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Friday, April 30, 2010

Even more on Twilight

Had a nice long chat with Suzanne last night; it's been way too long since we caught up. We ended up talking for a couple of hours about Twilight. She had read all 4 books back in the spring of 2008 (well, the 4th book came out that summer), before the first movie was released, after her sister, who never recommends books, had recommended them. She never mentioned them to me, thinking they wouldn't be my cup of tea. Of course, we had incredibly similar reactions to the series - surprised and a little embarrassed how much we enjoyed the books. We both found Stephenie's writing to be quite engrossing - "a page turner" as Suzanne said, and we really like the literary references (Suzanne went back and reread Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre afterwards, and loved them both again). Suzanne confirmed what I had read about the 4th book - that it wasn't what fans really wanted and it's not a worthy finale; she said Stephenie should have waited and written the book that fans deserved. She was also quite disappointed in the first movie, especially how dark it was, and how little time it spent on the lighter, more romantic moments in the book. She's convinced that in 10 years, someone will remake it and take a different approach. Though she admits that when she watched it a second time, without her expectations from the book in the forefront, she enjoyed it more. We also both really loved Midnight Sun and hope that Stephenie will get over herself and finish it (it stops just when the romance starts to heat up).

We made tentative plans to get together the end of July, then we can include Eclipse in our movie marathon (a few weeks after it comes out and hopefully the crowds will have thinned).

I had a thought while we were talking, because we are so in sync about the appeal of the series. I think that in many ways, it's a very old fashioned love story, despite the vampire aspect, especially considering that Pride and Prejudice is the template. So when women of a certain age, like Suzanne, Meredith and I, want a traditional love story, it's not surprising that we would find this teen story fitting the bill. We're not interested in the sexed up historical novel (called a bodice ripper for obvious reasons) and also not that taken with more modern romances, where all the women live in NYC and shop til they drop (I don't care who designed their shoes or what cocktail lounge is the "in" place to drink). But if an adult novel were to stick to the simplistic motif of Twilight, it would seem too banal. This way, we get our cake and eat it too - the classic romantic formula (or formulas) and the naivete of youth, without the elements that we don't require. Meredith has recommended reading some blogs devoted to Twilight, the ones written by women my age. I'm sure this issue is covered in detail. And other conversations should be illuminating as well.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

No blood today

Grrr! Despite attempts on both arms, I was not able to donate blood today. I'm really frustrated because I'm convinced that, just like the last time, if the first phlebotomist hadn't sucked, it would have been fine. The supervisor took over and tried the original arm and the other side, but never got in (just like the last time). It makes me mad because I always tell them that my veins are small, and I've had trouble before, but they never listen until it doesn't work.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ACTS banquet

I enjoyed the banquet, held at the Liverpool Holiday Inn. My friend Kathy took this photo, that's Rachel to the left and Jonathan to the right.

The keynote speaker was James Forbes, the former minister for the Riverside Church in NYC. He talked for almost an hour and sometimes I had a hard time following his points - he often seemed to switch gears midstream. Just a different style of speaking I guess. He told a bunch of stories and parables, this was my favorite ("The Tale of the Sands" is a traditional Sufi tale):

Once a bubbling stream was unable to cross the desert despite trying many times. The stream said: "My destiny is to cross this desert, but I can see no way. Whenever I try, I am absorbed into the sand."

The voice of the desert answered, in the hidden tongue of nature, "The wind crosses the desert, and so can you."

The stream said, "The wind can fly, and I cannot."

The desert replied, "You are thinking in the wrong way - trying to fly by yourself is absurd. Allow yourself to be absorbed by the wind and the wind will carry you over the sand and deposit you gently into the mountains on the other side [as rain]."


Monday, April 26, 2010

Arizona Immigration Law

I have quite mixed feelings about this appalling legislation. On the one hand, I wish it had never been passed because it's a terrible way to approach the problem. On the other hand, it's creating a firestorm of reaction, which I'm very grateful for. And even better, it's forcing the country to have this painful conversation about immigration that is long overdue. Current predictions are not for major federal legislation this year, but you never know.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Installation of new Concord rabbi

I was very pleased to be a part of this classy and presitigious ceremony (Larry took this photo). It went so smoothly too, and we even ended a bit early. I got so many compliments, saying I looked terrific and did a great job. A really gratifying way to end my stint as WRJ president - important , even historic event. Makes some of the petty bullshit fade into the background.


My Twilight collection

Yes, I'm completely embarrassed that I've felt the need to buy all the books and movies. However, I'm ridiculously smug about what a good deal I've gotten on everything.

It all started when there was a copy of the original book on the sale shelf at the library, so I got the 1st book for 50 cents.

Then I ordered the 2nd book used online for $5, including the shipping.

Then I bought the 1st movie with a coupon at Borders for $18, and the 2nd movie at DeepDiscount.com for $20 (both a big savings off the list price).

Then I got the 3rd book with a coupon at Borders for $8.50.

So I spent about $50 for my entire collection. (Dawn copied the two movie soundtracks for me - which I totally don't approve of, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings by saying so. So I got those for free.)

