Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yacht Rock

It's summer and there's no better time to kick back on your yacht, sip some Chardonnay, and listen to some smooth music while reflecting on your affluence. Here's a little playlist, put together by DJ GB, who hosts a Yacht Rock* night the first Thursday of every month at Lolita. Click on the links to play the songs for free (thanks Songza!)

*Wikipedia definition: Yacht rock is a variation of popular soft rock that peaked between the years of 1976 and 1984.
In the musical sense, yacht rock refers to the highly polished brand of soft rock that emanated from Southern California during the late ’70s and early ’80s. The term is meant to suggest the kind of smooth, mellow music that early yuppies likely enjoyed while sipping champagne and snorting cocaine on their yachts. Additionally, since sailing was such a popular local leisure activity, some “yacht rockers” made nautical references in their lyrics and album artwork, particularly the anthemic track "Sailing," by Christopher Cross.

Some schadenfreude for your Sunday

Nine People I'm Glad I'm Not (in no particular order)

1. The CEO of Six Flags

According to
Slate, economic recession = less people willing to blow $60 in order to wait in line, ride in plastic logs and eat funnel cake. Also, there's always a chance that you could get decapitated or wind up having your feet severed when a ride malfunctions, as was the case for poor 13-year-old Kaitlyn Lasitter. Unsurprisingly, Lasitter's parents are suing Six Flags on the grounds that their daughter suffered severe emotional and physical pain and that her ability to earn money has been dramatically impaired. I'm also going to venture a guess that her ability to dance the quickstep has been compromised as well.

Natasha Timarovic

Natasha Timarovic, 27, was cleaning her teeth at in her home in the Croatian city of Zadar when lightning struck the building.

She said: "I had just put my mouth under the tap to rinse away the toothpaste when the lightning must have struck the building. I don't remember much after that, but I was later told that the lightning had travelled down the water pipe and struck me on the mouth, passing through my body. It was incredibly painful, I felt it pass through my torso and then I don't remember much at all."

She was wearing rubber bathroom shoes at the time and so instead of earthing through her feet it appears the electricity shot out of her backside," a medic told local newspaper, 24 Sata.

3. Maddie Briann Spears, even if they don't allow Aunt Britney to babysit

4. You, if you sat through "The Love Guru" last weekend

5. This carnie with his pet chicken

6. Either of the Two Coreys

7. My high school classmate Mike Huntsucker (just say his name out loud)

8. Chase Sampson, who flew all the way from Tennessee to go on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and then got the first question wrong.

9. The inventor of New Coke

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Letter

Dear President Bush,

This past week, I received my economic stimulus check. And I just wanted to extend my thanks. It turns out that I am extremely qualified to stimulate the economy, and receiving the check only confirmed what I have long suspected: that I am cut out for a life of economic stimulation.

You see, upon receiving my $600 check, I immediately stimulated the economy in a number of diverse ways. Within the span of 24 hours, I got a manicure and a haircut, drank 2 glasses of prosecco, bought a pair of shoes, and illegally acquired tickets for Shakespeare in the Park. Without your incentive, I might never have made these purchases. On a day-to-day basis, I am a frugal girl, I assure you. I expend the minimum amount of income as befits a lady of my stature. But I would be remiss if I were to deny the pleasures afforded me by the glorious check that arrived but a few days ago. Indeed, it changed the very timbre of my being.

If you were to continue to send me checks, Mr. President, I remain confident in my abilities to further stimulate our economy. I might be as bold as to state that I have a gift for it. I effortlessly spend money every day. Forgive the crude simile, but the economy is like a giant clit, and I cannot help but to ceaselessly stimulate it through my instinctual penchant for shopping. With each swipe of my Bank of America Visa card, I can almost feel the rippling pleasure reverberating throughout our nation. For the first time in my life, Mr. President, I feel like a patriot.

What I propose is simple: you continue to mail me economic stimulus checks, and I, in turn, spend the money, therefore stimulating our economy. I am all too eager to serve my country in this regard; it seems to be something I was destined to do.

Warmest regards,

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The best Craigslist roommate is no Craigslist roommate

This past weekend, I journeyed to Beantown to explore apartment options and attend a housing workshop sponsored by Emerson, where I will be starting grad school in the fall. The purpose of the workshop was to learn about the various neighborhoods in Boston and also meet potential roommates, i.e. other students new to the area who might be less suspect than weirdos on Craigslist.

I arrived at the workshop promptly at 10:00 am, when it was scheduled to begin. I was showered, casually but cutely attired, and looking as friendly-but-laid-back as possible. Upon arrival, I was handed a packet containing information about all the other Emerson students seeking housing. Turns out, most were actually undergrads and transfer students and too young for me to consider living with. Don't get me wrong, at 27 I'm still very much in my salad days and green in judgment, but I have no intention of rooming with a 19-year-old from Ohio who *hearts* Goldfrapp.

No matter, I thought, I can still maybe learn something here about what parts of Boston might be worth investigating. But alas, even that portion of the workshop was clearly designed to benefit 19-year-olds who listen to Goldfrapp and their anxious parents. There was, for example, a brief tutorial on how to ride a subway. Since I have lived in New York for the past five years, I long ago mastered not only how to ride the subway, but also how to ignore the guy on the 7 train platform in Times Square taking a dump into a pizza box. I left the workshop at 10:30 so as to avoid the icebreaker games scheduled before lunch.

Perusing ads on Craigslist later that day, I started noticing a trend: everyone describes themselves in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY and as a result, sounds totally nondescript. Just browse the roommates/shares section, and you'll see that coincidentally everyone is clean, but not a "neat freak," likes to go out with friends sometimes and also enjoys staying in, and is into really unusual things like music and film. OMG, me too!

Despairingly, I began to flip through my Emerson packet. Maybe I was being ageist. Maybe I could live with one of these youngsters, and be like that cool older sister that buys them beer. I considered contacting Doug, a rising senior from Boston, who thought it was important to note on his form that he could "beat 10 ninjas in a fight." My heart went out to Jessica, age 20, who described herself as "awesome," wrote that she "likes pina coladas" and then (adorably) crossed it out. And then there was the form filled out by someone I will call "The Fun Police," which read in part:

I'm 22 years old and despite my age I do not go out on a regular basis. I'm looking for a roommate who is over the bar/club phase because I certainly am.

I mean, props for being honest, but come on! College is all about making poor choices. Ultimately, the person that appealed to me the most was Ross from upstate NY, who seemed to be finding the whole roommate-finding business as ridiculous as I was. He wrote, in jest presumably:

I shower on a regular basis, and condition. I am trustworthy, and loveable [sic].
I don't walk around naked, ever. I do my laundry and don't pee on the toilet seat. I prefer Equal to Splenda. I like to meet new people, even head cases, as long as they have good hygiene. I love cats. Diet Coke beats Diet Pepsi. I don't play any sports. I'm nice.

I fully plan to look this dude up once I'm on campus, if only so we can talk about our shared preferences with artificial sweeteners.

After a lot of soul-searching, I decided that I'm just too damn old to live with strangers and waste time doing other people's dishes. I put down a deposit on a little studio in Allston and got on the next bus back to NYC.

**Special thanks to Daniel at Exit Realty for proving me wrong re: the existence of no-fee brokers, which I had previously believed to be as real as unicorns.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Give me liberty, or give me pomade

This is not a political blog, but in acknowledgment of election season, I thought I would add to the discourse with a few inspiring images, courtesy of hair sculptor Terry Niedzialek. I wonder what Tim Russert would have had to say about these:

"Political War Games"

"Voter Registration"

"America the Beautiful"

and finally, this one isn't so political, but I love how unhappy the kid on the left looks:

Blue-headed chick looks all serene and probably has a future as an Anthropologie print model, but girl-with-tree-on-her-head isn't buying it. She's all, "For reals? I'm eight and I know this is bullshit. Why am I in a wifebeater? Where's my Flavor Ice?"


It's important, yo.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Other People's Trout

Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast, dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics and favorite Liberty lawn dresses and the rainbow trout in a creek near Colorado Springs.
The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people's favorite dresses, other people's trout.

--Joan Didion, "On Keeping a Notebook"

It occurs to me that writing a blog is indulgent in the same way that sharing your dreams is, so I figure it's not a big leap to write a post about my dreams. Which, of late, have all been anxiety dreams and fairly easy to interpret. It bothers me when the meaning of my dreams is so transparent; I get insulted on behalf of my subconscious, feel like it should be more clever. I shouldn't literally be dreaming about the real things in my life that are worrying me, but figurative, highly abstract representations of those things. I went to an Ivy League school, goddammit.

Last night, I dreamed that I cheated on my boyfriend with Richard Blaise from Top Chef. I do not find Richard Blaise attractive and if he ever tried to make me eat his bacon ice cream, I would vomit on his face. What I kept thinking, as I was fellating Blaise, was "how I am going to explain this to Noah?" (Noah = boyfriend) Sure, I have had the occasional sex dream about David Cook (who hasn't?), but fantasizing about our new American Idol and a Top Chef cast-off of questionable sexual orientation are two very different things. Troublesome trout indeed.

This dream was followed by one in which I was trying to get my collegiate women's a cappella group, Whim 'n Rhythm, on time to a concert in the Hamptons. But somehow I got sidetracked and found myself wandering inexplicably around a mall, shoplifting cosmetics. And finally--yes, I had all 3 of these dreams last night--I was at an audition for NYU's acting graduate program, frantically trying to remember the lines to a monologue I haven't performed in months. I have this dream and several variations of it all the time, even though I haven't auditioned for anything in the past six months. It's the actor's version of the academic stress dream everyone seems to have, the one where they are supposed to take a final exam they haven't prepared at all for.

Oddly, I've never had that dream, or the one where you are in public and suddenly realize that you are naked. My humiliation/body shame dream is much stranger -- I'm in the company of friends, usually at someone's apartment or at a party, and suddenly I realize that I am masturbating in front of them. Like, I somehow just forgot that you don't do that in public. Unless you're
this man:

So, here's what I have deduced from a careful analysis of my dreams: I'm fucking stressed out. Or, as my former therapist helpfully phrased it in almost every session we had, "Katie, it sounds like you're having some difficult feelings that are making you anxious." Thanks, Freud.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fathers Know Best

In honor of Father's Day, I thought I would give a shout-out to my dad, Steve Vagnino. My dad likes to joke that he is a "Renaissance failure": a man who has attempted many different career paths, but failed at all of them. It's true, his band Steve Persia and the Progressions didn't really take off. His film, "A Pleasure Doing Business," despite a cast that included Phyllis Diller and Tom Smothers (of the Smothers Brothers!), crashed at the box office. And the only remaining bottles of wine produced by Vanino Cellars are in our basement. Regardless, my dad has led an incredibly colorful and fascinating life, and he is a near-perfect father. Four kids, and none of us are in jail or Republicans, so he must have done something right.

My childhood was entertaining, to say the least. Some of my favorite memories involve my dad at the piano, making up ludicrous songs. The jazzy ballad "Hamburger Plaza" is about a fictional place of work where hamburgers of all types and sizes are made. The showtune-esque "Grab Your Hat and Your Patagonia" reinforces the importance of not leaving the house without an appropriate jacket.

Inventing practical/educational games is another one of my father's gifts. For instance, fighting over mini boxes of Frosted Flakes and Pops from the Kellogg's variety pack became moot once Cereal Roulette was created, a game wherein all the cereals in the pack (including the dreaded Total) were put into a salad spinner, mixed up, and distributed at random. And I will never forget which months only have 30 days, thanks to the rhyme my dad taught me, which makes no sense and yet is seared into my brain:

Thirty days have September, April, June, and November
All the rest like peanut butter
Except Grandma; she drives a Buick.

The legacy lives on with my youngest brother,11-year-old J.T., who studies for his weekly spelling test with the assistance of Spelling Bear, a stuffed bear voiced by my dad with an unfortunate masochistic streak. Whenever J.T. spells a word incorrectly, Spelling Bear becomes very distressed and resorts to repeatedly punching himself in his felt face. The game's only flaw is that Spelling Bear's joyous reaction when J.T. gets a word right is not nearly as funny, which may account for my brother's weak spelling skills to this very day.

Though our family vacations often resemble those of the Griswolds, the film dad that most resembles mine is undoubtedly Steve Martin in "Parenthood." I was hoping to find a clip on YouTube of the scene where he dons bath mats as chaps and becomes balloon impresario "Cowboy Gil" at his son's birthday party, but the picture will have to suffice. That's absolutely the kind of thing my dad did all the time when I was growing up. And I am a better (and funnier) person because of it.

Final fatherly wisdom:

"As long as what comes out of the sausage-maker looks like sausage, no one cares if the pig had a bad day." -Steve Vagnino, 6/9/08

Friday, June 13, 2008

Academia, how I've missed you!

I knew I was ready to go back to school, but I didn't realize just how ready I was until I read this in my grad school course catalog:

Students do a significant amount of primary and secondary reading. Classes are conducted in a seminar format where students do at least one presentation.

Students do a minimum of 25 pages of critical writing that includes at least one 10 – 20 page analytical research essay.

In this class that will mean either two 10-pg research papers; or one 20-pg paper. “Analytical research essay” means a scholarly paper, requiring significant research, not an op-ed essay. The balance of the 25pg min. will be made up by weekly reading responses.

...and got a grad school hard-on. You know you're ready to leave the workforce when the idea of writing reading responses (weekly!) and the promise of "significant amounts of primary and secondary reading" gets you all hot and bothered.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"This, too, shall pass..."

This phrase became all the more relevant last week, when I learned that I had a kidney stone.

What, you didn't know I was a 60-year-old man? Me either. I beat the odds-- kidney stones are most common in men over 40. But my kidneys are extra, extra special.

When I tell people about my kidney stone, they look horrified and ask about the pain. Men say it's akin to giving birth. Like they would know, but regardless, that's not what it was like for me. Maybe I have a high pain threshold, or maybe the aforementioned men are just sissies. Unclear.

The worst part of the experience for me was getting a CT scan. My doctor sent me to this fancy place on the Upper East Side that specializes in medical imaging technology
Publish Post
(MRIs, ultrasounds, etc). The place was more air-conditioned than the 6 train and very posh -- leather sofas, Sinatra playing softly in the background, tasteful wall sconces. It was like a Swiss chateau; I was even given a complementary beverage. Sadly, it was not a Cosmo, but a liter of cranberry juice, mixed with iodine.

When it was time for the scan, my body failed me again-- it took the doctor 4 tries to find a suitable vein. It brought back the shame of my freshman year of college, when I nobly tried to give blood for the Red Cross. Tried being the operative word, since I was unable to fill the bag in a timely manner, due to my sludge-like blood.

That night, I got my diagnosis: a 4mm kidney stone that had already left my right kidney and was en route to my bladder. Hopped up on painkillers, I settled on a name for my stone: Frances. And then I wrote a song about her:

(to the tune of "Alone" by Heart)

I hear the ticking of the clock
I'm lying here, the room's pitch dark
I wonder where you are tonight
I pee, see nothing, and I moan
And the night goes by so very slow
Oh I hope that it will end soon though
My stone

Till now I always got by on my own
I never really knew pain until I met you
My bladder hurts me to the bone
How do I get out my stone?
How do I get out my stone?

As Lincoln predicted, my kidney stone, like our nation's unrest in 1859, did eventually pass. Frances left me on Thursday, June 5th, at approximately 10:00 pm EST. She is currently in a little baggie on my dresser, next to my hairbrush. I'm supposed to bring her in to a lab for analysis. She looks very small and harmless now, and not at all like this:

Those look like earrings I bought at Cooper-Hewitt recently. That's what came up when I typed in "kidney stones ugly" on Google images.

I seem to be back in good health, but if my sciatica starts acting up, I'll be sure to blog about it.

Losing my blog virginity

Dear Diary, er, blog,

I finally did it! Here are some reasons why:

1. Everybody's doing it
2. Since I'm allegedly a writer, I need to get more in the habit of writing
3. This blog name was too perfect
4. I'm a funny bitch

I'll do my best to keep things interesting. Luckily, strange shit tends to happen to me: For instance, today I was befriended by a Downtown Parks employee named Lee, who was missing a few of his bottom teeth and told me he was attracted to me spiritually.

Now, to tie in with the virginity theme, here's a fun little exercise I created based on the current ad campaign for Phantom of the Opera. If you live in NYC, you've undoubtedly seen the bus ads with the rose, the mask, and the tagline "Do you remember your first time?" This seems to equate seeing Phantom for the first time with having sexual intercourse. But just how similar are the two experiences?

Evaluate the following quotations that describe EITHER seeing Phantom for the 1st time or having awkward beginner sex:

"I could only see half his face"

"It was so boring, I almost fell asleep"

"My ass went numb"

"My favorite part was when the chandelier fell"

"It lasted for two-and-a-half hours"

"Everyone told me I would like it"

"He came on my tits"

Not as easy as you thought it would be, eh?