Tuesday, January 31, 2006

So I'm Square, So Kill Me

I know it's unhip to like Beyoncé.

It's worse than unhip: it's mainstream Top 40 kitsch outerborough middle America mass MTV square. Bottom line is that it's bad and just a CD or two away from buying the Mariah Carey album. But fact is I like Beyoncé, her diva presence, her borderline tasteful bling, her faux bad-ass home-girl persona (Betta be street if he lookin' at me), her plunging gowns draped over an epic derriere. Shit, I like her damn music.

But what I'm really loving about Beyoncé of late is that ass thing. In the video for her latest single, "Check Up On It,"--a song that's all about the ass thing--Beyonce and her girls do some insane eye-popping booty-shake stuff. Cue the ghetto mini-skirt, the stilettos, the line-up of smoldering, junk-in-the-trunk backup singers, and the shake-it lyrics:

Ohh Boy you looking like you like what you see
Won't you come over check up on it, I'm gone let you work up on it
Ladies let em check up on it, watch it while he check up on it
Dip it, pop it, twork it, stop it, check on me tonight

And honey--whatever dip it, twork it, pop it, stop it means, those girls are doing it with their booties. At the speed of light. With a come hither grimace. Holding on to the back of a chair. Without even blinking. I mean this stuff is genius. And, frankly, really hard to do in your living room.

What can I say. Sigh. Watch it and marvel.

Monday, January 30, 2006

René Risqué C'est Moi

On Thursday night, Renée and I attended one of the best concerts I've seen since Paul Young played the Mann Music Center in 1986. Granted this isn't saying a great deal, but the show we attended Thursday at the Bowery Ballroom was sublime. You see we had the rare and wonderful opportunity to catch René Risqué & the Art Lovers before the fabulously and famously artsy band implodes, like the true stars that they are. Or before members wind up incarcerated in a Turkish prison on coke trafficking charges.

Comprised of members René, Luffa, Dryden, Johnny and Dolce--stage names all, lest the reality of "real names" drag them down--this hilariously talented group of raging ids/sex machine musicians, crooned about drug-addled dementia, dissolute behaviors and all around illicit acivity that makes you realize how much more louche and libertine the rock star lifestyle is. And how much better it is than yours.

Deciding that naming myself fan club president would only earn their Euro scorn, after the concert I went to their website and immediately ordered their CD instead. You should check it out, but only if you want to be cool. When you click on the music link, you can hear 4 of their songs including "Not a Top, I'm a Bottom" and "Hotel Paramount," whose lyrics, I quickly transcribe for you here (with a verse or two missing since my typing is good, but not scary good:

At the bar of the Hotel Paramount
no one seemed to mind,
I had about twenty too many cocktails,
and I was nearly blind,
least of all you...
On business in New York from LA
Looking for a mu-tually convenient cheap lay.

The morning room service girl seemed ready to go
So I started my day with a mini-bar sherry and a nose full of blow,
It was goodbye to you.
Lying there unconscious and sastified.
Keep thinking about the new things we tried.

All the way,
is never enough
Too far, is when you start getting to the good stuff.

(Luffa) At the bar of the Hotel Paramount
What should I find?
We had about 20 too many cocktails
but I didn't mind...

How easily you gave the slip to me...

All the way,
is never enough
Too far, is when you start getting to the good stuff.

If you were to fashion a statue of me.
How sexy would it be
to have me standing there?

In your mouth (In my mouth)
In your eyes
In your, you know
it's not life without ....
uh yeah.

Good dirty fun. Just like we like it!

Friday, January 27, 2006


There is a theory about happiness--recently backed up by new research--that It's the Little Things. The problem is that the idea is so cliche and Hallmark it makes me wanna pull out my fingernails with pliers. Problem is also that it's true. So, you know, it's the sun patch on the couch, the perfect 80-degree day, my grey-and-purple striped cotton bikini underwear.

And the Oxo peeler.

I've tried, in the past, to explain my preoccupation--and great pleasure--with peelers to people. Years ago when I lived with roommates and we'd just moved in and were unpacking the kitchen together, one of them noticed that I had a lot of peelers. I had my mother's old metal peeler, with the wide V-shaped handle and the old wobbly blade (a little uncomfortable, but picturesque, evokes Grandma Hazel peeling carrots for Sunday dinner, served promptly at noon, after church, pot roast or fried chicken). I had the narrow, pencil-shaped metal peeler, imported from France, compact and lightweight, good for the little potatoes or for peeling a whole apple without breaking the peel (that's SUPER-fun!). I had the fat white plastic peeler--the predecessor to the Oxo peeler--with a full-handed grip, and a solid blade that meant business and that gave what-for to every vegetable it met. So I explained all this to her and the bitch looked at me like I was crazy.

So I like peelers, but I love the Oxo peeler. Same fat handle, but in a techno-forward black rubber that just barely gives in your grip, like the handle of a high-tech racing bike. The edges of the handle just below the blade are striated and slip-proof, safety guards positioned exactly beneath the thumb and index finger, so there's never any question of Who's The Master as you lodge the peeler blade in the tough veggie skin and slide it down, merciless and focussed. The plastic blade-frame curves geometretically, a perfect black plastic semi-circle with a sharp tip brilliantly engineered to gouge out any brown spots.