The 4th book isn't out in paperback yet. According to Amazon, it's due in August 2010 - TWO YEARS after the hardcover. I've never heard of a paperback edition taking more than a year, but god bless 'em if they can keep making money on it (the paperback is out in the UK, so you could probably get it at Amazon.uk, if you were that obsessed). I have no need for the hardcover of the book, so I'm waiting for that one, if I buy it at all - I've heard some pretty withering things about the way she wraps things up, including Jacob imprinting on the Bella's infant daughter, ewww. [I later read Meredith's copy and liked it very much.]

Anyway, the 3rd movie is out in theaters in June, so will probably be on DVD in time for the holidays. Should be plenty of Borders coupons that time of year (assuming I'm still interested).

ADDENDUM July 2010

Here's how far I've fallen. When I saw the "official" Eclipse movie book in the store, it occurred to me that I could get the movie companion guide from the first movie for cheap online because used copies are certainly available by now. Then I cashed in some change at CoinStar for an Amazon gift card and thought, hey, I could get the other two movie books pretty cheap too I'll bet. And, coincidentally, the fourth novel is finally arriving in paperback and is super discounted at Amazon. So here's my full collection (the last 3 items were bought together, so the shipping was free; though I have to wait a couple weeks for them to be shipped together):

Twilight "Offical Illustrated Movie Companion" for just $3 (+$4 shipping)
New Moon movie companion book $13
Eclipse movie companion book $10 (almost half the retail price!)
Breaking Dawn in paperback $9 (also almost half price)


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Men & women write about food differently

Another terrific essay in the latest issue of Newsweek about food memoirs and how they differ when men and women write them. Here's an excerpt:

It seems every month brings a new crop of food memoirs, the majority of them by women. Almost inevitably, the story is about how food helped them reconnect with their family, get over a broken heart, find a sense of self. In the beginning I was sad, then I made brisket, and now I'm content.

When men write food memoirs, they have no time for cuddling over the crème brûlée. They're too busy throwing pots at their garde-manger, insulting customers, and sexually harassing any female who makes the mistake of walking into their kitchen. The ur-text for this sort of swaggering, cooking-is-hell memoir is Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. Cooking Dirty, The Devil in the Kitchen, and Heat follow Bourdain's model.

The exceptions, like pastry chef Dalia Jurgensen's Spiced, out in paperback this month, remind you how nice it can be to read about the experience of preparing food without all the drama. Jurgensen worked in plenty of testosterone-infused kitchens and engaged in some of the same drinking-and-screwing that her male counterparts so eagerly detail. But she never mistakes the work environment for the work, nor does she see cooking as balm to some psychic wound. She is a pastry chef simply because she enjoys the job. So why aren't there more books like Spiced?

One answer is that because there are more A-list male chefs than female ones (just three out of the 24 American "masters" on Bravo's Top Chef Masters show were women), food memoirs by men tend to be by professional chefs, while food memoirs by women tend to be by amateurs. It would make sense that a nonprofessional cook would need a dramatic personal story to get a book contract. Maybe if more female chefs wrote memoirs, they would be as matter-of-fact as the ones by their male counterparts.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Men more involved with kids, housework

This is a nice column in Newsweek that incorporates some interesting research data. Here's the last 3 paragraphs:

But a survey of recent family research, called Unconventional Wisdom, prepared by the Council on Contemporary Families for its annual conference in Illinois, contains fascinating new data that show how subtly and surprisingly male behavior has shifted. First, men are spending more time with their kids. Millennial fathers—those under 29—spend an average of 4.3 hours per workday with their kids, which is almost double that of their counterparts in 1977. A Families and Work Institute report found that these young dads are actually now spending more time each day with children under 13 than mothers between the ages of 29 and 42 are with their own. Which is staggering. Second, while women still do most of the housework, men are becoming far more familiar with the sponge and vacuum cleaner, particularly less educated men. Between 1965 and 2003, college-educated men did 33 percent more housework than they did before, and men who never completed high school did 100 percent more, according to research from Oxford University. Brilliant news. Maybe this is why divorce rates have been falling for 25 years. Sociologists tell us that the best way for a married man to have more sex is to do more housework—and it's scandal-free.

Unfortunately, sharing the load can mean sharing the misery, too. Astonishingly, married men are now feeling more torn over balancing work and family than their wives are. Joan Williams, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, found that in 2008, 59 percent of employed fathers in dual-earner families said they suffered work-family conflict, up from 35 percent in 1977. The number of women in two-income families who reported feeling conflicted increased by 5 percent over the same period, to 45 percent. (Williams says women who feel conflicted change their schedules, despite damage to their careers; men try to avoid this, and hence feel worse.) Men who stay home are in the minority, but overall, Williams says, "norms have shifted. Taking care of a child is now part of what it means to be a father."

Cue the "Hallelujah Chorus." In the midst of the tabloid hysteria about bad boys and dirty dads, it's important to remember that some things are going right. It is such a simple and important change that we have almost missed it: more and more men are starting to care for their children. The consequences of this are enormous.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wham-o on Daily Show

Wham-o was featured because they recently moved jobs from China back to the US because the prior overseas cost advantages have evaporated.

