24 November 2008

The Less Commonly Seen Hispanic Southerner

Without flirtation (I think) and while cooking up my delicious pasta lunch lunch, the cafe chef referred to me repeatedly as "sweetheart."

Aw, I miss living in the South!

20 November 2008

Am I Happy?

On the morning of what is to be, ultimately, three Thanksgiving meals (and none of them actually on Thanksgiving Day), I find it appropriate to ask myself if I'm truly happy.

By all rational accounts, I should be insanely happy. I enjoy good health, as do those around me, I have a good family and a few good friends, a steady job, money in the bank, a wealth of entertainment at my fingertips. I don't own a TV. I have a lovely new life partner, and we've made good steps to building a sustaibale lifestyle in the past few weeks. There's no one dropping bombs on me, curtailing my freedoms in any significant way, taking my home away. I've lost money in the stock market, just like everyone else, but at least I have some savings, and the mentality to save.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs says that humans have five basic levels of need. Each level is dependent on the one below it; you cannot reach for a higher level of need without achieving the one below. You can temporarily regress and place a higher importance on health, for example (say you suddenly get sick), but you don't necessarily have to work back through all the levels to get back to where you were.

It's interesting to look around you and try to figure out where people are. (It's even more interesting to determine what level they lack, but that's mean-spirited.) My father-in-law recently started writing novels and is now published. Could we say that he has attained the fifth level of creative output? Does my growing knitting habit represent a channel of creativity? Am I really the happiest when I'm sewing something?

Around this time of year, it's worth taking a look at this pyramid. I could always have more friends, more security, more confidence, more spontaneity, but overall I'm doing pretty well. Here's to remembering that.

05 November 2008

Vade retro

As heartened as I am by Barack Obama's victory, as much as I believe this is the first election in a while in which people voted for a candidate rather than against his opponent, as disappointed as I was when I finally made up my mind that McCain was no longer the moderate ethical voice in the Republican Party, mostly what I feel today is relief.

Relief that the hokey woman in the lipstick, heels and designer suits is going back into obscurity where she belongs.

I can handle someone who believes in an abstract story of creation. I don't judge a person for having a regional accent or for using earthy language. I have felt myself the mind-blank when put on the spot.

But to ridicule solid, promising scientific research on fruit flies and bears? Research that can potentially lead to breakthroughs, not to mention contribute to the worldwide body of knowledge? That is unforgivable, short-sighted and warped.

Good riddance.

27 October 2008

Liesl's Magnificat

Yesterday was luscious. We had almost written the whole weekend off, what with Saturday's rain and slop and wet. Saturday was a non-day. A day to clean the kitchen, a day to finish up that project that's been sticking its tongue out at you from the floor of the hall. A day that we simply endured together, sleeping and eating and sleeping some more. A day for drinking raspberry tea. Not a bad day, just a prosaic day.

But, oh, Sunday, sweet Sunday, the autumn day of my dreams. The rain brought in warmer air, for one precious Indian summery day. The sun woke us up, nudging us into the day earlier than usual, so that we could taste and savor the sweetness of the bluest sky and hear the crispness of the leaves.

We wandered through Central Park, the only proper destination for such a day. We shared the gray-beige rocks of Turtle Pond with other couples and watched the men row their ladies in green rowboats. Impromptu kisses beneath the goldening leaves may or may not have been shared. We talked of cabbages and kings, of wedding plans and future things. Shared one slice of pizza between the two of us, a sip of coffee, and a free chocolate. Played in the leaves and the stuffed animals. Walked and talked and walked and talked down the sidewalks of the city.

Sublime and pure, the sun warmed our hearts and the leaves opened our souls to each other. It was, in short, the consummate fall afternoon, the prototype of autumn, the mold from which all fall days should be cast.

And the best part of the day was sharing it with you.

20 October 2008


So, this has been a day. I arrived at my office building to find that the elevator was out, and I'd have to walk up the eight flights of stairs to get to work - again. The stairs were wet, with water dripping down my neck as I climbed. It actually got worse as I got farther up.

If only that were the worst of it.

When I finally got to my floor, it was raining. Inside the building. Yes, raining. Like, dangit, I forgot my umbrella. Like, I want to stay in bed and watch a movie. Like, good day for ducks. Inside the building.

It appears there was a false fire alarm on the 10th floor, or a pipe leak, or something, that didn't get checked over the weekend. It's 3:30 right now, and they tell me water is still running on the 9th and 10th floors. My specific office isn't affected, fortunately.

