Thursday, December 27, 2007

Star Power

I really only allow myself to read gossip magazines in two places: the hair salon, and the airport. But the internet spews the same information at me constantly. My room mate introduced me to Perez Hilton several months ago, and I'm guilty of checking his website about once every two weeks. Sorry Perez, but you bring my faith in humanity way down.

This man is famous for drawing fake coke and cum on photos of celebrities who may or may not be down on their luck. Regular parts of his vocabulary are "fugly," "pAArty," "hot mess," and "hag," not to mention his juvenile, dirogetory nicknames for his favorite celebs (i.e. Mischa Barton = Mushy Fartone and Britney = Unfitney). Hilton's escapades have moved from his blog to YouTube (his channel is mostly him going over his own personal life and dancing for the camera), a show on VH1, and, apparently, guest appearances on various other media outlets. At least Paris Hilton is famous for being famous, not bringing her peers down. I don't think I could live with myself if I centered my life around the downfalls of others.

So apparently Britney Spears is so addicted to fame that she goes looking for paparazzi. I wonder if she would have dug such a hole for herself if Perez and his colleagues hadn't given her the shovel.

At this point Perez can make or break a new artist by mentioning him on his website. This is a power to lift up, so I can't comprehend why he instead chooses to — with such unwavering joy! — make one destructive post after another.

Yeah, I read it. But I find that, generally, tales of celebrities' personal problems just make me disillusioned at best. I did, however, find this satirical celebrity gossip blog, that doesn't have the same attitude problem as Perez. Should I feel the need to feed the celeb goss cravings, I feel a little less guilty there than at

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Tis the Season

I have a problem. As my readers know, I'm a bakeaholic. I spend a lot of time concocting in my kitchen. You would think I knew how to use a potholder.

The sad truth is, a few times a month I get a little buzzed from all the culinary excitement, and, woops, grab a hot plate/pie tin/baking sheet from the oven, promptly giving myself second-degree burns. Tonight marks the worst yet:

That is, thankfully, my left hand, after using my right hand to pull a batch of cookies out of the oven with a dish towel and, upon the cookie sheet being too hot, and coming in for the save with a whole lot o' nothing protecting Leftie. Poor Leftie.

Since then (about an hour ago) I've taken 3 Excedrin (no sleep for me tonight, hence this blog) and been running my hand under freezing cold water. I've also been alternately clutching a paper towel filled with ice and splaying my hand so that the skin stretches a bit (the internets says that if you don't stretch the burned skin it could heal too tightly, thus making your life extra miserable forever). Most of this post was typed with one hand.

Incidentally, the cookies I pulled out of the oven were burned, too. First time testing a new recipe. I put them in a tupperware for my room mate with the following note:


Hi, Carrie.

Don't worry, folks. I give Carrie plenty of non-burned cookies, too. She ate half the sugar cookies I made in November, and was shocked and disgusted to learn tonight that they have Crisco in them. Oh yes, I do love my Crisco. All my old family recipes have them. Holiday treats shouldn't be healthy anyway.

In any case, I'm calling my new recipe "Burn Unit Special Xmas PB Cookies." They're basically peanut butter cookies, with a little candy twist: Hershey's candy cane kisses. Yes, friends, peanut butter and peppermint work shockingly well together. I would normally use my mum's recipe, but her's calls for, well, Crisco. I had to invent this one. Get out your sprinkles:

1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter (softened)
2/3 C creamy peanut butter
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C light brown sugar (packed)
1 large egg
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
colored sugar sprinkles
1 bag of Hershey's candy cane kisses

Preheat oven to 375 F

Mix together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer or a quick hand, blend butter and peanut butter, then add the sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla. When the mixture is smooth, slowly add flour. Pinch off teaspoon-sized sections of dough and roll into balls (dough will be soft, don't over-handle). Dip into colored sugars and place on cookie sheet about an inch to two inches apart. Squish a kiss into each ball of dough and place in the oven. Bake 9-12 minutes, until edges begin to brown. Transfer to rack to cool.

