Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hit Iran Where It Hurts: The Pocketbook

Dick Morris says the UN Sanctions on Iran for their nuclear program are too weak to have any real effect. He suggests there's another way to hinder Tehran's progress. He calls on our government, pension programs, labor unions and all Americans to stop investing in Iran.

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What's Wrong With the Iraqi Government Hanging Saddam?

Thomas P.M. Barnett sums it up perfectly:

"I still believe Saddam should have been put on trial in the International Criminal Court or by some other UN-sanctioned court than by the successor Iraqi government. While I believe he should have been put to death, I really fear we allowed the proceedings to speak to the wrong audiences."

Chuck Klosterman on the Life of Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett

America's most entertaining rock critic explicates the life of Syd Barrett, the genius singer/ songwriter who was founding member of Pink Floyd and authentic madman. Not sure how long this article from the New York Times Sunday magazine will stay live, so digg it fast and hard, ladies.

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Cheney Tries to Set the Stage for Bush Administration Pardons

"Gerald Ford was almost alone in understanding that there can be no healing without pardon," Cheney said tonight in the Capitol Dome, where the former President's body is laying in state. Let's hope whoever is President, when any crimes Cheney might have committed become public, isn't so understanding.

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Robots: The Future Seen from 1985

Bill Gates says that robotics is the field of the future, and I sure hope so. This book from 1985 shows why our generation has such a stilted understanding of what robots will be like. But still C3PO is pretty rad.

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John McLaughlin Loves YouTube

On his year-end awards show, John McLaughlin--who must be one-thousand years old--called YouTube the "Best Idea of the Year".

"It has the potential to change the world in unexpected ways."

Cool White Boy Looking for Hot Asian Chick for NYE Action

Good news for Asian ladies of the Bay Area. Apparently a cool white boy with a limo and a resolution to sleep with any female of your ethnicity has tickets to a hot dance party! Let's see if the Internet really has a magical ability to bring idiots together.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

They Hate Us, Folks. They Don't Want Us There.

Historian Juan Cole undresses the "Ten Biggest Myths About Iraq". He starts by tearing down the idea that we can still "win" and finishes by explaining why setting a timeline is a good idea.

How did an electoral landslide against this war turn into a discussion of how long we should escalate/ "surge" for?

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rosie Responds the "The Donald" in Poemtry

From the R Blog: "so what happens/ when u say the emperor has no clothes/ the comb over goes ballistic/via phone to mr king" That's right. No punctuation. No capital letters. All Rosie. Snap. Snap. Snap.

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President Ford Disagreed With Bush's Invasion of Iraq

In a four-hour interview with Bob Woodward, Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq. He criticized Bush's tactics and prominent members of his own administration Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. At Ford's request, the interview was embargoed until his death.

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Why Big Media Doesn't Matter Anymore

Jeff Jarvis explains that size doesn't matter in media anymore. "Relevance, credibility, and attraction do." By examining the end of the page-view, accountability in advertising, and the widgetization of the web, Jarvis concludes that the audience is now taking control of the media.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Most Outrageous Fees and How to Avoid Them

CNN Money lays out ways to get yourself in a lower "Stupid Tax" bracket by avoiding fees from banks, airlines and other capitalist pigs.

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Spending Money on Anti-Drug Ads Makes Kids Use Drugs?

That's what statistics correlating teen drug use with the budget of our Drug Czar may suggest. The less we spend the less kids used.

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Treating Children with Parenting Instead of Drugs

With research behind non-drug treatments for hyperactive kids showing results, some doctors are looking at how inconsistent, overly permissive or uncertain child-rearing styles might worsen children’s problems. One mother compares parenting to driving. It's easy at first, "But if you have to drive a Mack truck, you’re going to need some training."

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Why Ads on Cell Phones Are a Terrible Idea

Marketing guru Seth Godin explains why putting ads on phones "Because advertisers want to buy those ads" is terrible logic. Godin's ultimate question to Version Marketing chief John Harrobin is, "Why would you risk your market share and what little customer satisfaction remains by selling off screen space to advertisers?"

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Twelve Ideas to Keep Off Holiday Weight

We, as Americans, love to use the holidays to make everything into twelves and pretend that we only pig out for two weeks a year.

Enjoy these twelve tips for consumption management. They're so good they may even work in May.

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A Few Questions about Iraq

Some real thunkers! Includes: In the civil war between Iraq's Shiite and Sunni militias, which side is the U.S. backing? Why are people being rescued from the Iraqi police more than three and a half years after the fall of Hussein's government? And my favorite: How could larger numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq shore up the Iraqi government?

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72 MP3 Versions of "Stormy Weather"

This classic anthem of emotional turmoil projected into the skies has been covered over and over in almost any manner possible. WMFU takes you through the 20th century via this epic song and the artists who sold it. Click "read more" to download the ZIP file.

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Is the Rapture Coming Soon? Don't Forget to Say Goodbye.

Post-Rapture Post enables you to send hand-delivered letters to friends and loved ones after the Rapture occurs and all the saved people disappear. Apparently the Atheists, Jews and others left behind will just deliver mail and check all the clothes left in piles for spare change.

Act fast! The Rapture will happen in a blink of an eye.

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Forget Elvis and Dylan. James Brown is America's Most Important Pop Star.

That's what Jody Rosen at Slate is arguing. "Brown's achievement is larger than his own oeuvre and the genres that it begat. Flip on the radio virtually anywhere on earth today, and you will hear the sound of the Brown Revolution, the blare of propulsive, polyrhythmic dance music."

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Turn 21 on MTV or As If Teenagers Didn't Think About Drinking Enough

Svetlana, the round-breasted Russian from Real World Key West, will turn 21 in the first episode of a new MTV Reality Show. While MTV's My Super Sweet Sixteen celebrates the grandiosity of kids who won the genetic lottery, "My Twenty-First Birthday" will document the same type of spoiled kids as they legally begin their long journey to rehab.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

"Georgia Bush": The Best Political Pop Song Since "Ohio"?

Lil' Wayne--a New Orleans Native and maybe the greatest rapper alive--delivers a scathing rebuke of a President who couldn't know less what it's like to be poor. Click "read more" to listen.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Every Wonder What a Nazi Comic Book Might Look Like?

"read more" then.

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The Real Judith Regan or Am I Just One of the Jewish Cabal Out to Get Her?

I've always admired Judith Regan just because she published Howard Stern, the same reason that many people despise her. I'll admit, I even was interested in knowing how OJ did it. But sometimes our reputation catches up for us and forces us to rise to our mistakes. Journalist Cathy Young was a guest on Ms. Regan's Fox News Show. Sparks flew.

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Castro's Health Problems Getting Worse?

A renowned Spanish surgeon has been rushed to Cuba to treat ailing leader Fidel Castro, a Spanish newspaper reported on Sunday.

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Chris Wallace of Fox News is Either Sexist or Partisan

Why the softballs to Lynne Cheney this morning, pal?

You bring up that the Cheney's lesbian daughter is about to have a baby, and then don't ask her why she doesn't believe that her daughter should be able to marry her partner?

Then War on Christmas questions? Nothing about poverty? Nothing about health care?

And introducing her as "One of the most original thinkers in Washington"?

Was there some mistletoe in the studio that I didn't see? Do you understand mistletoe means you have to kiss someone on the mouth and not on their ass?

Sam Harris' "10 Myths -- and 10 Truths -- about Atheism"

The author of "Letter to a Christian Nation" clears up all the rumors that defensive religious people spread about people who don't believe in a big judgmental spirit in the sky.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

I'm Only Blogging This Because I Want a Books Section on Digg

To be honest, I ordered the 6th Harry Potter before it was out and never picked it up.

There's a chance I might have outgrown the whole thing now that I'm not associating with any teens who are reading it.

Anyway, please give me a million more places to talk about books. Let's talk about books all day. Talk dirty to me about books, if you have to.

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A Third Earthquake? At Least I Slept Through This One

The temblor struck at 9:21 a.m. with a preliminary magnitude of 3.5 and a depth of about 6.1 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 2 miles from Berkeley and 3 miles from Emeryville, California, across the bay from San Francisco.

I Got Excited About This Poll Result and Then I Remembered that the UK Was Mostly Against the War and No One Cared

An overwhelming number of Britons believe religion causes more division than love. I guess that they've been listening to Richard Dawkins for a while and probably also watch the news. I wonder if there will be a day when everyone realizes that religion tears the world apart. The guys at South Park posit that when that happens we will become waring tribes of different kinds of Atheists.

