Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can I Get A Good Hot Cocoa?

Now that I'm living in Seattle, my caffeine intolerance is a bit of a hassle. Baristas look down their noses at me when I order decaf; I can almost hear their silent snorts of derision. Coffee is such a thing here, and I can appreciate that, but what I don't appreciate is the pretension that sometimes goes with it. I should clarify, not everyone is this way. (I am clarifying, carefully and quickly, because I already learned my lesson on Yelp when making general statements about this city's services/inhabitants. They really don't like it.)*

Most of the cafes I've been to so far don't even brew decaf. The anti-corporate activists can rail against Starbucks all they want, but guess what? Starbucks lets me order whatever I want, and then they make it without rolling their eyes. And they paint snowflakes on their windows! 

So my second choice has been, lately, hot cocoa, and let me tell you, no one can make it. It's been, simply, a cup of artfully steamed milk with a small drip of chocolate lying on the bottom. At my old job in Brooklyn (right next to the park and a billion different schools) I made hot cocoas all day long. The trick is, it takes a lot more chocolate syrup than you'd think. Enough that the people watching you make it wonder if they even want it anymore. And you must mix with a spoon; don't think the heavy steamed milk pour with do the job for you. Nix the latte art, plop on those marshmallows! 

Hovering parents were always fond of instructing me on the precise temperature of the milk, as we don't want to burn any tongues, do we? Like a hot cocoa was practically a loaded gun. Once a particularly horrible woman micromanaged her order so intensely that her kid then spilled hot cocoa all over the floor about two seconds after she put the cup in his hand. Enter me with a mop, at which point horrible lady taps me on the shoulder and says, "Do I have to buy another one, or can you just make it again?" And then, when I silently nodded and pushed the mop around a couple more times so that other customers wouldn't slip coming in the door she looked at her watch worriedly and sighed. 

And then I made the worst hot cocoa I've ever made, with way too much milk and not enough chocolate and a whole lot of spite but no marshmallows, and the boy who had spilled it took one sip and whined quietly to his mom as she pushed her brood out the door, "It doesn't even taste like chocolate." 

Perhaps this is penance for that. Because it wasn't his fault for having a completely horrible mom. But what am I going to do now to appease the hot cocoa gods?

(*But you know what? No. Seattle is NOT very Christmas-y. Grinches! Even Bob Dylan celebrates the season. With Polka! All I'm asking for is a few twinkle lights in my neighborhood.)


Monday, November 30, 2009

Costco, Seduced

My Thanksgiving was quite delicious this year, and happily without hitch or difficulty. Our good friends even had a baby!, and we spent some e-mail time cooing over the darling newborn pictures. I avoided Black Friday and managed to get all my Christmas shopping done with the help of Etsy, we put new tires on our Jeep, and as of this morning I've even got a job interview coming up this week.

It's funny how things like this work, all together, all at once, all at the same time that I baked brownies Saturday night. But, I suppose, I'm not the type to want good things to spread themselves out. The week I got married was also the week I was first published. Two sets of my friends got engaged at the same time and now their weddings are two weeks apart. Today in the mail I got a coupon for bagels and my credit card upgraded me to platinum!

But last week was a little dim. After this many weeks of applying for jobs and getting no leads, I was beginning to frown a little around the edges. And it turned out, the Jeep had a different sized tire on it than the other three.

We weren't even planning on getting a Costco membership; Joe's sister already had one. But then I saw the DVD section and I almost lost it. Gone With The Wind Box Set for $40?! The complete series of The Wire for just under $100! And things I don't even need to buy--like Six Feet Under for 12.99 a season--but I almost do just because the price tag is really just a form of brain-washing and I am its soft-bellied victim.

And--I convince Joe--think of how much money we can save on food and household items. And they take your picture and put it on the card! And we each get our own card! And there is frozen yogurt at the concession stand!

So we did it, and then yesterday we went on our first money-saving shopping trip. I felt like a teenager, because I couldn't help but giggle at all the ridiculously giant products. The ketchup almost made me lose it. And the image of me wrestling open a can of black olives that big?! But no one else was smirking, laughing, making inappropriate jokes; it was like being in church. People were buying it because they legitimately needed that much food. They had people to share it with; families, organizations, and yes, churches. This was serious money-saving business. If I, on the other hand, bought a giant jar of pickles, I was going to be eating it all alone. Joe hates pickles.

And so the big money-saving plan resulted in our purchase of the following: a box of 8 chicken pot pies, a bundle of 5 packs of crackers, 8 bundled cans of tuna fish, and a huge mess of granola bars. I wanted to get more. I wanted to be the kind of person that has stuff stored away, and you go to their house when the zombie apocalypse hits. But joblessness means practicality. Resisting impulse, assessing reality.

Hopefully, in the next 11 months we'll find a better use for the Costco card. I sure am tired of being practical, and I do love pickles.


Monday, November 23, 2009

What Up With That: New Moon

Two things fairly dominated my weekend. The first was getting the theme song for Keenan Thompson's SNL skit, "What Up With That" stuck in my head for two days, as it still is stuck in my head. The second was capping off an otherwise enjoyable weekend by going to see New Moon on Sunday night.

I've already talked about my feelings on the Twilight series, book form. I saw the Catherine Hardwicke-directed first movie alone in an empty theater in Spokane after the Twilight craze was already full blown and still contagious. I subsequently read the books but, for me, it has always been that first movie that captured the best of overblown teenage melodrama on par with The Breakfast Club and Say Anything. It was lovelorn stickiness glossed over with a gorgeous and haunting Carter Burwell score, "I love you" a million times and still somehow barely stale, even amid sparkly skin and googly-eyed montage. It was teenage melodrama Art.

If the first movie took everything that was good about Stephanie Meyer's books and made it better, the second movie takes everything not good about the books and makes it worse. But what do you expect from a male director, much less someone responsible for the American Pie franchise. (If anything, Pie movies are the antithesis of what the Twilight story is; a boy fantasy full of pants-off shenanigans, while Twi-heroes Edward and Jacob are girl-swoon gentlemen all the way.)

