Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sketchy Academic Functions: A story about Karl Rove, my big rack, and a fellowship I didn't get

This is something I've needed to write about for a long time.

I just read an article on Jezebel about this blog post about sketchy job interview parties at the American Philosophical Association meeting, and it is hitting so close to home that I am taking a break from doggedly trying to finish my novel to write this post.

Even though I've never been on the academic job market, I am all too familiar with this scene. I worked behind the scenes for years at the annual meeting of the American Philological Association, which is the academic organization for professors of Latin and Greek. I have to say before I weave this tale of outrage that the people who run the APA are genuinely some of my favorite people on Earth. Integrity for miles. It's just too bad you can't say the same for all of the attendees.

Through the years, I saw it all at the APA. I went to every VIP cocktail party, met all the muckity-mucks. I worked the whole Saturday night circuit. I know the cheap yellow Chardonnay, the cheese cubes, and the endless uncomfortable chatting. As an undergrad with a plum internship, I got to see the fanciest side of being a professor of the classics.

I also got to learn early in my academic career about the seamier side of the profession. I learned at the conference about the absolutely prodigious amount of drinking that goes on. The hotel bar on any night of the conference is positively crawling with academics and overstressed bartenders. We'd hear at the post conference briefs about the shortage of limes, of clean high-ball glasses. I heard from hotel staff again and again that academic conferences often meant good business for the prostitutes who hung out at the hotel bars.

And as I went, I learned about the antiquated gender and class politics of Classics. That the profession is an Old Boy's Club. If you're not familiar with that term, here's roughly what it means: if you're not a rich white male, you are in trouble.

I experienced what you might call the perfect storm of these components when I interviewed for the Lionel Pearson Fellowship at the 2005 annual meeting. I was a freshman in college when learned about the fellowship, which funds one year of graduate study in Classics at an English or Scottish university, and I instantly set my sights on it. My amazing advisor Davina did an incredible job grooming me for grad school and for fellowships, and I in turn worked my ass off in school and at umpteen jobs and extracurriculars and leadership positions. I ended up applying to something like six schools and eight national fellowships for grad school. But I had my sights set on going to Cambridge on the Lionel Pearson. I nearly wet my pants with glee when I was named one of four finalists and was invited to come interview at the annual meeting.

The meeting was in Boston that year. It was my first trip to the city I now call home. I arrived with just a few hours to go before I was supposed to meet up with my fellow potential fellows and the fellowship committee for dinner.

When I arrived at the appointed meeting spot, it was a cluster of men. Young men, old men. The committee, the candidates. All men.

And do you know where we went for dinner?

Do you?

You do not.

Here's where we went for dinner.


If you've never had the misfortune of visiting this particular chain, the schtick at Dick's Last Resort is that all of the waitstaff are incredibly rude to you. The restaurant features dishes like Crab Balls and Pork Bonerz. Each guest is outfitted with a rolled up white paper dunce cap that reads somewhere between Dime-Store Pope and Ku Klux Klan, upon which your rude server will write a rude nickname for you. I think they should rebrand and change their name to Patriarchy's Paradigm. Go big or go home, you know?

If this sounds unbearable as a matter of course, I invite you to imagine being subjected to this in the company of the people who will make or break your greatest dream for your undergraduate career. Imagine, if you can, being the only woman at the table.

Imagine, if you can bear it, your hat says DOLLY PARTON.

If you pull it off immediately, will you ruin everyone's fun? If you storm out of the restaurant, will you be disqualified from the fellowship? If you concentrate really hard, will you melt into the floor and disappear? These were the questions that filled my head.

I pulled the hat off. But I did not storm out of the restaurant. I ate my fried basket of whatever and sipped a beer and tried to make the best of it. But I have never felt so negatively aware of my body and myself as a woman. My breasts felt huge under my smart Oxford shirt. When I got back to my hotel room, I was left with a slimy, uncomfortable feeling. When I called my dad to tell him about it, he told me he thought I was probably toast.

Are you wondering what happened the next day? I bet you are. Luckily, it's also a good story.

I don't remember much of the interview, to be honest. I don't think we really got through many questions before one of the professors--whom I long to call out by name but whom I will describe only as a professor from a small liberal arts school in the South--hit me with the most balls-out crazy interview question I've ever gotten.

Ms. Jones, imagine you get a phone call from Karl Rove. Here's what he says. We'd like your expert opinion on how to protect our country from Islamic extremists, based on your study of the suppression of the Bacchanalia in Rome. What would you tell him?

I was gobsmacked. That man smacked my gobs. But as soon as I regained my ability to speak, I knew the answer. "Well," I said. "I'd tell him that the suppression of a rogue religious element, like the Bacchanalia, in a nation with state-sponsored religion, like Rome, doesn't really have anything to do with the suppression of a faith in a nation with a specifically outlined separation of church and state, like we have here in the US." For a moment, I felt smug. It had to be the answer he was looking for.

However, this was not an acceptable answer. The professor who had asked the question pushed me further and further, trying to force me to offer some advice to Mr. Rove. But I stood by my response. He lost his temper. Here are the last words I remember of that horrible interview: "Ms. Jones, you are being very evasive!" That's when I knew my dad was right.

And I totally was. I didn't get the fellowship.

So, that's how Dick's Last Resort, Karl Rove, and unbelievable academic bullshit lost me the fellowship I'd spent four years working toward. I still stand by that answer, though. What a dumb question.

Luckily, my interview for the Mellon Fellowship a few weeks later went a lot better, so I wound up with a bigger, better fellowship in the end. I wound up going to the University of Texas. And, well, you know how that went.

...the Aristocrats!

What's the worst interview you've ever had?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Post: You're Mufasa's Boy

Today's guest post comes from Julia Reed, Harvard PhD student in theology and women, gender, and sexuality (aka Sex and God) and my friend since 1st grade. You've already enjoyed her wisdom on the topic of old people having sex, and today she will regale you with an insightful deconstruction of The Lion King. Read my review of mine and Julia's recent viewing of The Lion King here.

My first year in graduate school I stuffed my schedule with courses in philosophy of religion and gender and queer theory; the material in those courses not only became central to my own work and teaching, but burned the circuitry of my psychic life. The lion’s share of my emotional vocabularies, coping structures, and understandings of self and love and loss comes from the texts and pedagogies of those baptismal months. And with all due respect to the years of work behind and ahead of me, maybe the best way to tell you about the relationships between Freud and Augustine and Judith Butler and Jesus and me might be to say that most of it I learned many years earlier from a scene in The Lion King.

Full disclosure, however: despite my, like, amniotic love for the The Lion King, there are aspects of the film that make me uncomfortable and angry, even though I know they are perhaps the only politically viable stories to tell in a Disney film. Scar is what queer readers might call a "deadly sissy"-- a malignant threat to a heterosexual dynasty, infuriated by his impotence, marked by physical weakness and leanness, resentful, malicious effeminacy, treachery, and association with other outcast deviants (the hyenas). Mufasa and Simba, on the other hand, are manly, monogamous tanks. Once Scar deposes the reigning heterosexual family, the circle of life is broken--the landscape literally becomes a black, bleak, lifeless boneyard---until Simba's triumphal life-ejaculating roar re-colors the savanna. (NB: Lion prides are not dynastic, and young males usually leave between 2 and 3 years old to take over other prides, kill the resident cubs, bone each lioness, and nap. Though I remain unconvinced that the cubs don't ride around on ostrich asses, because, please.)

