Saturday, June 30, 2007

Oh, Sicko

I went to see "Sicko" fully expecting to love it. I'm a Michael Moore fan (though more of "Bowling for Columbine" than "Fahrenheit 9/11"; I find the issues of gun control and violence more interesting than politics and war) and I liked what I'd heard about it being less Michael-in-your-face and more letting the issue speak for itself.

But. I actually hated the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie. [POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT.] It started with several sensational stories about people whose lives were destroyed by problems with their health insurance, problems which he seemed to imply were rampant. Do I live in a bubble? Because the idea that there are hundreds of "pre-existing conditions" that can prohibit your inability to get approved for insurance has never been a factor in my life, or of anyone's I know. He even let the list scroll on screen and yes, several common ailments floated by: asthma, for one. I have family members with asthma. They all have health insurance. I've never heard of anyone being turned down for having asthma. So what am I supposed to take from this overblown premise? Is it simply that these insurance applicants are not covered through their employers, and that obtaining insurance plays by different rules when you get it on your own? Or does it differ state by state? I don't know. All I know is I thought, wow, this is exactly what everyone always says is wrong with Michael Moore: he's painting the very blackest picture by exploiting a few random examples that do not represent the vast majority.

And, yet, does it matter? If it's only 1000 people who are denied health care, isn't that wrong enough? Isn't it wrong if it's only 100? Or six? Or two?

But then, he dropped that bone and moved on, and although I now was poised to contradict every point he made going forward, I found the rest of the film much more palatable. Moving, even. Visits to Canada, the UK, France, and Cuba to explore various national health care programs seemed balanced (or at least he made an effort to seek out detractors.) The basic logic of his premise is not compromised by his playful manipulation of film: our government provides us with schools, post offices, police stations, and fire houses, why not hospitals?

In the local art house cinema I saw this in, on a beautiful sunny late June afternoon, the educated liberal crowd broke into applause several times. Several times, though, the air in the theater was still and tense. The first mentions of 9/11 were like that; suddenly this movie, previously dwelling on the health concerns of pasty Midwesterners with bad nutrition, was hitting close to home. I honestly don't know when I last felt an entire theater grow silent together so heavily. Oh, yes, I do: that moment in "Fahrenheit 9/11" when Louis Armstrong pauses in singing "What a Wonderful World" and in the breath of his silence a plane hits a tower and there is a gasp of horror from the tourist holding the camera capturing it.

I don't believe it's possible for the U.S. to convert to a socialized health care program. It's not just the insurance companies; the entire medical care industry is too entrenched an institution. It seems like it would take a mammoth effort to shift it. Moore expresses amazement that the UK started their NHS just after WWII ended, but doesn't that actually make the most sense? When you're forced to rebuild, you have more opportunity to build it correctly from the bottom up. Like renovating an apartment before you move in. Much simpler than trying to do so when your life is already there, in place.

So, yes, "Sicko" is a movie I implore people to see, even if it's to shake the idea from my head that this all makes sense. I would relish a national debate on the issue, with intelligent discourse and practical thought. To all those people who oppose the film on principle, but refuse to even see it: don't even talk to me. If you don't want to put $$ in Michael Moore's pocket, send me your ticket stub and I'll send you a $20. (Popcorn's on me, too.)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Old phone, old soul

So I am a Baby Boomer, at least when it comes to the way I use my cell phone. Which is: very seldom. I have hundreds and hundreds of minutes leftover at the end of each month, and I have one of the lowest minute plans. It surprises me when people call me on my cell phone, unless I've told them I'm traveling and won't be home, or if I'm on my way to meet them. I had a younger (much? Gen Y even?) friend call me on a weeknight at 8:30 and of course my cell phone was off, because I was home and didn't need it. She left me a message and it took me a few days to even realize I had it.

