Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday funday

Oh did I ever have one.  Great Dupont Circle pool party hosted by some lovely friends!  But somehow I lost my "it's a schoolnight" meter and strayed from my normal "let's get our 1.5 drinks on" behavior.  So I started off my work week this Monday morning by...

Waking up completely naked on my couch, blinds fully open, clutching a smashed Kashi cereal bar for dear life in my left hand.

Still short of waking up with my purse still on my shoulder (which has happened y'all), but I'd say it was a good night.  I paid for it this morning and it took a while to feel normal (still not 100% but come hell or highwater I'm going to run tonight). 

Don't try that one at home kids. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Book Review: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

It's important that we all know exactly what winning a Pulitzer Prize means; it means more than just writing a really good book.  According to the Pulitzer Prize Board, Olive Kitteridge was 2009's most "distinguished fiction by an American author dealing with American life."  I could probably end my review there as I can't think of a better description of this book. 

This is a collection of 13 (sometimes tangentially) connected stories about a woman named Olive and her friends, family and neighbors in the coastal town of Crosby, Maine.  Olive is a retired school teacher whose abrasive, sometimes crass, personality is often misunderstood.  But her gruff carriage is her charm:

"Oh, for God's sake."  Olive stopped walking, looked at him through her sunglasses.  "I didn't say moron.  You mean because we have a cowboy for a president?  Or before that an actor who played a cowboy?  Let me tell you, that idiot ex-cocaine-addict was never a cowboy.  He can wear all the cowboy hats he wants.  He's a  spoiled brat to the manor born.  And he makes me puke."
She was really riled, and it took her a moment to see that he was looking away, his expression closed off, as though inside his head he had backed away, just waiting for her to finish.
"God," she said finally.  "You didn't."
"Didn't what?"
"You voted for him."
Jack Kennison looked tired.
"You voted for him.  You, Mr. Harvard, Mr. Brains.  You voted for that stinker."
He gave a small bark of a laugh.  "My God, you do have the passions and the prejudices of a peasant."
"That's it," said Olive.  She began walking, at her pace now.  She said over her shoulder, "At least I'm not prejudiced against homosexuals."
"No," he called.  "Just white men with money."
Damn right, she thought.
The fictional snapshots of Olive's American life are never cliche, they are always shrewd, and by and large subtly heartbreaking.  It's beautiful, this American life.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Not so leading ladies

Happy Thursday, all!  Which is technically my Friday because I have tomorrow off, but I'll sadly probably end up working anyway because there are energy bills out the woozah and someone's got to keep 'em straight around here.  Mkay?

A few observations worth mentioning:

1.  It was over 90 degrees when I ran this morning (at 5:45am!) and after my four miles of speedwork on the national mall, it took an ice cold shower + two hours in the air conditioning before my face no longer felt (and looked) ON FIRE.  My God.  I love oppressive heat but it was nuts y'all!  I looked like I was fresh out of labor and delivery the entire morning.

2.  I finished an intriguing podcast this morning on Lillie Langtry, a British actress from the 20s who was once renowned as the "most beautiful woman in the world."  Her beauty inspired a number of literary characters at the time, and she was even mistress to the future king of England, Edward VII.  So you can imagine how desperate I was to google image search this broad the minute I walked into my office this morning.  (drum roll) After the historical buildup and anticipation, I feast my eyes upon our English beauty: I missing something?  Lillie Langtry looks like a DUDE y'all.  I mean, she's no serious eyesore, but I certainly question the judgment of whomever named her the world's elusive beauty du jour.  What in the sam hill?

