Monday, December 29, 2003
I got some nice holiday presents, and some nice food-related holiday presents, but even though I dropped lots of hints, no one got me Alton Brown's books (those would be I'm Just Here for the Food and Gear for Your Kitchen). And I really feel like I need those books, so I bought them for myself, along with two DVDs (those would be Scarface and Casablanca), a duvet cover, some excellent pear flavored candy canes, some fun striped towels that were on clearance, and a goofy gift for my friend in Atlanta (Chris, I need your address.)

In completely other news, I just got a call from someone in the 989 area code (where is that?) who was looking for a Ray Lee Levine. I have no idea how this person got my cell number, but I occasionally get calls or emails or letters for other people named Levine. If it's someone looking for an Amy Levine, I usually let them know that they've got the wrong one. But this person was looking for Ray Lee, and while I admire her perseverance to find her old friend, I really wanted to tell her that looking for someone named Levine is kind of a lost cause. I guess it's possible that this woman will find her friend, but there are thousands of us! It's like looking for someone named Smith, or Jones, or Johnson, or whatever. Anyway, I politely told her that I had no idea who this Ray Lee Levine is and quickly got off the phone (costs me minutes).

Sunday, December 28, 2003
Excerpts from the past few days, in no particular order:

  • It took me two tries, but I made homemade caramel. Have you made homemade caramel? You basically boil a whole lot of sugar and a little bit of water until it almost burns. The trick is to not let it burn, as there is a fine fine line between really good caramel and bad smelling black lava.
  • I wrapped a bunch of Christmas presents for my friend's kids while she was doing other things that her kids think Santa does. I then referred to myself as the Jew who saved Christmas.
  • I vacuumed.
  • Watched Bad Santa, which was kind of funny and kind of gross and made me feel really glad that I didn't going around sitting on laps at the mall when I was a kid.
  • Thought about going bargain hunting, then decided I didn't want to deal with the crowds, so I just stayed home.
So my life isn't that exciting. I'm on vacation. Not much is going on.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003
(To borrow a greeting--) Happy Christmas to all of our Christian friends, from everyone here at

Tuesday, December 23, 2003
So after much deliberating and some pressure from friends, I broke down and got my hair highlighted. This is very unlike me, because I tend to go with a very un-made-up look, and I don't usually spend a whole lot of money on my hair. But I did it, and I have to say, it really looks fabulous. The woman who did it decided that I should have "carmel" highlights, as it would make my eyes stand out. Never mind that I have big googly eyes that stand out anyway (see last week's "pretty eye balls" obsessing). Anyway, the carmel is good, and it's subtle, so it looks like I did something to my hair, but it's not like there are chunks of blonde or anything. So I am glad that I did it, and even though I spent more on my hair today than I have in the past three years combined, I'm pretty happy with it.

She also styled my hair with lots of curls, which I'm not so sure about. I have really ridiculously curly hair -- back home we call it a Jew-fro -- and I usually pull it straight because I don't like it, but she wouldn't do that. She said a bunch of stuff about not fighting what my hair wants to do naturally, and how it looks healthier when it's curly, blah blah blah, and now it looks a little weird and drastic to me. But I had some friends over for dinner, and they all loved it. One of them even thought I had a perm (perms are so '91). So maybe I'll let it curl up more often than I do now, which is never. One of my friends called it "flirty." I would call it "messy." But at least the color is cool.

Sunday, December 21, 2003
Watched Gus Van Sant's Gerry yesterday and tried really hard not to fall asleep. Cinematically, it was beautiful: big sweeping shots of mountains and desert, big puffy clouds rolling by -- that kind of thing. As far as narrative goes, though, I think there was a cumulative total of three minutes of dialogue in the entire 103-miinute movie, if that gives you some idea. There wasn't much. What there was of a story probably would have made a good 15-minute short, but I don't think Van Sant -- or Van Sant's ego, rather -- does shorts. So we get to see Matt Damon and Casey Affleck wander around, stand around, look around, and say very little. It was beautiful to look at, but severely lacking in substance. It kind of reminded me of this really cute guy I thought I wanted to date in college, but then once I actually hung out with him for a night, I realied that although he was insanely good looking, he was dumb as a rock and didn't have anything interesting to say. (And I didn't really see him again, and then two years later he had become kind of hippie-ish and way into smoking dope, and grew his hair long and stopped bathing and wore nothing but tie-dye and stopped being even remotely cute but remained stupid. But that's another story.) Anyway, Gerry is very pretty and good for curing insomnia, but unless you're a big fan of Matt Damon or pretentious directors who make ego pieces, I'd say skip it.