The director's office was a soggy mess. His computer no longer works. His chairs squished when you sat down on them. When you lifted up a corner of a ceiling tile to see where the water was coming from, a fountain gushed out the other corner. We emptied out his office entirely, moving 60 years and a PhD's worth of books. We strategically placed recycle bins to catch the drops. We rescued his diplomas and family pictures and knicknacks. We set up fans to dry his important documents into crinkly, crispy pages. We set up a temporary office for him in another room. We called the crew to bring carpet fans. We thought we were done.

And then...we opened the storage closets next to his office. The ones that hold ten years' worth of paper archives, in cardboard boxes. Which were now wet archives, in wet cardboard boxes. I took a puddle of dirty cardboard water to the face when emptying those shelves.

So now we have archives, Christmas decorations, electronics, chair cushions and all kinds of documents strewn around every possible surface, drying. Fortunately they tell me the floors are made of concrete, so there's no risk of those collapsing. The ceilings, that's another story. I'm keeping my ears peeled for the crash.

Talk about a flashback to Odo-Ban!

03 October 2008

The Frozen North

It occurred to me that Canada might be feeling a little left out of this presidential election.

"Hey, we're next to Alaska, too!"

29 September 2008


Browsing NYTimes.com this morning, I found this gem of a sentence:

Heretofore, my chief anxiety about traveling to France had always been that, at some point during my trip, I would be called upon to pronounce the name of the town Ypres.

You can read the rest of the article here. Let's just say that from the very first sentence, the article grabs you. (Caveat: You have to speak boarding school French to fully understand the article; the author resorts to peppering phrases en français throughout the text, to give it more of a je ne sais quoi.)

26 September 2008

Rethinking The Desire To Live In Northern France

You know it's going to be a long day when you arrive at work and have to squeegee yourself off. Rain rain go away, at least for the twenty minutes while I walk from home to subway and subway to work. Seriously, I am wet to the upper thigh.

But yet, I still can't bring myself to buy the silly rubber boots all the girls here wear. While certainly more functional than Crocs, they're equally funny-looking. Bets are on for how long I'll hold out.

12 September 2008

The Countdown

Well, it's coming down to the wire, folks. Two days until my birthday. Two days until the last year of a 2 as the first digit. I gave up long ago on pretending that I was still carefree, but still...thirty's in sight, just lurking down the bend, waiting to jump on me and smother me with its finality.

And so now it's time for the list. I've attempted this once before but didn't get very far. At the time, I thought I had all the time in the world to think of more things. Go look at that list. I'll wait. Do dee doo de doo.

Wow, I've accomplished, partially accomplished, or will accomplish the first four items! But for realsies, it's my turn to make my own list. No fair listing things I've already done.

  1. Put up as many of my CSA fruit and vegetables as possible for the winter.

  2. Succeed in making borscht this time.

  3. Make as many of my own work clothes as I can.

  4. Stay gracious and try not to snap at my mom when she forces her wedding ideas on me.

  5. Take a photography class, or work on my photography skills.

  6. Find another dance class I like, and attend regularly.

  7. Go to a country I haven't been to and where I don't speak the language.

  8. Talk to strangers.

  9. Put 6k into my retirement fund. Hey, I never said the things had to be interesting!

  10. Attend a European soccer game.

  11. Really blow a student's mind with my insightful and probing questions on intercultural awareness, leading them to requestion all they ever thought they knew about the world (aka, do my job).

  12. Figure out what to do about the "I want a registry!" "But we don't have any space for stuff." "But I WANT one!" dilemma.

  13. Spend a weekend with Frenchy and a borrowed under-one, just to see if we can hack it.

  14. Think up a really watertight excuse for when we can't hack it.

  15. Read Jude the Obscure.

  16. Have more than one professional massage.

  17. Take advantage of the free gallery talks at the Met.

  18. Learn to stop on rollerblades.

  19. Visit some New York wineries.

  20. Invite the couple that lives below us up for dinner or coffee.

29 August 2008

How to make me melt into a tiny little puddle

The other night we got word that a deacon who happens to be a cousin of a friend agreed to marry us in France, pending an in-person meeting beforehand. This was good news; besides the fact that we've found an officiant, we also only have to go through one day of pre-wedding counseling rather than the six months that American priests make you do. Welcome to France, where they're desperate for Catholics.

Nevertheless, Frenchy looked alarmed. "Pre-wedding counseling? What are they going to ask?"

I explained that usually the priest asks you if you've given consideration to many of the issues that may potentially cause friction: children, finances, difference in beliefs, and in our case, what country we're going to live in. He looked somewhat relieved.

"I thought that he was going to ask what I did to deserve a girl like you. Because really, somebody's got to notice, sooner or later."

27 August 2008


The first crisps of autumn are in the air.

I wake up in the morning, shivering from the open window.

I wonder if my eight-year-old out-at-the-elbows French suede jacket will last another season.