The scene I'm talking about, however, is during Simba's exile. Rafiki, having caught Simba's "scent" in the air--the scent of the promise of life, restoration, latency, unclaimed birthright--has followed him to his No Worries Hakuna Matata land of plenty and anomie. Taunting Simba with nonsense, he finally whispers, "You're Mufasa's boy," prompting Simba to run after him. "You knew my father?" Rafiki responds, "Correction, I know your father." The scene's pulse quickens, the music becomes martial and insistent when Simba sighs that his father died long ago. Rafiki jumps up excitedly: "He's alive. I'll show him to you. I know the way." What follows is a masterful dreamlike pursuit sequence through the bases and roots of knotted trees. We don't know if we're above or underground; Simba, the brick-house big cat, crawls slowly, clumsily, desperately curious. I remember watching this scene the first time and feeling electrified at the possibility, the hope, that Simba would in fact meet his resurrected father in the open beyond the gnarled gauntlet. Rafiki stops Simba, parts a sheet of tall grass, and whispers, "Look down there." Simba peers down into a perfectly clear shining pool and sees himself. Deflated, he looks away: that's not my father, that's just me. Rafiki: "look… harder. He lives in you." But Mufasa is not Aslan. Unlike Bambi's mother, we have seen his dead body. (Like a reverse doubting Thomas, I could not quite believe it.) He appears as a specter in the sky to say, "Mark me. Remember me"--the words of Hamlet's father's ghost.

"Remember me"; "remember who you are"--I heard these exhortations, and still hear them, not as reminders of Simba's divine right of kingship, but in a literal, physical sense of the words themselves. Re-member yourself. Re-member your members. Put back together the parts that make you up--what in Freud's German literally translates to "investments" or "the places you've set yourself in." Which is only to say that the loss of these loves, these parts, would transform you and will transform you. Which is to say, says the father's ghost, you do not remember me because you have not grieved me; you have not re-membered yourself. Make my death a part of your life and your living. Not because you have rejoiced in it, but because it is a loss that brakes and builds you.

For me this does not mean that you will take your father’s place, that you will fully re-member yourself through your identification with him, and that he has therefore been successfully mourned as an honored legacy continued in and by you. (For Bible breathers: “Seeing you have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, that is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10)). It does not mean that we become the fully re-membered, resurrected bodies of our fathers, mothers, formative loves and teachers. We are never fully re-membered in memory and resurrection (Mufasa, the father) by those who re-member us and thus re-member themselves (Simba, the son, who becomes a father in the end) because losses and absences are real and cannot be undone, even by love and helpful meerkats. After his famous conversion in the Milanese garden—“Pick up and read, and put on the new man, Jesus Christ”—Augustine in his Confessions gives us one of the most beautiful passages in theological literature on memory and desire, continually pursuing the God whom he loves, who is in him and eludes him. “Late have I loved you […] late have I loved you. […] You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours” (Book X.27.38). Augustine has converted, but there is no consummation; though he seeks God in the “vast fields and palaces of memory,” again God retreats. “If I find you outside my memory, I am not mindful of you. And how shall I find you if I am not mindful of you?” (Book X.17.26) We’re not talking about a dead God here, but a God that is always greater than we can remember. So Augustine’s love beckons him to the perpetually unfinished re-membering of himself and God.

Full disclosure, encore: J. Christ is not in my wardrobe. But Augustine’s ongoing re-membering—both of his spiritual body “after” conversion and of his God in his memory—takes place between the presence and absence of the beloved, the old man and the new one, the realities of loss and the possibilities of remembering. It’s about the fog of desire, memory, and the parts of us that are made up of our love for the living and the dead. It’s about what we say to the dead to keep them alive: “Wait. Don’t go. Don’t leave me,” as Simba says to the sky.

Thanks go to this tumblr for this and all of the incredible gifs in this post.

Discussion Question:
What important life lessons have you learned from children's movies?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Everything the light touches is our kingdom

When The Lion King came out in the summer of 1994, I was 11 years old and about to start middle school--probably a smidge too old to nerd out on a Disney movie.

But nobody told me and my best buddy Julia that. We saw The Lion King together one sweltering Tennessee afternoon and declared that we wanted to see it again. And then again. And then again. We saw it over a dozen times in the theater that summer, and our enthusiasm never waned.

I was a child obsessed. When I wasn't begging my parents to take me to the umpteenth matinee of The Lion King at the Carmike Cinemas, I was making up dances to the soundtrack, or combing the Bellevue Mall for Simba paraphernalia, or just wishing the internet existed so I could write The Lion King fanfic the livelong June. I clipped every article I could find that mentioned the movie and collected them in a file folder, like I was Simba's senile old relative.

I had all the Burger King toys and the bedding and even the coveted trading cards, which I begged my parents to buy me approximately every five minutes. There was a Lion King Trading Cards Swap Night down at Bellevue Mall one special night. I spoke of nothing else for weeks leading up to the event. Mama took me but I was too territorial over my collection to let the other children even LOOK to see if they wanted to trade. That is...not a strong negotiation tactic.

Not my bedroom but close enough

In the 17 years since the film was originally released, I have Hakuna Matata'ed my way into adulthood and eventually stopped clipping The Lion King articles. And, much in the way Simba and Nala joyfully and unexpectedly reunited, I have rekindled my friendship with dear Julia, who is now working on a PhD at Harvard but still shares my predilection for musicals and eating gummy bears.

So when we found out The Lion King was being rereleased, we knew what we had to do.


We chose Fresh Pond Theater for our Sunday afternoon viewing--it seemed fitting to go to a theater that clearly hasn't been renovated since the original release of The Lion King.

We walked into the theater and we were the only ones there.

Julia, always resourceful, had smuggled in a bottle of wine, and I had a near-endless bag of gummy bears. We had our favorite movie and an empty theater.

I let out a barbaric yawp of joy.

We sang each of the songs at the top of our lungs. We ran up and down the aisles dancing with joyful jazz hands for "Hakuna Matata" and with soulful lyrical interpretation for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." Julia stood on the armrests to sing "Just Can't Wait To Be King." The wine was gone by the time Nala and Simba reunited.

We sobbed when Mufasa died but we wailed when Simba met up with Rafiki and decided to go back to Pride Rock. By the time Rafiki intones, "He lives in you!" we were holding hands and letting the tears roll down our faces without wiping them away.

We knew we'd love seeing The Lion King again but I don't think either of us were prepared for how grown-up the movie really is. This movie is positively Homeric in its scope--you deal with love, death, family, power, and a whole passel of other themes in the course of this 90-minute children's movie. We couldn't get over how unexpectedly sexy it is--Simba's weirdly anthropomorphic and masculine body. The whole "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" scene. Look at Nala's come-hither stare!

That was the night Simba became a man. Er...lion.

On our drive home, emotionally exhausted in the extreme, I asked Julia if she'd write a few words for me about the experience of seeing the movie again all these years later, now that she's armed with all kinds of information about how to interpret texts. Tomorrow I'll be sharing Julia's ridiculously insightful essay about The Lion King, so don't forget to tune in!

