the original kStyle blog.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004


I just turned on my air conditioner for the first time in three days, and the air that came out didn’t feel quite as cold as it should. I tried to adjust it, but couldn’t get it right. So I called the superintendent, a man who, in my time here, has been completely reliable and always helpful.

I told him I didn’t think the air conditioner was working right, that the air didn’t seem very cold.

He said, "How cold is it?"

I didn't know what that question meant. Did he want the actual temperature? Or just my own sense of things?

So I said, "I’m not sure, but it’s not as cold as it usually is."

He said, "Well, if you get right up close to it and it makes your nipples hard, it’s cold enough."

Does this mean he’s coming to fix it or not?

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Ring...Ring...Hello, this isn't working for you. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Click.

Ever had a wake-up call? Did it wake you up?

I had one just this weekend. My period plus lots of stress made me a little crazy. I was out of pads. Completely out. I went to the local drugstore, frantic from hormones and heavy bleeding. The cashier.....was............sllllllllllooooooooooow. I suspect his slowness at that moment in time stemmed from general mental slowness. There I was, a crazed, twitchy women with a giant box of pads. Gi-ant box.
"How are you today?" he asked slowly with no real affect. How did he think the crazy menstruating woman would be?
"fine." (Clipped, no smile.)
"Do you have an extra care card?" (UnbeLIEVably slowly.)
"But...you have one?"
"Would you like to use it? I can punch in the number."
"nothanks." (Through clenched teeth. I'm about to start a variation on the pee pee dance from sheer discomfort of my soggy pad.)
"Are you sure you don't want"
"So you don't want me to punch in the number? I can punch in the number."
"No. Thank. You."

So, yeah, I lost it a little on the cashier. I had an appointment to receive Shiatsu shortly after this encounter. When I relayed the story, my Shiatsu therapist gently suggested that there are some excellent sedative herbs that I might find helpful during my period.


Senator Kerry, I Salute You

Presidential hopeful John Kerry refused to cross a patrolman picket line to attend the U. S. Conference of Mayors. "I don't cross picket lines. I never have." Pundits are being pundits about the whole thing, snarkily questioning why Kerry needs to bow down before labor and criticizing him for his self-serving motivations.

I ask these pundits: would you rather he crossed it?

I would have serious reservations about voting for a man who crossed a picket line. And I am proud that Kerry, in his simple act of respect for labor, has also earned the respect of Boston police, such that they've promised not to picket during the DNC.

Not everything a politician does is evil.

Monday, June 28, 2004


I just got a piece of terrible news. A friend from high school is in a deep coma after a motor vehicle accident in Africa. (Another friend from high school died this winter from cancer. It's apparently a bad year for my high school friends.)

So...Artemis, you can't read this, but my thoughts and prayers are with you. I hope you come back. You've always been a determined gal.


1. Name a subject of interest that, if it were the only one you had in common with someone, would still be enough to sustain a friendship.

2. How are your bookshelves organized? By genre? Author? Authors within genres? Some convoluted system understood by you alone?

3. Are you more likely to say something you shouldn't, or to not say something you should?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Plan

1. Find a part-time summer waitressing job. See how it goes, how much I make, how I hold up.

2. Find a full-time waitressing job when it's time to return to classes in the fall.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Feng Shui

Ann asked about feng shui in the comments recently. And I was like, Duh...dunno. Lucky for all of us, one of my classmates is an architect who specializes in feng shui, and he was kind enough to give me a generous Feng Shui 101 course after anatomy class tonight.

Feng shui began in ancient China for survival. In the freezing cold north, a house or a village needed to be placed so that it was sheltered from the winter winds. Ideal was a large mountain to the north and a smaller mountain to the east. This situation would create a relatively mild microclimate where plants would sprout earlier and live later into the summer--more food. Eventually, as all successful societies do, China moved past mere survival. Feng shui took on a new level: where is the most prosperous place to situate the homestead? For example, a farmer would want to have his fields near a river for irrigation, but the farmer would do better to have his fields uphill rather than downhill from the river. The downhill farmer will experience some flooding and his lands will be gradually eaten away from erosion. (I dubbed this part "keeping up with the Changs".) Stagnant river water would fester with disease and breed pests, but too fast a river would wash away the minerals; like most Chinese tradition, feng shui seeks the balance between yin and yang. Feng shui means "wind and water". Make sense so far?

The feng shui of each village would be different, of course. If, for example, a village had a mountain pass through which winds whipped, the local feng shui master would create a compass with that pass marked and plan accordingly. This sort of outdoor feng shui can be applied to modern urban planning. Are the roads too wide? Too narrow, causing stagnation (like traffic jams)? Will wind tunnels make for unpleasant walking?