I ditch my pinks and purples for oranges and browns. I polish my knee-high boots to be presentable for one more season.

I start to reconsider if fall is really my favorite season in New York, because it really represents the long decline towards winter.

I think of summer camp in Michigan while I walk to work (3 miles a day, I counted!) The air had a similar tang to it when the morning bell woke us up in our open cabins, a crunch that burned off after an hour and a bowl of oatmeal.

I crave oatmeal.

I count the weeks until my CSA will be over. I think about signing up for the winter share. I don't have to think very hard. Sign me up!

I remind myself that colder weather means fewer visitors to our small apartment.

I gear myself up for the parents' visit in November.

I search for recipes to preserve and store the fruits of the summer sunshine. Peach preserves this week--no eating them out of hand.

I savor the warmth as I pull sticky sweaty hairs off my neck. Why did I pledge not to cut my hair until the weddings? It's getting the chop in August.

Autumn is coming, folks.

12 August 2008

The Global Workforce

I went to a Mexican restaurant today for lunch, that was staffed and cheffed entirely by Asians of indeterminate variety.

That just seems wrong.

07 August 2008


I need a break.

I've only been working for three weeks and I need a break. There, I admitted it.

It's harder than I had thought to transition from over three months of unemployedness to working full time, waking up at quarter to silly o'clock, and making sure there are enough lefotvers to eat the next day for lunch.

Keeping yourself on task, not checking your hotmail. Trying not to clock-watch. Putting makeup on every day. Remembering to bring a wrap in case the office is too cold. The list goes on.

Did I mention the 6:45 am wakeup?

But really, it's not the work that is burning me out. Work is the escape. It's the home. Specifically, it's the people at home. We have recently doubled the population of our one-bedroom apartment to four people. The Frenchy's sister and her boyfriend are here for a vist.

A two-week visit.

Did I mention the small apartment? And the two weeks?

While they are both delightful and lovely, it's a bit of an adjustment to skitter out of bed at the first clang of the alarm in order not to disturb their peaceful morning lie-in, to tiptoe to the bathroom and shower as quietly as possible, to go about my normal working life while they merrily vacation. And it's not just the morning that reveals the disjunction. For the past two weeks, we have eaten out or gone to a bar every single night. Every night. That's a lot of money, and a lot of calories. And a lot of very late-night returns.

I want to enjoy spending time with them, to learn how to shift from girlfriend to in-law, to practice my French without feeling burned out. I looked forward to their arrival, I begged her to visit because I want to get to know her better, and now that they're here I'm furtively checking how many days until they leave. I want them here with me, just not quite so close to me. I want to be a good hostess, but I also with they would hang up their towels. I like talking to them, but speaking constant French tires me out.

The irony of it all is that I have brought leftover sweet-sour chicken for lunch today.

17 July 2008

Vegetable basket 16 July

Vegetable basket 16 July
Originally uploaded by skorky64.
Ahh, this week's theme is "oblong."

I'm beginning to think that my CSA harvest vegetables according to a theme, rather than what's ripe. This can be the only explanation.

And a few of the cherries somehow got purloined before the photo was taken. Don't know how that happened!

02 July 2008

Vegetable basket 2 July

Well, this must be the red and yellow week at the CSA. It also features flowers from Frenchy, yellow lilies.

This batch became a zucchini stir fry, blueberry muffins and pancakes, swiss chard quiche, beet risotto, and a whole bunch of other things I can't remember but were supremely tasty.

30 June 2008

Mobile, Portable or Cell

Typical Reaction to the Revelation That I Do Not Own a Cell Phone, By Year

I had one when I was in France from 2002-2003, but I only got one here in 2006. I believe this fits me squarely in the rubric outlined above.

21 June 2008

In Which I Am Drinking

Well, howdy all. Hey look, it's my HUNDRETH post! In three years! I think that must be a record. A record of half-assedness and incompetence. I doubt there is any blogger out there who has so ineptly stuck to an ailing blog for three years and posted so little of any real worth.

And yet, here I am.

A friend was over several times last week, the same friend that saw me through college, tsking at my music selection all the way. Let's just say that I grew up on a steady diet of KLOU 103, Good Times, Great Oldies, and draw the curtain. I don't care if my music selection is unabashedly nerdtastic, it works for me and that's the way I like it. And I shall not be abashed!

I had mentioned that my playlist was stuck in December of 1999, when our college firewalled all illegal downloading. The next day when she came to see me she brought a mixtape (actually a mixCD) with lots of great new stuff on it, Chicago rap, indie stuff, and all around I love it, just for the new sounds she brings me.