And, folks, please remember kitchen safety. Pot holders can save your hands from a shit load of pain. I promise.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Obligatory Christmas Gift Post

Believe it or not, I'm literate. I spend a lot of time reading pop novels, because that's what I like to read. I'd like to think that one day I'll battle through Ulysses, or even engage some of the Hemingway tomes I've bought for my boyfriend. I have books by Virginia Woolf and fully intend on reading them. It should be noted here that one of the reasons I have yet to read Mrs. Dalloway is that my emotionally unstable siamese peed on it (along with Microserfs by Douglas Coupland and Averno by Louise Glück) when I left it out on the kitchen counter, which is, apparently, her new favorite place to assert her authority. The truth, however, is I probably wouldn't have read it yet anyway. Though, it may be noted, that I have a ton of books by decorated poets. And I've read most of them.

The point is, I think, that pop novels make for great holiday gifts. I've read all of these books, and thusly can give my stamp of approval. I'm even gifting some this year (I feel safe saying this because my giftees either have an aversion to internets or to blogs). And, as tacky as it is, Happy Holidays to all two of you who read this blog. And a happy new year, or whatever.
( And, yes, I'm aware that I'm a bit late for Hanukkah, but that never stops the cashiers at Macy's from saying "Happy Holidays." I recommend avoiding that place right now, it's a zoo. A zoo filled with steroid-enhanced wildlife that may or may not have recently snorted cocaine.)

A Tale of Two Sisters by Anna Maxted
I read this one last year, picked it up because it's by one of the only chick lit authors I enjoy, Anna Maxted. But it surprised me. This is as much a warm, heartfelt book about taking responsibility for one's own place in life as it is a punchy comedy. The story takes turns between the perspectives of two sisters, Lizbet and Cassie, as they struggle through their relationships (Lizbet is single but committed, whereas Cassie is married but questioning her vows), their jobs (editor and lawyer, respectively), and their feelings for eachother just as a surprise, followed by a tragedy, hit the family. Perhaps it sounds a bit cliche, but trust me when I say that this is Maxted's best book, rife with wit and cynicism, and a great gift for any woman in the family.

The Seas by Samantha Hunt
What I love most about this book is its insane romanticism. Let me pause. It's not insane because it's romantic, it's romantic because it's insane. Or is it? The narrator has a special idealism in the face of imminent tragedy, and is convinced of certain paranormal experiences - most prominently she believes she's a mermaid - that really define the ebb and flow of the story. She is engaged a doomed love affair with a much older Gulf War vet, and lives in a small ship-building town, that, despite giving no specific geographical location, reminds me of northern Maine. It's the spirit of this book that has caused me to already gift it twice.

Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
It's not really about religion. Its characters, in various states of spiritual decomposition, don't have a platform on Christianity. In the wake of a high school tragedy, the four narrators of this story are all determined to move forward. Some get there faster than others, and, like you might expect from Coupland, each character's progress is interwoven with the others'. Like most of Coupland's work, this novel leaves both an apocalyptic and a hopeful aftertaste.

Songbook by Nick Hornby
This was actually given to me a few years ago, by my childhood best friend. It's nonfiction - part memoir, part music journalism, with Hornby's musings on his 32 favorite songs. This makes a perfect gift for a music-lover - the friend who has a story for each of his favorite songs. You know, the "Oh the first time I heard this I was driving down Congress Street with Joe..." friend. It's also a quick read, so it's not like you'd be burdening him with the chore of reading War and Peace. Unless, you know, he's into that sort of thing.

Cockatiels for Two by Leo Cullum
Leo Cullum is among my favorite New Yorker cartoonists. And cat cartoons never cease to be funny. This book, comprised entirely of his cat cartoons, is a no-miss gift. Unless your recipient is a dog person. For him, there is Cullum's book of dog cartoons. But that one doesn't interest me nearly as much.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot
For lovers of fixed-verse poetry and cat fanatics alike, children and adults, this Eliot classic is a pleaser. I mean, who wouldn't love a poem about Jennyanydots, or Macavity the Mystery Cat? These poems are entertaining and nostalgic, and most fun read aloud!

Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates
A coworker recommended this book to me as she said it reminded her of having gone to college in a rural, eastern location, much like I did. It takes place at an all-girls college in New England, where one girl's obsession with a professor of literature, and, in turn, his wife the art teacher, quickly becomes unhealthy. While dark, Beasts is a compelling read that draws a narrow line between art and self.

Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
When I initially purchased this book from, I suspected that it might be a young adult novel. The cover art, I suppose gives it away. I mostly didn't care, as a) Joyce Carol Oates is awesome and b) I like kids' books. What surprised me was the careful, strong narrative Oates crafted using two teenage misfits as protagonists, and, in the aftermath of so many school shootings and bomb threats in the 90's and 00's, the way she tackles such an incident without gimmick or glamor. This is the sort of smart, funny novel that teenagers should be reading, and that adults can certainly get a kick out of, too.

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
This was the first Murakami book I read. I know, he's a huge buzz name right now, but hear me out. Your contemporary-literature-loving friend probably doesn't have this one. It's not one of Murakami's more well-known novels, but perhaps it should be. I admit, I chose it not on its merit, but on the fact that it was the shortest of the Murakami novels that were on sale at the Strand. I don't regret this. It mostly takes place on a remote island off the coast of Greece, in search of a woman who has disappeared, seemingly, without a trace. While Murakami is, arguably, hard to read, once you discover the elaborate mystery and romance of this novel, it's difficult to put down. I, for one, missed my stop on the train at least once while reading it.

Latin for Even More Occasions by Henry Beard
Okay, this was geek-love-at-first-sight. Henry Beard may not be a creative genius, but I can't say I haven't enjoyed this book a little too much. And I'm certain that anyone with an interest in Latin, language, or Greco-Roman studies will get a kick out of this. This is especially useful for the holidays: Cogito sumere potum alterum.

Slam by Nick Hornby
I haven't finished reading this yet, so I can't give you an absolutely definitive opinion. But, I can tell you that Nick Hornby's first young adult novel is a hoot. It takes on both heavy and light-hearted subjects with the sort of narrative voice that I have enjoyed In every other Hornby novel that I've read through the eyes of Sam. Sam is a 16-year-old skater (not an ice-skater, mind you, a skateboarder) living in London. He has girl trouble. And there's very little not to enjoy about his story.

Miss Wyoming by Douglas Coupland
Another Coupland novel that I devoured this past year, Miss Wyoming is as delightful as it is frightening. Frightening in the sense that, yes, this is the human condition. It skips about in time, narrating both the history and current affairs of a former teen pageant queen and a washed up movie star. Susan Colgate has survived a plane crash followed by a year-long disappearance, John Johnson has survived a drug overdose followed by months of self-prescribed homelessness. They both have survived, as you can imagine, some extremely odd family dynamics. As the story switches perspectives and carves out each surprise, you find yourself putting faith in the aforementioned human condition, and the odd little mission that this pair ultimately have set out to achieve.

There you have it. Happy shopping (read: may you not venture into any malls or department stores). And, if you're wondering what to get me, here's my very own Amazon wish list. I like presents.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Happy Accidents

These cookies are entirely a misunderstanding. My dear friend Amelia, who is, sadly, at current, trapped in a small town in Texas without internets, texted me a few weeks ago to tell me that she and her daughter had been baking up a storm. "I made chocolate chookies with peanut butter chips and Andes mints!" she said. I texted her back, "You're a genius! Mint and peanut butter together!" Well, Amelia hadn't put both in the same cookies — she'd made two batches, one with peanut butter chips and one with Andes. But, upon testing a bite of each together, she texted me with, "Wow, this is genius, salty and also fresh. Great combo."

Well, I think that's how the texts went. My cell-phone automatically deletes things after a while. But I have a pretty good memory.

So, today, I rustled through my baking cupboard and pulled out the ingredients necessary for this happy accident. Said ingredients are as follows:

2 C flour
3/4 C white sugar
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C cocoa powder
1 C peanut butter chips
1 C mini chocolate chips
1 package chopped Andes mints
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. With an electric mixer cream the butter (softened) and the two sugars. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Slowy add dry ingredients and mix well. Drop by teaspoon-fulls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9-12 minutes.

Monday, December 3, 2007

And Then There Were Five

It's official: I'm off to Texas.

If you'd asked me a year ago if I were ever going to move to one of the redneckiest states in the nation, I would have given you the evil eye. However, after having visited the lovely city of Austin, its suburbs, and also having roadtripped to San Antonio, I'm making one of the craziest moves of my life. I blame my boyfriend, Mark, who has enticed me to join him there. Despite my lovely Brooklyn, and all the seductions of the city that never sleeps, he didn't want to come here. And, well, my roots are barely planted, so as a writer, why not wander?

After the initial shock of friends and family wears off, they've been asking a lot of questions. How will you get there? Are you living together? Are you living TOGETHER together? How will you get around? What about your job? And, finally: What about your cats?

As you all know, I have two special cats. On the left, Telemachus, my 16lb+ Maine Coon with a heart of gold and the will to snuggle. On the right, Mocha, the small but plump (about 10lbs, where she should be 6 or 7) Siamese that was abandoned by several owners before finding her way to me and peeing on my carpets and kitchen counter. More on that later. These animals are family and of course are making the trip with me to the Lone Star State. Most likely by plane. Because of Mocha's nervous habit of urinating-at-will, the plane ride is a huge concern. I brought her to the vet on Saturday to find out that, well, she needs kitty Prozac.

I shit you not, the vet gave her antibiotics in case of an infection, but assured me that her pee problems are most likely the result of anxiety. Given her abandonment issues and past on the harsh streets of the Boston 'burbs, I can't say I blame the poor girl. But cat Prozac? I thought this was the sort of thing that only ridiculous celebrities and crazy show dog breeders would recommend, not a nice, friendly neighborhood veterinarian. Mocha has run up a nice list of veterinary bills for me already - her former owner ditched her with me when she moved out of my current apartment. At the time Mocha had ear mites which lead to her scratching her ear so hard she gave herself a hematoma that required surgery. She also needed to be dewormed and demited.

So why, after all this, are Mark and I adopting another cat? No, wait for it:

a three-legged calico kitten whom Mark has insisted upon naming Imogen Beatrice SQL Fleeterson should the adoption papers go through. Yes, this is our soon-to-be-lovespawn.

She's precious! Just look at that face! She apparently suffered some nerve damage to one of her front legs before she was rescued from the streets of Austin and had to have that leg amputated.

I'm a veterinarian's dream.

So, in Austin, I will have three cats, a new house, and a new job. Which, of course, all ties into this post. I want to be a veterinarian. Sort of.

Whenever I take the cats to the vet I wish I'd had the brains to stick to biology and the stomach to do veterinary school. I know I couldn't handle a lot of the things vets do - invasive surgeries, euthanasia, etc. But, why not get a job at a veterinary office? Yes, right now I have a fairly successful publishing career under way. I am looking at a ton of publishing venues from University presses to Austin-based magazines. But if the price is right, so is a change of pace. And, hey, I bet I'd get a good deal on veterinary services for the animals, seeing as I have several sickies to take care of.

Given the fact that I have no experience in animal clinics or shelters, this is just another pipe dream. But, I can volunteer. With any luck Mark will keep me from bringing home every stray animal I encounter, and I can help some orphan cats and pups stay healthy and happy. And, with that in mind, I have two hungry cats waiting for me to finish this up so I can cuddle and feed them. Cat Lady Out.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Have an Original Thought Already

For some reason, I love horror movies. I am stating the fact in this manner because horror movies, as a genre, are consistently disappointing. All the good parts are in the previews, so you think you're going to be batshit scared and then, not only is the plot shaky and dragged out, not ONLY is the acting weak and misdirected, NOT ONLY is the dialogue predictable and painful to follow, but the anticipated edge-of-your-seat queasefest is entirely nonexistent.

It's probably just the fact that it's all been done, and all there is left to do is gross out the audience. I mean, once upon a time, Jaws was terrifying. Today, that shark is fairly laughable, even if the movie is great. Even films like The Shining and The Exorcist can't scare me (side note: admittedly, Evil Dead does). I need faster, grosser, weirder monsters — or a psychological element so terrifying that I can't sleep at night.

Last night I was watching the Horrorfest 2006 movies that were being aired on Sci-Fi. I caught the end of The Hamiltons, which, while not particularly frightening, is a fairly interesting flick. It, unlike the rest of the Horrorfest films that I've seen, had its moments of innovation. It had a twist on an old favorite (vampires), a morally ambiguous cast of characters, and quite a few surprises. In addition, a lot of the shots were through the eyes of the teenage protagonist, and the lens of his hand-held video camera. Unrest, while a step up from many horror films in some of its visual stimuli (a huge chunk of the film takes place in a bleak cadaver lab, with medical students cutting and groping at body parts in a totally-not-for-Grey's-Anatomy fashion. But, naturally, the whole the dead-comes-back-to-life-to-avenge-postmortem-disrespect thing is so overdone that no element in this film can possibly make up for it, especially with its lack of subtlety, giving no credit to the intelligence of the audience. Penny Dreadful is the worst of the batch, as it could have been a great psychological thriller, but instead is the audio-visual torture of a girl trapped in a car with her dead therapist crying and having panic attacks.

I really don't know why I keep watching horror movies and expecting something out of them. The last truly scary movie I saw — a squeeze-your-date's-hand-so-hard-it-sorta-hurts movie — was 28 Weeks Later. It was fast-paced and unpredictable. I really liked it. Previous to that, only the Japanese could make me cringe. Films like Ju-On and Ringu really got my attention, but, like all trends, this one hit a rut as well. Reincarnation (Rinne, in Japanese), was a part of last year's Horrorfest, and since it was directed by Ju-On's Takashi Shimizu, I expected it to be so terrifying that I couldn't bring myself to watch the DVD for weeks. But it was as predictable as any other horror film. Come on, Horrorfest, give us something to sink our teeth into!

This year's "8 Films to Die For" look remotely promising. The blurbs on the website make the films sound more creative than last year's, and interesting enough that I'm tempted to have hope. I worry that I've become completely desensitized to gore, but at least one of these eight films must have what it takes to make me cover my eyes and scream.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Recipe Time

My room mate says I'm like Izzie from Grey's Anatomy. If you're not familiar with the show, she deals with stress by baking, to the dismay of her room mates who are then forced with the dilemma: to eat or not to eat.

I don't know what's come over me, but recently I, like Izzie, can't stop baking. Muffins, cookies, breads — it just doesn't stop. I've been modifying recipes (note: you can try, but you just can't make cumin cookies taste good) and heating up the kitchen. While it is probably stress-related, I haven't heard many complaints from coworkers, who are happy to share in the bounty of my bakathon.

Tonight I made pumpkin muffins. Sadly, I was out of walnuts. Hazelnuts are no substitute, and neither are almonds. So I was forced down a different route altogether: chocolate chips. I added both miniature semi-sweet and white chocolate to the batter. And they are delicious. So, if you would like your very own muffingasm, try this recipe. It's my very own, so, you know, if one day I'm famous and write a cookbook, you can say you were privy to this information back in the day.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/3 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking soda. In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer, blend the pumpkin, oil, eggs, water, and spices. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Add chocolate chips. Pour into papered muffin tin. Bake 25-30 minutes (until a knife comes out clean when poked into the center of a muffin).

I cannot promise that they will be beautiful, but they will certainly be delicious.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Body of Evidence

Women are fat.

We're not chubby or plump. We're not hefty or big. We're fat.

Men can be jolly or whatever.

I've decided to be squishy.

Most of the time I'm okay with squishy. My boyfriend is okay with squishy, he's really only ever known me squishy. Of course there's the inevitable return-to-the-hometown desire: I hope everyone else is fatter than me. The truth is, I would love to be tiny for my 10-year reunion. And recently I've discovered that some pants don't fit like they did six months ago. Being happy with your body is just really bad for dieting.

And I don't believe in dieting. This whole culture of feeling in control of our lives by controlling what we eat is weird. The Atkins diet shits me - the guy DIED from cardiac arrest and put a ban on vegetables but people still want to eat steak steak steak to lose weight weight weight. And then there's Weight Watchers where you go to meetings, which, I presume is something like AA:
"Hi, I'm Judy Jones, and I'm FAT."
"Hi Judy."

"Hi, I'm Katie Clarke, and I have been thin for six months!"
(thundering applause)
And of course Nutrisystem, which, apparently, costs a damn fortune (their prices don't include a lot of parts of the "meal" they send you - like the meat).

And there is, of course, the idea of skipping food control all together and going straight to appetite control. Pills! We have a pill for everything — AND YOU NEED THEM. We have celebrities to endorse them all, too. FAT celebrities, who got skinny.

I don't think AmericansWesterners, even — will ever have a healthy relationship with food. We think of food like something naughty, an indulgence, a vice. Food is not something we eat to sustain ourselves, but to satisfy ourselves. And there's no balance. If we are satisfied, we must have had too much. My weight loss plan is this: don't think too much about it, do some pilates, walk more. I don't want to think about my snacks in terms of calories and carbs.

My friend Amelia has this theory on feeding children: kids' bodies know what they need. If you make good food available, they will, usually, get what their body requires. Her daughter seems to eat like a pigeon, but, if you watch closely over several days, you see that she gets everything she needs from several food groups. I don't see why we, as adults, can't function similarly. Eat what we want, when we want, listening to our bodies instead of the ingredients list on the backs of packages. And if I want I need I must have McNuggets, so be it. If I never lose this extra weight, I'm okay with that, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm Almost Proud of Him

This is my cat, Telemachus. He is a 15lb Maine Coon, and about two years old. He loves mischief.

When I woke up this morning, he had caused a bit of a massacre in my bathroom. As long as I've known him, Tele has had a fascination with toilet paper. As long as I've known him, he's loved to unravel it to play, generally creating a mess for me. However, I've never seen anything quite like this:

As you can see, he's quite proud of himself. This is a cat masterpiece. I think this is the feline version of TPing your teacher's yard. There's nearly a whole roll there, including some that is in the bathtub and behind the toilet. My other cat, a wee Siamese — who is, incidentally, dumb as a stick — was rolling around in it, as if trying to take credit for Tele's hard work. Sadly, yes, it's an incredible waste of paper. My grandfather used to roll it back up onto the tube, but I can't bring myself to do that. This is why my room mate shouldn't feel bad about the fact that I buy most of the toilet paper. When so much goes to entertaining the animals, I just wouldn't feel right asking her for TP money.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hug Your Mail Man (or Woman)

I can really understand why postal workers are so grumpy. They do what I've been avoiding my whole life: dealing directly with the public. I was at the post office today and the line was a slow-moving fifteen people deep when I walked in. Some of these people had children with them, one of which was running wild, playing with the stamp machine and one of the mailboxes.

I don't know about where you live, but where I live, the postal workers are all behind double panes of bullet-proof glass. You speak through an intercom, and any time you give them something (or vice versa) you open your side of the window to place the item on the counter and after you close your side, they open theirs to retrieve your goods. National security at its finest.

So you can see, perhaps, why the line of customers moves slower than molasses in January. Mailing a letter requires quite the rigmarole - opening and closing windows, etc. - and if you're the attendant dealing with a cranky old woman (my neighborhood has its share) who can't hear or can't lift the heavy glass or just feels like being difficult, it's going to take that much longer, and you're going to wish that much harder for a freak tornado/tsunami/nuclear explosion to blow up your postal district.

Enter my new best friend, the Automated Postal Center. The APC, or, as I like to call him, the MailBot, is a lovely little machine that I've seen in several post offices that will do almost everything a human postal worker can do without any attitude or security systems. And, in my neck of the woods, there's never a a line. There was one man in front of me today, and the only other time I've had to wait was so that the receipt paper could be replaced. So, why on earth would you wait in that long line to mail a letter when, using your debit or credit card, you can purchase stamps, weigh and mail a package, and purchase delivery confirmation or insurance.

I'm in the post office every week at least once. I mail out submissions to lit journals like a well-oiled machine. On top of this I have friends all over the globe, not to mention a boyfriend in Texas and a wee sister at her first year in college up in Maine. Care packages are necessary. The MailBot gets me. He doesn't judge the amount of mail I send — though I'm sure the mail carrier considers it odd that I receive so many small manila envelopes addressed to me in tag-like print (my goofy handwriting) without any return label (rejection letters). And the MailBot is just so fun to use! With a touch screen and perfect postage you can affix yourself, there's nothing better. Except, well, a lot of things. But, as an individual obsessed with mail, I have to give props.

And let's give those postal workers a break, eh? They have to deal with plenty of stooges every day. I'm sure they love the MailBot, too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We're the 'Brews

Friday night we'll be drinkin' Manishewitz
Goin' out to terrorize Goyim
Stompin' shaygetz, screwin' shiksas
As long as we're home by Saturday mornin
Cause hey, we're the Brews
Sportin' anti-swastika tattoos
Oi Oi we're the boys
Orthodox, hasidic, O.G. Ois

So my friend Rich was in town from the Pittsburgh area this weekend. On Sunday evening he and I decided, after yet another failed attempt to go see a movie, to head over to the Brooklyn Industries outlet store in Williamsburg. Williamsburg is this weird little part of Brooklyn that is sort of ghetto-as-fuck, but also swarming with hipsters who pay massive amounts of rent for recently converted factory-to-apartment shitholes (hey, I have yet to see a nice Willy-B apartment, and I've seen quite a few, including one that was BARELY two bedrooms, had two walls knocked down and no bathroom sink. Oh, PS, the kitchen floor is coming apart. $1600/mo.). Williamsburg is also a major hub for Hasidic Jews.

Backing up a bit, we drove there from my place in Bensonhurst, which is just outside Borough Park, which, reportedly, has one of the largest concentration of Orthodox Jews outside of Israel. It's not uncommon for me to run into Hasidim at the postoffice, on the train, in the shops, or on the sidewalk. We don't talk, but their culture is fairly insular. I did a lot of Wikipedia research on them after my room mate started saying that she thought they hated her. She goes running, often in short shorts and a tank top, and was, at the time, convinced that they found her offensive. Honestly, I think that we place others' judgments on ourselves when we don't quite understand said others' culture. I learned that they don't shake hands because they consider all touches intimate. I learned that their marriages aren't arranged but rather adults in the community set up their kids on dates. I learned about the ways that the keep alive the Yiddish language.

So when Rich and I went barreling down 18th Avenue (really it was more of a crawl in rush hour traffic) in his red Jetta, blasting "The Brews" by NOFX, with the windows rolled down, well, I blushed a bit as we hit Borough Park. You can't look left or right without seeing Hasidim, and, while I'm sure they didn't care or know that we — two back-woods gentiles — were listening to a song that, in its own way, celebrates Jewish culture, It was like a 'hood-wide awkward mo'.

And, to bring this full circle, as we exited the BQE, now full of the Big Gulp coke (no ice) we'd gotten at 7-Eleven (fountain soda felt necessary after our big plan to see a movie in Cobble Hill was quashed), the NOFX record had begun to repeat itself. Through the streets of Williamsburg "The Brews" played again, and the 'brews were out and about, and Rich and I laughed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Lock-Out Blog

If this were a proper lock-out blog, it would have been written while I was actually locked out of my apartment on Tuesday night. Of course that means I would have had to write it on my cell phone somehow, and, seeing as I don't have a Crackberry or any sort of high-tech CIA-issue tracking device variety of phone, this would have been a frightening endeavor.

I could have written it immediately after breaking in to the apartment, but it was, by that time, 3:15 am, and even this night owl needed some shut-eye.

The irony in all this (I think, anyway, as the true meaning of irony has always eluded me), is that i had my keys. My room mate and I spent a good half an hour banging on our own door after bending my key in the deadbolt lock. It wouldn't budge. We tried to MacGyver our way in, too, with a barrette but mostly wound up embarrassing ourselves. Eventually we called a locksmith who took a power drill the the cylinder and woke up our neighbors. They were not pleased. One of them is a scary feminazi who listens to Ani Difranco on vinyl (you can learn a lot of things simply by looking at a person's mail) and does not mince words. I made them cookies. That is how we deal with things where I come from.

So, who is to blame? Us or the landlady? After a shouting match with said landlady over the phone my room mate and I were too frazzled to think straight. All four of our parents told us to ask around and to stop freaking out. Apparently in NYC the landlord is only responsible for putting a regular lock on the door - like the one in the doorknob. The deadbolt lock, or any other locks, are the responsibility of the tenant to maintain. The landlady came over yesterday afternoon and hugged it out with my room mate who gave her the rest of my cookies. We're splitting the locksmith's charges ($255) three ways, which is better than footing the bill ourselves, but not as great as being reimbursed.

So, friends. Got any good lock out stories? The only one I have that beats this one is December 6, 2003. It was my 21st birthday, and had had a glass of cheap champagne, two bottles of Mike's Hard Lemonade, and a Coors Lite. As a total lightweight, this rendered me totally drunk. My friends locked me out of my room for pranking purposes, then forgot to unlatch the lock before shutting the door and running away. I had to call a campus safety officer for a lockout, wearing a vintage 1980s evening gown (it was Festivus, as well, par-tay), and, of course, he asked me to sign a lockout form. I still have it, as a marker of the night I couldn't sign my own name.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

When I grow up

Summer time can be a veritable wasteland for cable viewers - our network favorites go into reruns and new short-season summer series are often no more than a flash in the pan. Thankfully TNT developed The Closer a few years ago providing at least one night a week with some clever crime drama. Army Wives, while airing amongst the notoriously sentimental and uninspired shows on Lifetime, is an intriguing new series that lands it a good few notches above mediocre. But every summer, without fail, the Discovery Channel alone can boast an event with both reruns AND original programming that would completely beat out a week with new episodes of House, Criminal Minds, Grey's Anatomy, and CSI - at least on my TiVo.

Shark Week makes me want to go back in time and become an ichthyologist.

These animals are brilliant and beautiful. I just finished watching Top Ten Most Dangerous Sharks, which I remember watching last year. The narrator talked about all these amazing experiences, and shows biologists and divers doing the most exciting things. I want to go swim with sharks, get bitten by one or two (nothing fatal or damaging, just enough for a cool scar and a story), experience the awe and adrenaline of sharing the ocean with them.

When I was young I was obsessed with whales, and I feel like I missed out. If I had had a poster of the various species of sharks on my wall, instead of whales, perhaps I would have stuck to my guns and become a biologist of some sort instead of crapping out in high school and giving up on the sciences. It's not likely, as the science programs, even in my school district in coastal Maine, weren't exactly deep sea expeditions.

I found myself writing a poem about shark predation on the train last week, in anticipation of the Shark Week extravaganza. I felt like a cheat. I've never seen a shark in the wild, only in aquariums (and according to the aforementioned program, it was most likely a sand tiger, as they survive best in captivity and their needly teeth make for a great spectacle). My experience on boats is limited to Portland Harbor and the Staten Island Ferry. I once went on a whale watch - I was about 14 - and wound up seasick and vomiting and not seeing more than a dorsal fin. I will take whatever drugs necessary to go on a shark watch so that I can record their majesty in earnest.

I promise not to get eaten.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And so it begins...

Inspired by my many "serious" blogger friends, I am hereby abandoning my past as a "casual" blogger. Blogging is, as some might say, serious business, after all, and there are a lot of serious things to be said.

My name is Emily, but some of you may have read my poetry published under the moniker E. Kristin Anderson. You know, as in Yes, it's a penname, don't fault me for it. Some other Emily Morse got there first and published screenplays with my name. I know, I know, it's a tragedy. But I figure this is a great way to take advantage of my grandmother's maiden name. And she's an awesome lady, so why not be an Anderson? And as to prevent further confusion with the billions of Emily Andersons that must exist, I decided to shorten that first name to E. and use Kristin. Of course, this has caused just the slightest bit of agony. It seems that the popular way to spell Kristin is with an e: Kristen. Funny story: my Dad can't spell. And having not discussed spelling with my mother before she was put on infinite painkillers, I was born and my birth certificate was filled out wrong. And never corrected. I'm a walking mistake, in some sense of the world. No wonder I'm a hate-mongering tart.

Emily is a great name, though. The first person I shared my name with was Miss Emily Dickinson. I mean, clearly, there were millions, no, billions, of Emilies running amok in the world at the time, but when i was seven or eight I was standing in line at the book store with my mum and saw that there was a book with my name on it with all the other bargain books: the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson. It MUST have been a bargain book because it was a massive hardcover tome with roses on the cover, and I can't imagine even my, who was and is a great advocate of reading and the arts for kids, spending more than ten bucks on a book of poetry that I wanted just because of the author's name.

I fell in love with poetry that summer. I read most of Emily's poems (I'd like to say all, but I know that's not true), which of course I thought were all about love of nature and wanting to live in the ocean as a mermaid and such - the naiveté of childhood blocks out the ideas of depression and suicide that are so predominant in such works - and that fall I started telling people that I was named after Miss Dickinson. A total lie: if I was named after anyone, my mother said, it was her "Aunt" Emily, who was actually just a favorite babysitter who spelled her name E-M-I-L-I-E (another spelling mistake on my parents' permanent record) and, truth be told, it wasn't so much that I was named after her but that my mother really liked her name. I kept lying, much like I had when I found out that Emily had once been a nickname for Amelia and started writing Amelia Morse on all my school papers.

Nevertheless, Emily Dickinson and her twee poems about the birds and the ocean and her deep, dark heartache built me as a writer. Her superfluous use of the em dash and her impenetrable meter may not be my shtick, but she gave me my first taste from a cup that I just can't seem to put down. Over and over I asked my mom why she never showed anyone her poetry, why she hid it (I imagined that she kept it with a few hand-made sachets of potpourri in her underwear drawer) and it was only published after she died. I can't remember what my mother answered with, only that it was unsatisfactory. Poetry is art, and art is meant to be shared.

Recently I began my quest to share my poetry in a serious manner (i.e., not just posting it on the web for my friends). On the right, much like my pretentious poet friend James, I'll post journals that have picked up my verse for publication in their pages. For the time being, some of my poetry is also available at my deviantART page, but it is quickly disappearing these days, as it finishes its time being workshopped and is mailed off to literary journals. Literary journals to me are worse than crack-cocaine and I hope never to go to rehab for this addiction. I hope that literature will be the problem that takes me over and puts me in the ground. It is, after all, so much like love.