Why can't we all be pantheists?

It's obvious: Everything is God, and no one is right.

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Man Protests Religion; Burns Christmas Tree and Self

In Bakersfield, a man enraged that the local school district will be changing the names of Winter Break and Spring Break to Christmas Break and Easter Break set a Christmas tree on fire. The fire unfortunately spread to his body. But really, buddy, they just changed the names. It's not like they jewed you out of any time off.

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"The Banality of Evil" for Your Viewing Pleasure

On January 3, Diane Sawyer and social-psychology professor Jerry Burger will use ABC's 20/20 as an excuse to re-enact a new, tamer version of the Milgram experiment.

The classic and questionable experiments goads participants into giving electric shocks to strangers. The result, that most people were so willing to shock strangers to possible death and beyond when a "scientist" took responsibility for their actions, is often used to explain how an entire society can become complicit in mass murder. As in Nazi Germany or even the Manson Family.

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The Unauthorized WESH Compilation

San Fernando Valley-area-band Just Butts is going to war against friend and foe alike on the the First Annual WESH Comp. Here's what Butts says.

Lesbians of Mass Destruction

Slate examines the empty case against gay couples, like Mary Cheney and her partner, having children. Basically: 67 studies have searched for the lingering harm of gay parents, and it just can't be found. So, back off, Conservatives! Leave the Cheneys alone. They're our kind of people.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Pitchfork's Top 100 Tracks: Lots of Free MP3s

I know a lot of people can't stand Pitchfork and their snotty, dismissive attitude. But they always deliver an eclectic list of the year's best songs. And now you can get about half of the songs as MP3s.

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Another 3.7 Earthquake in Berekely

Felt pretty strong out here in Lafayette, CA.

Questions You Better Ask Before You Get Married

Every love is special. Everyone thinks their relationship is the exception. But there are some basic things you need to know before you get married, like "Are we going to have a TV in the bedroom?"

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Podcasts on Your Blackberry

Between Digg's new Podcast Section and every office worker in the world having access to podcasts, 2007 may be the year your mom realizes what the word means.

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Who Said This?

"I am truly a 'lone traveler' and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude..."

Click "read more" to find out.

Hint: He's circumcised.

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Unfiltered Perspectives from Iraq

Check out Alive in Baghdad, a blog that posts video blogs from outside the Green Zone. Find out what it's like to really live in a war.

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List of Female Teachers Accused of Seducing Students (With Pictures!)

Lust drives the worst human behavior. I blame lust for everything. For making me consider wearing slacks in public. For making me stare at things I shouldn't from friends' mom's breasts to wrecks on the freeway. It's all the same sick desire. Too bad it also happens to be the most enjoyable emotion on the world too. That's why whenever I see a story about an adult female seducing a student I only have one question: What does she look like? WorldNetDaily feeds the fascination.

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Bakers in Iran on Strike

Bread riots bring revolutions, but what does it mean when bakers go on strike? In Tehran, it means they are sick of government controls on wheat and flour. Iranians are too smart to be living in a totalitarian state, and they're starting to realize it, methinks.

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The famed designer pontificates in a practical way about professionalism, working with toxic people, how less isn't more and why you should never have a job, if at all possible.

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Sometimes I Feel the Same Way

Our brains are just not wired for consistency. That's why you can't reliably repeat that perfect motion every time, says a Stanford University study. "The main reason you can't move the same way each time, such as swinging a golf club, is that your brain can't plan the swing the same way each time." Thank, God, right? Something has to make life interesting.

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20 Scary Facts About Voting in the United States

Joseph Stalin--the most successful fascist of all time and a man who never had to seek election-- is credited with saying, "It's not the people who vote that count. It's the people who count the votes." But even Stalin would be impressed with the way the Republican party discredited the votes of their opposition over the last four elections. Check out this link and be prepared to be disturbed. If that isn't disturbing enough, check out Greg Palast's reporting on the 2000 and 2004 elections. The sanctity of our votes needs to be front page news until November 2008.

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How is Bush Dealing with His First Real Electoral Defeat? Not Well.

John Podhoretz is calling President Bush's December 21 press conference, "unquestionably the most dispirited performance of his presidency." The discombobulated president only clearly articulated his odd desire that Americans do more shopping. "This is not a moment when we or the troops in Iraq can afford to have a winded and stunned president."

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NSA Wiretaps Do Violate a Specific Law

The Media should not pass along the Bush Administration spin that the NSA wiretaps are legal because "Congress has not passed a specific law" restricting them. Actually, they have. In 1978 Congress created the FISA court, which allows for warrants to be issued retroactively in emergencies. Call unwarranted searches what they are: Illegal searches.

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What the Hell is a Surge? It's an Escalation!

Don't let Bush pretend that he would have ever changed course at all if the Republicans hadn't lost in November. Bush will never pull out. It's not a surge. It's an escalation. Don't pretend like there's some logic to it.

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Bush Trying to a Provoke Crisis in Palestine

US President George W. Bush, signed a bill on Wednesday night that would forbid giving American assistance to the Hamas-led government, Israel Radio reported. It appears the American policy is to provoke a Civil War in Palestine and punish the Palestinian people for electing the leaders of their choice.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Big Jerk Desecrates Lafayette Memorial

A poignant memorial to the nearly 3,000 soldiers killed in Iraq was vandalized this week. The memorial, erected on private property portrays a cross for every fallen soldier and a sign dedicating the tribute to our troops.

The vandal hasn't been caught. But I guarantee you that he was wearing a baseball cap backwards as he did it.

News stories on this:
New York Times
SF Chronicle
Contra Consta Times

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Colbert Faces the Decemberists: The Rock'n'Awe Countdown to Guitarmageddon

After copying his "Green Screen Challenge" for their video for "O Valencia," Stephen Colbert challenged the Decemberists to a guitar shred off. WARNING: This Pitchfork article, contains spoilers and describes the inexplicable participation of people like Henry Kissinger, Eliot Spitzer, Peter Frampton and a bald guy from Rolling Stone Magazine.

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Tiny Bugs in Your Stomach Determine How Fat You Get

The amount of weight you gain depends partly on the types of microbes found in your gut, a new study on mice reveals. The better the microbes are at sucking out energy from food the more likely a mouse will be fat, researchers say. The Good news? When fat people diet, they lose some of these fattening microbes, according to related study.

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Magnitude 3.7 Quake Rattles Berkeley;
"It Felt Bigger," says ValleyJew

No injuries. On the Hayward fault. The Great Quake of 1868 struck on the Hayward Fault, a magnitude 6.9 rumbler that killed five people

The AP says.

Disturbing News

9 out of 10 Americans engage in premarital sex.

The disturbing news?

Half of that sex takes place at Bachelor Parties.

School Criticized for Not Lying About Santa

As I Jew, I was told that Santa didn't exist briefly after my circumcision. But a school in London is being attacked for telling nine-year olds that it wasn't some fat cult leader in the North Pole who brought them gifts every Christmas. It was actually their liar parents.

Is this really cruel, or just responsible child-rearing.

I say the latter. If I didn't get Santa, why should they?

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Russia Loves Global Warming

Russia may be the only country looking forward to the coming climate crisis. As the world's ice melts, Russia's uninhabitable areas will become more hospitable, and it's inaccessible energy resources will become more exploitable. This may explain the reluctance of some Russian diplomats to accept that there is a real problem to deal with right now.

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Driving Statistics for Dummies

A shocking new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that speeding, aggressive driving, taking your eyes off the road, and falling asleep at the wheel will increase your risk of crashing. The study does not address the negative or positive effects of trying to give other drivers "high-fives."

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Beloved Jeopardy Champion Ken Jennings is Running for President! Sort of!

The greatest game show champion ever and avowed Mormon Ken Jennings said he will refuse the nomination and serve as President if Wonkette's DRAFT JENNINGS campaign works. Just like Reagan, he will take naps all day and try not to start any meaningless wars.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

MySpace Music Stores Now Live

Musicians can now sell their music through their band's MySpace page. Powered by Shawn Fanning's SnoCap technology, Your MySpace Music Store may be the beginning of Phase II of destroying the music industry. Fanning's original Napster began Phase I, obviously.

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This is Why YOU are the Person of the Year

A high school student taped his teacher telling his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven.