It's an un rivalled peeling experience that renews itself with every carrot stick I confront, a guaranteed moment of perfect peeling pleasure.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

R's Bragging Rights

Normally I don't like to toot my own horn, but sometimes genius has to be acknowledged. So today I point out my great foresight in choosing ex-Ithacan Renée Kaplan as my writing partner. Why today, you ask? Well, because yesterday there was official outside confirmation of her prowess as a scribbler.

In this week Publisher's Weekly magazine, there's a review of the anthology, Half/Life: Jew-ish Tales from Interfaith Homes, to which Renée contributed an essay. Forthwith that review, and please take special note of whose quote they singled out to reprint from this multi-authored 280 page tome.

Half/Life: Jew-ish Tales from Interfaith HomesEdited by Laurel Snyder. Soft Skull Press, $15.95 paper (280p)
This anthology of 18 essays takes for granted that Jews will intermarry, and that the children of intermarriages will be "halfs," or half-Jews. Being a half, says Snyder, is not second best; it is not a pale imitation of being really Jewish. Rather, "half" is an interesting, incorrigible, perplexing and profound moniker in its own right, a label that somehow captures the existential angst that all people experience. Read cover to cover, the anthology begins to feel suffocating in its predictability—smart folks reflecting smartly about their struggles with identity. But many of the individual essays are engaging, funny and provocative. Dena Katzen Seidel describes, in a strikingly detached tone, the emotional abuses doled out by her flaky mother, a Christian Scientist. Novelist Thisbe Nissen explains that every New Yorker is a little bit Jewish, while Renée Kaplan observes that the only deal her mismatched parents ever made and kept was the agreement to raise the kids Jewish. "My half-Jewishness is a memento of that short-lived moment of concord between the two," she muses with a touch of melancholy. Half-Jews will see themselves and their families in this book, and they will laugh, and maybe even cry, while reading. (Apr.)
Nice, huh? Like I said, genius. And you will be considered very savvy yourself if you purchase a copy of this book for your bookshelf when it comes out in April!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Got Small Balls? Here's Why!

We've always known, here at R&R, that women have a lot of power.

Not always useful power, but power is power and power. Mmmmm, power. And we love it when science backs us up. Especially when it involves extended studies of bats and testicles and comes to the following conclusion:

That female promiscuity gives males big testes and small brains.

Here's the link to the Slate article, which pretty much explains it like this. In bat species noted for female monogamy, males have small testes and big brains; in bat species noted for female promiscuity, males have testicles five times as big, but with smaller brains.

Robin and I, and our good friend Kate, have came to a few of our own conclusions, which we've published in the prestigious scientific journal called Email, and which we've reproduced below:

To: Renee Kaplan; Kate Morgenroth
Subject: Mom was right...

Check out this link about female promiscuity and big male testicles.

From: Kate Morgenroth
To: Renee Kaplan, Robin Epstein

Okay, which link did you click on? I, for one, am way more interested in the importance of male genital size in fish.

From: Renee Kaplan
To: Kate Morgenroth, Robin Epstein

fascinating. so to carry the logic to its relevant-to-us conclusion...what does this say about the men we're involved with? that their balls should be ENORMous??

To: Renee Kaplan, Kate Morgenroth

melon like, even.

From: Kate Morgenroth
To: Renee Kaplan, Robin Epstein

All I know for sure is that their brains are definitely tiny. And that's why they can't seem to remember to pick up the phone. Unless of course it's the balls calling...

To: Renee Kaplan; Kate Morgenroth

so it's more of a ball call than a booty call, eh?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

More on Lust

When we inaugurated the new R&R feature "Lustables" last week, we immediately received a torrent of e-mail (1's a torrent, right? I mean it's not like I said "torrents." Okay, shut up, I know what you're thinking.) Anyway, this flood of response makes us believe we've hit a nerve in the collective subconscious. Apparently you people have a whole lotta lust in your hearts as well, and R&R want to do everything we can to help you express your affection for material goods.

Matter of fact, we want to give you the space here to tell us about your new found objects of lust. So we're especially honored and thrilled to kick off this "share the lust" column with the offering of Alison Pace, hilarious and lovely author of If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend and the upcoming Pug Hill.

Alison has recently fallen in love with her new label maker, and well, I leave the love letter to her Brother P-Touch 55 in her capable hands:

At present, with the last proofread of my novel complete, the release of said novel exactly three and a half months away, and a proposal for my next book somewhere in the vagaries of the “I'm not ready to talk about it yet,” stage, I find myself in the unusual state of being between projects.

So in between emailing introductions and book information to pug meetup groups throughout the country –those pug people are a welcoming group indeed, and I salute them—I have decided to embrace the task of organization. First, I shunned the Hold Everything 1’ by 1’ wicker filing basket that up until now had been the epicenter of all that was organized in my apartment. Then I ordered from Staples a proper filing
cabinet that fit into my linen closet, and then, ordered my treasure of all treasures, the Brother P-Touch-55 label maker. Never again will I leave things in piles all over the place. Never again will the site of my messy handwriting irk me. The label maker arrived Friday afternoon. It’s really quite fantastic. You type on it as if you are text messaging, hit print, and a perfect label (complete with peel-off backing) pops out in any number of varieties of font size. And I swear I’d already decided to stay home for the night even before the label
maker arrived.