I also don't like it when friends only have cell phones. It feels so intrusive; at least with home phones when someone is out or away, you aren't bothering them but offering the chance to call you at a more convenient time via a voice mail. But when they always have their cell phone on them, and always can answer, you never know what you're interrupting. I don't like calling and feeling like I need to rush or apologize.

The waiting room

So you know that episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" where Larry sees his therapist at the beach in a thong bathing suit, and has to quit being his patient? Well today I walked past the Cingular/AT&T store and was surprised to see a line for the Apple iPhone. (I didn't realize it was happening anywhere but Apple stores.) The first several people in line had sleeping bags, chairs, food, etc., and about a dozen people back was a familiar looking face... my doctor. It took me a minute to place him, but really, it was him. My doctor is camped out on line to buy an iPhone. There's something a little weird about that, no?

PS I love the name "Cingular." I don't get what AT&T gains from the name change, but as a marketing professional, I assume there is market research to indicate that AT&T is a stronger brand and this is a positive move... or else they are just idiots.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sign of the times?

The other morning I walked out of my apartment building, and another of those hate-filled flyers* was taped next to my front door. So I took it down, and made my way down the block ripping off one after another, once again. There was a lull on the next block and, as has been nearly a daily happening of late, a film crew was just setting up. One of them said to me helpfully, "I got this block!" and smiled. On the next block, there were more and as I passed another film guy with my hands full of crumpled white paper, he said, "I took care of some of them for you, too!" with another pleasant grin.

It felt really good to know that everyone thinks these things are hateful.

* I need to figure out how better to link to old posts; I've been using a search which works except once it's inserted into the new post, the new post contains the search criteria and is now one of the search results. Ah, circular logic. Anyway, if you are curious enough to click on one of the links, you have to scroll down to the second post in the link.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dream man

I had a really nice dream last night, one of those where I am in a situation with a group of people and various things happen. Very cinematic, with intricate plot and dialogue and many detailed scenes. As in the best of these dreams, there is a guy who I keep getting thrown into situations with, and there is a mutual attraction, and we keep finding ourselves standing or sitting near one another and smiling conspiratorially. Whenever I wake from these dreams I'm disappointed. I want to fall asleep to crawl back inside them, but of course, the very process of being awake alters the dream or even chases it completely away.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Broken English

My appointment to see that apartment is tomorrow night, so we'll revisit that particular paranoia tomorrow.

This weekend I saw "Broken English," because, well, "La Vie En Rose" is two hours and twenty minutes long, and I need to really be in the mood for that. Especially as it's ostensibly a biographical film, which immediately makes me lose interest, though I respect the reviews that tell me to go see it.

"Broken English" was shorter, and had a cute trailer. Parker Posey is a thirty-something singleton who despairs of finding Mr. Right and has some bad dates before hooking up with a cute Frenchman. She and her gal pal (Drea de Matteo, Joey's sister on "Joey" who also played somebody on the show-that-we-promised-not-to-name-again) wind up flying to Paris to find him. The first time I saw the trailer, I figured I'd already seen the entire plot, and now that I've spilled it here, I feel like I've irrevocably spoiled it. But of course there is more to it than that. And yet, I wasn't entirely thrilled with the film.

To start, Parker Posey is so ghastly thin that it's unnerving. It took me a few scenes to get comfortable watching her. But as the movie progressed, it became less and less comfortable watching her, and I couldn't figure out if the character was supposed to be mentally ill or it was just bad acting choices. It's my fault for seeing the trailer and wanting to have a protagonist who was likable and quirky, the kind of girl that's so much better than the guys she's managed to attract so far. (See Hope Davis in "Next Stop Wonderland" for a great example.) It wasn't that movie. Whose fault is that? I suppose it's mine, for having pre-set expectations, although I'd partially blame the stupid trailer.

Parker Posey is getting great reviews for her performance, so maybe I just didn't get it. The director is Zoe Cassavetes, of the infamous Cassavetes family, and daughter of Gena Rowlands, who also is in the film as Parker's character's mother.

