Friday, October 31, 2008

I was sad to hear Mervyn's is going under, since it was always one of my favorite department stores. It was a reliable place -- I could almost always find clothes or shoes I liked there at reasonable prices -- and I can't say that about many other stores. Another victim of an unreliable world. I will miss it.
Fantastic in-depth analysis of the "Latino problem" at the L.A. Times by my blog hero Daniel Hernandez: "The paper feels as though it’s written about L.A. and not for it. Which is a shame. There are now countless Southern Californians who understand L.A. — whether by osmosis or by marriage — through the prism of its Latino texture. Everyone here interfaces daily with Latinos, speaks some form of Spanish, and knows Mexican culture and cuisine. In effect, everyone in L.A. is Latino. Does your morning paper feel like it’s at all cognizant of this?"

Explosive stuff, worth reading the entire 7-page piece. Hernandez exposes some very ugly realities about journalism and race, and I'm sure this "problem" extends far, far beyond the L.A. Times.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tuned out

I'm on a roll with the blog, mostly because I've been on the computer for too long today. I wrote five more pages (single-spaced) for my thesis. Five pages?! I've been thinking about writing this particular chapter for months, and all I have is five lousy pages?

I've written some depressing posts lately. When did I get to be so serious? I was thinking today about how I used to care so much more about pop culture than I do now. I used to read TV Guide practically every week, and now I'd be pretty much lost if I read it, other than about "Mad Men," "Project Runway," and the news.

And music, well, I'm the wrong person to ask about popular music. When I was 17 I used to watch TRL earnestly. It was a pretty lame show, but back then I cared something about pop music, thought it was cool and all, so I watched it. Fast forward nine years later, my musical adventures consist of listening to jazz and classical music on KTEP on my car radio. Everything else annoys me. Too commercial, or I've heard it too many times before.

Awhile ago a friend told me to watch this on YouTube. So I did, and...was I supposed to think it was funny? I just didn't get it. Nor this. I will tell you a secret -- if I see something on your website from YouTube, I will rarely ever watch it.

Movies..."Made of Honor" was the last movie I saw at a movie theater. The movie was horrible, and so is the fact that I haven't seen anything at a theater since then.

Yes, I do live under a rock.
Interesting interview with Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, via I almost hated to read it because it spells out so many things about the show I've tried to figure out on my own. Still, it's very much worth reading if you're a fan of the series. A surprising chunk of the interview is about feminism, on which Weiner has some pretty fascinating ideas.
This spam e-mail that I receive at least once a week always gets my attention. The subject line: You’re not crazy, Everything is really FREE!

It's in reference to business cards, which I highly doubt are free. But I like the concept: one day you wake up and get an e-mail and realize the unfortunate truths about life are all wrong, the parts about having to work hard and earn money, etc., everything is really FREE.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Job description

Every day I am given a long list of tasks. To be successful, I must a) select the tasks that are most important to do, b) schedule them in the most time-efficient order possible, c) actually follow through and do those things well without getting distracted and d) tell my co-workers which things I did.

The problem is defined, but success still eludes me. My job is kicking my butt. *sighs*

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A not-so-bright future

I love a good satire, and "Idiocracy" is about as good as it gets, with writer/director Mike Judge jabbing a finger right in the eye of American society.

The premise of the movie is that two average humans from 2005, played by Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph, are chosen by the Army for a hibernation experiment. The test is supposed to take one year, but by some mishap they wake up in the year 2505. OK, so that part of the movie is not explained too well, but anyway, the two wake up and find that society has evolved (devolved?) to be so stupid that they are now the smartest people in America.

Judge (who also created "Beavis and Butthead" and "Office Space") creates an amazingly detailed world of stupidity. In his vision of the future, people are not just too lazy to think but literally incapable of logical thought. Decisions are based on their most primitive desires, and people have the attention span of fruit flies. Judge even has the morons of the future speak in a sometimes incoherent idio-speak, a "hybrid of hillbilly, Valley girl, inner-city slang and various grunts."

