Monday, June 27, 2011

a prize just for reading books!

My new friend (and awesome blogger) Janiece* just started a summer reading contest, to mirror the one that her local library runs, only more like, virtual, you know?

Essentially, she will have a drawing at the end of summer (September 6th) and award the winners $25 gift certificates from amazon.

click here for details and link to participate!

To participate, all you have to do is read a book and comment on her form with the title and author of the book. This costs you nothing and you can enter as many times as you want (one book = one comment). BUT.. what makes this really interesting is that for every book/comment registered, Janiece will additionally donate $1 to her local library (Douglas County Library), up to $100.

I thought this was such a great idea that, with her permission, I am piggybacking on her contest. So I will match her dollar for dollar and donate the proceeds to the Studio City Library, my local library. I am not affiliated to this library in any way except that my daughter and I are patrons and enjoy their books and videos on a regular basis. This is a small library, probably underfunded, with a strong community vibe to it. They generously donate their old books all the time and the ladies who work there have always been very helpful (they were super patient with Emily when she asked them for help with her first book projects) (she picked Cleopatra as her first biography, with mommy standing right there, fingers still stiff with glue from having just helped her assemble her last project, can you believe that shit?).

I'll be updating the tally as soon as Janiece does, right over there (a little lower) ------------>>>>
in case you're interested.

Just to be clear: I am not running a contest, so you won't get any gift certificates from me. Unless I know you and 1) it's your birthday, 2) it's xmas, 3) your name starts with Miss and it's the end of the school year, or xmas, or a concert, or 4) you just graduated. I am just matching the tally that Janiece gets, so be sure to check out her post and participate as required. I already registered my first entry for Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen that was just lent to me. Thanks Laurie, I loved it! I don't think I even want to see the movie now.

That's it folks. Good luck and happy reading!

*Janiece, I am doubling that drink** offer so you have to come visit me in sunny California soon.
** By drink, I mean the beverage of your choice, alcoholic, caffeinated or otherwise that is served in a bottle, mug, or glass (as I don't know you very well and don't want to offend you, just in case you are easily offended by the word drink, "not that there's anything wrong with that").

Monday, June 20, 2011

brother can you lend a hand?

Having taken a break from yet again furiously updating my shit list (those of you in the know know what I mean), last week, I did something a little unusual for me entirely by mistake of course. Back to back, I watched a movie about the early life of Coco Chanel (of the little black dress fame) then read an article about Silvio Berlusconi (prime minister of Italy of the has-sex-with-considerably-younger-prostitutes fame). Had it not been for the temporal proximity of these two rags-to-riches stories in my consciousness, I wouldn't have been reminded of something I haven't thought about in a long while: the American Dream (triple negative sentence, score! grammar be damned!)

Caveat: The following is a little departure from the tone of my earlier posts (you will see the word f**k, minus the *s, several times). Reader discretion is advised.

Here's a little synopsis of the two biographies, laden with my not-so-subtle bias:

Coco Chanel. Born in the late 1800s, she was an orphan (does losing only one parent qualify one for full-fledged orphandom? just wondering) who was taught to sew by the nuns in whose care she was entrusted (dumped in their orphanage). Cut to years later when, after a bit of singing in a cabaret of less-than-stellar repute ("if you want ze prostitutes, zey are by ze other wall" she disdainfully instructs the confused clientelle), she latches on to a rich playboy, with whom she lives for a while and who winds up financing her early fashion endeavors (mostly hats, of the straw variety, which, by contrast to the bird's-nests of the time, are hailed as marvelously simple and chic)(I forgot to be incredulous about that when, again per the movie I was watching, she cut his shirts up and tacked the collars and sleeves to hidious blah-colored dresses which were then hailed as marvelous as well)(nope, still cannot buy either as fashionable)(more Caca than Coco, if you ask me). She then meets and cheats with a married entrepreneur who gratefully coughs up the seed money for the first of subsequently many Chanel stores. The rest is fashion-icon history. So, to recap: she fucked her way up the fashion empire ladder (at least initially).

Silvio (Papi) Berlusconi. Born to a middle class bank employee and homemaker, the future prime minister of Italy started out by studying law but very quickly diverged into construction projects that yielded his early fortune (am I the only one who makes the connection: Italian, construction, cement, money, illegal?)(fine, I'll say it: Hello Mafia? It's me, Papi). Cut to years later when said early fortune is exponentially multiplied by bribing his way in and out of other projects, as the need arose. Eventually, construction empire begot media empire, which then turned into monopoly of media in Italy, which was parlayed into a bid in politics, which then led to the ultimate political office, where currently, our now 73 year-old Papi changes the laws of the country at the whim of the needs of his empire. He is also in hot water for the 17 year old prostitute he paid to tickle his fancy, but many people believe he will be able to extricate himself unharmed from this particular legal jam as well. So, to recap: he fucked his competition and the law for his empire (and then he naturally moved on to under age girls, naturally).

Moral of the stories? Never mind the nationality of these two, it seems that the old adage of working hard to reach the American Dream, or its foreign equivalent, is so no longer applicable. Unless you are born rich* (inherit your empire), marry rich (not as widespread as the next option) or turn your 15-minute of fame/infamy into riches, you, regular American citizen, will never be able the reach the glass ceiling, much less break it. The only way to do it is through some form of illegal/ill-attained gains: money given to you for behind-the-doors illicit endeavor of the extracurricular kind, or some form of under-the-table illicit scheme, of the bribing, drugging, etc. kind. Granted, there are notable exceptions like the Mark Zuckerbergs, Bill Gateses and Steve Jobses of the world, but honestly, how many of us can claim to own that kind of genius DNA? And even they didn't just work hard, they worked hard while simultaneously traveling so far outside the proverbial box that they were in the firmament before you could say facebook, microsoft or apple. The straight and narrow, apparently, no longer pays off, at least not in the consumable liquid kind.

With 52% of our disposable income spent on lodging and transportation alone, how are we then, mere mortals, supposed to amass our fortune? And (again, unless your first name is Mark, Bill or Steve or you're the heir apparent to some ginormous fortune), can you really get rich and famous without being infamous or fucking for/with other people's money? The more biographies I look into, the more I realize the answer is a resounding no. Am I right or am I right? or am I right, right?

* I am lumping the Arab princes of oil-ness in this category because essentially they inherited the barrels of liquid gold from the earth just as naturally as aristocrats in Europe passed down mansions, titles, and fortunes to their progeny.

Monday, June 13, 2011

shitty shitty yin yang

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in the last few weeks, primarily revolving around the topic of shit (particularly of the bowel movement and the list kinds) and after my considerable fixation eventually subsided came the lucid realization of how closely it is linked to pain. Which reminded me of a joke my dad used to tell of the organs of the human body arguing about which of them performed its most vital function for survival and therefore should be proclaimed its ruler, until the dismissed anus went on strike. But I digress.

So I started thinking (fine, fixating) about how we implicitly know of this connection already, even when we are not conscious of it. In fact, it’s very much a part of our lexicon. Allow me to illustrate:
The shit will hit the fan. Translation: Someone, somewhere, will feel a lot of pain soon.
I don’t give a shit: Hurts too much so I’m in denial.
I got my own shit to deal with. Take your pain and get out of my face.
Eat shit and die. Preferably a slow and painful death.
I’m in deep shit. I shall receive a massive amount of pain very soon.
You’re in deep shit. If this was happening to me, it wouldn’t be funny at all.
You are full of shit. Okay, this one may not be a good example, but I still like the sound of it.

But I digress.

So shit, therefore pain. “Why pain?” I pondered, “why do we have to feel pain at all?” as I swallowed two more capsules of Tylenol with Codeine.

Which started me thinking about yin and yang. I totally buy the concept that polar opposites are actually two ends of the same spectrum and very much necessary to validate one another. For example “ugly” and “pretty” are natural dualities of the idea of beauty; without seeing ugliness one cannot possibly grasp or appreciate something beautiful; it must be juxtaposed with its opposite, butt-ugliness, to attain its full quality. Dichotomies like these are everywhere, says the Chinese philosophy: good and evil, or good and bad, healthy and sick, dark and light, black and white, life and death, tall and short, fat and skinny, and so on..

If we follow the logic, then, pain and pain-free would be indispensible to one another. But this particular yin-yanger, which should work seamlessly in principal, leaves me incredulous as to its real life application. If we must suffer pain to appreciate being rid of it, then, to truly appreciate being pain-free, we must see/think/feel pain. Except for one major problem: when we are not in pain, we don’t think about it nor do we want to. We forget it as soon as it’s gone and don’t want to remember it. Many analysts have built and renovated houses, bought yachts, put their kids through private school, all funded by their work of coaxing patients into voluntarily reminiscing about painful events in their lives. You would be hard pressed to find any woman in her right mind willingly getting pregnant again if she didn’t completely forget the pain of childbirth from the last time around (27 hours of full-blown labor culminating in a c-section with botched anesthesia, sure, I wanna recall every detail! Are you high? no thankyouverymuch). And when we are writhing in pain, we cannot begin to imagine being without it, it's just too all-consuming to allow for any other thought (try to ignore an itch next time you get one). So why bother?

Granted, I was heavily medicated for most of the time I spent on these thoughts, but am I on to something here? What do you think: Do we really need pain, is it really doing its yin part? Aren’t painkillers the best invention ever? Conversely, are we really pain-free, ever?

Feel free to let me know.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I... can't..... today.... too much pain.... can't sit up straight... can think straight even less.



Am seriously thinking about serious stuff though, intermittently, between bouts of adding things and people to my ever growing shit list.

Will post more once my brain restarts emitting thoughts semi-coherently. One hopes.

A tres bientot!