Showing posts from September, 2011

coming late to the bake sale debate, and other lazy activism

1. ward, my old frenemy Ward Connerly was on the radio this morning, speaking against Senate Bill 185, which would allow public universities in California to consider race as a factor in admissions once again. Recently, Connerly has made headlines via cupcake-based performance art (who knew he and Karen Finely had so much in common?), a story I only caught the tail end of. Mostly, I remember that name from my own UC days. He was the villain in UCLA’s hottest controversy, which was affirmative action. I started college as a moderate conservative who thought affirmative action was unfair because the only (apparent) beneficiaries I knew had the same upper middleclass upbringing I did. A few years and many consciousness-raising classes disguised as “American lit” courses later, I was attending my first protest ever: a tent city set up in the courtyard between Royce Hall and Powell Library to protest Connerly’s pet proposition, 209. The night was sparkly. The tents looked like a fairy

cities beautiful

I’ve taken up a lot of server space in the blogosphere lately, so I’ll keep this short. (Also, I should go to bed.) But I just saw a great movie and you should see it too. Urbanized is a documentary that explores just what the hell we’re supposed to do with the fact that something like 75 percent of the world’s population will live in a city within the next few years. Mumbai has 36 million people, the majority of whom live in slums where there is one toilet per 900 people.* I like most documentaries because if they’re even halfway decently made, I learn something. But a lot of them either illuminate a terrible problem (and are therefore depressing) or are uplifting but only because they focus on one tiny triumph of the human spirit. It was really refreshing to see a movie about a problem no less serious than the exhaustion of our planet, that actually highlighted solutions. In Bogotá, a former mayor put bike lanes in the center of the streets and implemented a “subway on whee

9/24/11: drive and driving

We poked around downtown Whitefish, which is very Cute-with-a-capital-C, for a while, but everything was closing for the day and I didn’t need a $300 purple fringed jacket anyway (do I need a $20 purple fringed jacket? Possibly). So we went to the movie theater on the Not Cute southern end of town, in a mostly vacant mall that hadn’t seen a facelift since the ‘80s. We saw Drive and it was strange to see L.A. all lit up and infinite on screen as we sat there with one other couple in a tiny town in Montana. Drive was almost a good movie. I’m usually one to favor mood over plot, but we got the feeling that some scenes explaining huge coincidences in the story may have gotten cut to make room for long close-ups of Ryan Gosling’s slowly clenching fist. Also, Carey Mulligan’s character—a Denny’s waitress with a young son and a thing for bad boys—didn’t quite make sense. I think Carey Mulligan is hugely talented, and I loved An Education and Never Let Me Go , but she seemed mo

9/23/11: red rock and whitefish

This morning we hiked to Red Rock Falls, where we saw a moose (tall!) and some grizzlies (through a telescope!). This afternoon we checked into the Grou se Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, which has turned out to be posher than we realized. I spent some time in the Swiftcurrent giftshop yesterday reading this coffee table book about the great old lodges of the National Parks—they have their own architectural style, which his sort of rustic-lux. The Grouse Mountain Lodge is in that tradition. Everything in Whitefish seems to be, actually. There are lots of real estate offices. And the group of Canadian guys who checked in ahead of us, with their golf bags and spiky hair and Jersey Shore pecs on the verge of giving way to beer bellies, made me speculate that there was a douche bag convention in town. At AK’s urging, I’m reading A River Runs Through It . The narrator’s brother is this smart but super country bar-brawler guy. I hope the convention runs into him out on the town ton

9/22/11: take a hike

The great thing about wearing yourself out is that relaxing feels so incredible afterward. Right now AK is sitting next to me in the lobby of the inn (we’re staying in a cabin nearby), drinking a Coke and reading Vanity Fair and looking like the happiest girl in the world. Before that, we hiked 11 miles roundtrip to Grinell Glacier. When I was younger—even when I visited Malaysia—I remember thinking that Africa and continents with rainforests had really scored in the nature department. The flora and fauna of North America were just sort of…beige. But I would like to humbly rescind that assessment. Some things we saw on our hike: Another bear, which triggered my flight-or-photo mechanism. I was dubious about continuing on the trail, but we staked out a space between two other couples and decided there was safety in numbers. The couple in front, whom we nicknamed Northface, had cameras with telephoto lenses and seemed like they were trying to lose us. The other couple, rece

