Thursday, October 30, 2008

Letter to the Editor

This appeared in the comments section of a Slog post:

Ugh have you ever read his blog?

He's the archetype for better-than-everything too cool for everything I hate everything but wait I'm really lonely too, why am I still single and whining? OH RIGHT! I'm better-than-everything too cool for everything I hate everything but wait I'm really lonely too, why am I still....

I'm surprised he didn't get a full time job with y'all.

(You are only feeding the beast. From now on, I will attempt to feel twice as lonely, alienated and "better than everyone around me." This will become my mantra, my rallying call. I'll become like Vice Magazine, only meaner.)


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's So Funny...

how everyone in my generation complains about the same things. I am sitting in a cafe and the dudes next to me are talking about new york and how expensive it is, how hard life is there, how they love it but they're scared of poverty, yada yada.

The words could have been coming out of my mouth 2 years ago, maybe even last year. The truth is, none of us really know. You have to move there to find out...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Eating Dim Sum with Di

"That sounds great!" I say to Di when she proposes going to lunch. I do my best impression of someone who isn't me who looks happy and wants to communicate their happiness to everyone around them. "When were you a thinkin'?"

"How about tomorrow?" Di asks. "Yeah! That sounds fun!" I don't mean to look like I'm talking to an autistic person when I talk to Di but I probably do.

I also comment on every mundane thoughts that pop into my head because I think, well, the thought occurred in English. On the bus to Chinatown with Di and my boss, I stare at a couple in front of us who are eating chocolate and say "MMMMM chocolate" to Di. I think: this is just sad Steven. You feel more comfortable talking to Di than half your friends.

Di and I get off the bus and it smells like buckets of years-old urine have been poured over the sidewalk. I make a very dramatic facial expression and start batting at the air in front of me. Di laughs and says something I can't write down without making me look like I'm culturally-insensitive. It was something like "MMM, smells like cooking," or something, which was obviously not what Di meant to say. I feel bad for her, and then I feel bad for feeling bad for her. It's multi-layers of confusing cultural guilt.

We get to the restaurant, and Lindsey, my boss, pulls out this list of antiquated slang words she thought we could use over lunch for fun. Just to give you a sense of how un-useful and culturally inappropriate these slang words are...the first two are Amigo and Airhead. Maybe these words would be helpful to Di if she ever found herself watching a movie with an innaccurate re-enactment of the way teenagers talk to each other and she really really wanted to figure out what was going on, but I can't see her whipping them out while talking to someone on the metro. I also have this nagging annoying thought: why does Di need to learn English in the first place? This seems unfair.

The waitress brings us the food, which is more like actual chinese food than the food I usually eat at Chinese restaurants (I like the crappy General Tso's). Lindsey and I are both talking loudly about things we would never talk about in real life, under the impression that this is all somehow instructional for Di. But I think it's really more about us. Di gives us an excuse to talk like two people unjustifiably fascinated by the world around us. I also give Di "insider informations" about Seattle culture which come across as bitter cultural criticisms. I say things like "In Seattle, no one talks to each other on the bus. We're very anti-social. Is it like that in China?" I have this weird urge to turn Di into a critic of America, and this underlies all of my teaching. I'm not sure if she's picked up on the fact that, in this weird way, I don't want her to assimilate.

Lindsey tries to change the subject and begins to read the words on her slang list. One of the words on the list is poop. "Poop?" asks Di. "Yeah, you know, like when you're in the bathroom, you know, and you sit down and out comes stuff?" I move my hand between my butt and the seat cushion. "Oh yes. Cushion." "No, not cushion," This next sentence that comes out of my mouth is literally the highlight of my day, which is sad for so many reasons: "It's food that comes out of your butt," I say. Di looks back at me like she only heard the word food. I make this grunting noise, shut my eyes and clench my fists. I think; this would be unbearable to watch if I were watching me right now. It's almost unbearable just being me right now. "Oh, yes, poop!" Di says and she grunts and closes her eyes, too. Later we teach her "shit."

