Sunday, December 20, 2009

Proper first day of winter

Last night, New York City lost another $10 to $16 million. If you'll recall from our previous lesson on NYC snow management, that's one million for every inch of snow that fell in the first big storm of winter, which is handy, because today is also the winter solstice and thus the first day of winter.

Way to get with the program, Mother Nature.

But MN wasn't the only entity with great timing yesterday. I myself stepped out of the laundromat with my heap of clean, neatly folded clothstuffs just as the first flakes fell, narrowly avoiding the dreaded task of dragging my laundry cart through the snow. My first winter snowfall in New York, I was sorting my laundry and thinking, "La la la, how fun this will be, to tow my laundry in the gently falling snow on this early winter's morn." Ten feet out the door, I thought, "This is really f**king awful!" Nothing is worse than dragging the laundry cart through the snow: ice gets kicked up from the wheels, people don't shovel their sidewalks so the cart becomes a plow, and you have to lift the whole thing up and over the ankle-deep puddles of slush and motor oil every time you cross the road. Blech. Of all things to be avoided in the wintertime, laundry in the snow tops the list, along with the joining the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and standing in line for four hours to ice skate in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center.

However, if you're like me and have no where to go today, and you've patched the leaky parts of the window frame with white duct tape (so it blends with the wall), and you've got a fire escape attractively heaped with undisturbed snow, winter in New York is a dandy thing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Be Italian

Last night, I got to attend the New York premiere of the movie "Nine," starring DanielDayLewisMarionCotillardPenelopeCruzKateHudsonJudidon'tcallmeDameDenchSophiaLorenandFergie. Whew. Lot of star power in that picture. Everyone except Sophia Loren attended the screening, and for those curious about how much celebrititis I was exposed to, I did get within touching distance of Judi Dench and Marion Cotillard, and within spitting distance of Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman. According to my good friend and fellow blogger RiskingHemlock, I was also seen passing by Daniel Day-Lewis on the red carpet, but I must have been too distracted by how pretty my shoes were, because I didn't notice. Seriously, look at my shoes! Plus, I got to walk down the red carpet twice; there was an issue with our tickets, so we had to go back outside to confer with the publicists and then walk the whole gauntlet again. Nobody paid attention to us, but I felt a little sorry for all the big stars who couldn't walk three steps without having to stop and pose and be blinded to the point of seizures by the flash bulbs. Let me say, sometimes it's nice to be nobody.

Of course, those who remember my trip to The Daily Show already know my views on celebrities: they look just like they do in their movies, only more real lifey. Not that I'm one of those I-don't-care-about-meeting-celebrities-because-I'm-too-cool-and-secretly-jealous-of-them people. I might have squealed and hopped about like an idiot if I'd actually gotten to meet any of these people, but since I just SAW them, I managed to keep my composure and not embarrass myself or the BF's family.
I was more excited about getting to sit next to Uncle G--- in the theater, one of the BF's hanai relatives, because he knew all the good gossip about the non-movie star celebs in the room and kept up a running commentary in my ear about who produced what Disney movie, who directed which Broadway hit, who gave money to which hospital and why, and of course, who was sleeping with whom. We also talked about arms dealing, and then he showed me a picture of his dog. Good times.

As for the movie "Nine," it was excellent. As good as "Chicago" and way, way better than "Memoirs of a Geisha," (which, much like the "Matrix" sequels, I just pretend never happened). The songs were great and eminently hummable--I've been crooning "Be Italian" to myself all day--and get this, it was honest and emotional, a thoughtful, intelligent musical that's also a big budget star-packed extraveganza. When they sang, I cared. It seems to come from some Bizarro version of Hollywood, where movies are sumptuous, sensory delights that have something sad and important to say about love and the human condition, and DON'T use 'splosions to say it.

Needless to say, "Nine" will do much better in Europe than here in the U.S. Not to trash the motherland, but the masses tend to have piss-poor taste when it comes to entertainment. The last time I was in Amsterdam, I went every day to the movie theater because it was colder than a witch's tit outside and there's only so much Dutch television I can watch in a hotel room smaller than a Manhattan studio. And all of the movies I saw were studio-funded Hollywood movies with mainstream actors--no foreign or arthouse or even indie flicks--but they were just so GOOD compared to the studio-funded Hollywood movies shown here at home. They were intelligent, character-driven, witty, and thought-provoking, like nothing I'd heard of in the States! Admittedly, at the time I was still living in Honolulu, and we don't get much besides Asian cinema and 'splosion-fests from the mainland, but still yet--it felt like all the movies I would have wanted to see were made for export.
That's why I'm way happy and feel very fortunate to have gone to the premiere of "Nine." I'm glad to know that people are funding this sort of project, and that other people are watching it, and that movies can still be magic with nothing but great actors, great costumes, great music, and great scenery (CGI, I'm glaring at you across the room).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Just turn the oven on!"

You know how irritating it is when you argue with your parents and they turn out to be right? The opposite happened to me tonight, but it was just as irritating.

I love my new little apartment, my Rachel-sized den, but the radiator is in the bed alcove, so the front room gets chilly. I've been planning to get a space heater to keep my feets warm. This is a good plan, a sound, fire-marshall approved plan, one socially acceptable by East Coast standards.

But says the peanut gallery in Hawaii:

"Just turn on the oven Turn the oven on and open the door, didn't your Dad ever teach you that redneck thing? It's not dangerous, why would it be dangerous? Just turn the oven on, it's a heater! You call your dad and you ask him and he'll tell you, just turn the oven on!"

And since I'm on Skype, Mom can see me as she says all this. She can see me NOT turning the oven on, NOT following her advice. More to shoosh her than anything else, I pull all my pots and pans out of the oven and turn it on. I've never turned on the oven in this apartment before (not much of a baker and I don't have shrinkydinks), so I'm not sure what to expect.

My poor neighbors...

About two minutes later my smoke alarm goes off, high, piercing shrieks, stinging the eardrums. I yank the carbon monoxide alarm off the wall and fling the batteries to the floor, yank open the windows, and finally stand on a chair and cover the alarm with my hands.

"Did you open the windows? You should open the windows. Take the batteries out! Can't you take that off the wall? She can't take it off the wall, I don't think she's doing it right. My babe, did you open the windows?"

"Yes!" I yell. "Yes, I opened the windows, yes, I took the batteries out of the carbon monoxide thingie, and don't TELL me I don't know how to dismantle the fire alarm, I've been taking them apart in every house I've lived in since middle school!"

A damp cloth over the alarm does the trick. I stand on the chair, holding the dishcloth over the speaker, and yell at the Skype some more.

"Turn on the oven, Rachel! Just turn on the oven to heat up the room! What a great idea, Mom."

"I think you should get a little space heater," she says.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Eddie Would Go!

Today, for only the eighth time in its 25 year history, they held the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Surf Contest at Waimea Bay, North Shore, Oahu. The reason this surf contest has only been held eight times is that it requires waves of at 30 feet, because that's how much ass Eddie Aikau kicked when he was alive, and North Shore only occasionally gets the right kind of waves. (Note: a wave is measured from the bottom of the trough to the top of the crest.) Seriously, this is easily the sickest swell I've seen in my lifetime. I've been watching it live streaming all day and I'm sure the neighbors are wondering what's going on. "Oohhh, oh no, OH MY G-D, YOU'RE KIDDING ME!"

People slept overnight on the beach at Waimea Bay to get a good spot for viewing. Police estimate that 30,000 people are crammed into the valley for the Eddie. They've got Big Island boy Shane Dorian (my fav), seven-time world champion Kelly Slater, Eddie Aikau's relative Clyde Aikau (who's 60-freaking-years old!), and a whole bunch of other cool dudes. They compete by invitation-only, and if there was ever a day when I desperately wanted to be back home, today would be it. I want to be at the Eddie.

Two stories: Eddie Aikau was the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay, born and raised on North Shore, descended from a kahuna nui (high priest), and a crew member on the Hokule'a voyaging canoe's maiden voyage. The Hokule'a, still sailing today, was built according to ancient Hawaiian traditions. Its navigators use no modern instruments to sail, only stars and wind and waves, so on its maiden voyage, when it capsized and stranded the crew in the open ocean, there was no way for them to call for rescue. Eddie volunteered to take his surfboard and paddle to Lanai to get help. The last anyone ever saw of him, he was paddling away from the Hokule'a and tossing away his lifejacket. The rest of the Hokule'a canoe managed to flag down a passing airplane and continue their voyage to Tahiti, but Eddie was lost to the ocean, because--here it comes--Eddie would go.

Hence, the Eddie Aikau.

Second story: my first winter on Oahu, my roommate Robin and I got up at 4 in the morning to catch the 55 bus from Kaneohe to North Shore to watch the Haleiwa Surf Conest. The college dorm had chartered a van to take students up to the contest, but Robin and I always were unconventional, and that day it paid off. The surf had been so big the night before that the road up to North Shore was closed for all traffic--except the public bus. Robin and I were the only people in the bus, on a deserted beach highway, watching the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean on the way to the surf contest. And Robin, good Southern Californian girl from San Clemente that she is, nearly fell over with excitement when she got her picture taken with Kelly Slater.
I find it only appropriate to close this post by saying that the winner of the Eddie Aikau of 2009 is Greg Long, a Southern Californian boy from San Clemente. This one's for you, Robin. Hang loose.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I missed a flash mob

If you've ever watched a musical and thought, "People don't burst out into song and dance in real life," then you need to watch's Best 10 Flash Mobs of 2009. Take a look at number 3, the Elf Yourself flash mob in Union Square. As soon as I saw this video, I felt like punching a hole in my wall. I was there! And I missed it! I was in Union Square on November 3rd, shopping for clementines and a whole roast chicken, and I saw all these people milling around the subway entrances dressed as elves, but rather than hang around like a sensible person and see what they would start to do, I went about my business and MISSED THE FLASH MOB!

Oh, by the way: A flash mob is when a group of people in a public space suddenly start dancing the same dance. Fans of "Rocko's Modern Life" may remember this happening in the Spring Cleaning episode. "Rehersals were on Tuesdays. Didn't you see the flier?" I get a little choked up watching flash mobs and I don't know why. The impromptu expression of joy? Sympathy for those who had to coordinate such massive displays of cooperation? Memories of May Day at Naalehu School? It's a mystery to me.

Going back to Union Square, I must add that the elves weren't the only weirdos hanging around that day. There were also a bunch of teenagers doing cosplay (dressing up like anime characters) and taking pictures in Union Square. I don't know what they ended up doing, but I missed that cool thing, too.

The lesson learned: if you ever see a group of people all dressed the same milling around in a public space, stick around.


It's a strange word.

That's the only segue I could think of. Christmas is here. Talk all you want about "the holidays," put those light-up Menorahs on the dashboard and cut the mistletoe at Stonehenge, but that's all part of the politeness conspiracy because December is still. All. About. Christmas. (In the Western world. I don't think Iran is gonna have a tree lighting ceremony this year.)

Here are some things I know:

Jesus was most likely born in April, not December.

The Christians appropriated many pagan festivals, most notably Saturnalia, when developing Christmas.

Most cultures in the world have some sort of celebration around the winter solstice because hey, the sun doesn't seem to be around as much this time of year, should we be worried?

Here are some other things I know:

Stores put out the Christmas decorations on Halloween.

All but the most militant of non-Christian families need at least one picture of their kid in Santa's lap.

Americans can't agree on much, but we can all agree on Christmas: there's gonna be a tree, the color scheme is red and green, and the main food is either turkey, ham, or goose. Adults will get blasted on rum and eggnog and kids will get blasted on candy canes. And presents--oh, will there be presents. Most likely brought by a fat guy in a red suit. In Japan, he's called Annual Gift Man and he lives on the moon.

Even the act of NOT participating in Christmas--agreeing not to exchange presents, going out for Chinese food on Christmas Day, scrubbing the toilet and watching anime until your eyeballs bleed kung fu--validates the holiday, as the very reason for your protest is still Christmas. It's omitted, but it leaves a pine tree-shaped hole in your life that other people can sniff out from a mile away.

I'm putting all of this out there for everyone to read because I only want to have the bah-humbug conversation once. We can all agree that Christmas is a holiday cribbed together from various traditions that has degenerated into a celebration of conspicuous consumption. And the music sucks.

There. It's said.

Now, here's a dirty little secret of mine: I love Christmas. I love the colors and the lights and the parties. I love to dress up and get sloppy-giggly drunk with my friends (an activity not strictly confined to December). I love Christmas trees and Christmas lights and garland and the Christmas ornaments we used to put on the tree when I was little. I love getting presents and when I have the money I love giving presents and there's nothing like the hush of Christmas morning when everyone is sitting at home in their pajamas drinking eggnog at 10 in the morning. I never take my Christmas lights down. I still don't like the music, but I do love Santa.

In Ka'u, Santa was always played by this guy named Eugene Dudiot who was burned black as lava from his days out in the Hawaiian sun. (Ka'u is actually called "land of the burned backs," which isn't as cool as its "land of the rebels" nickname, but is pretty accurate nonetheless.) Eugene Dudiot--like "dude," but "dude-wah." Santa Dude-wah.

I'll leave you with that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chronic City, stoned and slightly disappointing

Any writer under 35 and worth a damn lives in Brooklyn. I'm not saying I caused this phenomenon--though it does give one pause--but because that's just the way it's been for the last five or ten years. I read it in my last issue of Poets & Writers magazine.

So when the most successful bookstore in Brooklyn hosts a reading by the most famous of the Brooklyn literati, I'm in there like swimwear. I read Jonathan Lethem's book "Fortress of Solitude" my first summer in New York and loved it so much I almost jacked it from my housemate when I moved. Lethem's newest book, "Chronic City," is one of the New York Times' Top 10 books of 2009, and I got myself all jazzed up to see him read from it at Book Court tonight. The BF even got there early to get us good seats.

And it started off great. The bookstore lost their microphone stand and had to stick the microphone in a pumpkin. Lethem came on, looking lean and sassy (can guys be sassy or is that only for ladies?), and said we were welcome to come and go as we pleased, that there were lots of good bars in the area and to "keep our options open."

Problem was, that wasn't just a clever way to put the audience at ease. Five minutes into his reading, I was considering those other options. "Chronic City" was just plain dull. He started reading in the middle of the story without any description of what we'd missed in the earlier chapters, so maybe there really is something wonderful and rare about this book, but I was pretty bored. The three characters were smoking a lot of pot. I think that was the problem. If I want to experience smart people getting really, really high and boring each other with big words and metaphysical discussion--well, actually, I wouldn't want to experience that (again). Stoned people do not a story make. The BF and I made our graceful exit after putting in our obligatory half hour, but it was a rather disappointing experience from an author that I know has more talent than that.

Plus I really wanted him to chuck that pumpkin in the audience and he never did. Le sigh...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brass band in a glass box

Apparently November 30th is a holiday: Winter's Eve, according to Lincoln Center and the Apple Corporation. I enjoy holidays and celebrations of most kinds: Arbor Day, May Day, Emancipation Day, Summer Solstice, National Mustard Day--I'll get behind any excuse for a parade and a party. It's in my blood. The City and County of Honolulu once said that they were going to put a cap on the number of parades going through Waikiki because "81 a year is excessive." Eighty-one parades a year? Sweet Santabot, that's more than one parade per week! Over a thousand hours of lion-power a month (estimates may vary)!

New York City seems to have a similar problem. They even have a hotline you can call during the summertime to find out if somewhere, at some time during the day, there's going to be a parade. On our last episode, I spoke of my avoidance of the Big Big Apple Events like St. Patrick's Day and New Years Eve, but I neglected to mention my delight in the Small Big Apple Events: Turkish Independence Day, the Brooklyn Book Festival, the Mermaid Parade, and the New York Anime Festival (small by NYC standards and definitely not mainstream).

Winter's Eve falls into this latter category. I suspect Lincoln Center made up this holiday, though like Cabbage Night in New Jersey, it might just be new to me. That's okay. I got to see the oddly specifically named New York Philharmonic Principal Brass Quintet perform a free concert in the gleaming glass box that is the Apple Store. And they didn't just phone it in either, they played for a solid hour. I thought the tuba player was wearing blush--turns out playing tuba for an hour without stopping will put a glow in a man's cheeks. After leaving the Apple store and it's red-shirted employees, I followed the sound of rhythm and caught a bit of a killer drumline performance by some very nice(looking) young men.

Winter's Eve: next year, I'll leave out shave ice and holly for the Frost Elves in hopes of good tidings and attractive drummers for the coming season.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


No, that title doesn't refer to my relationship with my blog for the past three weeks or so. I mean, we did sort of have that fight, and I still maintain that the blog was the one who promised to return the lard and chain saw to the hardware store after the electricity project failed, but that's behind us now, we've agreed to disagree. The real reason I was away for so long was that I was moving apartments, going from the 2000 square foot three bedroom in Bedstuy to the one main room plus bed alcove in the Columbia Street Waterfront district, or Cobble Hill, depending on who I want to impress. I lived in that Bedstuy apartment for a year, and in many ways it was tits: close to subway, laundromat, and grocery store, across the street from an awesome neighborhood bar, LOTS of space (my bedroom was the size of my whole apartment here), and two--count em, two--cats. You've heard of them before.

But there were also two--count em, two--roommates. Roommates who smoked with the windows closed and didn't ever clean the kitty litter box. So I packed up my dowry and boogied on down to the waterfront, where I am crammed nicely into a Rachel-sized apartment, rent-stabilized, pre-war, crazies included. Mom says that it reminds me of the Fort Street Mall crazies in Honolulu and that's why I feel comfortable here.

Oh, avoidance--that's right, I had a theme going. Today is Thanksgiving and I'm avoiding the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. There comes a point for every New Yorker when the thought of famous events--New York City Marathon, Thanksgiving Day Parade, Village Halloween Parade, New Years Eve, St. Patrick's Day--fills one with dread. The sight of metal barricades lining a street becomes a portent of doom and I go into bunny survival mode and look for the nearest wooded thicket in which to dive. The crowds, the police on horseback, the screeching PAs--and no one is even allowed to throw candy from the floats, though strangely I think throwing candy at marathon runner is still okay.

So today, I'm in avoidance mode. I'm staying in my apartment and watching Mom bathe her cat in the sink over the video chat feature on Gmail. For these small things, we are grateful.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween 2009

What a difference a year can make. In 2008, I was wedged into a massive crowd of zombies, superheroes, and sluts on 6th Avenue and Canal Street, waiting for over an hour with the rest of the peasant hoards for my chance to walk in the parade. Duffman had exhausted his supply of belt beer next to me before I actually moving fast enough to confirm that yes, this IS the actual parade and not just a huge crush of people milling about for the hell of it.

And now, in 2009, I not only get to skip the general public line, I get to ride high up on a float, grinning triumphantly as I toss plastic beads to the walkers below. Take heart, peasants, for I was once like you.

I have the Village Voice to thank for this--again. How awesome are they? (How awesome are them?) This awesome. As you can see, our theme is vampires. And Dave's theme is janitor vampires, which is cool. Hell, somebody's gotta clean up all that blood from the carpet after the party. And didn't I tell everyone on Facebook that I would be the vampire with the red velvet jacket and the pearls?

Here is our mighty steed, crafted by the mad parade-float-scientist of Jersey, who sits in a huge warehouse full of half-desintegrated floats, chain-smoking and scribbling pictures of more floats (according to Christina, my boss, pictured above going in for the kill). He also gave us a truck to pull it, though I was really hoping we'd get a couple of hunchbacks with ropes. I spent most of my time on the back level, underneath the bleeding Voice logo, except for a stint between 2nd and 13th Streets, where I walked on the ground between the float and the truck pulling us to make sure nobody wandered over and got crushed beneath the Vampire Lair, only to be ignored until the end of the parade because everyone thought the mangled corpse was one of the Halloween props. You really have to watch out for stuff like that in a crowd of half a million.

There probably would have been more people, but it was the fifth game of the World Series that night, and, ya know. Go Yankees!

As media sponsor of the parade, the Voice gets to be the first float--or at least that's what everyone kept saying. "The Voice is gonna have the first float, we're gonna be on the first float, we're gonna be first." It sounds cool, but sorta implies that as soon as the parade starts, we'll be rolling up 6th Ave in all our vampire glory. No one said that we may be the first FLOAT, but that we'd be behind the entirety of "Peter Pan" as enacted by 14-foot-tall puppets, the African stilt dancers, and the SmartCars and MiniCoopers. And that all of those lovely folks couldn't go until the first couple thousand walkers got going. So I actually waited around for as long as I did last year, but this was still waaaay better. We got a private performance by the stilt dancers and had time to take lots of pretty pictures of ourselves while our makeup and costumes were still pristine and dry.

Yes, it did rain, just like it rained for the Mermaid Parade and the condom giveaway. What gives, Voice events? Rain clouds seem to follow the Street Team around like paparrazzi. And I know we're fabulous, but come on! Just once I'd like to ride the subway home with dry underpants after a Voice assignment.

That's a little dirty. We had a few other sponsors on the float with us. Metro PCS, a cell phone company, sent over a gaggle of purple-shirted vamps; Bud Light sent a neon sign but unfortunately none of their product; and, a social networking site, sent over one Anne Rice vampire (can I get a hell-yes for my middle school obsession?), one Alice in Wonderland vampire, one punk vampire, and Max from "Where the Wild Things Are." "I thought the vampire theme was ironic!" he wailed. "I thought the Voice was making fun of us because we're Vampire Freaks, I didn't think it was actually the theme."

So we had a float full of vampires, Max, and of course, some of the gang from Scooby Doo, because where there's monsters, there's a man dressed like Velma.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Moving out

First, an auditory aid: Billy Joel.

Second, today I signed the lease on my new apartment in the Columbia Waterfront District of Brooklyn, just west of Cobble Hill, north of Red Hook, and south of Brooklyn Heights. Hurray for me! I move on November 15th, the day after my 24th birthday. It will be my first grown-up apartment, one that I didn't rent from my mom or share with roommates I found on Craigslist. No, this is a proper pad: went through a realtor and everything. It's rent-stabilized, fifteen minutes from the nearest subway, and a block away from the land of the Viking Hippies. I think I will fit in nicely.

My Columbia Street place will be my third address in New York since I moved here in 2008. Some of you may remember when I lived at 187 Franklin, but most people only knew me as I was on Madison Street. I have a few parting thoughts to share about Bedstuy, in which I have lived for over a year and will soon leave behind, as one leaves an AM New York behind on the subway platform after doing the crossword.

Bedstuy never charges you more than $4 for a beer, but all of the liquor stores have bullet-proof glass and only accept cash. You're never far from a grocery store, but the produce is always half-wilted and the fancier bread products have mold on them. There are no bookstores and the only place to get a cup of coffee is a bodega. No sitdown restaurants, but plenty of community gardens. There are women in headscarves wheeling around baby strollers and you can hear the call to prayer from the mosque on Bedford and Franklin five times a day. Sometimes the laundry soap has Chinese writing on the package and you can get fifteen different kinds of spice for jerked meat, but no fish sauce or Sriracha to save your life.

And one time, I walked home drunk from a party at 187 and woke up the next morning with a brick on the floor. I think I may have pried it out of the sidewalk to use as a weapon in case someone attacked me.

That's Bedstuy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

International Animation Day

Hey hey, party people! It's International Animation Day! So since I'm in the middle of getting ready to move to new apartment in Columbia Waterfront District, I don't have time to make a huge post on how much I looooove animation. But I will say: Fantasia, Totoro, The Little Mermaid, Yellow Cake, Cowboy Bebop, Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, Batman TAS, Princess Mononoke, FLKL, Invader Zim, Rocko's Modern Life, Venture Bros., Home Movies, Fullmetal Alchemist, X-Men: Evolution, Darkwing Duck, and Gargoyles.

What are your favorite animated movie/series? Here are a few on mental_floss you may enjoy. And let me clarify that I'm talking about cell animation and animation made to look like cell animation. I don't like the look of Pixar computer animation. Makes my tummy hurt. Don't ask me why.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The ad copy writes itself

Last Friday and Saturday, Rachel handed out free condoms on a street corner in the West Village. Thank you, Village Voice.

Strangely enough, that's not sarcastic. Sure, it poured buckets of rain and I'm pretty sure that old lady thought I was giving her candy, in which case I feel kinda bad, but handing out free condoms in New York with a bunch of other Street Team members was one of the best NYC experiences I've ever had.

For one thing, the ad copy just writes itself when the product is condoms.

Weather specific: "Free raincoat! Keep the moisture out!"

Cab advertisement: "Free with every ride!"

"Things are looking up!" "Safe sex is important sex!" "You never know!" "Better have 'em and not need 'em, than need 'em and not have 'em!"

Product specific: "Because you've got better places to put your hands!" "Some assembly required!"

Those ones needs some explaining. These new condoms, Sensis condoms, have applicator tabs, little ribbons that you pull to unroll the condom over the, ahem, member, without having to worry about putting it on the wrong way or getting lubricant on your hands.

Two things: Is condom technology so complicated that civilization needed this advancement? And if getting lube on your hands is a problem for you, is sex really an activity you'll be doing in the first place? Seems to me like you're gross-out level might be too high for that particular pass time.

But who am I to judge? Maybe the clumsy, neat-freak demographic is grossly under-served in the prophylactic industry and this is the greatest thing to happen to personal hygiene since the tampon applicator.

Plus I found a milk crate on the street corner. And we all know how much I love crap I find on the street, so all in all, Free Condoms in the Rain weekend was good. Very good. Thanks, Village Voice!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Real Time and In Depth: The New Journalism

I used to be a writer. As in, I got paid to write. Those were good times.

Now I'm a secretary, but I still write, and I do a lot more thinking about writing than I did when I was an actual writer. Those who can, do; those who can't, think about it at work when they're supposed to be doing data entry.

So here's what I've been thinking lately. The Internet changed the game in terms of information. Now success isn't determined by "in-depth," it's determined by "up-to-date" and "real-time." My task, as a blog writer, is to strike a balance between the two and give you, the audience, something that is quick and up to date, but also informative, original, and in-depth.

Fortunately, I don't write actual news. So here my analysis, brief, in-depth, original, and informative, of the robot receptionist they made in Japan.

Yes, the thought of robots replacing actual humans is a bit scary, but despite the creepiness of her face, let's not get all panicky and declare war on the Machine. Robots and humans--are we really so different? Humans, after all, are creatures of habit, programmable, predictable, and utterly boring. Sure, every now and again we'll crap out a genius or a game changer, but the vast majority of us are entrenched in our habits and have very basic needs that don't change a lot between individuals.

Take a receptionist: Hello, how can I help you? Do you know who you'd like to see? Do you have an appointment? Please have a seat, someone will be right with you.

What does it matter if a real person is saying that or a robot? The script doesn't change. A receptionist is never asked to extrapolate how the law of entropy applies to systems in a vacuum, or to break down and reassemble a Glock 9 millimeter blindfolded. The most complicated question she'll ever answer is, Which bathroom should I use if I dress like a woman but stand up to pee?

Hey, wait, I'm pretty much a receptionist. That robot is stealing my job! Where's my torch? Where's my rifle? No foreign machine is taking food from the mouths of THIS honest American's mutant alien love babies that I keep stashed in the closet to guard against the eventual zombie uprising.

And that's how you write a blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

GreenerPenny and knitted beings

My first job in New York was working as an editorial intern at Plenty Magazine. I'm not linking to it because it's no longer there; print and digital magazine are both gone, vanished into the Interwebz-ether (Intetherwebz?), a victim of the Great Economic Collapse of 2008, along with hope, the taxes of my firstborn son, unicorns, rainbows, and any modicum of dignity I may have had leftover from my days as the Warlord of Honolulu Weekly (to the right, Rachel holding court with my fellow newspaper folk; note how everyone's head is turned toward me, except Travis, who was punished for his transgression).

Now I pass out condoms. More to come on that fun development in my life later this week.

Plenty was the first and only professional magazine I've ever worked for. Mostly I wrote blog posts on the Daily Green Bit section of the Web magazine about how to be more environmentally friendly in your daily life: apple picking, bird counting, urban foraging, chemically safe cookware, composting, wind power for your home, flower power for your dog--if it was hip amongst the hippies in late oh-eight, I was on it like Blue Bonnet.

Savor that last sentence. That's why I used to get paid to do this.

I'm writing all of this as an introduction to my good friend and fellow environmentalist-feminist (environfeminist?), Mindy Pennybacker. She was my mentor at Plenty, a fellow island girl in this savage city, and she taught me everything I now know about blogging and almost everything I know about the environmental movement. She didn't teach me how to water the garden with leftover bathwater, that was me mum, but she did teach me about industrial chemicals and hormone disrupters in baby bottles. Oh, the times we had!

Those who have been following my life more closely that I'd be comfortable knowing about may remember when I completed the acquisition of my dowry. Well, that lovely table and chairs came from Mindy, who couldn't take them with her when she moved back to the islands. And now I finally get to repay her, in a manner of speaking, by linking to her website and encouraging everyone who reads this to become a fan of on Facebook. Because if you love da earfs, you love GreenerPenny.

Right now she has a post up on the FB site about the Union Square Farmers Market in New York City. So I'm going to sync up our websites by posting my own pictures of the Union Square Farmers Market. Make of them what you will. Happy writing, Mindy!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More cats than you can handle

I love cats. I've always loved cats, as you can see here and here and even here. That's why, on Saturday, even though it was the first time in a long time that I didn't have to work with the Village Voice on a weekend, I hauled my mewling carcass out of bed and schlepped through the wind and rain to the Javits Center for the Meet the Breeds pet show, the largest in the world, with over 160 breeds of dog and 41 breeds of cat.

I have a Flickr stream of the photos here. Needless to say, it's pretty cat-heavy. Dogs, meh. They're okay, they're just not cats. Useless trivia fact of the day: there are many different ways for doggies to look, from Chihuahua to Mastiff, because humans domesticated dogs a long, long time ago. And there aren't that many ways for kitties to look--a cat always pretty much looks like a cat--because cats domesticated themselves, insinuating their kittyselves into our Sumerian ancestors graineries and acting like they owned the place until the Sumerians looked up and realized the cats weren't going anywhere. 7w6y7777777777777777 My own cat just typed that on my keyboard. Consider it a historical contribution.

Here is a picture of me with a Turkish Angora cat also named Rachel. I voted for her as Prettiest Kitty in show, the audience participation contest. I hope she won.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stuff your gullet with free wine and cupcakes

This Sunday, I was handed a plumb assignment by my favorite of my two jobs: promoting the Village Voice at the New York Food and Wine Festival Grand Tasting. Not just any tasting, mind you. The GRAND Tasting. Two days later and I'm still full.

As you can see, the Tasting was in a big tent right on the Hudson River; you can see the water in the background if you squint. It was sponsored by the Food Network, but I didn't get a chance to meet any celebrity chefs because I was too busy signing people up to win free tickets to the Voice's Choice Eats food tasting (spring 2010). I also had to concentrate on not falling over after noon rolled around and the alcohol booths were legally allowed to get us all liquored up. New York City--still subject to a Puritan legacy that doesn't let us dance in bars or drink before noon on Sundays.

As popular as the vodka booth across the aisle from us was (left, before the event started), I think that we were the real crowd pleaser that morning, with our attractively arranged offering of mini-cupcakes from the Kumquat Cupcakery in Brooklyn. Seriously, look at those bite-sized bits of awesome with cream cheese frosting. I couldn't have given these away faster even if I was dressed as a French maid with a live kitten on my right shoulder and a baby bunny on my left.