And five, six hours of labeling later, in addition to the regular, expected files, Agent, Publisher, Current Projects, Magazines (empty), Future Projects, I now have a spectacularly advanced system of files devoted to the historical fiction novel everyone keeps telling me I shouldn’t write. I have pulled out brochures from writer’s conferences that I had shoved under my bed and filed them. I am contemplating a file called Announcements on Publishers Marketplace That Upset Me. I feel that would be nothing if not productive. I have a Culture file, where my cousin told me it would be a good idea to save ticket stubs from films I’d enjoyed and Playbills from plays I’d seen. Why had I never thought of that? Come to think of it, I should make a Frank Bruni file, too. I have a Dog Stuff folder. I have a Keepsake folder. So far it has all last month’s Christmas cards in it though admittedly I may not to need to save every Christmas card I received. I have made optimistic files like Pug Hill: Press Clips and Pug Hill: Foreign Sales that I choose to believe are not jinxy. Rather than something prosaic like Bills 2005 (too bulky) I am now the proud proprietor of such organizationally sophisticated folders as Cash Receipts 2005; Receipts 2005 (Charged on Amex); Amex 2005; Chase 2005; Other Bills 2005. I did the same for 2006 and 2007, too. The idea of individual folders for Cingular, Vonage, Time Warner, Con Edison, Rent, Book Purchasing, calls out to me like so many sirens. But alas, I have run out of label tape.

I’ve ordered some more. I had to order more hanging file folders anyway. See, I didn’t like the way it all looked in the filing cabinet with all the clear hanging folder tabs. I ordered colored hanging file folders just so I could get at the colored hanging folder tabs. I know that to return the hanging file folders after removing, let’s say, just five or six colored tabs would be wrong.

The fact that when I was in yoga class yesterday and the guy in front of me had his two towels and water bottle behind him when everyone puts their two towels and water bottles in front of them (it’s just how it’s done) really threw me for a loop, and to tell you the truth I couldn’t get past it and kept crunching my neck looking up from my downward dog to see if maybe he had moved his towels to their proper place and to check that his stuff wasn't actually encroaching onto my yoga mat(which I would love to label though I’m not sure the adhesive would hold up) did set off an alarm bell or two. I wondered if maybe having something like a label maker when you’re a person like me is less of an express train to an organizational dreamland than it is to the bad place.

But maybe, as soon as my replacement tapes arrive, I can just take out my Brother P-touch 55 and label the bad place, and then I’ll know not to go there?

Want more lust in your life? Well write in and tell us about it! We'll pretty much post anything sent in within reason (and which won't land any of us in criminal or bad taste court).

Monday, January 23, 2006

Cuz I'm an Idiot

I have the mixed fortune of being a television news producer, and I was recently working on a story about about a plastic surgery addict. The young woman we profiled is 29 years old and she's had over 40 procedures. She started when she was barely out of her teens. She's spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and she's not done yet--she can't stop. She has the rubberized look of those life-size latex sex dolls, all bloated smooth surfaces and immobile features. Her forehead doesn't move, her lips are so bee-stung they look painful, her eyes look permanently stretched open. She looks like Barbie-Meets-Amanda-Lepore, with an orange spray-tan and peroxide-blond hair. It's sad. Or rather, it ought to be, to have so little self-esteem, and so little sense of perspective, and nobody to tell you to stop.

But it wasn't sad. The story just wasn't very good. And it wasn't very good, because she just wasn't a very sympathetic character. And the reason she just wasn't a sympathetic character is because she's just...a fucking idiot.

Her answers were consistently so stupid and thoughtless, I wondered if her brain ought to be studied for extreme smallness.
Anchorwoman: "Kim, you got an eyebrow life when you weren't even 25--before you'd even started aging. Why? Why the need to do that?"
Short pause. The semblance of what might be a polite smile if she could move her facial muscles.
Kim: "I don't now...I guess I just wanted one."

So we decided that it would be a much better story--certainly a more newsworthy story--if, as we were editing, we added on, at the end of each of Kim's answers, "...because I'm an idiot." For example: "I don't know, I guess I just wanted one, because I'm an idiot."

And gues what? It's such a much better story. The technique was so successful, I thought it might be tried on other stupid, unsympathetic characters. Like, for example, Karl Rove. Let's take a few sentences from Rove's speech last week--his first public statements in months--about this whole surveillance dealie, and see if this method makes it a little more newsworthy.

"Think how much has been achieved by our Republican Party in the last 40 years, because I'm an idiot. It has gone from a minority party with little influence to one that is broad and inclusive, self-assured and optimistic, forward-leaning and dominant, because I'm an idiot...More importantly, we have seen the rise of a great cause, because I'm an idiot. Three Republican Presidents and Republican Congressional majorities have achieved a tremendous amount in two-and-a-half decades, because I'm an idiot. The Cold War was won - and today we are winning the war against Islamic fascism, because I'm an idiot."

Pretty genius, eh??

Friday, January 20, 2006

Things To Do in D.C.

So you'd planned the road trip. You'd taken the day off. You'd packed the Scooby snacks and energy drinks for the long ride down. But when you land in D.C. later this afternoon prepared to be first in line to get the best possible seats, you learn much to your horror, shock and dismay that the R&R SHAKING HER ASSETS reading has been cancelled because, well, you were the only one who'd signed up to come.

Friend, we're truly sorry about this. We'd been very excited for the trip as well. But try not to fret, you're in our nation's capital, after all. The Capitol, in fact. (And feel free to switch the "A" and the "O" in Capit*l if I just screwed up the usage.) So we feel it's incumbent upon us to give you some ideas as to how you can spend your time down there when you're not seeing the dynamic duo read and do the little burlesque routine that we'd worked up. (By the way, the world should know that Renee can now spin a fire-tipped baton poised over her hoo-ha like nobody's business.)

So here are our alternate suggestions to make the most of your time in the Beltway:

Tour the Monuments - Our favorite is the one that looks like a big dick. When you're done there, the obelisk is worth a visit, too.

As for Museums, DC boasts some good ones. The Smithsonian is currently running an exhibit on Frost (no, not Robert, and un-uh, not the way conservative doyennes act in bed, neither). This is Frost: Life and Culture of the Sámi - Reindeer People of Norway. Who even knew there were Reindeer people?

The National Gallery is also running a fascinating exhibit with the photography of Nicholas Nixon, which Renee and I got the chance to see when it (and we) were touring in Houston at the Museum of Fine Arts there.

We know the "Memorial" scene in Washington is supposed to be quite impressive, too. You've got the Lincoln one, the Jefferson one, the FDR one, the Korean War one, the Vietnam Vets one, the WWII one, the Civil War one, the Iwo Jima one, the George Mason one, the Women in Vietnam one, and so on and so on and so forth. But frankly, Memorials depress us, so we advise skipping those.

We suppose you can tour the White House. There's also the Capitol and the Supreme Court buildings.

No doubt there's also some sort of "scandals" tour you can take, too, where you'd visit the Watergate (twice), smoke filled back rooms, the crypt where Cheney and his minions are kept, and not a few bi-partisan brothels.

So though we're very sorry you made the trip and didn't get a chance to hear us read, we're certain you're going to have a great time in Washington regardless. Oh, and if, while you're there, you happen to see the President, please send him our regards. We leave it to you to decide how much of the moon you'd like to flash him.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Laura Bush, Will You Adopt Me?

It was a momentous inauguration this week: the first woman president in all of Africa was elected a few months ago in Liberia, and on Tuesday she was ceremonially ushered into power. Not only is that huge for the continent of Africa, which has never seen a female head of state, it's also huge for the world, where we can still count the women presidents on one hand. And there are 192 countries in the world.

So it seems honorable and fitting that the first lady of the most powerful country in the world should be in attendance. I cheer Laura Bush and Condi for being there, pressing flesh, smiling, honoring women, the whole deal. Less honorable and fitting is that Laura turned up with her daughter Barbara.

I know Barbara went to Yale, but whatever--so did her father and look at him: his idea of fun is clearing brush, his idea of a best friend is Karl Rove, and his idea of trustworthy is Dick Cheney. Total idiot. You just know that as the diplomatic red carpets of the world are being rolled out for her, she's still wondering in which damn LES bar she left her fake ID. The cultural opportunity is totally wasted on her and, worst of all, she totally can't dress the part. Does "Inauguration in Poorest Country in Africa" say "Ass-tight Sleeveless Shift That Crushes My Breasts to Pancakes" to you?? Sweetie, inappropriate and unflattering. Try some padding, it works wonders and once the bra is off men don't even realize it wasn't you. Does "Momentous Moment in Global Feminism" say "Jimmy Choo Heels With Porn Star Ankle Straps"? Well, maybe. Maybe for P. Diddy's lawn party in the Hamptons.

See, Laura, you should have taken me to Africa. I went to Princeton. I know better. I have no breasts, and I would never ever crush them without good reason, and an inauguration is not a good reason. I would never leave my ID in a bar--just my credit card. And I would never ever flirt with a diplomat like Barbara here, I would ask him how much for the leftover stockpile of Bulgarian Kalishnikovs that the rebels won't be needing guns anymore now that there's democracy.

So, laura, whadya say, would you like to welcome Renée Bush into the family?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Before went south, introducing its new format and cutting back on real content (favoring instead a dumbass thing called a "blog," which anyone with a brain knows means "half-baked opinion drivel"), it had a great weekly feature called Object Lust. The premise was that writers would wax poetic on an object they owned that improved the quality of their lives. Not only did this feature introduce me to some cool new shit that I subsequently started lusting after myself, it encouraged me to look around my petite West Village boite to evaluate the objects I already had in my life.