And so, the Art is gone. Same goes for any continuation of the Carter Burwell score, which is heartbreakingly substituted with a generic Hollywood Movie mix that blends into the background. All the Hardwicke details are gone, replaced with terrible ancient-vampire wigs. Supposedly fashion-forward Alice Cullen is dressed in clothes only a grandmother would find stylish. Bella's night terrors? Laughable. Conscience-ghost Edward appearances?  Stupid all the way to their swirling-smoke disappearances.

The worst is that Twi-hards having gotten over-obsessed to the point of loving any film adaptation that stays true enough to the books, and not realizing that it isn't the books alone that make these films. Because the source material isn't The Grapes of Wrath; making a good film from them takes an artistic sensibility, a gentle-enough perspective, which Chris Weitz doesn't have. Doesn't anyone see what could have been?

It was just a year ago that Twi-hards successfully rallied to keep Taylor Lautner in the role of Jacob Black when producers wanted to replace him with someone more buff. They should have rallied around Catherine Hardwick as well. (I'll just unleash my rampant feminism here and say,) But a woman hardly ever gets that same kind of support.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Franco, Artist Slash Murderer

If you are wondering what I thought about James Franco's appearance on General Hospital this week, go here. was awesome! James Franco stepped on a guy's throat!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jon Foster, Reviewed

I was thinking of titling this post, I Hate Jon Foster, but then I had a moment of conscience, thinking but wouldn't you feel bad if you came across a website with a article that read I Hate That Girl Who Writes For StarredReview?

But since our readership is what it is, a fairer comparison would be like me coming across a hate-article written by my neighbor's cat. It's there, it doesn't particularly bother me, it's an eff-ing cat. Problem solved. I thereby re-title this post, I Hate Jon Foster.

No, I don't know him as a person, but as an actor he is ruining my Monday-night television routine. Because sometimes after How I Met Your Mother, I forget that I can change the channel and Accidentally on Purpose comes on. And really, the show is not good, but Jon Foster makes it worse. In its best moments, the show reminds me of how far we have come, socially, since Dan Quayle got so outrageously offended by Murphy Brown. Jenna Elfman plays a mid-thirties career gal who gets impregnated by a 22 year-old slacker, who then moves in with her and we're supposed to find this situation very, very funny. Except that it's not. Because of Jon Foster.

Yes, I have a history of hating actors for no reason at all. (See: Matt Damon.) And Jon Foster's brother is Ben Foster, who is lovely (Six Feet Under, 3:10 To Yuma) and I adore him. But Jon Foster has offended my eyes permanently with Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a movie that makes no effing sense. None. At all.

And not only that, but Monday night TV is starting to be ruined, and Monday night TV--in the midst of my life-changing cross-country move and resulting unemployment--is what has been keeping me alive and not just a wisp of sweatpants on the couch. So Jon Foster, get out of my face. And One Tree Hill, get rid of your two new boring characters. And Two And A Half Men, go off the air permanently, which is Joe's request more than mine.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Failed Roadtrips and the Mercury Grand Marquis

About a month ago, when my dad asked me to pick up a 2009 Mercury Grand Marquis that he had just bought here in Seattle, I started planning the roadtrip of a lifetime. The kind that Joe thinks requires a tour of the Grand Canyon and firebombing the roadtrip car at its conclusion. Because the Grand Marquis was the perfect car--not for the firebombing, but the trip itself--with a bench front seat, sprawling back seat, trunk big enough to fit two grown men, and an absence of road noise so sweet you could listen to music on near mute if you wanted to. The kind of luxury old person's car that you can be doing 110 down the freeway and not even realize.

When my dad first called to ask me this favor I wasn't too keen on the thought--we had just moved, I had just traveled across country and still hadn't adjusted (still haven't adjusted)--and my dad has a tendency towards saddling you with more caveats than you can handle; e.g., the time he fixed my car by instructing me to "take this screwdriver, lean over the engine, reach down here and touch these two bolts together if it doesn't start." To my surprise, however, the car was all parts intact, which hardly ever happens when my dad asks you to pick up a car for him. Between my sisters and I, we've driven cars without windshield wipers, without headlights, without brake lights.

But before I could convince my roadtrip buddy to skip out on her normal life for a the 3-day trek across the west with no notice, my dad found an auto transport, which called yesterday morning to arrange a pick-up. Since our apartment is on a hill, on a series of skinny little streets, I knew a semi-truck wouldn't make it up here. We agreed to meet in the Whole Foods parking lot.

The guy from the transport company had his kid in the cab, and as we filled out the papers and inspected all points of the car before loading, the kid wandered around, scuffing his shoes on the curb, kicking rocks, passing time until his dad was ready to go. It kind of broke my heart, because all of a sudden I realized, that was me.

Twenty years ago, I was that kid, tagging along with my dad in his tow truck, amusing myself while he hooked up cars. Because we were always going with my dad to pick up cars, tow cars away, buy cars from auction, pick up parts, drop off parts. My dad sells cars, but he also fixes cars and tows cars. My sisters and I were dropped off at school in that tow truck. We accompanied him on flat tire calls, where my sister once met Andrea Zinga from KWQC-TV, and Detroit auto auctions, where we made friends with a long haul trucker name Zorro, talking on my dad's CB.

Standing there on the side of the road, I wanted to say something to that kid. It really brought me back, watching him. But I couldn't think what to say. I used to go with my dad to pick up cars, too didn't seem appropriate. Neither did, This builds character or You'll appreciate it later. I don't even know if I appreciate it! Except that, mostly, I do. My first year of college, when my friend dragged me along with her to sorority rush, I told the girl at Chi Omega, as an experiment, that my dad was a mechanic when she asked what my parents did. And it was the only sorority I didn't get asked back to. Funny, huh.

But, you know, it makes me who I am. Our family didn't tour Europe, we saw Wisconsin Dells. We practiced basketball in the back of our dad's shop. In high school I drove an old Jeep that my friends' parents didn't want to let them ride in. My first job was washing cars and doing errands around my dad's garage, and once two of the popular guys from high school came in to pick up their car and smirked at me covered in dirt, throwing a stack of old radiators into the back of a truck.

And also, because yesterday when I got back into our car with Joe, who had followed me there, the first thing he said was, "That kid reminded me of how it used to be when I went out with my dad." And I laughed out loud and thought how glad I was that I was married to this guy, and why we get each other like we do.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reviewed: Random Little Devils, and TV

It's funny how many ads there are for Egg Donors in the "Jobs" section on Craigslist. Is that a job?

I'm reading job listings every morning, since I'm in a semi-jobless limbo of just having moved combined with a really yuck job market. But I'm starting to work everyday again, and by that I mean, that old devil the writing life. And that makes me feel somewhat normal again.

But it's a new normal, and hard to get used to, because I'm a creature of habit. A homebody. A girl crazy with nostalgia and comfortable old shoes. I hate moving, which you probably wouldn't realize about me considering I've moved six times in the last ten years.

So I'm trying to take comfort in the little things:

1) Becoming crazily obsessed with the ABCFamily network, including their 13 Nights of Halloween and the best show ever, Greek. And before you think anything, know that I am not ashamed...and maybe you, my friend, should be watching as well: Greek is hilarious, subtle, exciting and completely entertaining. You are missing out. I cannot even tell you how much you are missing out. (I heart Casey and Cappie! Eeek! Squeal!)

2) Ranting about what the frick happened to One Tree Hill. It's no secret that I watch terrible TV. I love it. I live for it. If terrible TV didn't exist, I'm not sure what other joy I would get out of the world. Formerly the mac-daddy of bad television, One Tree Hill captured the gold every year purely by continuing to give Chad Michael Murray, the master of the tortured brooding look, multiple broods an episode. Not to mention the sadistic character of Dan Scott, the ultimate Bad Dad!

But CMM is gone now, explained away by having vaguely, "moved somewhere" which is curious given his character's previous penchant for asserting over and over again how the tiny town of Tree Hill was where he belonged. But now he has been replaced with whining, overly-brooding characters: a sports agent with a stupid, tragic past they aren't quite letting on about but you know is going to be idiotic, and another character's never-before-mentioned-newly-reappeared sister, who broods and broods and broods and broods about her impending divorce (she just needs to "find herself" guys, and it's terrible that she's hurting her husband, but something is "broken" and she "can't fix it" and here is where is ends up again and again and again about ten times an episode and I do not care.)

3) Listening to the Brothers Bloom soundtrack, particularly "Penelope's Theme".

4) Shopping for slippers.

5) Re-watching Kill Bill. Re-watching Terminator 2. Re-watching In The Army Now. Re-watching Adventures in Babysitting.

6) Wondering what Keith Coogan is doing now.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reviewed: Aquafresh Extreme Clean

This toothpaste is disgusting. It tastes like cough drops.

And today I made a PB&J (heavy on the PB, heavy on the J) and it just wasn't great. Because things aren't the same in the West, and nobody sells Polander All-Fruit. Which makes me regret the half-full jar of seedless raspberry I had to throw in the trash the day we moved, because moving means you find yourself, regretably, throwing away perfectly good things. Mustard. A can of creamed corn. And I'm still feeling the weight of that garbage bag on my conscience.

About a month and a half ago now, we were moving and packing and discarding and there isn't a harder place to try and do good than New York City. Because it's not easy to lug 6 bags of clothes and shoes and books and CDs and various other castoffs twenty blocks away to the Goodwill when your only wheels are a shopping cart.

And it wasn't just clothes and books, but trying to recycle things like old computers, stereos, printers. I had to throw my broken DVD player straight into the trash because after Googling in vain I found that the only place to recycling electronics was somewhere in the Bronx. Do you know how far that is from Brooklyn? It's completely ridiculous in a city of 8 million. Like telling the entire state of Virginia they have to drive to Cleveland to recycle...and no one has a car.

But despite the lack of All Fruit, and Black Cherry Schwepps, and Thai delivery, one of the many things I appreciate here is that Seattle recycles everything. It's practically composting against your will. New York could never pull something like this off; the rats would start overtaking people. And so my tread-lightly points are going back up.

Sometimes when I throw something away I take a minute to imagine where it will go. Because remember the movie Unfaithful? When Richard Gere dumps that body rolled up in a rug straight into the landfill? I mean, he just drives back there and his loafers are crunching around in all the trash with a dead body? It left an imprint in my mind.

And tomorrow when I wake up and take Joe to the airport for a funeral back in New Jersey, I'll also go buy new toothpaste and throw this full bottle in the trash and have the whole rest of the week to think about it.

0 stars.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reviewed: General Hospital and James Franco

I know I'm treading on dangerous ground here. But for the last 6 months at least, I've withheld from yammering about General Hospital. There has been no yammering, no mentioning--not even minor references--and that was good for me. People didn't want to hear about it. I know that now.

But, you guys, James Franco is going to be on General Hospital! (Proof lies here.)

And today Joe was cleaning out his computer, erasing all the crap I collect there when I don't want to sully my Mac. And to his credit, he asked me before deleting this clip I recorded on General Hospital. And I screamed across the room, "Send it to me first!!!!"

I used to blabber on about General Hospital at the bakery where I worked in Brooklyn, and my good friend there was kind enough to listen. It's just that sometimes I can barely believe how lucky I am to see the kind of crap that comes up in peoples' minds and actually makes it to television on GH. It's really astounding, and entertaining and maddening and hilarious all at once. I love it, I really do. I can't help it.

The clip below is my favorite story line, the Hitman and the Nurse. The Hitman and the Nurse are in love but no one can know, because it is dangerous. Their secret love becomes more complicated by the child they share, which has to be kept even more secret because the hitman's "enemies" might try to use it against him. And it happened, too! It totally happened!

The secret kid gets kidnapped and held in a room with a bomb and then when the hitman goes to rescue the kid, he comes in and is shooting up this room full of all these bad guys dressed in black sweatsuits and as one of the sweatsuits is dying he pushes the button on the bomb detonator!!.......but luckily the hitman's ex-girlfriend--who is a PI and during this giant shootout was ninja-kicking a Russian mobster's blond seductress lawyer--manages to grab the secret kid and jump out the window....but the hitman just escapes the blast and watches the building blow up and screams, "JAKE!!!" (because that is the secret kid's name, because the nurse who is tortured by her love has named him after his hitman father) and tears, actual honest-to-god tears are in the hitman's eyes and his bewildered face looking at the explosion like, 'my crazy, dangerous life just killed my own secret kid' and then, miraculously, his PI ex-girlfriend who likes to wear leather jackets runs up with the secret kid and the day is saved.