I had three cupcakes; not because I was a model of restraint, but because there was duck and lotus root at the table next to us, scones the table after that, Mexican hot chocolate after THAT, and all manner of wines, liqueurs, beers, and pastries in between. I had an heirloom tomato and watermelon salad on goat cheese, shredded pork with beets and marrow shavings, spiced apple tarts, lemon chicken on basmati rice, and butternut squash soup, and that's just what I can remember off the top of my head. I ate and drank for eight and a half hours straight, folks, and when I went home, my hangover hit me like a ton of bricks at 8 o'clock and I was asleep before I could even watch a "Star Trek" episode.

It was grand.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A night at Edith Wharton's

I love Edith Wharton's books like a fat guy loves cake. She was the daughter of on old High Society New York family, one of the "Four Hundred" as they called them back then, the class of people that never worked for a living and didn't allow divorced women inside their houses. And Edith, mighty authoress she, divorced her husband and ran off to Paris to write. During World War I, she offered sanctuary for refugees. Edith Wharton--kicking ass and taking names.
Back to her books--"Age of Innocence," "The Custom of the Country," "The House of Mirth,"--they're all about the men and women of the upper-upper class, engaged in delicate drawing room and parlor battles for prestige, status, and happiness. (Lots of wardrobe envy, too. I can relate. I feel it whenever I ride the subway past Broadway-Nassau.) Wharton's mastery lies in creating for the reader the rarefied world in which her characters live. You can practically smell the wallpaper in these 5th Avenue mansions she word-crafts.

So you can imagine my delight upon entering the National Arts Club at Gramercy Park: the vases, the settees, the fainting couches, the oil paintings, the Tiffany glass in the ceilings--where were May and Newland and the Countess? (Bonus literary nerd points for that one.) I was sure glad I wore my good gown!

Due to my respect for the privacy of friends and family, I can't tell you exactly why and how I garnered an invitation to this time capsule. I can say, however, that Edith Wharton would be pleased to see one of those old WASP-y mansions she eviscerated in her writing used to pay tribute to writers, actors, and musicians.

It was a great party, much music and merrymaking. I met many of the BF's far-flung ohana (BS and his lady friend were there, he always likes to be mentioned), and this guy. He wrote the script for "Fiddler on the Roof." Yeah. THAT "Fiddler on the Roof." I even got to hear one of the songs that was cut from "Fiddler on the Roof" due to time and story constraints, sung by a Broadway actor who I'm sure I'd've been really impressed to meet if I knew a lick about modern musical theatre. Lotta Tony winners in the room, let's put it that way.

As it was, I just smiled a lot and curbed my impulse to visit the extremely well-stocked open bar. A girl's gotta have some class when she goes uptown. I did, however, sneak upstairs to the top floor of the mansion and discover the secret bathroom.
Rachel Brown, carrying on the proud family tradition of going where I'm not allowed.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Under the High Line

The life of a new New Yorker is very glamorous, as you've no doubt guessed by trolling through the annals of my electronic Doppleganger. Not only do I get to be part of the mighty temping sisterhood--faster than a ringing telephone! able to leap massive spreadsheets in a single bound!--I also get to pass out fliers and collect email addresses for the Village Voice as a member of their Street Team.

Yes, it's a hard kitty life on this side of the ocean, but there are some benefits. Yesterday, the Voice sent me to The Drop NYC, "a double call to urban inhabitants to interact with and contemplate the city as well as their relationship to the greater environment through the arts." If that sounds vague, it's because the event itself was a little vague. Taking place under the High Line, the remains of some elevated train tracks that were recently revamped into an elevated park, The Drop NYC consisted of some guys selling crepes (left: mmm, delicious crepes), a DJ, some other guys selling cheap beer, two mannequins, and the Voice table.

And for three hours, nothing much happened. It rained a lot. We had to move our table three times due to flooding. I had an awesome banana-Nutella-whipped cream crepe. And it dawned on me, around 2 PM or so, that this was the first time I'd attended anything in New York that reminded me of a Hawaii event: hardly anyone was there, nobody seemed to know what the hell was going on, everything got started two hours late, there was reggae music and stoner food, and the venue was dark, wet, dirty, and reminded me very strongly of someone's car port.

Yes. I was home.
Things began to unfold from there. Three big canvases were set up for public painting. The mannequins started to sport some pretty cool evening gowns made out of trash. The mouth-breather with Velcro shoes who'd been hanging around the Voice table for FOUR HOURS trying to work up the nerve to ask either my Voice partner or myself out for coffee finally wandered off. And I spotted some graffiti of what appears to be two cats doing it.

So, to recap, I have found my way home again, and home is apparently in a creepy alleyway underneath the train tracks. Aloha.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Playwright Humor

Plays we'd all like to see:

"The Cliff," by Eileen Dover

"Perilous Driving," by Dora Jarr

"The Master Debater," by Mona Lott

"Revenge of the Tiger," by Claude Balls

"Castration in Russia," by Ivan Kutchakakov

"Chaos in the Chinese Laundromat," by Hu Flung Shit

In poor taste? Sure, why not? It's Friday!

Speaking of playwrights, the BF's father is treating us to tickets to the opening of "The Royal Family," which the Village Voice says will be the big hit of the Broadway season. It's all very exciting, and I'll let everyone know how it all plays out.

That was an awful pun. I apologize. I hope these Buddha-shaped pears will win you my forgiveness.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Summer wrap up

Autumn blew in today with crispy high of 62 degrees (crispy high actually sounds like something you do in the cow pasture at midnight with mushrooms). From now on, the subway will be a lot puffier to ride and a lot less sweaty. (Again, that just sounds wrong.)

I do like autumn. If I have to do this whole "seasons" thing, at least that means I get to experience fall: the warm colors, the cool winds, the mysterious gourds.

Sadly, the end of summer does mean the end of most outdoor music activities, many of which I attended this year as a member of the Village Voice's glorious street team. The Electric Zoo Festival can go electrocute itself, but the Mermaid Parade on craptastic Coney Island was loads of fun, even in the pouring rain. And there was also Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park, the Luminescent Orchestra in World Trade Square, and of course, Brooklyn Heights opera.

For indoor fun, I attended the saucy puppet show, Avenue Q, a taping of the Daily Show, the New York Anime Festival, and almost lost my finger in a subway door. My point is, I have more fun than most people. Because I'm awesome. And a little stupid sometimes. It's a combination of the two, really, the stupid and the awesome, that makes life worth living.

On that note, here's a Jewish dumpster. Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Read a banned book

The last week of September is Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association. I used to have a pin on my backpack that said, "Everything I need to know in life I learned from reading banned books," so I am all about this holiday. Anytime people tell me not to read something, well, now I HAVE to check it out! Something I'm not supposed to see? Double helpings, please!

However, the ALA recently published this PDF of the most banned and challenged books of 2008 and 2009, and all I can say is that the list is illuminating for being--well, rather dull.

For one, "Catcher in the Rye"? Talk about a golden oldie. Two things surprise me about this, the first being that people are still bothering to challenge this book. The battle was lost on that one as soon as "Catcher" appeared in a Mel Gibson movie. Popular cultural saturation point reached. Any "Grand Theft Auto" commercial has more questionable material readily available to the average teenager than this book, at least according to my Wikipedia search, since I haven't actually read it.

Which leads me to my second point: is any poor schoolchild still expected to read this thing? I'll read most anything I can get my hands on, including the Spanish-language advertisements on the C train, but even I put the book down after 20 pages. Talk about your spoiled-whiny-white-male yawnfest. I object to books like "Catcher," and "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac, because they portray protagonists that seek freedom at the expense of others, not because they are trapped--they could never be trapped the same way a woman or a minority was in the 1950s--but because they are simply bored. I'm not the only one who feels this way about "Catcher" (or "On the Road"; one of my fellow writer friends wants to fly to France, exhume Kerouac's body, and punch him in the face). Schoolteachers are having a difficult time getting their students interested in the book, finding it's protagonist whiny, selfish, and self-absorbed. In other words, get a life, Holden Caulfield. Your 1950s alienation has nothing on a generation that blows up condoms to use as birthday balloons. (What, they didn't do that in your middle school?)

"Joy of Sex," "Lesbian Kama Sutra," "Joy of Gay Sex"--what are these even doing in school libraries? Moving on.

"The Bluest Eye," "The Lovely Bones," "Girl, Interrupted," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Color Purple"--okay, now we're getting to the meatier selections. It's no coincidence that all of the above books grapple with issues of sex, sexuality, and/or racial identity. I think many people don't want children reading books about these topics because they believe that children are unaware of sex, sexuality, and race. This is just wrong. Newsweek says babies as young as six months recognize and make judgments based on skin color. And anyone who has spent time around a two-year-old boy knows that HE knows all about his privates. It's understandably uncomfortable to talk about these topics in a classroom, but I think the long-term repercussions of silence far outweigh the momentary discomforts.

Of course, I'm not in front of a bunch of 13-year-olds who just read a chapter on performing oral sex in a mental hospital, so who am I to judge?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

But wait--Steampunk!

I attended a "Steampunk in Anime" panel at the New York Anime Festival this Saturday, and it was just fantastic. While the steampunks were a minority at the Fest, the ones that showed up had a hard time getting around for all the people wanting to take pictures of them. The ladies to the right and left of the text all made their own costumes. The detail is incredible, which goes right along with the steampunk philosophy, namely, make things beautiful and make them to last. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a picture of the Abraham Lincoln with the golden mechanical arm. How much cooler would history class have been if Honest Abe had sported a robot arm--OF GOLD?!

Except for an old issue of "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" that I dug up from my local library during an Alan Moore phase, and this 2008 article in the New York Times, I didn't know much about the genre except that the aesthetic pleased me. Just look at that guy's ray gun below. The brass, the wood, the beautiful-but-explodey-headness of it--I want one, and then I want an airship so I can use the gun and the airship together to rescue some prince.

Another reason I've decided to become an official fan of steampunk is that the golden age of the Hawaiian monarchy occurred in the Victorian era. Those who follow my blog regularly know that I was born-and-raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, and those who know a bit more than the average person about American history know that Hawaii used to be its own country. But how cool would it be to have an alternate-history Hawaii where King Kalakaua had a robot army and he never signed the Bayonet Constitution? "Mr. Thurston, I don't believe that myself OR my mighty mechanical man think much of your amendments."

I think these good people would approve.

For more awesome pictures of the Anime Festival, check out my gallery on Flickr: