The Blog of Chloë and Pete  

Two characters (that would be Chloë and Pete) looking for love, safety, and Krispy Kremes. A book looking for readers and a publisher. An author (Jessica) looking for an agent, a life, and a region-free DVD player.

email: jessica_lynn -at- watchmail.com

About Me 23.07.02

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The WeatherPixie

The WeatherPixie


 

Wow.

By way of explanation: years ago, in one of the many best-of short story collections floating about, I read "A Life in the Day of a Writer," and found it not only funny but the best description of, well, a writer sitting around gathering ideas that I'd ever read; and for a while afterwards looked for anything else by the author, Tess Slesinger, without much luck.

There's next to nothing about her online, but still, I'm in luck now -- her only novel is being republished by the New York Review of Books's press; according to their page, she went to Swarthmore, same as me.

Not that the school has ever bothered to publicize this. That alone should make me treat the NYRB's biography with some skepticism. But still -- I'm not in the mood for skepticism; I'm in the same mood I was when I would walk down the street from my parents' house in Connecticut and pass by a house where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald spent a summer. Tess Slesinger as my fellow alumna -- that's just too cool.



  posted by Jessica @ 17:08 |


30.9.02  

 

My guest entry for Sulizano is up. It's appropriate for her -- it's all about one-armed ass-kicking. If you ever get asked in a bar trivia competition, "In what movie did Brigitte Lin play a freedom fighter who cuts off her own arm?" Suli now has the answer for you. Many thanks to the Mobius posters who helped me out.

Anyway, it's The Independent, so it's probably not even worth Fisking, but for the three of you that get all excited when I Fisk, here's a bunch of questions posed to Tony Blair by an Independent columnist who attended the weekend's anti-war protests in London, and my answers:

  • Where is his apology and acknowledgement that we armed Saddam and facilitated his killing fields? In 1988 Saddam destroyed Kurd villages and killed thousands. In the same year he was given $500m by the US to buy American products.
    Tony Blair probably had about as much to do with the US giving Saddam money in 1988 as Denzel Washington had to do with Denmark Vesey. But to address the larger point: I'm not sure why this is always presented as part of an argument against attacking Saddam. If the US truly did create this monster, isn't it thus the US's responsibility to destroy him?
  • Why is Saddam a threat today when he wasn't on 10 September?
    This is like asking a parent who just found out her kid is doing cocaine, "Why are you getting so upset now when he's been doing it for six months?" The bigger question, maybe, is who didn't think Saddam was a threat on 10 September, and why not.
  • If we could live with the USSR by maintaining a tense but effective policy of containment, why is that so difficult with Iraq?
    For the same reason that Mahatma Gandhi once said that his nonviolence resistance policy, while an effective tactic in British-controlled India, would not have worked in Hitler's Germany. Fortunately the US didn't have to deal with Stalin for very long after the end of World War II, and the succession of leaders after him were more bureaucrats than madmen; and it is far easier to negotiate with bureaucrats than with madmen.
  • Are we going to bomb Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia, too, because they are in obvious need of a regime change?
    Well, it's not half the rhetorical question she means it to be. But bombing Zimbabwe would be a PR disaster at best, a stimulus to further massacres at worst; and if we're not willing to stay and oversee regime changes in Afghanistan or Iraq, then we definitely shouldn't bite off more than we can chew in Saudi Arabia.
  • When we attack Iraq, and Saddam disappears with his élite forces into bunkers, leaving ordinary Iraqis to die, can we be shown the footage so that we know exactly what is done in our name?
    Because the British left apparently has a bunch of wargamers. They should all get in touch with Den Beste. Seriously, if she can anticipate that stroke on Saddam's part, and our military leaders can't, and the end result is as she describes, then we well indeed ought to have proof of such blatant tactical stupidity.
  • If Iraqis try to flee before the war and come here as asylum-seekers, will we give them refuge?
    Since Australia won't. But what if the Iraqis like fox-hunting?
  • When will he mourn the 30,000 boy conscripts the United States slew during the Gulf War – they were victims of Saddam made to pay for their dictator just as now?
    Again, apparently Tony Blair is now an American citizen. And where does that number come from? And what would it mean for Tony Blair to "mourn" dead Iraqi soldiers? Little to nothing; you can't "mourn" 30,000 people you've never seen. Why ask the man to make an insincere gesture?
  • If Saddam is such a threat, why are the countries near Iraq – except Israel, obviously – all united in opposing the war?
    (1) Having a war on your border is not fun regardless of the outcome. Jordan is a lot more likely to get those Iraqi refugees than Britain is. (2) It's not as if those surrounding governments are models of democracy and stability. (3) . . . I mean, really, the woman acknowledged five questions ago that Saudi Arabia needs a regime change; she shouldn't even have needed to ask this.
  • Does Mr Blair care that even more young Muslims will be attracted into extremism because they can't stand the double standards of the West?
    Before she wrote her column, every single British young Muslim came up to her and said, "I might be attracted to extremism because I can't stand the double standards of the West." Not, "Because I like feeling like part of a group, and powerful," or, "Because I need some direction in my life," or, "Because the extremist Muslim in White Teeth is also a sex god," or, "Because it will really piss my parents off." No, no, it's because of the double standards of the West. Always. Forever.
  • When is he going to tell the truth about Gulf War Syndrome – this from a veteran sufferer of that war?
    Which has what, exactly, to do with the present situation?
  • What about a dossier with details of the costs of the weekly bombings on Iraq and the effects of the sanctions? Evil Saddam uses the sanctions to punish his people, but if he didn't have the sanctions he wouldn't have the excuses either.
    That's exactly . . . what we need . . . another dossier. And the argument that "The sanctions give Saddam an excuse to be mean" is not a strong one, though she gets credit for acknowledging Saddam's part in all those dead babies. Were there no sanctions, the man could always follow the lead of dictators since time began and claim he was fighting those trying to wreck the stability of the nation. Or something. I don't think he lacks excuses.
  • Can he explain what he means by anti-American? Is it anti-American to loathe the corrupt motives of Bush and co?
    Since she's already acknowledged that Saddam is evil, I'd like to hear the explanation for "Bush and co" having "corrupt motives," unless it's the old keep-oil-prices-high chestnut.
  • Why aren't we trying for a regime change in Israel? Sharon ignores UN resolutions and acts like a barbarian.
    So . . . wait. Saddam uses sanctions to kill his own people, has a history of attacking his neighbors, gets shifty about the whole weapons-of-mass-destruction, and has ties to al-Qaeda, and that's not enough to get him ousted. Ariel Sharon ignores the UN and apparently has bad table manners, and that is enough. Double standard, much?
  • This pre-emptive strike, where is that allowed in law? If I think my ex-con neighbour might mug me, do I have the right to pre-empt him by burning his house down?
    Wouldn't that further motivate your ex-con neighbor to mug you? Either he's poorer now and needs more goods, or he wants revenge.
  • If Saddam has these weapons, why has he not used them yet? He has used biological weapons against the Kurds. That's pretty much known fact by now. But I'm not sure adopting a show-me attitude towards Saddam's weaponry is the most self-preserving choice.
  • Why are UK generals and ex-inspectors against the war?
    Apparently she doesn't communicate with them as much as she does the potentially extremist Muslim youth. My guess, as neither British nor a general nor an ex-inspector, is that the Brits either (a) don't entirely trust the US to get the job done or (b) don't necessarily want the US to get the job done and further solidify its position as Global Ass-Kicker Extraordinaire. Which is not a slight against the Brits; we didn't necessarily like it when the British Empire held the GAKE title. For any country, the optimal number of GAKEs is either one (if the country holds the title itself) or zero.
  • Is Kuwait now a wholesome democracy?
    This is another variation of the "why Iraq and not Burma/Saudi Arabia/Zimbabwe/North Korea/Israel" argument. Either that, or she's checking Tony Blair's current geographic knowledge, similar to when President Bush was unable to name the leaders of India or Pakistan. As for the "why Iraq and not . . . " argument, in an ideal world, we would be able to sweep Mugabe and the junta formerly known as SLORC and Kim Jong-il off the global table like so much refuse, and boot Daniel Ortega and Charles Taylor while we were at it; but with limited resources, we have to discriminate not only among the evil but among the dangerous. It's either pick and choose or be "the world's policeman," and neither option is perfect.
  • If the US bullies the UN, demeans Kofi Annan and gets an endorsement for his war, should we then boycott the US?
    What's Kofi Annan's war? Where is it? If the US gets an endorsement for it, should Tony Blair object? Should somebody start getkofiswaron.blogspot.com? And if you want to boycott the US, go for it. That's what diversified exports are for.

