Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I Can't Think of a Good Headline

i had thought of doing another one of those "these are the things i'm thankful for this thanksgiving" entries, but thought better of it after realizing i had done that last year as well as the year before. not much has changed in my list of blessings, and i don't anticipate much will change in years to come. i have great people around me, a loving family, a stunning dog, etc., etc. i've also realized that i have a propensity for serial monogamy, as evidenced by the fact that i had a different boyfriend to be thankful for each year. i like to think that this is because i keep going back into the dating (cess)pool for an upgrade. which means by this time next year i should be dating god himself.

my thanksgiving itself was a bit odd this year. my parents and i headed to my sister's place, where we sat down for dinner with her husband and two kids. as the whole of my family has a strong distaste for turkey, we had duck and ham. the duck looked gorgeous, having come out of the oven perfectly browned. it was placed over the potatoes and then carved at the table, where it spewed blood all over its surroundings.

whoops -- back into the oven it went. the potatoes were tossed, stray blood stains spotted up and we sat around the table staring at each other for another half hour while it finished cooking. at the table, my nephew was annoying my niece with the antics of a 4-year-old; my niece was annoying me with her reprimands of my nephew in that 11-year-old shrieking voice of hers; and i, apparently, was annoying my father who was quick to tell me that my life "has been full of mistakes." whaaa?

finally, my niece turns to me and says, "do you want to go upstairs and play Dance Dance Revolution." hells yeah, i did! and wow, did that game wear me out. in fact, the whole night was rather taxing. and i didn't have that friday after thanksgiving off, which i thought only happened if you worked in a mall. but apparently my company stays open when the market stays open, and i guess stockbrokers don't want to spend time with their families when there's money to make.

i know, the lady doth protest too much. things aren't terrible, not at all. holidays rock! gift-buying is fun! and if you want to send me gifts, i'd like a set of professional cookwear cus my pots and pans suck. and if you're my mom, i'd love it if you gave me that immaculate green Volvo you drive -- or if you want to help me pay off my $20K in student loans, that would also be cool. but if not, that's ok, too, because i have my many other blessings to keep me warm, right?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Life's Little Cruelties

that will be the title of my unwritten masterpiece -- the great american novel that is just aching to escape my guts through the manicured hands that spend countless hours pounding away on this here keyboard. they say there is a novel in each of us. but they say a lot of things. i say a lot of things, too. who should you believe?

Me. (duh.) and i have something to say about the cruel way life has been educating me these past few weeks. i like happy surprises as much as the next gal, but the unhappy ones, not so much. so it's with great sadness that i report on the infiniteness of my own stupidity, which still manages to impress me after all these years. it was Einstein who said, "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

it's good to keep raising the bar, they say. it's good to be good at something, they say. and i say that i can do dumb pretty damn well, as the following examples illustrate.


Situation: the only phone jack in your entire house is, inexplicably, located behind your refrigerator. you are having problems with your DSL connection because the phone company hates you. you need to move your fridge away from the wall and check the connection because having a phone technician visit will cost you $60 for 15 minutes if the tech deems the problem to be your fault (thanks, SBC!). with a few strong jerks, you pull the fridge away from the wall, forgetting that you placed a bottle of red wine atop the fridge, which is where, you know, you've always placed your bottles of red wine. said bottle then falls and shatters into a zillion pieces behind your refrigerator.

Aftermath: at first, you will want to cry, because the thought of cleaning up broken glass, red wine, two years' worth of dog hair and all the other frightful things that reside behind refrigerators is absolutely dreadful. but you do it because you have to. in the process, you try not to vomit from the smell and sight of the mess you're standing in or think about the fact that you ruined a perfectly good towel for something preventable. you also try not to think about what these incredibly dirrrrty, indefinable objects and organisms you're cleaning up really are.

Lesson: when moving a heavy object, make sure to first clear off all surrounding glass bottles that contain alcoholic liquid. otherwise, you will have nothing to drink after your cleanup is complete. and you will need a drink very very badly.


Situation: you are stoked about your weekend jaunt to san francisco, which you have been planning for months. it's just you and your iPod making the journey up the 5 this time and you're excited for the opportunity to listen to your new music at full blast. to prepare, you visit Fry's and buy (what you think) is the adapter that allows you to play the iPod through the car stereo. when you hop into the car and plug your iPod into the adapter and the adapter into the area for the cigarette lighter, you wonder why your iPod doesn't play. after a few minutes of head scratching and technical finessing, you consult the packaging that accompanied your $40 purchase and discover that, in fact, you bought the iPod charger, not adapter.

Aftermath: you slam on the brakes and return home immediately, where you load up a paper bag full of CDs you've heard a million times before, because you cannot stomach a radio appetite of christian rock and country music for 12 hours, which is how long you will spend in the car.

Lesson: pay attention, dipshit. this was almost as bad as the time you went to amoeba and bought the wrong CD two times in a row. or how about that time you accidentally bought decaffeinated coffee and kept drinking it for a week, wondering why the hell it wouldn't keep you awake, before you looked at the label and discovered your error? god, you're lame.


Situation: you think you are a rock star at work. everyone loves you and wants you to come to their parties. you strut around the office like a peacock, thinking you can do no wrong and that you have your job mastered after 8 months. one day, you notice something funny about the financial stats on this webpage your company maintains. they look outdated and this concerns you because you are a good employee who wants a big raise next March. so without hesitation, you sound the alarms and notify the proper people of these seemingly outdated stats, which are, like, so a violation of federal law or something. people around you take you very seriously because of your good reputation and jump on the case immediately, while you secretly begin to imagine all the steak and lobster dinners you'll be having once you get your raise. a day later, someone returns to you with an update on the situation. you quickly switch from your lost-in-reverie face to a concerned-employee one and say, "yes, how is that going?" only to hear "those stats are updated every three months, not monthly like you said."

Aftermath: you suddenly feel very small and dumb. as a reflex, you flash your brilliant smile that's gotten you out of so many jams before but soon realize that will do nothing for you now as you got this bad news over the phone. stumped, you just mumble, "oh, sorry 'bout that. my bad."

Lesson: do your research.


Situation: you're not having a very good day. earlier, you moved your fridge with a jerk and caused a bottle of wine to fall and shatter. it's later that night and you need some wine to calm your frayed nerves. you're at the liquor store with your boyfriend, Momo, who just walked in with coffee from starbucks in a venti cup filled to the brim because he doesn't take it with cream. you are at the counter ready to pay for your bottle when you find yourself fascinated by a music video on the TV that hangs overhead. it's paula abdul's video for "straight up" and you haven't seen it in ages. you find yourself hypnotized by her tap dancing and can't peel your eyes away. but the clerk wants your money, so you extend your debit card and in the process knock over Mo's hot coffee so that it spills all over the clerk, the counter and the conveyer belt that holds other people's groceries.

Aftermath: the clerk hands you a roll of paper towels and you get to work right away mopping up the mess. the clerk is pissed because the coffee landed on his pants, making him look like he peed himself. the other customers are pissed because their groceries are wet. and you're pissed because you made an ass out of yourself in public. and all the while, friggin "straight up" is playing in the background.

Lesson: paula abdul can be fascinating.


i will take my bow now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Love Note I Awoke To

thanks, Momo!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

To Edit

a few weeks ago i went to a copy editor conference near the airport. i don't know why it's worth mentioning that it was near the airport, but it was near the airport even though no one flew in for it. all the attendees were local copy editors like me, with a handful from orange county (which may as well be China if you live in LA).

the point is that it was a copy editor conference which is curious for a number of reasons. first off, copy editors don't really need a conference -- a fact that made my attendance mandatory. you see, we are a static industry. a semicolon by any other name will still serve the same purpose. the few yearly updates on usage and terminology can be found in the latest edition of whichever style bible we subscribe to. in my case, that would the very cutting-edge AP Stylebook. secondly, we are rarely allowed away from our desks/out of our cages for fear that a wayward comma might sneak into otherwise clean copy. our bosses usually love us dearly and know that no one could do our jobs or, for that matter, would want to do our jobs in our absence. and that's always my most favorite thing to hear from people -- "eww. at work all day you sit around looking for errors in the things you read? i could never do that. it would drive me crazy."

yes indeed, it sometimes drives me crazy. on certain days, it makes my eyes bleed. but on most days, i friggin love it. i really do. i can get a serious hard-on from taking a white page with 12-point, times new roman font and marking it up silly with my red pen. it's a satisfaction that rivals orgasm, like "who's your momma, bitch?" we all want to be the authority on something, and copy editing gives me the ultimate power of the pen, which provides a great veto power. (unless you have to work with pain-in-the-ass writers who think you're worthless because you're correcting their copy, which they think is so damn flawless even though it's crap. but if you got a writer who's open, it's cool.)

it's a glamorous profession, i tell ya. but i should also tell ya that while i'm a fabulous editor, i am a horrible grammarian. i couldn't tell ya why or how a modifier dangles, only that it does dangle like that fleshy, dangling thing in the back of your mouth (also known as an 'uvula.') i also couldn't make a strong case for splitting infinitives or explain the difference between comparatives and superlatives, because i don't know what those things are. all i know is what sounds right to me and that intuition has helped me fake a career in copy editing for the past ten years. but it's always nice to match labels with instincts so i looked forward to this conference as an opportunity to deepen my understanding of my own skill set, which at times feels foreign to me.

unfortunately, that didn't happen at this conference, as i found the instructor pompous and the material remedial. plus, i left early and had my usual bad attitude going on. i did, however, learn a handful of interesting things worth sharing and here they are:

-- writing is full of awful redundencies, so think again before you use the terms: 'lone gunman,' 'safe haven,' and 'whether or not.'
-- 'cement' is wet; 'concrete' is dry.
-- a 'dove' is a beautiful, white bird; use 'dived' as the past tense of 'dive.'
-- 'between' compares two things, while 'among' generally refers to more than two.
-- 'oral' concerns the mouth; 'verbal' deals with words.
-- an 'initialism' is a term like TLC and FBI, where each of the letters is spoken as a letter; an 'acronym' is pronounceable as a word, like NAFTA or NASA.
-- 'begging the question' is actually a term for philosophers that assumes that the premise of an argument assumes the very thing the argument is trying to prove. for example, the question "Have you stopped taking bribes?" begs the questions because the speaker assumes the person was taking bribes. most people use this term when they really mean 'raise the question.'
-- the difference between farther and further can be remembered with this handy mnemonic: the 'a' in 'farther' refers to 'actual' distance; further refers to figurative distance.
-- you 'convince' people of your viewpoint before 'persuading' them into action.
-- the road is 'winding'; the wind is 'windy.'
-- don't ever use 'ironic' when you mean 'coincidental' even though every one else does.

i'll confess that i never even heard the term 'initialism' before attending the conference, so that knowledge alone might have been worth the $12 all-day parking fee at the airport Marriott. i still cannot explain the difference between nonrestrictive and restrictive clauses -- the key to the exciting 'that' vs. 'which' debate -- but maybe next year i'll sit through the whole thing.

i did, however, adore my fellow attendees. all these bookish hair-splitters sitting around celebrating their anal retentiveness. and me, the rebel librarian, with her nose piercing and funky purple shirt. but never did i feel out of place. the whole scene reminded me of that Blind Melon video from several years back, with the girl dancing around in a bee outfit. at first, everyone looks at her askew, but she knows the secret -- she's not crazy, just misunderstood. and that's what copy editors feel like sometimes: dancing bees with bent antennae. writers may hate to hear our buzz, but we turn their crappy copy into golden honey. we make it digestible and sweet.

so it was a blessing to find this conference. it was like entering that park in the video, the one with the tall green grass where other dancers dressed like bees buzz freely and dance without shame. it was awesome to be able to turn to the person beside you and say, "don't you hate it when people say 'the man that' instead of 'the man who'?" only the hear the person say, "oh, i know! that drives me crazy, too. but what's worse is when people confuse 'your' and 'you're.'"

the shame, the shame, people -- and you know who you are.