I leave you with this. Everyone likes to try to sing the opening of The Lion King, which goes something like NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASIBANYA BABADEEZIBABA. Here I present to you opening lyrics of "The Circle of Life" translated from Zulu into English:

Here comes a lion, Father
Yes, it's a lion
We're going to conquer
A lion and a leopard come to this open place

The stirring opening notes of this song are basically HEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY A LIONNNNNNNNNNNNNNN IT'S A LION OVER THERE! Disney, you so literal.

Many thanks to this life-affirming Lion King gifs tumblr for this and all the LK gifs in this post.

Discussion question:
What's the most fun you've ever had seeing a movie in the theater?

Friday, October 7, 2011

all roads lead to quidquid

confession time: I really do not care for U2

I have recently hit 20,000 unique visits to my dumb little blog. In honor of this milestone, I’d like to share some statistics with you.

I love Google Analytics. I love combing through the stats and seeing how people get to my blog. Many come from Facebook or Twitter, but 20% of my traffic comes from search engines. And Google Analytics allows me to see what everyone is searching for that brings them to my blog. These searches fall into a few different categories:

blueberry aioli recipe
cabbage drug
Chaka Khan marinade
dogs pulling airplane on snow
floppy melon doggy floor
grad school classics social life (haha)
“hello kitty and pocohontas” (I assume they were looking for this but instead found this
I like Boston
Jerry Doreen cabbage patch value
living in a cabbage truck
meeting a perfect person
one of the reasons was difficulty
Rodney King verdict

Babyland General Hospital
being naked is awesome
Biloxi pirate ship
culture shock for a southerner living in Boston
everyone in Boston says all set
grad school classics bad idea
I lost my glasses in the ocean
Mardi Gras do’s and don’ts
satc 2 carrie selfish brat
surviving New England winters
terrible experiences in grad school

American girl Samantha watercress sandwich
Boudreaux Jenkins
cartman twelve gangs
cauterized uvula
definition of imagicillan
healthworks naked or nude or nudity
jack rabbit acceleration Toyota Avalon
lambert the sheepish lion discussion
mardi gras tablescape
number and color synesthesia mental math
shaq snow measurement boston
tree gives birth to child

chicken parts
classics grad school that will pay for me
despite all my rage I was still just a level 3 mage
having s*x with a cabbage patch kids doll
naked site:quidquidquidquid.blogspot.com
naked womens changing room celebrations
old s*x in the bouet (I think this one is my favorite)
quidquid, human body party
rub some baby powder on the cabbage patch doll

are children impressionable?
do New Englanders dislike southerners?
do southerners hate New Englanders?
do the indigo girls do private gigs?
is it bad luck to pick beads up off the ground at mardi gras?
should I go to grad school in classics?
what do women think about being nude in the locker room?

and finally, there’s a category that I can only call

classy bitches in fur coats
fingernail’s grip on reality
Georgia peach season in New England
grad school is like a vodka drinking contest
hit the players club bout a month or two
starburst mouth burns
the worst kind of mischief that can get into the country

DISCUSSION QUESTION:: What’s your favorite stupid search term that led to my blog? What’s your favorite quidquid post? Thanks so much for reading my blog and sharing the link with aw your peeps.

Monday, September 12, 2011

in celebration of being naked

Brugge 2 by Spencer Tunick. Installation of 700 naked people arranged in a theatre in Bruges.

There are brave souls in every land
Who worship nature, grand and nude,
And who with swift indignant hand
Tear off the fig leaves of the prude.
--Robert Ingersoll

I recently bit the bullet and splurged on a membership to the local fancypants all-female gym. This place is incredible. I’m talkin soothing eucalyptus steam rooms and unlimited towel service, y’all. It’s the swankest gym I’ve ever been to and I adore it.

So I was surprised to see that the Yelp score for my gym was only 3.5 stars. What more could anyone want out of a gym??

A quick read through the comments revealed a troubling trend: women were voting Healthworks down because of the naked women in the locker room.

Wait, what?

Okay everyone, listen up. This is important.


Just ask this girl.

Locker-room nudity has long been a source of anxiety for me. Even when I was a small child, I assumed that a room like a locker room that was designated for single-sex clothes changing would be an acceptable place to take one set of clothes off and put another set on.

I was wrong.

Surrounded by my blushing cohorts, each one modestly turned to face the lockers, all of whom somehow knew how to change clothes without exposing one square centimeter of flesh (I still haven’t figured this one out), I quickly realized that I’d better follow suit or risk being considered an underage Sapphic exhibitionist. So I dutifully turned toward the lockers and learned how to put a swimsuit on without removing my teeshirt.

Even then, I knew the truth.

These girls were full of shit.

Being naked is great.

I’m not alone in my ~radical~ views on nudity. The ancient Greeks didn’t just go naked in their locker rooms—they did their entire workout in the buff. That’s why gyms are called gyms—the name is derived from the Greek word gymnos, which means naked. These people are complaining about nudity in a place that we basically call the nakedtorium.

Modern luminaries like Alexander Graham Bell, Leonard Nimoy, and author Robert Heinlein are also vocal proponents of the benefits of nudity. Abraham Maslow, the brain behind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, states "I still think that nudism . . . is itself a kind of therapy." In fact, there are thousands of people all over the world who believe in the benefits of nudity. They’re called naturists or nudists.

Are there tangible health benefits to nudity? Yes. No. I don’t know. WHO CARES? It feels great. Sleeping naked keeps your temperature regulated nicely, not to mention the feeling of cool sheets pressing against your body. Swimming naked means no nasty infections from wet bathing suits, not to mention the feeling of water rippling across your body. Sunbathing naked stimulates vitamin D production—which we northern dwelling creatures need so badly in the winter--not to mention the feeling of warm sunlight warming all of the palest, most secret places. The mental benefits? Immeasurable. Being naked does a body good.

So here’s your imperative: Go take your clothes off!

Not sure what to do with your new nude self? You can participate in World Naked Gardening Day, or the World Naked Bike Ride. Wikipedia helpfully suggests nude activities like skinny dipping, nude snorkeling, nude canoeing (or “canuding”), or even nude hiking or ”naked rambling.” (I participate in an alternative version of naked rambling, wherein I stand around my apartment in the nude and talk to myself.) If you also enjoy thumpy music and flashy lights, you will love going naked at Burning Man and other regional burns, where clothing is optional. My particular tribe of burners have pioneered the field of nude line-cooking at our annual Pantsless Pancake Breakfast.

It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you try doing it without clothes.

Now go forth and naked your world up!

If anyone needs me, I'll be naked in the locker room giving my gym a bad name.

Discussion question:
Do you like to get naked and run around? If you think I'm nuts, please tell me, because that will be fun too.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Own Private Lilith Fair

It's only life after all

It was the late 90s and I was a child of Lilith Fair.

It was a great time for female singer-songwriters. My CD tower toppled with titles like Little Plastic Castle, Under the Pink, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, and This Fire that spun on constant rotation on my 3-CD changer. If it had sandals, an acoustic guitar, and a vagina, I was listening to it in 1998.

So you can imagine my reaction when I learned that the next assembly at my Tennessee high school would be an Indigo Girls concert.

In an unprecedented move, the Indigo Girls decided to kick off their summer 1998 tour with a tour of Southern high schools. I've never understood why. But I didn't care why. I just knew it was going to be the best day of school ever.

