Saturday, May 31, 2008

wedding afghan, completed!

invitations gone awry

Yours truly made a bit of a fool of herself the other morning.

I've decided, after surviving a rather emotionally tumultuous year and a half, to throw myself a big ol' birthday bash this year. I think I might even bake myself a cake. With icing. And possibly even candles. (Though probably not thirty-two of them.)

So I collected all of my NY friends' email addresses bright and early the other morning and sent out an invitation. I remembered to include all the requisite information. Date. Time. Location. Occasion. You know. All the basics.

It wasn't until I started getting responses that I realized my mistake. Apparently I'd invited everyone over at an ungodly hour of the morning, at least for most people after a Friday night.

Now for those of you who know me well, you'll also know that 8am might actually be preferable to 8pm for me, given my propensity for waking at the crack of dawn (this morning, for example, I was lugging a certain ex-boyfriend's extremely dusty and now-dysfunctional stereo down to the basement of my building well before seven o'clock). But for some reason I imagine an 8am party just wouldn't fly for most of my nearest and dearest.

Luckily for me, despite my embarrassment at this ever so itsy bitsy typo and the necessity for a correctional follow-up email, people either didn't seem to notice it, were too polite to mention it, or sent teasingly loving replies a la Michael's *returning the huge slab of bacon I just bought* or Chiung-Yin's suggestion that everyone come over early, spend the day, and cook me breakfast.

Thank god for good friends.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

midweek round-up

All sorts of happenings this week, from the sublime to the ridiculous and all the way on to the heartbreaking.

First, our own dear Governor Patterson recently climbed up a notch on my politicians-who-don't-always-suck totem pole with his recent directive to all New York State agencies to prepare for fully recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Of course there's the ever present anxiety and fear that the Republicans might challenge said directive, but I'm not sure what the challenge would be. Back in February a State Appellate Court ruled that NY has to recognize gay marriages from other states or countries, so Patterson's move is merely upholding a judicial ruling. Though I'm sure State Senator Bruno & his senate followers will find something to complain about.

Next up, Naomi Campbell just can't seem to stop getting into physical altercations with people. Now, as you can probably imagine, I'm not generally one to follow the fashion industry, or fashion at all, for that matter. But when a high-end celebrity supermodel can't seem to stop acting like a spoiled brat, I can't seem to stop being fascinated. Get it together, Naomi, or go back to kindergarten.

Also in the realm of the ridiculous, the Chinese premier debuted on Facebook earlier this week! How hip and youthful of him!

It seems the good people at the Times have a preoccupation with Portland, Oregon these days. They're not the only ones.

And here, one of the best headlines ever: Nude Man Accused in 10th-Floor Balcony Break-In

And here, an argument for stepdad Paul about the environmental benefits of urban living. My carbon footprint's smaller than yours! So there!

Robert Darnton, renowned historian and director of the Harvard University Library, and author of the fascinating Great Cat Massacre: and other episodes in French cultural history (the title story available, and well worth reading, online here) has an interesting piece in the current New York Review of Books called (and here my geekdom shows through yet again) The Library in the New Age.

Finally, and on a more serious note, U.S Withdraws Fulbright Grants to Gaza, meaning we are canceling scholarships to Palestinian students to come study in the United States because the Israeli government might not permit them to leave the Gaza Strip. Which seems like an incredibly bad PR move, not to mention a just plain unfair situation. The Fulbright Program is an amazing thing, offering not only the opportunity for American students to study abroad (my father in 1978, for example, thus our year in Germany), but also the opportunity for foreign students to come study here in America (Abdulrahman Abdullah, Hamas opponent, 30 years old, wants to earn an MBA, for example). Or, in its own words, the Fulbright program "was established in 1946 by the U.S. Congress to enable the government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries." Doesn't this seem like something that would be to everyone's benefit to encourage in the ongoing powder keg that is the Middle East? I understand the U.S. government's problem --- money, being the bottom line, wasted on students who might not be able to partake in the program. I'm not sure what the Israeli government's problem is.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

bridge, 5.27.08

'alice coombs and i soon learned... '

"Alice Coombs and I soon learned to do so many things together, including talk. We could even banter. Argue, if necessary. But we maintained a little cult of leaving things unsaid. Somehow we were wiser with our mouths shut, knew each other better."
-Jonathan Lethem, As She Climbed Across the Table

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

it's all relative

Bill McAllister came by the library yesterday afternoon to say hello. Somehow we ended up talking about weddings and he mentioned that had my father lived, he and my mother would have been married 40 years this June, the longest of anyone he's known.

I forget, sometimes, how very young my father was when he died so suddenly, there in the lobby of the Boys' & Girls' Club in Mount Kisco, New York.

I had a physical this morning, with a doctor I had not seen before. I haven't had a physical in years and years. Too many years, probably, given my family's occasional propensity for rather serious health problems. I have somewhat high blood pressure, slightly flat feet, and fifteen extra pounds to shed, but nothing too serious or life-threatening.

But the hardest part, the part that, embarrassingly enough, brought me to tears, was answering questions about my family medical history. I of course had to explain that my father had died of a heart attack, and the doctor's response, her shocked echo, the black mark in my file, took me by surprise. He was 46 years old, just shy of 47.

This April marked fifteen years since he died, and there are days, sometimes even consecutive days, when I don't think of him much. But this also took me by surprise, and the realization that I am a mere fifteen years younger than my father was at the time of his death.

He always seemed so old, so fatherly, even in his vibrancy and youthfulness. And here I am, catching up, ever narrowing the generation gap, wondering when I will achieve that solidity, that stability, that seemed to come so naturally to him, at least in his adolescent daughter's eyes.

'there are roughly three new yorks...'

"There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter - the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last - the city of final destination, the city that is a goal... Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion."
(E.B. White)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

behind the times

Nick and I were indulging in burgers and beers the other evening and I happened to mention that I'd been listening recently to Tegan & Sara. He laughed. Apparently they've been around awhile.

I know I know I know
The Con
Walking with a Ghost (also interestingly covered by the White Stripes)


Thanks to the Huffington Post for bringing our attention to this little gem.

Apparently the GOP rolled out a new slogan recently, "the change you deserve." Unfortunately for them, not only does it just not make sense (given that they've been ruling the roost for these past eight years or so), but it's also already been used (and copyrighted) for Effexor's advertising campaign. You know, Effexor, one of the most prescribed medications for depression, panic attacks, and generalized anxiety disorder in the country.

It's just too delicious.

Friday, May 16, 2008

quote of the day

"An individual's sexual orientation — like a person's race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

questions, quotes, & good news

I get asked a lot of questions during the course of any given day. Work questions, personal questions, easy questions, stupid questions, unanswerable questions. But this one, from a friend of mine leaving soon for Australia, definitely takes the cake: Hey Emily, I forgot to ask you an important question in our last round of messages. Would you be willing to be the keeper of my sex toys for awhile?

How can a person say no to a question like that, I ask you?

In other news, in case you've been living under a rock today, the biggest (population-wise) state in the union has officially declared that it is unconstitutional to ban gay marriage. Oh state of my early childhood, how I adore thee.

In case you were getting bored with the FLDS fiasco in Texas, there is apparently another (and even scarier) polygamist cult under investigation in that same great state. Don't worry, this isn't a death cult a la Jonestown or Heaven's Gate or anything. As the prophet Yisrayl Hawkins himself put it, "I'm not asking much out of you; I'm just asking that you be willing to die rather than leave this house." Remind me again why we didn't just let Texas go?

And then there's always my beloved Idaho offering itself up for a good laugh. This time in the guise of Walt Bayes, running for the Idaho House on a platform of (among other things) separate but equal bathrooms in public schools for straight and gay kids. Actually I don't think he's arguing equal, just separate.

The Bush quote of the day, actually an older quote but new to me, revolves around the incredible sacrifices he's made for the war effort:

"I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander-in-Chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as -- to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

I don't even know what to say about that, so probably it's best not to say anything. But it does remind me of Bush's ever so empathetic take on the Katrina disaster as he flew over New Orleans in Air Force One. If I remember correctly, it went something like this, "It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground." Indeed, I'm sure it's got to be. Maybe even triply so.

Maybe we can make up a new yellow ribbon: Support Our Troops. Give Up Golf.

At least we still have California.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

sexiest music video of all time

A boy with a coin he found in the weeds
With bullets and pages of trade magazines
Close to a car that flipped on the turn
When God left the ground to circle the world

A girl with a bird she found in the snow
Then flew up her gown and that’s how she knows
That God made her eyes for crying at birth
Then left the ground to circle the Earth

A boy with a coin he crammed in his jeans
Then making a wish he tossed in the sea
Walked to a town that all of us burn
When God left the ground to circle the world

(Iron & Wine)

Monday, May 12, 2008

exes, or, anticipatory dread and what it can do to you

A friend of mine is having a birthday gathering at some as yet undisclosed location next week. This is a pretty good friend, and I wouldn't miss the chance to buy her a birthday drink for the world.