Really, for an Independent columnist, she's not that bad. If the mainstream British left is talking about "evil Saddam," then there's really not as much divergence of opinion as we in the right-wing section of the blogosphere sometimes like to think. But poor Tony Blair -- the right thinks he's a dolt under the thumb of animal-rights nuts, and the left is feeding him apple pie and asking who he'll root for during the Cowboys-Giants game.



  posted by Jessica @ 10:50 |



 

Jonah Goldberg is apparently watching Season 5 Buffy reruns. And in the last paragraph, he hints at some spoilers: apparently Seth Green is coming back to the show, and Oz will have to be saved by Buffy. Yay! But where does Willow the Jewish Avenger fit in?



  posted by Jessica @ 11:47 |


26.9.02  

 

Jane Galt wrote yesterday that we now know we (the United States) can't trust Germany.

Of course not -- no more than we can trust France, Great Britain, Canada, or even Australia. Countries cannot be trusted. Individual leaders, maybe; countries, no. Especially not democracies. In politics as in pop music, the public is fickle, and the United States is currently looking, to much of the rest of the world, like Britney Spears, and the rest of the world is not only coming out of a long infatuation, but feeling slightly ashamed and bopping along to Avril Lavigne in order to feel cool again.

(And for what it's worth, give me anything -- anything -- Britney has ever done over that ear-destroying "Complicated" song.)

Some commentators -- Steven Den Beste, for example -- have a tendency to discuss geopolitical relations in very personal terms; Germany stabbed us in the back, law of the frontier, et cetera. It makes for better copy, that's for sure; but it's not a productive way, in the long run, to talk about relations between countries. After reading that President Bush was "hurt" by Schroder's comments, I had an image of the president getting on IM:

shruB2000: gerhard SUCKS!!! he is TOTALLY on my shit list now
crazycondi: I know what a bitca
shruB2000: i hope i don't have to talk to him at the nato summit
crazycondi: whatever u r better than he is! so just be cool ok?
shruB2000: thanks ur a true friend!! and thanks for that "poisoned" thing
crazycondi: between u and gerhard I'll always pick u u know that
shruB2000: awww :-)

Which I don't think is how Bush sees it. At least, I hope that's not how he sees it.

My point is -- Germany's position further complicates an already complicated situation, and is thus annoying, and the United States ought to take the appropriate steps to communicate that this is not what we want; but there's little use in taking it personally. Relationships between modern nations, particularly ones with open and free elections, seem to me to be dictated not by history or past kindnesses but by current political realities and social trends. That was why I felt Victor Davis Hanson's comments on Kuwait last fall missed the point in the end. He wrote:

If saving an entire people from extinction earns less than a decade's worth of appreciation, then nothing we do in the future will matter much either.

