Monthly Archives: October 2008

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The Virginia Film Festival is in my backyard eating all my popcorn

The Virginia Film Festival takes place in Charlottesville this weekend! Granted, it’s no Virginia Festival of the Book, but UVA has now thrown this party 21 times to tremendous acclaim. And the weekend promises to be as exciting as anything possibly can be without a nonstop parade of serious books and authors. Movie stars have always lagged behind novelists in the glamor department. Consider the fact that they live in trailers.

But despite having a clear favorite among our two local arts festivals, I still plan to see some movies in the next few days, especially since the theme this year is intriguingly “Aliens Among Us.” And yes, I have an all-access VIP festival pass; and yes, I will be flaunting it throughout the weekend whether or not I am attending a Virginia Film Festival event at the time. So check back for updates on all the culture I am about to soak up.

Lastly, if you’re thinking about dressing up as a Hollywood celebrity for Halloween, just consider this: you can put together an author costume in three minutes using a cardigan sweater, office supplies, and whatever’s in your sock drawer. You don’t even have to be good-looking! Unless you’re dressing up like me, in which case you have to be very good-looking.

Did I say me? I meant Marisha Pessl. Or Zadie Smith. Or Padma Lakshmi. But they’re much harder to pull off. For instance dressing up like them would involve more than greasing your hair, wrapping yourself in a blanket, putting on holey slippers and holey socks after confirming that the holes don’t coincide, and then complaining about the central heat being broken while you cuddle a laptop for warmth.

Breezy Palomino calls out the liars

Of all my Murray cousins and their significant others, Nick and Alice have the best blog.

 Breezy Palomino has the wind in her hair

Scoff Magazine’sThings That Are Never True“:

2) This is the perfect weather for my fleece jacket and river sandals. I just get so cold up top and hot down bottom.

Brooklyn hipster imitation is the highest form of flattery

I wanted to be supportive. I really did. The poster’s kind of cool, even if the women depicted look too scrawny and too bangly and too fashionable to compete with the likes of us. They’re also in the Break Arm Position.

Hipster arm wrestling poster

But then I visited the Classy Ladies Arm Wrestling Society (CLAWS) Myspace page and the more I examined it, the more icky I felt. CLAWS was founded by three 21-year-old Brooklyn artists and DJs who are into 1) bike ridin’, 2) whiskey drinkin’, and 3) taking publicity photos of themselves in cute outfits. Okay, we’re into all that same stuff, but at least we’re not writing excruciating copy and questionnaires like this:

Have you ever found yourself clearing off a barroom table, staring down your best friend, hands locked, nail polish chipped … a frenzy of dudes gathering around you…when the jukebox and everything you’ve ever accomplished (graduate school, solo art show, your band’s European tour) is drowned out by the sheer necessity of this moment…of your moment…when it all just comes down to arm wrestling?

Calling all classy ladies with a penchant for arm wrestling and whiskey drinking…Fill out this survey and send it in. [. . .]

1. Name
2. Nickname
3. Age
3. Locale
4. Birthplace
5. Which female celebrity would you most want to arm wrestle?
6. Which fictional character?
7. What’s your favorite ‘would you rather’ question?
8. Theme song in movie of your life at two moments, (both while walking down crowded nyc street)…1. you’re exalted, in LOVE, it’s a scorching summer day 2. you’re exalted, in LOVE, but it’s a grey winter day
9. Last but not least, why do you love to arm wrestle?

I wonder if I could make it onto the CLAWS roster with a few white lies. I dream of wrestling the fictional Madeleine, as played by Chantal Goya in Jean Luc Godard’s 1966 Nouvelle Vague film Masculin, feminin, while surrounded by a frenzy of dudes in bands who are still boozy from the night before. I dream of walking down Flatbush Avenue on a scorching summer day with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a fistful of MIA’s ass in the other to the tune of “Under My Thumb” by the Stones. And I would rather contrive to arm wrestle away my existential hangover than admit that I am ripping off the nice girls of Central Virginia.

This has all been an antagonistic preface to the following challenge: Brooklyn hipsters, we will rip your skinny arms off! We will shatter your bangles! We will mock your DJ careers! And then we will declare ourselves the original Lady Arm Wrestlers!

But all in fun, of course. There’s room for every patient in the wrestling fever ward.

Boulevard Symposium: Writers in Academia

The current issue of Boulevard (Vol. 24, No. 70) includes an interesting symposium on the pros and cons of Writers teaching Writing to Writers in colleges and universities. A similar dilemma is posed by the question “to MFA or not to MFA?” Are creative writing courses in higher education just molding pretentious, homogeneous, academic assholes while depriving Europe of its American lifeblood: 20-something-poet-backpackers-gathering-Life-Experience?

Or do these courses provide the invaluable service of endowing great writers with teaching incomes that allow them to craft and publish their whatchamacallits while simultaneously showing kids how to groom their nascent literary potential? Or perhaps these writing courses just serve as a necessary academic counterpart to the Graduate Statistics and Operations Management in Lobbyist Research MBA Program killing young hearts and minds across campus. I will give you two guesses which graduate student’s textbook has more sex scenes. Then I will start filling out school applications.

Get a job, Wistar. Please. It’s time.

How to kill bedbugs with your bare hands*

I know a family recently transplanted from Brooklyn. They gave me a tour of their new house down the street. “And this,” they said, “is the shed where we keep all of our stuff from New York.” Their many boxes of books and clothes and sheets had been relegated to a utility shed in the backyard where they held forth with a lawn mower and a broke-down stove. My friends’ personal belongings would have to remain there for a year because that’s how long bedbug eggs can live. I slowly backed away from the shed. These critters crawl out of your mattress at night, anesthetize you, then suck your blood. They destroy relationships, couches, and peace of mind. I did not want them anywhere near me. This guy, on the other hand, is crazy about them:

He took a glass jar swarming with thousands of hungry specimens of Cimex lectularius, better known as bedbugs. The small, roachy-looking bloodsuckers have been spreading through the nation’s homes and hotels at such a hyperventilated pace that by next year they are expected to displace cockroaches and termites as America’s leading domestic pest insect.

. . . . Mr. Sorkin pushed up his shirt sleeve and pressed the mesh end of the jar against the inside of his right arm. Roused to a frenzy by the twin cues of heat and carbon dioxide that “in evolution equal host,” said Mr. Sorkin, the insects scrambled toward the lid, thrust out their stylets and began to feed. For a good 10 minutes, Mr. Sorkin sat there with the proud placidity of a donor at a blood bank. He did not budge. He held the jar. He let the bedbugs bite.

“I can hardly feel it,” he said matter-of-factly, “and they do need to eat.”

You know what else needs to eat? Flesh-eating bacteria. But you don’t see me offering my leg below the knee. Zombies also get hungry. And tigers with rabies. Do you see what I’m getting at here? Have I made my point? Cannibals die if they don’t have a steady supply of brains.

My mom has already dealt with one of her children having a bedbug infestation and I feel like if it happens again she will be like one of those mothers during the Black Death, quarantining her sick children in the house and walking away forever. Those things are so hard to get rid of, at a certain point you just have to cut your losses. This goes for children as well as bedbugs, but at least children don’t suck your blood. Although my kids will because I’m going to have an affair with a vampire bat.

*This blog title was written purely with web traffic in mind. Sorry if I misled you. Good luck with your bedbugs.

The woefully misinformed are now armed. . . with chewing gum

From CNN’s Political Ticker:

“I’ve got to give you some straight talk. Let me give you the state of the race today,” McCain told the crowd. “We have 17 days to go. We’re 6 points down. The national media has written us off…. But my friends in all this planning they forgot to let you decide. My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them.”

The line has become a familiar one – and drew a now-familiar reaction from the strongly-Republican crowd, which began booing and chanting “Liberal media!” One woman threw a pack of gum at CNN Correspondent Ed Henry.

I expected hard candy. Some crazy lady in the back flicking Necco Wafers at the sound guy. Not gum. Gum is so effete. Unless we’re talking about Chiclets. That’s all I’m going to say about this.

Scientific American is on a roll

Scientific American always tells it to me straight. Three studies to quote at your next dinner party:

Never Say Die: Why We Can’t Imagine Death

The Science of Gossip: Why We Can’t Stop Ourselves

Political Science: What Being Neat or Messy Says about Political Leanings

The CLAW book is here!

The CLAW book is finally here! Not yet in person, but online, which in my view is better than any medium that passes bacteria from one hand to another.

Congratulations to the extraordinary wedding photographer, Straight Punch to the Crotcher, and man-about-town Billy Hunt for making it all happen! On November 7, Billy and CLAW will host a book signing and trading card release party at The Bridge in Charlottesville.

Rosie the Wrist-Twister preparing to twist some wrists (and some tongues if you’re lucky):

Rosie the Wrist-Twister prepares to twist some wrists (and some tongues)

Debbie “The Debutante” Danger pausing mid-match to write The Ref a thank-you note:

 Debbie “The Debutante” Danger pauses mid-match to write The Ref a thank-you note

Bucks & Gallants live on the air with New Jersey radio and MySpace mogul Tom Scharpling!

On Tuesday night (October 14), Tom Scharpling of The Best Show on WFMU interviewed my main man (the bbf) for a radio segment called “Smash or Trash.”

Scharpling has a booming internet presence thanks to his podcast and his MySpace and his Friends of Tom online forum. I avoid the forum because I feel like it’s the bbf’s personal clubhouse and it would stop being cool the second the girlfriend started showing up with snacks for everyone. Sitcom cliches have taught me everything I need to know about relationships.

Anyway the point of “Smash or Trash” is to play a relatively unknown song on the air and then let random callers decide if the CD should live or die. On Tuesday Tom played a song called “Interesting Chinese Cigarette” by the bbf’s band Bucks & Gallants. Now that you have all the background information, here is the audio:


Real Audio/MP3

I won’t divulge here whether the song was rated “a smash” or “trash.” You’ll have to listen for yourself. The bbf appears around the 02:34:00 mark, but everything on the show before and after that historic moment is good too.

If you’re wondering why you can’t hear me in the background telling the bbf that he left his dirty dishes in the sink or that he needs to take out the trash, it’s because I was at an arm wrestling match at the time of the interview. Thank you, Tom’s podcast, for not making me choose.

My too-tight Obama t-shirt fits me just fine

I ordered a Size Small t-shirt from Barack Obama headquarters because even though I am a sophisticated woman in my late 20s, I still sometimes forget that I cannot wear the cute things I see in Limited Too and Gap Kids. So now I have this teeny-tiny Obama t-shirt that I can only wear under a v-neck sweater because otherwise my belly button shows.

But you know what? So what if my belly button shows! I will proudly wear my Obama half-shirt that says to the world, “This girl believes in all that is right and good in America even when it comes in the form of a glorified sports bra.”

I know that politics is inherently divisive and the last thing I want to do is alienate any of my readers (or my family members) who aren’t hugging Obama to their chests with the same shrink-in-the-wash fervor that I am. But I’d be betraying my principles* if I didn’t blog a little bit about my guy this campaign season.

This morning I read Colm Toibin’s essay “James Baldwin and Barack Obama” in the New York Review of Books. When Toibin was here in Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book, he spoke about Baldwin’s influence both on his character and on his writing. The fact that parallels can be drawn between Baldwin and Obama puts me in a happy place.

Baldwin and Obama, although in different ways, experienced the church and intense religious feeling as key elements in their lives. They both traveled and discovered while abroad, almost as a shock, an essential American identity for themselves while in the company of non-Americans who were black. They both came to see, in a time of bitter political division, some shared values with the other side. They both used eloquence with an exquisite, religious fervor.

Coibin continues:

Had their ambitions been less focused and their personalities less complex, Baldwin and Obama could easily have become pastors, preachers, leaders of black churches. But for both of them there was a shadow, a sense of an elsewhere that would form them and make them, eventually, more interested in leading America itself, or as much of it as would follow, than merely leading their own race in America. Both of them would discover their essential Americanness outside America, Baldwin in France, the home of some of his literary ancestors, Obama in Kenya, the home of his father.

(I could crib the whole essay or you could read it yourself on a more reputable website.)

The point of all this is, if we’re going to have a political wet t-shirt contest, I want to be in Panama City flaunting the logo of the candidate who can be compared to one of America’s greatest writers, not in a town hall meeting flaunting the logo of the candidate who can be compared to George W. Bush or to “a sock puppet with two glass eyes.”** May the best man win!

*One of my lesser principles is “Vote for the Good-Looking Guy.”

**Quote by my future husband, who chose malicious wit over a t-shirt campaign.