When the fateful day came, I was ready. I picked out the perfect outfit: my offwhite Lilith Fair t-shirt from summer 1997, a floor-length maroon hippie skirt, Birkenstocks, and the pièce de résistance: a crown of maroon flowers for my head that I made myself out of an embroidery hoop and fake flowers from Michaels. I submit the following photographic evidence, taken that very morning:

Lanier and I pose like this in most pictures

I sized myself up in the mirror that day. The tiny bells on my crown were tinkling optimistically. The naked Venus figure on my t-shirt offset my long tiered skirt perfectly. I just knew that the Indigo Girls would know I was a true fan.

When we filed into the auditorium, I was nearly breathless. I snapped this photo of my friends Chris and Jessica waiting for the show to start.

Imagine the scene. Franklin High School auditorium, 1:00pm. I am perched in the 2nd row on the edge of my red plastic seat, tearfully wailing How long til my soul gets it right in exuberant harmony with the Indigo Girls. Rocking. The Fuck. Out.

The rest of the student body...is not.

They are restless, bored--watching the show with approximately the same enthusiasm as had been displayed at a recent assembly featuring actor Chris Burke, best known as Corky from Life Goes On.

This is my life, y'all.

When Emily and Amy said they'd have time for a few questions at the end, a hot wave of excitement rushed through me. What would I ask them?? The resounding silence from the other 800 people in the auditorium meant that I was going to have to think of something, fast.

It was a total accident. Someone, I don't remember who, had recently returned a little stuffed sheep to me that they had had for some reason. It was in my backpack.

Chris with sheep

I called out to them that I wanted to give them a present. I handed the little sheep to Amy. She thanked me and put it on one of the amps along with a few other little doodads. A little black sheep.

It turned out to be a fitting gift. A number of high schools ended up canceling the scheduled Indigo Girls concerts, ostensibly because of profanity in their music, but actually because the Bible Belt often has problems with The Gays and especially The Gays exposing themselves and their lifestyle to Our Children.

Huge, HUGE props to Doug Crosier, our principal, for being such a cool guy. Check out this Rolling Stone clipping about the cancelations, where Doug nails it with a pitch-perfect soundbite:

And as for my sheep, well...That summer, when I saw them play at Lilith Fair, I was sure that I spotted him on top of their amp. Wishful teenage thinking or a symbol of solidarity between the Indigo Girls and their shameless superfan? I may never know.

Discussion Question:
What's the best school assembly you ever had?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

who's it gonna be?

you know you lookin at a winner

Thank you, internet. I knew you'd help me find the perfect home for these size 10 men's hot pink Converse All-Stars. And you did. The entries were all amazing in their own way but there could only be one. The public has spoken.


David's days of being shoeless on the playa are over. This lawyer-by-day, burner-by-night wild man has vowed to party in these beautiful footboats until he drops. I think he's the perfect forever home for these poor orphan sneakers.

David, I hope you'll take a pic of you tearin it up in these bad boys for me to post here. I'll shoot you an email to make arrangements for shipping.


Discussion Question:
What's the best thing you've ever won in a contest?

Monday, August 22, 2011

who shall rock the kicks?

Only one of you will walk out of this with a new pair of shoes.

In case anyone is just joining us, I made a blog post last week announcing to the world that I was giving a pair of men's size 10 hot pink Converse All-Stars to the person who could give them the best home.

The entries are in and they are amazing. We've got men, women, and even a couple vying for these subtle foot coverings.

Now it's time to vote! Just leave a comment on this entry (with your email address! no anon comments!) telling me who you think should win these shoes. On Tuesday at 8pm EST, I will tally the votes and name a winner.

Now meet your contenders!

Meg Z: Hangover Warrior

i will wear them every saturday when i am hungover chugging pepto bismol as a sign of solidarity from my feet to my liver, stomach and butt.

Matt Flagg: Road Runner, Road Runner

I require these size ten pink sneakers. My shoe size is 9.5. I have sentimental regards towards Converse because I used to run road races with my poppin Allstars. I'll never forget running the River Run in Jacksonville in some Converse and looking down from the Hart Bridge to the St. John's River while running over a wet open grating.


If you give me these sneakers, I will strive to go to Burningman. And wear these bad boyz.

painsthee: Spousal Style Synchronicity

Actually, my feet are that gigantic, and as a bonus, my hubs and I wear the same size. And then we could do that thing where we each wear ONE of the pink shoes and one black shoe. And then this could be incorporated into a "make everyone nauseous with our twee-ness" but then perhaps could morph into some sort of crazy black and pink harlequin halloween costume, or better yet, a pink and a blue shoe, and then we could rock the "shim" gender confusion costume. THE POSSIBILITIES!

David Shifren: Shoeless on the Playa

These shoes are just my size - and style. I'm a regular at NYC Burner parties (i.e., every weekend) and at the Burn. I have an extensive playa-fabulous wardrobe, including more hot pink than even my female and gay friends.

But I'm currently without fun shoes since my last pair recently fell apart (mid-party - I kept dancing with my shoes held together by duct tape). I've been reduced to wearing my extremely boring dress shoes (I'm an attorney by day).

I promise to provide an excellent home for these shoes, giving them TLC to make sure they last despite my wearing them every weekend (and many weeknights). I want these shoes so badly I'd even be willing to come to Boston to pick them up.

Captain Gonzo: A Simple Man with Simple Needs

They will fit the Gonzo nice & you know I will rock them hard and hug often :)

Meghan: Pink-Shoe Prom Queen and Tasteless Tastemaker

I am also named Meg and I ALSO WEAR A 12!!! You know how hard it is to find shoes? Peggy Hill and I have a sororal bond when it comes to shoe sizes. For the most part, I have to buy all of my shoes online, without trying them on. Before the internet, I was subject to men's gym shoes and for occasions like prom, forced to wear dress shoes that were obviously manufactured with tasteless trannies in mind.

I would wear them while sitting on the subway eating a combination of keilbasa, mexican street corn and baklava and carrying a Welsh Corgi. Just think of the conversations I could strike up with all the tasteless trannies who are gonna be soooo jealous...

bluestarfish’s sister: World-traveling DIYer

so I'm not entering since I'm only a men's 8.5, but my sister has bigger feet than me. Converses are like her favorite. I think she owns at least four pairs, but none of them are pink. She would love the shit outta them. I think the only ones that aren't decorated are the tie-dyed ones, because those are already super awesome. I can't promise that she would decorate them, but I would bet she does. She is about to go on a big adventure... She's is studying abroad this semester, so in a month she's leaving for France! Those shoes would see the WORLD. She gets off a plane in London on her way back, and I think she has plans to visit Italy and some of those other countries nearby. She could wear those shoes all over!

Discussion Question:
Who among these seven entries is most deserving of a brand new pair of shoes? Comment and vote!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

converse all-stars sneakers giveaway

these shoes are free as a bird now

How I got these shoes is not important. What's important is that I'm giving them away.

I have a pair of brand new men's size ten hot pink Converse All-Stars that are looking for the perfect home. But shoes this magnificent can't be sold willy-nilly. They need the right owner. Not just any man (or giant-footed woman) can rock these puppies. I know someone out there needs these shoes.

Is it you? Is it someone you know?

If you or someone you know needs or wants these shoes, comment on this post and tell me why. Would you wear them every day? Are they the perfect finishing touch for your burn night outfit for Burning Man? Would you turn them into an amazing art project? Be convincing.