Of all the reasons the US fought the Gulf War, earning appreciation from the Kuwaitis was probably rather low on the list. The lesson of Kuwaiti anti-Americanism is not to throw Kuwait to the wolves, necessarily, but simply to acknowledge that the United States is acting first and foremost in its own best interests, and so is everyone else, and that sentiment should not get in the way of self-interest. Our dealings with Kuwait, or Germany, or anyone else, should focus on what we need to do to get them to do what we want. Snub Germany if you think it will cause Schroder to heel; don't snub Germany just because you're mad or hurt, because you may not be acting in your own best interests in the long run.

So in general I don't see the point about using words like "trust" and "betrayal" and words that otherwise belong mostly to personal relationships in the geopolitical atmosphere. Even Israel is not going to be the United States's friend forever. The sooner we get over that crutch of "But they're supposed to like us!", the faster we can get to a generally clear-eyed foreign policy.

Maybe this is why Jane gets more comments than I ever do. One of the comments on her Germany post was left by a "Henry Jenkins". He didn't leave an MIT email address, but still -- go Miss Galt.



  posted by Jessica @ 11:24 |



 

Stop the presses! Run to Blogger! We found someone willing to admit that she liked "Beer Bad"!

For those of you with lives, "Beer Bad" was a fourth-season Buffy episode that among many fans rapidly became the top contender for Worst. Episode. Ever. At least before last season. I never saw it, I'll admit. But I'm going to snark at Meryl Yourish anyway, since my explanation of how anti-gun sentiments killed Tara didn't make it into her Buffy blog burst. I suppose my meeting the deadline would've helped . . . oh well.

One of the linked Buffy posts is Nick Danger's argument that last season, the sixth, was "the year the Scoobies grew up." I wish it had been. Instead we got the year Xander went over completely to cowardly self-righteousness at every opportunity; that Willow's promising power-and-insecurity storyline was crushed to death by the after-school special that was "Wrecked"; that Buffy got into a destructive, not entirely believable relationship that ended in an even more unbelievable attempted rape; that Jonathan -- I'm still annoyed about this -- became completely amoral and goofy; that Spike was either a romantic at heart, an abuser, or the only person willing to pay more than two seconds' worth of attention to Dawn, depending on the whim of whoever wrote that particular episode; that Dawn herself began and ended the season far less mature than the first season's Xander, Willow, Buffy, and Cordelia had been; that the only two characters that showed any sort of actual growth -- Tara and Anya -- ended up dead and demonic, respectively.

I'll be watching the season premiere tonight, despite having read the livefeeds -- spoiler-whore, that's me -- and despite the lack of Tara (who, I'll be the first to admit, was a waste of screen time in Season 4 and much of 5; only this past season did the character actually become interesting, and then they had to throw her back together with Willow and kill her off -- screw that). But I'm not jumping up and down for it.

I'm not really jumping up and down for any season premieres, actually. My TV is still not hooked up. I don't miss it, frankly, except for those occasions when the recipe calls for salt and I shout at my boyfriend, "Use kosher salt! Kosher! Salt!"



  posted by Jessica @ 17:58 |


24.9.02  

 

Best. Headline. Ever.



  posted by Jessica @ 14:13 |



 

I just lost the first three hundred words I typed about my Birmingham weekend. Damn you, Backspace key!

Let's get the Girlcrush Gushing out of the way first, and then talk about the festival itself.

I managed to get Amber Benson's autograph Saturday night outside the Alabama Theatre; she was one of about 50 people milling around waiting for the feature film to start. My cousin's friend, who earlier had been declaring loudly that she had never liked Tara and was, in fact, glad to have seen Tara killed off, suddenly shrank back. "Well, I'm going to go say hi," I said, and did. Well, "hi" followed by "You must be exhausted," since she'd probably had demands on her time since the minute she got into town and still had twenty hours to go until her movie's premiere. She said something about it being strange to be back in her hometown and looked up and down the street, as if reminding herself that she really was back in Birmingham; and I thought, if Atlanta's changed so much in the time I've lived there, I can imagine that comparing Birmingham in 2002 to Birmingham of the 1980s would be disorienting.

She is probably the least imposing celebrity I've ever met outside the strict confines of sci-fi fandom. Without going into a long sociological analysis, remember that West Wing episode where CJ tells Josh not to encourage the Internet freaks? Well, Benson takes the opposite tack. It's not simply a case of her giving each fan a wide smile and a sincere "Thank you!", which she does; she also remembers fans individually, and thanked them in the credits of Chance (since some of them helped her finance the movie), and even had one of them write a song for the film. Where other celebrities might be creeped out or annoyed, she seems simply grateful and amazed that so many people are willing to pay her so much attention.

Now, I have seen that attitude before, but usually from older, or less successful, actors who have been up the mountain and back down and have learned to be humble the hard way. From someone who just finished a three-year run on a much-talked-about prime-time drama (with a fanbase known for its zealotry), it's surprising. And nice.

Given that, I expected Chance to be fluffy and sunny, an updated That Girl; and while it settled into conventional romantic-comedy mode eventually, it wasn't fluffy or sunny. The main character spent most of the film being unrepentantly selfish. The whole world presented in the film was just off-kilter enough to be interesting, but not so off-kilter as to be pretentious or alienating. It wasn't brilliant; it was much better than I expected. In the Q&A afterwards she thanked her mom (who served as executive producer), her director of photography, her composer, her fans, the festival organizers; and had there been even a trace of insincerity all the thanking would have come off as smarmy, but there wasn't.

Now, the rest of the film festival would have been worth the trip even without her presence: despite the small attendance -- I think maybe one attendee in six was a filmmaker or a relative of a filmmaker -- and the small price ($15 for the weekend), the quality of the films was very good. We saw one decent set of short films, one terrible set of short films, and one outstanding set of short films (including "Fits and Starts," which co-won the Best Short award, and "Crank Calls," which won the Audience Choice Short award). Saturday night we saw The Backyard, about extreme amateur wrestling, which surprised me by being far more respectful of its subject (mostly, teenagers who wrestle with barbed wire, fluorescent light bulbs, and fire as part of the action) than I expected. (It turned out the director is a longtime wrestling fan.)

Birmingham itself is a little sleepy, the way the City of London is sleepy on a weekend day, but charming. All in all it was a weekend of pleasant surprises. And girlcrushing unabated.



  posted by Jessica @ 10:28 |



 

For the last couple hours I've been trying to drag an article out of my skull -- not easy to do on a Friday night to begin with; even harder given the, shall we say, less than favorable circumstances surrounding its eventual publication. But, Jessica, you should be thrilled to have this chance to write for your beloved employer! says my conscience. And I do like my job, very much; but sometimes . . . circumstances. Leave it at that.

I apologize for being so cryptic sometimes. That's not how I normally operate -- quite the opposite; I'm more likely to grab you by your lapels and force you to listen to my tale of woe. But there are certain tales of woe Google's cache doesn't need.

At least this time tomorrow I'll be partying in Birmingham, if all goes well. Good, safe weekends for all, and a healthy elbow for Sulizano.



  posted by Jessica @ 21:28 |


20.9.02  

 

The condemnation of Tumbling Woman -- that statue at Rockefeller Center meant to depict someone who'd jumped from the upper floors of the World Trade Center -- is not blogosphere-wide, as I'd assumed it would be: here's one argument that it's "pretty damned good art" (via Instapundit).

I disagree. I disagree violently. I could not disagree more if he had said something like, "Sodium is a pretty damned good halogen gas," or "Abraham Lincoln was a pretty damned good king of England." From what I have seen, either the statue is being photographed poorly, or it is bad art. Very bad art. Such bad art that the Museum of Bad Art might reject it.

I don't disagree with C. D. Harris's theory of art's need to provoke a reaction in the viewer; I'm just not getting that reaction from this statue at all. Okay, so she represents the jumpers. But she's naked. So is that an attempt to tie in the very specific event of the World Trade Center disaster with the classical tradition of sculpting naked women? If so, why? And why, if she fell head-first, are her legs so stiffly out to the side? Do women lose their sexual vitality when they fall hundreds of stories? And what's with her hands? I think the piece's original title, before it was turned upside down, was "Belching Woman."

It's neither so divorced in form from the actual event that it communicates through symbol, as was Guernica, nor so emotionally realistic as to be moving, like Goya's The Third of May. It reminds me of nothing so much as those endless 17th- and 18th-century works featuring pretty Saint Sebastians pierced with arrows or pretty Andromedas chained to the rock or pretty Lucretias about to stab themselves -- profound tragedy plus nipples! (Only, in this case, minus the nipples.) It's a mediocre artist piggybacking on a larger event to try and lend some actual emotion to his human-form-by-numbers.

And we haven't even gotten to the accompanying poem, y'all. The poem -- put it this way: if MOBA wouldn't take the statue, the Vogons might turn up their noses at the poem.



  posted by Jessica @ 11:44 |



 

Go to the Big Apple Blogger Bash this weekend, answer the Questions Three, and get free beer from Goldstein or Frankenstein.

Of course, I won't be able to make it -- that whole "living hundreds of miles away" problem, as well as the "driving to Birmingham the next day" problem.

(If I seem to be making a big fuss over something that thousands of Alabamians do every day, it's because, one, I've never been to Birmingham, and two, it'll be my longest road trip as driver, ever. Pray for all those Birmingham commuters. I mean, more than you usually do.)



  posted by Jessica @ 07:44 |


19.9.02  

 

I've been alternating between hyper and sonambulant all day. I don't know why, except that the next time I go to the grocery store, I ought to skip the marshmallow section.

Some days I get distracted too easily; I'm a human Kiki; I bounce around the apartment -- or the office, depending -- full of ideas, but when it comes time to sit and write, I can't seem to type more than one sentence at a time. And some days I'm awake for four hours before I have a coherent thought. This seems to be independent of the coffee I drink.

Tomorrow I've got two meetings, one right after the other, that I haven't prepared for at all, not a bit -- just the kind of old procrastinating habits I couldn't afford to bring with me to Atlanta.

Ah well -- off to bed.



  posted by Jessica @ 23:45 |


18.9.02  

 

You know, of all the coverage given to the Bob Greene story -- the what-was-he-thinking angle, the what-was-the-Tribune-thinking angle, the narcissism-of-the-boomers angle, and the what-you're-not-supposed-to-have-sex-with-sources? angle -- no one's commented on the rather momentous revelation that's emerged: Kaus! Likes! Sex! And not for wussy reasons like fear of mortality, either. Sex is good! Sex with young women: even better! It might even be better than bashing the Times or contemplating welfare reform!

Man, I wish I'd known this before I started flirting with other horny LA bloggers. But what's done is done; a girl can't spread herself too wide. For the rest of you bloggerettes, looking to get a leg up in the blogosphere by flirting shamelessly with a male patron, and despairing because Vodkaman is married, never fear: Kaus! Likes! Sex!

And now I'm willing to bet that a game of Death Is Not An Option between Kaus and Andrew Sullivan would be too damn funny for words.



  posted by Jessica @ 17:08 |



 

If you weren't paying attention to Prime Minister Koizumi's trip to North Korea earlier this week, I don't blame you -- there's enough going on domestically: but the fact that Kim Jong-il admitted that North Korean agents had abducted Japanese civilians is nothing short of huge in Japan. That Japanese officials got to meet with the four abductees alive? Even more huge.

First, the easy part: it may well prove a shot in the arm for Koizumi, especially if he manages to somehow get those four in contact with their Japanese families -- who have been waiting since 1978 to see their loved ones again -- at least because he's doing something. Foreign affairs has not been his strong suit, especially since he sacrificed Makiko Tanaka to the LDP wolves, but he made more progress with Pyongyang in a day than he has with Japan's banking system in a year and a half.