9/21/11: city mouse, country mouse

1. rush hour with bears Last night we ate dinner at a place called the Silk Road —and in case you’re wondering where Missoula keeps its fusion restaurants and funk stores, it’s on The Hip Strip. It’s actually called that. The Silk Road’s schtick is international tapas. It’s a pretty new restaurant and when we walked in, the host/possible manager or owner asked where we were from and proceeded to explain how tapas worked, then sort of half apologized, like, Oh, you’re from L.A., you must be cosmopolitan. (Other people just said, “Is there any time of day that isn’t rush hour?”) But the trying-so-hard vibe was friendly and the food would hold up to or surpass any place in L.A. For $26 plus tip, we had fried goat cheese ravioli, seared shrimp with grilled peaches, an amazing pile of savory French-ish mushrooms and a dessert appropriately named “The Bombe”—chocolate-covered sea salt-flavored ice cream cake. Then we walked along the river and watched the multigenerationa

9/20/11: keep missoula beered

1. zootown is my kinda town We landed in Missoula yesterday afternoon, and even though it took us an hour to locate our bags in the tiny airport, we could quickly tell this was a great town. The lone, harried employee at the Delta counter was as patient as a kindergarten teacher. Then again, not one of the dozens of people whose flights had been messed up due to some sort of snafu was making a stink. And when we asked the rental car place whether I could be added free as a driver, because AK and I are Canadian-married , he didn’t miss a beat before saying yes. Yesterday was our bumming-around-Missoula day. We hit a thrift store, explored downtown with its charming old cottages and winding river, and finished the day at the Iron Horse Brew Pub , a place with a menu after my own too-many-flavors heart: salsa-flavored sour cream! Honey pesto scallops! A cocktail called the chai-tini! Everyone gathered around the TV to watch the Charlie Sheen roast, where we were all blinded by S

glaciers and smokejumpers and bears, oh my

We just got back from Montana. The short version? We loved it. The long version? Read my travel journal in the next few posts.

sadly howling wolves

It was a regular, busy weekend in a lot of ways. AK and I babysat Kohana, which consisted mostly of keeping one ear on the baby monitor while we watched old episodes of Roseanne on TV. I went to a sort of Tupperware-party-for-clothes thing at my sister’s house. And we packed for our trip to Montana next week. But in the middle of all of that was Rachel’s memorial. The main one was in Denver , where she and Jeff and their kids moved about a year and a half ago, but they had roughly a thousand friends in L.A., so Jeff said goodbye twice. Or, more likely, he said goodbye quietly on his own and then endured as the rest of us attempted to wade through this absurd event. I imagine it’s like being drafted as the male lead in a really nightmarish play, this huge audience analyzing your performance. I don’t know, maybe it’s not like that at all. At first it just felt like a big barbecue, with really amazing tacos at the home of some people from Jeff and Rachel’s church. They live

a whole bill o’ wrongs

1. pettin’ in the park The other day, Peter of Plastic Bubble World shared this blog post from a self-proclaimed “scientist turned homemaker and joyful convert to Catholicism.” Here’s the executive summary: She’s seen a little same-sex PDA at her community pool and local park, and she’s terrified, because how will she protect her children’s innocence now? What is she supposed to tell her daughter when she befriends a child with two “mommies.” (Her quotation marks probably irk me more than anything. If you care for a child, you are a parent. Period.) Oh, and she’s also not down with the fact that her tax dollars fund “contraception, abortion, and IVF” and that an undocumented immigrant killed a child while driving drunk. I know a South Park fan who got a DUI, so I’m thinking South Park fans might be a danger to society too. Also, I would like the number of whatever government department or free clinic funds IVF, because maybe I can file some paperwork and get reimbursed.* Sorr

you’d think bloggers would just wear pajamas

When I started guest-blogging for Ironing Board Collective , I warned AK that I essentially had a new crush, and everything would remind me of a post I read on the site or one I was thinking about writing. Lord knows it’s given me an excuse to buy a bunch of new and new-old clothes, when in reality I just need the one shirt I’m wearing in my profile pic. All of which is to say: Bear with me. And, if you’re interested in fashion or such fashion-adjacent topics as Little House on the Prairie , the photography of Jacob Riis, kindergarten fashion faux pas, and naughty French maid outfits (<--that was not my kindergarten fashion faux pas, for the record), then head on over. My most recent post is sort of an elaboration on my reaction to MOCA’s street art exhibit , but with the 1890s standing in for the 1980s. Check it out and, if you’re moved to do so, leave a comment.

this night is a bust

“I heard the cops are trying to give lots of cell phone tickets before the 19 th ,” Nicole warned me at lunch. It could have been something she read on a news site or the seed of an urban legend; either way, I stayed off my phone on the long drive to Burbank, where the plan was to meet Sara at the mall (like middle school!) for a little shopping followed by a mojito (not like middle school, unless your middle school was much more advanced than mine). Sara had forgotten her cell phone that morning, so we came up with a very specific meet-up plan over email: Macy’s entrance to the mall, first floor, 7:30. If traffic slowed me down, she’d just shop in the general vicinity. I was just a few minutes late, but Sara was nowhere to be seen. I hung around house wares, craning my neck at all blondish heads. Various sales people asked if I needed help, and it occurred to me that I looked like a terrorist nervously casing the place. I’d just heard an NPR report about all the people

art, work

Happy Labor Day, y’all. I’ve had a four-day weekend, thanks to a wonderful East Coast invention called “summer Fridays,” and while it’s been refreshingly slow-paced, it has not been without labor. That’s the world we live in—there’s the job you do (if you’re lucky) for cash and benefits, and the various jobs you do for fun and Facebook “likes.” Or Wuffie, the currency of the reputation economy in Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. (For more on that and other August reads, see below.) AK has two papers due next week, so I popped open my laptop and worked next to her at my various pseudo jobs and personal projects. I felt a little bit like Maggie Simpson steering her toy wheel next to Marge in the opening credits of The Simpsons. How I labored: Finished a revision of Chapter 14 of the circus novel. The next one is mostly new material, so it should be more fun and a lot harder. Tinkered with the website I designed to convince birthmothers that AK and I are res

the help: in which i attempt to quote karl marx and alison bechdel

I was feeling skeptical about The Help for reasons articulated nicely by Raardvarks . It appeared to fall in a genre I call Slavery Is Bad—historical movies that let us feel good about taking the right side of an issue that was highly controversial in its time, which is kind of like betting on a race that’s already been run. Not to mention the whole Black People Becoming Liberated Only With The Aid Of White People/White People Finding Themselves With The Aid Of Magical Negroes issue. But while I was content to spend most of my undergraduate years being outraged by things I didn’t know anything about, I decided it might be interesting to actually see The Help before hating on it. We went this afternoon with AK’s parents. AK’s mom spent many years working in a middle school cafeteria, and although working at a school in your own community is really different from working as a domestic in the Deep South, AK thought she might relate to this story of working class women of c

pet peeve #521

First a disclaimer: I believe language is an evolving beast. “Queer” doesn’t mean the same thing now as it did in 1955, and it didn’t mean the same thing then as it did in 1855. I don’t think that Kids Today are going to destroy the planet with their texting or their sexting or their rap talk. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few grammatical pet peeves. Life seems to have imitated art in the years since Mad TV’s Clyde and Judith spewed elaborate similes and then defeated the whole point of metaphor by punctuating it with “Literally!” There are two ways that the rampant abuse of “literally” pisses me off. 1. The classic Clyde-and-Judith-style misuse, when what you really mean is “figuratively” (which is literally the opposite of “literally”!). Plum Sykes, the Vogue writer I look to anytime I’m not sure what to wear to Gwyneth Paltrow’s birthday party, opened her recent article about Tom Ford’s new cosmetics line by saying that he’s the one guy most women would “literally