I can't remember ever laughing so hard at a Daily Show piece. The executive at Wham-o, Kyle Aguilar, and Aasif Mandvi, went back and forth, making fun of the company's products and globalization, without ever losing it. It was hilarious. The Wham-o guy kept a completely straight face, but you could tell that it wasn't because the satire was going over his head (which is generally the case). "It's come to this - Mexicans are hiring Americans to do jobs that the Chinese don't want."

And to the Chinese entrepreneur: "So we have to put antifreeze in our own toothpaste now?"

This link to The Daily Show site has some commentary and the entire 4 minute video.

This Times Herald story explains a bit about what's going on at the company.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Working hard

Matt Taibbi scolds David Brooks in his inimitable style, and points out that "working hard" means very different things to different people.

. . . But then you come to this last line of his, in which he claims that “for the first time in history, rich people work longer hours than middle class or poor people,” and you find yourself almost speechless.

I would give just about anything to sit David Brooks down in front of some single mother somewhere who’s pulling two shitty minimum-wage jobs just to be able to afford a pair of $19 Mossimo sneakers at Target for her kid, and have him tell her, with a straight face, that her main problem is that she doesn’t work as hard as Jamie Dimon.

Only a person who has never actually held a real job could say something like this. There is, of course, a huge difference between working 80 hours a week in a profession that you love and which promises you vast financial rewards, and working 80 hours a week digging ditches for a septic-tank company, or listening to impatient assholes scream at you at some airport ticket counter all day long, or even teaching disinterested, uncontrollable kids in some crappy school district with metal detectors on every door.

Most of the work in this world completely sucks balls and the only reward most people get for their work is just barely enough money to survive, if that. The 95% of people out there who spend all day long shoveling the dogshit of life for subsistence wages are basically keeping things running just well enough so that David Brooks, me and the rest of that lucky 5% of mostly college-educated yuppies can live embarrassingly rewarding and interesting lives in which society throws gobs of money at us for pushing ideas around on paper (frequently, not even good ideas) and taking mutual-admiration-society business lunches in London and Paris and Las Vegas with our overpaid peers.

Brooks is right that most of the people in that 5% bracket log heavy hours, but where he’s wrong is in failing to recognize that most of us have enough shame to know that what we do for a living isn’t really working. I pull absolutely insane hours in my current profession, to the point of having almost no social life at all, but I know better than to call what I do for a living work. I was on a demolition crew when I was much younger, the kind of job where you have to wear a dust mask all day long, carry buckets full of concrete, and then spend all night picking fiberglass shards out of your forearms from ripping insulation out of the wall.

If I had to do even five hours of that work today I’d bawl my fucking eyes out for a month straight. I’m not complaining about my current good luck at all, but I would wet myself with shame if I ever heard it said that I work even half as hard as the average diner waitress.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Truth out

The lead singer of this rap group died today. Great lyrics posted to FB by my friend Beth:

Actions have reactions, don't be quick to judge
You may not know the hardships people don't speak of
It's best to step back, and observe with couth
For we all must meet our moment of truth
- Gang Starr

Monday, April 19, 2010


Got back to my office and my wall calendar is missing. Weird. Best that my officemate and I can figure is that it fell off the wall and into the wastebasket and the janitor took it out with the other trash. I feel kind of naked without it. Where am I going to get a wall calendar in the middle of April?


Sunday, April 18, 2010


So my Twilight-obsessed friend, Meredith, gave me New Moon, which is the 2nd book, and I read the beginning and then skipped the middle so I could get back to Edward. Yes, I'm embarrassed, but I'm Team Edward all the way.

Then, I was at the library, and Eclipse was just sitting there, so I thought, what the heck. So now I'm halfway through the 3rd book and still need to go back and finish the 2nd book. What is my problem?

Stephenie's a fun writer, though. I can see the appeal. Her characters are involving - you want to know what they're going to do next. And she has a flair that I enjoy. For example, I was captivated by a short passage where the main character, Bella, tries to force 2 magnets together ("why can't you just get along?") Yes, the analogy is almost painfully obvious, but I still got a big kick out of that description. It just seemed so real - something I would have done (and thought!) at that age.

I've read a lot of criticism of Bella's character - that she's not a role model, that she has no interests, that she doesn't do anything but pine over Edwards. I find that odd. It's not that I'm just automatically accepting, not at all - if something didn't ring true to me, I'd comment on it. And it's not that I totally relate to Bella either. But I grew up in a small town, like the one where Bella lives. And what was I doing my senior year of high school besides waiting for my "real" life to start when I went to college? Working a crappy job after school, hanging out with my friends, going to football games and school dances. I don't think I was especially lacking in ambition or depth, but I also don't remember having any particular "interests" or being engaged in any especially meaningful activities. Bella has a job and cooks dinner for her dad and does laundry and emails her mom and hangs out with friends. Seems pretty normal and typical to me (if you ignore the whole vampire and werewolf thing, which, if you get right down to it, is the raison d'etre of the books). Though maybe by today's over-programmed standards, she isn't appropriately active - no community service, no sports teams, no Junior Achievement. (I also think about the characters in other books that I've read - what are they doing that's so different? Usually just getting through life, working, trying to have some fun, usually making poor romantic choices or sorting through various family difficulties. That's what life is.)