On Monday night I'll post the finalists and you'll have 24 hours to vote for a winner. Whoever gets the most votes will have these beauts shipped to their door posthaste. (If you're headed out to Burning Man and want to wear them, I'll do my best to get them to you before you leave.)

this is how fast I will ship them to you

Tell yo mama. Tell yo friends. Tell anyone you can convince. Please, please repost this link! Even if you don't need these shoes, I bet someone you know does.

Now it's time to Paul Revere it and let your set know about this remarkable opportunity.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

tips for moving (learned the hard way)

working too hard can give you a heart attackackackackack

I have moved every summer for the last 10 years--with one sweet exception in college. My considerable consternation with moving has been well documented. I was pretty sure I'd said all I have to say about the matter.

But now the time has come once more for me to cram all of my worldly possessions into boxes and schlep them into my next apartment, and just like clockwork, I want to write about it. I recently noticed that last fall's post Tips for Living in a Tiny Apartment is my 2nd most popular blog post of the year, so I think it's time for a followup. Let's talk moving.


It's time for some dehoarding, whether you're moving across the globe or just across the street. Go through every single object you own and get rid of anything that's damaged or that you don't use. If you're getting rid of a lot of stuff, I suggest throwing a party with a Drunk Thrift Store theme. Ask your guests to bring some booze, and in return invite them to raid designated boxes of your possessions. Everyone will get looped and start putting your clothes on and leafing through your old Seventeen magazines and you'll save yourself a trip to the Goodwill.

Get all of your parking permits and address changes squared away a few weeks before the move, because lord knows you won't have time for anything responsible like that once your life is in boxes.

do all that stuff you've been meaning to do
Over the course of your dehoarding, you no doubt found some things that needed dry cleaning or mending or supergluing. Do it now. While you're at it. clearly mark all of your mostly empty consumables like foods, bath/beauty products, cleaning products, etc. USE ME and do your best to use them up before the move. Whatever you haven't taken care of by your move out date gets chucked--it wasn't important anyway.


-lots of packing tape
-new box of garbage bags
-one thousand newspapers (I unscrupulously take stacks of the free ones advertising cars or apartments.)
-a few sharpies
-cleaning supplies set aside for cleaning up at the end
-bags packed with essential clothes, medicine, personal care items that you'll need throughout the move
-all of the boxes. This is the most important part. My favorite boxes for moving are white bankers boxes, because they have tops that fit on without being taped (although I do recommend taping them!) and because it is physically impossible to pack them too heavy. Aside from these priceless gems, never pay for boxes. Get them free off Freecyle or Craigstlist, or at virtually any local store. Liquor stores usually have a zillion boxes.



start with the least essential stuff
Picture frames, decorations, books, DVDs, off-season clothes, etc. Then handle your kitchen stuff, pantry, and linens--things you'd generally use daily but can live without for a few days. Save your clothes and bathroom for last, since those things are the most disruptive to be without.

label the bejesus out of your boxes
Write the name of the room the box should go in on all four sides of the box so you can see it no matter how it is stacked. Write what's in the box too. When you get there, you can set each box down in the room it belongs in the first time you set it down.

pack smart
-Pack your glasses and other breakables in wine boxes from the liquor store. They come with perfect cardboard dividers.
-Pack your books and other heavies in white bankers boxes or other small boxes. Otherwise they will be too heavy to carry.
-Cushion your breakables with towels and clothes instead of bubble wrap when possible.
-Pack linens and clothes in double-bagged garbage bags. Gather clothes in your closet in groups of 5-10 garments at a time, then pull the garbage bags up over them. Tie the bag at the top around the hangers. Clothes can hang here until they're ready to move. At the new place, you can just hang the clothes up and cut the bags off of them. VOILA your closet is intact!

put everything in a box
You are going to hate yourself if you have to carry a bunch of odds and ends out of your almost empty apartment one at a time. There are going to be things that don't want to fit into boxes--fans and shower caddies and sleeping bags and other randoms. Save a couple of bigass boxes for the very end to throw all of the last-minute stuff into.


invite a bunch if people
You cannot have too much help doing this. With two people, it will take two miserable hours to move out. With five or six, it will take half an hour. Bribe them with snacks and beer and the promise of helping them move when their time comes.

load smart
Put the boxes in the truck first and the furniture last. When you get there, get the largest furniture in place before you start moving any smaller items in. Otherwise you could be setting yourself up for a very unpleasant game of 3D Tetris when you try to set your rooms up.

order a pizza
Nothing is better than ordering a pizza the first night in a new apartment. It's good practice for remembering your new address.

Discussion Question:
What are some of your hot tips for moving?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

talkin bout the old folks too

69-year-old DJ Ruth Flowers starts her set with O FORTUNA. How sick is that??? Someone please invite this fierce beast to Transformus to camp with us at IHOP.

When the phrase "the last taboo" caught my eye in an internet article recently, my interest was piqued. In this ever-changing world in which we live in*, what could possibly qualify as the last taboo? Incest? Torture? Stirrup pants?

No. It's sex among the elderly. This according to Dr. Virginia Sadock, professor of psychiatry and director of the Program of Human Sexuality at New York University.

Pfft. "That," I thought, "is the least scandalous scandal ever." Shouldn't we all be so lucky to remain sexually active into our twilight years? How could something like geriatric sexology take the crown for a dubious distinction like "the last taboo?"

So I decided to engage in some hard-hitting journalism and go straight to a reliable first-hand account. It seems that a dear friend of mine, who is octogenarian and FABULOUS, has had the very same subject on her mind recently. She gave me the following account of living the last taboo:

Ten years ago I found my last sweetheart in the old folks exercise class at the "Y." I was 69 and he was 71, and we started a hot sex life that has endured for 10 years. The only problem is we aged as we reached 80 and 82, which has put a crimp in our hot sex. We figured it was all over at first. However, we still have desire and keep our once-a-week date which we both look forward to. We cuddle and kiss a lot until we head for the bed and continue kissing and caressing and manually pleasing each other. There's no penetration but we both feel satisfaction and lots of affection. And we've discovered "back scratching" is sort of an aphrodisiac and a wonderful aperitif after making love. (The gorillas obviously were onto the "back scratching" too.) Then we have coffee and watch "Family Guy." And laugh a lot....[Her boyfriend] and I still can't keep our hands off each other after 10 years! The taboo is all in our heads.

Admit it. You're clutching your pearls.

But why?? Why are we so squicky about the idea of older people remaining sexually active? Is it a vestige of our Judeo-Christian notion that non-procreative sex is verboten? Or is it just a symptom of the rampant ageism in our culture?

When I have big squishy questions like this about sex and religion and the Western tradition, I turn to my dear friend and fellow Nashvillian Julia, who is working on a PhD in theology and women, gender and sexuality (aka Sex and God) at Harvard. And we gchat about it have a Platonic dialogue.

Julia: i think generally speaking sex is structurally normative, as in: there are powerful political, cultural, social, etc. forces that structure the sexual and sexualized body as heteronormative, meaning: YOUNG, straight, able-bodied, etc. many of our prejudices about what an able body is, in fact, have to do with its sexual capabilities.
me: WHOA so true
Julia: what is an "impotent" body?
me: if someone is disabled, one of the first questions that arises in the brain: can they still have sex?
we have very similar prejudices about the aged body

So it seems that it's both--that our ageism is wrapped up in our idea of the heteronormative sexualized body. WHOA. Leave it to a Harvardian to blow your mind.

