Friday, April 28, 2006

You've Got To Be Kidding Me Part 898

From the Times just now:

U.N. Agency Cuts Food Rations for Sudan Victims
By LYDIA POLGREEN 8 minutes ago
The U.N. food program said it had received just a third of the $746 million it had requested from donor nations.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Rory Gilmore Would Have Never Done That.

One more reason why Yale remains my Imaginary Ivy Friend of choice--yes, Kaavya Viswanathan.

Apparently, she told the Times back in February, she wanted to be an investment banker when she finished college. She is a college sophomore who has made $500,000 before she graduated for what may turn out to be essentially doing nothing. Which actually, now that I think about it, is what investment banking is. It may be, as has been suggested elsewhere, that the packager who brought her to Little, Brown and who owns half the copyright to the book got a ghostwriter to actually write the thing. This is also a young woman whose parents seem to have had enough money to spend tens of thousands of dollars to buy a counselor who could help her get into an Ivy.

From the Times:

It was unclear whether Harvard would take any action against Ms. Viswanathan. "Our policies apply to work submitted to courses," said Robert Mitchell, the director of communications for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. "Nevertheless, we expect Harvard students to conduct themselves with integrity and honesty at all times."

Harvard's policies only apply to work submitted to courses because until the 21st century, all a college student was expected to do was Drink, start a band, date the wrong people, listen to the wrong music, get things wrong, in a good way, in an extra-curricular non-credit way-- while getting your academic work (largely) right.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My City Was Gone

It's like Sybil around here sometimes, isn't it? Forgive me. Anyway, I just discovered that Jane Jacobs, the author of The Death and Life of American Cities, passed away today. She was 89, and though was born in Scranton, PA, and lived for a time in the West Village, which she writes about lovingly in the aforementioned book, she died in Toronto. She moved there when she didn't want her taxes supporting the Vietnam War. That hit home, as I type, being that we just passed the ides of April. The Festival of the IRS. Should we start a holiday tradition, to coincide with Passover, where people gather around tables to eat bitter herbs and unleavened bread, the only thing we can afford to eat now that we wrote our check out?

But I digress.

Jacobs' book should be given to everyone running a city, or even a suburb. I mean, they wouldn't read it, of course, but I feel if they did read that book, and thought about the small scales she advocated, council members and mayors might get less hoodwinked into thinking that sports stadiums (this means you, Ratner, you evil, evil man) and malls and chain stores were what people wanted out of cities. Perhaps Bloomberg would even wrest the control of the MTA from the state, the way he wrested control of the schools from the city, whatever the hell that really means. I think about this constantly, but I feel in the last year the process has been speeding up. I look at storefronts around Park Slope and Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, and if there's a whiff of age or slight obsolesence (shoe store that's been there for decades, Italian bakeries making cakes like the ones you would get as a kid in the suburbs, Puerto Rican/Dominican restaurants serving longtime residents chicken soup and cafe con leches) you can almost be sure you won't see it within the next week.

From the AP bio, via the Times:

Her impact transcended borders. Basing her findings on deep, eclectic reading and firsthand observation, Jacobs challenged assumptions she believed damaged modern cities -- that neighborhoods should be isolated from each other, that an empty street was safer than a crowded one, that the car represented progress over the pedestrian.

Her priorities were for integrated, manageable communities, for diversity of people, transportation, architecture and commerce. She also believed that economies need to be self-sustaining and self-renewing, relying on local initiative instead of centralized bureaucracies....

Jacobs thought cities suffered from an anti-city bias among planners, the romanticization of a more rural way of life. Because of this, she wrote, vital communities were being torn down simply because they were "crowded," other neighborhoods were fatally isolated and parks were being constructed without regard to their surrounding environment.

I do feel that currently people who run cities have forgotten what made them cities in the first place--the crowdedness, the unpleasantness, the oddball citizens and corners, the small, the iconoclastic, the illicit, the flourishing of the somewhat superfluous and irrelevant. If cities can't and won't give harbor to these things, where else can they go? Who else will? I'm worried.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Keep Your Yoga Pants On.

It's sort of alarming, the number of borderline immodestly dressed smug pregnant women parading around my neighborhood. I feel like I'm seeing more and more pregnant women all over the city with their naked stomachs protruding from beneath their expensive James Perse t-shirts and their Baby Phat velour hoodies. More than, say, in 2005, and that was bad enough. The daffodils are out, so are lady stomachs. Good Lord! It makes my own stomach hurt just thinking about their skin straining over the life-to-be in there. Mmmphr. I know I sound like Dave Barry, but it has been making me see white. As in inducing not a red, but an absence-of-all-colors sort of rage.

On the topic: was talking to a good friend of mine about this woman, Stephanie Klein, who apparently wrote a blog about her husband leaving her while pregnant. And...what do you know, she got a book deal because of it! Regan Books, bien sur. It's called Straight Up and Dirty? Or something that unsubtle. I guess I should Google this before I write about it. Anyway, my friend, while discussing it, said, regarding the proliferation of this sort of thing, "Sometimes I forget there's a whole other level of discourse."

I thought that was perfect, so I will share it with all of you. All two of you.

Sometimes I hate my own sex. Wait--I often hate my own sex. And I'll just leave that there and move quietly on.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My Phone's On Vibrate For You. Or, Cavalcade of Stars.

This one's for my sister. So tonight my friend A., the dance critic, took me to see some dance, with music by Rufus Wainwright. Who I like a great deal, but who my sister loves. In the cold light of...a subway ride and a cheese sandwich, the dance, while enjoyable, didn't really matter, because while parts of it were beautiful (the Wainwright parts), some other parts were bullshit (the part where the booming-over-the-tinny-speakers Rite of Spring threatened to obliterate the dancers, who were up to a lot of soundless fury, etc.). The choreographer was Stephen Petronio, with some costumes by Tara Subkoff. Wainwright composed three (?) songs, two set to lines from Whitman (Unseen buds, infinite, hidden well and The Modern man I sing, the last to lines from Dickinson (Hope is the thing with feathers). No instruments, just his voice, layering one part over the next. Wonderful. This and Bach's St. Matthew Passion in under two weeks! We sat right in front of him. He was wearing a dark striped shirt tucked into black jeans, and a black vest with some sort of brooch on it. Like a sheriff's star, but not--? Anyway, he was nervous, it seemed. When the lights went down, I heard him utter, sighing, "Oh, boy." As in here we go, I hope this turns out alright. Then during a pause he said to the friend he was with--"Where'd my water go? Did you drink it all? You did? Oh, I could really use some!" Then his friend said look, it's just fantastic, or something like that. Poor thing. His mother, Kate McGarricle, was next to him. Then--and I couldn't figure out whether this other person was being serious or sarcastic--his mother asked this other person if he was making a movie. And the person said, in a British accent, "Oh, yeah, I'm in this thing with Russell and Nicole. Some Australian cowboy thing, set in the thirties." But wait! Rushing into the auditorium to take my seat I was behind Lou Reed and his Downtown Queen Consort Laurie Anderson. Or maybe he's her Downtown Queen Consort--? Anyway, I was right behind them. They're both tiny and skinny, like a pair of wax beans. He seemed doddering, like a 75-year-old man. ("That's what you get for doing heroin," said my friend A. "That's one good thing about growing up in Berkeley," she added. "You get to see what years of drug use looks like, so that you want to live healthy.") Wrinkly, but not grey-haired. In a long madras-ish plaid blazer with zippers where pockets should be and maybe some pale jeans. She wore, as to be expected, some satiny chinoisey bell-shaped grey jacket, hair regulation spiked. His hair curls up in a wiry, spiky way at the back of his neck. Reader, I stared at it to remember it always. Because while he might have had the Factory, I have his neck in the lobby of the Joyce. He came up the aisle where were seated and was talking to a black guy that maybe was--not Andre Leon Talley, but someone who I knew I knew--and said, I swear to God, "Do you remember Ingrid Sischy? Do you remember we had dinner at her father's place that time?" As if that wasn't enough, Leelee Sobieski was there. I had a hard time explaining to A. who she was, because I had forgotten why we even knew about her in the first place. I once upon a time saw Baryshnikov with A., and even in the lobby of that theatre, with a trench and a baseball cap on, I saw exactly why Jessica Lange married him. Did I mention that I left the house, realizing way too late to change, that I was wearing the jeans and coat I had worn to Easter vigil at a church in the city and the candles we held blurped wax on them?

Meanwhile, while I was out, 70 people hung over the East River in the Roosevelt Island tram. Goodness. Hope they're alright. That's exactly why I've never taken it, though I've long wanted to. Also, the Spanish family that rules the corner of St. Mark's and Fifth brought out the card table and dominos tonight, so that means summer has officially arrived.

Yes. Oh Yes.

This was on the front page of the Times' website last night. The frequency with which they post these sorts of pictures on the front page of the site leads me to believe that the Grey Lady employs people who, just like myself, get cheap thrills from looking at our friends the animals and their goofball mugs.

Heads. Tails. No, Do Over.

Just heard this today, via NPR; it's Bush talking at a Rose Garden event about Rumsfeld and why he won't be booted:

"I'm the decider. And I decide what's best and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain the Secretary of Defense."

Is it me, or does Bush yet again sound like some dork on the schoolyard choosing teams, trying to explain why he picked the runt in the lineup? Or a four-year-old trying to convince his mom that he needs to wear two different shoes to preschool?

Found similar from the halcyon days of June 2000, before everything went to hell. Also a funny bit about how we'll all know how he's decided. What an idiot frat boy. It helps a little just to say it. What an idiot frat boy. God. From CNN:

QUESTION: Governor, there's been some talk you're going to have a committee to go over the vice presidential prospects. Do you think it's going to be much more of personal decision...


BUSH: Yes, there's no committees.

QUESTION: Is it you and Mr. Cheney?

BUSH: Yes, somebody said we're running focus groups to determine who the vice president ought to be. Forget it, it's not happening. This decision process is about how I make decisions.

BUSH: And I'm a good decider, I know how to make decisions.


BUSH: Because it's going to be my vice president, and, again, I don't need a committee to figure out who is best to be the vice president. And I'm going to take my time, and I'm going to decide, and I'll make a good decision. And I haven't decided yet.

My body language would probably be different if I decided. You'll be able to detect it right off the bat. And then you'll be saying, you've decided but you won't tell. And nor have I decided when I'm going to announce. I'm going to take my time and make a very thorough decision.

Well, it's always a pleasure. See you later.

HEMMER: And with the developing press briefing out of Canton, Ohio with George W. Bush.

Friday, April 07, 2006

What Michigan Knew

This is from The Sportswriter, by Richard Ford, which I'm in the middle of reading right now. It also (like the below) takes place in New Jersey. And there's a spell in Detroit, which this passage is taken from.

Far out crowded Grand River I am struck by what seems like thousands of restaurants, and by how dedicated the population is to going out to eat. As much as cars, meals are what's on people's minds. Though there is a small and heart-swelling glory to these places--chop houses, hofbraus, rathskellers, rib joints, cafes of all good quality. Part of life's essence is here. And on a brooding spring eve, a fast foray out to any one of them can be just enough to make any out-of-the-way loneliness bearable another nighttime through. In most ways, I can promise you, Michigan knows exactly what it's doing. It knows the enemy and the odds.

John Updike Wrote This

From his new novel Terrorist. This is a love scene between a 63-year-old guidance counselor and the mother of a fundamentalist teen he's concerned about.

"Jesus," says Jack Levy. "This is what life is all about. I'd forgotten, and never expected anybody to remind me." Thus guardedly, in these circumstances, without naming her, he pays tribute of a sort to his wife, who long ago had her turn at showing what life was all about.

Teresa Mulloy, naked beside him, agrees. "It is," but then adds, in self-protection, "but it doesn't last." Her face, with its round shape and slightly protuberant eyes, is flushed so that her freckles blend in, pale brown on pink.

A few seconds later--Ed.

Her rosy flush becomes the high color that follows the sting of a rebuke, a facing of her defenselessness in this dead-end adventure, another married boyfriend. He will never leave his fat Beth, and would she want him to in any case? He is twenty-three years older than she is, and she needs a man to last her the rest of her life.

Summer has attained July's swelter in New Jersey, but even so, feeling the air as cool on their love-flushed skins, the lovers have drawn up the top sheet, rumpled and damp from having been beneath their bodies. Jack sits up against the pillow, exposing the slack muscles and grey froth of his chest, and she with lovable bohemian immodesty, has pulled her side of the sheet no higher, so her breasts, white as soap where the sun never touches them, jut free for him to admire and to feel the heft again if he desires....When in fucking she sits on his lap, impaling herself on his erection, he feels the colors reflected from her walls flow down her sides along with his hands, her elongating, rib-filled, preening, Irish-white sides. With Beth, he can't imagine her weight on his pelvis, or her legs spread far enough apart; they have run out of positions, except for the spoon, and even there her huge ass pushes him away like a jealous child in their bed.

Alrighty. That's probably enough. Oh wait--a few more paragraphs later there's this:

She tugs with one hand and then with both the bit of nylon smartly up; the cedar-colored patch of frizzy hair puffs out, in its moment of capture, above the elastic waistband like the head on a suddenly poured beer.

I hope I haven't offended anybody. But I came across this at work, and could not believe how unintentionally hilarious this was. Is this classic Updike? I feel like I should stop admitting just what Important Fiction I haven't read around here, should I ever want to write for The New Yorker, but whenever I've tried to read Updike, other than his criticism, a fog descends, and I roll over and go back to sleep, ample laps and breasts floating before my eyes like terrorizing sunspots. I suppose I was also scandalized by the awful earthbound tin-eared cliched nature of the sex scene--it reminded me of that scene in Match Point where Jonathan Rhys-Myers hovers above Scarlett Johansson with a Costco-sized bottle of oil in a tableau that is meant to signify the Unhingedly Sensual. But what it really signifies is A Septugenarian Thinks This Is Unhingedly Sensual. By the way, whenever I hear the word "sensual" I get a feeling that whatever it's describing is more clinical than anything else.