But there is one gem, one brilliant center rock in this diamond ring of sound that I must share with you. Forget the visuals, just close your eyes and let the sleazy lounge tune slide over you. Groovy, baby!

19 June 2008


The wait is over! I have my first vegetable basket! There is:

  • a dozen eggs

  • two rhubarb stalks

  • two quarts of strawberries

  • a purple lettuce

  • another purple lettuce, different and absolutely massive

  • a pint of pea shoots

  • garlic scapes (I was supposed to take five but I only have four, owing to an apparent inability to count wild curly things that hang together like wire clotheshangers)

  • spinach

  • mixed baby greens

  • a pint of sugar snap peas

  • a bunch of cilantro

I washed all of the produce in the sink, noting with joy the promised dirt that the CSA people said would be there. Somehow it makes it all more authentic, I think. I had to improvise a bunch of drying racks all around the kitchen. A salad spinner is in my future, I think!

So far I've made a little stir fry of some of the pea shoots, a scape, some snap peas and some green onions that were wilting in my fridge. I can safely say that while I've somehow picked up the famous "touch" necessary to make a good salad dressing, I haven't gotten it for stir fry. Too much soy sauce!

The sugar snap peas were delicious, and I've sneaked several of them raw, and the garlic scape was unusual but good. I can't say as much for the pea shoots. I was expecting a delicate leaf and stalk, almost as soft as a fat mung bean sprout, but they were tough and stringy when quickly sauteed. Perhaps I should try them raw, as many sites recommended?

The baby greens will go next, as I imagine they won't hold up very long in the fridge. And of course I've eaten some of the strawberries. That goes without saying. (Too late!)

22 May 2008

The Difference Between Frenchy and Me

I have discovered the Frenchy's weakness, and it is brownies.

I made brownies a few days ago, to go with the utterly satisfying Mint Ice Cream. The Frenchy doesn't eat any ice cream that isn't vanilla, but nevertheless he wouldn't let me put chocolate chips in the mint ice cream. Yes, I love him anyway. It's hard sometimes.

So I made these brownies to go with the ice cream. This photo (weirdly sideways, I can't get it to straighten out) is about a day and a half after they came out of the oven. By this time I had eaten two reasonably small-sized squares. Frenchy ate the rest. For breakfast.

Normally it is me and my sweet tooth that pigs out on the cookies, brownies, cake, etc. I've been known to vacuum up an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's in one sitting. Frenchy, in his best Frenchy manner, takes three spoonfuls and says "That's enough for tonight." (How can he resist the caramelly crunchiness of Americone Dream?) I scarf it up and don't even feel guilty. If it tastes good, I'm eating it. End of story.

I have long avoided reading French Women Don't Get Fat, partly because I'm convinced I came up with the idea by myself after living in France ten years ago (dirty plaigiarists!) and partly because I suspect the book will annoy the living daylights out of me. If you haven't read it, basically it comes down to this: American women are scared of their food, and like a horse that can sense fear, the food attacks back in the form of guilt, flab, indigestion and cottage cheese thighs. French women, on the other hand, savor the flavor, get the most out of the small amount of food they eat, and therefore can consume horrendously buttery and cholesterol-laden foodstuffs with no avoirdupois impact.

(You see, the difference between me and French women is that I combine the American and French technique: no-guilt eating, but I don't stop with just one helping. Lord knows how I keep this svelte figure.)

But there is one thing that will break a French person's resolve to have just a cubic centimeter of food at once, and it is Duncan Hines Extra Fudgy Brownies. I am rather gleeful over the discovery.

14 May 2008

1001 Movies

And of course, here's the celluloid version. Full list here. These are the ones I've seen.

