Archive for February, 2010

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stereotypes on ice

February 24, 2010

I don’t know if you guys are following the Olympics, but perhaps you’ve heard about the controversy surrounding a Russian ice dancing pair who did a routine based on aboriginal (as in, Australian aboriginals) dance? I am troubled by this, for many reasons.

First is the question of whether this should be considered offensive at all, whether we’re just being too damn sensitive over things that don’t matter. And I think it’s good to examine this, because frequently our overly PC culture objects to things as a matter of course rather than because they’re actually offensive. For the second program, the ice dancers were required to present a routine based on a folk tradition. The Israeli couple danced to “Hava Nagila”; various teams danced to American country music; one of the American teams did a Bollywood routine. So what’s the problem?

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presentation counts

February 18, 2010

i love this song:

if you were to go just by the lyrics (like, if you just read them), it would be a fairly nonsensical and ludicrous song. but somehow, the way karen o sings it, and the backing music, makes it sad and affecting.

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dick button is the best crotchety old sports commentator

February 16, 2010

I’m watching the Olympics right now. The Olympics are all about spectacle, so it goes without saying that I freaking love them. Certain aspects annoy me (the repetition of certain facts, the way the announcers talk about everything like it’s a momentous event, the annoying biopics), but overall I get completely wrapped up in the pageantry and emotion.

But while I’m getting upset for the skaters who fall and getting emotional over the first Canadian gold medal earned at a home Olympics, a part of me is also viewing all of this from a disinterested distance. Why do we all get so worked up about the Olympics? Why should a gold medal at the Olympics matter more than a first place finish at the world figure skating championships? How is competing in soccer at the summer Olympics different from competing at the World Cup?

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my bloody valentine

February 14, 2010

in direct contrast to my previous post, i bring you this day in history: the st. valentine’s day massacre.

On February 14, 1929, in one of the bloodiest incidents of Prohibition-era Chicago, seven men were killed by either men from Al Capone’s gang or men associated with it. Bugs Moran, leader of the (largely Irish) North Side Gang, was the intended target, but he managed to miss the entire affair. The killers met little, if any, resistance from their targets as they had dressed as policemen, apparently convincingly.

(a few years ago, when i was working in the city, someone had written a countdown to valentine’s day on the kitchen white board. being me, i felt the need to respond, and posted something similar to the above. i think it lasted an entire day.)

some other decidedly non-romantic february 14th occurrences (including captain cook’s death!) can be found here, if that’s your thing.

happy valentine’s day, y’all!

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once upon a time

February 14, 2010

…i was fairly convinced i was a cynical person, even though i was all of 16. i was very scornful of all things relating to traditional ideas of romance (i thought romeo and juliet was stupid when i read it in the 9th grade, and i maintain this opinion; i would deliver diatribes against valentine’s day at the drop of a hat). in retrospect, i was not anywhere as cynical and worldly as i thought, and as the years have passed i’ve chilled out and become more accepting of society’s foibles (in some respects, anyway). i don’t generally celebrate valentine’s day, but i don’t get ragingly pissed off about it either. 

anyway, all this preamble is just to set up the one thing i did find romantic in those years:

Sonnet 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

             —William Shakespeare

this, i thought, was real romance. i’d much rather someone love me for me than hold me up to some ridiculous standard. and i totally still believe that. this poem is kind of cliche at this point, but i love it anyway.

maybe someday i’ll tell you about the best date of my life, which coincidentally fell on valentine’s day.

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this is why i named the new cat marlowe

February 10, 2010

have you read this book? you most certainly need to.

now, it’s well established that i adore raymond chandler, inveterate drunk and creator of philip marlowe, my hard-boiled hero. however, this book delights me for one ridiculous reason: there is a 10-page chapter of chandler’s letters to friends about cats. his stories about taki, his old, demanding, black persian–while universally recognizable to anyone who has ever lived with a cat–are so completely charming and disarming because this is a guy who generally writes stories about violence and crime. hell, he wrote the screenplay to double indemnity. and it turns out he was a big ol’ softy who not only let his cat boss him around, he would write 500-word letters to his friends about letting his cat boss him around.

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to car or not to car?

February 9, 2010

that is the question.

alright, people, here’s what it’s come down to: my much beloved car is now 17 years old. it has issues. there’s an electrical short (i think) in the dashboard, it needs to be smogged every year, the cv joints need to be replaced, and then there are various cosmetic issues as well (rust spots, broken glove box). every year, in addition to the smogging and registration and insurance and oil changes and gas and other normal car expenses, i usually end up dumping $500 – $1000 dollars into it in repairs (2009: brakes; 2008: radiator, starter, alternator; 2007: tires; 2006: some valve issue). if i pull off any repairs this year, it’ll be the cv joints, which i’ve been told will cost between $300 and $600.

when does my car become a money pit? my state-mandated furlough starts this month, which means i’m making less money this year, and it’s not like any of my bills have been reduced by 4% to match my pay cut. in fact, a great many things – like BART – are more expensive now. so there’s a part of me that thinks it would be fiscally responsible to sell the car for whatever i can get for it, to save money by no longer requiring a parking space or insurance or any of the rest. i can live without a car – i did for years. i can take the bus, i can take BART more, i can walk more, i can get a zipcar account. it wouldn’t be the end of the world. 

but every time i think that i’ve decided, that i’m resolved, i flip out. i LOVE my car. i love having a car. i love the freedom and the mobility. i love the rhythm of the clutch and the gear shift. i feel like i’m betraying my car just by thinking about letting her go. and if i do sell her, i can’t take that decision back. 

and what if it turns out that i don’t actually save any money every month? what if the increased bart/bus fees i put out, not to mention what it might cost to get down to santa barbara every once in a while (an anticipated 3 times this year, btw), don’t actually offset what i’m saving? what about the extra hassle and planning all my transportation will require? (for instance: presently it takes me 10 minutes to drive from my house to my editor’s, where i go a fair amount. it’s a 40 minute walk; on the bus, it would take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, and the buses stop running around 11:30, while when i babysit for her i am sometimes at her place until midnight. and when i housesit for her, i spend a lot of time running back and forth between her place and mine.)

to sum up: if i sell the car, i’ll have a (small) nest egg now to offset my impending pay cut, and at least on the surface i’ll be reducing my monthly costs. but i have no way of knowing what it’s really going to cost in time and money to be car-less. i suppose there’s a compromise – keep the car but don’t repair it – but that seems to be a bad idea on all fronts (i’m not at all comfortable driving my car long distances with bad cv joints, so i’d still be renting a car or taking the train to leave town).  

so i’m putting it to you guys. what should i do? all input is welcome.