Really, where else* can you get this stuff?

So now James Franco is headed in, and it's crazy, it really is. But it leaves me a little satisfied that he picked General Hospital. Because you know what this means, right. I have taste.

100 stars.

*I'm sad to report that One Tree Hill just isn't good for it anymore. Chad Michael Murray really was holding that show together, and now he is gone. And with him go the glory days of the heart-eating dog.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Whoopi Goldberg Is An Idiot

Yesterday I was disappointed with the list of writers, actors and directors I have admired who decided to sign the ridiculous Roman Polanski petition. Today I'm starting a Dwight Schrute-style shun on Whoopi Goldberg.

Jezebel collected the most idiotic of the comic's statements regarding the issue from The View the other day, and made the point that something is wrong when Sherri Shepard, the woman who thought the earth was flat, is making the most sense.

Goldberg makes a distinction between rape and "rape-rape" claiming that Polanski didn't "rape-rape" anyone. In addition, all the women agree that the victim's mother is just as guilty as the 44 year-old man who raped her daughter, because she brought her daughter to the house of a man who was known for "that kind of reputation." Funny how women always find a way to end up blaming other women. Nevermind that it was supposed to be a professional job, a photoshoot, of which a supposed-professional was paid to be in charge of, a photoshoot for a leading fashion magazine, which probably meant a pretty big career milestone for a model. (Or maybe the mother was the 1970's version of Toddlers & Tiaras in which case rape-rape is a moderately acceptable tradeoff for the crown.)

So the shun begins. No more watching The View for me, nor Jumpin' Jack Flash, nor Corrina, Corrina, nor Sister Act, nor Christ!--Ghost.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Reviewed: the Hollywood petition, and Thank You, Luc Besson

I'm a little behind on news, mostly because I hardly ever watch or read it. It started because of Dr. Weil who advises cutting out local news for the ridiculous amount of stress and fear it causes. Then, during the year and a half of writing my novel, I found that day after day spent struggling in front of a computer screen was frustrating enough, might as well cut out the everyday depression of what is going on in the rest of the world. (I'm not proud of this decision.) Part of it, too, is being a former activist and remembering how passionate certain issues made me, and also, how futile everything felt.

So, anyway! Today I read about the Hollywood petition to free Roman Polanski.

And Christ, so many people have signed it. And I'm sad about that. Wes Anderson, Pedro Almodovar, Tilda Swinton, Scorcese, Woody Allen, Milan Kundera. As if being an artist means you can't be a rapist.

If you're cringing at that word, you should also cringe at all the rest of the details; a 13 year-old, pumped full of qualudes, sodomy, etc. It seems the courts back then might have bungled the case, abused the system. Supposedly the judge had it out for Polanski. I'm told the HBO documentary explains all this. I didn't see it. Polanski served a handful of days in psychiatric evaluation, and expected to get probation and time served, but fled when he heard the judge was ready to put him away for a long time.

The argument seems to be that he's paid his dues, that it was so long ago, that the 13 year-old today wishes for his release, that she has forgiven him, that she wants to put it behind her. The man is such an important artist, they exclaim in disbelief.

I know artists who are also assholes. I started out believing, in both cases, that they were amazing, could do no wrong. But like all people, the closer you get, you see the whole picture. Some peoples' flaws are bigger, badder. You have to pay attention to them, even if they can also do beautiful things.

French director Luc Besson did not sign the petition, though he is reportedly a close friend of Polanski: "This is a man who I love a lot and know a little bit,” Mr. Besson said in a radio interview with RTL Soir. “Our daughters are good friends. But there is one justice, and that should be the same for everyone. I will let justice happen.” He added, “I don’t have any opinion on this, but I have a daughter, 13 years old. And if she was violated, nothing would be the same, even 30 years later.”

The man behind the petition, some philosopher guy named Bernard-Henri Levy, says Polanski "perhaps had committed a youthful error." (Polanski was 44 at the time of the rape.)

What makes you sign a petition asking a rapist to go free? Hm, Wes Anderson? Because all I know is that now, unfortunately, I'm not so admiring. It's the little things as well as big ones, you see, that matter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reviewed: Monkey Bars (Gone Bananas)

I've been waxing poetic lately. Life changes will do that to you, I think, but the purpose of this blog is reviewing things, darn it! For the betterment of peoples' lives! And that is not something to take lightly!

Now that we live close to a Trader Joe's we're pretty much feeding ourselves solely from their shelves. But...they don't carry Ben & Jerry's. And since half my diet is made up of assorted candy and Cherry Garcia FroYo, I've been hurting.

A couple days ago I stood in front of their frozen section and pondered these chocolate-dipped frozen bananas. Healthy, right? Plus, they have chocolate. And, on a stick. Win-win-win. After I bought them I kept forgetting what they were actually called and referring to them as the Monkey Bars. The first night, after dinner I thought, "I'm going to have one of those Monkey Bars."

I went into it badly. I kept thinking, this is what I'm eating instead of ice cream. And that's not really giving it a fair shot.

To be honest, it isn't that much different, consistency-wise, than a frozen, chocolate-dipped ice cream bar. But I was still thinking, this is what I'm eating instead of ice cream. And I was asking myself, is it good? Do I like it? And Joe was looking at me, and asking, is it good? Can you handle it?

I took 4 bites...and then I realized, no. No, I cannot handle it.

I put the rest of the Monkey Bar back in its package and dropped it back into the freezer, knowing full well that Joe hates bananas and also hates when I leave half-eaten things lying around. But's its a frozen half-eaten thing. And it's called Gone Bananas, which is really a much stupider name than Monkey Bars.

25 Stars. Do-able, but only if you already hate ice cream.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In Memorium: Powerbook G4

This is all I have left of my Powerbook G4, the first computer I ever loved.

I've never really had something stolen from me like this, and it hits hard. I understand now why people are so affected by being robbed. And it could have been so much worse! I have 2 good friends who have disturbed their robbers mid-act, and in both cases it was something they needed time to get over (and, I am guessing from my recent, barely comparable experience, never completely have.)