The city that Wilson's and Rudolph's characters encounter in 2505 is a futuristic ghetto, covered with slick ads but overall dirty and violent. Everest-sized mounds of trash lie outside the city. Corporations rule the future world, down to the very basics -- all food comes from fast food kiosks, and even water has been replaced in the taps by Brawndo, a Gatorade-like sports drink. Forget coffee, the Starbucks of the future are in the business of prostitution. The president is a rock star, and justice is meted out ancient Roman style, in a Colosseum-type venue.

"Idiocracy" is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it also really made my skin crawl, which I suppose is the mark of a great satire. The movie gets scarily close to the situation in the U.S. today, after eight years of the Bush administration. Go down the checklist, it's all there -- the rampant reign of corporations, the dumbing down of the culture, the instant gratification mentality, the mindless reliance on technology, the moral decay, etc., etc.

Judge doesn't have many answers on how to avoid this fate, other than having Wilson's character tell people to "go to school and read books" and at least try to make a difference. Maybe it's beyond the job of a comedy writer to provide those kinds of answers. But at least Judge has done his part by giving us a very palatable but serious prophecy of a dim future.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A home is born

Despite all the turmoil with the housing market (which I don't quite understand), there are still a lot of new houses being built in my neighborhood.

I've gotten very familiar with the steps over the past eight months: first the gas and water lines are set, then the foundation is poured, then the wooden beams that form the house's structure are hammered together, then the insulation goes up. The grey stucco phase after that. At last the house is painted a pale earth tone color and a "For Sale" sign is planted in front.

I really do think houses have souls of their own, even incomplete ones. There's a sort of presence at construction sites that I can't explain.

The digging starts

A foundation is poured. Life officially begins.

Just like toothpicks

One day this will be the view from someone's living room. Nice.

I wonder if many people know this guy appears dozens of times inside the walls of their homes?

Reminds me of a cyborg

Grey and shabby

A paint job can do wonders

Friday, October 10, 2008

Got an interesting phone call last night. This is what it sounded like on my end:

Telemarketer: Hello, is this the _____ residence?
Me: Um, yes...(Inwardly groans...should never have picked it up)
Telemarketer: Great...blah blah blah...Did you know that Jenny...blah blah blah...taxes...blah blah blah...and Jermandy school spending...blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
state representative.
So can I count on your vote for Jermandy?
Me: I'm sorry, but what was the candidate's name?
Telemarketer: (Finally speaking clearly) JOE MOO-DY
Me: Oh, Joe Moody. Is he a Democrat?
Telemarketer: Yes.
Me: Yes, then.
Telemarketer: Can we put up a sign for his campaign in your front yard?
Me: NO.
Telemarketer: Thanks for your support in the upcoming election. *click*

I think it's pretty bad if you can't even understand the candidate's name, much less his credentials, at the end of the sales pitch. Does she honestly expect to sway swing voters like that? I felt like I was like listening to a robot.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Coin toss

I've never been in love. A few flirtations that led nowhere are the sum of my romantic history. "Bridges to nowhere," so to speak, no real relationships.

It hasn't been hard to avoid, since 1) I'm not an exceptionally pretty girl, with the plain face and glasses and small bra size and nearly nonexistent sense of style and 2) I'm very shy. Getting up the nerve to talk to someone I have a crush on is like convincing myself to jump into a cold pool of water.

But I don't even know if I want to be in a relationship. Honestly, I just don't get men. I don't understand people who are wired to like porn, sports, and video games. Yeah, I have some great guy friends in my life who are incredibly smart and interesting, not to mention caring and kind. I have all the affection in the world for them. And I *like* guys, as in I can appreciate the hotness of, say, Brad Pitt, and I like the smell of cologne.

But deep down, I don't trust men, even the ones I know. I've seen relationships ripped apart by infidelity, and plenty of evidence to support the adage, "Men are pigs." I hate how easily men can say one thing and do another, or not say anything at all. Whether it's a Mars-Venus issue or men are all flawed beings, I don't know. But there's a fundamental rift in understanding that can't easily be resolved.