I tell Di I'm a writer and she tells me she thinks artists are "crazy." I feel like that would be a serious road block to us becoming close if I didn't also harbor the fear that artists are completely crazy, and that I will one day go insane trying to write a book no one will read.

After our meal, Lindsey and I wave to Di as we walk away. We wave very fast, like we're trying to shoo away insects that are attacking us. When we get back on to the bus, the conversation still feels bright and airy, like we're tourists looking at everything around us from far away. It's a much more comfortable way of looking, but it only lasts a few moments.

Seattle MetBlogs Said Something Nice About My Writing

Read it here.

Video of the Day

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's Worse Than Saying "That's So Gay"?

"That's so g-ohmygod...sorry. I forgot. You're like, actually gay."

Friday, October 24, 2008

"We could hear, when we opened our mouths, the culture industry's language and not always our own"

"Back in 2002 I had a running debate with a friend of mine on the subject of "dignity." She claimed that this was something I was excessively concerned about. She didn't think it was possible for people like us to be really dignified in the old (and possibly imaginary) way of prior generations and characters in classic novels. We were endlessly self-reflexive individuals who had been marked by dabbling in drugs and semiotics; the media world we inhabited made life feel squalid, disposable, and fearful; we could hear, when we opened our mouths, the culture industry's language and not always our own. We were trapped inside ourselves—and in there wasn't even a "self." More like an empty lot crisscrossed by gusts of addictive compulsion, and littered with cultural debris. The situation made you feel ashamed. It bankrupted concepts like "dignity."

Benjamin Kunkel, in N+1

"without the resources of dreams and literature-and psychoanalysis for the lucky few-the consequences are surely dire"

"I was once asked by Adam Phillips if I did a lot of readings and I answered that yes, I did, but that these appearances were difficult and I suffered shame. So he said 'then why do you do them?' And I answered, 'I guess this must be perverse.' He said, 'I think you want to make something out of your shame.' I still find this comment comforting and illuminating. And then, not much later, at a Q and A at Syracuse University, a student asked me a related question: 'aren't you embarrassed to to walk around if you know that there are people looking at you and thinking about what you've written?' I answered him something like this: 'well, you know this is fiction! And I can take the cover that this is fiction! But really, I can take no cover.' I said that literature ought not to be a haven for tea time conversation, for polite speech-that most of us are obliterated by all of our opportunities for polite speech, that without the resources of dreams and literature-and psychoanalysis for the lucky few-the consequences are surely dire. Well I said something like that"

-Diane Williams, in the Believer

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Chow Bio!

I interview a pint of Haagen-Dasz Dulce de Leche Ice Cream.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Friend Eli Just Crated This Site

It's called "So Long, Cowboy: Letters to an Ex-President." Look for my entry, you might like it.

I have this new job...

And I need to write 100 restaurant reviews by Nov. 24th. So far, I've written 20, and was able to get free meals at 12. Who wants to accompany me on my next dinner?

My Future Life

First- print Journalist. In this vision I am sitting at my desk, and I have 412 unread email messages. I write back witty, one line responses to every single one of them that manage to capture the universality of our human experience, and also manipulate them into writing something honest back to me in response. It’s a good kind of manipulation. I’m cutting through bullshit. I write a blog post about one of the emails. My blog post gets 45 comments from people, half of whom are haters. I show the hater comments to my editor and we laugh together about how stupid people are. I am filled with love and joy for all human beings, especially the ones around me.

In the other vision, I am alone on my computer, trying to pump out a 430 word response to a theatre performance I didn’t like. I know the director personally. I need to write honestly because my readers expect that from me, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be invited back to review another show again if I give my real opinion. I have no one to talk to about this. All of my ideas are cliché. I become paranoid like Emily Gould and am unable to leave my apartment.

Second-memoirist. In this vision, I write about my family from the vantage of someone who’s had a lot of psychotherapy and can now laugh about fucked up shit without scaring people. I am really really completely alone, writing in my room. I am bored out of my brain, wearing sweatpants all day long and getting stoned. I write panicked emails to my mother asking her “is it okay if I say….” And the response is always “NO! SONNY BOY! DON’T WRITE ABOUT ME!!” “But mom! You’re hilarious! This deserves an audience!” I write back “Your answering machines capture the truth of what it means to be the son of a loving, warm, Jewish mother! Your emails are amazing! I want to write about you because I love you!” I get no response, except from my father who leaves a voicemail that says “Mom is very upset now.”

Third-college professor. In this vision, I work at a good college where students raise their hands. I know a lot about this one really really obscure thing that matters more than any other really really obscure thing. My classes are really small, and by the time we’re done discussing how my research relates to the point of existence, we’re all so over-stimulated that it seems like my classroom just might be the most important, exciting, illuminating place in the world; more important than the Oval Office, more exciting than the Nobel Prize Awards Show, more illuminating than the New Yorker Festival. In fact, someone in class brings up the New Yorker Festival and says they went last year and my class is more illuminating.

In the other vision, I work at a big school and get paid roughly the same amount per hour as someone at McDonalds. I cannot write one more thing about that really obscure thing I decided to devote my life to without my head exploding. Half my students come to class, and the others bring their laptops, which I am then forced to ban, inspiring hatred of me. I dumb down the way I talk because most of my students aren’t the brightest bulbs in the barrel and the only smart girl in the class looks at me with disappointment and intellectual longing.

Fourth-NPR. In this vision, I work at the NPR offices in Seattle, and field questions from people all across our fair nation. I exercise a lot, which lowers my voice and makes me sound calm and inhumanly reasonable. My friends are all calm, inhumanely reasonable people and we read essays about our childhood to each other, and write poetic emails that capture what it means to be alive. People tell me I “bring the funny” to NPR and that things will never be the same there again. I’m able to make the radio audience laugh about terrible things like bombings and genocide by extracting witty commentary from survivors. But no one would call me manipulative, I just bring out that side of people. Finally, Americans understand what it means to go through a war, or a bombing, because they feel bonded with the survivors. My life is filled with joy and friendship and witty warm friends who are very dramatic about things and like to turn off the lights when they introduce me to new music.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Eating Alone at Cafe Presse

Today I ate alone at Cafe Presse. Alone. Just me and the steak and fries. And my belly. And ketchup. Food tastes less interesting when you eat it alone. The whole experience is just less fun. You want to talk to someone but there's no one there. So you play a game on your cell phone, thinking it will be relaxing. Except the cell phone game is actually very involving, and emotionally taxing. There are these balls, and they have to hit other balls so that they can explode. It sounds fun, but it's actually tedious and a chore. But you do it the same reason heroin addicts take shots of heroin: because it's something to do and it's a nasty habit.

At the table next to you, a dude wearing a sweatshirt and his friend are talking about the differences between Seattle and Portland. The consensus is that Portland is less big and thus "less classy" or something. I'm not just whipping out that word "classy" and using it to fill in a missing hole in the conversation I didn't quite overhear, it was something to the affect of "Seattle is bigger and thus has more classy places." Although they could have just been saying that because they were sitting in a classy restaurant and you always ascribe a characteristic to a city based on the place where you are when you're having that conversation. I've never complained about Seattle's lack of friendliness when I'm at a party with people I love, but when I'm in a coffee shop alone on Facebook looking at faces of people I don't care about just to pass the time, yeah, sure, I'll tell you Seattle sucks socially if you sit next to me and strike up a conversation. Then I'll tell you that I miss South Africa, and feel self-conscious about how college I am; not loving America and all.

The statement about Seattle sucking socially is met with different responses. I take that back. Different responses sounds like some people are negative in response and some people are positive in response. This is untrue. People are absolutely positively uniformly agreeing when you say Seattle sucks socially. This is actually the best way of starting a conversation with someone in Seattle: tell them you like the trees but you wish you could break down that "barrier" with people. Then show some sort of emotion to prove that you're not like the rest of Seattle. Gasp when they say something shocking or laugh at nothing in particular. This will prove to people that you are capable of breaking out of demographic trends, that you are crazy like the only people who have any fun around here (the Broadway homeless), that you are different and thus, your suffering is unique and based upon the fact that you're just not showing your personality because the people around you aren't worthy of your personality because you're just that fucking amazing.

But the statement about Seattle people having "barriers" isn't uniformly true, I don't think. I don't think people in Seattle really have "barriers." I think I probably just meet the only socially incapable people in Seattle who like to complain about how hard it is to make friends because there's actually something socially wrong with them.

Anyway, so back to the conversation this couple is having. The dude says he went to a high school called "Brookline" or something and the girl says "wow" and I think, well, that's weird because people in Seattle don't usually say "wow" about high schools. So I guess he's from somewhere else, where wows are expected after you state your high school, because if people don't say wow they'll be looked down on as the sort of person who doesn't read the US News and World Report's Annual Listing of High Schools, and thus aren't smart, and thus don't have smart friends, and thus probably won't amount to anything in the world, and thus are a life drainer people want to stay very very far away from (especially if they read books like the Secret).

But I hide my pain and play my cell phone game. I am suddenly, acutely aware of the fact that I am now Seattle because they are so close to me, and looking around and seeing the city through the eyes of people who just arrived here. I'm the dude playing the game on my cell phone, like a social retard, while he waits for his food to arrive. I am Seattle. I am retarded.

The waitress comes back for her mandatory "check in" and asks how the food is, and I lie and say it's delicious even though it's too rare because I don't want the hassle of sending food back. I wonder to myself if the waitress says things like "hun" in her daily life or if "hun" is used for affect here. It's such a warm older woman word and she looks like she's 15. If she's using the word for affect, I deem the restaurant to be inhospitable for people who have personalities. I assume they have some course on waitressing tips where they tell all the waitresses how to use words that are folksy. Even though this restaurant would never do that, the thought crosses my brain.

Eventually, I am given a box for all my food that I will probably put in my fridge and then throw out three days later without eating any of it. It's just a ritual I like to feel a part of. To not ask for a box is admitting you don't like the food and are completely comfortable with the image of some chef shoveling it into a trash can while crying, and then killing himself all because of you. So you ask for the food in a fucking box, because you're a fucking human.

Walking out of the restaurant is uncomfortable because you are suddenly made aware again of the fact that you are completely alone. If you're emotionally healthy you probably have the feeling "man, I am an adult having fun being emotionally healthy and getting to know myself. good. I just love to eat alone and listen to my pretty shiny thoughts" and if you are not emotionally healthy you probably have the feeling "I am fat. I also don't like people. My head hurts. My car is filled with junk I don't take out because I am lazy. I am going to go write in my blog now about being fat and not liking people. Maybe I will also WebMD 'Depression' just for fun."

You walk to your car. It is a foreign car you bought because it is reliable. It's so Seattle. It's fucking forest green. You left that little sticker on the window that says you parked it for such and such hours. You put your key in the ignition and it revs up. You and the car have a weird relationship. You're just not ready to really tell it what to do. You try to coax it instead, so you drive like an eighty year old man. You think; well, I'm Jewish. Somehow this is all okay. Larry David has done worse. Shalom Auslander has said worse. David Rackoff is a mess, and Gary Shteyngart must have had some social problems in his 20s. Each of these men were probably grumpy old farts trapped in teenage bodies. They probably didn't have a good relationship with anyone until they had a good relationship with a kind, warm editor who told them all their ideas were fucking brilliant. So the car thing is okay, it's okay. You can drive like an eighty year old man. You can do that.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

There's a Spider on My Thermostat

I'm not quite sure what to do now. I put a cup over the spider thinking, oh, well, he'll probably just crawl into this cup and then I can just shake him into the trash. I mean, honestly, I also had a vision of the spider crawling out of the cup as I'm bringing it to the trash, and me dropping the cup, and it shattering into a bunch of pieces and then me screaming because I often scream when I inadvertently drop things. I wondered how the scream would sound...if it would be a restrained "Ah!" or a longer "eaahhaahhh!"

But the spider refused to crawl into the cup and, instead, clung to the wall.

Then I thought- paper. I'll hold out a piece of paper, the spider can crawl onto the paper and then I'll throw both paper and spider into the trash. Problem is, as soon as the spider was on the paper, it started crawling toward my hand.

It would have made it to my fingers, but I dropped the paper before it could get that far. The spider was flung off the paper, and fell with its legs squirming around on to my pillow. It fell like those stuntmen fall off buildings into bluescreens: its tiny arms over-dramatically cycling backwards.


Then it crawled into the space between my bed and the wall, where it is (happily?) setting up camp.

Great. Now it's right next to the place where I put my head and close my eyes.

I have a few options now. I can either push the whole mattress towards the wall, and hope it squishes the spider in darkness, far from my tender eyes. I could also move the mattress backwards and stare at the spider and squish it with a hankerchief but I don't like the idea of feeling its legs and body collapse and I'm afraid of ooze. Do you think there will be ooze?

I could also just leave it there and hope it doesn't crawl into my mouth or ears while I'm sleeping. It might be really angry at me and want revenge. I did drop it from a high place.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blinky McBlinkerson

Cut It Out!

Okay seriously guys! I mean seriously! You need to stop talking shit about Palin! She can totally hear you, you guys. It's making her totally depressed. I'm not fucking around. She's literally depressed now, guys, and it's all because of you. She can ban books, but she can't ban TV's, and she can hear you and everything on the TV and it's affecting her ability to give speeches. She used to get all excited before she went on one of her long rants about all those mean folks who were taling shit about her gay best friend, and now she doesn't even want to come out of her room. She's wearing sweatpants now, guys! All day! And she's been eating out of the same cereal bowl for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She refuses to cut her bangs! And that mustard stain on her shirt? She totally rejected my offer to use the Tide To Go stick. It's not funny, guys!

Rush Limbaugh "At Least Sarah Palin Isn't Causing Global Warming.."

This is a transcript between Rush Limbaugh and a woman who says she's undecided because she just can't get over the Palin stumbling block. Why? Because Sarah Palin is the worst vice presidential pick in the history of ever? Because she's refusing to talk to the media? Because she's the faux-folksy hockey mom from hell?

No. "Because she hunts wolves."

Witness Rush Limbaugh's convoluted (to say the very very least) response:

RUSH: Do you realize that the cattle industry kills more steers in a day than Sarah Palin has in her life? And when you went outside the last time was the sun shining?

CALLER: No, actually it was raining outside.

RUSH: But it was light when it was supposed to be light?


RUSH: And of course rain is good for plants and animals, they drink it and they grow and they replenish themselves. What's the temperature in Atlanta today?

CALLER: I couldn't tell you.

RUSH: Well, is it hot or is it warm, is it cold --

CALLER: It's warm. It's warm.

RUSH: So the animals that Sarah Palin's killing have not caused temperatures to plunge where you live, you're getting needed rain --

CALLER: What about the polar ice caps, though?

RUSH: Georgia's been in a drought so you're getting needed rain in Atlanta, you admit that you eat beef. Do you eat vegetables, which are just plants?


RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: But my point is, I'm not concerned -- I mean --

RUSH: You mentioned the polar ice caps. The polar ice caps are growing. We got a report yesterday that two glaciers in Alaska are larger than they've been in years, and the meteorologists say it's the coldest winter. But you're being sold a bill of goods on a political agenda, Ren. Start thinking for yourself and use common sense. The bottom line is you and I could not destroy, nor could Sarah Palin, the ecosystem of the planet if we tried.

It's warm! That's good! Oh, wait, I mean, no; rain is good! Rain's a sign of health! Beef! You eat beef. So does Sarah Palin. You and her, you're basically the same person. She hunts, you should hunt. Do you eat your vegetables? So does she.

Buck up, young environmentalist! You and I and Sarah Palin can cut down as many trees as we want and it still won't really do anything.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Currently Whitepasted to a Wall in Montreal's Gay District

It's Amy Winehouse in yarn, and the caption reads: watch them form, watch them unravel. It's for a gossip magazine.

I Was Just About to Send This Baby Off

...when my mother informed me I'd left the inner envelope at her house.

I still want to send it in (who the fuck cares about the inner envelope?) but my mom thinks my vote won't be counted without the inner envelope.

What do you think, interwebs? This is the biggest election I've ever had the opportunity to influence. The stakes are enormous. I can't fuck this one up.

I'm sure tons of people forgot the inner envelope during the last election. Did their votes still count?

Andrew Sullivan Tackles the Subject of Blogging

The flip side, of course, is that bloggers are also human beings. Reason is not the only fuel in the tank. In a world where no distinction is made between good traffic and bad traffic, and where emotion often rules, some will always raise their voice to dominate the conversation; others will pander shamelessly to their readers’ prejudices; others will start online brawls for the fun of it. Sensationalism, dirt, and the ease of formulaic talking points always beckon. You can disappear into the partisan blogosphere and never stumble onto a site you disagree with.

But linkage mitigates this. A Democratic blog will, for example, be forced to link to Republican ones, if only to attack and mock. And it’s in the interests of both camps to generate shared traffic. This encourages polarized slugfests. But online, at least you see both sides. Reading The Nation or National Review before the Internet existed allowed for more cocooning than the wide-open online sluice gates do now. If there’s more incivility, there’s also more fluidity. Rudeness, in any case, isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a blogger. Being ignored is. Perhaps the nastiest thing one can do to a fellow blogger is to rip him apart and fail to provide a link.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm trying to write about lark

This is what I have so far...

The crowd is Aveda-moisturized, dressed in Coldwater Creek and whispering excitedly about their favorite Alice Waters book. They are eating their food slowly because it is a tiny amount of food and they must make it last long enough to finish explaining their favorite Alice Waters book.

I love stereotyping.

Text Message From Capitol Hill

At honey hole. A girl (perhaps SU?) with Juicy Couture booty shorts and a big shiny purse just came in and the conversations. stopped. She is not wanted.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dept. of City Marketing

This video made me laugh. It's part of an advertising campaign for Upstate South Carolina, and it really undersells the region at the beginning of the clip. "When my parents told me we were moving to the upstate of South Carolina" says the teenage girl interviewed for the clip. "I pretty much assumed my life was over."

The girl goes on to talk about how she thought South Carolina would have "one room schoolhouses" and thinks aloud "what would I have in common with those kids?" The girl also figured "I wouldn't have a social life."

Thankfully, the girl was "blown away" when she actually started school in upstate South Carolina. And this is basically the theme of the entire advert campaign, where residents talk about how much they thought South Carolina would suck, before they make the vague recommendation that the city "blows them away." How, exactly the city blows people away is a good question. According to the video...Because it has a fountain? A restaurant? A couple human beings?

I wonder how the residents of upstate south carolina feel about some ad execs from new york coming into their town and creating an ad campaign that (before the pitch) kinda shits on their town.

And that voice over: actress or realperson? Discuss.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thankya Ms. Duff...

"Knock it off!"

I think that will stop it.

And haha, she wore a skirt on her boobz.

Video of the Day

Because these kind of videos just don't get posted enough anymore.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

UW Undergrad Education is a Joke

I am now sitting in one of the "supposedly good" UW classes. Half the class is asleep, the others look unengaged. The professor is still talking and it doesn't seem like he notices. All my classes are like this.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Does anyone else find Norah Ephron's political reporting (and general literary aura) supremely annoying?