Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving! (and Star Wars)

Looks like my "posting every day in November" thing has fallen apart a bit.  I blame it on the sleepy chemicals in turkey.  And,  the anticipatory laziness that gripped me before actually eating any turkey in the days before Thanksgiving.  In fact, I was so anticipatorially lazy that I did not help AT ALL on Thanksgiving, either with cooking or cleaning up.  Instead I busied myself by "entertaining" my 9- and 11-year-old cousins by watching Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back back-to-back.  Great babysitting, self!   

I was surprised to find that I didn't remember the plot of the Star Wars movies in that much detail, or the amount of cheesy acting and technical nonsense dialogue.  As the Phantom Menace and those other Whiny Anakin movies demonstrated by way of contrast, George Lucas was lucky Harrison Ford et al were so good in the first few.  Also:  the version we were watching was the "remastered" one released 5 or 10 years ago, and the stuff that was changed from the original was HIDEOUS.  In the scene when Han Solo shoots the bounty hunter in the bar, they've changed it so the bounty hunter shoots first.  The whole point is that Han is a badass and not particularly burdened by moral considerations!  Also, why would the bounty hunter miss at nearly point-blank range?  Then in the very next scene, when Han goes to get his ship to take Luke and Obi Wan to Alderan, who shows up but Jabba the Hut, looking shiny, computer-generated, and nonthreatening, to tell him "oh, ok, you can pay me later."  This totally dilutes the threat of the unseen, offscreen Jabba who sends bounty hunters after Han. 

So George Lucas produced awesome movies despite himself.  Good lesson for us all.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fact-free breast cancer discussion

The kerfluffle over the new mammogram and pap smear guidelines has emphasized for me the remarkable lack of facts in the public discussion about most things.  Before deciding whether to be pissed off about these guidelines, I think there are lots of things you'd have to know:  Is there some kind of standard way for assessing whether a screening test is worthwhile?  Was that used here?  Are there actual health risks to getting a biopsy that turns out to be a false positive?  It seems weird that they would say unnecessary "anxiety" was a reason not to screen people, because in weighing anxiety vs. death, anxiety seems like not a biggie; does "anxiety" always factor into recommendations about health screenings?  How is it weighed?  (1000 anxious people > 1 dead person?)  There was a lot of attention paid to the fact that these new guidelines didn't consider cost; but (while they're at it with considering anxiety) shouldn't they throw in money too? 
Admittedly I did not spend all weekend looking for the answers to these questions, but I didn't see the answers to ANY of them in anything I read.  Instead there were hours of Sunday talk shows with people yelling crap at each other about rationing, their family members who got breast cancer, and the general idea of "science," but nothing about what that means. 
Of course, when I have to make a decision about something like at what age I will start getting mammograms, I will probably make the decision in a totally impressionistic way, and will actually limit the amount of information I try to find out because the more information, the more confusing it will be.  But I would like to think that somebody would know that information.  Perhaps this is one of those disillusioning things about becoming a grownup.  :( 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Glee problem

I have been watching Glee faithfully, like any lover of musicals, high school dramas, and gayness is obliged to. 

But lately I gotta say my dedication is slipping a bit.  Recent episodes have displayed tell-tale symptoms of both After School Special-itis and Dialogue and Action Inconsistent With Previously Established Character Trait-iosis.  Both were strongly evident two weeks ago in "The One About How You Should Be Understanding Towards People With Disabilities." 

Of course a TV show can convey a message about how society discriminates against people with disabilities and that is wrong, see Friday Night Lights, but I not enjoy being pummeled over the head with that message to the point that humor and consistency suffer.  Like, I absolutely do not buy that Sue, whose character is the best one on the show because she is so hilariously amoral and without human feeling, all of a sudden has a disabled sister who turns her into a soft-focus, patiently reading-aloud person. 

And frequently, the show seems to have the problem of knowing what emotional arc it wanted the characters to go on -- these two should have a touching moment but then have a tiff and break up, etc. -- but not bother to think of a way to get them to that place that is believable within the context of the show.  For instance, just a few weeks ago Curt did the Beyonce Single Ladies dance on the football field in front of the whole school.  But now he's worried that his dad won't be able to handle the homophobic backlash that would result from him singing a girl's part at a glee club competition?  Umm, no. 

Tragically, this problem reminded me of that seemingly promising but now dead-to-me show, Heroes.  At the end of season 1, SPOILER ALERT IF YOU ARE REALLY BEHIND they had the idea that the one brother should sacrifice himself by flying up into outer space, carrying his brother who was about to explode like a nuclear bomb, thereby saving the world.  Good idea!  Except it made NO SENSE because the nuclear-bomb brother could fly all by himself.  God help me, Glee, if you go that way I am going to ... be sad.  Very sad.  :(   

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Direct democracy, OMG

Last night Mr. TA and I attended a meeting for residents who live on our block and the few surrounding blocks, to discuss a proposed Mt. Pleasant "day parking pass" pilot program. My feeling on the issue: Sure! Our mini-area of the 'hood is mostly residential and there's lots of parking during the day. Until recently anybody could park on the street at any time on our block, so employees of the nearby elementary school and nursing home used to park there when they were at work.

Six months ago or so some residents circulated a petition to change our street from "anybody can park here" to "you can only park here for two hours unless you have a residential parking pass." I signed it so people on our block would be able to park on nearby blocks without getting ticketed, and also based on the understanding that they were going to start this "day pass" program, so the school and nursing home employees could buy a daily parking pass for $2.50 or so a day (approximately the cost of a round-trip bus trip).

Well, they started the residential parking pass thing but somehow the day parking pass thing went to shit, so now the school and nursing home employees get ticketed if they park on the street. I had vaguely understood that the going-to-shit was due to the employees having shot themselves in the foot by complaining about the fact the passes were going to cost anything at all.

But this community meeting suggested that, in fact, what has bolluxed up the day parking pass plan may be an smallish contingent of people who are going all NIMBY ape-shit about ... nurses and teachers parking in front of their houses during the day? Or, being pissed off at the idea of other people parking for cheapish while they have to pay a lot to park where they work. Or, having a self-righteous environmental reaction of wanting to deter other people from driving (although presumably most of these people wouldn't care about parking at all if they didn't have a car, plus they can afford to live in our lovely, fairly central D.C. neighborhood from where it is easy to get downtown, whereas if you live in a cheaper outlying suburb, getting to Mt. Pleasant on public transportation would be a major PIA.) (I of course did not mention at the meeting that we don't have a car, figuring that might invalidate my opinion.) Or, they were against it for some other reason I could not entirely discern even after they talked about it in a pissed-off-but-not-very-coherent way for several minutes.

The upshot was that the general idea of the day parking pass program was "approved" on a straw poll vote of 8-7. It would have been 7-6 against if Mr. TA and I had not randomly decided to go to the meeting. Direct democracy, dude, I don't know.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Curate this

In general I think pet peeves are not a good thing to have. Sure, lots of shit is annoying, but when you elevate an annoyance into a pet peeve, you really are making it into your pet--it becomes a pampered little possession which you have to nurture and protect from the outside world, i.e., from any attack on your maintaining it as a pet peeve. So I have tried to, as they hippy-dippily say in yoga class, "let go" of various pet peeves I once possessed, including ... look, I let them go so successfully I can't even remember them!*

But there is an annoyance so significant, and on such a horrifyingly dramatic uptick in popularity, that it has entirely taken over the previously depopulated pet peeve center in my brain: the word "curated." On Apartment Therapy, which I generally lurve, "curated" has become this hideous all-purpose word meaning "picked out or decorated, but by people with really good minimalist taste, so, like, on a totally different plane from the tacky type of picking out or decorating done by ordinary people." As in: A Carefully Curated Chelsea Duplex. Or: The Pink Project, curated by Brad Pitt. I don't even think "curated" should really be a verb, except in the narrow meaning of "to act as a curator," where "curator" is somebody in charge of a museum exhibit, not just a person with a nice apartment. Otherwise anybody could take any word that describes a skill or profession they do not possess or practice, and make it into a verb to try to make their own everyday activities sound fancy. As in, I cheffed some dinner. Or, I need to accountant these bills. Annoying!

Maybe I can just keep this one pet peeve. It's such a good one.

*I can probably remember if I try. Oh yes: the incorrect use of "myself" instead of "me," braided leather belts, people who are proud of their ignorance of all things Midwestern, unleashed large dogs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A TomKat Education

I saw An Education this weekend, and it did the schoolgirl-with-older-man thing in a non-cliched way, which is quite an accomplishment. It even manages to make you at least somewhat sympathize with all the characters, including the very smart 16-year-old who falls in love with a much older man, her normally overprotective parents who let themselves get conned into letting their school-aged daughter go to Paris with a grown man, and even the man himself, who seems to con himself into falling in love with a 16-year-old. Also, Emma Thompson is delicious as a cold, stern school headmistress.
However, that the 16-year-old character, Jenny, looked so much like a young Katie Holmes -- the round face, cute nose, surprisingly intense stare -- that watching her be seduced by a dashing older man I felt I was watching a documentary about TomKat's romance. Viewed in that way, ewwww.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Prejan 2040

Carrie Prejean -- former Miss California, anti-gay marriage hero, and solo sex tape star -- just recently put in a weirdo but, I think, freakishly savvy performance on Larry King. Larry asked her why she decided to settle her religious discrimination lawsuit against the pageant after they fired her for missing appearances.

Carrie responded, in the tone a kindergarten teacher might use with a kid who's eating the fingerpaint again, that Larry was being "inappropriate" and that she couldn't talk about the settlement. She said "inappropriate" about 5 times. Larry backed down and took a phone call. As the caller started to identify himself as a gay man, Carrie took off her microphone and seemed to be talking to someone offstage, but then continued to sit there, giving her beauty-pageant smile to the camera. She didn't answer the caller's question (what would you tell a gay friend who wanted to get married) because, she said, she couldn't hear. (Because she'd taken her microphone off.)

An ability to get affronted by reasonable questions, combined with a plastic perma-smile and homophobia expressed ungrammatically ... just add a persecution complex and you've got the next Sarah Palin! And what do you know, right before the weird outburst, Carrie had been talking about how the liberal media is so unfair to women like Palin (a personal hero of hers) and Michelle Bachman. You heard it here first, she is totally running for office.

Water cooler triumph

Crap on a log, it appears I forgot to post yesterday.  (Actually, I realized this at about 12:15 last night, but it was already today, so what was the point in getting out of bed?) 

So here's yesterday's post: 

I would like to announce that in the last two weeks, i.e. my last month and a half at this job, I have reversed my long-standing policy of not changing the water jug thing on the water cooler machine in the kitchen.  My reasoning for this stance was that I was likely to drop the thing on the floor and spill water everywhere, so I might as well just leave it empty and wait for somebody stronger to do it.  But one day I was gripped with the knowledge that I would not spill it.  And I have not!  I feel good about this.  Maybe not as good as I would if I had run the NYC Marathon (way to go, Amy and Arie!) but still pretty good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


It's 8:04 pm and I have not posted yet today, and have no plan for a topic, so I am just writing this off the top of my head.  It's funny how you can talk (or type) something before you know what you're going to say--presumably your brain actually does know what you're going to say, because it can think faster than you can talk or type, but the other part of your brain that reports to you on what your brain is doing has not yet transcribed the thought, or is doing so in real time.  Like the bad instant closed captioning on live events.  I wonder if being a translator requires you to disengage that "reporting" part of your brain and just let your lizard comprehending brain hook up directly to your talking/signing/communicating part.  Maybe that's what I'm doing now.

OK, that counts as a post!  Wow.  (That is what Carolyn Hax suggests saying when someone says something really offensive or inappropriate:  Wow.  I wish I had said that in response to the douchey email I got from some douchey lawyer today.)  Tomorrow I will try to plan ahead more. 

Monday, November 09, 2009

Should I read the Twilight books?

I am spending a lot of mental energy planning for the few weeks in which I will be between jobs and thus a lady of leisure. One big dilemma is: should I read the Twilight books, or not?

Apparently they are very hot right now, which leads me to feel left out of a big pop culture phenomenon, and also I understand they are a big guilty pleasure. (A 13-year-old girl who went to the Inauguration with us was reading one of them the ENTIRE DAY, and she seemed quite engrossed, which was a good ad for them.)

On the other hand, I kind of think I will not like them as much as all the teen girls do, because, hey! I am 32. Also, the book series I get obsessed with tend to be the younger children, whole-fantasy-world variety (Harry Potter, obvs.; His Dark Materials; The Dark is Rising; Narnia) and not the young luv type. And what I understand to be the concept -- that this high school girl falls in lurve with a vampire but they have a very chaste relationship because METAPHOR ALERT he might kill her if they messed around -- sounds fairly heinous.

On the other hand, maybe I am sort of patting myself on the back for not liking the books even though I haven't read them, so I don't know if I would actually not like them, and so avoiding reading them is kind of a cowardly way to make myself feel superior, based on no information. So I should just read them and deal with it if I do like them.

On the other hand, as my friend Amy said, I would be contributing to the dumb-ification of the world if I read them. But I already watch a whole lotta reality TV, so it's pretty much too late for that.

