I've been thinking about it as I've been forced to hoof it around the city the past few days (thank you, Roger Touisant!), the more it makes me realize that run I must. Yes, dear reader, you may consider this the official announcement of my campaign to be Ms. Subways 2006!

Okay, truth be told I'm not entirely sure what the duties of Ms. Subways are. Still I'm pretty sure I can say, "Stand Clear of the closing doors... I SAID STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS!" with enough anger and irritation at the idea of not being able to retire at 55 to make you stand clear. And I can certainly snarl at tourists who know not their uptown from their downtown because my pension* isn't gigantic enough (*but before I continue, can someone explain to me what a pension is?... see as a freelancer who works in the private sector, the notion of getting any pension at all is amazing to me -- let alone the idea of getting a big fat one.)

But unlike Teddy Kennedy, I won't blow the "Why do you want to be ______" question. I really do know why I want the job. I want to be Ms. Subways because I LOVE riding around on them. Seriously. When I descend into that netherworld, it's my chance to see people of every shape, size and color. People watching doesn't get any better than on the NY subway system, the whole world is down there. And damn, it is efficient (when it's running). You don't get stuck in traffic, no lights, no resentful waiting for the person in the wheelchair to board the bus--then feeling bad that you've just cursed someone who's handicapped--it's just whizz-bang and you're there. I even love the graphic design of the subway map! Matter of fact, a larger plasticized version of it hangs as my shower curtain.

Some say that the idea of a Miss Anything pageant is demeaning. To them I say, "Lighten Up, Uggos!" I want this for all the right reasons: glory. I'd be a breath of fresh air! I have opinions! I have diplomatic skills, albeit poor ones.

Since this is just the beginning of my campaign, though, I am going to need a few catchy slogans to assure my victory. So I hereby announce a campaign slogan contest! Winner gets a re-gifted Secret Santa prize. Come on, people, I need your help. Epstein for Ms. Subways 2006 just doesn't cut it... Contest ends when the strike is over... whenever that turns out to be...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Transit Strike Joys and Toys

There were many memorable moments yesterday, Day One of the great New York City transit strike of 2005.

There was my dismay when my alarm radio came on in the morning and the first words I heard were "transit strike." There was my consternation at realizing that, shit, I really do live far from anywhere I need to be on a daily basis. There was the spirit of novelty and adventure that infused the idea of the trek I had no choice but to make to get to work. There was the bonding feeling of urban solidarity as I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge in a dense flow of human bodies, all of us unified in that same inevitable task of dealing. There was even a little moment of exaltation, as I looked toward the lofty Manhattan skyline glimmering in the frigid winter sun against a sky of cloudless blue, engulfed in the personal soundtrack my earphones were piping into my ears, a little filmic moment of transport.

And then there was the moment when I finally got to work, unwrapped, unbundled, unpacked, and took out of my bag the source of my exalting soundtrack, and watched the expressions of horror on the faces of my co-workers, all looking at me as though I'd shown up wearing stirrup pants or something. So, what? So I still listen to a Sony Walkman. So it's a little bigger than those iPods, maybe, like, ten times bigger and bulkier, but so what? It has a radio. Does your nano-bullshit thing have a radio? It's resistant to falls--and to water. How about that? It's got matching yellow headphones. It was cool in the early '90s, OKAY???

A paralyzing transit strike, and that's all they can focus on--my Sony Walkman. Herewith, please take a moment remember that relic of urban cool, the Walkman.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas Wish List

Yes, Jewish, thank you, I know. Still, a girl can dream can't she? To wit, my Christmas wish list (and not to be pushy or anything--ha, who am I kidding?--but there are only 3 1/2 shopping days left!)

To hell with your Treos, I want a Princess Phone - Never got one as a child. Never too late to start healing that unsightly scar.

The Prince Box Set - I don't even know if he has a box set, but he should. Damn, that little sexually-freaky weirdo can really get a party started. I want to party like it's 1999. Why? Because I was much younger then and could party much harder and much longer.

...and speaking of sexually freaky weirdos...

Prince Michael - I've always considered adopting a child in need, and really, what child could be more fucked up than the son of Michael Jackson. By the way, if you haven't seen the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog bit outside the Michael Jackson trial, you must: (*it does take a bit of time to load even with a fast connection, but stay with it, it's hilarious.)

My Prince - Sure, I keep hearing that some day he'll come, and I know there's a transit strike going on, but damn man, hurry it the hell up.

I know what you're thinking, there might be a theme here, and I don't deny it. The answer is yes, I am aware that there are some key words in my selections and, as a result, I'm coming across as... well, as a selfless hipster. But know what? Sometimes stereotypes do have some truth to them. Yes, I think that's our lesson for the day. That and the transit strike needs to end because you people have some shopping for me to do!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Girl's Guide to Writing Guidebooks

Are you an expert in nothing?
Did you just LOVE He's Just Not that Into You?
Are you a JAP or could you pass for one?
Is your writing as confessional as a teenager's blog on MySpace with less sex, more bad dates, mean ungrateful bosses and, ideally, tons of references to booze, shoes, brunch and gay best friends?
Are you old enough to be verging on spinster, fat enough to be verging on size 14, or famous enough to rank as a celebrity, even just C or D list?

Then you should totally write a guidebook!!!!!! :)

It doesn't matter about what--although dating and break-ups and finding a man are really under-developed subjects--it just matters that you claim to have "hard-won" experience, and to dispense "witty wisdom," and that you do it in a kicky typeface. Slap on a title that includes the word "guidebook" or "handbook" or, ideally, "girls' guide," and then figure out what you want to write about, after your agent sells it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Escalator Etiquette

I know that most Americans hate nothing more than to hear how other people from other countries do anything better than Americans. Especially the French. It's true, many Europeans--especially the French--love nothing more than to sneer derisively at fat, boorish and philistine Americans, crude specimens of money-grubbing materialists whose highest manifestation of culture is the Rocky movies. Zey are zo inférieurs, non?

However, there is one thing above all others that Europeans--especially the French--do do much better than Americans. And that's riding escalators.

For some reason that mystifies, baffles, frustrates and, frequently, totally fucking infuriates me, Americans don't know how to ride escalators. They don't seem to know that simple Golden Rule of escalator use: If you're standing still, then stand to the right, keeping the left side of the stairs open to those who wish to walk. Simple, right? Common courtesy, basic logic. Promotes the flow of people, keeps everybody happy. OBVIOUS, RIGHT?

In the Parisian metro, in the British tube, in airports all over Europe, the rule is respected with impeccable cross-cultural regularity. It's the universal language of escalator etiquette. Everyone just gets it. Not in a rush? Stand right. Gotta go fast? Great--because the left-hand corridor just happens to be moving rapidly, a beautiful flow of like-minded bodies who don't have time to dick around.

Americans seem to have missed that day in school, because people around here just don't get it. How many mornings do I lunge out of the subway at Columbus Circle, with 2.45 minutes to get to work in order to achieve ideal arrival time and both rows of bodies on the escalator are standing still? Or, worse yet--yes, much worse--one little doltish body is standing stupidly in the left hand corridor, blocking aaaaaaalllll the traffic behind it, while a clear corridor of unimpeded stairs lie ahead of it, but it never occurs to the dolt simply to step aside into its universally designated row of unmoving people? Galling, enraging, mind-boggling, I tell you.

But I have a solution. I propose licensing escalator use. I'll create a Department of Moving Stairs (DMS), and those wishing to access the delight of moderity that is the escalator, will study a short manual on riding escalators, take a short quiz and then receive a license. easy.

Really easy, because there's only one sentence, one rule in the manual: Move To The Fucking Right.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

We Are Not In A Good Place

A looming disaster threatens to cripple our fair-yet-freezing Gotham City! Thankfully this potential atrocity is not weather related like those that have savaged so many cities of late. Rather, a man-made disaster in the offing -- I’m talking Transit Strike. And if it happens at 12:01 tonight, no doubt about it, it’s gonna suck hard.

Not only will a transit strike leave people stranded in Brooklyn (The horrrrorrrrr!), it will leave even more slow-moving holiday tourists on our city streets! I have nothing against the tourists when they're out of the way in a subway car--watching them jostle around like weeble-wobbles is actually pretty good sport for the duration of a ride--but when they clog the streets, stopping short directly in front of me, my first impulse is to take those lumpen visitors out at the knees. But most importantly, a transit strike will prevent people from getting where they want to go, and getting where you want to go is why most people move to New York in the first place.

Mayor Bloomberg has proposed an emergency contingency plan to contend with the possible walk out. But as a resourceful New Yorker, I'd like to propose some contingencies of my own:

Piggyback Rides - This one has the advantage of allowing you to meet potential mates while getting you where you need to go. If the dude can't get you to Tribeca off the sweat of his back, is this really who you want as a life partner anyway?

Pedicabs - Not just for people exiting Mama Mia! anymore.

Rollerblades/Skateboards/anything with wheels on the bottom that allows you to roll while you're hanging on to the back of a car - Not only will you look like a badass while doing it, the cool exhaust pattern that will imprint on your shirt and your lungs will be a one of a kind "I survived Transit Strike '05" tattoo.

Tobogganing - Perhaps not one's first choice, but don't you think after tobogganing in to work you'd arrive there with a smile on your face (in additon to a few bruises on your rear)?

Bicycle - And when you get doored, you'll get to ride in the city's fastest taxis-- an ambulance--not only getting you where you need to go (hospital) quickly, you'll probably even get to tack on a few days to that holiday vacation.

So maybe it won't be all that bad... Okay, MTA, bring it!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Chappy Channukah Chrafts

Let the gentiles have their gingerbread houses and crumbly Christmas cookies, their rancid glogg, and their heart-attack eggnog.

We Jews have...well, we have the gelt, of course. But we're always accused of hoarding that--it just happens to come in chocolate form in this season of the year. And we have the latkes, but I'll admit that shredded potato and applesauce feels more like shtetl than party to me. a condiment? We're not in Krakow anymore.

But what's really special about the Channukah ritual, something the Christmasers can't possibly rival are, of course, the dreidels! Nothing says Jew and holiday like a chunk of wood stamped with obscure iconography. Oooooh--and it spins! Crazy fun. But seriously, we're a can-do people, so if the dreidel is our holiday fun, then I suggest we make it really fun. The following dreidel just might help...

* Marshmallows, lots.
* Pretzel sticks, one bag.
* Frosting, the cloying delicious vanilla kind from a can. Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker are both fine purveyors of the stuff.
* Hershey kisses, in abundance.

Directions: take marshmallow, insert pretzel stick on one end, smear with frosting on other end, slap on a Hershey kiss like you mean it and so it sticks--and VOILA!


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Campaign Speech for Iraqi Parliament/Last Will & Testament

As a child, I was an election junkie. No, I don't mean that I hung outside polling places looking to score. I mean I would run for any office potentially available to me. Second grade class president? Check. Treasurer of Welch Valley Middle School. Uh-huh. President of my 9th & 10th grade class, followed by a school-wide student body presidential bid in 11th grade? Yes, yes, and yes. And let's not even get into the whole extra-curricular activities elections... Suffice to say I even ran to be captain of my running teams.

So it's not without a real understanding of the idealism involved in elections--coupled with the drive for glory--that I think is what pushes people to run for office. But even though I know someone has to run for office in Iraq these days if the country is to take its next great leap forward, I think the people who choose to campaign are fucking nuts. Or suicidal. And most likely both.

Now as much as I'd like to believe I won those elections based on my looks, I think it was the fact that I could deliver a speech unlike any other obnoxious/self-aggrandizing teen in suburban Philadelphia. So I've been trying to imagine a stump speech that a candidate for election in Iraq might give, and I think this one just might do the trick:
Friends, countrymen and people who want to kill me, lend me your ears. NO! I do not mean this literally. I am running for the Iraqi Parliament because I deeply feel it time to stand up to totalitarian rule! (And because I hate my family.) I want to be one of the next rulers of this country because I believe I can make a difference in your lives -- I will restore dignity, I will push for human rights, I will make sure you no longer live in fear. (And because my wife kicked me out of the house, and I'm couch surfing at my friends place right now. Which suuuucks!) It is time that our basic needs as a people are met and that we move forward not backward into the new millennium. (And because facial hair isn't very flattering on me.) I will be a tireless, relentless crusader for good. (It's hard to sleep when bombs keep going off, no? I mean at first it kind of feels like those rocking "Magic Fingers" beds like the ones they have in Atlantic City, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly.) Though I intend to run this government in as secular a fashion as I can, you should have faith that I will stand up to the terrorists trying to keep us down. I will improve our lives and I will not stop until there is couscous in every tagine, or until I'm assassinated when I step down from this dais, whichever comes fir--

Monday, December 12, 2005

Generation Can-do!

As a member of Generation X, I am led to believe that I am part of a slacker generation, that mine is the first generation whose anomie will outsize our ambition, and who will be living off our parents' social security checks well into our 40's.

But Generation Y, we're told, is just the opposite: they are eager, teamwork-oriented, and they wanna get in on the action any way they can! They tossed off the slacker mentality like so many old 80's compilations, and from the first day they get to work they pretty much feel sure they'll be running the place soon. Energy! Can-do!

Today's New York Post even provides a guideline to managing these bundles of ambition as they come swarming into the office, and it shows perfectly just how different our Gen Y-ers are from us--their crotchedy, unfulfilled slacker older siblings:

Give your GenY-ers small tasks. Once they're done, they'll feel a sense of accomplishment--and that's when you give them something else to do.
Read: they have the mental acuity of a small toddler or chichuahua puppy. They're all enthusisam and no attention span--but work with them, they've never really read books, and why should they? They're creative, visual types.

Explain the dress code. If the company policy says 'casual,' be sure to be specific. 'casual' to you means no tie; to them it emans flip-flops and a mini-slirt.
Read: Don't constrain them. Understand that Uggs are dress-up boots, and the midriff is there to be exposed. Provide some suggested parameters, but above all nurture their expressiveness.

And whatever you do, don't let the more experienced, jaded employees mess with the Gen-Y can-do attitude!
Read: Don't let the rancorous Gen-X'ers who actually know how to do things, tell them how to do things. Cheeriness and bounce is more important in today's workplace than experience, so keep your 30-something grinches away from today's tender youth, because these little peon fuckwads are gonna be your boss one day so you wouldn't wanthem to ahve had any instructive experiences along the way.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mama, What's a Video?

When I got home last night slightly tipsy, tired and not yet ready for bed, I flipped on the TV and landed on one of those "Best of 2005" shows. I do love those shows, find the year in review stuff pretty fascinating, probably because it makes me realize that most of the stories we obsess over in a given year--the stories splashed across the magazines, TV and the newspaper of record, can be handily dispensed inside 22 minutes of programming.

But VH1's Best Videos of 2005 (like SO much of VH1's intriguing fare this year) really took me by surprise. Why? Was it because I hadn't heard most of the songs and it made me realize that I'm old, old , old? No, cause I still haven't grown out of my top 40 phase.

I knew all the songs in the countdown, but I'd seen nary a video. And it ain't because I don't watch MTV or VH1. I shamefacedly admit that I do. All the time. But I honestly can not remember the last time I tuned in and saw a video on these music channels. Know what the saddest part about that is? (I mean aside from fact that I spend a lot of time tuning in.) The saddest part is the videos they showed in the "Best of" show were amazingly cool. They were stylish, they were spectacle, and they were cutting edge art.

Why don't they ever show these "video" things on the music channels anymore. It's enough to make me want to stand up and shout, "I want my MTV you reality programming hijackers." Dump Punk'd. Stop Pimping. And for God's sake, cancel that monstrosity "But Can They Sing?" and give the time back to those who really can!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Icon·o·clast : one who attacks settled beliefs or institutions

I don't actually mind Renée Zellweger, I don't. It's not her fault, really.

She's just a pretty actress, who does a fine job with her roles, who like many other fine, young, pretty, promotable actresses like Gwyneth and Hillary, happened to win an Oscar. Big box office movie, big publicity machine, a beautiful girl--and ya get an Oscar.

So it's not Renée's fault we live in an image-obsessed culture with the attention span of a fruit fly, where news that's any longer or more serious than a music video, just isn't considered watchable. Where celebrity has somehow become as intrinsically interesting and praise-worthy as the more tradional accomplishments--like, I don't know, writing masterpieces or leading social movements or whatever, just to name a fw of the fusty old things we used to admire. I mean, everyone knows the name of Paris Hilton's dog, but do you know the name of this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize? Or last year's?

No, it's not Renée's fault that in the current Sundance Channel's series called Iconoclasts--which is allegedly devoted to the "innovators, rule-breakers and ground-shakers who have transformed our culture through their passions" and highlights "the lives of provocative leaders"--it's not her fault that Renée is featured tonight along with fellow "creative pioneer"...Christiane Amanpour.

Because Renée is totally an iconoclast, right? She's completely super-accomplished and has totally attacked settled beliefs and institutions what with her roles in Chicago and Bridget Jones and...well, the second Bridget Jones.

I mean, she won an Oscar. She deserves her place in the canon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Year of Magical What Now?

Oh, Joan. Joan. Where for art thou, Joan? Please, please, Joan of my "White Album," my little Joan of "Bethlehem," tell me this is a joke. Joan, honey, sweetheart, pixie stick, you can not be serious about the story in yesterday's New York Times that reported you're planning to adapt The Year of Magical Thinking, your memoir of death and depression and more death, into a Broadway show?!?

I've been a fan of Joan Didion's writing ever since I read "On Self Respect," in high school. The essay begins:
Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.
Powerful stuff, no? The section ends even more strongly, in my opinion:
The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others -- who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O'Hara, is something people with courage can do without.
Now that's writing. And don't get me started on "Goodbye to All That," which I think is the best essay I've ever read about one's experience as a youngish person in New York, and possibly my favorite essay of all time.

So I say with this with nothing but respect: Seriously, girl, the fuck are you Magically Thinking? This is a bad idea. The book was good; its coda, "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner an life as you know it ends," is as true as it is haunting. But Broadway? A one-woman show discussing the death of your beloved husband and the chronic illness leading to death of your only child? Why? Whywhywhywhywhywhywhy?

If I've learned anything from Ms. Didion's writing over the years it's that she doesn't need anyone's blessing or approval to do this. Still, I wish she wouldn't.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Way Better Than Fudge

Josh Horowitz is already famous, of course, and now you can avoid any future displays of mortifying ignorance just in case you hadn't yet heard of him.

He's famous for being the all-round MVP and tireless funnyman of the Charlie Rose Show staff, in those distant misty years when we were both producers there. I'm gonna go ahead and say that he was the frosting that kept the layers together, he was the magic squirt of buttercream in the Hostess cupcake, he was the guy who made it all good for everyone. But Josh went on to become even more famous--famously helping to launch a whole series of entertainment and talk shows that the world had never seen or, frankly, ever imagined before: the Pat Sajak Weekend on the Fox News Channel, the McEnroe Show on CNBC. There too, no doubt, he was the frosting and the buttercream, the cotton candy and the fudge.

In fact, people, Josh is even better than fudge. Because after making himself indispensable to so many TV staffs everywhere, he left us all behind to deal without him...and to write a book! Which is about to come out. It's no mystery at this point that everybody loves Josh, including celebrities and film directors, who seem uncannily disposed to open up to him. Maybe it's his fudginess, but in The Mind of the Modern Moviemaker (Plume, January 2006), Josh has interviewed twenty of today's famous young film directors, and the result is poignant, insightful and incredibly readable. His tone is familiar and funny, and the interviews often read like personal conversations. It's engrossing. It comes out on January 31st, so order it now.

I don't know if Josh would agree with all of this, or any of this, but he probably would agree that it's rare and exceptional for anything to be Better Than Fudge, which is why that's the name of his hilarious website. Click here and visit Joshland--let him speak for himself.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Will the Real Robin Epstein Please Stand Up

Turns out dreams do come true! Yes, I've long wanted to appear in the New York Times, and this weekend as I was browsing through Arts and Leisure, my name finally appeared in the Gray Lady. But, in one of those "someone up there has a sense of humor" moments, my discovery quickly turned into a "careful what you wish for" reminder. Fortunately it wasn't a bad book review or a piece critical of my other work. It was instead that after reading this unhappy missive, I realized I had written it!
Whose Company?

To the Editor:
Re "Who's Afraid of Sarah Schulman?" by Jesse Green [October 23]: In her letter [Nov. 13], Linda S. Chapman's concern with accurate theater history seems to encompass only her personal connections in that world, while streamlining others out of existence. In particular, I was disappointed and discouraged that Ms. Chapman characterized More Fire! Productions as "her" (Schulman's) theater company.
Dorothy Cantwell and I founded More Fire! Productions in 1979 and produced four plays before Ms. Schulman joined us in 1983.
Both the article and the letter complain about the lack of recognition for lesbian theater artists. Yet whether through ignorance, self-interest, or deliberate self-aggrandizement, the small world of lesbian theater artists is seeking to benefit by writing me and Dorothy, my (yes, straight!) friend and collaborator, out of our rightful place in lesbian theater history.

Robin Epstein
New York
I was intially confused: after all, I had no memory of writing the letter, and though I do know someone named "Cantwell," he's no Dorothy (or claims not to be.) It therefore took me a minute to realize that it was one of the other Robin Epsteins who had, in fact, written to the paper on our behalf. And I'll confess, it upset me a little.

Why am I agitated? Is it because Robin Epstein has just outed herself in the paper of record. Of course not. Many of my girlfriends are lesbians. But this woman makes us sound frickin' ancient! Did she really have to say she started the company in 1979?!? Good lord, Robin, no one will ever buy that we're 23 if you keep doing math like that!

But I suppose I have very little right to be upset since I'm sure the serious dramatist Robin Epstein probably has a beef with me since Shaking Her Assets is the first listing when you Google our name. I also wonder what whole food nutritionist Robin Epstein thinks when she realizes the rest of us have gone into the Arts (like San Francisco Robin Epstein, the radio producer who got to interview Billy Bragg.) Then of course, there's serious journalist Robin Epstein who wrote Citizen Power, which was blurbed by Jesse Jackson. And let's not forget the Jewish Robin Epstein who writes recipes about latkes and discusses baby topics on the web.
But on the whole I have to say I am impressed by the work of my namesakes, and would one day like us all to gather in a room where we can discuss the effects of the mean spirited taunts and nicknames we suffered as children (Robin Red Breast, Robin Laid An Egg, etc.) Of course it'd be only fair to include all the Renee Kaplans running around, too, especially because I have a feeling they could get us a great deal on real estate in Tulsa, OK.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Robin's New Puppy!

Anyone who knows Robin a little knows that Robin wants a dog. Sort of. My personal theory is that she thinks she wants a dog--you know, frisky, energetic, uninhibited enthusiasm, a magnet for frisky, energetic uninhibted male dog owners--but she doesn't really want a dog. Robin smells nice and doesn't like to touch dirty things, she owns some nice antiques, the Oriental carpet probably wouldn't look as good with a strange brown stain. But, really, what do I know. It's presumptuous and out of line for me to make judgments like this.

So, Robin, I officially suspend my skepticism, and I heartily embrace your desire for a dog. In fact. I have one for you! Ladies and gentelemen...Robin's new puppy!

Congratulations, Robin! He's soooooooooooooooooooooooo cute.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Like Smiley Faces and a Basketful of Kittens

...the Vows column almost always makes me gag. That said, I find it as addictive as Nestle Crunch covered crack. (Hmmm, did my drug choice just date me? Crack is so two score ago...) Anyway, come Sunday I generally rush out into my hallway to pick up my copy of the Times, scramble through the paper to find the Styles section, immediately flip past the hipster in the Night Out With column that I've never-nor-will-I-ever-again hear of, and look to see who has tied the knot of holy matrimony.

The relative worth/lessness of this section of the paper has been commented upon ad nauseum, so I won't bother throwing in another two cents, but I will confess that I was rather pleased when the New York Observer began running its own twist on the state of love, running engagement notices. These longer profiles of blissfully happy youngish people really provide the raw information I'm looking for. They always tell you how and where the couple met, they always discuss the impediments to their love (poor as a church mouse! a Seventh Day adwhatsis?) and they're oftentimes subtly or not-so-subtly mean-spirited. I mean come on, feed the rest of us a little marrow, right?

But this week's Love Beat (the first half at least) not only relates a great story, it's a profile of two excellent people, Emma Taylor and Rob Tourtelot. In a disclosurey sense, they do happen to be good friends of mine. But I think their story transcends this bias because I think I'd find it cool anyway. And, it completely renders my last blog entry wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Which is rare.

See Emma and Rob did, in fact, meet on! That's right, one of the sites I called out but a day ago for being the last refuge of delusional desperadoes looking for love. Well, dear reader, when I'm wrong (and again, I stress this is a rarity), I do like to admit it. So, perhaps I will wade back into the murky, sex-offendered waters of the online dating community. Cause with an open mind (and a full can of mace), a girl just never knows when she might meet her destiny.

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