Free-Floating Hostility

Monday, May 30, 2005

A Little Sliver of Sunburn

Our plans to spend Memorial Day on the beach in Santa Cruz were thwarted by an unseasonably cool May. Instead we went out to Raley Field to watch a minor league baseball game (Phone exchange Anna: It will be fun. Anna's Mom: You're a Sports Whore). We used my press pass to park for free, so then we splurged for the nice tickets behind home plate close enough to be able argue balls and strikes and actually mean it. We sat in front of two obnoxious high schoolers who were convinced that with their "blazing speed" and "hella good hitting" they could most certainly outplay the members of the Sacramento River Cats and Salt Lake Stingers (Sac won 6-1).

I got a bitchin' farmer's tan and a very small sunburn, about the size of my palm, on my right knee. I still have no fucking clue how that happened. Anna reports that her right shoulder is a distinct mocha, her left more of a latte, her arms about a chai, and her legs are a vanilla-bean frappuccino. This post has been brought to you by Starbucks.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Cancellation Notice

In case you were wondering, and I doubt you were, FFH has cancelled our only regular feature, Who Won? But dry those eyes kiddes, we are still scouring the New York Times' wedding announcements for news.

Today we learned that Amy Finkelstein, a Brearley alum, married some guy. Finkelstein holds the distinction of being the only Brearley girl ever to attend clown college. Now she's an economist, proving you can't actually outrun your upbringing.

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I Just Called to Say I have a Cell Phone

I enjoyed getting my little neighbor a toy cell phone so much that today I got myself a real one. I haven't had a cell for five years, when my old phone Florence died (unless you count Javier, the Spanish mobile phone I got the summer I was in Seville). Florence was red, and obviously feminine. My new phone, Patience, is a more understated silver. Patience also flips. After some deliberation I decided it would be unwise to post my new number on the blog, but for those of you on Verizon, we can now talk for free, and for the rest of you I do have a national plan.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at May 30, 2005 3:00 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • At the bottom of FFH are 3 ads for toilets and one for terrorist profiling. Which BD clicked. BD wonders what link in google conjured that connection.

    Now we'll see if cell phone ads pop up.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Toy Story

Today I fell into the quicksand that is our local toy store, charmingly named Alphabet Moon. I had gone in planning to efficiently snatch up a cloth book for our neonatal neighbor to chew, and a consolation gift for his older sister. But I developed something akin to Video Store Amnesia, which I'm going to dub Toy Store Stupor. I don't think I was alone. Most of the adults in there had kids in tow, of course, and were prevented from falling into anything so relaxing as a stupor by their kids careering around the place as though they'd just been released from a particle accelerator. But among the lone adults I noticed a distinct torpor as they stood around obsessing over whether to get the child they were wooing a developmentally appropriate puzzle, or something she'd really like, such as poisonous glitter. Since as childless adults our purpose in going to the toy store was to make the child in question love us more than her real aunts and uncles, we generally opted for the poison. In my case, however, I managed to pull myself together after literally an hour of browsing during which the place had emptied out as the 2:00 birthdays got underway. I chose a harlequinesque clothy mirror for the baby and a toy cell phone for the toddler on which her parents can record their voices. "How are you doing?" asked the cashier. "I've lost all sense of perspective," I said dully. "I get that a lot in here," she replied.

We brought over the presents this evening, and the cell phone was a huge hit, making the obsessing eminently worthwhile. Sophia played with the phone constantly, asking "Who is it?" when the phone rang (or usually, before) and then flipping it open to her obvious satisfaction. As I have mentioned, she is an extremely bright two-and-a-half-year-old. At first she would respond to the phone ringing by exclaiming, "The phone's talking," but she picked up almost immediately on my cues and by the third ring, she looked me in the eye and said, "The phone's...winging." By the fourth ring she was a natural. Needless to say, there were something like forty pretend phone calls before we left. The baby is still too new to be attractive, but he's a welcome addition to the building. Their parents, who are incredibly lovely people, are pretty cheerful considering that Mom can barely walk and Dad hasn't been able to shower for four days. Michael reported feeling intimidated by the breastfeeding, meaning we can add breastfeeding to a list that currently includes musicians, religion, cricket and overtures of friendship. They asked us, as usual, when we were going to have our kid, but were content enough with the answer that for now our plan is to live through them.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

A Joke that Tells Itself

From the Ironic Maladies department:

FDA Looking Into Blindness-ED Drug Link

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal health officials are probing reports of blindness among dozens of men who used Viagra and other impotence drugs _ but at the same time cautioning that the vision loss can be linked to the same illnesses that lead to impotence. The Food and Drug Administration disclosed Friday that it was in discussions with the makers of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra about what the labels of those drugs should say about the rare cases of varying degrees of vision loss, including blindness. The maker of Cialis already has voluntarily added a one-line mention to its label.

I'll just let that sit out there on its own.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

McNeil Manor Gets a Visit from the Stork

Our baby neighbor, Sophia, is one of the most vibrant children I've ever met. She's in for a rough couple of weeks, though, because up until last night she was the favorite child of a swarm of young adults and no other kids except the occasional visiting older cousin. In other words, she was the absolute center of her own universe. But last night, her brother Samuel was born.

It's just so crazy, because when we left for the gym yesterday there was no such person as Samuel, and now he exists. Isn't that amazing?

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Wait? The Bush Administration Might have Lied in its own Self Interest

In Al Franken's book Lies he describes a sketch called the "100-foot President" that was written for Saturday Night Live. In the sketch, the president gets exposed to gamma rays that makes him enormous. A reporter asks the press secretary, "Is it true that president is more than 100 feet tall?" The Press Secretary answers, "No. Absolutely not, that's entirely untrue." The reporter follows-up, "Is the president more than 90 feet tall?" Press Secretary, "No comment."