The same principles developed outdoors came to be applied inside. Corridors should be wide but not too wide. The space should flow logically. As Ann suspected, Chinese mysticism was layered on to some schools of feng shui. Some get into astrology and such things.

My mentor pointed out that many Buddhists believe that your mind creates your entire world. Therefore, for example, placing plants in your wealth corner to make your wealth grow could very well work, because you are manifesting that with your mind. So, in a sense, it matters less that you follow some of the esoteric principles of feng shui than that you give conscious thought to your space and how you would like your life to reflect it.

Now, dear readers, try an experiment with me.

1. Go to a corner in your building that points away from you. Stand there, facing the meeting of the walls. Let go of thought, take a couple of deep breaths, and observe how you feel there.

1a. Place a plant in that corner, or, if there is one, take it away. How does it feel now? You can also try placing a fountain there or turning a light on or off in that corner.

2. Go to a corner that points toward you, out into the room, and face it, so that the corner points right at you. Clear your mind, breathe, and observe for a minute or two. How do you feel there?

Contemplating Jumping off a Cliff

Would I dare leave my secure office job (which I hate more every day) to wait tables?

I do think my temperament is better suited to restaurant work than to office work...

Stay tuned...

Momentous Occasions

Yesterday was a big day.

The one and only Jason celebrated his birthday. Happy birthday, Jason! Thanks for coming to earth in time to be my friend.

And Greg and I celebrated two years as a couple. What a pair of years they’ve been! I’m quite lucky.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Goddamn Comments

Fuck it, I'm posting my answer to the writing assignment.

Winter is all about survival. I wear thick, lumpy clothes to fight back the cold. There’s nothing attractive about it: This Is War. Summer finds me partial to funkier clothes, skirts with unusual prints, colorful jewelry. The color that comes back into the world with spring seeps right into my wardrobe. I love pink all year, though. It's a cheery color and makes my complexion look fantastic.

I don’t have much spare dough to shop for clothing. As a result, my clothes are mostly impulse sale buys or gifts from my shopaholic grandma. It’s a challenge to combine my motley wardrobe into somewhat attractive outfits. I often think I should go on “What Not To Wear” on TLC. Do they let you turn yourself in?

Shiatsu clothes are an entirely different matter: They must be thin, loose-fitting pants, socks, and a comfortable shirt, allowing for easy movement. It gives me less wiggle room, refreshingly, but I too often lapse into faded tee and old faded cotton pants, when I SHOULD try to look more professional at the school where I’m training for my future career. kStyle, get out there and buy some new tees, for goodness’ sake. They’re not expensive.

I heard recently that it’s a good idea to pick a “fashion role model” and pattern your style accordingly. Nice in theory, but strapped for cash and time and subject to the whims of the fashion industry, I’m not sure how to model my wardrobe on anything.

It’s more than acceptable to dress for comfort only around your nearest and dearest, but I think it’s NICE to make an effort for them once in a while, too. You are special to me, it says, and I want to look nice for you. Really, the reason to dress well is for yourself as much as anyone else; in a way, the audience doesn’t matter.

Wednesday Reading Assignment

It's not technically reading, but we must be lenient about such matters in the summer. There's a new episode of Seinfeld and Superman for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Except for toddlers and a smattering of nudists, we spend most of our days wearing clothes of some kind.  As such, we make choices about our wardrobes, and they're often influenced by factors unrelated to comfort and social propriety.  We wear what we like.  At the same time, clothes are usually the first way we express ourselves to strangers, the knowledge of which must have an impact on our decisions.

Putting aside the question of what technically looks good on you, I'd like to know how you decide what clothing to buy, how you choose something to wear in the morning, and/or what it means to dress like you do.  What kind of image are you attempting to build through what you wear?

A follow-up question:  When we're alone or with our closest friends and families, we don't need to be as concerned about the image we present.  During these times, is it unreasonable to choose clothing for any other reason than comfort?

Unsolicited Advice from kStyle

1. Lately I’ve noticed a lot of people with dark circles under their eyes. Dark rings make you look like you’re dying from a horrible disease, even if they’re caused by a simple lack of sleep. Although I don’t normally advocate make-up, I recommend that men and women alike spend a couple dollars and a couple seconds on concealing those craters. Men: ask a close female friend what to use and how. We love dolling up boys, starting when we dress our little brothers in drag before they’re old enough to care. Just don’t ask a potential love interest, lest she fret that you’re gay.

2. Eggs are good for you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A Special Hell

Without A/C, my office is unbearably stuffy and hot. With A/C, my office is as cold as a refrigerator. The output is right behind my back, so my neck grows stiff from the relentless cold air.

The gods of climate control are harsh and mercurial.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Summer Reading

Apologies if my posts have been few and weak lately. Only 2 more weeks until the semester ends; bear with me. I can see that Eric and Charlie are taking good care of you visitors.