In some ways, I had protected myself from it already. I had backed up both my finished novel and the one I am currently working on. I had backed up most of my photos and music (though unfortunately not all.) But there was tons of writing on that computer that is lost forever. Files that were merely a sentence long. Files that were a scattering of words. Files that were pages and pages and hadn't gone anywhere...yet. I thought I would come back to it.

It's silly, I know, but the things I miss most about that computer are these two things:

the E key, which was worn down to a dark grey spot,

the fortune cookie fortune I had taped just above my screen that read, "It's up to you to clarify." Half of the time I spent writing my book was staring at that little phrase. It's up to me, I would think, all wild-eyed, and give it some crazy-profound meaning that worked just well enough in my writing-adled mind to keep me in my seat for a little bit longer. Silly me.

Oh my, I miss it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reviewed: Spiders

So we left New York, where the cockroach was king, for Seattle, where yesterday we killed what people around here call a "giant house spider" but might as well be called a terrifying, horrifying, disgusting spider that should not be in my house.

The surprising thing is, I'm already over it. Joe's the one with the fear of spiders and he's gone manic. We bought a spray yesterday at noon and today before noon it is already almost gone. He has patrolled the apartment endlessly. He keeps encouraging me to look for spiders so that we can "handle the problem" though I'm not sure there really is a problem.

There are things I'm scared of worse than spiders. Snakes are towards the top of the list. Ghosts, of course, are number one. I would find it a much bigger problem to find that this apartment was haunted by ghosts instead of a spiders. (Criminy, this building is over 100 years old.)

I'm also scared of robbers. Thieves. Burglars. No good criminals.

We've tackled this topic before here on Starred Review in the form of my paranoia. And in the meantime, my darling Powerbook was stolen. Right out from under my nose the day we moved out of New York. I know exactly when it happened and exactly who did it, but unfortunately since the thief covered his tracks so well, I didn't even notice it was missing until the next day when we were in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

If you can't file a police report in person the NYPD won't do anything but listen to me rant and cry and plea with them on the phone. I did all three to no avail.

The thief is a sketchy friend of my downstairs neighbor, Scott, a 40 year-old, no-good, alcoholic skinhead with a Hitler moustache whose apartment is a revolving door of 19 year-old small time drug dealers who think they are badass.

His name is Angel.
He lives in the building two doors down from my old one, which was at 487 5th Avenue in Brooklyn.
He is a 5'9, light-skinned Hispanic with dark hair and very noticeable light blue eyes.
He has a tattoo on his left forearm.

He was recently released from jail for stealing mail, and also for defecating in front of a woman's door. (This last act was caught on camera.)

I've got lots of revenge fantasies, but unfortunately none of them will happen. But if you happen to see him, I wouldn't mind if you called him a useless, despicable f*ck.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Reviewed: Heat, Skins

It's one of those nights when I'm not really drunk but I've reached my wine and a half limit (equal to me wandering around the party with a plastic cup always a quarter full of sparkling) and I come home and bang around the kitchen until I can get a decent bowl of cereal going. New York has been hot as hell and my apartment is full of boxes. I admit I only packed two of them today, and they were both full of shoes. The thing is, we're leaving New York.

I'm sad about it, truly, I'm sad. Or I just want to think I'm sad, I can't really decide. Joe and I, we've moved around a bit in our 10 years of being together, and this time, this move feels different, like when I moved out of my hometown in '98. A puzzling sadness, a wonderment that after years of swearing I would leave, I felt suddenly sad to be doing it.

Because I just found the Sheep Station on 4th Avenue a mere month ago! The meat pies are delicious! And Jude Law is coming to Broadway in October!

And it's been too hot to eat on the deck at Barbone in the East Village. Though we did last night anyway, with friends that we'll miss, and it was too hot, even, to wear a necklace.

Here in our apartment we've got one little air conditioner stuck in the window of our bedroom and it's too small to really cool anything, and so loud that at night when we sit down to watch another episode of the BBC's Skins we really can't hear anything. Which is a shame, really, because the series is so addicting, so smart, that I can't believe I ever watched The O.C. and enjoyed it. Plus, Skins has a character named Cassie, and it makes me happy.

And outside it isn't so hot anymore, because earlier it rained, and the heat finally broke. And tomorrow I'll go to work at the neighborhood bakery one last time. And I'll wake up at 6am and walk three avenues over in the dim light of the morning and make coffee, and make coffee, and make coffee.

15 Stars.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Reviewed: Your Husband Gets New Glasses

Here I am in the new Jetblue terminal at JFK and it's full of people; everyone is delayed. This morning we had rain, lightening, thunder that cracked and you could feel it in your heart. Everyone's in the same boat. Tired, waiting, milling around.

And Joe has gotten new glasses and sometimes when I look for him I have to look twice. He's looking good, this guy I love, but different than usual. A good different.

I'm terrified of flying. Hate it. It's not the crashing, it's the claustrophobia. And this flight I'm waiting for is a really doozy. Six and a half hours in the air, in a tight little cylinder, where the door is all the way at the front and our seats are all the way at the back. Six hours! What if I need to get off before six hours has gone by?!

For me, sitting in an airport is worse than sitting in a hospital. At least in a hospital you're just waiting to get out. Here, you're waiting to get on.

So I need lots of support. Hug me, don't hug me. Listen to me whine, don't let me whine too much. Invent some new meditation to calm me down, don't talk right now. Let me concentrate on my magazine, make me wait to take the little pills for when they'll be most beneficial. And this guy with the new glasses is pretty good at doing all that.

100 stars.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Reviewed: Pepperface

Lately I've been developing an increasing fear of intruders. I get these kinds of irrational fears often; I'm a bit neurotic. Not too long ago, if my glass of water left my sight for too long I would start to think it had been poisoned, and I would have to ask Joe, "This is crazy, right, but you didn't happen to put any poison in my glass did you?" Not that I think he would, but when I was young I remember my sister once started to take a swig from a 2-liter Coke bottle sitting on our kitchen counter only to find that it was full of dirty oil, not Coke. My dad's a mechanic and he often used bottles like this.

Last week I was wrenched from sleep by a clattering in the apartment, like a bunch of pots had fallen, or an intruder had jostled something loose in the dark. Aren't the first words always, "What was that?!" to a noise at night in the dark? Immediately after that, when I followed Joe down the hallway in the dark I whispered to his back, "I'm scared I'm scared I'm scared I'm scared" like I was stuck on repeat.