Because of YOU, big mouths have to watch themselves. Now there are now a million ways to document and share the stupidity that comes out of their mouths.

And c'mon, while the Noah's Ark thing is definitely true (the dinosaurs were on the same level as the dragons and the cafeteria), the rest of that junk is just offensive.

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Laura Bush Had Skin Cancer?

What else are they hiding? And why the picture with the menorah for this story? Did she look at the shammash and crumble?

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Digg Continues to Battle Fake Stories

After booting then reinstating one of their Top Users, Digg promises to continue their pledge to keep the site free of stories posted in exchange for money or services.

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Michael Crichton, You Ignorant Slut

Michael Crowley files his rebuttal to the Crichton's depiction of a character named Mick Crowley. In the Jurassic Prick's new book Next, Mick Crowley is a Yale-educated journalist with a tiny penis who anally rapes his nephew. Crowley sees this as the author's revenge for his 2004 article criticizing Crichton for his Bush-like anti-intellectualism.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gather Around, Stepchildren
(Early draft of the beginning of a new story)

My mother told me that I was sensitive. She said it like it was a problem and it was. It usually led to me having awful dreams where I did terrible things and felt awful about it all morning. And when I did something wrong in real life, (if life is more real than dreams, which I doubt) I’d apologize and apologize. And rarely did the person remember the instance that I was apologizing for. “Linda, it’s fine. I didn’t even note the sarcasm in your voice,” my friend might say. And I would calmly assure them, “Well, that doesn’t make it right. And I’m sorry.” And like the shampoo instructions say, I would repeat and repeat until done. But who can tell when something like that is done? I, for one, can go on washing my hair over and over again forever. Is there really any harm in making things extra clean? Of course, I would learn later there were troubling issues of compulsion and overcompensation there. But I was a child then, and I’m just now learning to forgive myself for how overly deferential I was at times.

My sensitivity made my childhood eventful and my teenager years unbearable (my Senior class elected me “Most Tearful”). And in my adulthood it has blossomed into a full-blown career. After college, I spent a year seating people at Coco’s, helping everyone from the cooks to the customers with their personal problems. It was satisfying and useful to me, not just because I learned quite a bit of Tagalong. It was a sad goodbye when I had to quit to begin pursuing my PhD in Psychology. I gave everyone my email and when I get messages from the old crew in their broken English (is it appropriate to call it a Pigeon English? I don’t know, especially since the way they do speak our language does have the same tone as birds cooing) it reminds me of the good old days and a Prime Rib Special that was neither prime nor rib.

Now, three years into my practice and with nearly eight percent of my student loans paid off, I decided to give myself my first vacation. Two weeks off in the beginning of December. Not the end of December, even the lay-est of men knows that I would be inviting suicide after suicide if I scheduled my vacation then. I began informing my clients of my impending vacation in August. And by October I could mention it without getting all teary eyed. My clients assured me that they would be fine. Assured me like they had any idea what was really going on in their heads. I was the professional, and I had to constantly remind myself that my mother was entirely narcissistic and had born me just to have a slave to project her worthlessness upon just to stay sane. I couldn’t imagine what those poor people were going through. If I was sexualized as a child the way half of my clients were, I wouldn’t be alive now. I promise you that.

So December 1st comes, and I’m free. Free to be spontaneous and alive and normal. I didn’t even make one plan because just for once I wanted to know what I would do if I could do anything. By 9:30 AM my backpack was filled with water and pre-prepared foods from Trader Joe’s for my trip to the local arboretum, which I’d been neglecting like a painful, recurring, shadowy image of a frightful character from childhood in a dream, when my phone rang. It was my personal line, so I thanked God. No client emergency, yet. I answered it hoping it might be some friend, an ex-classmate or an intelligently handsome man whom might be misdialing from his town car with some spare time and a hankering to explore some native trees. I had more than enough water for two, if the person on the other side of the line had a similar bodyweight, plus or minus ten pounds, or would carry the bag if I stuffed in another liter.

“Hello?” my mother said, on the other side of the line. She was whispery; dry sounding.

“Oh, no. What’s wrong?” I said. If she doesn’t sound enraged or at least miffed, I know there’s something extremely wrong with my mother, at least something she’s conscious of.

“It’s Stephen (her husband); I can’t take it. I need to come stay with you.”

And there were all my plans or non-plans out the window. No wandering around my loft aimlessly, naked, listening to Alanis’ first album and sipping wine of some fresh squeezed juice combination I’d never imagined in my life. No hours in a bookstore investigating what would happen if I confronted some of the more attractive men who stared at me, coyly like I couldn’t read their filthy minds. No wandering through downtown, conjuring ethnicities in my mind and then turning a corner to find a museum celebrating that exact ethnicity’s cultural heritage.

My mother was coming, and it would have been better to be working. At least then I would have an excuse to leave her alone for a while. But she knew I was on vacation. She knew this was the perfect time to have a breakdown, and she was on her way.

When I opened the door, she pointed to her suitcase. I hadn’t seen her without makeup in decades, not since her ERA campaigning in the early 80s. She was earthy then. Now she was disturbing, blemished like the carpet of some form of public transit. And she seemed worn down and extra-wrinkly from her one-hour plane flight and pair of fifteen minute cab rides, which had her at my door by noon.

“It’s terrible,” she said, as I tried to find the handle on her suitcase so I could wheel it in. It was impossibly heavy, as if she’d brought with her enough water to last her a month. As I struggled, she wandered into my house, forcing me to recall any mess that I’d left, any decorating fau pauxs that she might invent; she is color-blind, I’m convinced, but she’ll never admit it. “Brown, blue what’s the difference?” she’d say. “It still looks like it’s from a Taiwanese brothel.”

“Am I supposed to sleep on this couch?” she shouted back at me.

“We can have the front desk send up a bed,” I answered back, snappily. Instantly I regretted my snarkiness. Years of training had led me back to a reflex defense, the pathetic sameness of my childhood. I wanted to curl up into the fetal position and cry. That I didn’t was my victory for the day.

It was an easy day to find a highlight for. After she insulted everything about my home, we spent every second of daylight inside, watching the E channel and ordering Chinese from the same restaurant twice. She wouldn’t move off my favorite corner of the couch as she repeated the same facts over and over. Menopause, especially at its end, was a nightmare, deviously mentally and physically painful at the same time (narcissism). Like it was designed by men to punish the female body for all of its obvious advantages (paranoia). Her husband was a snake, but the only man in the world who interested her (histrionics). And as he got closer and closer to receiving his generous inheritance from his mother, nearly ninety-eight, he became more and more interested in other women (greed). At first it was tolerable, but as it became public it was too humiliating for her just to use as an excuse to pilfer his bank account (acting-out).

“He brought some tramp to the Schecter’s grandson’s Bar Mitzvah, said it was his assistant. Like telemarketers have assistants! We were fighting, so I went to the house in Indio for the weekend. He shows up anyway, with a woman described by most of my mah jong group as having semen caked all over her ample, mostly revealed bosoms. That’s an exact quote. Donna Schecter still has her way with words. She’s in advertising or market research.” When my mother found out about that major humiliation that she didn’t even get to experience in person, it was almost the breaking point. She stayed in Indio for weeks. She’d call me every three or four days. I’d start talking about something personal about me and that usually got to her to say her goodbye, “I have to take off my makeup and cry.” But it was when she drove home this very morning to meet the worker who was going to remove all the cottage cheese from their Valley House’s ceiling that disaster struck.

“His check didn’t clear,” she said. “This poor, little Mexican man, Pablo, has to ask me for cash before he could start work.” She called up the bank and learned that he the money wasn’t pulled it out in a lump sum. It’s just slowly eroded throughout the year and wouldn’t be refreshed until his trust fund paid out around the first of the January. “That was the last straw. I had to send Pablo away, his dozens of brown children probably starving because of Stephen. And I decided right then that I’m not staying in that house, looking at that corroded, diseased ceiling another day. I’d rather sleep on your bed.”

That’s when she told me that I would take the couch.