1. I'm currently reading Beautiful as the Moon, Radiant as the Stars: Jewish Women in Yiddish Stories, An Anthology, ed. Sandra Bark. It's a revelation! I was drawn in by the pretty cover and the title, taken from a Yiddish folk song. I've never thought much about Jewish women in Yiddish stories; to be honest (though it's rather embarrassing) I thought Yiddish was only a spoken language. The stories are enchanting windows into the lives of Jewish girls, young women, women, and elder women, set around the globe, but mostly in Russia and Poland. You'll recognize some, such as Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy" and "Hodel" by Sholom Alecheim, whuch were adapted into the musicals Yentl and Fiddler on the Roof, respectively. Many of these little jewels will be more obscure to an American audience, translated into English for the first time for this collection. This book is a treat. Guaranteed you will weep, laugh, and crave pierogies.

2. I'm going to do it. I'm going to buckle down and read some Jane Austen. She's been recommended too many times. I'll let you know how it goes.

3. New phrase: wine cooler liberal, a new twist on the classic white wine liberal. I'm not sure what it means yet, but it slipped out of my mouth in reference to Anna Quindlen as I read her last Newsweek column. Use it...liberally...and let me know who you think of.

[Disclaimer: I have the utmost respect for Anna Quindlen and I think she's a fantastic columnist, but sometimes her rhetoric is a bit much, as though she had one too many wine coolers before deadline.]

Typewriters on Wax

[Let it be stated, for the record, that I am going to attempt to sway the banner ads atop this page to a certain product with each music review I write. Last time it was steak knives--ads for which appeared for at least a week afterwards, I'm proud to report. This time I'm going for shoe polish. Challenge me: I'll take product-placement requests for future reviews.]

A long time ago, in my last review, I mentioned that I'd try to branch out from the West African stuff I'd been focusing on and go somewhere else. Ever since, you've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, here it is:

Aah, Brazil. Where life is a proverbial bowl of kiwi fruit. Ben hooked me up with an album called "Music Typewriter," by Moreno Veloso, and if you're familiar with Brazilian music, you'll recognize that name; Moreno is the son of Caetano Veloso, a fixture in the pantheon of Brazilian pop.

If Beck were a Brasiliero, he might make albums like this. Well, not really. But think lo-fi. "Music Typewriter" lacks the shine and polish of overproduction, which makes it quite refreshing. The drums, in particular, are recorded in such a way so as to sound like drums in a room, whose resonant qualities almost come across visually. You can picture the band kicking off their shoes and treating the studio as if it were only a few steps away from a live stage. Which is not to say that some fun studio trickery isn't in play here. Guitars blip and loop in quirky little ways, often imperceptibly except through close listening.

I like albums that present a cohesive sound throughout while offering lots of variety across tunes. And the shoe certainly fits here. "Typewriter" ranges from the quirky-jerky rocker "Enquanto Isso" with it's black leather electric guitar screaming away in the background over a rattle-your-rib-cage thump drum, to the Sao Paulo block-party funk throwback "Arrivederci," to ballads that brush by you gently, like "Para Xo," one of my favorites. Yet, somehow, it coheres. One big ball of wax.

It's functional stuff, too; works perfectly well in the background while you drink cocktails, or you can boot up the volume, put on your dancing shoes, and look for the one you love. Check it out, my PYTs!

Gone Fishin'

It's too nice out, just too damn nice out, so I'm taking the day off from work. I'm off to explore the Great Outdoors.



1. Name something you remember vividly about the town in which you grew up. Do you know if it's still true of the town today?

2. If you could, would you choose to forget your saddest memory?

3. Don't worry, it doesn't count as bragging: Name something you are better at than anyone else you know.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Knowing too Much (but not Enough)

A couple months ago, at some family gathering or another, I noticed that my grandfather’s nose was purple at the bottom. In Chinese medicine, this is a sign of heart problems. Grandpa has a proud history of heart disease, including hypertension and several heart attacks. I pulled my mom aside and told her about the nose. She, in turn, pulled him aside and asked how he was feeling in regards to cardiovascular health. She knew he had an appointment with the cardiologist the next day and encouraged him to share any problems. Grandpa had been feeling poor—palpitations or irregular heartbeat or something—but oh, did he refuse to tell his doctor.

He just had a massive heart attack and will likely be getting a pacemaker now.

In the fall, I met someone who looked pale and had sores on either side of his mouth. Right away I thought, He has stomach problems. In the course of our conversation, he mentioned that he has stomach cancer.

A friend of mine has pale lips with lots of vertical lines running through them. It seems rude to say, excuse me, I think you might have some spleen dampness, resulting in poor digestion and, sometimes, cloudy thinking…

These Are a Few of my Faaaa-vorite Foods
(...sung like Julie Andrews)

As we're talking so much about exercise and whatnot, let's chat about food. Food food food. I've noticed that my favorite foods are shifting with the hot weather. I suppose they always do; I just neglect to notice. In fall and winter, I'll eat all the root vegetables in a 3-mile radius. Summer finds me craving green leafiness instead. Here's a list of some of my current favorites:

Eggs. So verstile, so delicious; the French are right to love them.
Mint tea.
Lemon sorbet. Haagen Daas' tastes lusciously close to granita.
Fish tacos.
Spinach. As always.
Caesar salad. It's not ceasar salad without lots of anchovies.
Grilled sausage.


Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Gender Socialization and the Gym

In the week and a half since joiniong my gym, I've noticed that the weight room has about a 3:1 M-F ratio but classes (aerobics and Pilates are the two I've tried) have all women. In chatting with a few friends about this phenomenon, I've uncovered that men generally feel intimidated by classes. There's the fear of looking weak or lost or dorky in front of others. Women, on the other hand, (myself included until my free personal training session set me straight) generally feel intimidated by the weight rooms. They lack the support and encouragement of a group as well as the guidance of an instructor.

This is all very scientific, of course.

Great News for the Ladies

Queer Eye for the Straight Girl coming in 2005...


There are 3 or 4 people at work who always seem nervous around me. I’m trying to figure out whether:
1. They’re always on edge
2. I intimidate them (I can’t imagine why; I think I’m sweet as apple pie a la mode)
3. I don’t intimidate them, such that they feel comfortable revealing their inner discomfort to me.

Most likely it’s #1.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Wednesday Writing Assignment

We chat a lot, here on this little site, about our minds. Beneath our banter, however, are bodies sitting at keyboards type-type-typing away. Our bodies often do things that make us realize that Yes, we are animals. Let's pay tribute to our animal sides today: that part that wants to curl up in a dark, safe habitat (like a bed) or howl at the moon. We get cranky and hungry, tired and unfocused, fed and rested and content. When have you felt that animal part? Was it liberating? Scary? Annoying?

St. Francis of Assissi, I've heard, was known to self-flagellate to punish the ass of the body.

I shall now complete my own assignment:

I can be a little moody. Sometimes irritable and restless, sure, but often lethargic and depressive, too. I was in a STATE after we moved: tired, helpless-feeling, ick. Then...I joined a gym. I exercised again for the first time in two weeks and all the clouds lifted. I was reborn! A born-again Exerciser! It came into clear relief that my bad moods are largely a result of needing exercise. It's so simple, so obvious, but my over-intellectualizing brain wouldn't let me see it. I've been going to the gym faithfully since I joined a week and a half ago, and I am a happy gal. I can feel the decline, though, if it's been even a day too long. Tonight my inner SheWolf is ready to punch someone. Anyone. It doesn't matter whom.

Get me to an aerobics class.


There's an exciting new episode of Blow Out on tonight! It's a beautifully ridiculous program!


Think about the word for a moment. What do you see? An erupting volcano?

We did this experiment in anatomy class last week. Every single person visualized an active volcano, lava spewing forth from its hot center. We were learning about association: For each of us, TV had provided our first image of a volcano. Our teacher had just met his first real volcano, a giant, slumbering mountain on a tropical island, and would stare at it, trying to reconcile Real Volcano with Original Erupting Volcano.

It was strange, too, that my Original Erupting Volcano had overridden the two real volcanoes I’ve known: Mts. Vesuvius and Etna. A web of associations emerged: a blue mountain in the distance, not too far away, with a curl of smoke forever seeping out its top; terrible nightmares that Vesuvius would overflow again during my two weeks in Pompeii; waking to find my face dotted with mosquito bites for lack of window screens; a huge beast of a mountain, far off, serene and quiet, presiding over parched hills; the tart lemon granita, which, years ago, had been made with ice gathered atop Etna; Sicilian peaches grown in volcanic soil, so sweet and alive that their juice ran all the way to my elbow in sticky rivers; my mother’s love for peaches, which I had never understood until that moment; her love for sour granny smith apples, which I still don’t understand.


Monday, June 14, 2004


Sorry for the delay, folks--the company's internet was down all morning. Let's get to it:

1. Fill in the blank with an adjective: "I will never be ______ , but I've come to accept that."

2. The best sexual experience of your life, or the best meal: if you could relive either one every day, which would you choose?

3. If you could gather all your friends in a room and force them to listen to you lecture on any subject for thirty minutes, what subject would you choose? Be as specific as possible.

