Monthly Archives: April 2008

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The death of the book does not apply to fit people

Yesterday in the gym locker room I eavesdropped on a woman talking to her workout buddy. She said that she’d done her cardio on the standing bicycle instead of on the treadmill because she was nearing the end of a great novel and she couldn’t read comfortably while walking or running. So to all the critics who rue “the death of the book,” suck on that. I don’t know what you’re reading or not reading, but fit naked ladies in locker rooms still care about great literature.

And now I will be kicked out of my gym for blogging about private locker room moments.

How to catch a ride on an elephant

A few years ago Washington D.C. resident Kimberly Zenz discovered a strange loophole in the elephant polo bylaws. An elephant polo event must provide elephants for all participating sportsmen. So Zenz formed a team – the Capital Pachyderms – and her players have since traveled to Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Nepal to compete on the backs of real elephants.

You can find the full story on Mental Floss.

Elephant polo

I might steal a page from Zenz’s playbook and start a Charlottesville yacht club or hot air balloon squadron. Then I can compete in circumnavigating the globe without any initial investment. I also wonder if NASA might provide me with a space shuttle if I challenge George W. Bush to a race to the moon.

Web 2.0 and all my extra brainage

This is a profoundly geeky thing to blog about, but perhaps it will widen my fan base to include online gamers and Wikipedians, my most neglected demographic.

Web 2.0 guru Clay Shirky recently published a book entitled Here Comes Everybody. I am dying to read this book due to the persuasive strength of “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus,” a talk the author gave at a nerd conference last week.

Shirky believes that modern society functions with a massive cognitive surplus, a surplus we primarily devote to drinking liquor and watching TV. But recently Web 2.0 – the gospel of society’s consuming, producing, and sharing information instead of just idly absorbing it – has engaged this cognitive surplus in a more worthwhile way. Now people can devote millions of hours to debating the planetary integrity of Pluto on the internet, whereas 15 years ago those same hours would have been spent on sitcom reruns.

This, believe it or not, is progress. Information is becoming more inclusive than exclusive, more interactive than inactive, more loving sex partner than life-size blow-up doll. But we can still lament the ’90s brain drain of thousands of MTV hours, time that I could have passed blogging, or that you could have passed reading and commenting on my blog.

Science post: I am not a racist doctor I am not a racist doctor omg get that white girl some lemonade she seems thirsty

Yesterday Salon published an article called “Race and the White Coat” by Dr. Rahul K. Parikh. The article discusses the proven disparities in medical care that occur in our country along racial lines. In general, white people receive better medical care than black people. That’s not to say that white doctors are kicking black cancer patients out of hospital beds to make room for white girls recovering from getting their ears pierced, but implicit biases can inform how much pain medication someone is prescribed, or who is going to be recommended for a renal transplant.

Parikh’s article mentions Harvard’s Implicit Association Test, which I took for the first time yesterday after staring at the Proceed and Cancel buttons for 15 minutes. I’m not positive, but I think the results of my test show that next time my local hospital staff pays more attention to the black gunshot victim in the ER than to the fact that the cafeteria salad bar is out of raisins and I require raisins on my salad, I will be lying if I say I’m not resentful. And that’s science, people. Get on board.

You know I’m reluctant to post about my personal life. . .

But I just discovered that my rival blogger (btw, Nate, you’re my rival blogger) posted about the wedding reception we both attended on Saturday night in Richmond. Nate already gets more web traffic than I do, so I don’t think he should have an exclusive on the party. Then again, he was a better-behaved guest:

  • Nate and I both changed our clothes halfway through the reception. I changed from an uncomfortable skirt and sweaty top into skinny jeans. Nate changed into an Elvis costume and serenaded the bride and groom. Guest advantage – Nate.
  • Nate and I both have websites. His website features pictures of naked hipster girls (nsf), which wrangles him invitations to the AVN Awards Show in Las Vegas. My website features book news, which once wrangled me an invitation to the Authors’ Reception on Carr’s Hill. Guest advantage – Nate.
  • Nate is actually a sweet guy behind his sleazy Elvis facade. I am actually a sleazy Elvis behind my sweet girl facade. Guest advantage – me.
  • Outside the reception, Nate and I saw a man simultaneously driving a minivan and shaving with a disposable razor. He had a towel, shaving cream, and by the time he was done, the cheeks of a pre-pubescent boy. Guest advantage – both of us.
  • Because we have quite a few mutual friends, Nate knows dirty secrets about my past. At the reception I drank enough to blurt dirty secrets about my past to anyone who would listen. Guest advantage – my dirty past. (My dirty past is now grounded and no longer accepting party invitations.)