My heart was beating like a rabbit, like a hummingbird. Everything felt prickly and wrong. My arms and legs were moving without me feeling them, and I manically went forward, looking, looking. I kept expecting something to happen, to startle someone out of their hiding place. I clutched my pepper spray.

It turns out that Joe never even thought for a second it was an intruder, but he knew something had fallen and he was trying to find what had--it was the soap dish, slipping off the edge and clattering into the tub. He said he didn't realize I had been so scared, that I should have told him, and that made me realize, uh oh, I've cried wolf too many times.

I wouldn't say I'm an abnormally scared person, but I've got kind of ridiculous fears (the aforementioned poison, seeing ghosts, aliens) that I probably talk about too much. Most of the time I'm not really, truly scared, I'm just needy for a little reassurement.

In the winter, walking to the bakery at 5 in the morning, it's dark and creepy. I wanted a weapon, so I ordered pepper spray. I'm not just needy, I'm also shallow, so I wanted a pretty one. Pepperface was just the ticket.

It's basically designer pepper spray ranging in price from 35 dollars to 300 (but that's for the super fancy one, with Swarovski crystals in the shape of a skull.) I got the basic Prevention Purple for 30% off on one of their specials, which they run fairly often. What else can I say? It's dangerous and it's pretty, and even though I'd rather have a switchblade, it's a good substitute. Every gal should have one.

90 Stars.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reviewed: The Hurt Locker

Maybe one of the biggest things I'll miss when I move out of New York will be the movies, specifically, the ability to see anything you want; the lowest budget, the smallest indie gem, the movies that only make it to limited release. (I won't miss, however, the higher probability that your fellow moviegoer will be eating pork rolls and fried rice, or having a ten minute long conversation on their cell phone.)

The Hurt Locker is the best movie I've seen in a long time. It follows a small unit of bomb defusing soldiers (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty) as they try to survive their last 40 days in Iraq. As with any bomb movie, you're gonna expect tension, but this thing is Tense to the very end, so that when the soldiers finally make it home you're still sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting for one of them to fall off a ladder or slip in the shower.

But it's beautiful, too. The way a shell falls delicately into sand. Dust on eyelashes (and Anthony Mackie's got some killer ones.) Jeremy Renner, too, is amazing to watch. I'm still in an meandering depression over the cancellation of The Unusuals. I predict this guy will blow up soon (hardy har, I swear that wasn't intentional) because he's really, absolutely, that good. The movie wouldn't be what it is without him.

And The Hurt Locker is one of my favorite kinds of movies, where I can revel in my useless movie database brain and delight in everyone who pops up: pretty Evangeline Lilly from Lost, Christian Camargo (psychopath brother from Dexter), David Morse (creeper from Disturbia, the Hack), Guy Pearce, and my favorite, Ralph Fiennes, who shows up for a brief but memorable role as a Blackwater-type dude, looking as rugged and bad-ass handsome as he's been since The English Patient.

100 Stars.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reviewed: The Quest Kayak

A few months ago I came into a sizable amount of cash. Let’s just say I finally graduated and was rewarded with many white envelops stuffed with cash. Although I wrote in every single thank you note that I would use the money for books in graduate school, I instead spent it foolishly on myself. I live in a mid-western land-locked Illinois town; so, of course, I bought a kayak. And a paddle. And a life jacket that I am too cool to wear, so I just stuff into the ample space at the front of the kayak. And a roof rack for my Nissan to tote the kayak around.

It may seem weird that I bought a kayak, but it really isn’t. Being on the water is my second favorite thing to do; right under watching TV on my couch. The problem is I spend a lot of time by myself indoors. Most of my friends are spread out across the country and R-Man works during the day. I needed something I could do alone and outside. A kayak is the perfect solution. I just put it on my roof, drive 30 minutes to the closest lake, take it down, and I’m free at sea.

The Quest Kayak is a smaller one person kayak weighing about 45 pounds and measuring about 10 feet. Mine is a vibrant red orange coloring, which keeps the fishing boats and pontoons I share a lake with from hitting me. Although it doesn’t weight that much, its awkward shape makes it difficult to lift and put on the roof of my car. However, other than trying to lift it above my head, it doesn’t seem that heavy. I can easily carry it around on one shoulder from car to water. I have taken it out several times without much hassle. Really the only trouble I had was the first time I went out. I tried to launch from the boat ramp, but to my surprise it was covered in slimy, green moss. My sandals went out from under me and I fell on my ass. Luckily the guy who has just asked if I needed any help had already driven away.

There is nothing more relaxing than paddling to the middle of a lake and riding the waves. I usually take a book along and find a place away from everyone to read for awhile. I even rest my legs on the top of the kayak in an attempt to get them from pale to pink.

77 stars: It is seriously difficult to get it on the roof of my car, but as it becomes easier my arms should start to look like Michelle Obama’s.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reviewed: Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy

The Midwest is experiencing a debilitating heat wave, which means I haven’t left the house in the past three days. Alright, so Mad Men season 1 is the reason I haven’t left in three days; but it is over now, and I’m still not going to leave the house.

But, if I were to leave the house, it would be to buy some refreshing lemonade to quench the thirst a heat wave like this brings . . . or some beer. Introducing Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy! (That is Shandy with a “d” not shanty with a “t.”) Shandy is a harmonious blend of beer and lemonade, popular with the British. Okay, not real lemonade, but real lemon flavor. When pulled from a draft, it is so cold and refreshing it tastes just like lemonade. Only, after a couple, you’re light-headed and telling stories a little too loudly. After even a few more, you need to make sure you know where the deck ends on your friend’s half finished summer project in order to not fall off the side.

So far it may seem as though I have simply described Mike’s Hard Lemonade or a vodka lemonade. That’s where you are wrong. Ordering a vodka lemonade says to the world, “I’m fancy and don’t know how to relax and knock back a few.” Whereas ordering a Mike’s Hard Lemonade says, “I’m super lame and boring.” However, ordering a beer always says “I’m carefree and here to have a good time. I know how to let my hair down and shake out the curls.”

I do have one complaint though. The shandy doesn't seem to get cold enough in the bottles. However, it is still better than the rest. Just don't ever turn down the draft if it is available.