The movie did make me think of Paris, though. I wonder if I'll ever have a chance to go back there. My first visit was a short rainy weekend, while in London for a month long college theater course. But I don't want to go alone. I don't need to wait until I find Mr. Right, I don't need Paris to be romantic for me, but I don't want to go alone.


Yesterday, I went back to Craigslist to look at apartment sales listings. I'm not a Craigslist aficionado, although I know people who use the site to do everything from buy used furniture to find dog walkers to sell books. I'm turned off by what others find appealing: the basic "I built this site in my basement" feel. I find it difficult to search, am generally annoyed by the inaccuracy of the results I get (a search for "Brooklyn Heights" always returns many instances of "Dyker Heights" which just happens to be in Brooklyn) and tend to dismiss listings that are filled with spelling and punctuation errors. (Will my grammar-geek snobbery inhibit my ability to find that hidden gem of an apartment?)

Of course, this is all ridiculous, as the first apartment I wanted (and lost) I found on Craigslist. I haven't really looked there since, so enticed as I've been by the glitz and ease of the real estate sites, especially those that provide a consolidated look at listings from multiple sources. Yesterday I did another sweep of Craigslist and, amazingly, saw two apartments listed that seemed interesting. Inexpensive, in good neighborhoods, admittedly needing work. This is likely my sweet spot - the place with great potential, for sale by owner (thereby less expensive than that with the broker's fee factored into the selling price.)

But here's the catch. Having emailed both, I now have the option of stopping by both apartments after work this week. In both cases it's a male showing the place, and my natural paranoia slipped in a bit last night. Sounds like the start of a missing-white-woman story, the fake ad, luring women to an empty apartment, the abduction, the frantic search, the tragic discovery. Unfortunately I don't have anyone to go with me this week. And I'm probably being paranoid. But I'll email my brother with the details of where I'm going with the promise that I'll call him when I'm back home. Maybe he'll think I'm a freak, but I'll feel better.

I'm old, you see. According to several programs I've attended recently on the issues of the generational talent pool, no matter how the pie is sliced (and it varies; a co-worker of mine is either Gen X or Gen Y depending on who's doing the calculation), I am a Baby Boomer. I never thought of myself as a Baby Boomer. My mother's generation are the Baby Boomers. (Technically, she, born during the war, isn't, although her next youngest sibling, born 9 months after their father returned from overseas, joins Bill Clinton in the first wave of Boomers.) I'm the granddaughter of a WWII vet, not a daughter. Of course, he was 43 when I was born, and could easily have been a father of someone my age (his youngest daughter is just three years older than me) so it's all relative. (Sorry that is a bad pun.)

Anyway, most times I don't feel like a Boomer but times like this, I do. My mother would freak out about going to meet an unknown man in his apartment. My younger siblings would think we're being silly.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday morning

Another work week begins, but I plan on taking off Friday and most of next week, so this is a short one. I need a break. I need this summer to be long and lazy.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Do you know how long you can leave a tea kettle on the stove before all the water is evaporated?

I am so lucky. Yesterday morning I decided I'd make some herbal tea to keep iced in the fridge, and so I filled the kettle, put it on the burner, and turned on the gas. And went back into my bedroom for my usual morning routine. Which involves this (sitting at the computer), eating my breakfast, listening to the radio. Only it was a weekend and a day off from the gym, so this time stretched for several hours. When I finally made my way back to the other side of the apartment I could smell something faintly like burning rubber. I opened the door to the hall to see if it was coming from another apartment. I pulled the living room curtain back to see if it was coming from outside the window. I stepped into the kitchen and sniffed again. Only when I walked toward the stove and felt a rush of heat did I realize it was the tea kettle.