So what does this all mean? Sure, geriatric sex is a taboo. What does it matter?

Here's how it matters. 26% of the American population belongs to the aging Baby Boomers generation. Among them, 87% of married men and 89% of married women in the 60-64 age range are sexually active. Among Americans over 80, 29% of men and 25% of women still engage in sexual activity. That means we're looking at millions and millions of sexually active elderly folks in the coming years.

That part isn't the problem. The problem is that our cultural taboo related to geriatric sex creates an inability to acknowledge the phenomenon in any meaningful way. Sexual support and sexual health care for the elderly is severely lacking. STD rates among the elderly are out of control. Just like abstinence-only education for teens leads to skyrocketing teen pregnancy rates, lack of sexual support among the elderly can lead to the spread of STDs and other public health issues. And, according to another of my many Nashvillian friends pursuing higher education with an emphasis in sexuality:

"When you combine lack of knowledge with lack of resources, you get gonorhyphallis."
--Lanier B., sex educator extraordinaire

And nobody wants that.

So what can we do to avoid this public health crisis? Start here: don't be afraid to talk to the elderly folks in your life about sexual health. You're bound to learn something interesting from them, and maybe they'll learn something important from you. I mean, Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was in her 70s. It's never too late to learn new tricks.

*apologies to Sir Paul McCartney

Discussion Question:
Talk about how awesome you will be when you hit your golden years. Will you rock DJ sets with Ruth Flowers in Paris, or simply enjoy postcoital viewings of Family Guy with your hot boyfriend/girlfriend?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

where everybody knows your name

When it gets to "Wouldn't you like to get away?" I totally lose it

I grew up watching Cheers with my dad on what seemed like a nightly basis. Despite the fact that I was, say, 24 months old and had very little in common with a cast of New England barflies, I loved Cheers. I still think it's one of the great sitcoms of all time.

I think it's my lifelong love of Cheers that's kept me searching for a place where everybody knows my name.

I went home to Tennessee recently to visit my family, and I made more than one trip to my favorite watering hole, The Pond. The Pond is a fine drinking establishment in Franklin, owned by the wonderful Eddie Martin and his son Justin, fellow Grassland General and Franklin Rebel. It opened nearly a decade ago, and just in the nick of time for my friends and me to start turning 21. Everyone used to hang out at Waffle House in high school, but you can't smoke there anymore and they don't warm up your coffee after you've been there awhile, so everyone started convening at The Pond instead.

One particular day, I settled down belly up to the bar with my bff Emily and a big ol Shock Top to listen to one of Eddie's signature stories. Eddie can weave a story like you can't believe. Dewar's and cigars, snakes and warm concrete, and even a cameo from the good people at Grumpy's Bail Bonds (believe me, that link is worth clicking). Everyone was spellbound--when they weren't cackling.

Amid the laughter, patrons started to file in one by one. At least a dozen people. By the time each one got to the bar from the door, their favorite drink was already waiting on the bar for them before they'd said a word. Eddie never missed a single beat of his story.

That's the beauty of a small town: recognition.

It's hard to get used to living in a big, impersonal city. There's a constant desire just to be recognized.

But I've found one little place to call my own here in Cambridge: Andy's Diner.

My dear Julia introduced me to Andy's, which sits just between my office and my apartment. There's nothing too fancy about Andy's. But the food is fantastic, and the vibe is utterly unpretentious, which is pretty uncommon in these parts. Julia and I started going for lunch on Fridays when I first started my job. We'd share a plate of fries and suck giant Diet Cokes and rattle the windows with our peals of laughter.

It wasn't long before I invited JSJ, who invited Sarah, and then...

it kind of became a thing. PANCAKE FRIDAY.

We mob the place every Friday afternoon, and Kelly and Carol, with the patience of saints, bring us pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches and excellent stories and sometimes Carol puts her cold hands on my neck to make me squeal.

l to r: Carol, me, Kelly

So here's to Eddie, Carol, Kelly, and all of the customer service people in this world who go above and beyond in their jobs to shine a little bit of light into the darkness.

Discussion question:
Do you ever just wanna go where everybody knows your name?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

look away, look away

A recording of "Dixie" that's nearly 100 years old. Don't click on it if you find the song offensive.

It will surprise absolutely no one that my high school mascot was the Rebel. It was the same little guy as Ole Miss, but in our school colors of maroon and grey.

Couldn't find the right color but you get the gist

Our school seal had a Confederate flag in it, too. They flew by the dozens at our Homecoming celebration. The whole thing is antiquated and offensive and silly but it's pretty much par for the course in the South.

But I learned something interesting today.

I always learn the most interesting things at lunchtime at work. All the ladies crowd in the small kitchen and take turns microwaving their leftovers and Lean Cuisines and run their mouths about this and that while they flip through old OK magazines.

Today I learned that there are schools in Massachusetts that use the Rebel as their mascot. What?

Specifically I learned about the euphoniously named city of Walpole, MA. Walpole High School students are the Rebels just like we were. (All except the girls' field hockey team. They are the Porkers.) Until 1994, they used a Confederate flag as their symbol and sang "Dixie" in the stands. Unofficial lunchtime reports suggest the "Dixie" tradition persisted far beyond '94.

Even more confounding is the fact that a neighboring landowner has put up a gigantic Confederate flag adjacent to the field. He refuses to take it down amid much scandal.

photo from boston.com

What is happening here??? This place is well over 300 miles from the Mason Dixon line.

I really have no idea what to make of this. In Tennessee, you hear people speak of "heritage, not hate" when they explain the Confederate flags on splashed decals on their cars or superimposed over the silhouettes of busty women on their teeshirts. But how can it be "heritage, not hate" when there's no claim to the heritage? Is this an example of a weird fetishization of the South, similar to the way white culture has fetishized Native Americans as sports mascots for ages? Call me simple, but I had no idea you could find Rebels outside of Dixie.

Discussion question:
Someone please help me make sense of this.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

so yesterday

I am sick to death with some kind of evil sore throat and all I have the energy to do is sit here in my tatty Lindsay Lohan hoodie (yes, the very same one she's wearing above) and discuss the relative merits of pop singles released by famous actresses in the 2000s.

It's a topic that's close to my heart.

Most of these songs are dreadful, it's true. But others are underappreciated pop gems that deserve a closer look.

The thumbs-down songs largely speak for themselves. What is there to say about, say, the almost eerie soullessness (and palpable sense of effort) of Gweneth Paltrow's recent foray into singing?

Or the unbearable tinny monotony of Kim Kardashian's debut single?

they playin my jam they playin my jam they playin my jam they playin my jam they playin my jam they playin my jam they playin my jam they playin my jam turn it up turn it up turn it up turn it up turn it up turn it up dj

Or even Scarlett Johansson's cover of "Falling Down" from her album of nothing but Tom Waits covers (besides the fact that it is, objectively, one of the worst songs of all time?)

Ugh. Okay. Have a little ginger or something to cleanse your palate, and get ready for the good ones.

"Stars Are Blind" by Paris Hilton (2006)

I know what you're thinking. But listen to it first.

Tell me that isn't an effortless, chill, beachy, summery song. Nice reggae vibe without trying to riff too hard on Bob. The video is a not-entirely-successful ripoff of "Wicked Game" but I gotta say, I'm not mad at it. I think this song represents Paris Hilton at her most likeable. I realize that this is a low bar but I stand by my statement. And I'm not alone on this one: critics kind of can't help but like it.

"Rumors" by Lindsay Lohan (2004)

This video was shot at the height of Lilo's voluptuous redheaded appeal. She's 18 years old, famous as all get out, and feisty as hell.

Okay, the song is kind of meh. But the video is pure mid-2000s poppery, from the blatant product placement to the miniskirt-intensive rooftop choreographed breakdown at the end.

Basically, this video is a must-watch for anyone who considers themselves a fan of either (1) shiny things or (2) boobs.

She's no Madonna, but she comes off looking pretty cool, at least by 2004 standards. Compared to her film career, I think we have to chalk this one up as a modest success. ...is modest the right word?

"So Yesterday" by Hilary Duff (2003)

Hilary Duff was sixteen when "So Yesterday" came out, and I think it's surprisingly age-appropriate.

Can you believe how dressed she is in the video? After watching "Rumors," Hilary looks like a nun in her jeans and long-sleeved jacket.

What can I say? Ever since I first heard this song's clever phrasing and reassuring message, it's been one of my secret go-to cheer-me-up songs.

(Confidential to Hilary Duff: The teeshirt thing was creepy.)

Readers, I leave you with a quandry. A Jennifer Love quandry.

If you don't remember this song, don't fret. It's not early dementia. This song peaked at 124 on the American pop charts in 2002. I am fairly certain that I am probably one of twelve people on Earth who are aware of this song.

I truly can't decide if this song should be chalked up as a win or a lose for Jennifer Love Hewitt. The song is pretty bad, as is the video. But, she's wearing a fierce outfit and seems to be trying out a little bit of an edge, which is commendable. Most importantly, I heard this song probably three times when it came out in 2002 and I've never forgotten it. As an editor, I know that "memorable" is one of the best compliments you can give to a piece of artwork.

JLH has a pretty illustrious acting career. She was on Kids Incorporated, for pete's sake. Does "BareNaked" [editor's note: yes, this is actually how the title of the song is styled] live up to her acting resume?

Your vote.

Discussion Question:
"BareNaked" by Jennifer Love Hewitt: a Jennifer Love win or a Jennifer Love lose?

quidquid quidquid, always tackling today's relevant issues.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Guest post: The Outsider's Guide to the New Englander

Today's guest post comes to us from my friend Molly of Wicked Cheap in Boston, who could no longer stand idly by as I maligned her native culture with my Southern ramblings. She offers a valuable counterpoint to my extensive whining documentation of my culture shock as a native Southerner living in Boston.

I grew up in New Hampshire, and took the 60 mile trek south to land in Boston for college and beyond. I've been away from New England for a total of less than two months of my entire life. I like it here. I like the people. I usually like the weather. So when somebody starts to talk smack on my native land I take it personally.

I've heard it all - New Englanders are rude, Boston drivers are clueless, Southie accents are horrible, Red Sox fans are the worst. I'm here to tell you IT'S WRONG. ALL OF IT. (Except maybe the drivers part.)

So, because I'm so nice and not-rude, I've put together a little something to help you all (excuse me, "y'all") out:

Molly's Wicked Awesome Outsider's Guide To The New Englander

1. What you may deem as "rude" is really just a general distaste for small talk.

Now, I like to think of myself as a polite and friendly person. But I am not about to start making conversation with a stranger just for the sake of talking. It's simply not in my genes. If someone asks me a question (I'm a magnet for lost tourists needing directions), I'll gladly answer, maybe even ask where they're from. But chit chatting about the weather or "how about those Sox?" No. NOOO.

I know I share this trait with a great many of my fellow New Englanders. I have my theories as to why. We walk, talk, generally function a little bit faster up here because you never know when the next blizzard is about to hit. It may be June but a Nor'Easter is just around the bend and I have to get my lawn chairs and orange cones out to block my parking space I DON'T HAVE TIME TO TALK. I like to think of it less as rudeness and more as EFFICIENCY. (Though it could go either way in the example of my dad ending every phone call with an abrupt "good enough!" and a click.)

The best compliment I ever received from a stranger came a few years ago. Waiting at a bus stop, an older gentleman walked over and sat by me. I was nose deep in a book (an extremely popular "this means I don't want to talk to you" device), when he said, "excuse me, I won't bother you anymore after I say this, but you have really beautiful hair." Now THAT is how you compliment a New Englander. The promise that the forced conversation does not have to follow. Straight and to the point. And not at all rude.

If you're wearing any Yankees paraphernalia, all bets are off. You asked for it.

2. Just give the accent a chance

First: The Harvard Yard is not a parking lot. That's not cute anymore. Second: the thick Boston accent is not nearly as prevalent or as exaggerated as Hollywood would have you believe.

Leo, I love you, but lets leave the dropped R's to Marky Mark.

Let me show you how it's done.

But I promise, just listen to some townies for a while, you'll learn to love it.

3. While we're on the subject of speech - nobody in Beantown actually calls it Beantown

We do say wicked, but never "wicked pissah." I have no idea where that even came from. If you're in the 'burbs, you get your Sam Adams at the Packy (though in the city its still called a Liquor Store because we don't want to confuse the college kids). The T includes the subway, bus, commuter rail and ferries but most people are just referring to the subway (which is awful). Ask for a reguluh coffee at Dunk's and they'll give you cream and sugar. The B's and C's both play in the Gahdin, but the Sox are over at Fenway Pahk. All set?

4. If you haven't tried candlepin bowling yet, you really should

5. Nobody cares about you, soccer

Yes, New England has a professional soccer team (and lacrosse for that matter). No, I've never met or heard of anyone who cares about them. It's all about Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics, Patriots. If you're gonna live here, choose one or more and stick with it. Or at least respect the fact that you moved to a sports culture and things are gonna get FIERCE. Boston sports teams go through long phases of being just awful. Then improving for a few years, then breaking our hearts again. There's a whole psyche around being a Sox fan. I may or may not have a baseball related tattoo. I'm just saying. Fans can get rambunctious and annoying at times, but it doesn't last forever. Enjoy it, get involved, paint your face.


And that, friends, is all you need to know. Now get outta my way and quit hogging the sidewalk.

Discussion Question:
What would you want an outsider to know about your native culture?

Monday, June 13, 2011

the true meaning of "all set"

In this post from last month, one of many discussions on this blog about my experience as a lifelong Southerner moving to Boston, I mentioned the odd way that Bostonians use the phrase "all set."

I had definitely heard people say "all set" before I moved up here and, I probably even said it myself from time to time. But I had never heard it used with such a frequency until I moved up here. Bostonians say it CONSTANTLY. You might hear the following conversation at Dunkin Donuts.

CUSTOMER: I'll have a coffee.
CASHIER: You want a donut or are you all set?
CUSTOMER: No I'm all set.
CASHIER: Okay that's $1.25.
[money and coffee are exchanged]
CUSTOMER: Okay am I all set?
CASHIER: You're all set.

Am I exaggerating? Not really.

As I mentioned in the aforementioned post, I did some Googling and found several discussions online about this peculiarity of Bostonian speech, both on Urban Dictionary and on message boards.

There's a lot of discussion online about how difficult non-Bostonians find it to understand the many shades of meaning of the phrase. After all, the word set has 464 definitions in English, making it the word with the most definitions out of all the hundreds of thousands of words in our strange language. The phrase literally could not be more ambiguous.

"All set" seems to have a range of meanings, from "okay as I am" to "ready" to "finished." This site even cites a third-generation South Bostonian who uses it when people break up: Teresa's all set with that guy, he was an ahhshole.

I had a major realization the other day. All of the many meanings of "all set" converge into one single idea: not wanting to interact with someone any further.

Yes, it's true. This phrase is used constantly in Boston because everyone hates to talk to strangers.

"Are we all set?" means "Can we stop talking now?"

"I'm all set." means "I would like to stop talking to you now." or even "Stop talking to me."

Let's revisit the Dunkin Donuts scene.

CUSTOMER: I'll have a coffee.
CASHIER: You want a donut or are are we almost finished talking?
CUSTOMER: No donut, just stop talking please.
CASHIER: Okay that's $1.25.
[money is exchanged, coffee is handed.]
CUSTOMER: Okay are we done interacting?
CASHIER: Yes thank God.

Oh, New England. Y'all crazy.

It's 55 degrees and raining today. I think I'm all set with this weather.

Discussion Question:
What's your favorite regional verbal tic?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

dancin in the dark

At a Paul Simon concert in Toronto on May 7th, fan Rayna Ford screamed out a request for the song "Duncan," calling out that she had learned to play the guitar on the tune. Paul heard her and pulled her up on stage to have her sing the song. I dare you to watch this and not choke up a little:

Thanks to Sammy Jane Allison for linking me to this great story about it on NPR.

You can feel the soaring joy and trembling disbelief as she straps Paul's guitar on and starts strumming along. She finds her rhythm as she goes, but her performance punctuated with irrepressible moments of giddy gratitude. She can't believe it. Paul Simon is watching her play "Duncan." She brings the house down with tears streaming down her face.

It's hard not to imagine yourself in the same position. Admit it. You've been fantasizing over it ever since the first time you saw Bruce Springsteen pull Courteney Cox onstage in the "Dancing in the Dark" video.

How impossibly young and gorgeous are they in this video??

It's so easy to imagine it. I'm a few rows back at a Lil Wayne concert, wired on sheer excitement and squinting through the plumes of smoke issuing out of the fog machine. Between songs, I scream out SWIZZZZZZZYYYYY! PLAY SWIZZY! Weezy squints out at the audience with his hands shielding his eyes from the stage lights, wondering who has requested such a deep track--a true fan. He catches sight of me and grins, the rainbow of pulsing lights glinting off his grill. Out of nowhere, the helicopter-chop crescendo of the beginning of the track booms out of the wall of speakers. Weezy points at me and gestures for me to join him on stage, laughing. I point at myself (who, me?) and then laugh, shaking my head (no, I couldn't) as my friends push me up towards the stage.

I jump up on stage with the help of a few refrigerator-sized security guards. I give Weezy the most effortless hip-hop hand-clasp-then-hug greeting with a familiar smile and a wink, and then like magic a golden mic appears in my hand. I'm a little taller than Weezy, so I throw my arm around his shoulder, resting on his dreads, as I furiously spit the opening lines:

You know me I just be chillin in the Phantom
Listenin to opera
Gun is my bodyguard
Call it Kevin Costner

Weezy laughs in disbelief at my unexpectedly tight flow. He slugs me on the shoulder jovially to indicate his appreciation, mouthing the words as I rapid-fire spit them like I've been practicing for this every day of my life. (Which I definitely haven't.)

When I reach the final lines (WEEZY THE BEAST! KATIE THE MONSTER! And we're gone.), Weezy lifts his chain off of his neck and places it around mine. There are so many diamonds on it that it actually makes a soft bling blingbling sound. The crowd loses it, nearly knocking us backwards with their adoration. Weezy and I forget the encore and head straight to his bus to start working on my album.

Bonus: scroll up and watch Bruce and Courteney dance to "Swizzy."

Discussion Question::
Which musician would you most want to be pulled onstage by?

Friday, May 13, 2011

on the value of useless trinkets

I read an article today that filled me with total delight: What Your American Girl Doll Says About the Rest of Your Life. I don't necessarily agree with the conclusions of the article, but who cares. Let's talk about American Girl dolls.

I had a Samantha doll for whom I purchased Molly glasses. I didn't particularly connect with the Victorian orphan's story, but she had brown eyes and brown hair like me, so she was in.

I had a variety of little outfits for my nearsighted orphan: a beautiful pink striped party dress, a navy winter coat with a snow-white muff, a crisp white summertime sailor suit, a stiff cranberry Christmas dress, and even a delicate nightgown.

photos from this American Girl collecting website

I read the little accompanying Samantha books too. They weren't particularly memorable aside from Samantha's birthday party, an elaborate affair featuring petit fours and home-churned ice cream, the latter of which is befouled with salt by evil neighbor Eddie. Not cool, Eddie. Not cool.

God knows what amount of whining I had to pitch for my parents to actually buy me some of Samantha's accessories. Anyone who is not familiar with the American Girl doll collection could not possibly believe how overpriced and useless these little trinkets are. I had a tiny doll (a doll for my doll!) and a tiny music box and a little brass lunch tin with a tiny plastic watercress sandwich and peach and a tiny embroidered handkerchief. But what really tickled my mom and me were the useless little kits.

I had two of these useless little kits. The Summertime Amusements set came with a tiny sketchbook, a tiny paint set with tiny tubes of real paint and a tiny artist's palette, and a tiny pine satchet that says "I Pine for You." This photo doesn't give a sense of scale, but the sketchbook is about the size of a business card.

Early 90s retail cost: $22
You thought I was kidding, didn't you.

Even more tempting was Samantha's Gingerbread House Kit, which came with impossibly small gingerbread pieces, a few tiny pieces of candy, a miniature pastry tube, and instructions for making the icing and assembling the whole thing.

Early 90s retail cost: $15
accessory photos from this alarmingly comprehensive American Girl dolls wiki

I'd beg and beg my mom to let me get into these kits and, I don't know, paint a teeny tiny picture in the sketchbook or (let's be real here) eat all of the stale component parts of the gingerbread house when my hammy little hands inevitably proved unable to assemble the tiny thing.

My poor mother. This was her:

Samantha still holds a place of honor in my childhood bedroom, all snugged up with my favorite stuffed snow leopard and a plastic Betty Boop doll who, characteristically, can't seem to keep her dress on. I guarantee that my mother could still put her hands on the still-pristine Summertime Amusements or Gingerbread Kit in five minutes flat if given the task. Guess whether or not she'd led me get into the kits if I asked her today.

So you can imagine my despair when I learned today that Samantha has been retired. Aw hell naw. But I am feeling grateful that my mom never let me tear into Samantha's accessories--I'll sell them on eBay one day to put my kids through college. Maybe it's time for a trip to Georgia, aka Doll Mecca, to visit Babyland General Hospital and then the American Girl Boutique and Bistro. Samantha can have a plastic watercress sandwich and get her hair did.

PS I have two relevant links to share: one which shares my sentiments exactly (and even makes a salty ice cream reference) and the first of eight YouTube videos of Samantha's movie, which I bet you never knew existed. In case you're wondering, yes, she does wear that sick signature checked dress in the very first scene.

Discussion Question: What overpriced silly stuff did you have as a kid?