106. Grand Illusion (1937)
110. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
123. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
145. Dumbo (1941)
152. Casablanca (1942)
166. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
188. Beauty and the Beast (1946)
233. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
245. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
258. Roman Holiday (1953)
278. The Seven Samurai (1954)
285. Guys and Dolls (1955)
339. The 400 Blows (1959)
341. Some Like It Hot (1959)
351. Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
373. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
375. Jules and Jim (1961)
381. West Side Story (1961)
383. Cleo de 5 a 7 (1962)
417. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
419. My Fair Lady (1964)
421. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
437. The Sound of Music (1965)
453. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
459. The Graduate (1967)
463. Belle de Jour (1967)
517. M*A*S*H (1970)
525. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
527. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
544. Cabaret (1972)
550. The Godfather (1972)
575. Amarcord (1973)
593. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
595. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
612. Network (1976)
620. Annie Hall (1977)
636. Grease (1978)
652. Life of Brian (1979)
655. The Muppet Movie (1979)
661. The Last Metro (1980)
667. Airplane! (1980)
680. E.T.: The Extra-Terestrial (1982)
693. A Christmas Story (1983)
712. Paris, Texas (1984)
714. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
721. The Breakfast Club (1985)
722. Ran (1985)
727. Back to the Future (1985)
736. The Color Purple (1985)
742. The Decline of the American Empire (1986)
745. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
760. Babette’s Feast (1987)
764. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
768. The Princess Bride (1987)
783. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
786. Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
792. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
798. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
818. Europa Europa (1990)
819. Pretty Woman (1990)
828. Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
847. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
856. Farewell My Concubine (1993)
860. Philadelphia (1993)
861. Jurassic Park (1993)
862. The Age of Innocence (1993)
863. Schindler’s List (1993)
866. The Piano (1993)
871. Forrest Gump (1994)
872. Clerks (1994)
873. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
874. The Lion King (1994)
890. Toy Story (1995)
892. Braveheart (1995)
894. Clueless (1995)
897. Seven (1995)
908. Independence Day (1996)
911. The English Patient (1996)
917. L.A. Confidential (1997)
930. Titanic (1997)
933. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
936. Run Lola Run (1998)
941. The Idiots (1998)
947. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
955. Fight Club (1999)
956. Being John Malkovich (1999)
959. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
961. The Matrix (1999)
976. Memento (2000)
978. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
979. Amelie (2001)
987. Moulin Rouge (2001)
995. The Pianist (2002)
999. Chicago (2002)
1000. The Barbarian Invasions (2003)

For comparison's sake, let's apply the same metrics. Except this time I'm going to divide them by decades. This is the number of films in each decade in the original list:

1900s: 2
1910s: 5
1920s: 39
1930s: 85
1940s: 92
1950s: 131
1960s: 149
1970s: 151
1980s: 153
1990s: 151
2000s: 39 (2000-2003)

This is a bit more spread out over the decades. I suspect there was a deliberate attempt to equalize the number of films in each decade of the 60s to the 90s.

And my percentages of movies seen in each decade. I predict this will be the opposite of the books: that I'll have seem primarily the last couple decades. I also predict that my showings will be far poorer than the printed matter.

1900s: 0%
1910s: 0%
1920s: 0%
1930s: 3.5%
1940s: 4.3%
1950s: 6.1%
1960s: 7.3%
1970s: 8.6%
1980s: 12.4%
1990s: 19.9%
2000s: 17.9%

Yep, pretty much as I expected. Although I thought that foreign movies were not very well represented in this list. I've seen my fair share of those.

1001 Books

A recent book, 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, lists the thousand and one most essential books, in their opinion. In my opinion, it's heavy on the more recent ones, which have not yet stood the test of time. There are far too many books from 2000-2008 on there: certainly we have not perfected the craft of writing in the last eight years. And of the whopping 716 books of the 1900s, I'd guess that two-thirds of them are from the last one-third of the century. The full list can be seen here. Here's the breakdown of the number of books listed in each century:

2000s: 69
1900s: 716
1800s: 157
1700s: 46
Before 1700: 13

Of these, here is the percentage of each category I have read:

2000s: 1.4%
1900s: 6.8%
1800s: 29.9%
1700s: 13%
Before 1700: 30.7%

Hmm, you can really tell what I like to read from this. And I have to say, the majority of the "ooh, I really want to read that!" were from the 1900s category.

Other inferences: The same authors tend to reappear. For example, the first Thomas Hardy book I read was Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I liked it, so I went on to read quite a bit of the rest of the Hardy opus.

We can also safely assume that I read the French books in the original French. Practically all the French books on the original 1001 list I've also read. Only a few were missing. (Come on, who actually gets through In Search of Lost Time?)