If it had been a gym day, I'd have gotten dressed and out of the apartment without ever returning to the kitchen, and possibly have returned from my workout to find my apartment in flames.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I went to an event after work last night, for once not one I organized, but one at which I was a guest. Didn't make much difference in my ability to avoid eating "bad" foods, though. I od'd on shrimp and cheese and olives and crackers. (Foods I could live on, by the way.) I skipped the bar, though. So why did my subway ride home feel so fueled by alcohol? I even nearly stumbled as I made my way up the stairs to my apartment. I practically passed out in front of the tv, and woke up this morning feeling hazy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I didn't like "Flight of the Conchords" at all. Its humor relies on the appeal of deadpan delivery of un-funny dialogue and simplistic sitcom storyline, peppered with sudden "musical" moments which are supposed to reveal the two stars' talent for - what exactly? Not singing, surely, and not much songwriting savvy, either. I suppose there is a way you can watch this through a veil of irony - it's so bad, it's good, see - but I don't find that very entertaining. (It's entertainment of the same ilk as the Trachtenburg Family Singers, who I saw perform 4 or 5 years ago, and who I liked at the time, but would likely find tiresome after awhile. And they had the benefit of a cute and talented young daughter.)

I really hated the music of the "Conchords," although I think if I had found any redeeming value in their songs, it might have been different. (My close captioning identified one section as "falsetto," which made me laugh out loud, as if that particular note was song in any higher or more false a voice than those previously. Imagine making the goofiest voice you can, and you have the general idea.) I tend to think that full-length songs injected into half hour comedies are a bad idea, but then I remember "The Sarah Silverman Program," and you know, I guess it depends. I liked Sarah's show, and I liked the songs that she sang: funny, subversive, well-written. Maybe it's just a matter of taste.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Eagle vs. Shark

"Eagle vs. Shark" is a New Zealand film in the new "genre" of geek comedy, most often identified with Napoleon Dynamite. In fact, I've yet to read a review of the film that doesn't reference Napoleon Dynamite, and while I hate easy comparisons, there really is little to say about this film except that it's Napoleon grown-up meeting a girl. Or, rather, it's the story of a geeky girl who meets a grown-up Napoleon, since the story is told through her point of view. Thankfully, I think, since she is a much more endearing character, although possibly if we spent more time with him, it would have seemed more balanced - no, stop. I really don't think I'd want to spend more time with his character, who was stiff and awkward and anti-social and flat-out weird to the point of being unlikeable. Did I mention this is a romantic comedy? And that we're supposed to root for geek love? I wonder if I were the only one in the theater hoping she'd walk away from his self-absorbed juvenile ass.

The trailers to this film give away most of the "romantic" interchanges between the couple, and lead you to believe it really is all about the love. But beyond all that is an interesting glimpse into a nontraditional dysfunctional-yet-oddly-functional family. (Two, actually. The main character Lily and her brother have a deliciously offbeat family life, from the overflowered living room it wouldn't occur to them to redecorate since their mum's death, to the goofy movie impersonations they use to express affection for each other.) But it's the male character Jarrod's family who we spend most of the film with, as does Lily, and while there are the usual stereotypical touches (saintly dead brother, grieving father, gawky cute little girl), they were, to me, far more interesting than the son they were supposedly "supporting" characters for.

Jarrod is played by one of the leads in the new HBO series "Flight of the Conchords", which premiered last night. I haven't yet watched it, but if Jermaine Clement's other characters are anything like Jarrod, I don't know if I'll like it very much.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What I hate about my apartment

It always feels dirty. It's an old building, with an owner that doesn't bother to take care of it. My apartment was "renovated" before I moved in, but that was almost 15 years ago, and the appliances, fixtures, and cabinets were used and/or cheaply made. Walls and trim were painted over years of layers of paint, so everything is globby and uneven. And since that was 15 years ago, what was done is worse for the wear. The wood floors could use a good refinishing. The electrical outlets are sparse and some are not functional.