But the party was not about me [Onestarwatt! Huzzah!] and Nate [Driven by Boredom. Boobs. 🙁 ]. The party was about Jamie and Laurie. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have blogs of their own. Newlywed suckaz!

I’m watching you through the window

I see you out there talking on your cell phone. You’re supposed to be inside the coffee shop with me but instead you’re sitting in your car talking to god-knows-who. I brought your DVDs back. I hope you remembered to bring me the second season of Veronica Mars because I was planning on watching it tonight. But I guess I’ll just sit here with some episodes I’ve already watched, waiting for you.

Why are you still out there? That must be a really important phone conversation. We said 6 o’clock. You’re now 45 minutes late, and I was only 20 minutes late. I don’t even like coffee. I’d knock on the coffee shop window, but you’re probably blasting the heat and the radio in your car. I’d call you, but you’re already on the phone. So I’m just going to sit here watching you until you do what I want.

I actually wasn’t named after the shoot-em-up neighborhood in L.A.

I don’t usually gush over the human interest stories on Living in Virginia, I can’t often relate to being dismembered by alligators or to worshiping seven-legged babies as gods. But today I’m all over the headlining CNN story of “The Homicide Report,” an L.A. Times blog that chronicles the names, faces, and circumstances of murder victims in Los Angeles.

Because two to three people are murdered in L.A. every day, bloggers Jill Leovy and Ruben Vives work a lot harder than your average Gawker employee. They drive through the most violent, forgotten neighborhoods of the city to find their stories. They interview grieving families. They take note of spray-painted eulogies and impromptu memorials on urban street corners. They publish the races and ages of the victims, who are predominately young black and Latino men. And the bloggers keep the comments open so the public can post messages about the murders.

These bloggers are doing their city a great service. Not only are they trying to ensure that people don’t die anonymously, but the blog reads like an anthropological study that might prove useful in preventing future murders. In fact, the blog entries remind me of Jared Diamond’s “Annals of Anthropology” article in this week’s New Yorker (abstract).

Diamond writes about vengeance killings in New Guinea. In a society without formal state government, New Guinea clan members take justice into their own hands. In the Highlands, murder (interpersonal warfare) is an accepted strategy of social checks and balances. Murder seems to maintain order.

The same anthropological phenomenon appears to be taking place in L.A. In neighborhoods like Watts, populated by many impoverished, disenfranchised people (I’ve never been there but I watch a lot of movies from the comfort of my couch), it’s probably hard to feel like your life is actively honored and protected by the government. You might feel like the government at large is absent or even against you. And so, as a gang member especially, your Wild West society is regulated by another set of rules, where drive-by shootings seem far more functional than the court system.

In my own culture, The New Yorker and NPR tell me how to behave. But if I were born in South-Central L.A., I don’t know what rules I’d follow. I am a pretty good shot with a BB gun, so if someone wronged me, I can’t promise that I wouldn’t take it to the streets. But around these parts I am limited to blogging my vengeance on the Virginia Quarterly Review website. My lifestyle is basically Boyz in the Hood, but with hyperlinks and pretentious diction instead of guns and ammo.

Day 5 without a hairbrush

On Saturday I misplaced my only hairbrush, but I didn’t notice until Tuesday. Now the squirrels have moved in to build their nests. My hairbrush should arrive in the mail tomorrow, but meanwhile I have become used to squirrel babies pooping down the back of my neck. And the literary advice they whisper in my ear has really improved the direction of my novel.

Going to my baby brother’s lacrosse game today

He is the most adorable jock ever. And he better score a lot of goals to compensate for my leaving the internet for 12 hours. You hear me, bro? I want flashy, violent goal scoring. Like a video game. None of this sissy stuff. And it’s raining, so there better be hot chocolate at the tailgate.