She needed her suitcase by her bed on my loft and that required some real ingenuity. It was ten feet up, so I looped some belts together and connected it the suitcase’s handle. Then I climbed the ladder and had her throw one end up to me. I pulled it up, using the railing for leverage, misplacing several lesser important vertebrae. The whole time she’s cursing me for living in a loft, telling me that I should have just joined the Navy to live in a submarine if I wanted to punish myself. As I struggled in my tug-of-war against her possessions and gravity, there was one point where she was standing right under the suitcase. Each wheel would have taken out an eye or an ear. No court in the world would convict me. Everyone she’d ever met would testify for me. But I gave I yanked and wrenched and got that impossible piece of crap over the rail and let it drop. “Careful. Careful! Your gift is in there. Make sure it’s on the right side of the bed please.”

“That’s where the wall is.”

“You’ll figure it out.”

That night I was woken up every three hours by the sound of her raving into her phone, obviously leaving messages for Stephen. Meandering, sermonizing voicemails that would be erased before they were ever heard by anyone but me. Luckily I was an expert and noted the words she used, like “pierced, stabbed, eviscerated, seared, butt-fucked.” All metaphors of specific and bizarre torture that were followed by increasingly desperate pleas delivered in a baby voice that she had never used in my presence before. It was an astounding study in bipolarity. If she were in my care, I knew exactly which Psychopharmacologist I would refer to her. The one that specializes in children, generally. Some Ritalin and generic Lithium would make her bearable, I knew it. If only I was able to prescribe drugs, we might be able to have a real relationship.

The next morning I woke up before here and laid perfectly still studying everything in my apartment item by item. As I did, I realized how much I liked myself when I was alone. My Oriental lamps, the doilies under everything, the posters of John Hughes movies in French and German. All of my quirky choices, my subtle individuations that made me “me”, made me proud. I felt in some ways I was colonized country that had rebelled and created a democracy, but still we paid homage to our old colonial queen out of tradition and reverence to a cultural ritual. We couldn’t completely sever ties, mostly because we knew the details of the three divorces and six or seven excruciating breakups our Queen had endured since we were occupied. We didn’t want to be one of the bad colonies that abandoned her and denied her a royal visit in the distressing times. Especially since she had paid for our undergraduate degree and the deductible on our last three car accidents. Still I knew that I couldn’t be more different than her. She was a snorer. A codependent. A Demagogue. An addict of some sort that I hadn’t discerned. Her visiting me was a sign that I should be proud of myself for no reason other than I had not become her.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Alternative Jesus Christ Superstar

Just in time for the holidays, WMFU presents alternative takes of the songs from Andrew Lloyd Weber's most Jesus-tastic musical. Enjoy bands like the Afghan Whigs, a harmonica soloist and casts from productions from all over the world present their own versions of the true Gospel of Rock.

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Are the Iranian People Rejecting Their President's Extremism Too?

According to official and unofficial results, early election returns showed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's opponents leading on Saturday in elections for local councils and a powerful clerical body. This is the first test of public approval for Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel rhetoric and non-negotiable stand on Iran's nuclear program.

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Just to Make Things Clear: The Democratic Party Agenda for 2008

No party has never been so united behind the basic ideals that are essential for the well-being of this country. So, I figured I'll just lay out what the next presidental election will be all about. Then the real conversation about our values can take place.

The Democratic Party's Agenda for 2008
1. End the war.
2. Secure the homeland.
3. Improve life for the Working and Middle classes.
4. Reverse global warming.

RIchard Dawkins

Continues to put religion in check.

Why is Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis So Awesome?

Besides the fact that she was an amazingly successful child star and her song "Rise Up With Fists" is one of the best things ever, she also has great taste. From her Pitchfork list of the top albums of 2006:

3. Lil Wayne: Tha Carter II
I feel a kinship with Lil Wayne, because we both made our first mil
before we were 17. "Fuck bitches, get money..."

Mrs. Bush, There is NO GOOD NEWS to Report from Iraq

Laura Bush, the First Enabler, blasted the media this week for not covering positive stories from Iraq, like the progress with Iraq's schools. Iraq Slogger points out the reality on the ground, "Teachers tell of students kidnapped on their way to school, mortar rounds landing on or near campuses and educators shot in front of children."

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Cheney Flaunts His Disregard for Reality

Today, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at a ceremony honoring outoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Cheney, himself a former Defense Secretary under George H. W. Bush, said Rumsfeld was the “finest Secretary of Defense this nation has ever had.” He went on to call Clay Aiken "the manliest American Idol finalist ever" and Michael Richards "the subtlest and most erotic comedian in the history of humor."

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One Democrat Down

Evan Bayh is not going to go through the motions of running for President. But he's still the frontrunner for VP, as far as you know.

What Do the Sunni and Shia have in Common? Lionel Ritchie

The 80s pop phenomenon may be our only hope for resolving the civil war in Iraq. While Sunnis and Shiites are divided by sectarian strife, they are united in their love for Lionel Ritchie. Could he really do any worse than Rumsfeld?

Click for a chart laying out the differences between the Sunni and Shia.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

A Free Way to Watch Nearly Every Video Finally Comes to the Mac

The Yahoo! Music Player 3.0 is the legal way to watch nearly every decent video in the world for free on your Apple. And it's not just Chiara or Gwen or the other girls and boys in hot pants. Check out like five videos by the Shins, for instance. Careful, they might change your life!

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Storylines in Pornography. Necessary?

I agree with most males that storylines in porn are unnecessary. But I do find that I need a scenario, some explanation of why the sex is happening. Like:

WHY is this girl in so much trouble with her naughty teacher?

Or HOW badly does this girl NOT want to be deported?

Or WHY did she get inside that van with 5 meth addicts?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

CBS to Launch a Digital Only Record Label

The digital record label (that means NO CDs!) launches in January. CBS will promote their artists on Viacom and CBS's TV properties, iTunes and the Eye, their new web broadband channel.

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Gore Urges Scientists to Warn Public about Global Warming

Super-American Al Gore, who like a real comic-book hero is trying to save the whole earth, is encouraging the only people less charismatic than him to speak out about the climate crisis. Speak out, scientists! Just use dumb words and smile, please.

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How to Make the Apple Nerds on Digg Go Crazy

Just post anything that is even slightly anti-Apple. I posted this Mark Cuban story just because I thought it pointed out how much the recording industry screwed up around the time of the original Napster. But to Apple fans, I might as well been a chubby guy wearing a suit saying, "I'm a PC."

Israelis Get Borat and Love It

The Jews in Israel can't wait to get their claws on Borat. Sacha Baron Cohen's 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan' is very popular in the Jewish homeland. Israelis are especially enjoying that Borat Sagdiyev is not speaking Kazakh or even gibberish, but rather Hebrew, the biblical language of the Jewish people.

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Babel On

The fine film Babel leads the Golden Globe nominations with 7.

I hope this convinces more people to see this movie.

Should there be an Oscar for Best Movie Trailer?

Makes sense since most trailers are better than the actual films. Click "read more" to see IFILM's picks for the top 10 movie trailers of 2006.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Am I the Only Coast to Coast AM Fan who Doesn't Drive a Truck?

Anyone else out there a Coast Fan?

Where else in the world can you hear adults comment on topics like:

Writer and documentary filmmaker Ken Klein will discuss his research on the supernatural origins of the pyramids, UFOs, aliens, and fallen angels.

Mark Cuban Suggests How to Kill the iTunes Store

Cuban wants Google or Microsoft to offer the music industry more than they earn from Apple's online music store. Then he thinks GOOG or MSFT should just give the music away and make money on the ads. Crazy? Or what the Industry should have done six years ago when 80 million people were using Napster?

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Are Dungeons and Dragons Players Psychologically Troubled?

That's what the Israeli Army thinks! Army officials see a connection between a fondness for Dungeons and Dragons and a delusional mind. "The game indicates a weak personality," one security official said.

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Is Fidel Castro is dead?

Spanish Radio said to have reported Castro dead; Miami police on alert.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Las Vegas Needs Santas

"Apparently, Liverpool, England holds the record for the most running Santas at 3,991. Last year, Las Vegas attempted to best that total and came about 1,000 Santas short... The Las Vegas Great Santa Run takes place Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Fremont Street Experience. The hope is that enough Santas will show up this time to beat Liverpool."

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Get Happy with these 100 Life-Affirming Statements

I'm reading this list every day and getting happier all the time. But that may more have to do with the Democrats taking back congress.

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Another Closeted-Gay-Evangelical Republican!

He was no White House-insider like the Flaming Ted Haggard, but Reverend Paul Barnes of Colorado deserves to be outed as another Jerkoff for Jesus. Wonkette brings the pain.

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Even Conservative Andrew Sullivan is Caught Up in Obama Fever

Everyone's favorite Gay Republican says that Obama's words "give him hope."

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Monday, December 11, 2006

The 7 Cardinal Sins of Innovators

Want to launch the next Digg, Facebook or YouTube? Here are seven ways to mess yourself up before you even get started.

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Challenge the Holocaust, PLEASE!:
A Jew Responds to Holocaust Deniers in Iran

It's big news that Iran's is holding an academic conference to dispute the reality of the Holocaust. As Howard Stern often proves by presenting KKK members like Daniel Carver and the God Hates Fags family and other loons, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Nothing is better for hate than laughing at it.

If we're going to get mad and respond to this like it has any credibility at all, we just look like babies.

If it's one thing that Jews do not need to be defensive about, it's whether the Holocaust happens.

Of course, we do need to present the facts every time they are disputed and welcome people to visit the camps, the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

We should publicize that the over 11 million deaths and the billions of interwining tragedies are THE most documented tragedy in the history of the world.

And we should do it not because of what happened sixty years ago to the Jews and others, but because what is happening today in Sudan. What happened a decade ago to Muslims in Bosnia. What happened nearly a century ago to the Armenians in Turkey. If the facts of these bonfires of human morals do not stand up to the ranting of a few lunatics, then the human race will suffer a fate that is more gruesome and apocaylptic than any religious wacko can imagine.

We need to encourage academic debate, answer challenges and be public not in our disdain for others, but in our love for the truth.

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is walking into a classic satire—a man who claims to love God and hates most of God’s children. And if we respond to his darkness with our light, the world will be laughing at him.

Just look at how the guy dresses. I mean, does he only own one jacket?

Comprehensive List of "Best of 2006" Music Posts

Largehearted Boy is collecting links to all "best of 2006" music posts from blogs, magazines, newspapers and other media in one comprehensive entry. I wish there was a way to aggregate all this amazing music.

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James Joyce’s Modernism:
Bringing Out “The Dead”

James Joyce’s public statements about women provide plenty of fodder for anyone who wants to claim that the author was a chauvinist. “I hate a woman who knows anything,” Joyce famously said to Mary Colum (Scott 120). There’s also, “You’ve never heard of a woman who was the author of a complete philosophical system. No, and I don’t think you ever will” (Scott 121). But his own work betrays his disdain for sexism at the heart of mission to challenge the institutions of his time.

In “The Dead,” James Joyce gives the reader his nascent version of “Modernism” without the stylistic advances and fireworks of his later work. What is new and modern about the work is that he crafts a direct attack on the gender roles and male-dominated space of the time. By infusing the personal with the political, Joyce documents a painful personal realization that indicts the both the protagonist of the story along with the men Dublin as victimizers of women and victims of their own denial of feminine power.

Joyce began writing his greatest short story in Rome, surrounded by the ruins and of ancient Western civilization, after the collection Dubliners was accepted for publication as a book (Gray). The story depicts Gabriel Conroy, a man at odds with women, his role in public and himself and provides some Joyce critics the finite line that divides his earlier work from the breakthroughs of Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake (Gray). Joyce said that throughout Dubliners he intended to write a, “moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the center of paralysis.”(Joyce, 1975) The structure of the collection was to be presented, “to the indifferent public under four of its aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. The stories are arranged in this order.” In this last story of his first book, Joyce completes his project against the traditions of the past by taking on the largest canvas, public life. If it is true that Joyce himself was a one-man demolition crew of earlier thought and a harbinger of a new world that artists sought to rebuild from the wreck of the old, the story “The Dead” contains Joyce’s first exhaustive attempt to hack away at what he saw as the maladies of his time. By exposing the living as zombies haunted by the persistent faults ingrained by both church and state, Joyce begins his Modernist mission by crafting an extended eulogy and obituary for a mentality of male domination along with paralysis of spirit that lasted too long.

James Joyce was very familiar with women who were fighting for a modern Ireland. One of closest friends while he was writing Dubliners was Francis Skeffington, “an ardent supporter of equality for women at a time when such a stance was unpopular and even dangerous” (Gray) Skeffington was so ahead of his time that he even merged his last name with his wife Hanna Sheefy when they married. Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington, was a Catholic nationalist who grew up a household filled with Catholic Nationalist women (Scott 26). Joyce must have noted her “power as a political orator—an ability that was acknowledged and respected in Dublin.” Richard Ellman believes that the actual inspiration for Molly Ivors was Hannah’s sister Kathleen Sheehy who famously “helped prevent evictions in the west of Ireland” (Scott 26). These were courageous women who risked real death to fight for a world where neither the British nor the men around them could control their future in the tired and stifling ways of the past.

Many men in Dublin shared a fear of a new woman. “Educated, professional women in turn-of-the-century Dublin risked a fate then considered by many only slightly better than death—spinsterhood” (Scott 137). Like Gabriel’s aunts in the story, who run their own business, Molly Ivors is not married. These women sought seek their own achievements, their own passions and identities. The spirit of women like these hits Gabriel Conroy over the head in “The Dead.”

Through Gabriel’s encounters and weakness when it comes to dealing with the strong opinions of women, a larger political issue is revealed. According to Eve Sedwick, Homosocial Space exists in colonized locations like Ireland that must deal with a constant subjugation that makes life almost unbearable. Sedgwick sees male/male transactions “of honor between men over the dead, discredited or dishonored body of a woman.” In Between Men, she dissects literature from Shakespeare’s sonnets to the nineteenth century novel to undress the social transactions of men dealing with men. Rather than letting the frustration of repression fuel a revolt, Sedgwick believes spaces allow men to dominate women and men of lesser status in order to foster a fictional self-perception as being strong and in control. If these men cannot be part of the class that rules over the vast empire, they can be the ones who rule over lesser territories like women. To Sedgwick, this makes capitalism possible in colonized nations, allowing men to work together to provide goods and service for the true dominating classes. This is as true for Ireland as it is for any colonized nation or minority group that threatens the real powers for whom make money and prop up in almost every material way. And it works because it is not supposed to change. Women need to be obeyed or they will be punished. Their slights are not to be tolerated.

… for a man to undergo even a humiliating change in the course of relationship with a man still feels like preserving or participating in the sum of male power, while for a man to undergo any change in the course of a relationship with a woman feels like a radical degeneration of substance. (Sedgwick 45)

A man who lives in a world of constant degradation at the hands of colonial powers and oppressive bosses is fine until a woman questions his masculinity. This kind of questioning disrupts the entire façade of the system. The stability of the inequality of women must be consistent.

As Jean Baker points our in Toward a New Psychology of Women, an attribution of gender differences marks a structure of permanent inequality, while the relationship between adult and child is the prototype of the temporary inequality that in principle—or in ideology—exists only in to be overcome: children are supposed to grow up into parents, but wives are not supposed to grow into husbands. (Sedgwick178)

The threat of the next male generation is always present for men in power, but the threat of women, like Molly Ivors and even Gretta in her own way, who are growing up to become husbands is too much for a man to take.

We see through Gabriel’s eyes how this subtle consistent domination of men is fading. Poor women are no longer willing to be sexual objects; widows are starting businesses and living richer lives than their dead husbands. Women are leading a true charge against the real oppressors, the British. And even the wives, the dear wives who have pledged through God and the state to serve their husbands till death do them part, are no longer playing their roles. Dissatisfied by the weakness of a husband who’s petty need to be in control infects every interaction and desire, Gretta is not really in love with Gabriel. Gabriel is aware of this even before he finds out about Michael Furey.

“He longed to recall to her those moments, to make her forget the years of their dull existence together and remember only their moments of ecstasy. For the years, he felt, had not quenched his soul or hers.” (Joyce 180)

But he feels that the dearth of affection can still be fixed until he learns about Michael Furey. He can’t compare to the lost spirit of a boy that was willing to risk everything to express his love just one last time. Sedwick says the goal of Homosocial society is to cuckold another man. But there is perhaps no man alive that can satisfy Gretta. The dead for the are the ones who live without restraint. The dead have cuckolded Gabriel thus the dead are in charge, and in Gabriel’s own words, he is “nothing”.

Who is really dead in James Joyce’s “The Dead”? Well, in the climactic story of Dubliners, each of the deceased characters mentioned have died before the story begins.

Pat Morkan, the brother of the two women who raised Gabriel Conroy, died long ago. After his death, the two aunts moved, started their own music school, and began putting on their annual dance that serves as the setting for the story.

Michael Furey died long ago, as well. He only enters the story in the mind of Gretta Conroy, Gabriel’s wife, aroused by the words of an old song he used to sing. And how did he die? Stricken with serious illness, he sneaks out in the middle of the night to see Gretta one last time before she leaves for Dublin. Gabriel only finds out about this romantic entanglement because he misinterprets his wife’s graceful repose as she listens to an old song. The way she stands arouses a great lust in her husband’s heart. After building up a sexual encounter in his mind that will restore the ecstasy in their marriage, Gabriel seeks answers when his wife does not respond to his advances. He perversely forces the tortured history of Gretta’s Michael Furey out (Leonard 289).

The truth destroys Gabriel, makes him feel ashamed, as if intruding on her grief. The shame of the realization and his insight that indeed his wife had always been in love with another man causes him to feel that, “some impalpable and vindictive being was coming against him, gathering forces against him in its vague world” (Joyce 187). The dead are no longer dead to Gabriel, they are living and conspiring against him in his mind. Michael Furey’s challenge his love relationship cannot be contested or reversed. The idealized love that Gabriel believed he had with Gretta is now as dead as the goose that is being served for dinner.

This climatic challenge to Gabriel’s pride is delivered only after Joyce illustrates the character’s sensitivity to female power through a series of encounters with women. These encounters frustrate and stifle Gabriel as he prepares to give a speech to crowd gathered for the celebration. First, Gabriel meets Lily, his aunts’ servant, and he casually asks her if she is looking forward to getting married. Her reaction shocks him. She says no. She is tired of men, calls them “palavers,” liars who use words to get what they want. Even this lowly woman, a woman in a social class below even lower than his wife’s original status (both aunts thought Gretta was below him when he married her), sees through the façade of traditional male power. She is not willing to be a toy, a discredited body willing to validate powerless men who have no other way to seek status. Gabriel is so thrown by her response that he hands her some money as a Christmas present. He is forced to use his limited financial wealth to flaunt his paternal superiority.

After being mocked by his wife and aunts for his peculiar desire to use continental words and then employed to watch Freddy Mallins, the resident drunk, so he doesn’t spoil the festivities, Gabriel is forced to dance with Molly Ivors. A vigorous Nationalist, Molly has the same education and job as Gabriel. And she immediately calls Gabriel out for writing for a newspaper that she opposes politically. She then compliments his writing and demands that Gabriel come on a trip with her, playing the male role of judge and wooer. Here Joyce both connects himself to Gabriel (Joyce, too, was the author of occasional literary reviews) and contrasts these two characters, Gabriel and Molly, and the roles the play in society. Both have the same education and the same job, but Molly is using her energy to fight against the colonial presence that has haunted and stifled Ireland. Rather than admiring her spirit, Gabriel feels competitive and slighted. He is unable to contribute and even publishes his work in a pro-British paper.

Gabriel is offended by Molly’s attitude toward him:

…she had no right to call him a West Briton before people, even in joke. She had tried to make him ridiculous before people, heckling him and staring at him with her rabbit's eyes ( Joyce 176)

Rather than seeing, Molly’s entreaties as attempts to enlist him in the spirit of independence, Gabriel decides to use his role of the night’s speaker to strike back at her.

Perhaps [Molly Ivors] would not be sorry to see him fail in his speech. An idea came into his mind and gave him courage. He would say, alluding to Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia: "Ladies and Gentlemen, the generation which is now on the wane among us may have had its faults but for my part I think it had certain qualities of hospitality, of humour, of humanity, which the new and very serious and hypereducated generation that is growing up around us seems to me to lack." Very good: that was one for Miss Ivors. (Joyce 177)

Take that, he decides. He will contrast Molly unfavorably with the dear, uneducated women of the past right in front of her face. Of course, Molly wins again by leaving before it’s time for Gabriel’s speech. She has things to do and goals to accomplish. She’ll leave Gabriel to his old world of complacent celebration. But still Gabriel doesn’t retreat from his attack on Molly. He still delivers his criticism of her along with the litany of praises for the “humanity, hospitality and kindly humor” of “an older day.”

Gabriel’s final traumatic encounter with a woman comes when his wife discloses her concealed passion for Michael Furey. At that point, Gabriel, is crushed. He is flattened by a new world that is growing up around him. A world of women who are unsatisfied and filled with desire to change or at least challenge the society they grew up in.

So, who is really dead in “The Dead?” Or rather, what? It’s a decrepit sense of manhood that relied on subjection, inequality and a romanticized order of the past. This story is not a tragedy, this is a story that turns the notion of tragedy on its head, for the death in this story, the death of Gabriel’s pride, is well-deserved and provides the only promise of a rebirth, a new life. James Joyce charges the educated of Dublin as men constrained by delicate sense of worth may not survive the women Ireland needs to overcome stagnating specter of colonialism.

Perhaps Gabriel’s wife had not told him the whole story before. When she sees how it devastates him, she may never do it again. But perhaps it was time that she did. Gabriel appears smart and sensitive to understand it. But in a world of dead men around him, can he awaken to a new understanding without it destroying him?

When James Joyce was just a teenager he wrote a review of Ibsen’s play When We Dead Awaken. In it he laid out what some consider the credo behind all of his work:

“Even the most commonplace, the deadest among the living, may play a part in great drama. It is sinful foolishness to sigh back for the good old times, to feed the hunger of us with the cold stones they afford. Life we must accept as we see it before our eyes, men and women as we meet them in the real world, not as we apprehend them in the world of faery” (Gray).

And that is Gabriel’s true challenge, to face men and women as he meets them in the real world.

Perhaps the dead have awoken to tell him that his life is not a fairy tale. Can he embrace these new facts, this sheets that have been torn off the ghosts of time, and move on, or must he suffer the damnation of a world of fictions that serve the powerful and tame the potentially powerful.

Joyce’s Modernism portrays a world that is dying for its past, where becoming new is not a victory of style or choice, but the only way to survive.

Works Cited

Gray, Wallace. Dubliners: An Introduction by Wallace Gray World
Wide Dubliners. Ed. Roger B. Blumberg and Wallace Gray, editors. Draft 97.1

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Edited by Gabler, Hans Walter & Hettche, Walter. New York, New York, Garland Publishing, 1993.

Leonard, Gary M. Reading Dubliners Again: A Lacanian
Perspective. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1993.

Sedgwick, Eve. Between Men: English Literature and Male
Homosocial Space. New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

Scott, Bonnie Kime. Joyce and Feminism. Bloomington, Indiana:
Indiana University Press, 1984.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Life of a Soldier who Lost his Leg in Iraq

Based on a story I heard from a friend, a short piece I wrote trying to imagine the agony of one of those brave kids who went to Iraq to fight for something they believed in.

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The Same Smile

Ed was overwhelmed and missing a leg. Those were just two of the many reasons that he didn’t belong in a Zen Sitting group. But it was part of his therapy. And not the cheap VA therapy. The real therapy his dad was paying for out his retirement money, spitefully, almost as a punishment for not listening to him and signing up for the Army a week after 9/11. Every week for at least fifty minutes he would be reminded how he didn’t listen to his Dad’s advice the one time it really mattered. But he needed it. He was back from Iraq, and his leg was still over there, along with his sense and his decency. Maybe his sanity. He knew that he was barely able to stop himself from thinking terrible thoughts, from even doing something terrible, a series of terrible things, if he just slipped once. But everyone would blame Iraq and Bush and the War. And he’d just blame himself. That’s maybe why he didn’t do it.

He circled the Sociology building for five minutes, trying to decide which entrance would put him closest to the right classroom. And part of him wanted him to give up. The majority part. It was all so BS-y. Zen? It was just a sham. Why didn’t he just try to become a ninja? But his Economics TA seemed like a nice guy, smart and civilized. You could trust him, if you had to. And when he brought up that he was in the campus’ Zen Sitting group, casually in conversation during his office hours, Ed thought BINGO, cross religion off the list. It was something he was supposed to try; somewhere he could meet people he might like. Whether they might like him was not a concern for his therapist. They weren’t paying him. And that was among thousands of other reasons that Ed knew that his shrink didn’t understand him or what it’s like to be fucked up in the head, really fucked up. But religion was on the list to try before drugs, mind drugs, and he wasn’t going to give into them until he’d failed at everything else, twice.