I've painted almost every room in the years I've lived here, trying to freshen it up. But I don't want to invest time or money into hiring a professional to strip and sand the trim or the window sills (which are cracked and rotting.) I don't want to pay an electrician out of my own pocket, or find a way to shove my furniture into one room to make way for a floor sander. As a renter who has no intention of staying here forever, none of these things make sense.

I want to start over in a new home, a place where repairs and upkeep will get done, because they'll be my responsibility, and where I won't mind putting elbow grease and cash into improvements.

Another Sunday, another disappointing open house. Everything is too small or too far away or up too many flights of stairs. I keep trying to imagine compromising on one of these variables: a large beautiful apartment far from everything, including the subway? a beautiful apartment in a prime neighborhood in a great building, with all the amenities, but not enough room for me, my books, and my piano? a gorgeous, reasonably sized apartment, nicely located, but up five flights of stairs?

Keep looking.

Farewell June Bug

I found the June bug, behind the air conditioner, which sat on the floor in the well under the window all winter until I installed it today. He was less than two feet from my bed, from my sleeping head. He was dead, but must have been alive to get behind there on his own.

Or else it wasn't the original one, but one of his comrades. Not really a comforting thought.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I find something very soothing in being inside my apartment with the windows wide open and a rain storm just starting to pour down. It's one time I prefer not to have any music or radio on.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Home last night at midnight, after a draining three day conference in another city. Early morning meetings, full day sessions, evening networking events. A small time change that just made me wake up even earlier than usual. Too much rich food heavy in my stomach and on my conscience.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sign over

Early Monday morning, on the way to the gym before work, I passed a white flyer taped to a light pole on my block. And another, and another. I finally stopped to read them: two different messages, one announcing that gays and lesbians are going to hell, and another that abortion is murder. They were taped everywhere: store windows, mailboxes, phone booths, traffic light poles. So I made it my job to rip down every single one I passed during my six block walk. We don't need that kind of hatred in the neighborhood.

I came to a corner where a woman had stopped to read one of them. I don't know if she saw the handful of crumpled papers in my hands, but was not in the mood to get into anything if she had a different opinion about what she was reading. To my delight, she also grabbed the page and ripped it off the light pole.

I'm thankful to live in a neighborhood where intolerance is not tolerated.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Can we stop talking about the Sopranos now?

If I hear "Soprahhhhnos" one more time today I'm going to throw something. I know I have very little leg to stand on, not being a person who watched the show very much, but I've never heard an HBO announcer say anything but the more correct (for the local dialect) "Sopraaaanos." Yes, I've bitched about this before, but it still grates. AAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNN as in "can" and "handy" and "man eating tiger" not AHHHHHHHHH as in "hot" or "soggy."

Hey, I tried to give the show one last shot. I mean, it can't be uber-violent all the time, right? Somewhere between all the murder and mayhem there is supposedly a well-crafted show, right? So I flipped the channel and a man's head was getting run over by the wheels of a car.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Movies and more movies

Four movies I haven't written about yet, two from last weekend and two from this. My diet on weekends is comprised primarily of popcorn and diet coke. I can't watch tv, even my 36 inch LCD screen, because it seems too small in comparison. I keep going back to the theater. I guess it's summer. Or boredom. I don't know.

Last weekend was "Knocked Up," and "Crazy Love." "Knocked Up" suffered the curse of being over-hyped, and so I wasn't able to fully enjoy it as a quirky comedy, which I might have, given its pedigree. But Judd Apatow scored with "40 Year Old Virgin," so now he's "mainstream." The film is still pretty good, and has some really funny moments, but I would have liked it to be a bit shorter, or maybe faster paced. I think "Virgin" had better pacing and movement; there were moments in this that slowed down to the point of boredom. Or maybe it's just me; I don't think that getting pink eye from someone farting on your pillow is funny enough to warrant five minutes of screen time. Yawn. The rest of the audience seemed to think differently, judging by the laughter erupting around me. Maybe that's my problem: I don't laugh out loud very often, so when the rest of a movie crowd is practically falling out of their seats, I think I am missing something, and I resent it.