How I really Type

In the spirit of today's reveal-all culture, I am exposing my poor typing skills for you all to see. no spell check. No rereading adn revising/ Just pure, unadulteraed poor typing. Actually, i'm typing better than usua; today, which says something, eh?

Friday, June 11, 2004

Calling for a Date


Prince, as in PRINCE, as in...PRINCE will be playing in Boston this summer. I NEED to be at this show, preferably with a friend. Sadly, my beloved does not quite understand the Greatness that is Prince, and so I am loathe to bring him. (Anyone who says, but $50 is so expensive when talking about a Prince concert does not belong there.)

Any takers?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Rest in Peace

Ray Charles died today at age 73. What a band he and Barry White must be forming in the Great Beyond. We'll miss you, Ray. Thanks for the beautiful songs.

Good, Clean, Blasphemous Fun

As we gleefully unwrapped our fortune cookies at lunch today, tagging “in bed” to the end of each prophecy, my preacher’s-daughter-coworker-friend (with whom I attend church on Sundays) introduced us to the delights of adding “between the sheets” to the end of hymn names.

Lift High the Cross Between the Sheets
Hail Holy Queen Between the Sheets
My God Is a Rock Between the Sheets


Though it's true that the Goth version is good fun, it turns out that the Washington Post's website features the twice-weekly columns of Miss Manners, updated every Wednesday and Sunday, and archived for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Television with (k)Style

Eric can testify to my skill in picking the good shows--Blind Date, Queer Eye, Will & Grace--these are programs I loved from the first. And now, the Tube Prophetess blesses you with The Next Great Show: Blow Out on Bravo.

Blow Out breathes strange new life into the mold stamped with Bravo's lackluster The Restaurant. Lucky TV viewers follow Jonathan Does-He-Have-A-Last-Name?, hair stylist to the stars, as he opens a new Beverly Hills salon.

Jonathan brings a cast of stylists who live for hair, young beautiful people with lots of tattoos. He brings celebrities who pop in for cuts. Best of all, he brings himself: vain, arrogant, anxious, mildly womanizing, weirdly earnest, and prone to mixing metaphors or just plain not making sense. I cannot make you understand the treat of seeing a New-York-Style-Anxious Californian (complete with L.A. Accent, you know, vowels too long, syllables open, left hanging like trailing off thoughts) in a buff, tattooed SoCal bod, saying, "This guy's totally King Kong. He's the maaan," or, hitting on a woman he turned down for a stylist job, "I don't want to shut the door on that chapter."

Jonathan will blow your mind. Watch Blow Out.

Wednesday Writing Assignment

The memory functions efficiently. It doesn't keep track of everything you've ever lived, but only the most important events. (Sometimes its definition of "important" is a little less than clear, but it does a pretty good job.) This means that a large majority of your everyday life gets relegated to "filler." In other words, you can live in the present, but very little of it will get stored away for future reference.

Two questions: What "filler" moment have you lived recently that made you glad to be alive, despite the fact that it will eventually be forgotten? and/or, What's your most recent non-"filler" moment, one that you think you'll remember for a long time?

Wednesday Reading Assignment

There is a strong pro-Miss Manners sentiment on this blog. Ergo, I give you Goth Miss Manners. She's a delight.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Recipe Swap

You know what I'm sick of? I'm sick of hearing about the two office trends: corrective eye surgery (I'd rather wear glasses, thanks) and LOW CARB DIETS. In fact, let's take a few moments and have a HIGH CARB recipe swap. Wallow in those carbs! Love them! Live them! Carbs carbs carbs we want carbs!!!!

Bonus if you give me a healthy high-carb recipe. (Not an oxymoron.)

Color Me Confused

My hero Jon Stewart just informed me that our president just gave the pope a Congressional Medal of Honor.


The Congressional Medal of Honor shouldn't really be going to religious figures anyway, but that's not what's interesting. Oh no. What's interesting is that Bush is the kind of right-wing fundamentalist Protestant that traditionally hates Catholicism. You know, the kind of sect that refers to the Roman Catholic Church as the "Whore of Babylon".

It just doesn't make sense. You could say he's making a play for his Catholic voters, but most of them--at least in Boston--are ready to have Pope John Paul II's head on a platter right now. (I'm working on a separate post covering this topic. Stay tuned.)

Insight just dawning: Latinos will comprise a record number of voters this year. An analyst on NPR recently said that the Latino population will decide this election. I'll bet Bush is trying to appeal to that demographic...


Given the 100% participation in last week's questions, with Karen's thumbs-up I'll be posting two or three every Monday morning. Nothing too difficult--it is, after all, a Monday--but hopefully they'll prove interesting. Off we go:

1. If you were to die and come back as any person or thing, what would you want to come back as?

2. What virtue is most overrated?

3. When you stub your toe or do something similar that provokes an immediate, involuntary Swear, what is the word that most often escapes your lips?