His TA was cross-legged on the floor when Ed opened the door. Fuck, how did he not even think about that? How was he supposed to do the lotus position. He was anatomically forbidden from being a Buddha. He might as well leave, but his TA’s puppy-tilt smile and eye contact as he jumped up and toward Ed made that impossible. And when when he was as close to Ed as Ed was to the door, the TA said, “Let me get you a chair, man.”

Man. He’d used a friendish word. Something he hadn’t done in five weeks of sections. And something about that made it already worth coming, at least for a few seconds.

“Is that cool?” Ed asked, staying with the friendly tone.

“Totally. Totally,” the TA said twice, sounding ethereal and enlightened. Could totally be a mantra? The TA pulled a chair off a stack of them in the corner and said to someone something like, “Ed needs this.” And the someone nodded so understandingly that it would have confused Ed if he didn’t already think of Zen as being something beyond compassionate. Something both smart and compassionate in a way that other religions had given up on centuries ago.

There were five or six people in the room. All chubby, white and balding except for another kid who could have been Ed if Ed were still Ed and not jaded. That kid had a smirk. Ed remembered his old smirk, something he relied on before he realized what a smirk really meant.

Once the TA set out the chair the rest of the guys formed rows. Some next to Ed’s chair. Some directly across, facing the other row.

The tallest, baldest guy was the leader, probably. He had a bellish, gongish thing. “Are we all here?” he said, looking around smiling. There would have been a cruel joke to that question if that guy had any idea what Ed’s jeans were hiding. But as Ed slightly limped to his chair he could tell the guy was oblivious to all that. “Are we all here?” was just a philosophical question for everyone else. But still no one sat opposite Ed and his chair.

The leader explained how it would go, how to count the breath, how to return to the breath when the mind wandered, how to sit like someone was pulling a string from the tip of their head, how to last twenty minutes of silence and meditation on that silence. So many “how-to”s that Ed instantly felt comfortable. He could just think about all that. All the procedure. All the things he needed to get right. Not about himelf and his infected thoughts and the way that everyone he met eventually became someone else. Like everyone was an imaginary friend who took up space, a zombie playing the role of someone who wasn’t around anymore. A world of half-hearted, damaged replicas.

The leader was ready to hit the bell when the classroom door opened once more. A girl from Ed’s section sort of bowed her way in. He had seen her talking to the TA after class, but he assumed it was about grades or homework, anything else. But she was here. Maybe she had a therapist too.

The TA stood up in one swift motion and guided her directly across from Ed. But to the floor, of course. She could sit.

“Welcome back, Becca,” the leader said. And she nodded politely, her blond short hair lilting against her neck.

He wasn’t a pervert, he told himself. His therapist had agreed, twice. It was just that her image could create a picture of her could give fifty guys hope. Maybe a thousand. Each pretty girl in the United States could just pose for one picture, one picture of them doing something cute that no guy could ever imagine or forget, then send it to a soldier, any soldier, anywhere in the world. Maybe even to the enemy and the enemies too in a covert way, like a propaganda barrage. These beautiful girls had no idea the good they could do. They would save lives. They would stop things they couldn’t imagine.

She settled and streched her neck , as if there were a string pulling it up.

The bell rang and it was time to breathe and count. Time to think about thinking about nothing without thinking that you are thinking of nothing.

A minute takes forever when your brain knows it matters. His drill sergeant said that the longest fight that an average civilian had ever even been, with fists and feet and that clumsy shit, couldn’t have lasted much more than a minute. Two minutes would be some sort of record. And when they say the battle lasted days, they mean it happened in little bits of minutes or seconds over the course of days. The rest is hiding and seeking. The rest is walking down a street or driving in a Jeep waiting for or praying to avoid the right two seconds. The two seconds that last longer than the twenty years before it. Or maybe they're just two seconds that erase every good day of the past. Time was fucked up like that.

He recalled every rule of about meditation that he remembered, returning to his breath, focusing on the numbers even seeing him, the awkward way the bald guy had said it all like he was giving you the location of emergency exits. But all he he could think about was the persistent discomfort he felt where the silicon hit his stub and his fake leg began. He wasn’t even feeling it then. Sitting in a chair was almost normal, at least for a little while. He could think of anything but discomfort. He sucked at this, at meditating. Why wouldn’t he? He had ADD that's what his dad told him. He could even keep his eyes down to the floor; they wandered taking in the faces around him, what it looked like to do it right. They all shared this calm that he’d never had. Never. Maybe it came with losing your hair. But the kid had it too. When he was done examing the guys, he tried to not do it, but his eyes won and he was just staring right at Becca. Her eyelashes fluttering like there was some wind in the room. Like her eyes were little ponds that someone was skipping rocks on. Where the fuck was his mind? Didn’t he have an ounce of self-control. He looked down, at the gray speckled floor, the tiny, shaven pieces of carpet. It hadn't even been a minute. He knew it. He looked straight up and saw Becca’s eyes. They were open and on him. And she smiled, every curve on her face in the shape of a smile. And glanced down before he could react.

Would he have smiled back? Could he have?

He couldn’t stop from staring at her now. Was she just being nice because he was in a chair? Did she know? He’d only told the TA, but maybe they’d talked a lot. “You know Ed? Well, he was in Iraq...” She and the TA could be engaged for all he knew.

Her eyelashes stopped moving, somewhere else in the world that would have been a terrible sign, but here it just meant it was working for her. She was meditating. How did it feel? Could he really forget who he was for a second while awake? Without a drink? Without a dozen?
He was just obvious now, his eyes were studying her, learning her. There had been other girls. He’d touched them, kissed them even. But when could you sit and stare like this and not be pushed away. Never with a sweet girl like this. Never in his life. Well, not in his new life.
She opened her eyes again, but kept them down. Could she feel some sort of heat from him? Was he ruining it for her? She looked up. The same smile.

He looked down and back. She was still looking at him. Was she doing it for revenge? Trying to get the others attention so they would kick him out. Was she bored? Not even five minutes had passed.

Ed didn’t know what to do, but his body did. As her eyes stayed on him, he took it in like heat from a sun. Then for some reason--for no reason at all--he pulled at his pant leg from his knee. Pulled and pulled until he knew the chrome of his fake leg was showing. Almost like he could feel the air on it. Or the light. She reshaped the same smile and nodded. Slowly, her eyes went right back to the floor as her head rose and her back straightened.

He felt his head being pulled up as if by a string, and one-by-one his breaths became easier to count. He could count and still think if he wanted to. He could count and wonder: how am I going to get out of here the moment this is done. Easy, his breath told him. He was in a chair.

He’d just stand. And leave.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

I can't believe I watched the whole thing

Could this be Andy Kaufman, alive and thriving on the Third Street Promenade?

Amit Freidman: Maybe the Hottest Jewess I've Ever Seen

Dear Amit Freidman,

You are very beautiful. You probably know this, or you wouldn't be a model. Please come to America, become famous and keep your name Amit Freidman, so everyone will know that you are maybe the hottest Jewess I've ever seen.

Love, Jason

PS: What is your favorite book in the Bible? I like the Book of Superfudge.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Music Industry Still Doesn't Get it

Lawyers working for the recoding industry are working to shut down amateur Web sites that post guitar chords and finger positions for songs. Their claim is that they help people steal copyrighted sheet music. They never miss a chance to screw the people who really love music, do they?

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Condoms 'too pricey' for Jewy men?

Thanks for confirming stereotypes, BBC!

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From the Desk of the Biggest Fan of the Real World/Road Rules Challenges EVER

Check out "Race Relations for Dummies" a dead-on TVgasm recap of the most childish, senseless, drunken, entertaining disagreement over race and cultural identity EVER (involving two hot girls).

Why Didn't the Iraq Study Group Interview the Soldiers on the Ground?

Not one enlisted man, no one under the rank of Lieutenant, was interviewed by the Baker-Hamilton Commission, Phillip Carter of Slate reports. Why ignore the perspective of the men who are actually living this conflict, which grows increasingly complex ad unconventional everyday. As Huey Long said, "End the rich men's wars!"

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Merry Christmas from the Valley Jew

Trapped in the Closet: The Tribute

You remember the classic R. Kelly video epic "Trapped in the Closet."

Now, it's Trapped in the CLAUSet. Like Santa Claus, you dig?