One of them seemed to fit the bill perfectly, so I wrote up a little piece for their website and submitted it for potential publication. Quite literally the week I submitted my piece was the week the website decided to eliminate the column and thus my lust went unspoken. Well, time for that to change. So today we pick up where Salon dropped off and we introduce a new feature on Chat with R&R called "Lustables." The inaugural column will feature the lust of an object (hey, why else have a blog if you're not going to use it as a place to dump your writing, right?) But in the future Lustables can be about anything we really really love or really really want, like people, a free Tibet, or for harm to come to an overexposed hotel heiress and her little dog, too. And now, the object of my lust for your perusal:

The Haier Portable 6-3/5-lb. Compact Washer

I can make it rain. All I have to do is run out of clean underpants. You see I learned I had the power to change weather a year ago when I moved into an apartment building with no laundry machines on the premises. Thereafter, whenever I had to go to the self-serve Laundromat down the block, carting my dirty laundry on my back, looking like a shamed, turned-out Mrs. Claus, inevitably it would start raining. And after I’d gone through $17 worth of quarters to dry the stuff, generally a monsoon would touch down just in time for my walk home.

Whenever I mentioned my washing woes to friends, they would encourage me to use the drop off service offered by any Korean laundry facility worth its soap. But I have a thing about people I don’t know touching my underwear. I just can’t condone it. So when one day a few weeks ago, the women working at the Bank Street Self-Serve Laundromat waggled their fingers at me and said, “No self-serve! No self-serve,” I was wet, exhausted and ready to pick a fight. “What do you mean, ‘no self-serve’?” I asked with indignation. “I’ve been doing my laundry here for a year and besides, it says right out there on the huge sign above your door, “Self-Serve Laundromat.” To this, one of the women replied, “No self-serve!” Then, she pointed to a new sign, handwritten with a sharpie on half a sheet of notebook paper that indeed read, “No self-serve!”

Beaten back by the unassailable authority of a Post-It Note, I raised the soiled white flag. Still dirty and now fuming, I trekked back home and typed the word “washing machine,” into Google. Within 0.11 seconds, I’d stopped cursing and was on my way to a fresher, cleaner me -- I spotted’s listing of portable washing machines, and clicked on Target’s offering: The Haier Portable 6-3/5-lb. Compact Washer for $199.00.

I couldn’t figure out if that meant the machine itself weighed 6-3/5-lb. or that’s how much laundry I could wash, but at about 2.5 feet high and 1.5 feet wide, it didn’t seem to matter since the cute little thing would fit in my closet! I then read five out of six glowing customer reviews (all written by what seemed like very nice women), most, who seemed to have done extensive research on the subject. They wrote this machine was by far the best they’d found. The sixth woman said the machine worked well at first, yet she later had problems with the spin cycle. But I was willing to take my chances, even that fifth dentist found something to complain about.

My portable dream machine arrived three days later. The only snag I hit in the set up was with the water-inlet hose, which attaches to the sink. It took me a little while before I realized I’d have to purchase a wrench to untwist the regular drain filter so the machine’s hose could screw right into the faucet. But as soon as I got that working, each time I set that spin cycle washing, I start twirling around my apartment.

A washing machine in my very own apartment! Not only is the whole concept novel to this New Yorker, a girl who’d previously assumed washing machines were a luxury item available only to million-dollar co-op owners and fancy-pants people who probably get their “girl” to do the wash anyway, but the little thing actually works.

In fact, it’s remarkably easy to operate, and stows away in my small coat closet. The only problem is that I now find myself recommending the portable washer so frequently, the number of conversations I’ve had about other people’s dirty laundry has become a bit disturbing. Still, I know that if by raising the subject I can help others come clean, like the muse of that naughty Nine Inch Nails song, I’ll get them closer to God.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Why Aren't We as Wily?

The religious are just so crafty. Maybe God does exist after all, because He really seems to be giving His people some quality guidance these days.

There's that whole "prosperity gospel" thing, with rich-as-a-rap-star evangelists promising wealth and wisdom and heaven, if you just a tithe a little more than ususal--because God will provide for you, if you provide for him. I mean, duh. Who's gonna choose sackcloth over a view of the park in the Time Warner Center, where the Reverend Creflo Dollar (his real name!) just bought himself and the wife a little pied-a-terre in the city. Is he not the living testament, in his snakeskin shoes and Rolls Royce and custom-made double-breasted suits, to the veracity of the Word? So you can either sit at home and not get rich, or you can go to church and get rich. In brief, God or squalor: you choose, silly.

And then there's the soothing caress of the pro-life people. There's this place in Kentucky called The Woman's Choice Resource Center. It looks like a clinic, it's got a doctor and a nurse and lots of nice counselors. They're real warm and friendly: when a woman calls up and asks how much the center charges for an abortion, they tell her that the price varies, but why doesn't she come in and they'll talk about it? They don't tell her that they don't perform abortions there. The Center is an offshoot of the biggest church in Kentucky, an evangelical congregation with a budget of $25 million. This little center in Louisville has a budget of nearly $1 million just for itself and its support groups, groups where women can learn about the harmful effects of abortion, including increased risk of breast cancer and a psychological condition called postabortion syndrome. Both are considered scientifically unsupportable by the National Cancer Institute and the American Psychological Association.

But that's okay, because these people all realize it's not about fact or fiction: it's about what you believe, and their God-given mandate is to tell people just what they want to believe. Like one woman, Missy, who had an abortion and went to a secular therapist afterwards, but that meanie had ascribed her problems to her alcoholism--not her abortion. Missy said she didn't feel healed until she went to the Center and they gave her a "certificate of life" for her unborn baby. I wonder what God did to help Missy with her alcoholism?

So all you stodgy, stiff, pedantic, over-principled liberals, here's a little something we can all learn from God's soldiers. Be crafty. Promise everything. Be real nice. Be deceptive. Be a great fundraiser. Be aware that you are dealing with vulnerable people. Be ruthless.

Friday, January 13, 2006

!Ask Robin & Renée!

We at Chat with R&R realize we've been remiss in checking the overflowing mailbags we've accumulated here in the past few months, and we apologize to all our faithful letter writers who've been awaiting response (particularly to you, Holding My Breath Until You Respond). So without further adieu to you and you and you, it's once again time for our randomly regular feature: !Ask Robin and Renée!

Dear R&R,

I'm big on making new year's resolutions and in addition to the one I made about reading your blog everyday and encouraging every new person I meet to purchase your book, I've also decided to join the humanitarian effort in Darfur. I plan to tend to young victims of the ongoing war that America has turned a blind eye to. Any advice before I go?

In To Africa
Dear In To,

First, R&R would just like to applaud your efforts to help people, because clearly once you tell them about SHAKING HER ASSETS, the quality of their lives will improve dramatically. Secondly we're very impressed by the nature of your resolutions and admit that ours, "learn belly dancing," while no less important on a global scale, might be a bit easier to bring to fruition. Even if one of us is spectacularly uncoordinated in her belly. But the one piece of advice we do have for you on a practical level is this: make sure you go into the war zone with the proper body armor and not the shit they've been giving to our brave troops in Iraq because that stuff will get you killed.

Happy New Year,
Dear R&R,

I read A Million Little Pieces and the book changed my life. Now that I know the whole thing was a fraud, does this mean my new life is a fake, too?

A Million Little Pieces of Shit
Dear Piecemeal,


All the best,
Dear R&R,

Okay, here's the deal: I'm an Olympic Medalist in skiing and I just got my chops busted for talking about how I *might* have skied drunk during this one race. But see, I didn't mean that I was actually skiing drunk, bra. What I meant that I was totally hungover before that race--not trashed while doing it--which is 100% different. Can I get an "Amen" from the A.A. chorus on that one? Anyway, my question to you is this: How are you babes able to party like rock stars at night then perform so well the next day?

Peace out,
Dear Fellow Special Olympian,

Though we'd like to tell you that we have some magic cure, the truth is neither R nor R ever drinks to much of the hooch. Ever. We'd like to be able to sympathize with your plight, but we can't because it goes beyond the power of our imaginations. However, we can suggest that you consult with a one James Frey. From what we gather he's been in this exact position and should be able to offer you some advice. And if he can't, rest assured that he's more than capable of making it up.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Democrats Take aggressive Tack; Depantsing

If precedent proves you can knock off a supreme court nominee for reasons like pot use (goodbye Ginsberg), alien nanny services (auf wiedersehen Wood), and awful facial hair (buh-bye Bork), I suppose you're going to go after what looks like a Teflon Supreme Court candidate with both barrels. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the arsenal they've aimed at Alito is comprised of a super soaker and cherry tomatoes.

My Dems are in a tough spot with Alito sitting across from them in the confirmation hearings this week. Even though we all know the dude has a long record of anti-Roe musings, we're pretty sure he's anti-affirmative action, isn't so big on this whole "starre decisis" bidness, the Democrats just don't have the votes or the power to derail his nomination on these grounds. And since the dorkbot Alito has wanted to be a Justice since his days in college--days when most of his coevals were experimenting with drugs and cheering at Yale football games--he can't quite be taken down for his youthful indiscretion, either.

However, thanks to something he did once he graduated from Princeton University, the Democrats have finally found ONE thing to latch on to. Alito went ahead and joined "Concerned Alumni of Princeton," a conservative group co-founded by William Rusher, former publisher of the National Review. In an essay published in a magazine put out by the group in 1983, stated:
Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic, the physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports, and homosexuals are demanding that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children.

Now Alito has said he hadn't read the essay and I'm inclined to believe him on this. I'm also inclined to believe that he joined this group not because he was trying to keep women out of Princeton, per se, but because he was an opportunist looking to secure his cred as he was trying to get a job in the Reagan administration.

This doesn't make me fear him any less as a nominee, it just makes me sad. No, not sad that the intimation that he was a bigot made his wife start boo-hooing at the hearings. Sad that this is all we got against him and that the seat of Sandy D. is going to warmed by a man whose beliefs I think will lead this country further in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Of Mummies and Mysteries

I don't have to remind anyone that life is full of mystery and intrigue and great unanswerable questions--for we struggle with them everyday, groping for answers, most often finding none: What is the meaning of life? Why is it so fucking cold in my office? Where's Osama?

But today, as I was reading the midwestern regional news briefs--as one does in the morning--I stumbled upon a mind-boggler more confounding than any I've grappled with before. It takes force of character and determination, sometimes faith in God, and, depending on your zip code, potent meds to face the great forgive me already for burdening you with this one.

OHIO: MUMMIFIED BODY FOUND The mummified body of a woman was found at her home in Cincinnati more than two years after her death, the authorities said. The woman, Johannas Pope, had told her live-in attendant that she did not want to be buried, said the Hamilton County coroner, O'Dell Owens. Ms. Pope died in August 2003 at age 61. An air-conditioner had been left running, allowing the body to mummify slowly, Mr. Owens said. The authorities did not identify the attendant. (AP)


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What's the Matter With Kentucky (Fried Chicken)?

I have vegetarians in the family. Some of my closest friends are vegetarians. I'm even down with the idea of letting you turn sallow, weak and protein-deficient if it makes you feel happy that you're following your ideals. But dudes, for the love of all things tasty and fried, keep your pasty paws off my Extra Crispy.

I was walking by the KFC on 6th Avenue and West 4th this weekend and lo and behold, I found myself in the middle of a bloody chicken coup, or coop, if you'll permit. Turns out there's a huge anti-KFC movement achickenfoot these days. Apparently PETA is going after the Colonel and his special recipe with their shrieking hell hounds in a manner more befitting Anna Wintour.

Now granted, I haven't become intimate with the ways of the Colonel and his chicks. I mean, okay, he probably abuses them. And as a feminist, on principle I'm anti-chick abuse across the board. But these little chickadees are being raised for the slaughter. Really, do we really, really think that if we treat chickens more kindly, when their time comes--and come it will--they'll be all like, "no, my peeps, it's cool if you slaughter me now because it's been a wonderful life!"? Are we, the people, that dumb to think that chickens think like we do? For God's sake it's called bird brained for a reason!

But the most hilarious and truly stupid part of the campaign against KFC has got to be the idiot kid who changed his name to KentuckyFriedCruelty.Com to raise awareness. Awareness about what, I'm not quite sure. But I'll bet his parents are proud of him... too bad he won't be able to carry on the family name in their honor.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Addis Ababa Idol

When we think of Ethiopia, we tend to think of poverty, famine, big-bellied babies, and Brad Pitt carrying Angelina Jolie's newest baby. We do not tend to think of reality television. Turns out, we thought wrong.

Turns out, in fact, that Ethiopians are just as into the televised humiliation of others, nasty television judges, and the public melt-down of sad losers who've travelled miles and miles to subject themselves to the gratuitous criticism of wannabe famous people. Yup, the "Idol" franchise has arrived in...Addis Ababa.

The Simon Cowell is Feleke Hailu and his catch-phrase is Alta fakedem!--which means "You didn’t make it!" in Amharic. (Big points if you knew they spoke Amharic in Ethiopia). He also tells them, "You sing like a donkey."

And instead of hitch-hiking from God Knows Where, Kansas, to the big auditions in L.A., kids like Natinel Amsalu pay $10 to travel 300 miles from Gonder. You know, Gonder. The semi-finalists tend to stick to their own hair-and-makeup routines, like Medina Mohammed, who has tribal scars on her cheeks and performed in the multicolored beads and red cloth of her Afar ethnic group, singing a traditional love song, "I’m So Glad You Came." Judges described her voice as "honey-like."

Can't wait until they syndicate!

Friday, January 06, 2006

God to Ariel: Drop Dead

I'd been missing Pat Robertson. His wisdom, his forbearance, his kindness. He's a Christian man of God, spreading the word and the love of Jesus all around him, and a bigot so shameless and brazen you just gotta laugh. And, praise be to the Lord, Patty usually busts out with a funny one pretty frequently.

Like, just yesterday. I have heard about Christian compassion and Christian tolerance, all that loving thy neighbor stuff, but nobody really puts it into action quite like Pat. He weighed in yesterday on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's critical health situation. He talked about how Ariel and he had prayed together, about how Ariel is "a tender-hearted man and a good friend." He said he was real sad to see Ariel in his current medical condition.

And then he said it was that fatso's own damn fault. You see, Pat explained on TV to his many gazillion spectators, Ariel's stroke was divine punishment for "dividing God's land." That's right. "God considers this land to be his," Pat said, "and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'no, this is mine.'" Which, Pat implies, translates as, "Drop dead, you land-carving fatso."

So I'd like to thank Pat for revealing to all of us God's mysterious ways, with--as always--such enormous sensitivity and insight. Amen.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

You Can't Win Unless You Play

When I was growing up that was the motto of the Pennsylvania lottery, and there was just something about that quote that I adored. I even used it on my application to Princeton in its "Hodge Podge" section, which appeared after the arduous essays, and asked for a list of our favorite things from movies and source of news to quotes. The written instruction on that section said something to the effect of "This is a section that's supposed to be fun so don't worry about your answers, we just want to get a better sense of you." (Don't worry about your answers -- Riiiiight -- let's just say I was such a basket case, Harry and David's created a commemorative "Fruitcake & Nuts" sampler of me.)

Anyway, even though I wasn't sure I'd gotten the right answer for "favorite movie" (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure), I was 100% certain that they, too, would totally get my quote (and it was going to be a million times more clever than people who went with something from Rilke or A.A. Milne.) Read it again: You Can't Win Unless You Play. Sure, it's an advert promoting gambling, but it was poetry in my mind, lifting the spirit with precisely the right combination of encouragement, hope and motivation. Wordsworth was just talking about the Alps.

The meaning and importance of the motto has stayed with me over the years (and still strikes me as MUCH better stated than New York lotto's own far crasser version of the sentiment, "You Gotta Be In It To Win It"). And whenever I'm trying to do a cost/benefit analysis of whether I should do something or not, I factor it in.

Still, Hugh Hawkins for shame! This Iowa Powerball Lottery winner who just stepped forward to claim his $54 million prize had declared bankruptcy but seven months ago. And instead of ooh, I don't know, paying off his debts, putting money back into the hands of the people who gave him money before he went belly up and defaulted on his fiscal responsibilities, Hugh goes and wastes his money on impossible to win lottery tickets. Hugh, that's insane! And irresponsible! And downright stupid! And if you'd like any more advice, I do a bit of consulting work and I'm sure we'd be able to work out some sort of payment schedule.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Jack Gives Back

Even as Jack Abramoff comes out with the first best guilty plea of 2006, with the delectable potential to humiliate and/or ruin the careers of up to twelve illustrious, golf-enthusiast lawmakers, I'd like to make a plea for leniency for Jack. Sure, put him up there on the stand, get the salacious details, make him play the grovelling stooge. But don't make him do any time.

Because, see, he's already giving back. Suddenly--one fraction of a nano-second after Jack came storming out of the courthouse yesterday in his gangster get-up--all of Capitol Hill started disgorging money! Hundreds of thousands of dollars suddenly leaping from Republican coffers into the empty purses of needy charities! It's raining money, and where's it all coming from?

Jack, of course! His bounty knew no measure--and it really shouldn't have since he earned $750 of bounty an hour--and now all the contribution-happy Republicans who enjoyed steaks at Jack's place and teed off in Scotland are tripping over themsleves to give all of Jack's money away. It's like a Hanukka miracle! Rep. Dennis Hastert is donating to charity $69,000 of Jack's campaign contributions...President Bush's re-election campaign will give the American Heart Association thousands of dollars in Jack's campaign contributions...Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay also will give Jack's contributions--at least $57,000--to charities. Not even 24 hours into the big smoke-out and already Jack has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the poor and the needy.

Now why would you put a good man like that in jail?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Chacun a Son Gout... I S'pose

I'm not even talking about tattoos here because, bleh, they're just disgusting. I'm talking about the fact that today marks Adam Carolla's debut behind Howard Stern's storied microphone, and I find the fact that he was chosen as Stern's replacement as sad, sad, sad. Perhaps you've seen Carolla. He's frickin' everywhere, late of The Man Show, Loveline and most recently Too Late with Adam Carolla, Crank Yankers, Drawn Together and that show on the Discovery Channel (insert your own joke about monkeys fucking here).

Now I'm not a gigantic Stern fan, but I get what it is people like about him. And I know finding someone to take his place will be tough. Still. Adam Carolla? The man is a blight. He's not funny. He's not innovative. He's not outrageous. He's just ubiquitous. And I have no idea why.

Does anyone? Really. I'm serious. Yes, I know complaining about "not getting" a pop culture icon makes me the asshole, but come on! What is it about this nasal-toned over-sized Eddie Munster that makes him appealing? As always, your thoughts on the matter are appreciated, and if you can come up with a convincing enough response, in the spirit of the Man Show, I'll send Renee over to your home to jump on a trampoline for you.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Dept. of Why Didn't I think Of It?

I am the first to admit--to warn, even--that I suck with the relating-to-relationships advice. I believe that when it comes to dispensing advice, one ought to be able to claim some kind of expertise, and that the proof is in the pudding, ya better have practiced what you preached, you oughta have some walk to show for your talk. In brief, show me the boyfriend and then point the way.

So I prefer to defer to the expertise of others when it comes to meeting and mating, and just this morning while perusing the new year's first issues of the news magazines, I ran across some relationship advice that seemed so solidly right-on, so clearly the product of tried-and-true experience, that it would be neglectful of me not to pass it along.

Newsweek quotes Kimberly Williams, author of "The Basics: Tantalizing Tips and Techniques for Attracting Good Men," one of those newfangled dating guide things you might have heard of, that all these women of tremendous wisdom and expertise seem to be churning out faster than Paris Hilton can find a new shipping heir. Well, here's Kimberly's most tantalizing tip to attract a good man: Try varying your morning commute. If you drive to work, take the train. If you take the train, get on a bus. New surroundings equal new opportunities to see and be seen.

Oh. My. God. Kimberly, where have you been all my 20's and early 30's?

So, still wondering why men aren't approaching you with stars in their eyes and a pre-nup in their hand? Still puzzled that conjugal bliss eludes you? Still shocked that Mr. Meant To be has not yet spotted you from afar and leap-frogged over every obstacle to beg for your number and, quickly thereafter, your hand? It's because you don't ride the bus, stupid.

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