Showing posts from September, 2007

living in a shoebox is good for your carbon footprint

Hey kids! Here’s a fun and disturbing game! Type your habits (living, driving, eating) into NPR’s Consumer Consequences calculator and find out how many Earths we’d need to sustain the human population if everyone lived like you. If everyone lived Cheryl-style, we’d need between 3.8 and 4.1 Earths (I was unsure about my food estimates, so I entered a couple of different numbers). Living in L.A. and driving a lot, I knew my transportation footprint would be like a size 12-Wide, but I was shocked that I have the eating habits of a seven-planet person. And I buy a lot of organic stuff! And don’t eat out that much! Well, at least not for an urban girl on the go! Okay, I doth protest too much. Time to hit the farmer’s market and lay off the coffee. But who would have guessed that my purely economic lifestyle “choice”—living in a tiny apartment that doesn’t use a lot of gas or electricity—would be my greatest contribution to a sustainable world?

the apex and the tangents

Saturday was arguably our best book group meeting yet because an amazing seven out of nine people had finished the book. Our stats up till now have been more like six out of 12. So first of all, a shout-out to Colson Whitehead for writing a book that was only 211 pages. Unfortunately, only three and half of the seven really enjoyed the book, Apex Hides the Hurt . I count myself as the half. I chose the book because I loved Whitehead’s previous novels, The Intuitionist and especially John Henry Days . My lesser love for Apex makes me wonder if my tastes have changed or if the book is a departure—I can’t say it’s a lesser work because it seems to accomplish exactly what it sets out to. As tightly written as advertising copy, Apex is, well, an allegorical send-up of advertising copy. The novel’s nameless protagonist is a “nomenclature consultant,” the guy who dubs new sleep aids “Drowsatin,” coffee chains “Admiral Java” and—his greatest triumph—multicultural band-aids “Apex.” Bu

someone cooler than me vs. the audience

Is this what goes through writers’ heads at readings? It’s what goes through Tao Lin ’s head, and while I usually feel a little more, uh, organic about the whole process, I have (as both a writer and an audience member) noticed a tension between questions and answers. The desire to ask the perfect question. The desire to give the least predictable answer. Both sides wanting alte rn ately and sometimes simultaneously to endear and challenge. Just reading the article, I felt envious of how creative and observant and postmode rn and Miranda July -ish Lin is. Which made me hate him a smidge too—both invalidly (because he appears to be cooler than me) and validly (because his honesty has an unfriendliness about it, and sometimes cleverness looks a lot like gimmickry).

zoo story

The only place more fun than the Old Zoo Picnic Area in Griffith Park is the new (if you consider post-1930s new) L.A. Zoo , where AK, her sister Lori, and Lori’s husband Canny and I went on Sunday. Like any good L.A. tourist destination, it has celebrity appeal. Reggie the escape-artist alligator greeted us at the front entrance, all green-black scales and unassuming expression. It was clear, though, that he was just biding his time until he could rally his crew and take the whole place down. We theorized that he’d make the goats do all the work, then eat them. This is just a reenactment. This is not Reggie, but an older, tougher gator they keep at the back of the park. This old warrior doesn’t even need prove himself anymore. He’s all, Reggie, shmeggie. Did I ever tell you about the zookeeper I ate in ’65? Even the zebras were violent. (It’s hard to tell from the picture, but I swear that’s a fight, not hot zebra lovin’.) But I’m a girl. I can’t help liking the pretty anima

organic plastic

Although there was a time in my life where I found myself watching The Bird Cage whenever it came on TV—not so much because it was so funny but because its bright colors and cheerful gayness were as comforting as hot chocolate—I sort of thought I was over drag queens. Okay, camp, got it…fierceness, got it…making us look at ourselves to realize all gender is performance, got it…. But Friday night at Highways , Plastilina made me rethink my dismissal of drag. Neither beauty queen kitschy-pretty nor Divine grotesque, her costume was one part Frida Kahlo, one part sea witch, one part antique lamp. Its ingredients included a red, ripped fishnet leotard, turquoise bustier, sparkly cape and lots of roses. I would have swooned with envy during my college days, when my dream was to dress like a Rent chorus girl, but even then I would never have been able to pull it off. Plastilina sang sad Spanish ballads in an unabashedly deep, convincingly lovelo rn voice that carried across the str

not loving my neighbors so much

For all my talk of lovely fall weather, not-so-lovely fall traffic is kicking my ass. Well, technically it’s expanding my ass, because my ass spends way too much time planted in the bucket seat of a Honda Civic. Good thing I just joined a gym. (After quitting the disastrously managed Bally’s in a huff, I talked to my poor 24 Hour Fitness rep like a been-bu rn ed-before lover still obsessed with her ex: “How often to you guys update your class schedules online? Because certain other gyms never update them, and when you go to take a class, it’s not happening and the staff acts like the mistake is a weird fluke that has never occurred before.”) Anyway, two hours of traffic hell on Wednesday mo rn ing unleashed an evil spirit I’d been carrying around inside of me. I left AK a frantic phone message and then, when I got to the office and still couldn’t cool down, emailed her twice just to describe my misery, including the strangling-alien scream I let out around Washington and Nat

layin’ down some tracks

Although the recording studio was a converted garage in Steph’s backyard, it was actually very professional inside, with fancy-looking equipment and original sketches by animators from some of the shows she’d recorded there. The first thing I thought when I put on my headphones and sat down in front of the mic to record one of my stories was, I feel like Ashlee Simpson. “I feel like I’m on This American Life , ” I told Stephanie, because TAL is a spoken word show and I wasn’t doing any singing. Also, it sounded like a smarter reference. Also , I have a sort of sinus-y voice (“I can hear your nose whistling like the wind,” Steph observed upon playback) that could only ever hope to find a home on NPR. Stephanie had me read various lines over and over in different ways—she’s a good acting coach as well as a person who understands what the Richter-like lines on her sound-engineer software mean. Then she showed me how she could splice everything together to make it sound like I re

hail tomato

It’s happened. I’ve joined the Cult of the Heirloom Tomato. This cult has strong cells in Santa Monica , West Hollywood and Silver Lake , and last night I discovered that it’s infiltrated South Pasadena . It began innocently enough. A few days after my mom died in 2003, when flowers and cards were pouring in, my friend Heather brought me a Miss Piggy candy cane and vegetables from her dad’s garden. Clearly, Heather was a friend who Got It. The vegetables included a few zucchini and the most delicious homegrown tomato I’d ever tasted. I sliced it up, salted it and ate it for lunch that day. Looking back on it, cults always prey on the desperate, don’t they? For the most part, I’ve been content to buy flavorless grocery store Romas. I don’t live near a farmer’s market , and I’m not in the Whole Foods income bracket, so temptation alluded me. But then Ralphs on La Brea started carrying heirloom tomatoes. Once upon a time, a perfectly round, red, machine-ripened tomato that

taking the mock out of documentary

I’ve been seeing a lot of movies lately, partly for the air conditioning (if only OC and T-Mec could come with me instead of being stuck in my hot apartment—but OC would meow through the whole movie and T-Mec would get disgusted because she’d know she could have directed it better if only she had opposable thumbs). Also because I’ve just been craving that good, satisfying, I-just-saw-a-great-movie experience. Said experience has something to do with the quality of the movie, but just as much to do with my mood and the way the theater smells. I love creaky old movie theaters that smell like stale popco rn and wood polish. The new Landmark West Los Angeles was the opposite, what with its stadium seating and bamboo ketchup packet holders, but King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters was the right kind of movie for my right kind of mood. The story this documentary tells is at once classic (wide-eyed newcomer Steve Wiebe takes on cocky game-master Billy Mitchell) and quirky (d

of erins and air conditioning

I’ve had a string of good writing hours lately (and by “good,” I don’t necessarily mean that the writing I’ve been doing is good—I won’t know that until much later—just that I’ve felt awake and inspired while doing it). I attribute this to the following: 1. Coffee. Always. 2. Reading Like Son , which, despite its flaws—or perhaps because of them—makes me want to boot up my laptop and write as soon as I get five pages into it. It’s an uneven and sometimes unsatisfying book, but it’s also full of spark and poetry and lovely layers of history. 3. It’s so hot that I haven’t worked out for more than a week. While writing and working out meet different needs, they’re both the Things I Do When I Have Free Time And Am Not Feeling So Lazy That I Must Lose Myself In The Current Issue Of Elle (which, by the way, has the best interview with Lindsay Lohan I’ve read [the link only links to half the article]; the journalist is steeped in enabler-guilt, and I always relate to the guilt-ridde