And even in a decent relationship where there is some level of trust, I think women still get the raw end of the deal. Women are expected to serve in a way men are not. A long time ago, when my parents were still married, there was a certain tone my dad would take when he called for my mom: "BE-YEH-TRIZ!" This was usually when something domestic was not up to par, like his pants weren't ironed properly or something in the kitchen wasn't in its usual place. There was an authoritative, almost parental note in it, like what he was really saying was, "Woman, get over here!" Maybe my parents' marriage was fairly old school, but two weekends ago I heard my friend's boyfriend take the same exact tone. "Get me another beer!" And she actually stuck her hand into the cooler, grabbed a beer and tossed it to him! Is this how power dynamics go in male-female relationships in 2008? Shudder. Thinking about that makes me thank God for my single life. I'm happy not to be expected to clean anybody's bathroom, do anyone's laundry, or fetch anyone's drink except my own.

You wonder why women sign up for this crap...but then raw emotion hits and it's all over, even for me. I do get jealous seeing happy couples. Weddings kill me. My cousin got married last weekend, and what I'll remember most is this look of perfect understanding and comfort that passed between her and the groom at the altar, a look that said, "We're in this together." The ice around my heart cracked and then melted away in a flood. Ah, love. I'm a fool for it just like everyone else. If the opportunity came, I couldn't turn it away.

Still, I don't see it as inevitable. For now I see love as a coin toss. There's a chance I'll be that woman with the successful career, who has travelled around the world and read tons of books, in whose life romantic entanglements have been far beside the point. But there's also a chance that I'll discover that happy relationships are not a fantasy and are perhaps worth making a few sacrifices for. For now, it's up in the air, and I'm watching the faces of the coin come up one after the other, not sure which it will land on.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Spot-on review in The Atlantic of the book version of Stuff White People Like:
[White People] may be white, but they’re not white—they’re members of the cool-looking pan-ethnic tribe, a tribe defined by economic and social status and by cultural and aesthetic preferences rather than by ethnicity.
More damning is the conclusion produced by a careful reading of this often fine-grained semi-sociological analysis: a good deal of the progressives’ attitudes, preferences, and sense of identity are ingrained in an unlovely disdain for those outside their charmed circle. In Lander’s analysis, much of their self-satisfaction derives from consumption (the slack-sounding “stuff” in the title is deceptively apt)—and much of that consumption is motivated by a desire to differentiate themselves from the benighted. Sushi, for instance, is “everything [White People] want: foreign culture, expensive, healthy, and hated by the ‘uneducated.’”
Curtis Sittenfeld on Michelle Obama:
"And contrary to her claims, Michelle is not the first person of her kind I've seen; she's actually recognizable as a very particular type, though it took me until after the convention to figure out what that type're, say, 22 and somewhat clueless, and you go to work in an office where there's a woman eight or 10 or 12 years older than you who's not only visibly good at her job but also confident and friendly and well-dressed and busy with a life that features a cute husband and a nice house and maybe even a couple of kids. And you think maybe, if everything goes right, your own life could turn out like hers."

Friday, October 03, 2008

The languor of Youth -- how unique and quintessential it is! How quickly, how irrecoverably lost! The zest, the generous affections, the illusions, the despair, all the traditional attributes of Youth -- all save this -- come and go with us through life; again and again in riper years we experience, under a new stimulus, what we thought had been finally left behind, the authentic impulse to action, the renewal of power and its concentration on a new object; again and again a new truth is revealed to us in whose light all our previous knowledge must be rearranged. These things are a part of life itself; but languor -- the relaxation of yet unwearied sinews, the mind sequestered and self-regarding, the sun standing still in the heavens and the earth throbbing to our own pulse -- that belongs to Youth alone and dies with it. Perhaps in the mansions of Limbo the heroes enjoy some such compensation for their loss of the Beatific Vision; perhaps the Beatific Vision itself has some remote kinship with this lowly experience; I, at any rate, believed myself very near heaven, during those languid days at Brideshead.

- from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh