Saturday, March 28, 2009

Because mass e-mails are so impersonal

There are some new developments in my life! And if you are reading this blog, you might care about them (emphasis on the "might").

1. I have a new job!

I have been hired as a waitress at a new restaurant opening in the financial district. It's called Exotic Sushi and Tapas. Which is an odd combo, but hey, I'm trying to keep an open mind. I hope people still eat sushi during a recession. I plan to, at least. I could never give up Dragon Rolls.


2. I have joined an a cappella group!

It's called Downtown Crossing. I haven't rehearsed with them yet, but I miss singing and performing so I'm looking forward to getting started. And apparently, a cappella is having a bit of a renaissance, what with Ben Fold's Five's new album featuring collegiate a cappella covers of their songs, and the upcoming Conspiracy of Beards (all-male a cappella group that sings only Leonard Cohen) concert at the Highline Ballroom in New York.

3. I am writing for a new sex blog!

It's called The Sex Appeal and I'll be posting twice monthly, on alternate Mondays. In homage to my name and the infamous hard-to-find spot, I hope to call my column The Silent "G". My first post should be up this Monday. It will be a review/adult perspective on Judy Blume's racy teen novel "Forever," which got me quite hot and bothered when I read it at age 11. Will it still seem as raunchy now that I've actually done the deed? Tune in Monday to find out.

So that's all the latest...apologies to people who read this blog and have no interest in the personal life of its author.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

This week's selection is a lovely and sad villanelle by the late Rad Smith. Smith died of lung cancer in 1998 before his one and only book, Distant Early Warning, was published -- his wife sent out the manuscript and it was eventually picked up by Tupelo Press in 2005.

I chose a villanelle to demonstrate that "archaic" forms, even those that incorporate rhyme and word repetition, can be applied to modern themes very successfully. Smith's poem sounds like idiomatic speech and is a very distant cousin of Roethke's lofty poem in the same form, "The Waking" ("I wake to sleep and take my waking slow/ I learn by going where I have to go"). Villanelles are surprisingly diverse, tonally.  I like them and think contemporary poets should tackle them more often.

Old Lovers

Best never to revisit them unless
years afterward, you're still tormented,
or it's late, and you are willing to say yes

if one asks you to unzip her dress
in the dimly lighted room you've rented.
Best never to revisit them unless

galloping stallions don't distress
you, or you've forgotten how she once said
I'm late. And you are willing to say yes

to an invitation with no return address
on purple stationery hotly scented.
Best never to revisit them unless

you can bear the heartlessness:
ravaging hands, teeth, a scorched bed.
It's late. Are you willing to say yes

yes yes to a devouring caress
despite the wreckage last time you consented?
Best never to revisit them unless
it's late, and you are willing to say yes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Loosely based on something that may or may not have happened at some point

Nowadays, it seems like every movie trailer I see comes with the claim that the film is "based on a true story." Just the phrase "true story" seems problematic enough, but I'm fascinated by our cultural obsession with authenticity. Like saying something is "based" on something real makes the movie better. I mean, one could argue that everything is loosely based on something true-- James Bond is loosely based on some British spy, Napoleon Dynamite is a composite of various teenage nerds that actually exist, and Clark Griswold is clearly based on everyone's well-meaning but hapless fathers.

So "The Haunting in Connecticut" claims to be based on true events. That could mean ANYTHING. It could just mean that once, someone thought a house in Connecticut was haunted. I have a theory that my refrigerator is haunted (it makes some seriously wack sounds and my cat won't go near it) but I'm not about to write a screenplay about it.

I wish we still valued straight-up imaginative stuff -- everything that comes out now on stage or on film is an adaptation of something already written/created or (supposedly) based on something real. There are movies based on plays (Frost/Nixon, Doubt), plays based on movies (Grey Gardens, Legally Blonde) plays based on movies based on books (High Fidelity), movies based on plays based on earlier movies (Hairspray), and even movies based on theme park rides (Pirates of the Caribbean).

The trend continues: in the 1990s, 27 films based on true stories were released. This decade, the count is up to 101 (source: Wikipedia). And that's not counting all the adaptations of stories from other mediums. Sadly, it seems like originality has become pass

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Credit card instructions FAIL

but, one could argue, Stripping WIN:

Photo courtesy of Mike Pincus, taken yesterday at the AMC Loews Boston Common 19.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Don't watch this if you already think cats are creepy

I can't really think of anything to post today, so I'll just share this extremely bizarre scene from a Swedish horror film called
Let the Right One In.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

(part I-lost-count in an ongoing series)

I'm in San Francisco, a city I fall in love with every time I visit. Yesterday, I toured the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. I don't go to art museums that often; sometimes they wear me out, physically and intellectually. But my visit did inspire me to post this next poem, by Lisel Mueller. I hope you like it as much as I do; the first time I heard this poem (I heard a recording of Mueller reading it while interning for The Poetry Center of Chicago), it almost made me cry.

Monet Refuses the Operation

Doctor, you say that there are no halos
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and changes our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Last night I was sooooo drunk.  Why?  Because I'm on my first real "spring break" in five years. I'm in Charleston, SC, flying to San Francisco on Wednesday.  I'm hoping to get some sun and maybe even do a little writing in between happy hours.  My internet access will be spotty, though, so this blog might not be updated for the next week. Don't be sad!  Here's a fun spring break picture to cheer you up:

 I love the expression on the girl on the far left's face.  She is SO TOTALLY OVER this bikini contest. She's all, "yeah, lucky #7 is right, bitches." And I'm not sure, but I think having tan lines from a different bikini while participating in a bikini contest is a faux pas. Hot Pink on the end there is clearly an amateur. My vote goes to the tall drink of water in blue in the middle. She is bringing a level of seriousness to the competition that must be commended. 

Happy "SBK," everybody!  (That's what all the young kids down south here call it.)   

Friday, March 6, 2009

H&R Blockheads

Yesterday, I went in for my annual. Which gynecologically would refer to the once-a-year pap smear appointment, but in this case, I mean my annual trip to H&R Block. Except this time? I would have preferred an invasive vaginal exam. Because I left the appointment feeling quite violated and robbed of both dignity and money.

I knew my taxes this year would be bad and complicated. I had to file in two states (MA and NY), and as a freelancer, I had almost a dozen forms/sources of income. I had a few W-2s, several 1099s, plus dividend stuff, and student loan paperwork. It was a big 'ol mess. The appointment last over 2 hours.

But the worst part? I left H&R Block not entirely confident that they had done even a remotely competent job. And they charged almost $500 for their services. Which is twice as much as I paid last year. Forbes confirms that H&R Block raised their prices and that the average fee for having them do your taxes has risen by about 11%. Tax-wise, I am fine -- I'm getting a small refund, which is nice, albeit surprising. Often I don't get a refund and owe the government money because I don't have taxes taken out beforehand for some of my writing and tutoring gigs.

At the end of my session, after everything had been calculated, my tax adviser showed me the itemized breakdown of the services. He was actually late for his ride home and trying to hurry me out the door, which I found annoying. He also answered his cell phone several times during my appointment. Rude.

Basically, H&R Block charges you for every computerized field they fill out on the tax forms. Hilariously, every write-off they come up with, they make a profit off of. So whatever money it adds onto your refund check is totally canceled out. I actually had my adviser go back and claim less in expenses so I would owe H&R Block less money.

My tax adviser had to leave before everything had been signed, so he turned me over to another employee, who happened to also be The Oldest Man I Have Ever Seen. I mean, this dude was 90 if he was a day. He couldn't operate the stapler without my assistance. So the last step in the process, which should have taken 5 minutes, took 30. There were papers everywhere and he kept some, gave me was like amateur night at the Apollo.

When I first came in for my appointment, another customer was loudly arguing with the H&R Block manager about the fact that he couldn't get a copy of the itemized receipt from them. Now I know why, though it still seems incredibly sketchy. They show you on a computer screen, after you're already dazed from answering tax-related questions for an hour, how much they're charging you and once you numbly nod, you never get to see that breakdown of charges again. Presumably because it's totally preposterous what they charge. They have raised their costs considerably from last year; I have my receipt from last year and spent $240 to get my taxes done. So they are charging more and have stopped giving you a copy of the receipt. SHADYTOWN. And the Better Business Bureau agrees; it has given H&R Block a rating of "F." That's right, an F. As in, FAIL.

Next year, my taxes *should* be simpler, since I won't have as many freelance writing gigs (one of the pubs I write for has already switched to an online-only format and cut the budget for freelancers) and will only be earning in one state. I am going to try to do my taxes on my own. Essentially, H&R Block charged me almost $250/hour, whereas I could have hired my own accountant for less and gotten better service.

So if you're thinking about going to H&R Block.....I would seriously recommend that you reconsider.

Other evidence that H&R Block sucks:
"10 Things H & R Block Won't Tell You" Complaints about H&R Block