Being your typical repressive Communist leader, Kim couldn't be bothered to give reasons why eight other Japanese are now dead. But that's still a step ahead of refusing to admit they existed, or were ever in North Korea, in the first place.

Whether Koizumi will be more effective at getting other actual concessions out of Kim than Kim Dae-jung has been remains to be seen. They could, in theory (where "theory" equals "that alternate universe where Jessica is Master of All Things Foreign and Political"), team up, with Kim as Good Cop and Koizumi as Bad Cop, with the Worst Cop -- Bush -- looming behind them. It would be easier for Koizumi, cast in the role of bully to begin with, to stare Kim Jong-il firmly down than it would Kim Dae-jung: from the little I know of South Koreans, their attitude towards the north is much more complicated and conciliatory than you would expect.

(It's hard to imagine, for example, at the height of the Cold War, two major movies in which a Soviet spy or military man was allowed to give a fervent and passionate defense of his Communist country, and retain his dignity in the process -- which is exactly what Choi Min-sik's character does in Shiri and Song Kang-ho's character does in Joint Security Area; two of South Korea's most popular actors, in two of South Korea's biggest movies, playing (present-day) sympathetic North Koreans who aren't looking to escape. With that as the pop-culture setting, I would imagine it would be harder to lead a cheer of "Let's go kick North Korean ass!" But I could be overanalyzing. The more knowledgable bloggers should feel free to correct me.)

So, to sum up:

Winner: Koizumi, especially if he starts playing a broader foreign-policy hand.
Loser: The Japanese economy, since if Koizumi does start playing a broader foreign-policy hand it probably means he's given up altogether on domestic reforms.
Winner: Kim Jong-il, who conceded relatively little and got promises of economic aid in return.
Loser: The Japanese economy, again. Japan's already swimming in debt without sending aid to North Korea.
Winner: Bush, probably, if Koizumi -- the two seem to get along so far -- takes a larger role in Asian politics.
Loser: Anyone who doesn't want to see Japan take a larger role in Asian politics. Which is to say, the rest of Asia.
Not Going to Be Winners Any Time Soon, No Matter How You Slice It: The families of the kidnapped Japanese, and the North Koreans who still don't have enough food. It's still an ugly scene, and in an ideal world, we could lock Kim Jong-il and his cronies in a large, very uncomfortable cage and make them watch their country chow down; but the concession on the abductees is at least one tiny step in the right direction.



  posted by Jessica @ 12:27 |



 

Oh, Emmanuelle just broke my heart.

I mean, other than that whole pesky fact that she's married to Welch and I'm not. That I've made my peace with. But confirming that Beck is a Scientologist? Sob.



  posted by Jessica @ 15:22 |


17.9.02  

 

GoStats was acting funky, and I didn't have much faith in it to begin with, so I switched back to the historically more reliable SiteMeter. If that's all the bad karma I get for not fasting yesterday, cool.

For the record, I did fast once, three years ago. It was slightly pointless since my fast was more 3 p.m. to 3 p.m. than sunset to sunset, and I worked during the day -- not a lot of atoning, there. My brother also attended Yom Kippur services, once. Yesterday he unrepentantly joined me, before sundown, at the pizza place where my boyfriend works to play team trivia. We had a complete blast -- my little brother's debate coach also plays there, and joined us during his cigarette breaks -- and we won a $50 gift certificate by remembering that Big Trouble in Little China was released before Less Than Zero. That's what twelve semesters, combined, of expensive private education will get you.

We are the kind of crap-ass Jews that drive conservative rabbis to refuse to perform interfaith services. We call ourselves Jews, unequivocally, but I haven't dated a nice Jewish boy since 1996 and my little brother hasn't been looking exclusively among nice Jewish girls either. My mother and grandmother make noises about hoping we'll settle down with members of the faith, but the precedent's been set. I'm not even sure I'll circumcise any sons I might have -- remind me one day to tell you about The Most Traumatic Bris Ever. Or better yet, don't. (Last I heard, the little boy in question was doing just fine.) But for years I was reluctant to say anything stronger than "half-Jewish," because so much of Judaism is bound up in the practice, and scarfing down a bacon-and-hamburger pizza after a fast-free Yom Kippur . . . you get the idea.

The argument I've heard is that ritual practices, religious or otherwise, strengthens the family. It was certainly true for my host family in Grenoble: divorces and disagreements aside, everyone crowded into my host mother's tiny apartment every Saturday for Sabbath lunch. But it's hard to make up rituals out of whole cloth when one side of the family is Jewish, the other Lutheran, and neither, with the exception of my father's sister's family, really giving a good goddamn (so to speak) about church. I admire people who take time out of their weekly schedule to attend church, to forge those bonds, but I don't think I'm ever going to be one of those people. After 24 years outside any church or synagogue, my concept of God is too nebulous and too impersonal for me to throw myself into a supposedly holy place.

"Holy" is a construct, anyway. I've prayed in Catholic and Baptist churches, and rolled my eyes during bar mitzvahs. It's less, in my experience, about the symbols within than about something harder to define and harder to accumulate -- a feeling, a sense of being the latest in a long line of people who have come to pray, an awareness of the surrounding faith and hope and humility. I remember being shaken once by entering a French church and seeing half a wall dedicated to the local fallen of World War I. Something in the careful list of names, the sheer number of candles lit around the church, made me feel that there, more than most places, people were reaching out to God, and maybe God was reaching back.

September 11th shook my belief in a benevolent God. Selfish and shortsighted on my part, but I remember looking up at the bright beaming sun that day and thinking that maybe God wanted to watch. A few days later I sat in a church a couple doors down from the office, a church I passed every day to work and often made fun of, while a pastor I'd never met and had no reason to trust read, "Jesus wept." I stayed and cried for a while, and left feeling comforted without really believing that I'd gotten any closer to God -- because there was no reason for God to reach me while there were still thousands of people stranded two miles to the south.

I don't know if it's possible to have faith without having faith, if that makes any sense. If it's possible for one part of your mind to say "I believe this is" and a second to say "I know this isn't." And until I figure that out, I'll probably continue to be a crap-ass Jew -- because it'll be hard to convince me either that God cares if I ate yesterday or not, or that I should care whether I ate yesterday or not even if God doesn't.

Sorry -- when I start trying to untangle my own theological history it can take a while. Pej did fast, and is back now, so those of you hoping to wash the sin of crap-ass blogging off your monitors should head over to him.



  posted by Jessica @ 12:38 |



 

"Hmm," you think, "almost nothing for weeks, and all of a sudden posts all over the place. What's going on?"

A stable Internet connection, for one; but more importantly, there was a long time when the idea of blogging didn't excite me at all -- as if I'd been at a party and stepped outside to get some fresh air, and was debating going back in or just calling it a night. Further complicating the fact was a falling-out with a person I run into frequently online. I'm not good at interpersonal conflicts; I'd rather just avoid them altogether or have a good dramatic scene and get it over with. Without that luxury I was throwing fits every time I dipped a toe into the blogosphere, because my eye would fall on a link and all the emotions I'm not very proud of, and certainly wouldn't want to parade before y'all, would rear their ugly heads again.

(Can emotions have heads? Well, they can be frothy, so why not?)

I've been reading a lot, instead. I finally got to start The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay two years after receiving it as a Christmas present -- it had taken refuge in a box of books that had failed to make the journey up to New York, but finally made it to my apartment here. ("Oh, so that's where my Cheever went!") There's nothing so simultaneously humbling and fun as reading a book that's better than yours. I haven't gotten far enough in to really know what I think of Joe Kavalier, Sammy Clay, and the Escapist -- except for a couple points where I looked for Art Spiegelman's name in the acknowledgments -- but Chabon's sheer energy is amazing. And yet it doesn't feel overdone; I don't feel (again, yet) like I'm being hit over the head with period detail as I was by, say, White Teeth.

Also started, and haven't yet finished, Pox Americana, which is all about the smallpox epidemic in North America between 1775 and 1782. Interesting and informative, and will make you thank your lucky stars you live in an era where this awful disease has been by and large eradicated, but after a while the author doesn't have much to say except, "There was more movement on the Continent, and thus more ways for the disease to spread; British soldiers had immunity and American soldiers didn't; for those without natural immunity, it really, really, really sucked." I'm not sure what more she could have said, but it feels something like an article padded out to book length. It won't get its full due until someone writes a general history of the Revolutionary War and devotes a chapter to the smallpox epidemic; it will be remembered more as a pioneering research effort than as a great book in its own right.

Oh, and finally, in a separate box of Books I Must Read Now Now Now -- there are at least six such boxes; thankfully, only one of them had the Cheever -- I found Ian Buruma's Bad Elements, on the subject of prominent Chinese dissidents. It's one of those books that you can read while feeling very very shallow and blasé -- Han Dongfeng: still a hottie! Wei Jingsheng: democracy's best pain in the ass since Patrick Henry! hey, where are Cui Jian and Lily Wong? -- or while opening your brain up to all sorts of questions about race, nationalism, patriotism, Christianity (Buruma devotes several chapters to investigating why so many dissidents, including Han Dongfeng, have become fundamentalist Christians), political activism, and democracy. Buruma tends to end each chapter with a little moralistic lecture, but that doesn't detract from the overall value of the book -- especially to me, trying to pound a nascent third draft out of my skull.



  posted by Jessica @ 16:44 |


16.9.02  

 

For what it's worth, I'm sitting here drinking a combination of cold-brew coffee concentrate, milk, and Hershey's syrup.

Yes, it's Yom Kippur.

Yes, I am a crap-ass Jew. In fairness, I was raised in the crap-ass denomination, with a Lutheran father, a mother not bat mitzvahed as a child, and a pass on Hebrew school. We're our own little faction: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Crap-Ass.

Bring on the poll!

What bad karma will be brought upon Jessica for shamelessly eating, drinking, and blogging on Yom Kippur?
(a) AirTran will go bankrupt.
(b) Amber Benson will be struck by a mysterious flu and be forced to cancel her appearance at the Sidewalk Film Festival.
(c) All Spectrum DVDs of Attack the Gas Station! will be subjected to a 120% tarriff upon import into the United States.
(d) After the next natural disaster, a giant hand will come out of the sky, point to Jessica, and thunder, "It's her fault."
(e) Ken Goldstein will send his posse after her.
(f) Gus will eat her.



  posted by Jessica @ 11:39 |



 

On Thursday, his birthday:

J: So I'll have to send you my review of Peking Opera Blues.
Me: Yes! Do . . . it's funny: I've seen that movie three times now, and each time it feels a little slower.
J: That's because it is slow. I'll tell you, of the Tsui Hark films I've seen -- I've seen, what, five now? -- I have to say, the man really needs an editor. But I guess his big champion* wouldn't say that.
Me: Not about Peking Opera Blues, no.
J: I need to see the new Donnie Yen film.
Me: What new Donnie Yen film?
J: The one where he did the fight choreography.
Me: Oh, Princess Blade! I saw that.
J: Did you like it?
Me: I did. L didn't, as much. Most of the people I've heard from since didn't as much.
J: Yeah, I saw some video on the Web** and it didn't look quite as good. Maybe Donnie Yen choreography only looks good when Donnie Yen does it -- and he's not going to be able to do it for much longer.
Me: You never know -- I bet the man's still in pretty good shape.
J: That's true. People did name him the Sexiest Asian Male Bachelor.
Me: So he had to beat out about two billion men for the honor?
J: No, dear, only the famous Asian men.
Me: And that's . . . who? Jet Li is married. Jackie Chan is married and having affairs, and then there's . . .
J: Pat Morita.

* = Lisa Morton, author of The Cinema of Tsui Hark (my birthday present last year from J), in which Peking Opera Blues and Swordsman II get her highest praise. She posts on MHVF occasionally; go and say hi.

** = J has an AOL dialup account at home. For him to try and download video just shows his devotion to all things Donnie Yen.



  posted by Jessica @ 10:14 |



 

A year ago today I got up, took the F train to work, arrived safely, and at the end of the day made it home safely, again on the F train. All my friends were safe, all my co-workers, all my loved ones. What happened while I was at work, I can't do a damn thing to mitigate or reverse -- not then, and certainly not now.

Some people are going to need to take time today to mourn, but it would be hypocritical of me to be one of them. Worse: it would be a falsehood, a denial of how lucky I have been. It would be an insult to everyone who actually suffered.

So today I'm declaring this blog a guilt-free, grief-free, mourning-free zone. An attitude of gratitude, as J (whose birthday is tomorrow) would say. There will be no video or still captures from September 11th of last year; and you're only allowed to say "Remember" if you're singing from The Fantasticks. Talk about the things that make you happy, such as:

  • hot Korean actors and actresses;
  • very cheap film festivals in Birmingham, Alabama;
  • the nice car that can get you to Birmingham, Alabama;
  • your cool cousin, who is safe and sound and lives in Birmingham, Alabama;
  • the airline that only charged $70 for you to change your ticket so you could go to the film festival in Birmingham, Alabama;
  • good books;
  • the continued existence of Television Without Pity;
  • and of Sars;
  • and of everyone on the forum, who a year ago were busy trading information and reassuring each other and saying, "I'm glad you're safe."



  posted by Jessica @ 11:57 |


11.9.02  

 

I have a car now. Gus, meet blog. Blog, meet Gus. Stop shuddering when I brake, Gus.

And -- a miracle even more amazing than the wonder that is my car -- my checkbook, for the first time in a time period longer than I care to think about, balances.

It's been a good day.



  posted by Jessica @ 23:52 |


9.9.02  

 

There's an interesting discussion going on over at the forum on whether online journal writers are actually "writers," prompted by a self-castigating entry by Pineapple. I ended up writing a very long response, and rather than repost it, I figured I'd just direct you to the forum, and you can join in the discussion if you like.



  posted by Jessica @ 19:39 |


8.9.02  

 

Headache. Lack of sleep, unsatisfying work, and jangled nerves -- even though my TV isn't hooked up yet I keep banging into next week's date everywhere I go. Headlines keep shouting Remember! at me. As if the image of smoke rising above Fifth Avenue isn't burned into my brain.

Lileks has barely been able to talk about anything else all week, and this while he's finishing his book (there's the mark of a man who's published more than one book for you). You can almost hear him pounding the side of his chair with his fists. He wants to do something, damn it, and he's certainly not the only one. Who would have thought in late September of last year that by this September, we still wouldn't know where Osama bin Laden was, Saddam Hussein would be in thoroughly in power as ever, the intifada would have reached Hebrew University's cafeteria, and Michael Moore would be on the bestseller's list? Oh, and the anthrax? May have something to do with some professor in Louisiana. Maybe. Or is the FBI getting anthrax and West Nile mixed up?

In a way it's a tribute to Bush that he hasn't rushed out as everyone expected him to. Even if he is waiting for more bombs to be built before he goes after Saddam, that's a measure of tactical intelligence more powerful leaders throughout history haven't possessed.* But sitting and waiting, for the rest of us, is still as annoying on a geopolitical scale as it is in the doctor's office, even we know we're sitting and waiting for something potentially very unpleasant. In the long run most of America's 2002 will probably go down as something similar to America's 1940, the quiet period before the storm; but that's not how it must have felt to my grandparents' generation, reading helplessly about bombs falling on London.

World War II, and America's performance in it, is supposed to be inspirational; I know -- I can't listen to "He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings" without crying, et cetera -- but it obscures that the nation was dragged into the war kicking and screaming, and would have kicked and screamed a bit longer without Pearl Harbor. I was reading two biographies lately, one of Dorothy Parker and one of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and the same phrase came up in both: "premature anti-fascist." I blinked. I blinked again. It was not a compliment. Both women came out fairly early as anti-Nazi Germany, and instead of getting credit for it, then or since, they got "premature anti-fascist." Which was apparently another FBI way of saying "communist." Which says a lot about the political climate of the 1930s.

And yet, in an era where Charles Lindbergh was running around with Heinrich Himmler, the Catholic equivalent of Billy Graham was a diehard isolationist, the only people who sussed out the danger were accused of being Communists, and the real Communists were steering clear while indulging in Stalinist-Trotskyite throwdowns, the United States still managed to not only enter World War II but enter it wholeheartedly. And we've already had our Pearl Harbor and then some.

There will be action. Till then I'm not sure what we can do except continue to wait, and try to bring along the doubters. There's always this, if you want. I'm sure there's a service out there that lets you send pizza and presents to American soldiers, too; I just haven't found it yet.

(* = such as Philip II of Spain, who rushed out an undersupplied Armada despite his commander's recommendations to the contrary. One of the many virtues of The Armada its emphasis on supplies, and the lack thereof, as critical in the campaign. Go read it. You'll like it.)



  posted by Jessica @ 10:28 |


6.9.02  

 

To Caitlin Kiernan and her fans and friends: first, hi, and I'm flattered y'all came over here (thanks, Franklin). And second, yes, I was that much of a blithering idiot at the prospect of meeting Jhonen Vasquez. In my defense, the usually poised Asparagirl, upon being told that Judd Winick was at the con (which he was), probably wouldn't have acted much more diginified. But it was more that (a) I had never so much as seen a picture of Jhonen Vasquez, so I was more inclined to see him as the Thomas Pynchon of goth comics than as the Beatles of goth comics, and (b) upon returning to the Plan 9 booth, I heard an unconfirmed anecdote that he had told somebody that Invader Zim "got [him] a lot of bitches." And I was wearing a black shirt short enough so that The Artist could draw Bun-bun on my stomach. Wouldn't you think that would at least result in a lewd comment? But apparently I am not destined to be the Linda Eastman of goth comics. Jhonen Vasquez was perfectly nice and polite. Yay for him; yay for the publisher's representative; and for me . . .

I'm sorry I didn't get to meet any of y'all while there; for someone who's attended five DragonCons, my Atlanta-area-sci-fi-and-fantasy networking skills are pretty damn poor. (Of course, if you want to know who's who in local animé fandom, drop me a line.) Three weeks in town and I have yet to meet a single other writer (well, one I didn't already know online, so Al and HB don't count). Chalk it up to laziness, lack of car -- though I may have one by the weekend; cross your fingers -- and the feeling of getting my sea legs of living on my own (what, you mean the bathtub doesn't wash itself? the dishwasher needs to be emptied again?) and working from home.

If I sound more sanguine and cheerful and la-di-da than usual -- well, I am. In the space of August I went from sharing a cramped little space in Brooklyn to having my own place, with my own schedule, and a balcony overlooking the complex's pool, and a boyfriend who comes over and cooks me rosemary chicken and vegetables. I'm probably living better right now than 95% of the earth's population -- possibly better than 95% of the people who have ever lived. And there's that question lurking in the back of my head -- what did you do to deserve this? -- that I can't answer; but I've got all these riches nonetheless, and I won't have them forever, so it would be criminal not to enjoy them.



  posted by Jessica @ 19:44 |


5.9.02  

 

From today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution's article on the American Idol finale:

When the public voted off Christina Christian earlier than expected, then nixed the more talented [Tamyra] Gray over Nikki McKibbin, many fans cited racism as a factor since both were black. Then again, [Justin] Guarini has a mostly black father.

The what, now? I don't remember them calling Justin's father, back when he was known as police chief Eldrin Bell, "mostly" black. Is the AJC going to start talking about octoroons next?



  posted by Jessica @ 09:37 |



 

Sunday I went to DragonCon for the fifth time -- yes, the fifth time; which is to say, often enough to run the gamut of con-related emotions, from "This is an amazing social event" in 1997 (when I took 30-some pages of notes over four days) to "Oh, Lord, not the freak show again" in 2001. This time, only in for a day, I was able to relax more and enjoy the party.

The con has changed a lot. In 1997 it was so huge it spread over four different buildings; the last two years it's been confined to two. The dealer's room in particular was a lot smaller this year -- some longtime vendors I remembered from years past (Titan Comics, which normally has a booth nearly a block long, and Troma Films being two) not around. So instead of eight weapon vendors, you had one -- not all that much of a disappointment. (And it made finding the Plan 9 booth a heck of a lot easier. That, and the big red blimp.) The art room is larger, with more room for digital art. After a while it becomes hard to tell who did which picture of which pointy-eared big-breasted long-haired sorceress, but if you're interested in original fantasy art, it's not a bad place to spend some time.

I actually went to a couple panels -- usually at DragonCon I do everything except go to panels -- one on writer's block and one titled "How Not to Get Published." At the latter I took notes and at the former I took comfort that someone like Doug Niles, who has thirtysomething published books to his credit, suffers from the same kind of reviser's remorse and oh-I'll-just-play-Snood addiction that I do. There's hope.

Also: I had my belly signed, and got to have dinner with a group that contained The Artist, Jeff Darlington of General Protection Fault, and T Campbell of Fans. I think this officially makes me an online comics groupie. And I spent a lot of money. It was worth it, though; I got the boy a "Hello Cthulu" shirt (and I want a "Hello Cowboy" shirt to match it) and a collection of Squee! stories signed by Jhonen Vasquez:

Jessica: Tickle Me Hellmo!
Publisher's Representative: Umm, what?
Jessica: Tickle Me Hellmo. I had this posted outside my door senior year of college so that everyone who came to visit me had to read it.
Publisher's Representative: Well, there you go.
Jessica: Out of curiosity -- where is Jhonen Vasquez located? [expecting an answer like New York, San Francisco, Toronto . . . I don't know where I got Toronto from]
Publisher's Representative: Here.
Jessica: HERE?!?
Publisher's Representative: [taking this all with good grace -- this was the third day of the con, so maybe nothing surprised him] He'll be signing at 3 today.
Jessica: So if I bring this book back, he'll sign it?
Publisher's Representative: That's usually how signings work.
Jessica: AAAAUUUUGGGHHH!

So I got it signed. Jhonen Vasquez didn't hit on me even when I told him how much I love Tickle Me Hellmo. Oh well. Maybe next year Tatsuya Ichida will show up and hit on me.

Oh, one last thing: Jason Carter, best known as Marcus on Babylon 5 -- sex on a stick. Sloppy sex where you absolutely know he won't remember your name five minutes later, let alone the next morning, but sex nonetheless. I caught him doing improv with Rick Biggs, The Artist, and Bill Holbrook of Kevin and Kell -- the latter two being very good sports when the actors showed up 40 minutes late -- and stayed safely in the back. The other gawkers were passing stories around concerning the combination of Jason Carter, past cons, and lots and lots and lots of alcohol. And I thought, "Damn, he's still hot." And I didn't even like him that much on the show. What is it about some people that make them the sexual equivalents of a chocolate-chocolate chip cookie to a diabetic?



  posted by Jessica @ 07:38 |


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