And Bella is also criticized for being whiny and lacking personality. But I don't see that at all. I wonder if grown women who write comments like these remember what they were like at that age. I've had many years to develop my sense of self and decide who I want to be in the world. But I was very insecure and self conscious at that age, trying to figure out who I was. So I find Bella quite typical and relatable. In fact, she seems to me to be generally assertive - saying things like "I won't be left behind" or "I want to play a role/do my share." She stands up to her parents when she feels strongly and Jacob, and she even stands up to Edward many times. So I don't find her a bad role model at all. She's not an idealized role model, but I'm not convinced that young women need that or can relate to that in any event.

Anyway, back to this particular book. The author has claimed that each of the four books is supposed to evoke a famous novel - Twilight is Pride and Prejudice, New Moon is Romeo and Juliet, and Eclipse is Wuthering Heights. I have to admit, the references in this third book are a bit heavy handed. They were quite explicit in New Moon as well, but they seemed to fit and I didn't feel so much like I was being bashed over the head with it: see? see?

Maybe it's just because I don't like Wuthering Heights as much as Romeo and Juliet. I found the foreshadowing a bit off-putting - early in the book, Bella explains the appeal of Wuthering Heights to Edward: Cathy and Heathcliff behave very badly (especially Cathy), but the purity of their love is their redeeming quality. Is there any doubt about what will follow? This is where the young adult-ness of the book seems very apparent to me. Which is not really a bad thing - that is the intended audience after all, but it takes me out of the story and makes me feel like I'm in English class. That can't be what she was going for.

Though I loved the poem she put at the beginning of the book - Fire and Ice by Robert Frost. Yes, it's incredibly obvious, but it's also a great poem, one of my favorites - "But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate, To say that for destruction ice, Is also great, And would suffice."

I'm not crazy for love triangles, which is a big part of this book - all that howling and sobbing and suffering is dramatic, but it's also kind of depressing. I suspect the drama is a big part of the appeal of this book, and I think I'm quite in the minority in my preferences. What I especially enjoy was the various back stories that she incorporated - Rosalie and Jasper, and how the wolves came to be. All those are very interesting and fun reading. And though the romantic tension between Bella and Edward is basically resolved, the sexual tension makes for good reading.

I read somewhere that this book really established the series. Probably because of the love triangle and it can't hurt that it's a bit steamier than the previous 2 - lots of making out and, though there's no sex, there's quite a bit of talking about it. I think the 1st book is my favorite, though there are a couple sections in New Moon that I especially loved (basically, the beginning and the end), so maybe it's a toss up.

I also read somewhere that, like J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter, Stephenie has created a world that you really want to inhabit, or maybe even, that you feel you are inhabiting. To my great surprise, I have found that to be true for me. I find myself thinking quite a bit about the characters and conversations. That's why I keep buying the books and movies (see separate entry) - because I want to come back to passages that I especially liked. I never thought that would happen to me - I was so smug about the series. Like Battlestar Galactica - I thought I was above it, but got completely caught up. Funny. Humbling too.

I know Meredith wants me to go to opening weekend of Eclipse (June 30!), but I'm not much for fighting crowds. Maybe they'd be willing to go again a few weeks later . . . Here's the action-oriented, vampire war trailer. Here's the romancey one (yum!)

I heard that the much of the buzz about the movie is over the tent scene (the chapter is called "Fire and Ice"), but of course I'm much more interested in how they show the chapter "Compromise" - it was terrifically written, I thought, and, sadly, it's likely to get only a minute or 2 of screen time. Much of what makes it compelling, as with so much of these books, is what's going on Bella's head, and that can't really be portrayed on screen. Still, it should be a very good movie.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Movies and books

I finished reading The River King by Alice Hoffman, which I liked very much. Interesting characters and moving situations about love and loss and forgiveness. Great stuff and well written. So, I remember liking the movie and wanted to watch it again. It happened to be on Netflix Instant Play, so I got to watch it tonight. Very well done, but a fascinating adaptation. Of course you have to leave things out of a book when you make the movie, but this seemed so spare and pared down compared to the book - you didn't get to know anything about these complicated people. And they changed a major plot point. I understand why they did it, to emphasize the theme of letting go, but it was still almost bizarre. The movie stands pretty well on its own, due to atmospheric directing and great actors in the major roles (and obviously a terrific story). But (as always) the book was much better.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Final day in NYC

Our final day in The City. Larry has to pack and I agreed to visit a local psychic with Michelle (she had seen the sign earlier in the week, but her husband refused to go with her). We each shuffled a subset of 10 tarot cards and were given a reading. I thought it was blatantly generic. We were both told that we would meet The One this year (clearly that's the question she gets the most; and apparently she just assumed that we were unmarried). She said Michelle inspires a lot of jealousy, and that I don't like to be bossed (who does?) and came close to getting married once (more like 3 times). It was fun, but totally bogus, as I expected.

I stopped back at the food cart from Tuesday, to get breakfast sandwiches for Larry and I. Bobbie is bringing the kids in by car, though she gets turned around when they come out of the Lincoln Tunnel and takes an hour to get to the hotel. While we wait by the entrance, we get to greet lots of people heading out, either to the aiport or for the day (many folks are staying an extra day or 3).

The plan had been the Empire State Building observation deck, but - bad luck! - they are closing early today for maintenance. We grab a cab over to the Carnegie Deli and munch on giant meat-only sandwiches (I had a very nice Greek salad with delicious feta).

Then, of course, M&M World, which is all the kids talk about when NYC is mentioned. We all get a treat there, even Bobbie, who buys a onesie for Noa.

Then we wander back to our hotel, stopping in the Yankee store on 49th St, and then at Rockefeller Center for the NBC store and Metropolitan Museum store. We also buy overpriced truffles at La Maison du Chocolat, and even stop into Saks, so I can exchange my bracelet. My final purchase at Saks is the Shisheido mascara that the makeup artists used; $25, an insane sum that I would never consider in my "real" life, but which seems completely reasonable in this fantasy where the money is free. We still have $100 on the card, so we will have to shop online or at a local store.

Larry and Caleb are meeting his friends at 6 to head to Yankee Stadium, and our limo is at 7. The friends are staying overnight, so they graciously allow us to come upstairs to show their room to the kids (it's very similar to the one we stayed in). Bobbie and I want a bite, so we sit in the lounge and order from the snack menu - her, duck ragout, and me, some heavenly butternut squash soup ($21 for a bowl!) I am continually amazed that people have this amount of money to spend - such a different world from the one I live in.

Alana loves the limo, lounging around - she looks right at home. It takes a bit of time to get to the tunnel, but once we get in, it's pretty much smooth sailing all the way to Old Bridge.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Final day of the conference

Another early start - breakfast downstairs and then the morning session at 9. People trickle in, there was no way we needed to be here so early! At the break, I call Bobbie and end up talking a long time. When I come back to the room, the speaker, Steve Ortiz, is standing very near where we were sitting and I would have to cross in front of him to get to my seat. So instead, I stand on the sidelines with several other people. I talk for awhile with a staff member, and take the opportunity to tell her how nice it would be if they offered an alternative session for the spouses so we could skip this strictly business presentation. Turns out, many other spouses have made this same point. Maybe, finally, they will do something about it!

After the session, we take a group photo with the letters Jerry brought (NEW YORK and JACOWITZ). We are free for a couple hours, so we grab a very quick lunch at Chipolte with Jerry and Dawn (Jerry's treat).

Then we have to get ready for the big final night party at Ellis Island. First the subway to Battery Park and a long wait in line after going through security (I suggested we wander in the park a bit, but John insisted that we get in line - it was suffocating in the tent, and gorgeous outside, grrr. Anyway, it was a quick ride on the ferry, and I spent the time talking with Andrea, the spouse of the MP of York PA, a very pleasant conversation. Then a stop at Liberty Island for soft drinks and lots of photos (we talk with the Kidzmart rep and his wife, from Vancouver). Then to Ellis. Cool dinner - food from around the world (dumplings from Japan, fried rice from China, pierogies from Poland, grilled chicken pita from Greece, etc) - though the concept is better than the food quality (the big spread of mini desserts is quite fine). Afterwards there is music on a stage set up at the edge of the island with a magnificent view of the NY skyline behind it.

I took a few minutes to run to the gift shop, and end up with another mug and some nice magnets. We took the ferry back around 11 and there are buses to run us back uptown.

Larry parties at Ba-Da-Bing and then sits in the lobby until 5 a.m. chatting so much that the next day, he's hoarse! I go upstairs, pack most of my stuff, and fall into bed late.


Teen obsession

So I'm wandering down the street enjoying all the sights and sounds, and checking out the street vendors. Lots of tables selling photos, most of NYC icons like the Empire State Building, but also of various teen idols, mostly the two guys from Twilight, and the Jonus brothers, and Justin Bieber. So a mom and young teen girl are walking toward me and the mom points out the table of photos and the daughter puts her hand on her heart and gasps. I have to linger to see which one she's kvelling over. I'm guessing Taylor Lautner, but what do I really know? Turns out, it's Justin Bieber. I'm a little disappointed actually, but now I have a better appreciation of how totally he is dominating the tween world. And yes, I briefly considered buying one of the photos of Robert Pattison as Edward, but it would just be too embarrassing (and where would I hang it anyway?)


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Humanitarian Day & Award Dinner

Another early start (boo hiss) - breakfast at 7 - ugh. Our assignment is to assemble bicycles. But there's a couple hundred people! Larry and I are assigned to clean up duty. The entire project only takes an hour, with so many people helping. We feel a bit flat, as apparently do others - GJ later says that next year, we'll have more to do!

I'm starving after continental breakfast (which for me means fruit). I head out to find a diner or McDonald's and instead buy a (surprisingly) delicious breakfast sandwich from a cart two blocks away. The owner, from Greece, tells me how much business has fallen off since 2 years ago.

Larry is almost asleep when I get back to the room, and sleeps like a log, of course, for a couple of hours, while I only doze.

We head out for a sushi lunch after our nap. Though we picked out a highly rated place from a list online, there are dozens of places to choose from in the area, so we go in the first place we come to. A 15-minute wait discourages us, so we move on to the next place on the block. They say they have nothing available (no mention of waiting), so we go to place #3. We sit at the sushi bar and eat melt-in-your-mouth fish until we are stuffed to the gills!

I have to rush off to my hair appointment at Saks - an updo for a mere $100 (we've only managed to spend about half our allotment!) I stop in the jewelry shop and (too quickly, as it turns out) pick a bracelet to compliment my evening gown. (Later I go back to exchange it for a different one I saw as I was leaving, but it is no longer in the case - "he who hesitates" and all that - stupid not to take the few minutes and get what I wanted at the time - so rushed all the time!)

After my hair appt with Mann, I have to hurry back to the Waldorf to have my makeup done by the Shisheido rep. While I wait for my turn, I sip champagne and enjoy items on a sumptuous cheese tray. Shelly is a miracle worker. She spends the vast majority of the 40 minutes on my eyes, which are unbelievable when she is done (though none of the photos do her magic justice). A woman offers to redo my hair (which I think is much too severe), but Shelly insists that it looks perfect already (and I feel a bit disloyal considering this, as the hairdresser was very attentive and clearly a genius, tee hee). Shelly disapproves of the dark lipstick I've brought and gives me the pink lip gloss she used so that I can touch up later and not clash with her masterpiece.

Then upstairs to dress, and back down for a VIP cocktail party - our last perk before the winner is announced and we go back to regular citizen status. I am annoyed that I picked such a conservative dress, since the one I rejected as too risque is much more the style of the other women. Next time I won't be so chicken!

We are introduced on the balcony, as rehearsed, and then downstairs for a wonderful dinner (roasted vegetable tart to start, tenderloin beef that melts in our mouths and potatoes and asparagas, baked Alaska for dessert). Many awards are presented, the first is the best - a woman who makes pillows for soldiers is given $10,000 from TRH and Marsh Insurance. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Larry doesn't win, but he has totally enjoyed his time in the spotlight. The winner deserves it and no one is unhappy when his name is read.

Larry stays out very late at Ba-Da-Bing (more cowbell!), but I hit the sack (relatively) early.


Monday, April 12, 2010

My one day of freedom

I skipped the morning conference session (I had no desire to hear the harrowing tale of an Iraq war survivor). I met my friend Christine at S'mac (on 12th St) for heavenly GF mac and cheese, then we had coffee at a nice coffee house around the corner, and then she dropped me at the Strand (8 miles of books!) I made a whirlwind tour and ended up with a nice-sized bag of loot. I stopped at Max Brenner chocolates (as recommended by Christine) and bought some very over-priced truffles and chocolate bubble bath. I lingered for a few minutes in Union Square, and bought the kids some animals made of soapstone. Then I jumped on a subway to get back in time for the award dinner rehearsal.

Then we rushed back to the room to change for the Dine Around. We took cabs downtown to the Old Homestead (the oldest steakhouse in Manhattan). Delicious dinner (and pricey - we dropped about $3000). I was disappointed that we didn't stay for coffee and dessert (I was jonesing for creme brule). Instead we headed back uptown for drinks on a roof deck bar called Tonic East.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

The conference officially begins

The only day we didn't have to jump right out of bed (I just don't know why they insist on starting so early!)

We had to be at Rockefeller Center at noon. A private party on the ice rink! (I didn't realize it would be there.) Nice food, though much I couldn't eat (tempura, mini burgers, chicken sticks with peanut sauce).

I snuck off to the NBC store above the rink, just to window shop, but ended up buying a Battlestar Galactica mug. I was ridiculously pleased about it.

At 4:30 we went over to Radio City Music Hall for dinner and the big opening night. Dinner was mostly Italian, but I enjoyed the roasted vegetables and a nice salad, and maybe the best cheesecake I ever ate.

Larry looked very dapper in his hat and he held his own, dancing with the Rockettes (though they're a head taller than him).


Saturday, April 10, 2010

First day & night

An early start, not my favorite thing, but what a day. A private fashion show at Saks Fifth Avenue before the store opened. (Did you know that their shoe department, on the 8th floor, has it's own zip code? Not sure why, just so they can say so maybe.)

We had a little time to shop, then back to the hotel for a gorgeous brunch - made to order omlettes and waffles, fruit, and even lox. Then we had a little time to head back to the store. I got an adorable gold purse for my outfit tonight (only $200!) and Larry got some sneakers (on sale!) and a man scarf (which he doesn't think he'll have the nerve to wear). We both tried on clothes, but didn't buy anything (I tried on a $600 Italian dress that looked wonderful on the mannequin, but I didn't think it was anything special once it was on me).

The ladies got our makeup done at the Shisheido counter - I looked amazing - subtle, but she really brought out my eyes - bang! I bought some eye cream (only $125). The perfume counter was adjacent and Larry let the woman talk him into two bottles of cologne. The prices are just breathtaking, but it's like Monopoly money, so it doesn't seem to matter, as long as we stay within the limit ($1000). Just to offset our extreme consumerism, we spent $50 on 2 tshirts, the profits of which are being sent to Haiti ("To Haiti with Love").

Then it was time to head back to the hotel to get gussied up for the New Year's Eve themed party. We counted down to New Year's at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. Wonderful food - lots of small salads (and other stuff I couldn't eat, like pasta). My gold dress was perfect, though the shoes did start to hurt my feet eventually. It was fun.


Friday, April 09, 2010


The drive down to NJ was quite painless. The kids were great. The limo was early, but we weren't able to take advantage, since we needed the time to get the kids settled and sort out the luggage. I did very well with the packing, and I was really proud that I just had two small suitcases. But I made a weird, and rather substantial mistake - when I unpacked at the hotel, I realized that I had left my main makeup bag at home. I had my regular makeup, but the other bag had my face cleanser and moisturizer and all my medications. Frustrating not to have it, but I managed fine, mostly because I keep so much stuff in my everyday purse (which I call The Everything Bag for obvious reasons).


Thursday, April 08, 2010

New Moon (the movie)

O.K., now I finally get the whole Team Jacob thing - that Taylor Lautner is smokin' hot! Just physically, I prefer dark over blonde, but I'm still Team Edward all the way - I love me some tragic hero.

I liked the music a lot better in Twilight - it was a little more subtle and more haunting.

My Twilight-obsessed friend, Meredith, thinks New Moon is a much better movie. She thinks the director (Chris Weitz) got better performances out of the actors than Catherine Hardwicke. She had said, "you'll see," but I don't see at all. I think both movies are atmospheric and compelling. I liked the first movie and didn't think there was anything that needed to be improved on (except to include some of my favorite lines, which were inexplicably missing!) Funny, but there is a new director for the 3rd installment (David Slade) and yet another for the 4th (Bill Condon).

I watched the Making Of video for this movie as well, and I was equally impressed with how much work they did to make it. The stunts were so impressive. When Bella jumps from the cliff, I assumed it was CGI, but they filmed a stunt woman falling 70 feet in order to get the shot - amazing (even the stunt woman was nervous). Almost seemed like too much trouble to go to - the audience is built in after all.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Fashion show

Cal took this picture of me in The Dress and The Shoes. For the New Year's Eve themed VIP party on Saturday night.

This is the dress for the black tie awards dinner on Tuesday night. Cal took this also.

Amazing what a push-up bra can do! (I took this one!)


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

25 confirmed dead in mining accident

This is so sad and so infuritating. This company has a poor safety record. Who knows how many of these 25 people would be alive today if this company cared as much about its workers as it does about making money. Four people are still alive, but their prospects are poor. My heart goes out to these families.

Search for miners after deadly blast could take days

Montcoal, West Virginia (CNN) -- It could take up to two days to drill bore holes into a sprawling West Virginia coal mine, scene of a massive blast that left at least 25 miners dead, a mining official said Tuesday.

Bulldozers will be used to clear a path through the hills and bring in equipment to reach the affected part of the Upper Big Branch Mine, Kevin Stricklin of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said.

The holes will be drilled 1,200 feet down to help ventilate the mine and collect samples. Rescue crews early Tuesday halted their efforts to reach four miners still unaccounted for, as concentrations of methane and carbon monoxide posed a safety risk, Stricklin said.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Save your breath

Man, do I hate fake people. Don't act syrupy sweet in front of someone you want to impress, after you've been as nasty as you can be when no one is watching. Have some balls, for pete's sake, and have some integrity. Don't pretend, just because you have an audience. I have no respect for that phony bullshit.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Why insurance companies don't object to healthcare reform

Another great piece explaining what the legislation does and doesn't do, by Howard Fineman in Newsweek.

There are many things you can call the legislation assembled by President Obama and his band of dogged Democrats. It's historic, if for no other reason than it effectively makes health care for all a civil right. It's massive, to be sure. And the way it was secretly bolted together and jammed through Congress in the final days made a mockery of Obama's campaign promise of "transparency." But the one thing that you can't call it is "socialism." If this is socialism, then Warren Buffett is Karl Marx. It is, rather, a monument to the political philosophy of -Chicago—indeed of -America—which declares that big business deserves to make a lot of money (a lot of it from the government itself) in the name of doing some good for the citizens.

You'll notice that, while the GOP's tea partiers are in a frenzy, most of the health-care industry is not. The stock market didn't tank when Obama signed the bill, and health-related stocks have been beating the overall average. That is because much of the health-care industry is going to make out big under the new law. Insurers, hospitals, doctors, and drug companies will get 32 million new government-subsidized -customers. Most of the new regulatory burdens they'll have to shoulder are ones they've decided they can live with, or figure out how to neutralize sooner or later.

The political architecture of the bill was pure Chicago. Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago-bred White House chief of staff, pursued a triple divide-and-conquer strategy worthy of the Daley machine. By brokering deals with Big Pharma, the hospitals, and doctors, he isolated the recalcitrant insurance companies —which became the political piñatas in a campaign financed in part by the other, more cooperative parts of the industry (a nice, vindictive touch). At the same time, he divided the larger business community into warring factions and divided the GOP from part of its base.

But, of course, doing this costs money. And here the noninsurance players were as shrewd as Rahm. Big Pharma agreed early on to kick in $88 billion to help seniors pay for the cost of their drugs. But industry analysts say that they will make that back—and more—in part by encouraging seniors to keep using name-brand drugs (which the government will help pay for) and by expanded use of drugs as the government (eventually) looks for cheaper treatment methods. The drug companies also benefit from what the White House agreed to keep out of the bill: the importation of cheap foreign drugs and a plan for government wide price negotiations with suppliers.

Hospitals kicked in upfront cash, too, but in exchange for a lifeline in the law: the promise that the government will pay the cost of most uninsured patients, under Medic-aid. As for the doctors, they also got a promise: a pledged increase in Medicare reimbursement. It's not in the bill (it simply cost too much), but the widespread assumption is that they will get what they want. As for the insurance companies—the middlemen in the industry—they're going to get squeezed. They'll have thinner margins and more bureaucrats to deal with. But these companies are themselves vast bureaucracies with lots of cash and lawyers to spare. No one's expecting them to wither.

And how will the new law reduce the percentage of our economy we de-vote to health care—the highest in the world? That's fuzzy. There are "pilot" programs and studies and an "Independent Medical Advisory Commission" empowered to (again, eventually) impose some "cost--saving" measures. That is, if Congress doesn't overrule them. If Obama really wanted to save money for the entire society, he might have suggested that the federal government should be in charge of all health care, and then put the delivery of that care up for bid in the private sector: true, vicious, competitive bidding. But that's not the way they do socialism in Chicago.


Disappointing run of movies

So I finally watched Burn After Reading, which I thought was pretty dumb and not very funny. Tons of great actors and the performances were good, but I don't think I ever laughed. Too broad and too obvious and too heavy-handed. Basically vintage Coen brothers, but less accessible than their best efforts like Fargo and Raising Arizona. Oh well. At least I got to see Frances McDormand explaining why she would bomb in Hollywood - that was about the only amusing moment in the movie; well, that and John Malkovich screaming the f word at everyone (but that felt like such schtick, pretty stale actually).

Also watched The Yards (2000), which I think I actually saw before and just forgot. Moody and good performances by a bunch of great actors (Mark Wahlberg's first really dramatic role, and he's not bad, and Joaquin Phoenix is amazing as always, and Charlize Theron, and James freakin' Caan, and Faye Dunaway for god's sake), but so, so dark. Just not my cup of tea.

Also watched Sweet Land, which I also think I saw before (though it's not that old, released in 2005). A very understated period romance with the lovely Elizabeth Reaser and a fun performance by the always watchable Alan Cumming. But not especially satisfying or even that emotionally compelling.

Also watched The Other Man, with Liam Neeson, Antonio Banderes, and Laura Linney. Not a bad movie, but not as riveting as this cast and this storyline should be (man discovers his wife's long-term affair after her death). Some affecting moments, but not a great addition to this genre. I also strongly object to the way the daughter (played by Romola Garai, from Atonement) was portrayed - she kept telling her dad to get over it. I think that's completely unrealistic - I think the children of people who have affairs are often more angry at the parent than the spouse is (read The Bridges of Madison County, for a good example). It just annoyed me that the daughter, who is about to get married herself, is so blase. It was a missed opportunity to explore other real emotions that come from these situations.

The fun part for all 4 of these was watching the making-of featurettes, which were interesting and just a fun peek behind-the-scenes. The major argument for DVDs.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Trying to move on

This post has been deleted because someone used my hurt and upset feelings against me. Someone read this blog post and, though they didn't have the balls to say anything to me directly, they were quite willing to pass along (some of) what I wrote to others until it got to someone who had no problem speaking to me about how inappropriate my personal reflections were. Therefore I'm removing this post, though obviously whatever damage there is has already been done, so that my honesty can no longer offend the spiteful little cowards out there who apparently have nothing better to do with their time.


Friday, April 02, 2010

My new favorite quote

I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.
- Augusten Burroughs


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Young adult novels

Stopped in Borders planning to pick up at graphic novel for Cal as a small gift. Had no idea how expensive they are. First, I grabbed a skinny one based on Ironman, and was shocked that it was $12.99. Thinking it was so expensive because of the movie tie-in and all, I looked at some others - turns out that was the cheapest one by several dollars - they went rapidly up into the low 20s. Ouchy!

I ended up getting him a couple of comic books instead - he won't care and I spent less than half what the one book cost.

Then I got into a chat with one of the clerks when I lingered by the Young Adult fiction section, rather stunned by how many books there are with a vampire theme (like almost all of them). I asked her if people really buy all these Twilight knock-offs. She said yes, but she prefers the Beauty & the Beast retelling called Beastly by Alex Flinn. So I asked her if she ever saw the 1980s TV show. You should have seen her eyes light up! I totally made her day. She was going straight to the internet as soon as I left!

The movie of Beastly is coming this summer. Sounds intriguing, and there's no vampires! Beauty and the beast is such a classic story, and so romantic. The clerk was annoyed because Vanessa Hudgens is starring, but it's a bit early to assume she's wrong. Plenty of performers who are strongly associated with a certain role are perfectly able to competently do something else!

Anyway, Alex Flinn has written several YA novels, some of which have themes borrowed from classic fairy tales, including Sleeping Beauty (A Kiss in Time). She sounds fun. Also known for some YA novels with more serious themes, like a book with an HIV-positive teen that often makes in onto assigned high school reading lists. I might have to check her out.