Here's the ones I have read:
1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon (book on tape)
2. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
3. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
4. Black Water – Joyce Carol Oates
5. Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
6. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
7. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel García Márquez
8. The Cider House Rules – John Irving
9. Perfume – Patrick Süskind (in the original German, boo-ya!)
10. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
11. The World According to Garp – John Irving
12. Delta of Venus – Anaïs Nin
13. Slaughterhouse-five – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
14. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
15. Manon des Sources – Marcel Pagnol
16. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
17. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
18. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
19. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
20. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
21. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
22. Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
23. The Plague – Albert Camus
24. Animal Farm – George Orwell
25. Cannery Row – John Steinbeck
26. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
27. The Outsider – Albert Camus
28. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
30. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
31. Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
32. Absalom, Absalom! – William Faulkner
33. Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
34. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
35. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
36. Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence
37. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
38. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
39. A Passage to India – E.M. Forster
40. Babbitt – Sinclair Lewis
41. Ulysses – James Joyce
42. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
43. Main Street – Sinclair Lewis
44. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
45. Straight is the Gate – André Gide
46. The Jungle – Upton Sinclair
47. The Immoralist – André Gide
48. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
49. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
50. Sister Carrie – Theodore Dreiser
51. The Time Machine – H.G. Wells
52. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
53. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
54. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
55. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
56. The Mayor of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy
57. Kidnapped – Robert Louis Stevenson
58. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
59. Bel-Ami – Guy de Maupassant
60. The Death of Ivan Ilyich – Leo Tolstoy
61. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
62. The Portrait of a Lady – Henry James
63. Return of the Native – Thomas Hardy
64. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
65. Around the World in Eighty Days – Jules Verne
66. Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There – Lewis Carroll
67. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
68. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
69. Thérèse Raquin – Émile Zola
70. Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Jules Verne
71. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
72. Les Misérables – Victor Hugo
73. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
74. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
75. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
76. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
77. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
78. Agnes Grey – Anne Brontë
79. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
80. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
81. The Count of Monte-Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
82. La Reine Margot – Alexandre Dumas
83. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
84. The Purloined Letter – Edgar Allan Poe
85. The Pit and the Pendulum – Edgar Allan Poe
86. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
87. The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe
88. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens
89. Le Père Goriot – Honoré de Balzac
90. The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Victor Hugo
91. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
92. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
93. Persuasion – Jane Austen
94. Emma – Jane Austen
95. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
96. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
97. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
98. Confessions – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
99. Dangerous Liaisons – Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
100. Candide – Voltaire
101. A Modest Proposal – Jonathan Swift
102. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
103. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
104. The Princess of Clèves – Marie-Madelaine Pioche de Lavergne, Comtesse de La Fayette
105. The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
106. Metamorphoses – Ovid (much of it in the original Latin, double boo-ya!)
107. Aesop’s Fables – Aesopus

18 April 2008

The Gutenberg Invention

This video, the first of six installments, shows the BBC team replicating an original Gutenberg printing press, from building the press to casting the type to making the paper. (It skipped the ink; I wish it had taken a small look at the fourth essential ingredient.)

It's fascinating, funny, insightful and spine tingling, if you're into the printed word as much as I am. I think I'm going to add "operate a manual printing press" to my list of things to do before I go.

All six parts total more than an hour, but a thoroughly worthwhile hour it is.

07 April 2008

02 April 2008

Oh, the Stupidity

So, I've been unemployed for exactly eleven days now (Oh, I didn't tell you that? Must have slipped my mind. Anyway, thank you for not asking.) and only today got around to scrubbing the bathroom. For all my professed amour de cleaning, I sure have managed to put that one off for a while.

I've baked cookies, made pelmeni from scratch, hung a hat rack, done oodles of dishes, drank buckets of tea, but have avoided cleaning. Today I could put it off no longer.

I vacuumed six times, getting up all those obnoxious rubbery pellets from artificial turf that hate to be vacuumed, getting up every last sneaky shard of broken glass (total glasses broken by Frenchy since we moved here: 3; total broken by guests: 2; total broken by me: a big fat ZERO. I'm just sayin'.) every cookie crumb, and every stray bit of dirt. I hung up all the clothes on the floor. I dry swiffered. I wet swiffered. I took the wet swiffer pads and got down in the kitchen floor and scrubbed the gook out of the corners. All fine and good, although gross.

Then I took a big breath and tackled the bathroom. Toilet, sink, shower walls, tub. At the end, I can't figure out why the last bit of dirty water in the tub is not draining. I select one of our two plungers (please don't ask) and start to plunge away.

No deal. The water stays, and just gets dirtier. I plunge more emphatically, and get an image in my head of, well, something that my boyfriend thinks I should do more often. Still nothing happens.

Out of breath, (wow, the similarities are stunning!) I sit back on my heels. What could possibly be blocking the drain? All of a sudden, it comes to me.

I lean forward and flick the lever which had accidentally been switched, allowing the stopper to rise. The water drains away merrily and I realize why I had been avoiding cleaning the bathroom: Soft Scrub must really do a number on my brain.

12 March 2008

Food and Sensibility

I have an interesting relationship with food.

I have always been slim, except for two months right before college, which I'll get to in a moment. A combination of an old-fashioned childhood, common-sense parenting and obedience made me try everything, like most things, and never have to worry about gaining weight. Rather, I was the shortest and skinniest kid in class all the way up to tenth grade, when I shot up to be tall and skinny.

My mom, bless her femme au foyer heart, made decent food every night, packed our lunchbags in the morning, and surrendered the weekend kitchen to Dad. A true homemaker, she shows her affection by providing and nurturing. She never liked cooking, but did it and did it well. As she always said, "Veg, meat and starch at every meal, the dinners are ideal."* Predictable, yes, but my family never pretended to be anything else.

We ate dinner together every night, most of the way through high school. The dinnertime conversation ebbed or flowed, according to our loquacity of the evening, but was always familial and cordial. So food was a comforter, a sustenance, a conversation, and a source of love.

*Well, she never actually said it, but I bet she will now.

Then I went to France, gained weight, obsessed about it surprisingly little, went to college and danced it off in a few months. Then I went back to France, probably gained less weight than I thought I had, came back, broke up with a boyfriend, took an overload of courses one term, stressed myself out, and briefly flirted with anorexia.

I wanted to lose my French weight, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I liked food too much, liked the taste of it, the warmth and comfort, the sociability of it, the feeling of satiety, and the adventure of trying new things. So I shook myself out of it by discovering ways to de-greasify dining hall fare: steam salad bar veggies in a microwave, crack the free peppermints over vanilla ice cream, and assemble your own 'grilled" cheese sandwiches in the toaster. Talk about cooking on a budget. I also took fewer credits the following semester.

Even though I had lived in France, the place where they invented meals as an excuse for conversation, I never really *got* the connection between the two until I had gained enough confidence to be able to hold my own in such a conversation. I've written before about the "Wednesday Girls' Night," and I can't think of a more enjoyable way to spend an evening than with friends around a table of good food. I don't want to go to a bar, just give me a casserole. I loathe the idea of a bachelorette bash at a club; give me a potluck with my friends and a sleepover and we're good.

But it was another meal that made me turn the corner and look the label of Foodie in the eye. A friend and I had started spending a weekly meal together, sharing our photos and memories of abroad over a glass of wine and a plate of delicious. At one point he served me a cold three-bean salad that was sublime, yet simple. I have never been able to recreate it, although I've tried. In return, I introduced him to eggs Florentine, one of my favorite go-to fixes. Anyhow, I was hooked on good food, well made.

Since then, whether I'm cooking for one, two or twenty-seven (cf: last Thanksgiving!) I try to cook the best I possibly can. Lately this has meant eschewing processed foods in favor of original sources. Just as I felt utterly granola for joining a yoga spa, I feel organic and earthy for dropping half a grand on a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Every two weeks starting in June, we'll get a full basket of fruit, vegetables and eggs, all straight from a Long Island farm. (No kidding, the contract makes sure these durn city-dwellers understand the food may have DIRT ON IT!! Gasp!) I can't wait for it to start. I'm already planning on canning my own tomato sauce from the reddest, ripest tomatoes I'll ever eat that I didn't grow myself and filling the house with the fragrance of applesauce cooking down.

I can't think of anything else that I spend so much energy and time on, try to be creative with, or take more pride in doing well. Cooking is a challenge for me, and the moment that I get to sit down at the table with my Frenchy is the moment I wait for all day. We quietly talk over the day's happenings, the news, share ideas for handling work problems, and just be. And food continues to be the reason for intimate moments, for nurturing and for enjoying life. There's nothing better than a good meal.

28 January 2008

Open Letter to My Landlord

Dear Landlord,

First of all, I don't really know who you are. The superintendent seems to do all the actual work around here. (Incidentally, I know he is the superintendent because he is missing several teeth. This seems to be one of the common characteristics of New York supers.) Identify yourself, please.

Second, while I appreciate that you didn't raise our rent (much) for our second year of life in your fine establishment, I do think it's kind of skeezy that you allow us to pay said inflated rent by fax. Who uses a fax anymore? (Incidentally, the way this works is that he just copies my bank account number from the bottom of the check and deposits that much money in his coffers. My BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER which is so prominently displayed on the bottom of each check I write. Watch me never pay for anything by check again, ever.)

Thirdly, the stairway and hall in my apartment building is being repainted. While this is an overall improvement, I would like to register the following complaints:

  1. The pervading fumes have given me a constant headache for the past few days, as well as made me a leetle crazy. I cannot be held responsible for my actions. I also have enough candles burning in an attempt to mask the odor that you could probably see my apartment from space. This is most certainly a fire hazard.

  2. Some dumb crumbbum keeps taping the "Wet Paint" sign right onto the wet paint! WTF! I have peeled it off and moved it elsewhere several times, but it seems that I am the only one in the whole ship to have common sense, or care.

  3. I understand that the work is not yet finished, but the painters previously had to scrape a whole buncha crap off the walls prior to painting. Now the stairs are full of (likely lead-based) paint chips and dust, which get tracked into my apartment each time someone comes in. Swiffer pads are expensive, dude. Shouldn't the paint guys vacuum?