Except there's a good chance my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend will also be in attendance. I haven't seen this former life partner of mine since he finally got around to moving his stuff out of my apartment eight months after dumping me, and I haven't seen the new girlfriend since being introduced to her (and actually, to my retroactive dismay, quite liking her) at some party a few weeks before being rather unceremoniously dumped.

And I'm terrified. Terrified and sad and angry and hurt and full of this inexplicable and undeniable desire to bash their heads together and kick them in the 'nads and also and simultaneously gather them both into a great big bear hug and wish them all the happiness in the world.

(I've never to my knowledge, or at least never with a straight face, claimed to be an entirely rational individual.)

I was walking up Amsterdam Avenue with Nick last week after work one evening, heading towards the A train, talking about this upcoming little gem of a social situation. I'm hoping that some of my nearest and dearest, my brother, Nick, a couple others, will also be in attendance, will act as an emotional buffer, a human incarnation of the Great Wall of China, if you will, and help me to not get my heart broken again, and to not do or say anything foolish or rash, anything I'll have reason to regret and berate myself for later.

I confessed to Nick my fears of being unready, of not being strong enough, distant enough, adult enough, to handle this quite yet, even though it's been almost a year and a half.

And Nick, wonderful Nick, ever brilliant and succinct and having a knack for getting directly to the heart of things, turned to me and said, quite simply, "Em. You don't have to be all right with it. You just have to not make a scene."

And there you have it, folks. The big question. Can this gyrl, overly emotional at times, prone to fits of depression and rage and hysterical giggles and euphoric glee, manage to get through the evening without making a scene?

Stay tuned. And wish me luck. And maybe psychically send some warm, fuzzy thoughts.

Of course, given how much I've been dreading this, they will probably not even be there. And these sleep-deprived nights will have been for naught.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

musings on fillies

I have to confess that the sudden and awful death of Eight Belles brought me to tears this past weekend. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a big horse racing fan. I went to the races once, several years ago, to watch the Belmont Stakes out on Long Island. I lost $5 and decided that betting clearly isn't my thing. My brother tries to make mint juleps, or at least buy a bottle of bourbon and a bunch of mint, most years on Kentucky Derby Saturday. This is pretty much the extent of my exposure to real horse-racing.

But I was a huge Walter Farley fan as a kid, and followed avidly the adventures of the Black Stallion and his boy, Alec. My favorite book of the whole bunch was about the Black Stallion's daughter, Black Minx, and the trials and tribulations of taking on the big boys in the racing world. It's a rare filly that makes it into the Derby, or any of the Triple Crown races, for that matter. Eight Belles was one of only 38 fillies to ever even start in the Kentucky Derby, and in the 134 years it's been run, only three fillies have won, most recently in 1988. Three fillies also have won the Belmont Stakes, last year's Rags to Riches being the first in over a century to do so. Four fillies have won the Preakness, but the most recent, Nellie Morse, ran in 1924. In this context, Eight Belles' second place finish was impressive in its own right, but even more so now that word has it she may have injured herself coming off a turn and yet ran flat out in the homestretch, trying to catch the front-runner.

PETA, of course, is up in arms against horse-racing in general, dirt tracks more specifically, and Eight Belles' jockey most specifically of all, as if going after a 20-year-old kid can change an entire industry. And then, as Edward McClellan points out in an interesting piece in Salon, there's the actual physical make-up of horses, these 1500 pound creatures racing at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, putting all their weight on one hoof at a time, on legs that don't actually have any muscle below the knees. If you think about it, it's kind of amazing these fatal injuries don't happen more often.

So, I don't know. Is horse-racing as inhumane as PETA would like to have us think? Does its status as a time-honored tradition dating back to pre-industrial revolution days make it respectable enough to be also acceptable? There's something glorious about horse-racing, something beautiful and powerful and romantic and fast as the wind, but then again I was obsessed with the Black as a child so who am I to say?

On a last note, thinking about the Walter Farley books got me to remembering some of my other favorite books as a child, specifically a few of Marguerite Henry's rather impressive oeuvre, Misty of Chincoteague, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, and King of the Wind. I'm hoping that they might be squirreled away somewhere in my mother's garage out in Washington, but somehow I imagine they went the way of so many other childhood objects of affection, and that makes me a little bit sad. I'm sure they've all been reissued, but what I wouldn't give for my father's copy of Justin Morgan had a Horse, originally published in 1945, in all its much-beloved, well-worn, intergenerational glory.