So the FBI has talked to former Guantanamo Bay detainees, who say that the Qu'ran was in fact desecrated by interrogators. One detainee reported that a Qu'ran was flushed down a toilet. That sounds eerily similar to something that was reported in Newsweek last week. Those stories were vehemently denied by the administration, which said that the magazine was a bunch of liars who were responsible for getting a bunch of people killed in Afghanistan.

Given that the sources of the information are not necessarily trustworthy, perhaps we're about to learn that interrogators did desecrate the Qu'ran, they didn't flush it down the toilet.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Remember the Days when he Used to Pound Blackstar?

Mike and I so rarely drink these days that we've become total lightweights. At the risk of sounding like I'm glorifying drunkenness--which I'm obviously too old for--this is another story about what happens when fortysomethings in twentysomethings' bodies have a date involving wine: we had to set the coffee maker for the morning cause we had to wake up and go to work. Mike managed, with great concentration, to grind up the beans, but since he has broken the urn on our coffeemaker before (sober) I asked him to be careful and not dance so much with it in his hand. He explained to me in response that he was "totally zen" about the coffee urn, and as he poured the water into the cistern he elaborated, "ZeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeen." Think of the line in "American Pie" "8 miles high and fallin fast" and you get the idea.

Then Mike sang a song about my high school. The lyrics went "Brearley: it is like a mass lesbian wedding. But if you want to be a lesbian, better do it before graduation." The tune was not identifiable as such. I told him that was a nice song, but still not as good as Jeff's, which goes, "Brearley, Brearley School. Queens of the Upper East Side. Brearley, Brearley School. Collegiate better run and hide." At this judgment, Mike became belligerent, insisting that no song that piggybacked on the tune to "Davey Crockett" could be considered better than his.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Jeff'y at May 23, 2005 9:24 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • First of all, yeah. But it's got to be "Brearly, Brearly High School" (yes, I know that it's a full K-12) or the meter is fuckèd. There are many second parts, the best ones usually involving Téa Leoni, but I guess the two you chose are representative enough.

    I'd agree with Mike that the Davey Crockett-tuned odes to Upper East Side Preparatory (for wham?) Schools are weak. My Brearly song sung to the Food Emporium jingle is gangsta, though:

    Someone made a school just for me! (Brearly High School! Brearly High School!) Someone's got my eye for hypocrisy! (Brearly High School! Brearly High School!) Someone's got the answers; I hope she sits next to me! Someone made a school called Brearly!

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at May 24, 2008 4:50 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • It's spelled Brearley, and prefers to refer to its "High School" as the more grammatically correct "Upper School". After all, Lower and High are not opposites.

    Yes, I am a Brearley alumn. Yes, as a result of this I am fanatical about grammar.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

This is not a Movie Review, and Therefore not the Property of 34

Mike and I went to see The Interpreter because it was too hot to stay in our apartment. It was dumb, and I can only assume Sydney Pollack is going through a divorce or something equally expensive. Have you noticed movies almost never feature fictional European countries? It wouldn't work, because Americans on the whole don't think that Norway, Portugal, Albania and Ireland have enough in common that you can represent all of them at once. People don't seem to feel the same about Africa. The Interpreter revolves around the politics of a country helpfully described in opening titles as "Matobo, Africa," and of course that conveys a whole host of assumptions about "Matobo." Pollack and his cronies know they can count on their audience to immediately conjure genocide, federal embezzlement, instability, disease and starvation, and that is exactly what the audience gets. When Kidman's character says "That little boy [the dictator as a toddler] was my country," it means exactly squat. Besides the fact that it makes no sense, we're supposed to believe in her patriotism for a loose collection of abstractions and received ideas. That really chaps my ass.

3 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at May 23, 2005 5:14 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Worse than believing that Niole Kidman should have some sense of patriotism for a loose collection of abstractions and received ideas is assuming actual Aficans should have any Patriotism to the arbitrary political artifacts of colonialism.

    There was a brief time in the mid to late 90's where Europe got similar treatment in the movies, in fictionalized places modeled after Serbia and Bosnia. My favorite were the totally fictionalized events in real life country Russia in "Crimson Tide." My cousin was assistant producer for that movie.

    Is Wisteria lane a real place?

  •   Posted by Blogger Unknown at May 23, 2005 4:02 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Yes. And apparently it's right here in Northern California

  •   Posted by Blogger Jeff'y at May 23, 2005 5:36 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • That's probably my favourite blog comment, Dave. Nice job.

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And Speaking of Chapped Asses

Before The Interpreter came a preview for a quaint little movie called The Perfect Man, which, from I can tell, involves Young Republican Hillary Duff sending love letters to her mom, played by Heather Locklear, to get her to shack up with someone in New York instead of continuing to move the family around the country.

Anyway Duff was billed before Locklear in the credits, which is a letdown of epic proportions. In fact, it guarantees I won't see the movie. Hillary Duff was 11 when Carman 11 started watching Locklear on Melrose Place. Can you believe that? Also, Chris Noth is apparently in danger of starving to death because he's in the movie, and he's listed third. I guess Sarah Jessica Parker really did pocket all the cash from Sex and the City.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Long Overdue Explanation

Some years ago, back in Brooklyn, Mike and I were having supper at Andy and Jesse's, and as we sipped our coffees, Jesse posed to us the question of what we thought the difference was between marriage and a committed relationship. I said that I thought the difference was that by getting married publically, you call on the community to bind your relationship. Jesse said, "Well, maybe. But I'm not sure I think so highly of the community." I thought to myself, though did not say for some reason, "Well I'm not sure I think so highly of marriage." As many of you know, I was for many years determined never to get married--listen to that, I always use the passive tense. I really never thought of it as determining to marry, it always seemed like something that could happen to you if you weren't careful, kind of like getting the clap. Since I have a blog now, I might as well use it to explain my abrupt about-face.

I'm more grateful to my parents than I will ever articulate for the way they raised me and for the guidance and friendship they continue to offer me (some parents more strenuously than others). It can't help but sound thankless, but I didn't want a marriage like my parents' for myself. It always seemed to me that as much as they liked and loved each other, their daily experience of each other involved more snapping, bickering and other forms of hurt than kindness. I am absolutely unable to put up with snapping and bickering in my own home; it reduces me to tears. Indeed I'm ashamed at how much I snap and bicker with my parents, who surely deserve better treatment from me, but old habits die hard.

Anyway, I was and remain convinced that my parents' marriage was in the 99th percentile of marriages, and that led me to conclude that marriage was not for me. My mother and her friends used to tell me, "I never used to fight when I was your age, and I never would have believed I could be like this. Just wait." Some attributed the change to having children, others to a natural progress. Everywhere I looked I saw men and women making each other miserable because they couldn't get away. I could number the marriages I would ever willingly endure on one hand, and some of those were actually longstanding non-marital arrangements. In any case I thought, if all of those people couldn't stop themselves from turning into banshees and ogres, I was no stronger than they. Besides, shouldn't you be with someone because you choose it, not because you're required to?

When Michael and I officially began dating, marriage was certainly not the outcome I was expecting. I dimly surmised that if we made it through the first month or so we'd probably have to make it through all of college if only to avoid breaking up our social circle. But I didn't really think we would make it through that first month; we'd barely spoken for months before. I kept putting off consummating the relationship (sorry, parent readers) because I didn't want to do it until we'd had our first fight. But our first fight never came. We didn't have anything like a fight for almost a year. And it wasn't that we weren't talking about the tough stuff, either, we just always managed to talk about it without getting angry. What the hell was going on?

It definitely wasn't me. I fight with the people I love all the time. I fight with my friends, my family (interestingly, the only person I never fight with is my brother; our last fight was the summer of 1994), and sometimes perfect strangers. I've made a specialty out of excruciating emotional drag-outs with people who for various reasons did not end up my lovers. I still do; I like it. In fact, I'm a giant, high-maintenance, perfection-demanding, claustrophobic drama queen and utterly impossible to live with. There was only one other explanation.

I looked into this question, and Michael doesn't fight with anyone. He claims to be a miserable bastard in his professional life, and rude to strangers, but I see no evidence of it. His coworkers typically develop hero worship and start coming over for dinner so they can live vicariously through him. He never fights with his parents, and I can't really give them the credit for it because they do fight with his sister sometimes. Michael rarely fights with his friends, and when he does the friend typically ends up apologizing. He's still friends with a guy who broke into his parents' house ten years ago.

So this is the answer: I knew Michael and I were great friends, but I discovered that with him as my partner I could be better at being someone's family than I'd ever imagined. We shared the same values of loyalty, clarity and amnesty, and we had very similar notions of how to reconcile love with independence. There was peace in our home, and I realized I didn't care any more that the community might be binding me to my choice, because I knew in the deepest sense I had chosen it myself. There were so many people fighting for the right to marry in the US and being denied; who was I to turn my nose up at it? I was tired of being introduced as Mike's friend, and if I wound up in a vegetative state, I wanted him to be the one to decide what to do with my feeding tube. It might be stupid that those were the rules, but it still made me feel better.

It has come to my attention that a multitude of married and committedly relationshipped Americans are out there cheating on their spouses and partners as we speak, and that others are trying to. I cannot figure out why this depresses me so much, given my low opinion of marriage, but it really does. No one has to get married, so why bother if you don't mean it? You can make up your own rules, thank heaven, so why take vows to obey rules you don't agree with? It's not worth the tax savings, trust me, and divorce is hella expensive. Why do so many people conceive of monogamy as meaning "forsaking all others unless I meet someone I'm really really attracted to and feel a connection with"? Do they really not see that coming? And so much of the time, that community bind keeps people from understanding that they would be stronger apart. But of course, that's another box for another brand of soap.

My marriage isn't perfect, of course, and no amount of effort to unlearn my worst emotional habits will ever make me exactly the spouse I want to be, but I really think Michael and I have something hopeful, and worthy of work and sacrifice. I think I'm good at marriage because I understand its limitations. The fact that so many people out there don't know how to make peace with the partners they've chosen, or that they choose people with whom they cannot make peace, makes me very sad. It's not the same scale of problem as, say, having to pay for health care, but I hope someone's working on it.

3 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at May 22, 2005 2:29 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • "I'm a giant, high-maintenance, perfection-demanding, claustrophobic drama queen and utterly impossible to live with." - Sounds like Mike got lucky.

    "I kept putting off consummating the relationship (sorry, parent readers) because I didn't want to do it until we'd had our first fight." - I assume this means that you had your "first fight" on your wedding night.

    Good post. Keep the juicy details about your inner secrets coming. The world needs to know-especially my parents (and my brother's in-laws) who link to your blog through my page. :)

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at May 22, 2005 9:46 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Kiss my ass, Goldman

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at May 23, 2005 11:07 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I need to make cleverer comments.

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One Man's Opinion

A year ago the Detroit Pistons knocked off a team with two superstars to win the NBA championships. One of those stars happened to be Shaq, who was traded to Miami. The pairing of Shaq with awesome motherfucker Dwyane Wade was enough to dominate the Eastern Conference during the regular season. But the Heat aren't good enough to beat the Pistons in seven-game series. Here's why:
  • The Pistons proved in last year's finals that they are not afraid of a healthy Shaq. Detroit played him largely one-on-one that whole series and, while he scored a lot of points and grabbed a ton of rebounds in that series, he didn't dominate the Piston front line. Shaq has bad wheels now, which make him less likely to step out on the pick-and-roll and turn him into a defensive liability because the Piston guards can destroy them.
  • Tayshaun Prince is a good enough one-on-one defender to stop Dwayne Wade. Prince's long arms mean Wade has to get two steps on him instead of one to actually beat him off the dribble and I don't think that's possible.
  • The Wallaces are better than the Jones. With Prince on Wade, Rip Hamilton is big enough to guard Eddie Jones so Miami gets no help there. I expect Damon Jones and Chauncey Billups to get into a 3-point shooting contest.
  • Larry Brown is the best coach in the NBA while Stan Van Gundy has a porn mustache.
In the West, the Spurs will win if Tony Parker can light up Steve Nash. Parker did not play all that well against Seattle, and really, if you're going to date Eva Longoria you really need to be able to dominate Luke Ridnour. Anyway, Nash doesn't actually play defense so Parker needs to score about 25 points every game. I trust the Spurs the keep the floor balanced and play good transition defense, which is the only way they have a chance. I like San Antonio here, but that pick is a lot softer.

In fact, I can't imagine a more interesting series than Detroit-Phoenix.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at May 23, 2005 5:23 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I think watching Ben Wallace is the closest thing to watching how Bill Russell affected a ball game. He dominates games, not with size, but with quickness, hustle, and an uncanny Basketball IQ. Really a pleasure to watch, even on defense. Unlike the crap from those Pistons Teams from '87'-91.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Royal Fuck-ups and Conspiracy Theories

I'm not all that interested in the saga over at Newsweek because mistakes happen in the news business, and some of those errors are actually royal fuck ups. So when someone mentioned to Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay were habitually desecrating the Qu'ran, he ran with it. Understandably upset at this news, Muslims in Afghanistan used their new-found freedoms to protest this treatment and 14 to 17 of them were gunned down by security stories. Now it seems that story was wrong.

The White House press secretary demands satisfaction from Newsweek, whatever that means. Maybe a duel. I think that's sort of in vogue in Washington these days. The anecdote about flushing the Qu'ran down the toilet came from an anonymous source, which brings up all sorts of issues about the way news is reported. The problem with journalism, as it's currently constituted, is that the PR industry knows us too well. There are so many holes in the way news gets from source's mouth to printed page that a few motivated individuals can get an invented story into print. All I need to do as a media director is distribute the same talking points to people who seemingly don't know each other. Sure it's the reporters job to exercise skepticism, but if lots of people are telling you the same thing, it takes on the ring of truth.

If one believes in conspiracies, and believes that the current White House wants to sandbag the free press, then it's not that hard to figure out that an incorrect story was planted. Take the CBS scandal last year. Bush operatives proved the documents CBS went on the air with were falsified, but they never actually proved that the president showed up for national guard duty. But the mistake trumped the facts and became the story. The vast majority of the electorate doesn't pay close attention to these machinations, so they learn the shorthand. But discrediting a specific media report is far different from actually telling the truth.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Once Again, we Attempt to Distract you with Extreme Cuteness

To cheer you up with less weighty matters, I discovered the best site ever. It has photos of wild creatures and their babies. Check out this Gray wolf and her pup snuggling.

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Wolf Baby--Live! Posted by Hello

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Adventures in Cultural Mistrust

On my boss's recommendation, I went to see Crash over the weekend. It's a pretty good movie, some stories stronger than others, and with a great cast except for Brendan Fraser, who was out of place as the Los Angeles DA. My boss said she liked how revealing it was about our prejudices and how we always prefer to see things in black and white. She has been through a lot of intolerance in her life; her husband was a political prisoner in Iran, and her own family disowned her for marrying a muslim. So you could say I was a little surprised this morning when I found myself explaining that no, I didn't think her colleague blew up at her and insulted her (which he definitely did in front of four people) because of his Jewish upbringing. And that no, I didn't think that the fact that three out of about 10 faculty members in our department were Jewish contibuted to the climate of machismo around here. I spent the rest of the morning looking for pendants with both Jewish and Christian imagery on them--unfortunately they're all really tacky. Maybe I'll just wear this baseball-themed St. Christopher's medal instead.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at May 18, 2005 5:27 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Did I just read "Jewish" and "Machismo" in the same sentence? Maybe you should have replied with something like, "No, you really need to get down to a ratio of one Jew for every ten people for there to be any machismo in the department."

    Anna, were you ever put off by all the "Machismo" when Posnick, Meltzer, Goldman, Form, and Mirer would get together to drink beer with each other?

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Conquering Mt. Gravitron

The Gravitron machine sits in the corner of our gym's weightroom, looking forbidding and tough as really muscle-bound people use it. The machine simulates chin-ups, offering assistance as you pull yourself up. It's actually a pretty controlled workout, but doing it makes you feel like a gangster (Damn that feels good).

For over a year, Anna and I have adhered a basically unchanged gym regimen, the same two cardio machines, the same abdominal stretches, the same eight weight exercises, and the same moping motions for when we don't want to do something. Recently though, we've gotten a little more adventurous. We've added some machines, though Anna still can't convince me to go on the hip adductor which looks to me more like a testicle removal device. Sunday, however, we finally attempted the Gravitron. I think we're adding it to the rotation.

As an aside, I've done exactly one chin-up in my life. During fifth grade, our gym teacher got involved in a study that measured how people felt about themselves based on their physical fitness level. I managed to do one chin-up because the guy proctering the exam didn't make sure my momentum had stopped from mounting the bar. Still it was one. And then I lied about feeling terrible on the psychological portion of the test because I thought it was the funny, err, gangster, thing to do.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at May 17, 2005 5:13 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • In college one of Sharon's friends referred to the Gavitron as "The Machine of Death." As for adding new things to a workout routine, I have read in various places that varying your workout routine throughout the week allows you to have more effective workouts. This is because it challenges your body more. I do not do this myself because my building's gym is rather small and I do not have time to learn how to do different exercises. But Kudos to you guys.

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at May 17, 2005 4:08 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Dude, your building has a gym.

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Tales of the Dispossessed Boyfriend

The Dispossessed Boyfriend was back in the lunch room at work today. This guy, whose real name I forget, is some kind of student at the University, but has no affiliation with our department or building. He just likes to come and hang out in our lunch room all day, cause his girlfriend works in one of the labs down the hall. He plugs in his laptop and studies in peace, cause the lunch room is really only used for an hour or two each day. He's very friendly, and doesn't seem like the weirdo he obviously is.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Unknown at May 16, 2005 8:15 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • That reminds me of your old floor in Shapiro, when the sophomore you lived with thought I was a homeless guy who had worked his way in to use the shower. The funny part about that, I never used the showers in Shapiro.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Memoir: Stumbling out of Bars

Today after going for our run, we were too lazy to cook, so we went to Sophia's Thai Kitchen, our favorite local restaurant. The only available tables were in the Thai room, where guests sit on "authentic" cushions at low tables in a little muraled alcove. We were very hungry, so we agreed to doff our shoes and brave the Thai room, even though my hip flexors suck on a good day and Mike's quads were throbbing. To ease the pain we treated ourselves to one measly round of drinks along with dinner, with the result that I became rather musical as we were leaving the restaurant, and Mike, having decided that he wasn't flexible enough to put on his shoes in the alcove, exited in his sock feet to shod himself in the spacious courtyard.

This incident reminded me of another, nearly seven years ago, on the first night of college. My roommates Erin and Jothi and I invited our new neighbor Jeff to the West End for drinks, and Jeff for some reason (shock?) accepted our offer without going back to his room to get some sneakers. He was literally halfway down 114th street before we prevailed upon him to change his mind. If it hadn't been for Lit Hum I would probably never have known Jeff was cool. We didn't get into the West End that night--this was before Erin and I got fake ID's with thumbprints on them from a luggage store in Times Square--so the group broke up, but Erin and I continued down Broadway and discovered the Abbey Pub, where we quickly became friends.

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Ladies who Launch

The ladies' room at work has a couch in it. It's not the first time I've seen a couch in a women's bathroom, but I have trouble getting used to it. For some reason I just assume there are never couches in men's bathrooms, like the sofas are a sign of management's symptahy for Menstrual Hell. One of the women's bathrooms at the Center where I worked last year had, in lieu of a couch, an intimidating piece of machinery that looked an awful lot like an autoclave (specifically this one), but which turned out to be a breast pump. But no, at the Center everything would continue much as I imagine it does in men's rooms until I ran out the door, hands dripping, to the refuge of my Chihuahua-filled office.

Interestingly, all of said women were visiting scholars from various East Asian countries. That's how I realized that it wasn't just me; it was a weird, unacknowledged cultural trend. I was used to other women pretending they weren't pooping. It didn't take a horrible Freudian episode, though I have one. I had gotten the notion that I was wrong for having bowel movements because I rarely encountered other women openly engaged in them. To do so would be to become a person who literally thinks her shit don't stink.

However liberating my discovery, it has not really changed my behavior or my attitudes. That's why I find it so weird that there's a couch in the dedicated public pooping space at my new job. It's a pretty nice lavatory, well ventilated and well lit--we are, after all, the Indoor Air Department.

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Pets or Meat (Chilean Barbecue Style)

Another story from the childhood of our friend Alex: when Alex was about 3 years old, his parents were presented with a gift of three rabbits--two females and a male. As might be expected, a few months later the family boasted six children and thirty rabbits. Mom and Dad realized it was time for some rabbit family planning. Which doesn't involve little bunny-sized condoms, if you get my meaning.

So little Alex one day opened the door to the family barn and discovered his father in the act of humanely dispatching one of the males, named (we kid you not) Macho, with a lead pipe to the neck, sort of like in Clue. Little Alex apparently said nothing, and walked away quite calmly. But for some time after that, he could be found making a swift karate motion with his hand and muttering to himself, "Macho: Chop!"

Alex has grown up to be an unusually gentle 32-year-old man who gets along fine with his father. That this story came out on our blog and not in an episode of 48 Hours is a testament to the strength of Alex's upbringing.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Is My Free Ride Ending?

A study conducted by Penn State reveals the startling news that sportswriters often accept gifts, travel and other trinkets from teams they cover that ultimately compromise their journalistic standards. It's to argue against this. My trip to spring training was actually a junket that was covered by the minor league team in town, which is a serious lapse in journalistic ethics. I was just the reporter assigned to the trip. I didn't ask for it.

The story has me thinking about how I spend my days. I accept the free food in press areas because that is accepted practice within the industry, though some teams are starting to charge. Most free things I get I try to give away, even media guides (If you want an NBA guide just ask) once I don't need them any more. It's just a strange sort of thought process because someone looking from the outside who didn't know me, might think I was totally corrupt. But I think I'm tough on the people I cover and that I don't let relationships get in the way of what I put in print. It's a tough issue for me.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at May 12, 2005 7:52 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I think it would be totally unfair to not allow the teams feed the writers, considering how much incentive there is to hyberbolically criticize teams.

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at May 13, 2005 3:29 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • The conflict of interest issue should be defined by the employee's employer's policy and, in some cases, by law. For example, it is a felony for a labor union official to accept "anything of value" from management or a vendor, with no de minimus exception. Governmental agencies [for example, OSHA] typically allow some de minimus exception. Corporations vary. [Bribery of purchasing agents is a major issue; the christmas gift from vendors may be a calendar or a boombox.] Typically, coffee and donuts on management's premises are ok, meals off premises should be home and home with equal value, and lunch on management's premises are a grey area.

    BD imagines newspapers may have one policy for tickets for drama critics, another for restaurant critics [who have to buy because they are supposed to be anonymous], and a third for sports reporters. For sports, does the paper buy tickets, or does the paper get a pass which provides better seats and access than a normal fan could get?

    BD would that the spring training "junket" described in the main post is a payment by the team to the newspaper to gain coverage which promotes the team. The food in the press box is an amenity the team provides to keep reporters on site to enhance coverage of the team, which is promotion; arguably this is another payment by the team to the newspaper, which otherwise would have to develop a reimbursement policy for reporters.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Look Out, Frank McCourt

Last summer while I was up in the Bronx, I was crossing Fordham Road when I noticed an elderly lady in distress. I offered myself as a walking companion, and as we perched on a traffic island we talked a bit. She introduced herself as Dorothy, and upon learning that my name was Anna she asked me if I were of Spanish or Italian descent. "I was named for my Italian grandmother," I said, which is half true since Nana was half Italian. But Dorothy beamed at me. "I'm Italian, too!" she cried. "But you know when I was your age, they used to make us feel terrible about it." I sympathized, but added, "Well, Italians are doing pretty well for themselves these days, don't you think?" "Yes I do!" she enthused, "We beat the Irish!"

This didn't make a tremendous amount of sense to me at the time, but my brother (who has gotten incredible mileage out of that eighth of himself that can honestly claim to be Italian) explains it thus: Italians are cool, whereas the Irish (including the other half of Nana) have just assimilated. He was unmoved by my observation that the Irish had Kennedy whereas the Italians have only Scalia.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Mike Just Wanted him Fired

I am so glad we got ourselves a sitemeter. That's how we know someone in Mexico is reading our blog in Spanish (Traducción gestionada por SYSTRAN). That means that Mike's post titled "Getting our paper boy fired," is translated as "Consiguiendo nuestro muchacho de papel encendido," which I myself would retranslate as "Attaining our burnt boy made of paper."

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Getting our Paper Boy Fired

For the second consecutive week, the person who delivers our New York Times has decided not to show up. This has meant plenty of quality time with the Times' automated phone system and telephone operators. The voice on the automated system is annoying, but I like dealing with the operators.

I am perfecting an even-keel, matter-of-fact vocal inflection that seems to broadcast the gravity of a situation to the people on the phone. I'm trying to use that in my reporting as well, so when I come up with a story that makes someone's life difficult I'm not having to use some trite, bullshit phrase like, "I'm sorry to have to ask this but it's my job." Anyway, they've sent some very serious letters to the distribution team, which I hope do the trick. It's just not Sunday morning without a real newspaper.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

From the Sports Desk

The NBA scheduled the Pistons-Pacers and the Mavs-Suns series on the same night throughout this week. It's a clever move, ensuring that two games worth of points will scored on a given night, even if the winner in the Detroit-Indiana series only hits about 75.

As a Pistons fan, the Pacers scare me. Just by reaching this point, Indiana has shown that it possesses the sort of fortitude that usually allows Detroit to win out. I think the Pistons are better at every position, though not necessarily offensively. My biggest desire, however, is that when the media talks about the brawl, they point out that the instigators were suburbanites, not Detroiters.

FFH still believes the finals will come down Detroit and San Antonio, with the Spurs winning on their home floor in Game 7. Phoenix will take out Dallas meaning that we might see some more run-and-gun offense in the NBA. Obviously Miami will obliterate the Wiz. I think the Conference Finals are both going to be really exciting. Superstars versus team in the East and offense versus defense in the West. So if you need me for the next six weeks, check the game schedule.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Going Twice...

Saturday night FFH, dressed to the nines, attended the prom. Actually it wasn’t, but with the holograms projected on the walls of the basketball gym it was an easy mistake to make. Really it was the Aggie Auction, an annual event in which everyone connected with the athletic department at UC Davis puts on fancy clothes, student-athletes become waiters, and wealthy people purchase fabulous trips at tremendous discounts and then write them off on their taxes. Supposedly the proceeds go into the scholarship fund, which might be a good cause depending on your point of view.

Anna and I sat at one of two sports information tables, with one of the SIDs and his parents. Mostly we heard about how that SID and his siblings had failed to provide grandchildren yet, giving me enough ammo for another season of press box banter. The night started with a silent auction after which they announced from the stage the tables that had bid the most money. That prompted the following exchange:

Me: True or False, they will not be announcing our table.
Anna: (sigh)

Anna was looking hot, and it was great fun introducing her around. We talked to the basketball coaches and the father of the UCD starting quarterback. I also had an awkward exchange with an administrator whose department I recently attempted to expose in print.

Her: Have we met?
Me (trying to let her off the hook): I think so
Her (motioning to my goatee): Is that new?
Me (trying to let her off the hook): It’s shorter in my newspaper picture.

Dinner was free and tasty. I ate Anna’s chicken and she ate my asparagus. We left halfway through the auction, once the really expensive items started going. It wasn’t quite as much fun as last year, when they auctioned off a hummer followed by a pearl necklace and the sports information table completely lost it.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Note our Refusal to Employ Gratuitous Exclamation Points

Most health journalism arises from an intrepid journalist turning the early results of a clinical trial into a story saying that scientists are close to curing something gruesome. It's actually not a bad system, because it allows people to grill their doctors and the more questions asked, the better for patients. The major side-effect of this sort of writing seems to be silly headlines on Yahoo news. Take this gem, which reassures the public that clutch hitting is a real baseball phenomenon. Or this one where we learn that more than 1/3 of policemen in the Philippines are fat. This one's my favorite:

Study: Meanness in Girls Can Start at 3

It's especially difficult to take these stories seriously because we actually know someone who writes headlines at Yahoo news. She's an old friend of mine from the college paper. We had dinner with her last year and Anna lost her temper at her, which she never does with strangers, over a discussion of Jayson Blair. I read Yahoo news every day, but this girl's insistence that headlining wire copy and ordering stories on the home page qualifies her as a journalist, is delusional--cool, but delusional.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Jeff'y at May 07, 2005 7:38 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Who writes headlines for Yahoo!? (The exclamation point is technically part of Yahoo!'s brand name, and there might be some sort of pro-exclamation point mandate for headline writers working there.)

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at May 07, 2005 7:49 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • BrooklynDodger hopes the underlying scholarly paper on meanness conceded the importance of following the mean 3 year olds [actually, those some multiple of dispersion above the mean on some kind of newly constructed meanness scale]into their teen and adult years to determine whether there was a meaningful correlation of later behavior with early being mean.

    "Other research at BYU has shown that physically and relationally aggressive children are more likely to have parents who discipline with psychological control and manipulation, withdrawing love, avoiding eye contact and laying guilt trips on the kids."

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

What Kind of Girl do you Think I am?

What would be the most sensitve approach to a blog posting on sexual harassment? Obviously the best plan would be not to post about it at all, but it's just too funny.

Yesterday, as I have already hinted, our small office hosted a meeting involving four people, two chihuahuas and a unicycle. Yesterday the beta chihuahua started throwing up. Today he must have been feeling better, because he started humping the alpha. If you've never seen a Chihuahua's erection, cherish and protect your innocence. So with all this going on, and with my boss working about 5 hours a day because she's already told the big boss that she's actively seeking employment elsewhere, my work life can be a little overwhelming. My boss has my back, though, and today she took me aside and gently broached her concern that I was being sexually harassed.

Actually, she didn't call it sexual harassment, she called it "being forward." My boss is concerned that I have been receiving untoward attention from Keith, the guy who told me about black widow spiders. This is oh, so, very, very amusing. At the risk of sounding naive, I will point out not only that I am an old married lady, but that Keith is an old married dude shortly expecting his first child who typically addresses me as "bro." My chief complaint against Keith is that he recently dropped a fax machine on my thumb. But I guess I just look hapless or something, cause my boss's protective instincts were stirred.

I made the mistake of sharing this with Keith later by email (just to be clear, he gave his permission for me to blog about this). I thought it was hilarious, and so did he, but then he asked, " am I sexually harassing you?" A true gentleman. He went all serious for a minute or two until I told him he was being a girl about it and he threatened to staple my eyelid to my elbow and everything was back to normal.

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Tonight Michael observed, "I think I have an unseemly interest in the size of Yao Ming's penis." (He briefly protested my sharing that comment with our readership on the grounds that it sounded racist out of context, but he eventually relented). Then he continued, "It's interesting how seldom you see NBA players naked. They really don't change in front of their lockers. Triple-A baseball on the other hand, they hug each other naked in front of us."

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My Foray into Post-Modern Humor

The following joke is loosely based on my day at work, and borrows liberally from the oral tradition, specifically my sister-in-law's bran muffin joke.

An epidemiologist, two chihuahuas and a unicycle walk into a meeting. The first chihuahua says, "Man, it spells like dog puke in here". "My bad," says the second chihuahua. And the unicycle says "Aaaah! Talking chihuahuas!"

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What Have You Learned Recently?

My grandmother, who has never owned a computer in her life, reports acquiring a used machine in order, in part she says, to read FFH. I imagine another reason she's doing it is so she can start downloading dirty jokes to tell to her friends in the Water Aerobics classes at Club Fit. I went to tennis camp at Club Fit one summer, so I know what kind of humor prevails there.

Anyway, welcome Peggy.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Oh Gatsby, Where Art Thou?

There will be no Who Won? this week because the fucking New York Times angel passed over our house on Sunday. So there you go with that.

The major piece of news is that my computer, named Gatsby, is on its way back to the Compaq factory to have its power pin reunited with the motherboard. I don't know what that means, but the upshot is my computer refuses to believe that it is being charged when the adapter is inserted and now just sits there dumbly when the power button is pressed. Compaq tech support, which is probably based entirely in India now, was very sweet while imforming me that it would cost $300 to fix the problem. Because my newspaper has just one company issued laptop (which is not issued to me) I'm mostly out of the deadline business for the next seven days. So that sucks.

Here is a list of other things that suck: the Sacramento Kings especially Peja Stojakovic in key playoff minutes, The president's plan to turn social security into welfare so he can kill it, my fantasy baseball team, Tom Delay, the mayor of Detroit who is a Cass Tech alum and also completely corrupt, and much of ESPN's Tuesday night programming. So there you go.

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What's in Mike's Vocabulary?

Once again, I am short on stories. Not much is likely to happen around here unless I can get one of the ergonomics guys to weigh in on the advantages of typing with a chihuahua in your lap. So, in lieu of narrative, I offer lexicography. These are some terms I've been overusing recently:

  • Pie Hole. I picked this one up when I was still working at the clinic. A certain coworker was complaining that she'd had to talk on the phone all day to patients, repeating "I've been talking all day and I don't want to talk anymore," to which April muttered, "If she's so sick of talking, why doesn't she just shut her pie hole?"
  • Farcocked (pronounced roughly as fuh-COCKT and spelled however you please). I've been saying "farcocktah" for quite some time, as in "I'm sick of this farcocktah grant proposal," but I only recently learned that if it is used with a linking verb, it should be declined to farcocked, as in "This grant proposal is utterly farcocked."
  • Vagary. Always plural, as far as I can tell. I like it cause it sounds like it's related to "vague" but it isn't.

These are some terms and phrases Mike has been overusing.

  • We're getting the band back together! I have no idea what this refers to. I believe it connotes sarcastic joy. Apparently it has infinite applications.
  • True or False. He picked this up from one of his baseball buddies, and uses it to restructure questions like "Are we out of toilet paper?" to "True or False: We are out of toilet paper." Your answer must be phrased as "That would be a false" or the reverse.
  • Batshit Insane. Sometimes this is varied to "crazy as a pile of guano."

I think Mike is cooler than me.

8 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at May 03, 2005 6:26 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • It's not "far" it's "ver," some kind of german deal carried into yiddish which, I think, changes a verb into a reflexive as in verklempf and verbluggerned.

  •   Posted by Blogger Unknown at May 03, 2005 10:06 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I thought I have used "Getting the band back together" fairly judiciously over the past few months.

    And I'm certainly not cooler than you, though I may have more schtick.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at May 03, 2005 10:11 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I love the term "pie hole". I can't think of any other word but pie that will make the concept work. "Cake hole" just doesn't do it for me. Didn't Chris Farley coin this one? He's the first cat that I heard using it.

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at May 04, 2005 1:44 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I think you're right, Akil. Apparently "cake hole" has a hundred-year history or thereabouts, but as far as my research can tell "pie hole" was Farley's innovation.

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at May 04, 2005 1:45 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Dodger--It can be either of our choices, or "fer" or "fur" or whatever. I looked it up. Everyone pronounces it "fuh" anyway. It's a transliteration.

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at May 07, 2005 10:16 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Pedantry has few bounds. 5 minutes on the internet reveals:

    Simple Infinitives
    The infinitive consists of the root and usually the suffix "-en". There are a few verbs having another ending, mostly "-ern" or "-eln". The ending "-n" is regarded to be the suffix of those.

    "laufen" (to walk)
    "lächeln" (to smile)
    "meistern" (to master)
    There are some verbs which have a permanent prefix at their beginning. The most common permanent prefixes found in German are "ver-", "ge-", "be-", "er-", "ent-" and "zer-".

    "brauchen", to need - "verbrauchen", to consume or to use up
    "raten", to advise - "verraten", to betray
    "fallen", to fall - "gefallen" to be pleasing
    "hören", to hear - "gehören" to belong to
    "brennen", to burn (intransitive) - "verbrennen", to burn (transitive), "to burn completely"
    "beginnen", to begin (no form without the prefix)
    The meaning of the permanent prefixes does not have a real system; the alteration in meaning can be subtle or drastic. The prefixes "ver-", "be-" and "ge-" have several different meanings. Verbs with "er-" tend to relate to creative processes, verbs with "ent-" usually describe processes of removing, and "zer-" is used for destructive actions.

    Many verbs have a separable prefix that changes the meaning. The separable prefix is added at the beginning, before the permanent prefix.

    "wegtragen" (to carry away)
    "umverteilen" (to share around)
    In some cases these separable prefixes merge together with the infinitive; therefore, they are actually permanent prefixes. Unfortunately for the learner, there are even verbs that have a version with a separable prefix and another version with same prefix, but permanent.

    =1. pronounced 'umfahren, with the stress on the first syllable
    to run down (in one's car)
    "Ich fahre den Baum um" (I crash into the tree)
    =2. pronounced um'fahren, with the stress on the second syllable
    to drive around
    "Ich umfahre den Baum" (I drive around the tree)

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at December 12, 2011 9:21 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Vagaries and vague are both derived from the Latin root vagus, wandering

  •   Posted by Blogger KevFrey at March 22, 2012 12:36 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • "Getting the band back together..." refers to the Blues Brothers movie (John Belushi)...

    Trivia FYI;

    -- KevFrey --

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

In the Lusty Month of May

We forgot to say "Rabbitt, rabbitt" this morning to mark the new month, and bad luck has followed already. Our copy of the New York Times failed to arrive on our door (incidentally, this means there will be no Who Won? this week, for better or worse), and around 5:30 in the press box at Arco Arena Michael's computer died. Though obviously the sort of inconvenience that borders on torment, this will probably force him to get his computer, which has been flickering on and off the power supply for weeks, looked at. In fact I passed a place called the Computer Panacea on D St just this evening.

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Did you know that Pat Morita, aka Mr. Miyagi, had his first on-screen role in 1967, playing the white slaver Oriental #2, in the thoroughly racist Thoroughly Modern Millie? It's true.

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