And finally, I have a confession. I like to peek through the open doors of other tenants if I pass by at the right moment. A few weeks ago I noticed that New Girl downstairs had bright pink walls! Why does she get non-institutional wallage and we don't?

Respectfully submitted,

14 January 2008

Cultural Reintegration

Over there on the right, down a little, a leetle more, there you go, is a new element that I cleverly called "Cultural Reintegration," continuing the whole culture shock metaphor. It's a list of movies I've seen in 2008 (although since I can't remember exactly when I saw three of the four listed there, it may be more aptly described as movies I've seen in 2008 and maybe a little back into December 2007, but definitely not so far as November.

I realized I have poor short-term memory a long time ago, probably around the time when I was trying desperately to memorize dance routines and just couldn't keep one step in my head before moving on to the next step. The same phenomenon showed up in college, when I swear I read a book but couldn't tell you a thing about it. Ditto for movies. And for pretty much anything that required me to retain information. This might be why I didn't do so hot in grad school.

So as a memory jog, I'm going to keep a tally of the movies I saw in 2008. Movies in cinemas only, please, no rentals/illegal downloads that we watch at home. Those may feature on another list somewhere. Perhaps this will help me remember the general plot arc more than a week later, or make me a little less pathetic in the Kevin Bacon Game. (Truly pathetic. I think I can possibly name one film that Mr. Bacon himself was in.)*

If I get even more ambitious, I might write a review. Although I really hate when bloggers do that. I really don't care about your opinions. So maybe I won't. Unless I decide to.

Yes, that will be all for today.

*He was in Apollo 13, right? Ooh, and Footloose! Two!

11 January 2008

Six Words

For the moment, this post is just a placeholder of a link I saw: the Guardian's Six Word Stories challenge. I'm going to try to come up with a few, just not while I'm at work. (Hi, boss!)


Okay, back now. In the meantime, I've found a lot more examples. Check out Caterina, Wired, or Flickr for stories (and accompanying photos). Here are some I've come up with.

Apartment squeaky clean. Page still blank.

You’re 26. Comic books for birthday?

Guitar in corner, strings all broken.

Finger un-ringed, she’s curled up crying.

As she sobs…he sleeps on couch.

She welcomes pain of cramps, thankfully.

Fan finally arrives, broken, in October.

In-laws come, go, we survived. Barely.

Too hungry to cook. Take-out again?

“Good morning, love.” “Who are you?”

Asleep; it costs too much to eat.

“I only lie when it’s important.”

I want to be anywhere but here.

Most people who have tried this exercise say it's easier to write the sad ones; I agree. The trick is getting the six words to tell an entire story, beginning, middle and end. It's too easy to write a simple description, or to write what could be the first sentence of a book.

And before you ask, some of them are true, some are true but embellished, and some are entirely imagined. Which? I leave that up to you.

02 January 2008

The Return

The holiday festivemaking has been made, and no one could think of any good reason not to go back to work, and so back to work we went today. I don't think you could find a more dejected-looking group of privilieged Westerners than myself and my subway mates as we clanked our way across the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan today. I even forewent coffee in order to wallow in my more perfect misery. That, and the line was too long.

Anyhow, I was greeted with the Kenyan electoral crisis. We think we have a problem with the Democratic candidates who can't keep straight what side of the fence they're on and the Republicans who, if you added all their ages together, would be able to remember when Martin Luther's German translation of the Bible was banned and mail service began in Denmark, to name a few events of that year.

No, Kenya's electoral crisis is verily a crisis. The incumbent just somehow managed to squeak out 230 000 more votes than the opposition, who was running significantly ahead in all the pre-election polls. And just somehow, the body overseeing the election can't get their hands on the original stack of ballots, before someone just managed to alter 300 000 of them in the incumbent's favor. Now, understandably, people are mad. What do Kenyans do when they're mad? The same thing that Southerners do: go out and shoot somebody.

Well, it's not quite that simple. But the long and the short of it is, there's major violence and unrest in Kenya, and my students were supposed to have arrived there today. They are not. We've delayed their arrival until things settle down, or transferred them to other locations, as they wish.

Our onsite coordinator says things are already settling down, which is in contradiction to every media story I've read so far. But today, more than anything, what has struck me is a passage I remember from John Gunther's Death Be Not Proud: that the media generally reports on anything out of the ordinary. Rather than brood on the destruction and despair in the news, we should instead rejoice that our society still considers death of human beings an anomaly. It's when death becomes so banal that it is not reported in the media that we should become worried.

And we must calmly go about our business, with the thoughts of the Kenyan families in our heads, the ones that traveled great distances to vote, only to see their election stolen and their children burnt in church. I can't believe that this is the same country that I dreamed of visiting only a few months ago.