Monday, May 05, 2008

in memoriam

Mildred Jeter Loving, of Loving v. Virginia fame, passed away last Friday.

She was 68 years old and, heartbreakingly enough, was a widow for almost half of her life.

She, a black woman, dared to fall in love with Richard Perry Loving, a white man, in Virginia back in the 1950s. They went to Washington, D.C. to get married because their home state didn't see fit to allow such things.

Upon their return to Virginia, they were charged under the Virginia Code, which not only forbade inter-racial in-state marriages, but also refused to acknowledge inter-racial marriages legally performed in other states. They fought this ruling all the way up to the Supreme Court, leading to a landmark unanimous decision issued by Chief Justice Earl Warren in 1967.

Though anti-miscegenation laws remained on the books in several states for decades to come (Alabama being the last to officially rid itself of this in 2000),
Loving v. Virginia marked a sea change in racial politics in America.

It seems that Mildred Loving herself was an unassuming woman, not intending to change the law of the land but rather wanting to simply marry the man she loved. Last year, in honoring the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, Mildred issued a public statement that read in part:

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

so much to read, so little time

Sick of teenagers loitering about? Some places are trying this, though I'm having trouble imagining that this is constitutional.

In case you missed it, the Supreme Court decided last week in favor of Indiana's rather stringent voter identification legislation. Anyone who believes that requiring ID isn't an undue burden hasn't been forced to take a day off from work in order to wait hours and hours at the local DMV. Along vaguely similar lines, Florida is imposing such heavy fines on small voter registration errors that groups that have traditionally organized extensive voter registration drives are afraid to do so this year.

I've always found it fascinating that while both the Democratic and Republican parties have stakes in preventing voter fraud, the Democrats tend to focus on enabling as many people as possible to vote while the Republicans are more focused on preventing as many people as possible from voting. I'm just saying.

Gail Collins waxed poetic recently about our Democrat contenders and their pastor/husband problems respectively, "We’re down to a race between the candidate who claims he will make the political process better but has yet to demonstrate exactly how that works, and the woman who claims she’s the only one who’s powerful enough to take on the Republican forces of darkness. Don Quixote vs. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Both accompanied by their lieutenants — the men who think it’s all about them."

Being as city-centric as I am, I was amused by this little tidbit about the NYC subway map.

The U.S. territory of Guam held its primary caucuses this past Saturday, with Obama taking it by a hair. When was the last time Guam made it into the news, at least as far as presidential politics are concerned? This drawn-out primary season certainly has its moments.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I saw this piece about law enforcement officers running a workshop for young black men on how to not get shot during a confrontation with the police.

This, however, definitely made me chuckle. Those poor Greek Lesbos islanders, being mistaken for lesbians all around the world, it just pulls on the heart strings, doesn't it?

The most recent anti-abortion bill in Oklahoma, however, isn't a laughing matter at all. Oklahoma legislators have apparently decided that every single woman seeking an abortion must undergo an ultrasound, whether she wants it or not. Fines will start at $10,000 for doctors failing to follow the new rules. Governor Brad Henry vetoed the bill, but the veto was in turn overturned. So here we have a bunch of politicians deciding that the government has the right to force potentially unwanted medical procedures on people. Haven't we been down this road before?

A much-respected professor here at Columbia, Charles Tilly, passed away last week. I had the good luck of sitting in on a couple of his classes back in my Barnard days and am grateful to have been able to do so.

And last, my brother's soon-to-be new hometown got an amusing write-up in the NY Times today.

Friday, May 02, 2008

quote of the day

"I truly believe that that's going to take an individual that has testicular fortitude. That's exactly right. That's what we gotta have."
-Paul Gipson, president of a local steelworkers' union, while introducing Hillary Clinton at a rally

Thursday, May 01, 2008

this modern world, or, a series of tubes and what you can find there

I decided to take a gander today at search stats on the Darker Mind, just for the hell of it I guess, and was amused to see that Maureen Dowd, in various incarnations, takes five of the top ten search terms drawing in random Googlers, even if that's only, like, ten people.

i hate maureen dowd
maureen dowd sucks

hate maureen dowd
maureen does (does what, exactly, you might very well ask)
maureen dowd hates hillary

Further down the list but still relevant, why i hate maureen dowd.

Other amusing searches:
budweiser birthday
dr bronner's magical soup

uncle earls black bottom cupcakes
my wife says i'm obsessed with her not in love
wash the dog procrastinate