Saturday, December 20, 2003
Today is the first day of my two week vacation (yes!). And so far, I've been a total slacker. My day so far: woke up at noon, sat around, ate soup, took a ridiculously long time to wrap a few presents, sat around some more, finally got motivated to go to the gym and did cardio but decided I was too lazy to do weights, then sat around even more. Plans for the rest of today include getting a pizza, watching some movies, and, yes, even more sitting around. Sure, I have plans to do work over break, but I'll start tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Today's annoyance: People who sign their emails with "best." As in, "It was good to see you on Tuesday. Best, John." This sign-off is used almost exclusively by people in academia, specifically the humanities: professors, grad students, and lifetime undergrads over the age of 30. The word in and of itself doesn't bother me all that much, even though I'm not sure that all of the people who sign their emails with "best" really wish me the best (not that I think people who use "Sincerely" are truly being sincere), and I'm not even sure what they're allegedly wishing me the best of. Wishes? Regards? Who knows.

I guess what bothers me about this method of signing email is that it's a way for people in academia to make themselves sound elitist and perhaps smarter than they may or may not be by using a word that most other people don't use in this way. These are the same people who freely and seriously talk about obscure minutia and either get paid for it or hope to one day soon. I think that by singing their emails this way -- as well as doing a whole lot of other things -- they're trying to separate themselves from everyone else. But the funny thing, to me anyway, is that they all do it, and they're the only ones who do it. I don't think I've ever seen, say, an accountant or a computer programmer sign an email with "Best." Yet just about every email I've gotten from a professor or a grad student has ended with it.

I'm not questioning the intelligence of academic professionals here. I'm just pointing to how they sometimes present it to the world. I don't know if it's career insecurity, or low self esteem, or too much Zoloft, or what. And I don't want to put down people who make academia their life, because I was part of that little sphere not too long ago. But I think this whole "best" thing kind of sums up what I didn't like about it, and that is the need of these people, who we're to believe are very smart, to use a private language that somehow seems superiour because the majority of the population doesn't use it. I am fairly sure that I've never signed an email with "best," and I'm sure as hell not going to start now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Something weird from last night: some guy told me I had pretty eyeballs. Not pretty eyes -- pretty eyeballs. I didn't know how to take it, but it reminded me of when I was nine years old and all the kids in camp called me "Jabba the Hut" because I, like Jabba the Hut, have big googly brown eyes -- or eyeballs, rather. I think the guy last night was just trying to be nice, but the eyeball comment was strange.

In completely other news, I made my first batch of chocolate covered pretzels to give as holiday presents, and I used traditional shaped pretzels. This, I soon discovered, was a bad, bad idea. For all future batches, I'm going use pretzel rods. It's too hard to get all the excess chocolate off the regular pretzels, and while extra chocolate isn't bad (I used Ghiardelli, so it had better be fabulous), it's just a pain in ths ass to try to scrape it all off while balancing it on two spoon handles and still have a nice looking pretzel. I figure I can hold the end of the rod and still get it more or less covered and let the excess shake off and not drive myself nuts.

Sunday, December 14, 2003
So this has been bothering me lately: every time I go to the gas station to fill my tank, which isn't that often because my car is efficient and I don't drive around that much, there's at least one moron there filling his or her tank while their car's engine is running. Now: I understand that there are people out there that don't understand how combustion engines work. I am one of them. I do, however, understand that gasoline makes a car go through a series of controlled explosions that then create energy. I also understand that gasoline is highly explosive (hence the previous explanation), and that if your engine is running, there is a risk that the excess gasoline vapor around the pump can ignite. This is why you shouldn't smoke at gas stations, and why you sure as hell shouldn't keep your engine running at a gas station. But for the people who don't understand these principles of physics, there are signs all over every gas station I've ever seen that tell you not to keep your engine running while you are pumping your gas. And these idiots still keep their engines going, putting themselves and me in danger. (Yes, they're putting me in danger. What did you think this was all about?) And I'm not going to tell anyone how to behave at gas stations because it's cold out and people are generally in a bad mood when they have to stand outside for any extended period of time. Besides, you don't know who's going to take what the wrong way, and with it being hunting season and all, you can't be sure just who has a rifle in the trunk. Best to keep my mouth shut, I think.

I don't want to wish death or harm on anyone, but it almost seems like a small accident is necessary here to stop all of this stupidity. Maybe a burned paint job on an old car and that's it -- just something to get on the local news and make people turn off their fucking cars. No one has to die, no one has to be dismembered, no one has to raise money for burn camp, and no Zoolander-type tragedies. Let's just char the exterior of a '93 Escort to make the point and move on.

Friday, December 12, 2003
Rock, roll, repeat. Drove to Ann Arbor last night to see Ryan Adams at the Michigan Theatre. He had the flu and looked a little pasty but still managed to put on a killer show. The set list was almost exclusively from the new album Rock N Roll (or Llor N Kcor, but that's pretentious and hard to say), though he did do some of his earlier solo stuff too. And he was surprisingly un-rock-star-like: before the show he walked down the aisle to get backstage rather than going through the stage door, and during the encore he walked into the audience and let people hug him and take photos of him while he was singing. I was surprised at all of the people with cameras at the show -- there were flashes going off through the whole concert. I brought my camera (I guess I had the same idea as everyone else) and grabbed this shot and a few others with the flash off. Anyway, I got home really late, but it was totally worth it. As you may remember, here at, we really like Ryan Adams and therefore have no qualms about driving 100 miles to see him perform, no matter how bad his hair may be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Just got back from doing some holiday shopping, which this year amounted to picking out bottles of wine. Everyone's getting wine this year! Wine for the boss, wine for the project partner, wine for the people I work with, wine for the neighbor's kids -- okay, maybe not the neighbor's kids. They're getting origami paper and scented markers. But everyone else gets a bottle. I decided that all of those pre-packaged boxes and baskets with everything you need for a fondue party or for making oatmeal were stupid and that I wasn't going to feed into this whole already-made-gift industry. But I still didn't feel like going through store after store to find what I thought was appropriate for everyone on my gift list. Like I'm really going to buy my boss a sweater. Anyway, I figured everyone likes to drink (except for recovering alcoholics, but as far as I know I'm not buying for any), so it's wine for everyone. The one exception is that I bought one person sake, which technically is wine, but I also got cute little sake cups to go with it. I don't know anything about good sake, and I'm told that the sake I like -- the cold unfiltered type -- is the rice wine equivalent to Boone's Farm, but even if the sake that I bought is no good, at least the little cups are cool. Aside from that, everyone who isn't getting wine is getting homemade chocolate pretzels. I'm not going shopping anymore.

Monday, December 8, 2003
Look up. See this. Quick -- what is this a picture of? Yeah, I probably wouldn't know either. It's the ceiling of the New York Guggenheim Museum as seen from the ground floor. Just about everyone in the museum with a camera takes this picture, and it's kind of funny to see all of these people taking pictures of the ceiling. (No, unfortunately I don't have a shot of that.) Anyway, when I was there two weeks ago, there was a great James Rosenquist exhibit, including all of the panels for F-111 wrapped around a room. If you have the chance, by all means, go see it. In fact, go to the Guggenheim anyway, just to see the building because it's so cool and round.

Sunday, December 7, 2003
Yes, it's Pearl Harbor Day, but it's also my 29th birthday. I'm not freaked out by turning another year older, but it does feel odd that after next year, I won't be in my 20s. And, when I was 21, I had some kind of paranoia/complex/fear that I would die before I turned 22 (don't ask). So after my 22nd birthday, I told myself that I would do something cool and massive and significant before I turned 30. So far? Not much. So I've got a year left.

Aside from that, today was relatively mellow. When your birthday falls on a Sunday, no one feels like doing much. But a friend of mine did take me out for Indian food (yum), and I got some nice presents and phone calls, and I did buy myself a nice French press so I can make tasty loose teas and even coffee once in a while. Not bad, but next year I am throwing myself a huge 30th birthday party and everyone's invited. Well, almost everyone.

Thursday, December 4, 2003
Sea of neon. A shot of Times Square that's clearer than the one my brother took a month or two ago, you may remember. New Yorkers sometimes ignore the parts of the city that most non-New Yorkers flock to on their visits. For example, visitors to NY love the Statue of Liberty, but it's kind of a joke that New Yorkers don't go there. (I've never been, and I think my brothers were dragged on a grade school trip.) But to me, Times Square never gets old. Every time I'm there, I crane my neck and look up and around like a Japanese tourist and wonder how in the hell they change all the lightbulbs. Unforunately, like much of New York, Times Square has been mall-ified and now contains a Toys R Us, a Hershey's Store, an Olive Garden, and (this one hurts) an Applebee's. Still, if you've never been, it's worth seeing. Bring a camera.

Update on yesterday's handbag post: A friend of mine who is very knowledgable about handbags (yes, that does sound strange) has examined my presumed knockoff Louis Vuitton handbag and has determined that it is, in fact, a genuine Louis Vuitton handbag, albeit a factory second. There's a serial number inside, which I didn't notice, and small LV markings on all of the metal hardware; according to my friend, this means it's real. To compare, she showed me the hardware on the knockoff Gucci bag that I got for her, which didn't contain any Gucci markings. According to her, the bags that don't make it through quality control (mine does have a few slight imperfections now that I look at it closely) get swiped by the employees and end up on the black market. So when I told her the concerns about supporting terrorism, she assured me that we weren't supporting terrorism, but rather we were supporting underpaid factory workers. I am all about supporting underpaid factory workers, so now the internal conflict is gone and I feel kind of cool that I got a real Louis Vuitton bag for only $25. Yay!

Wednesday, December 3, 2003
All fakes. Some of the most prevalent items for sale in New York's shopping district are knockoff handbags (and apparently you can get them online too). Most of them look so similar to the originals that unless you inspect them carefully, you really can't tell. What's also interesting is that the really good knockoffs -- I mean the ones that look virtually identical to the real ones -- aren't just set up like this on the street. Instead, the guys selling these (and it's always guys selling them) walk around with them wrapped up in blankets on a wheelie cart, set them up flat on the sidewalkfor a few minutes, wrap them back up, and then walk down the street and set up again. Apparently, if they're too close to to originals, they're illegal. (Yes, that makes sense.) I'm not much into handbags, but I did buy a fake Louis Vuitton one, just for the novelty of it. Besides, most people in Kalamazoo won't know the difference. I'd be surprised if 9 out of 10 people here could pronounce Louis Vuitton. Anyway, my friend's husband pointed out that by buying these on the black market, we were probably supporting terrorism. So now I have a little internal conflict going on. Great.

Tuesday, December 2, 2003
Me and my buddy Jimmy. Yes, the big celebrity photo. While we were waiting by the Avenue Q stage door, the stage door from the theatre next door opened up, and out walked Jimmy Smits! And he was really tall! So Lainey was gracious enough to take this picture too. He is currently in a play called Anna in the Tropics, which I didn't see, but after he took the picture with me, he thanked me for coming to see it and I told him he was really good. (Again, I didn't see it.) But he was nice and signed lots of autographs for people. My mom likes him, and I asked her if she wanted a photo with him too, but I think my mom has some weird fear of celebrities, because she looked a little horrified and said no. Anyway, that's my exciting celebrity siting for this trip. It went much better than the time a few years ago when David Allen Grier cut in front of me at the MOMA gift shop (and I let him because...I just did).

Monday, December 1, 2003
Happy puppets. Back after a much-needed trip home. I'll post photos of the trip throughout the week, but I wanted to start with this one. A little background: My parents took me and my brothers (and my brother Evan's girlfriend Lainey) to see Avenue Q on Broadway on Saturday night, and it was great. If you're in or around New York and you're looking for a good Broadway show to see, this is it. It's got puppets! Puppets having quarter-life crises, puppets having existential crises, puppets having sexual-orientation crises. Oh, and puppets having sex, and trying to figure out what to do with their lives, and general stuff like that. Think of it as Sesame Street's Compton. Literally laugh-out-loud funny, and one of the characters is Gary Coleman! (Gary Coleman isn't in it, but a female actress plays Gary Coleman. Funny!) The music is also good and funny (there's a song about porn on the internet), and there's some cute Sesame-Street-ish animation in there too. Highly recommended.

Anyway, I thought John Tartaglia, who was the lead puppeteer in Avenue Q, was really good on stage and quite cute all around. So, I cornered him by the stage door after the show and got him to take a picture with me. He even agreed to make a happy open-mouth puppet face with me. (I'm the one on the right, in case you were wondering.) Just afterwards, I also met another actor of celebrity proportions; more on that tomorrow. But many thanks to Lainey for snapping the photo.

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