Via Sneakmove.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Good for the Conservative Jews

From the NY Times: "The highest legal body in Conservative Judaism, the centrist movement in worldwide Jewry, voted yesterday to allow the ordination of gay rabbis and the celebration of same-sex commitment ceremonies."

My Ten-Year Reunion: Part 1

When what was clearly a Mexican taxicab showed up outside my door in Chatsworth, Californina, I knew Michael Schulty was back in town.

It was actually my mom’s door and it was actually parked at the end of her long driveway, which had recently been repaved in a somewhat Mediterranean style that employed rocks shaped mostly like Batman’s logo. And Schulty wasn’t so much back in town. He lived about twenty miles away in Brentwood. Still he was back in the Valley. But not really back. More in the vicinity for a few hours to attend our ten-year high school reunion. He said he had to be home by eleven. His wife was pregnant. And that was their deal.

There was no horn in the cab, which would cause me a mild angina later, so Michael decided to open and shut a door until I came out. And when I did I was transfixed on the body of a car I knew well. Like a body of an old lover in a dream, real again with dents and all.

It was still our baby underneath all the blue paint that gave it look the tint an unfinished go-cart. It was Schulty’s Oldsmobile.

The same Olds that he bought with an overripe five hundred dollar Savings Bond that his grandma had sent him. No one had the heart to tell her that he’d cancelled his Bar Mitzvah, he didn’t realize they were serious about him “memorizing shit.” Inside that car, we were heroes. Protagonists. We had nicknames. I was Leapfrog McDermitt and he was Cal. Just Cal. How we dreamed of being even more cultureless then.

There it was. The Hoop-D. It was in that legendary car that we carried out what we called the “missions” of our youth. Assignments we gave to ourselves whenever life was boring, in the same way we'd look for advice with girls by randomly hitting presets on the radio. Missions like tracking down parties we hadn’t been invited to in gated communities that gansta rappers allegedly lived in, finding new shopping malls that were filled with blond girls who didn’t know that we didn't play football ever and racing anyone who took the constant revving of a 1983 Oldsmobile as a challenge.

When the Hoop-D was stolen outside of Dodger Stadium the August before we all left for college, it was an official end to our childhoods, the good part of it at least. That’s what Schulty kept saying. I’d never seen him so down. I’d never seen him down at all, actually. He bought a nice robe, made of some very nice towely material and wore it twenty-four hours a day. But it didn't work. He spiraled. Spent two weeks in a drug rehab center since his parents didn’t want him going to an institution before he went to Yale. And at Yale he became someone else. Joined Hillel, a Jewish frat and lengthened his family name “which had been neutered for generations” back to Schultenstein. He became a different kind of hero then. The kind that knew everything about getting rich and did it all very fast.

James Baker's Secret Weapon in Middle East Peacemaking: Vague Antisemitism

If you remember the Iraq War I, James Baker put together a massive coalition that even included sworn enemies of the West like Syria. How did he do it? By keeping Israel in check.

He's back to his old trick with his bi-partisan report on how to end this terrible conflict gracefully.

Should Jews be offended by this pandering to Antisemitism of the Middle East, I'm not. I just want the killing to stop everywhere.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My Type

Her messages were always the same. Something like, What the fuck are you doing here, Scott? I was here first. Get the fuck off this site. Then they became emphatic, as if I were forcing her hand. This isn't fair. You need to let me live my life.

Even in her picture, she looked deranged. A wild woman with black olive eyes who didn't hesitate to push her cart into your leg to hurry you out of the supermarket.

This was not the behavior I expected from someone on eHarmony.

The facts were that her personality quiz said she was a "natural caregiver," a perfect match to my "churlish child" result. And we lived 800 miles apart.

I never wrote back. What was I going to say?

Hi, my name isn't Scott.

How to Be Funny Like a Jew

There’s a basic structure to most jokes: Setup, punchline, act-out.

Here’s how to use that structure in inappropriate places:

Checking out at Trader Joe’s yesterday, the cashier said to me, “How are you?”

“Do you ever realize you’ve gotten into a habit that’s going to get you into trouble in certain places? Like whenever my friends ask, ‘How are you?’ I say, ‘Drunk as fuck!’”

She nodded and smiled.

I then said, “Drunk as fuck!” over and over again in a very drunken way.
That’s the act-out.

A good name for a planet in a Sci-Fi movie would be Horowitz. Named after the first Jew who complained about it.

A good trend in naming pets would be very Jewy names, like Neil, Eli, Shlomo, Yitzak.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Careful When You Borrow Someone's Pictures

Some Microsoft employees learned rather harsh lesson in Creative Commons licensing today: This morning, MS's RSS Team Blog featured a pornographic image, which has since been removed. "Basically they stole one of my photos and put it on their blog," former Microsoft employee Niall Kennedy said. "I decided to make them very aware of that fact."

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Save $3,000 with a Hybrid

John Gardner of WiredBlogs says, "I wouldn't dare extrapolate this to make a generalization about hybrids because of the differences in options, driving styles, etc. But for me, a Civic Hybrid turned out to be both a green and pragmatic purchase." Digg this story and do the math.

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Requiem for a Rumsfeld

You were the pointing, WASPy
dad of every girl I could
never fuck. Propping up
fake concerns since the 50s,
when the bad guys had flags.
When you'd never get to
bind your enemies in chains, in planes,
in blacked-out goggles
for thousands of miles
until they arrive in cages
on nobody’s soil.
Bye, Donald Rumsfeld.
You will never imagine how
you wronged by thinking
so right.

Great Live Wilco Show

MP3 by MP3 on netZoo.

Definitely check out "Hell is Chrome" and "Theologians," please.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bush Uses the Language of Entrapment to Sell the War in Iraq

Why won't you give up on that car that keeps breaking down? Psychologist Scott Plous calls this entrapment, a phenomenon that compels people to not cut their losses when they should. "Psychology cannot predict the future...but Plous said it can warn you to be vigilant if a course of action is primarily justified in terms of recovering what has been lost."

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Iran's Parliament wants Ahmadinejad Out

In a move that will end the current presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a year and a half early, Iran's parliament approved a draft bill for early elections. Hopefully this means that even Iran's Mullahs, who actually control the country, are concerned by Ahmadinejad's constant threats toward Israel, the one nuclear power in the Middle East.

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The Democratic Party's Murderers' Row

When I fantasize about putting together the Democratic Party’s ticket for the presidential election of 2008, I feel the same giddiness that I imagine some New York Yankee managers have tingled with while making out their batting order.

Every week a new Democrat distinguishes herself/himself with a dignified air that suggests a real depth, seriousness and decency. All these qualities and more are required of the person who is saddled with the biblical task of leading this nation after the Presidency of George W. Bush. This is an administration that has appropriated all of the worst mistakes of both the Johnson and Nixon administrations with a vigor that baffles everyone but Karl Rove.

My new draft pick this week is Senator Evan Bayh. He just felt very presidential this morning on ABC's This Week. Like a leadership sorbet. He is a man that can clear the palette of American politics. So Middle-American it almost makes me want to drink a glass of milk.

OK, here are my dream tickets now.

1. President: Al Gore. Vice-President: Barack Obama.
2. President: Hillary Clinton. Vice-President: Evan Bayh.
3. President: John Edwards. Vice-President: Wesley Clark or Colin Powell.
4. President: Barrack Obama. Vice-President: Evan Bayh.
5. President: Al Gore. Vice-President: Anthony Villaraigosa.

Girls Love Ski Instructors

She had duct tape on her ankle in anticipation of a blister that would last weeks after this fifty-hour vacation was over.

It was a girls' weekend. The first one since Keith moved to a new time zone, the official end of their on-and-off relationship that had ended for the first time two Junes ago.

And now she had her own ski instructor while her friends all did the bunny slopes-- hoping that someone cute would help them up and they could cut the day short. Her own instructor that would definitely get her back to intermediate slopes that she could handle when she was twelve. An instructor she would definitely sleep with if he was attractive at all.

"Just wait there," the girl from the lodge had told her, pointing area around the water fountain where she was now.

And when the instructor tapped her on the shoulder--shaking her out of a daze, which had completely occupied with the constant pressing her heel into the uncomfortable squishiness immediately below--she kind of melted. Felt her cheeks flush and blush and almost burn so obviously that she wanted to do anything she could to hide it, even whistle. Like that made sense.

"Hi, I'm Ken. You ready?"

She nodded and squished her heel one last time before the day began.