John Grisham flings his sequined cape over one shoulder to reveal the bulging muscles of his right arm. He has been working out. His spandex bodysuit hides nothing from the crowd gathered tonight at the Blue Moon Diner. Readers have come in droves to witness the first match of CLAW – the Charlottesville Literati Arm Wrestlers. As Grisham leaps to the platform and begins showboating for his lady fans, the crowd frantically places its bets.

“In it to win it,” yells poet Charles Wright. He slips a $10 bill into the plastic bucket that Grisham’s wife Renee dangles on a stick above the audience.

“The hell he is,” mutters John Casey as he palms a $50 bill to George Garrett, the CLAW referee. “I think Grisham’s been juicing again,” Casey whispers in the ref’s ear. Garrett nods his understanding and then confers with Rita Dove, the celebrity judge of tonight’s tournament.

“And in the opposite corner,” hollers MC Jan Karon, who stands on a chair over her amplifier, “Taking on heavily favored contender John Grisham, aka the Legal Eagle, in a fight for the first bracket trophy, is poet Lisa Russ Spaar, aka the Blonde Bomber!”

“Booo, hisss,” says Charles Wright.

“98-pounds,” says Renee to her husband. “Poetry. Tears. Spaghetti arm.”

Spaar emerges from the bar wearing a khaki flight suit and aviator goggles. Before taking the platform, she works the crowd with Top Gun dance moves. Her own bet bucket passes through the audience like a rambunctious church collection. Spaar’s MFA students stuff her pockets with dollar bills. From the back row, Deborah Eisenberg offers the poet a shot of Jagermeister. Spaar takes it.

The ref blows his whistle. “Competitors, take your seats,” he says. Last minute bets are handed forward through the rows. Grisham stops flexing and puts the top half of his jumpsuit back on. Garrett gives Spaar a hand up to the platform. She lets John Casteen hold her flight goggles and he squeals like a little girl. Spaar assumes the arm wrestling position at the table.

Grisham links his thumb with Spaar’s and squeezes. George Garrett holds their two hands in his own like a holy man giving a blessing. “Wrestlers, are you satisfied with your grip?” The adversaries nod their heads and clench their teeth.

“You’ve met your Waterloo,” says Grisham.

“You’re going down like a clown,” says Spaar.

“The jury says you’re guilty, mama,” says Grisham.

“Saddle up, buttercup,” says Spaar.

“Ready, set, wrassle!” says the ref. But before he can finish saying “wrassle,” the Blonde Bomber has sacked the Legal Eagle’s hand.

“Foul!” cries Grisham, leaping from his seat. Referee George Garrett declares Spaar the winner. MC Jan Karon blasts “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins on her CLAW stereo system. Charles Wright and Renee Grisham scream at Rita Dove, who guards the winner’s trophy in the corner, but Dove says the match was fought “fair and square.”

“This courtroom is corrupt!” shouts Grisham. “I demand a retrial!”

“Shut your jaw and stuff your law,” says the Blonde Bomber, “You are not the king of CLAW.” Spaar’s fans applaud the impromptu poem. Spaar curtsies in her flight suit.

“Round two,” says the ref. “Find your grip.” After a brief shoulder massage from his wife, Grisham reluctantly sits down again. This time he offers Spaar his left hand. Spaar shrugs and switches from her dominant arm. The writers grip up.

“Ready, Freddy?” asks Spaar.

“Don’t try to beat the system,” says Grisham. “Punks always get it in the end.”

“Okey-dokey, smokey,” says Spaar.

“Ready, set, wrassle!” cries the ref.

But before the ref can say “set,” Spaar has pinned Grisham’s left hand to the mat. The diner erupts in cheers for the triumphant underdog. “Order, order!” shouts the ref. “We have a winner!”

“Foul! Foul!” rages Grisham. Rita Dove hands the Blonde Bomber her trophy, a first edition of Leaves of Grass. As Charles Wright subdues Grisham and leads him to the bar, Spaar begins to read.