3.  An even more scathingly b*tchy reaction, I'm aware, but I am SICK and TIRED of hearing about Farah Fawcett and seeing her ex-boyfriend Ryan O'Neal's ugly mug all over my television screen when I'm trying to watch the news in the morning.  Hey Farah, want to know why nobody sensationalized your death like Michael Jackson's?  Why oh why was it not nearly as interesting?  Maybe it has something to do with the documentary you made of yourself, couched in the terms of some philanthropic cause, when really it was your last hoorah of self-serving exhibitionism.  It wasn't even news because we'd all watched it (by we I of course don't mean me) on HBO reruns for the past six months!  I don't want to watch any more footage of Farah and Ryan reuniting with their drug loser convict son and I don't want to see any more of them crying over each other when their private lives were a complete disaster because they were both self-obsessed narcissists.  You lived a glamorous, fabulous life and you chose to be a terrible parent, wife, friend, and overall public personality. Your number is up honey and I'm sick of seeing and hearing your long-lasting encores via your good friend Alana Stewart and your pathetic ex boyfriend Ryan O'Neal.

Boy do I feel better (assuming lightning isn't going to strike me dead for talking trash about the dearly departed).


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Les Nouvelles

That's "the news" in French, y'all.  My last week has been tumultuous to say the least, but I'm optimistic and really looking forward to the future and what it has in store.  This weekend, in particular!  I already have dinner with Miss Frazier on Friday, a long run and brunch with Biscuit on Saturday, and hopefully a serious bike excursion (maybe even all the way to Mount Vernon, depending on my bike's condition and the weather) on Sunday.  All of that mixed in with some heavy weekend reading, including (which seriously- I am still embarrassed to admit) finally beginning Harry Potter.  I've always been a typical objector, but seeing the opening of the Harry Potter park in Florida sparked my interest and now I'd love to read the series and visit that place with my mom.  Not to mention we're all on the market for some easy summer readin' these days, and I need to even out the heavy hitters I've already got planned. 


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"She drank, with one hand, all the Irish coffee.  And then she played all sorts of songs.  She didn't know what she played, couldn't have said, but she was inside the music, and the lights on the Christmas tree were bright and seemed far away.  Inside the music like this, she understood many things.  She understood that Simon was a disappointed man if he needed, at this age, to tell her he had pitied her for years.  She understood that as he drove his car back down the cost toward Boston, toward his wife with whom he had raised three children, that something in him would be satisfied to have witnessed her the way he had tonight, and she understood that this form of comfort was true for many people, as it made Malcolm feel better to call Walter Dalton a pathetic fairy, but it was a thin milk, this form of nourishment; it could not change that you had wanted to be a concert pianist and ended up a real estate lawyer, that you had married a woman and stayed married to her for thirty years, when she did not ever find you lovely in bed." 

~Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

So there's this guy at work - Ken - and he's one of my favorite people in the building.  He's the absolute sweetest and was (and continues to be) one of the few people around who are interested in mentoring the younger folks.  He's in his late 50s (I think?), happily married to what sounds like a Diva of sorts (in a good way), and of late he's beside himself as his son, who lived in the French Riviera for years, is finally headed home with French wife and kids in tow.  Ken is just an all-around great guy, and he also happens to be very into reading, particularly mystery novels.  Which is another reason why we hit it off- we love getting our lit chat on.  So after tons of book pushing (love it!), I finally gave in to Ken's mystery lobbying and picked up the Larsson trilogy.

For those of you who don't already know (which is hard to believe considering how these books have saturated the book market and pop culture in general), Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist and writer who died at the age of 50 of a massive heart attack.  At his death, Larsson left the manuscripts of three completed but unpublished novels in a series.  They were gradually translated into English, and now we have (1) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I read pre-blog); (2) The Girl Who Played with Fire; and (3) The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. 

I'm convinced that the fact that these books were published posthumously has sensationalized them a bit, because they really aren't spectacular and worth their popularity.  Still, even yours truly craves some pop culture every now and again, and weird, pointless mystery novels feel somehow superior to TV brain drain.  There really isn't much to review here:  these are very plot-heavy reads, with twists and turns at ever chapter's end.  To Larsson's defense, they're usually unpredictable.  So if you're at the beach for the weekend and don't feel like sharpening your late 18th century brit lit repertoire, this series would serve as a juicy interlude.  Best of all, the protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, is a woman who "hates men who hate women."  Can I get a witness?!

However, I do think the storylines are a little extreme at points.  Larsson, along with some of his Nordic expats, seem to be (still) completely obsessed with neo-Nazi extremists (to be fair, this was the subject of much of his journalism before he passed).  Let's just say I'll have met my quota of blonde, racist, sexually repressed antagonists after I'm done with the trilogy.  And I'm no homophobe, but the girl on girl love in this book was a little much for me.  It wasn't too graphic, but it did seem like a phony attempt to make Salander even more emotionally complex than she already was.

Oh, and seriously what is with everyone buying gourmet food at the 7-11 in Sweden?

So I'll read on and complete the trilogy for sweet Ken (and for my sanity- I can't just go reading two-thirds of a trilogy y'all).  But I won't be searching for more of Larsson's gems after I've retired these three...


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Google Baby

I'm not just sweet-talking Google here, y'all, I'm referring to a documentary that will be airing on HBO2 this week (which I'll obviously miss as we all know I am indefinitely sans cable TV).  I listened to a great NPR podcast on "Google Baby" this morning on my walk to work.  Israeli Documentarian Zippi Brand Frank was chatting and taking calls about her glimpse into the outsourcing of surrogacy to India.  Sounds cliche, but apparently tons of westerners are doing it these days.  According to her interview, having a child through a surrogate mother in the US can cost parents $150,000+, while outsourcing the entire process to India (keep in mind, we're talking about American eggs, American sperm, via an Indian hoo-ha) costs somewhere around $25,000.  (Here's a great WSJ piece on it if you're interested).

Dr. Navna Patel was also on NPR chatting about her clinic in India, which employs hundreds of women as surrogates for strangers' babies.  Despite the complete lack of ethical regulations in India, it seems to be a booming business and, according to Patel, a real "win-win" situation, giving the Indian surrogates tons of cash (equaling around $5,000) to send their kids to school, build a house, or whatevs.

Maybe this was what my professors were talking about when they said there were easier ways to get rich than being a lawyer?  Yikes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Snaps for my knee!

Great news:  I ran this morning (well, that's great in itself as I just returned from my trip last night and I normally don't make it out of bed at 5am the mornings subsequent to travel) and I'm back and ready to train!  I gradually built up my mileage over an entire month and it was torture.  I mean, seriously y'all, if I'm not going to clock at least 3 to 4 miles, it's usually not even worth the effort of getting on my sweet fitness gear and Gator cap.  But I finally ran 3.5 miles this morning with NO knee pain.  It'll be hard to continue adding mileage as gradually, but I'll do it and hopefully be on track for my next marathon in no time.  Woot!

And the most enjoyable part of my run:  I'm on a major ABBA kick after watching Mamma Mia with my sweet momma this week.  (It was terribly corny and I wouldn't recommend it, but it was highly entertaining!)  We absolutely died watching Pierce Brosnan bust it on camera.  The man canNOT sing y'all.  So I set my ipod to ABBA Gold and reminisced back to the trainwreck scene which should have never made it out of the studio:

Happy Wednesday and stay cool!  The heat index was 105 degrees when I was in Florida and I loved every second of it...  xo

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray, originally published in 1890, is Oscar Wilde's only published novel (we generally know him better for his plays, i.e., The Importance of Being Earnest, De Profundis, etc.).  Dorian Gray is an exceptionally attractive young man who becomes the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward.  Basil becomes obsessed with Dorian, convinced that his beauty is responsible for the best years of his art (lots of man love in this book y'all).  Dorian quickly meets Lord Henry Wotton, a close friend of Basil's, and becomes impressed by Henry's hedonistic world view.  Paranoid that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian wishes to sell his soul to guarantee that the portrait Basil painted would age rather than himself.  Dorian's wish is granted, and throughout his tormented life, each ill act is only apparent in his soul as reflected in the painting, while his facade escapes any sign of age.

This was our pick for this month's read in my classics book club.  While I'm pleased to finally have some Oscar Wilde in my repertoire, I can't say I'm disappointed that this was his only novel.  The tale was really a 250-page parable (technically a fable without the animals), which I found to be an over-simplified, obvious moral lesson.  Well, the "what-not-to-do" was obvious, as all of Dorian's evil acts resulted in the further degradation of his "soul" in his portrait.  Not so apparent was exactly what would have the ideal behavior have been in the situation?  Not to mention, who was the protagonist?  Basil was painted as a pathetic wretch, and though he was the most obvious victim of Dorian's self-obsession, I wasn't convinced he was who Wilde wished to uphold as a moral model (although Wilde apparently related most to Basil's character according to interviews).

Most enlightening (and at times frustrating) were the depictions of women in the book.  Henry in particular was incredibly insulting to all women, especially his wife.  His insults range from maddening, where he refers to all women collectively as a "sphinx without a secret," and having no sense of art, to very clever and quite true (some ladies should be ashamed of themselves, y'all):

Lord Henry sipped his champagne in a meditative manner.  "At what particular point did you mention the word marriage, Dorian?  And what did she say in answer?  Perhaps you forgot all about it."

"My dear Harry, I did not treat it as a business transaction, and I did not make any formal proposal.  I told her that I loved her, and she said she was not worthy to be my wife.  Not worthy!  Why, the whole world is nothing to me compared with her."

"Women are wonderfully practical," murmured Lord Henry -- "much more practical than we are.  In situations of that kind we often forget to say anything about marriage, and they always remind us."

All in all a short classic read worth adding to the bookshelf, but underwhelming compared to his plays or the drama that was Oscar Wilde's personal life... 


Pulse check

Helllloooo dahlinks!  No real time to chat y'all.  Consider this more of a telegram than a blog entry.  I'm sitting at home (and by "home" I mean at my Momma's beautiful house down south where the livin's easy), listening to James Taylor, sipping an Argentine Malbec and waiting for my piece of lamb to come off the grill (medium rare if you please).  It has been an unbelievably rejuvenating week and I must say that in addition to spending QT with my sweet family, the highlight of my trip has been finally meeting and dining with my penpal/fellow blogger/newest bestie and her lovely mum (hosted by my lovely mum).

If I haven't had too much of said Malbec and lamb, then later tonight I'll crawl up into the loft and crank out an Oscar Wilde book review. 

Hope y'all are enjoying a steamy summer!  East coast humidity woot woot!  xo

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Running comeback

Happy Wednesday all!  Which is really my Friday given my upcoming trip to the FL in the AM.  And boy did I start off this faux Friday right- with a nice run of course!  I've been slowly coming back from a moderately serious knee injury after last October's Chicago Marathon.  I managed to complete the NYC half marathon in late March but have been re-struggling with the pesky problem ever since.  I'm finally back after a VERY gradual return, tons of cross-training, and a complete gait change.

It turns out that most people (including myself unfortunately) are naturally "heel-strikers" when they run, which means their heel hits the ground first in their stride.  While this is fine for walking, it can lead to serious knee problems while running long distances, mainly because it forces your knees to absorb the shock from the strike of your foot (see the leftmost illustration).  And when you're old like me, your knees need all the help they can get.  That's why "mid-foot striking" is recommended and, while it may be a class-A pain to completely change your gait, it can really help with injury recovery and prevention because your calves, quads and gluts absorb that shock (and I've got plenty 'o gluts back there y'all so I may as well make that junk in my trunk earn its keep).  This is for reals- the first time I tried this new gait change (after watching tons of videos on youtube to make sure I was doing it right), I could barely run one mile because it was so taxing on muscles I never use, and afterwards I had to wait an entire week before running again because my calves were so incredibly sore!  Just ask my mang because I wouldn't shut my yapper about it during our entire Texas vaycay.

I'm hoping these efforts will culminate in (1) the utopia of long-tern injury-free running (always an indefinite goal); and (2) my beginning training in a few weeks for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon in DC on Halloween weekend (see map below)!  My favorite running partner, Biscuit, and I signed up together earlier this year and have both been struggling to come back after the Chicago Marathon.  She's a fantastic runner and, despite her being at least 3 inches shorter than I am (thus one would infer she'd be a slower runner given her shorter gait), she kicks my *ss and really forces me to push myself to the limit.  I was considering the New York Marathon this fall, but decided on this one given the fact that I may not be in DC forever and, well, I can try the New York one if and when I'm a New Yorker...(God willin' and the creek don't rise).  Not to mention Biscuit is a political superstar and given this year's elections, November would've been a little too late for her to be logging in 40 miles per week and whatnot.

And I've been dying to try one of the Disney races sometime- their half marathons look like so much fun, not to mention they just added a new food & wine half in October.  The October race may be reaching given my unpredictable geography around that time (even though I haven't given up on it yet), but maybe at the very least I can get some ladies together for the Princess Half in February...I've already started twisting arms in preparation!

Now y'all go out and work on your fitness Fergie-style!  xo

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Soapbox moments

Given the deliberately limited audience of this blog, I feel slightly more comfortable to make sweeping generalizations that would probably offend the masses (I mean, it's my blog and I say what I want). Although people are far too easily offended, I've still never been one to "get it off my chest" at the cost of confrontation- just not worth it. Buuuuut....(You know I'm climbing on the soapbox when I start with the Salinger-style italics!  Hold on tight y'all!)

Here's my opinion!  And I'm not afraid to share it!  (Actually I am and that's why I just spent a paragraph justifying it!)  Two sweeping generalizations that are annoying enough to mention:

1. Do not friend me on facebook if your profile picture is of your child.  I do not know your child.  I most certainly do not know your sonogram.  I probably only vaguely remember you.  So if you want me to accept you into my social networking orbit and allow you to see my personal information, I'm going to need to recognize you and your new married name probably isn't enough.  Kthx.

2.  School just got out for the summer?  Or is it finally Friday night after a week of work?  And you're BORED (as in you can't find something worth doing)?  Pshaw.  Save some days on the jobs throughout the years (which are necessary evils because I've always been workin' woman), I have never been bored a day in my life.  Boredom is an indescribably unfetching state and you should really consider doing something with your life if you find yourself fresh out of things to learn, see, watch (and I'm not talking about daytime TV folks), read, play, create, write, ponder, cultivate, etc.  You aren't bored, you're lazy.

Just feeling extra opinionated today darlings!  Now *clap clap* resume your beautiful lives!  xo

Monday, June 7, 2010

Weekend Warriors

Happy Monday all!  Hope y'all had a fabulous weekend- I certainly did.  My college bestie was in town from Cali and we concocted our own Mid-Atlantic mania, including an overnighter in Shenandoah National Park and, one of my favorite guest go-to-activities, a tour of some sweet southern Virginia wineries.  The 'ol Commonwealth makes for a nice summer weekend- all in all some great times outside the city!

Most importantly, we devised an alternative retirement track, which centers around a joint venture franchising a "Ye Olde Clean'ry" in a mutually agreed-upon location where we'll continue the legacy of the infamous (well, infamous to us) downtown Philadelphia spot.  I stumbled across this gem while I was working as a summer associate in Philly during my last summer in law school.  Not only does this dry cleaner's interior resemble a medieval castle (including staff uniforms), but they offer the best screaming deal I've ever encountered:  10% off your dry-cleaning on your birthday with proof of proper identification.  I was lucky enough to claim the prize and saved approximately $1.78 in 2006!  They never did get that red wine stain out of my suit jacket but that's neither here nor there.

Anywho, I'm busy as a bee at work this week.  The President has created a task force - including tons of folks from different agencies - to write him a big *ss report on clean coal.  I'm one of the lawyers who's been working away at the liability section and this morning we discovered that those sorry crackers over at EPA have relegated our entire contribution into an appendix.  I could actually care less about where our section is (or isn't for that matter), but all of talking heads around here are beside themselves and are currently spinning their wheels on just how to move their pawn in this power struggle.  *yawn*  Can you tell these places are run by a bunch of dudes or what?!  Oh, and did you think there were only three branches of government?  Try 12.  Now for you folks at home, that's (1) Congress; (2) The Supreme Court; and (3)-(12) are the President and all of his infighting appointees, which are sometimes referred to collectively as the "Executive Branch."

Starting Monday off right with a civics lesson for my darling readers. :)


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Halloween in June

Happy Thursday party people!  I am sad to report that I'm in a bit of a reading slump.  Well, not really a slump- more like hibernation.  Normally my travel weekends are full of bus/train time, so I steamroll through the reads, but the last few have been exceptions.  I've started Dorian Gray, but it has yet to jump out and grab me.  And my French class is taking up so much of my time that all I do nowadays is chip away at that damn French book!  Which is great- that's exactly what the doctor ordered- but it's definitely taken from my other reading time.  Not to mention I'm officially starting New York Bar Exam study efforts as of this week, so my days of shootin' the breeze are on the back burner.

One thing I am keeping current:  my podcasts and my curiosity!  I listened to a great NPR podcast yesterday about the Chandra Levy murder of 2001.  (Remember?  She was the DC intern who disappeared while having an affair with Congressman Gary Condit?)  NPR interviewed the authors of a new book about her botched murder investigation:  "Finding Chandra:  A True Washington Murder Mystery."  While I don't think I'll be adding the book to the list (really I feel like I know enough minutia after this podcast), it was fantastically creepy given that one of my favorite running routes lines the park where her remains were found in 2002.

My morbid fascination was reawakened this morning when Meredith-Vieira-from-whom-all-blessings-flow shared that Joran van der Sloot, the strapping young Dutchman who was the only suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba, is currently being sought as the main suspect in the death of Stephany Flores, who died on May 30, 2010, in Lima, Peru- exactly 5 years after Holloway's disappearance.  He was just apprehended in Chile and is being extradited back to Peru as I type- gasp!  I will say that my instincts were right on with that sketchy character.

Last but not least, I was reviewing old trip pics last night as I was playing my new Philip Glass album ("Live from Soho"- not a huge fan of live albums, but it's the same minimalist classical we know and love from our sweet composer) and reminiscing my recent trip to Dallas, where I spent an entire day obsessing over the JFK assassination.  We visited Dealey Plaza, where he was shot, and spent hours in the Sixth Floor Museum, which is situated on the sixth floor of the Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald was perched when he allegedly assassinated our president.

X marks the spot where the fatal shot killed President Kennedy in his motorcade:

The rightmost window on the sixth floor is still cracked where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots:

A rare photo of my mother as a child available in poster size at the museum gift shop:

I had a weird dream about Halloween last night so I am on a serious roll folks.  Luckily these stories are old news and/or low on my creep-o-meter (which has an embarrassingly low threshold) so I won't need to sleep with the lights on tonight.  Any of you who know me know it doesn't take much...

Are y'all still asking yourselves why people pay for cable television?  Me too!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summer daze

I don't know about y'all, but my summer days are FULL of travel and I'm just trying to keep up! Just back from a great weekend in horse country, VA with my family. Middleburg was an absolute dream and the 51st Annual Hunt County Stable Tour was a real hit! Among other things, we got the opportunity to tour some gorgeous stables, watch an Olympic rider give a horse lesson, watch horses swim in a rehabilitation pool, tour an alpaca ranch and watch a formal "presentation of the hounds" before a hunt. All while stuffing our faces with delish local fare at every stop along the way. Here are some photo highlights:

Release the hounds! How ferocious are these pups?! I spared no senior citizen nor infant in my efforts to weave through the crowd and get some cuddle time with these fellas:

Katie the horse doing some laps in her luxurious indoor pool:

And here's the picture of the weekend:

An alpaca with a handlebar mustache.

Now onto this weekend: my bestie visits from Cali-for-ni-a. We'll be enjoying some serious hiking/lodging in Shenandoah National Park and more Virginia wineries, among other things. Then it's off to Florida for more momma time. Phew.
Hope y'all are having a fabulous summer and making the most of the gorgeous weather! xo