Saturday, November 22, 2008

Have Tree, Need Traditions.

I identify myself as Jewish in the cultural sense. I'm not religious at all--yet I've adhered to a longstanding tradition in my family on Christmas Day--a flick and all the chicken and broccoli one would ever want. I've found this as satisfying as eating a cold, day-old egg roll.

Every year, as the holidays near and the Christmas-themed episodes of my favorite TV shows air, I'm reminded more and more that I've always wanted a tree all my own. It's not merely bark and needles to me -- there are so many traditions that come with a tall evergreen tucked into the corner of a living room. Presents aside, there are the ornaments that bring about nostalgia, egg nog, family gathered around drinking hot chocolate from over sized mugs, and of course the requisite crackling fireplace. 

I haven't been deprived by any means. There is something strangely satisfying about the meticulous manner in which I order the blue and white colored candles of the Maccabee menorah my parents and I have used for the last fifteen years. And of course there have been presents too. Like in 1986, when I unwrapped the original Nintendo that I just stopped playing a few years ago when the B button of controller A became stuck. In the end though, lets face it. Lighting candles for eight nights and reciting a prayer in a language I don't understand does not exactly create a surge of anticipation.

This year, I've decided to stop pining (pun intended) for a tree and actually get my own. But I don't want to spend a fortune or feel guilty for killing a tree purely for my own aesthetic enjoyment.

So I ask you whether you know of any green alternatives (besides an awful-looking, pea-green plastic model) for a real tree? And also, I any DIY ornament/decorating ideas are welcome, too.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

1 Month. 1 Novel. Dare me?

November is NaNoWriMo month. That awkward acronym stands for "National Novel Writing Month" and the challenge is this: write a 175 page novel (50,000 words!) by midnight on November 30th. I calculated that's about 6 pages a day! Yikes! But I'm trying to think of this as a 720 hour marathon of the fingertips and mind.

So, I think I'm going to do it. Or at least try it. I have nothing to lose, right? (Disclaimer: Friends & Family: Consider yourself warned. You might not hear from me for an entire month.)

Now the only thing I have to write is a novel. Maybe I'll go the Curtis Sittenfeld American Wife route and type out a thinkly veiled account of Sarah Palin's rise (and hopefully fall) in U.S. politics that ends with a disastrous debate against Joe Biden (fingers crossed).

Or I could write War, What Is It Good For?.

Well, if you have any ideas, send them over. A character you'd like to see come to life, a setting you're intruiged by, a pet you'd like to see reincarnated with wings. Whatever it is -- I'm open!

So... off I go. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Labrador or Lover: Who Would You Rather Be Stranded On an Island With?

Reuters reported on Friday that of 1,105 Americans polled, two-thirds would rather be stuck on an island with their pet than their partner. That's a little under 800 people!

So, with this statistic in mind I decided to weigh the pros and cons of bringing a pooch over a passion to see which side I'm on.

- With the exception of a bark or growl here and there, there'll be NO arguing. What you says goes!
- Good cuddle partner (minus the fur) without the snoring 
- Loyal to his dying day. Sure, that'll be sooner than later, but let's ignore that for now.
- They eat less. You're stranded on a desert island. The more food for you the better.

- No conversation. We all remember how Tom Hanks lost it when "Wilson" floats off in "Cast Away." Do you really want to be pining for a piece of sports equipment?
- A cat or dog will be much less help than a human in building a ship to get off of the island which, let's face it, is the ultimate goal
- Fido can't rub sunblock on your back and ya don't want to burn
- A pet can't take care of you. What if you're sick, tired, or just don't feel like going through the whole rigmarole of making dinner? 

Personally I'd be way happier with my partner around but what about you?

Friday, September 5, 2008

May I Introduce You to Mrs. National Rifle Association 2008

This pretty much says it all.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why the Chuck Am I Watching Gossip Girl?

Watching last night's Gossip Girl season premiere was about as good as downing a whole bottle of Vitamin Water (it was impossible to miss that they they sponsored last night's episode) in under two minutes. You know how after you drink that sugar water too quickly you feel bloated, hyper, and about to vomit all at the same time? Well, at about 8:57 last night I was overcome with that post-vit H20 feeling and even today, I'm still reeling. 

Where did that hour of my life go? And, if I could somehow get it back, would I even change how I spent my time? Probably not. Something about watching Chuck sneer in a white suit and Serena van der Woodsen brood is absolutely captivating. 

I read recently that the average age of those who watch Gossip Girl is somewhere around 30, which isn't surprising since nearly all my friends tune in. But why? Why are we all drawn to our televisions like moths to a light every Monday night? I complain about the lackluster dialog, one-dimensional characters, and poor acting weekly, yet I return. 

Do I miss my days in high school? Doubtful, even when taking into consideration that I went to a private high school in NYC. Is it the clothes? Perhaps, but I'm not that fashion-conscious and couldn't afford those girls' wardrobes anyway. Maybe it's the blatant disregard for authority figures or a world without parents that's awash in fistfuls of greenbacks that go a long way? (Speaking of going a long way, or all the way as we used to call it back when I was a tot, these high schoolers are bordering on X-rated. Remember the tween and teen dramas of the 90's, like the original 90210, when it took Donna seven years to lose her virginity?)

So, please enlighten me. Why is it that successful, intelligent women who have families, a career, and a true understanding that life doesn't end after high school can't get enough? 

Friday, August 29, 2008

Do you "faith?"

I'm currently reading a book called Faith, by Sharon Salzberg (yea, I'm in a big yoga phase), and I came across a most interesting fact. In Latin and Hebrew, the word "faith" is a verb, not a noun as it's classified in English.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is Publishing Dead?

According to Richard Laermer in his two-part article in the Huffington Post, publishing is dead. As someone who has worked at three of the biggest publishing houses over the course of seven years, I've read the article numerous times in an attempt to decide whether I agree or not. Like the industry in general, I'm kind of all over the place.

Laermer's first questions who is in charge. I've sometimes asked the same thing myself, but his theory of 22-year-olds running around bidding on books is a gross misunderstanding of who is running the large houses.  Sometimes I wonder whether publishing, especially children's publishing which is where I work, would be better off being run by recent college grads. Sure, they'd need some business training but really, if we're publishing books for teens and kids, wouldn't it make the most sense to get input from the people who were teens five years ago not two decades ago?

Laermer goes on two wonder how publishers can expect consumers to pay $25 for a book. I agree -- especially in economic times that call for less travel because gas is too expensive. If someone can't afford to get to and from work, isn't charging 4 times the cost of a fast-food meal for the privilege of reading a bit exclusionary? But from the publisher's perspective, selling fewer books that have a higher profit margin is a better route to follow as it cuts down on potential inventory and returns. Truth be told, there are a handful (at best!) of authors who I'd pay that much money for.

Over the course of the article Laermer goes on to complain that in this digital world one should be able to edit his or her work to the last minute. While this is theoretically true, most books are printed on paper, which costs more to print on in this country versus overseas, so it's not the printing that is timely, it's the shipping. 

Shortly thereafter he directly targets the marketing department (in which I work) for promoting the big-name authors and overlooking others. Hey, I agree. Nothing upsets me more than knowing that there isn't money to do anything for a fabulous new author, book, or series. But what Laermer fails to mention is that those same agents he rails against, basically calling them "sissies," only agreed to allow their big-name client to publish with said house because they agreed to spend XX (usually an exorbitant amount) dollars on marketing. Therefore a house is contractually obligated to spend that money and yes, agents have been known to check that the agreed-upon amount was actually spent.

Don't get me wrong, though. Laermer has his points. Yes, risks should be taken. In the age of the Internet people would rather pull out their paper-thin Mac Book than a thick volume of pages and publishers need to address this fact. I love the smell of new books and the feeling I get when I'm so into a book I can't wait to turn the page, but others are just as happy to read their news on a computer screen and peruse grammatically incorrect stories on 

Like Laermer, I have often questioned why large bookstore chains have final say on a book's cover. Why is it that once a "type" of cover catches on every book of a similar nature have the same cover? Why can't the publisher use their words to persuade a buyer, who in the case of the mass market chains may not have even read a book since high school, that this is the new cover, or the new look?

As I sit here and wait for Barack Obama to speak, with his message to change, I can't help but wonder if politics isn't the only "industry" (and let's face it, politics at this point is a sad extension of the boardroom) that needs changing.

What do you think? Is publishing dead?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bridesmaid or Bridemiserable?

As part of your bridesmaid duties, have you ever spent a fortune on a hairdo that takes days to wash out or heels so high you're teetering around before your first drink? No? Well, I bet you have another story. We all do. 

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Classics or Tomorrow's Kitty Litter Lining?

Back in June, Entertainment Weekly ( posted its list of new "classics," which they're calling the 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008.

Being mainly a reader, more so than a movie-goer, I've culled through the book list a couple of times now and while I've not read everything, or even close to, I've had some definitive reactions to some of the listed titles.

Here are my reactions to those I know: *
* I am not including any movie versions of books I've not read.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Entertaining, though I wonder why the series never truly hooked me. Twice I've stopped reading book 3. Maybe I'm just not a fantasy-lovin' gal.

Maus: Awesome, and I'm not into graphic novels one bit. The cats as Nazi and the mice as the Jews who were hunted? Brilliant! It's the only book that held my attention when I was holed up at the infirmary with a 104 degree fever for eight days during my freshman year of college.

Bridget Jones' Diary: Cute chick-lit. That's it. I enjoyed the movie much more. Perhaps because I got to look at Hugh Grant and Colin Firth for two hours.

Naked: I preferred ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY. My favorite part is when Amy Sedaris yells to her brother, as she's getting off a crowded NYC bus, "Hope you beat the rape charge." Ridiculous. Funny. I kind of wish Amy Sedaris was my big sister.

The Lovely Bones: No, no, no. Just no. I much preferred Alice Sebold's memoir, LUCKY. The ending to this book said one thing to me, "I don't want to work on this book anymore so I'm going to end it in the lamest way possible."

Interpreter of Maladies: AMAZING! Jhumpa Lahiri is my girl crush. I wonder why her debut novel, THE NAMESAKE, and/or her latest book of short stories, UNACCUSTOMED EARTH, weren't included?

The Glass Castle: Interesting memoir that held my interest but a new "classic?" Doubtful. I'd vote for Tobias Wolff's THIS BOYS LIFE instead.

Nickel & Dimed: Ok, this one I get. Eye-opening and disturbing. I met Barbara Ehrenreich at BEA a few years ago. She's delightful!

The Giver: Um, Lois Lowry is a LEGEND. It doesn't matter how old you are. Read all of her books. Now.

The Kite Runner: Also amazing. Most of my friends enjoyed A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS more but I disagree. How Mr. Hosseini could write a book about a topic so devastating and yet still allow the reader to feel hope is beyond me. Bravo.

Secret History: It was okay. My friends loved it. Maybe I just didn't get it.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time: This one of those books I KNOW I enjoyed but yet I can't remember a thing about it. I hate when that happens.

Eat, Pray, Love: Women love this book because they want to be Elizabeth Gilbert. At least I do. Maybe not the divorce part but eating my way through Italy and then spending months in an Ashram sound great. Part inspiring and part babble.

Fast Food Nation: I declared I'd never eat fast food again after reading this book. And I didn't... for approximately two years. From time to time though I need a Whopper. What can I say? Would a real "classic" turn me off to the underpaid workers and Grade F meat forever? Maybe. Or maybe my stomach just rules who I am.

So, is there a favorite of yours missing from this list? Disagree with any of EW's choices?

Tip for Tat: What's Fair in Reastaurant Tipping?

Do you think you've got a rock solid tipping policy? Care to share it?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008