"Crazy Love" is a documentary about this couple. In the late 50's she rejected him, he paid someone to blind and disfigure her. In the 1970's, after he was released from prison, they married. Now they narrate the story of how those two events co-exist in the same reality. I'm not sure you leave the theater really understanding their relationship, but it's entertaining in a twisted, squirm-enducing way. I feel dirty having watched it, and dirtier having to admit I enjoyed it.

This weekend, another mainstream film and an independent. "Chalk" is a mockumentary of the Christopher Guest/"The Office" sort, with a camera pretending to follow real-life high school teachers. I actually thought it was a real documentary until I was sitting in the theater waiting for it to start, and decided to check out the running time on my Treo's Vindigo download, which led me to glance at the Time Out review. I wonder how long it would have taken me to realize it was fake; since the actors are relative unknowns, it wasn't an easy catch. At least until a character had a dream fantasy played out on the screen. The film is somewhat cute and funny and makes you think about the difficulty of being a teacher, but it also suffered from wildly jittery camerawork. I get that the shaking hand-held cam is a stylistic choice, meant to convey that this is "real" and shot on the fly, but it can be overdone, and it was here, unnecessarily. I don't need a closeup of someone's earlobe as someone else is talking, thank you. Unless you are trying to pass this off as being filmed by a kindergartener, it's just annoying. I liked two of the leads, though, who are played by Janelle and Troy Schremmer, a real-life married couple. (I had to come home and look them up, to make sure they weren't siblings, since they do have a semi-romantic interlude. It's odd to have married actors with the same name, though, right?)

And then there's "Ocean's 13." Yes, it's fun and fast and attractively shot, and George Clooney and Brad Pitt are their usual charming hotties. I agree with the critics that it beats "12," too, although I'm not sure it's much more than that it's more cohesive, since the action centers on one big job. You could see worse popcorn-lite films (and I have,) and if you like pretty boys (and Ellen Barkin's breasts*), it's good fun.

I did something else this weekend that I've never (I think) done. After "Chalk" ended, I wandered up the stairs to another theater and slipped into a showing of "Once." It was about half over, but I wanted to see it again now that I've been listening to the soundtrack. It is exactly as I thought - better on a repeat viewing, when you are already enamored with the music. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are incredibly endearing, and watching them adds another dimension to their wonderful singing.

* Seriously, what is up with them? In one scene they look like two balloons stuck unevenly to her ribs. Like a photo from In later scenes they are fixed, and more natural looking, so maybe it was a temporary wardrobe malfunction, and not a scene that was re-shot after she went out and bought some new boobs.

Fighting Words

Sometimes I don't realize how angry I am until something happens and a wave of rage rushes out. Today I tried to return something from one of the overpriced little shops in the neighborhood, something I bought yesterday on a whim, and I was told I could only have store credit. I refused to accept that, but my bargaining position was compromised by the tremor in my voice. I told the sales clerk that I would take it up with American Express, and she said, "hmmmm" in a condescending way, which I told her was inappropriate for dealing with a customer, and she said she was only speaking in the manner in which I was addressing her. Something made me stop before I completely lost it. I took the store credit, called Amex on my cell as I walked out of the store, and found out I can't dispute the charge until 48 hours after it occurs, but I can call tomorrow. I don't know why it's suddenly so important to me that I win this battle. Where is this anger coming from? It's not just because I paid $60 for a wallet that won't close in a store where size 6 is in the large section. Or is it?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Day in the Park

There are many things I avoid talking about on this blog, because I fear they provide easy clues as to my identity. I'm not hiding from strangers, just from people who know me and stumble upon this blog and are quick to determine it's me from references to events and happenings. But that's really crippling, and the reality is I've peppered enough hints throughout that anyone who knows me knows this is me.

So I will ignore the urge to not talk about yesterday, a day in which the entire organization I work for sponsored a day of community volunteer activity, in every location. Thirty thousand people? Something like that. Each office identified and organized opportunities, gave out t-shirts, provided lunch and a post-volunteer after-party. For NYC, this was a three hour open bar at the Boat Basin, on the Hudson River.

I chose to work in Prospect Park. On the way, I passed a woman in a matching shirt, and we smiled and said "hi" although we had no idea who each other was. It was a strange feeling, but a good one. By the time I got on the subway, there were a dozen or so of us, and walking into Prospect Park it was a sea of color. This was just one of the day's many activities, but had about 80 participants, so you couldn't miss us.

My job was to pick up trash, while others in my group weeded and raked and swept. I was given a neat little contraption with a claw on one end of an aluminum bar and a squeeze handle on the other. (Yes, exactly what the subway guy may have had.) It didn't seem that it would be difficult work, but after a short time my hand began to cramp from the motion of pulling the "trigger," and by the time I finished I couldn't hold out my hand without my thumb trembling madly. (This didn't stop until the next morning. Even now the inside of my thumb has a strange numbness, and there is a tiny blister on my index finger.) (God, I sound like such a baby.) I also got so used to staring at the ground as I walked, that I found it difficult (and frustrating) to be back on the public streets later and not be able to ignore the trash there.

So what does one find buried in the grass and bushes of Prospect Park? No needles, at least that I saw, although we were warned they were not uncommon, as it's "an urban park." No condoms, either, although there were many small clear plastic bags. And broken balloons, which I conjectured might also be drug-related, but a co-worker suggested they were just left over from a kid's party. Another common bit of trash are the plastic wrappers that come off of juice box straws. They were everywhere! I suspect that they are small enough that they easily blow away as a parent/nanny is struggling to get the straw unwrapped for a yelling child. If they only knew how many filled my trash bag, I wonder if they'd make a point of snatching them from the ground and depositing them in a trash bin. (On the other hand, they are so small and so light, they may actually blow out of trash cans.) Many, many beer caps, of which probably 80% were Corona.

Unique finds: a plastic wheel. A yellow flower barrette. A nearly-new softball (which I set near a park bench, easily visible to any passing kid.) A yellowed cut newspaper clipping about a burglary. The last was interesting enough to suggest a possible short story plot, although I'm not sure if the mysterious crime clipping doesn't feel a bit too cliche.

Another sea of matching shirts on the subway, swelling to the hundreds as we got off near the Boat Basin. Inside, cold beer, and work colleagues who'd gone to other volunteer sites. The first question anyone shouted over the loud music was, "what did you do today?" and the answers were often surprising. "Planted rose bushes in front of the Rose Planetarium." "Painted the inside of a school in Harlem." "Helped prison inmates about to be released write resumes." "Wrote letters to soldiers." "Painted park benches."

I had my first work-side crush in a really long time, on a guy who looked just as cute before the beer than after. It won't go anywhere (I think I'm too old for him), but it was a good warm feeling to have. (Really, it wasn't the beer, I only had 3 in two hours.)

A good day. I was home by 6, in bed and asleep by 8:30, and slept all the way until 7:30. All the fresh air? Or the beer?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My first self-portrait.

Subway stories

I was waiting for the train tonight and a man dropped his cell phone; it bounced on the concrete edge of the platform and went sailing down into the track. He put down his bag and started making a move like he was going to jumped down on the tracks to retrieve it. Some people were cheering him on, and others (like me) were screaming, "No, no!" This particular station has a curved entrance, so you don't really see an oncoming train until it's pretty close. Luckily he paused, and looked up and saw one of the MTA workers on the other side of the gate, so walked over to talk to him. Within seconds, a train was pulling into the station. "See," I said and the guy said, "That phone is my lifeline!" We assured him that it was between rails, not likely to have been crushed, and that his best bet was to wait for the MTA worker's help. Sure enough, the MTA guy acted like it was just another day at the office, and was just nodding to him and watching where he pointed as the doors closed.

Part of me thought of staying behind just to see the end of the story. I want to think they have a long claw-like tool, like the kind you see in stores with hard to reach high shelves, and that the phone was retrieved within minutes of our leaving the station. But the other part of me was in a hurry to get home, spurred on even more by the "oh my god I almost saw a man jump in front of a train" adrenalin.

* * *

Reebok has a new series of ads in the subway. Unfortunately, at no time is "Reebok" mentioned; the assumption is that people know the brand from the logo and a simple "Rbk." I'm not sure that their brand identity is that ingrained. Anyway, the ads are cryptic in that "we're-so-hip-you-can-only-get-this-if-you're-as-hip-as-we-are" way. But there was one ad that read something like, "Eveything you do..." EVEYTHING. The first time I read it, I thought, well, maybe it's some kind of inside joke? A pun I'm too un-hip to get? Like they run so fast, they can leave out letters like "R" and that's okay?

Today, a week later, same ads, but now it's "Everything." EVERYTHING.

Hard to believe that an ad campaign from a major company can have so prominent a typo. But apparently it did.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Another kind of ratings

I can't believe I didn't post at all this weekend. I basically hibernated, only coming up for Tylenol for my tooth pain, and for a couple of movies. ("Knocked Up" and "Crazy Love" - more later when my mind is in a better place.)

Last week in a meeting our new department leader said, just after I'd said something funny, that he'd heard what I was like, but was glad to see it for himself. He said this in front of the entire group which freaked me out a bit: who was talking about me to him and when? Today I figured it out.

At my job the performance review process has a quota system. Only a set % of people can receive top ratings. This is good and bad: good because as a manager, you have to fight for your people and present real reasons that they deserve the higher rating. It's not enough that they are "great." It's bad, of course, because you have to fight for your people and you're competing with other managers who don't know your staff but feel just as strongly about their own. I don't get to participate in this battle, but arm my own supervisor with "evidence" to get our team the ratings they deserve.

Anyway, I finally got it out of someone who was at the last ratings meeting. When my name came up, they talked about how I may come across as this quiet professional but I can be a smart mouth sometimes. (Not the phrase they used.) The new boss was surprised and this was what he was referring to.

It's still strange to think of a whole room full of people, some of whom you barely know, dissecting your behavior to make a decision that will have real ramifications in your life. (Salary increases and promotions are based on ratings.) It brings back memories of black-ball sessions in the sorority. Having participated in them when I became a sister, and seen how vicious they could be, I always wondered what the discussion had been like when I was up for the vote. But do you ever really want to know those things?

More stupid morning news - and it's not Matt Lauer!

CNN the other day, a special reporter (analyst?) was discussing tv ratings, specifically how DVRs are affecting the traditional ratings numbers. He said that a recent study showed that 50.9% of people fast forward through commercials when using a DVR. "That's just about 60%!" he said. No, 59% is, 50.9% is almost 51%. He then compounded his stupidity by saying that it meant that 40% of people still watch the commercials, a fact he repeated twice. Sadly, the real math would have produced a more powerful statistic. 49.1%, or almost half, sounds like a lot more than 40%.


My dentist stopped sending 6 month check up reminders. I used to get a silly cartoon postcard, usually with a bad pun, reminding me that it was time for an appointment. How much could they cost? I would think it would be worthwhile, as I know that I, for one, cannot remember when I last had an appointment and will go for months and months without something to inspire me to pick up the phone and make another appointment. Right now, I'm almost embarrassed to look at last year's calendar and see how long it's been.

Right now, though, there are bigger fish to fry, as I have been suffering from some tooth pain over the last week, pain that made itself known just as I settled into a long two-day meeting at a conference center upstate. It seems to be a wisdom tooth, which is troublesome as I have two extremely busy weeks, with barely a few hours to breath let alone sit in a reclining chair and let the dentist figure out what is wrong. I know, I know, I have to, and I will.
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