Oh, and for those adventurous enough to try, the Leinenkugel’s web-site says to mix it with their Berry Weiss for a raspberry lemonade taste.

This seasonal has been around for three summers now, but will be off shelves and out of bars in about a month. Until next year that is.

93 stars: As the evening rolls on, it becomes harder and harder to say: Line-En-Coo-Gulls.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Reviewed: Talking On The Phone To Someone Who Is Kayaking

It's time for me to make an announcement that we're actually getting serious. Blogging, that is. The partnership of randomly reviewing is back on. I pick up the phone and it is my fellow reviewer. She informs me that she's kayaking.

Now? I say. Yes, she says. Right this minute I'm hanging out in this little cove. Cool, I say.

I try to picture her, in her little orange kayak on the lake, paddling and holding her phone. Apparently, it's wedged between her shoulder and neck. She's not wearing her life vest because it would screw up her tan.

We start to talk blog stuff. She can't hear what I am saying. The wind has picked up. It is blowing her further into the cove. She keeps saying, What? What are you saying?

91 Stars. Nature.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Twilight Remix

I'm not one of the Buffy people (though all you Buffy fans recommend it to me all the time), but I can't help but heart the Twilight movie, and this is so incredibly well done and hilarious that I couldn't resist posting. Seriously, it's funny.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reviewed: Smart Start Original Antioxidants

I am a cereal person. I eat cereal pretty much every morning, even on weekends when we sleep late and much later slide into the kitchen to begin the happy work of pancakes and eggs and, maybe, sometimes, bacon. And this is true because secretly I've gotten up much earlier and already eaten a bowl of cereal.

For a long time, cereal was the first thing I thought about when I woke up. Sometimes I even thought about it while still sleeping, so that cereal popped up in my dreams. I'm kind of....obsessed.

But I'm that way with a lot of things involving breakfast, because writing is all about mornings that stretch way past their end. I have dozens of pajamas, different combinations to satisfy all types of temperatures, seating arrangements (working at the desk this morning? couch? a pile of pillows on the floor?), and holidays. I eat yogurt and fruit, cereal and cereal and cereal. By six o'clock, I haven't been outside all day. I go to water my plants and see that they're dying of thirst. The mail is lonely and waiting in the mailbox. I've missed a package from my mother. My legs are stiff from sitting cross-legged in a chair for hours on end.

Smart Start is one of those double duty cereals. Yummy in milk (and it's gotta be skim in cereal, whole milk in coffee) but almost better by the handful as a snack. I admit, in the morning I usually reach for Honey Bunches of Oats first. Second choice, Smart Start. Third choice, Cheerios. And when I'm sick of sugar, Basic 4.

Listen to me, people. I know about cereal. If I know anything, it's cereal! I am the sister of one girl who ate Cinnamon Toast Crunch every morning as long as I lived with her, the other who couldn't decide if she liked Captain Crunch Original with Crunchberries, or Peanut Butter Crunch better. I am the daugher of a man who mixed Grape Nuts and Cracklin' Oat Bran in a big cup with milk, who later ate tomato soup mixed with chicken soup for lunch. And my mother gave no pause when buying her kids Cookie Crisp, a cereal that is literally a bowl of cookies for breakfast.

My taste has somewhat refined since then.
(I love cookies.)

92 Stars.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Reviewed: The Overshare

I realize that if I'm not careful this blog is going to turn into nothing more than boring work stories, BUT....people are weird! They are really, really weird! 

A guy came in the other day and we offered him a small plate for his muffin. He got super excited about it, bemoaning the fact that the bakery down the street charges $3 for a muffin and they don't even give you a plate. 

My co-worker says, good-humored, "What do they do, make you share a napkin?"

No, says he, "but I got hepatitis that way in Morocco." 

!!!!! 40 Stars !!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Reviewed: Yellow Cake

My wedding cake was white--delicious and gorgeous all at once--but I have no idea where it came from. Since our wedding took place in New Orleans just 7 months after Hurricane Katrina, a lot of the details were left in the hands of the thoroughly elegant and lovely general manager of the Hotel St. Marie. The cake appeared, we cut it and everyone else ate it, so it wasn't until a week later I realized how awesome it was.  

Now I work at a bakery and it seems at least once a week someone comes in from somewhere ridiculously far away to gobble up some nostalgia. "I had this cake at my father's 70th birthday party, ten years ago!" they say. Or, "All my mom wanted for Mother's Day was to have a piece of your cake again." Our specialty is chocolate cake, the famous Brooklyn Blackout, but if that's not your cup of tea we make yellow cake. Not white cake, yellow cake. 

People want it to be named differently, I can tell. Especially the snobs in the bunch. They say, "is it vanillla cake?" or "is there a little bit of lemon in this?" and I imagine saying, "Nope, that thar's just the yeller cake" to make them flee the store. Everyone wants to feel special.

The customer that makes me feel special is a high school kid who loves yellow cake with chocolate frosting. He comes in almost every day. Sometimes I save the good slice especially for him. I wish I could go back in time and be 17 again and have him be my boyfriend. He's got these incredibly nerdy glasses and an incredibly nice smile. 

He never comes in with friends like some of the other kids do--the boys talking loud and obnoxious, asking us in their most manly voice which cookies cost 50 cents, the girls that crush on them sipping hot chocolates and giggling. If he was part of that group, I would totally flirt with him in front of them. And I wouldn't even mind if he told them he was 'doing me'. I hope some 17 year-old little lady pretty soon figures out how awesome he is.  

79 stars.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reviewed: Applesauce Jars, Eggs, and iPods

There's been this issue at work lately. An issue involving thieving. It's irritating me. The past few years of living in New York and Philadelphia, where there is actual, real life, honest-to-god crime, have slowly jaded my naivety. (I grew up in a place where I never even thought about locking my car, where my best friend didn't even have a key to her own house.) 

My grandparents once got robbed in the small, corncob of a town in Illinois where I am from. It happened either before I was born or shortly after, and as a little girl I remember whenever the subject of jewelry came up my grandmother went on and on, mourning the things she lost, the violation she suffered. She never could forget it, and didn't replace any of the items lost out of sheer dread it would happen again. 