What think you, reader(s)? (And, if you have them already, can I borrow them?)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Bench-sitting/fashion resolution

It was a beautiful day out today, and I went and sat in Dupont Circle, enjoying the sun, eating pizza and drinking Diet Coke, and people-watching. It was just lovely, and I resolved that I would like to spend a lot of time like that when I'm old. It really seemed a classic old-person bench-sitting opportunity, and I felt bad for the old people of DC that they were not there (with the exception of a few older gentlemen who were shirtless, which, not a good look.)
I will begin practicing for being an old person bench-sitter people-watcher now by feeling alienated by the clothing the young people are wearing these days. Specifically, leggings. Now, I have worn me some leggings, yes indeed. In about 4th grade, I had a pair of stirrup leggings that I used to wear with, I believe, a large grey sweatshirt, for a vaguely Flashdance kind of moment. Then in 9th grade, I had several leggings-based outfits: a pair of light blue fake-denim ones that came with a striped kind of trapeze sleeveless shirt, and a black pair that I wore with rugby shirts and, I am pretty sure, flats. So I can't really begrudge the youngsters their leggings, but it is very apparent to me that that is a merry-go-round one can only ride once, and I've already had my turn.
Bring me another diet Coke and my cane, please, Missy.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Blogging for the third day in a row, non-chart edition

As Andrea noted, blogging is hard. My mom is participating in that write-a-novel-in-one-month thing this month, so it's pretty embarassing that I am having a hard time writing a blog post on this, my third straight day of blogging. But that's why the glib chart form was invented:
In: The health care floor debate
Five Minutes Ago: Election coverage
Out: People sawing their own limbs off
In: Preachy vegan yoga instructors
Five Minutes Ago: Doctors who specialize in "spirituality and health"
Out: Evangelicals
In: Blogging every day
Five Minutes Ago: Watching less TV
Out: Regular exercise

Friday, November 06, 2009

Whence cometh the popularity of "douchebag"?

A few years ago I met my friend T's husband, G, who is a good guy and who uses the word "douchebag" a lot. That was a word I had not heard since middle school, but I thought G pulled it off quite well; it sounded so dated it was fresh again--like babies named Sadie or Otis.

G's use of "douchebag" was immortalized in a fictionalized version of G who appeared in a book written by a friend of G's from college. While I think the fictional portrayal was supposed to be kind of negative, the G character was my favorite one in the book. "Douchebag" set him apart from the angsty self-absorption of the other characters.

I started using "douchebag" and its variants now and again after meeting G and reading about Fictional G, but I thought of it as a quirk I was stealing from him. (I figured he wouldn't know because he lives elsewhere.) It has a lot of good applications: you can use it in the way you once would have used other middle-school insults, like "gay" or "retarded," which themselves should not come back into circulation. It's less harsh than "dumbass" or "dickhead," and can be used as an adjective ("douchey.") I think of it as connoting the culture of the dumb, pretentious but not evil, probably drunk, aging frat boy.

Now all of a sudden it's everywhere. There's a video about douchebags reclaiming the word on BoingBoing, and a response on DoubleX critiquing the imprecise use of the term in the video. Can I give credit to G? Fictional G? Me and others who stole it from G and Fictional G? Or is this one of those things, like the popularity of names like Sadie and Otis, that everybody thinks up together and then is annoyed that other people thought of it too?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Big news!

Since I missed Nov. 1-4, might as well make up for it now. I am squeaking in under the wire on accomplishing my major New Year's Resolution for this year: I got a new job! Aww, yeah. Here are the highlights of the new job, phrased vaguely:

1. I will not have to bill my time anymore. (FREEDOM!)
2. It's new! (YAY!)
3. I already know at least some of the people I will work with, and like them. (Can't beat that, right?)
4. I BELIEVE the hours will be fairly reasonable. (JOY!)
5. I think the organizational culture and the types of work will be more to my liking. (INTERESTING!)
6. Better lunch options in that 'hood. (LUNCH!)

Where the Wild Things Are: Liked it!

St. Scobie's Mock Whiskey has alerted me to the fact that November is, apparently, Blog Posting Month. It seems apt that I should start a month of posting every day by not posting for 4 days, so here I am! Gonna post every day!

Might as well start with my follow-up to my last post, nearly two weeks ago, in which I optimistically said I would post again after I had seen Where the Wild Things Are.

Happily, my nervousness about the potential for book ruination was for naught: I thought Where the Wild Things Are was awesome. It's certainly quite different from the book, but that was true to such an extent that it almost seemed like an entirely different story, which sometimes reminded me of Where the Wild Things Are (the book). The movie captured the nearly bipolar feeling of being a pre-teen: one moment running around like a joyful maniac, the next moment collapsing in world-ending tears. Many of the negative reviews I've read have said it was too psychoanalysis-ish, but I didn't find that jarring. Maybe it's just me, but I spent a lot of time as a kid thinking about my relationships with people--maybe more so than I do now, even, because when you're younger, other peoples' motivations are more mysterious. (Like the motivations of monsters, maybe.)

I don't know if this is another compliment or a caveat, but I think watching the movie made me regress a bit. After it was over I had a near tantrum about the prospect of, like, biking home. Which is not really that bad. Consider yourself warned.