Friday, June 04, 2004

Letter to India

South Asia
Indian Subcontinent

June 4, 2004

Dear India:

First, I want to welcome you into the developing world. I think you'll do well here. You have a lot of drive, stamina, and talent.

I saw a program about outsourcing to you on the Discovery Channel last night. (You might not get Discovery yet; it's a channel with lots of documentaries and other factual programming.) I'm very glad you're making more money and enjoying it. We weren't so keen on the call center jobs anyway.

India, I must confess that I'm a little worried for your welfare. Please don't think me condescending; you are a wonderful nation and I respect you entirely, but I have an insider's view of the United States. Your young women, at least the five interviewed on the program, hope to create a "Little America" over there. They said that they're enjoying their new freedom, including living with friends in apartments, nightlife, and shopping. I'm glad your women are getting a greater shot at independence, but shopping shouldn't be confused with freedom.

I love America, don't get me wrong, but it's not perfect. I'm hoping that you can learn from our mistakes. Take our capitalism and our women's lib and have great fun with them, but keep the good things from your own culture. Those strong family ties are wonderful. Too many of us Americans are adrift, isolated, and lonely. Please don't make or consume too many cars--you'll regret the traffic, pollution, and oil prices--but follow Europe's lead and create some fantastic public transportation. Be careful about media images, especially those used in advertising. You should speak to South Africa. We've just learned that black women there are suffering from a sharp spike in eating disorders since being exposed to American and European advertisements. While we're on food, those young ladies I saw on TV are already eating Pizza Hut. Trust me, your own food tastes better and provides more nutrition than our fast food. If you're going to take McDonald's, make sure you get health clubs, too. It would be a shame if the country of glorious nan woke up obese one day and had to go low-carb!

And please, I beg you, don't import Britney Spears; I wouldn't even wish her on the Taliban. Your Bollywood musicals are great fun--what a cultural treasure!--keep making them. Yes, keep doing all those beautiful things that make you...you.

We have a lot to offer you, but do pick and choose. Name brands are not happiness, after all. Don't trust every American with a gleaming smile. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to learning more from you. I really dig the yoga and Buddhism, and I keep meaning to read R. K. Narayan.

Keep up the good work. I hope to hear more from you soon.


P.S. Remember to make time for yourself during this transition. I know all too well the drive to work long hours, especially when starting a new job, but it's the surest way to burn out.


There seem to be about six of us regulars here on Float (Karen, of course, and me and Ann and Carla and Charlie and Ben... apologies if I'm omitted anyone) and I'm not sure how many of us knew of each other pre-Float. I have a bit of a Charlie connection through the (now defunct?) Xebra site, but otherwise you're all new to me. So I'm proposing a little Introduction Activity. Five questions that should reveal a little bit more about us all. Game?

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

2. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

3. Name a word or phrase you overuse.

4. What is your favorite occupation of time?

5. What is your motto?≤

Five Good Reasons To Read the Bible

1. It’s not just The Good Book; it’s a good book. Poetry, drama, betrayal, redemption: It’s all there.
2. There are many, many literary allusions to this particular good book.
3. It’s required reading for a good understanding of Western history.
4. Fascinating insight into the ancient Middle East.
5. You simply can’t argue with Fundamentalist Christians in secular terms. You must arm yourself with the same words they do battle with.


I'm watching this year's National Spelling Bee on ESPN (finally, something on ESPN that I actually don't mind watching!) I can't help but be struck by the weird majesty of these children: most of them around twel ve years or thirteen old, all of them awkward in all the average ways and in lots of non-average ones too. They're spelling incredibly complicated words I've never heard of, and most of them are either too short or too tall. They look uncomfortable in every way a person can look uncomfortable, which I guess is understandable since they're standing under a thousand lights on national televison spelling five-syllable words that derive from obscure foreign languages.

But as hard as it is sometimes to not look away (their anxiety is painfully palpable to watch), I'm finding myself adoring them. For they are the supreme social misfits, children who have spent years of their lives studying and studying and studying, probably to the exclusion of all else. (See the great documentary "Spellbound" for a really fascinating view of all this.) But as a former twelve year-old social misfit myself, I see a younger version of me in these kids, not because I was a great speller (though I won my school's sixth grade bee) but because I remember feeling the way they probably feel every day: out of place, living basically cerebrally even though their bodily selves are going kind of insane, and trying to figure out that eternal balance between getting 100 on a math test and figuring out whether and why a girl will ever look their way.

I don't know whether or not they see themselves as strange. I'm sure a lot of kids in their schools do. I'm sure they get picked last in gym and sit alone at lunch, most of them. Makes me wonder whether the spelling is the thing that gets them through or the thing that they escape into. Either way, they're kind of marvelous: Nicholas Truelson, with his uncomfortably nasal voice and crooked glasses, barely even paused just now before spelling" sumpsimus," which I've just decided is my new favorite word.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Uh, Sorry

My current linguistic pet peeve is the overuse and subsequent dilution of the word "sorry". People use it for minor offenses like bumping into you when "excuse me" would suffice. They use it when they don't understand something you say: "I've never heard of it, sorry." Worst of all is the sorry proffered with a request for assistance, commonly encountered at work: "I need you to go over this paper, sorry." If you were SORRY, you wouldn't ASK.

Truth be told, it didn't bother me that much until I caught myself doing it. The thing is, when you're really, truly, sorry, there's nothing to say but "I'm sorry," but it doesn't mean much anymore.


In heaven, the temperature hovers around 75 degrees, sunny with puffy white clouds. The sunsets are spectacular even without smog. Twice a week there are lightening storms at night. No one smokes. Indoors smells like baking cinnamon bread.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Wednesday Writing Assignment: The Click

The mind is often mysterious, even to its users. You toil away at something, laboring, memorizing, sorting, and sifting, but it doesn’t make any sense. Then suddenly, in a flash, you see the picture, like that moment when a puzzle is made enough to see its patterns and understand it, a moment of mini-enlightenment. Why the hell does that happen? I don’t know. Why doesn’t that happen sometimes? I don’t know, but I am convinced I will never ever understand music theory. I first consciously noticed The Click when wrestling with high school chemistry. One late night, grinding my teeth over the factor-label method—CLICK!—all became clear in a flash. Thereafter, chem homework that once demanded hours could be completed in minutes. The insight never went away—It all made sense from that day on.

In the interest of better understanding The Click, please tell me about Clicks you’ve had, Clicks you wish you’d have, Clicks you’ve abandoned hope of ever clicking.

Wednesday Reading Assignment

Oh gracious me, I thought it was Tuesday and am late! late! in posting a reading and writing assignment.

Guaranteed you will laugh until it hurts. I still do, after seeing it a zillion times. Enjoy!

Dead Authors

You know how many authors tragically die young? It's because their publishers kill them.

Pentecost Prayer

On Sunday we celebrated Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles as tongues of flame and they began speaking in every language, such that everyone in the city from every land could understand the good news they proclaimed. The service at my new church was very powerful: While the priest read the Gospel, this story of the Holy Spirit and the tongues, in English, several other people read it aloud in different languages, including Latin, Spanish, and Swedish. It was an intense, moving experience, this jumble of powerful, holy words through which I could hear my native tongue. I'm no C. S. Lewis, but Pentecost inspired this.

Come, Holy Spirit, Crazy Lady
Who rips through our mouths, giving us new red tongues…
Purify us with your Fire as in the Beginning, You over the waters of Creation,
That predawn of the word through which you streaked hot color,
Giving us warmth.

Tear through our lives! Mother Shaking Earthquake, set fires
Burn heavy debris freeing souls to raw newness
And we will dance and sing and yell in Elemental Tongues
Ripped apart with joy.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


I want to make this a fairly public apology; hence the Post rather than the Comment. Reading what I wrote late last night, I see that I very definitely crossed a few lines in my response to Ann, and so, Ann, I am sorry. I can say only that debating ideas, particularly the big kind we've been discussing, sometimes gets the better of my better nature. And that the late hour and my exhaustion made me surly. All of this is explanation, not excuse, and although we obviously see all of this very differently, you didn't deserve the personal implications I made.

And Karen, I'm sorry for abusing the forum. It won't happen again.n

Let’s Talk About ME

Never mind all this beauty nonsense. I’m having a stinky day.

I woke up late, to a cold, wet, gray, miserable sort of morning. Already running behind, I dashed to my car and…It wouldn’t start. I ran back to the house; key wouldn’t open the door; banged on the door; wonderful boyfriend opened it; he leant me the keys to his car. I was really late already. Traffic was bad. At a miserable intersection, it became clear that Rip van Winkle would wake up AND Christ would come again before I would be able to turn left. So I got in the right lane, to turn right and then turn around on that road. It became clear, as I looked for a turnaround, that traffic on this road was even worse. I found an empty parking lot belonging to the Congregation Beth El in which to turn around. It was empty, that is, except for a cop car at the other end. I turned around and stood in traffic on the road. Police lights behind me. I pulled over, expecting the cop car to speed past the traffic en route to an Emergency. No no, the cop pulled behind me and sauntered to my car. He seemed unnaturally mad, eyes glinting, jaw grinding.

“Do you know what you just did?”
I wasn’t sure…”I turned around?”
“Next time you turn around there you’ll get a ticket. That parking lot is not for TURNING AROUND. The entrance and exit are marked. You turned around and went back out the entrance, on top of it. You’ll get a ticket next time.”

What a prick.

At work, a coworker asked me if I’d photocopied the things I mailed out for her while she was on vacation two weeks ago (the week I was packing, studying, and losing my mind). No, I hadn’t. Apparently she had left me a note to do so. In my defense, she left me about a hundred notes. I still felt bad.

I hate today.

Beauty Ideals

This post responds to the brilliant discussion unfolding on the More Politcally Incorrect Confessionsthread. Again, the comments are not letting me comment. Please don't think me pompous for posting rather than commenting like you all.

OK, Eric, you want to do historical beauty? Don't mess with a former Classicist.

Women have often gotten the short end of the beauty ideal. Let's look at footbinding in ancient China first, because it's perhaps the clearest, starkest example. (Some of the details—chronology and whatnot—were erased by a couple years of herbal enjoyment after graduation. Maybe Charlie, who actually made it to that particular class session, as I recall, could fill them in.)

Footbinding began in the Chinese court. During infancy/the toddler years, a young girl’s foot was broken in two and bandaged really, really tight, to stop it from growing. It hurt like hell. Soon, the provinces took up this “art”, wanting to appear wealthy. It was a status symbol, see: Look, our women don’t have to work in the fields. And oh yeah, they can’t actually walk more than a few feet and they’re totally dependent on us men.

Wait, it gets better. Girls weren’t so valued in the Chinese culture. Their redeeming quality was to be married off and bear sons. Soon, no woman could find a husband unless her feet were delicate, useless little stubs. Nearly every girl, even girls from poor rural families who could have really used the girl to help in the fields, had her feet bound. The kicker is, their mothers did the actual binding.

Hmmm...Women teetering atop useless little feet to appear helpless and feminine…Made by their mothers to do so…Remind anyone of high heels, which can cause serious back and foot damage? Right.

I don’t know too much about beauty ideals in ancient Greece and Rome (the goddess Hera is often described as having “cow eyes”, whatever that means), but I can tell you a little about the role of women. As in ancient China, women were to be virtuous housewives, uneducated, faithful, and obedient (while their husbands were encouraged to spread their seed to as many women as possible). A virtuous Greek housewife was an excellent weaver and childbearer. There was a role for an educated, clever women with musical talent: a hetaira, or courtesan. In fact, hetairai were expected to be clever and talented and intelligent: It was part of the job description. In other words, an educated woman had to be reduced to the nonthreatening level of an evening’s amusement. She could never take the esteemed role of wife. Look to mythology for a moment. Penelope, wife of the philandering Odysseus, remained ever-faithful to her husband while he was banging every nymph, princess, and sorceress in the Aegean. Hera was painted as a jealous, petty, selfish goddess because was angry with Zeus for his daily affairs (rapes, really). Don't even get me started on Helen of Troy, because that was both a macho power struggle over a woman and a convenient way for the ancients to blame their war on a woman a la the "she asked for it wearing that tight dress" defense. Take a look at the Illiad.

And what’s with all those virgin goddesses? Were they really lesbians? There’s a mystery I’ve yet to crack.

But I digress. Let’s move to corsets. CORSETS! Long worn as necessary, proper underwear. Squish your organs, ladies, and make sure you can’t breathe too well—Passing out is feminine! You have to look super-thin to be in! (Much like modern thinness ideals, bowing to which women forget to nourish and love their bodies, but rather hate them.) Never hurts to look helpless to be beautiful—don’t forget your lead-based face makeup! Got to look pale and weak!!

Listen, I know men have unreasonable beauty ideals placed upon them, too. It’s not fair that men are always supposed to be strong, reliable, competent, rugged, muscular. But I would argue it’s a damn sight better than an expectation to appear powerless and subservient, especially before the opposite gender. Women have long gotten around this by wielding their sex appeal as a weapon; using that helpless appearance to get what they want. But I, for one, am uninterested in playing such games. Good for me. It just makes me ill, though, that many women are still teaching their daughters to bind their feet.

PS And I have nothing against Uma Thurman, beauty, or art. Personally, I think Nicole Kidman is gorgeous.
PPS The solution, I think, is for women (and men!) to throw off the yoke of a beauty norm, and flourish in their own unique beauty, be it thin, muscular, chubby, round, tall or short, dimpled, freckled, straight or curly, white or tan or brown...Anyway, we often don't give enough credit to others for seeing beauty in different forms.
PPPS And, of course, everyone should THINK FOR THEMSELVES. "The unexamined life is not worth living," as Socrates said. Many folks are all too eager to accept a norm and live by it. I sympathize; examining life can be overwhelming. Often easier to pick an accepted compass.