Recently, I've felt a little more empathy on the subject. Imagining some of the things that I've come to possess in my life being snatched away, never to be seen again starts to break my heart. Nothing I have is wildly extravagant or even close to it, but...the delicate heart-shaped pendent I wore at my wedding, my collection of blue-glass birds. Even newly acquired things, like the simple little antique ring with garnet stones my grandmother just gave me as a birthday gift. Yes, I would live without them, but there would be things...missing. Oh, ouch...just thinking about it.

This is all to say that ipods are being stolen from work. Mine was the second one. It happened a few months ago, where my previously mentioned naivety kept me from realizing the theft for a week. (I kept assuring my coworkers, "Oh, I probably just misplaced it somewhere around here" like a fool.) The third one happened recently. 

Now we've targeted a culprit, who recently showed up with a similar-looking iPod and last night I was enlisted for a mini-suberfuge: check the questionable iPod for the stolen iPod's serial number without arousing suspicion. 

Here's the thing I'm leaving out. I used to be good at this stuff, i.e. filching things. Always stupid, inconsequential things. Back in the day my friends and I (my fellow reviewer included) got our hands on quite a few random ridiculousnesses that did not belong to us: pantyhose, Tootsie Rolls, a bottle of iodine, a baby Jesus, sale stickers taken from an unlocked delivery truck. Things that no one would miss, the more ridiculous the better. Success was infinite glee. None of it mattered to anyone, we were sure.

Last night when the task required those sticky fingers, that quick reflex, that easy casualness upon completion, my heart was hammering like crazy. I couldn't even read the number. Mission: Failed. 

The youthful nerve is starting to waver, that quick abandonment of ethics starting to fade. I was thinking, what it is for. How does it matter. There have been many nights I want to throw eggs, applesauce jars at the neighbors porch. I don't do it. I would have before. 

My iPod is long gone. I want the one just taken to be returned. I want justice. Terrified of theft, I have started to hide things. A necklace goes in a little jar in the corner over here. Slip the Hummel figurine into the bottom of that pot over there. Soon I will be sewing bills into the curtains, putting my wedding rings in the freezer. Soon I will spend my afternoons being entertained by the birdbath. 

Hm. Stars. 

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reviewed: Maoz

It's Day 2 of my No-Sugar Life Betterment Plan and I just microwaved some popcorn, which is odd because I absolutely hate popcorn. A lot of things aren't making sense since I stopped eating sugar. Last night I almost burst into tears when Joe forbade me from drinking lemonade with dinner. We were having shrimp quesadillas and I kept whining, "But lemonade goes perfect with this!" 

I never realized before how much of my life is devoted to eating sugar. I work at a bakery for god's sake. I have candy all over my apartment. The answer to the question, if you could only have one food for the rest of your life what would it be, for me, was always candy corn. (Like a good Midwestern girl.) 

It's hard, I'm telling you. I feel like my mind is changing, my spirit, my body. Everything is different. It's like when Tom Cruise tells Brad Pitt, "Now look, with your vampire eyes." I want sugar all the time! I am not responsible for my actions. Last night we were woken by a buzz saw at 2am coming from the building next door and Joe had to stop me from tossing a glass jar of Mott's applesauce out the window to shatter on their back porch. (And I wasn't even the one who almost got arrested--the cop getting in Joe's face when asked to do something about it, "Are you asking me or telling me?")  

So this is all to say, before I eventually give in and devour a plate of glazed donuts and chocolate syrup, tonight we're going to eat falafel pitas at Maoz. It's delicious. They have a little bar full of cooked carrots and cabbage slaw and roasted cauliflower and sour pickles. The store in Union Square can get a little tight, and it isn't always fun to eat next door in the park next to a hobo, and one time I saw a guy use the salad bar tongs to take a piece of cauliflower, deposit it in his hand, then pop it in his mouth (which really, I suppose, because of the mechanics of it, is completely sanitary even though it made me think about germs for the next two hours.) 

Maoz. No Sugar. Life Better.
85 Stars.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reviewed: Delivery Guy

It's been a while since I had to pull out my old college days constantly-offended feminism, and yesterday when I went reaching for it, it was barely there. I was, and remain, completely horrified at myself. 

So this delivery guy walks in and, in work-mode, I look up with that automatic tip-me-if-I-have-to-use-the-steamer smile. He says, "Hey, Beautiful." 

Revulsion. (And here's where I admit that if he looked even remotely like Jake Gyllenhaal* I would have gotten all giggly and done the lip-bite-chin-tuck thing. I'm shallow.) 

I made a face that I thought conveyed "Ew. Gross. Quit it. Now." But instead, he says, "What? You don't think that you're beautiful?"

Good God, there are so many things that I should have said. Wish I had said! Needed to have said! That's the end of the story. It doesn't get better. He hung around creepily while waiting for a signature. I busied myself making lemonade. The end. 

0 Stars.

*Oh my god, I'm so good at spelling I totally got it right on the first try.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reviewed: RR/RW The Duel II

This show really should just be called Boobs and Muscles II. And I'm totally disappointed in myself because I hadn't watched MTV for about 6 months! My life was better for it! I'm definitely "too old for that sh*t". Too many flashy graphics and commercials for text message astrology. Too many frat-boy jokes. Too much winning useless uber-hip electronics for doing nothing.

Of course, MTV and all its players are too hip to be homophobes! The women are strong, 21st century gals--no way would they allow themselves to be used and played by those muscley men! 

And yet....every bulked-beyond-belief musclehead that goes into the show's famous "duel" picks a skinny, gay man to test his immense strength against, then gives 30 seconds of talking head about how this game is all about "pushing yourself." 

And yet...every season involves clip after clip of meatheads with hilarious funky hair strategizing on how to "trim the fat" (translation: get all the chicks off our team!) 

Why does MTV even spend the money to go to these exotic locations? Nothing on the show requires any skill or design beyond what would be capable in my dad's garage. 

Here's a solution: Buy a bunch of matching speedos and bikinis--don't forget the cool logo bandanas!--and drop these life-rejects in a warehouse in Akron, Ohio with TJ whats-his-face. You'll save a bunch of money (hey, maybe you could use it to hire more creative, intelligent people that will design worthwhile programming!) and I won't have to stomach any more of Brad and Evan thinking that they are really cool guys

0 stars.