Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays



May your holiday season be filled with happiness, light, and -- of course -- lots and lots of love!

--amanda

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shine On

Dear No One in Particular,


When I saw this image, I became so enraged I needed to look at videos of puppies in order to calm down.

Let me tell you why this pisses me right the fuck off:

First of all, it's total nonsense. Why wouldn't inner beauty shine through make-up? Is there something in my foundation that blocks my winning personality? Does my eye liner act as a barrier for my charm? Because I am pretty fucking charming.

No, if you were truly beautiful on the inside, there would be no impediment to that coming through. Clothing, hairstyle, the dreaded makeup -- these things can not stop you from being the incredible person you are.
Really, if anyone says differently, it's because they're the asshole -- not you. Anyone who takes one look at you and dismisses you based on your looks is a Judgey McDouchebag and you're luckier for not having more of them in your life. Fuck them. You never would have been able to please them, anyway.

Second of all, how passive-aggressive is this mantra? It decides that in order to convince other people that you are, in fact, nice and worth their time you must wear your face bare, but it dispenses these pearls of wisdom in the snottiest, most condescending way possible. Stop smearing the pancake makeup on, Bozo; you're a nice enough person on the inside.

Third of all, it labours under the misapprehension that most women wear makeup because they feel ugly. Or because they have something to prove. Or because they care about what other people -- read men -- think about their personal appearance.
Let me clear this up right now: I do not wear makeup for you. I do not wear makeup to look pretty for my boyfriend, nor do I wear it in order to please anyone else. I wear makeup to please myself. And let me assure you, person who thinks this idiotic phrase is the wisest thing since Ghandi, most women do the same.

I take pride in my makeup, mostly because putting on a good face requires skill. It's an art, painting on the face. Don't believe me? Hit up a good drag bar and try to tell me different. Hairy dudes that can cover up a 5 0'clock shadow that looks like a 3 day growth and still look more fabulous than me? Artists. This chick? Artist (and a modern-day makeup Cinderella, I might add).
Naturally, I love when people compliment my purple eyeliner or the shade of lipstick I'm rocking. It feels nice to be complimented; it does not mean I'm slathering eyeshadow on in hopes of pleasing some random nobody.

I feel like I must point how how totally patronising this sentiment is. This is a graphic done by a man, obviously in hopes of making women feel bad about themselves so they might conform to his standards of beauty.

Fuck. That. Shit.

I'm tired of it.

I'm tired of being told that I'm not beautiful because I'm wearing makeup. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because I'm not wearing makeup. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because I'm not a size 2. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because my hips are large. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because my hair is curly. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because I've straightened my hair. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because I'm wearing a red shirt. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because I'm wearing a blue shirt. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because my eyes are large. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because I'm short. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because my skin is tan. I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because my skin is not tan enough.

I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because I can not please you.

I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful because I'm a woman and you're a man and your opinion counts for more than mine.

I'm tired of being told I'm not beautiful.

I'm tired of being tired, and I'm tired of reading crap like this.

Inner beauty can shine through anything: through makeup, through outdated clothing that doesn't fit right, through an unflattering hairstyle. Through crooked teeth, through wide hips and narrow hips, through muscle, through fat, through bones. Through fair skin, through dark skin, through purple skin. Through scars, physical and invisible. Inner beauty can shine even through the neverending darkness of death.

Put on makeup. Wear a baggy sweater. Don't comb your hair. Show off your tattoos. Wear a bikini -- your body is ready for it.

You are beautiful no matter what you put on the outside.
Your smile outshines the sun. Your laughter is the sweetest music. You glow with an inner light, and only you can dampen it. Share your beauty with the world.

You're beautiful.

--amanda

Friday, September 11, 2009

Big Eat Challenge -- 2 for 1

Dear No One in Particular,

I've always been a little intimidated by the Ferry Building; there are so many delicious, interesting-looking restaurants nestled under its glass and steel arches -- not to mention the bustling, legendary Farmer's Market on the sidewalk outside -- that I get overwhelmed and end up leaving for more familiar territory.


A couple of weeks ago, I decided to bite the bullet and sink my teeth into some delicious food from the Ferry Building.

#40: cheeseburger from Taylor's Automatic Refresher:
I can't remember where I first heard of Taylor's Automatic Refresher, but after a cursory glance at their yelp page, decided I was, in fact, in the mood for a gourmet burger.

I'm really more of a patty melt girl, so I opted for the patty melt over the top 100 list making cheeseburger. The jury's still out on whether or not this was a wise decision. Then again, I'm just looking for any excuse to visit again.
In addition to the patty melt, I demanded an order of sweet potato fries and an espresso shake. I was stupid enough to be starving when I visited Taylor's, which is a lot like volunteering to have my fingernails pulled out. I'm such a slave to my hunger, it's ridiculous.

I sat at my table, inhaling the splendorous scent of their garlic fries. I began to worry that I picked the wrong side. Then I began to wonder if I could kill the couple who so disrespectfully ordered the garlic fries, but didn't eat them. I'm 99% sure I could have gotten off with minimal jail time.


As soon as my order came up, I grabbed a fistful of the gorgeous, bright orange sweet potato wedges and crammed them into my mouth. At that moment, I reached nirvana. Heavenly choirs sang hallelujah and the sun danced in the sky.



You guys, Taylor's sweet potato fries are THAT GOOD. They somehow lack the starchiness of regular fries, and are seasoned perfectly. Per. Fect. Ly. The slight heat of the chili powder, coupled with the light dusting of regular ol' salt and pepper cuts through the gentle sweetness, creating a symphony in my mouth. If I had ordered nothing else, I would have been so happy with Taylor's I would have run through the Ferry Building singing its praises.


The patty melt was more than a bit disappointing. To be fair, I was so hungry, I barely tasted the first couple of bites. They use a nice dark rye bread, which is a welcome change from the usual light rye. The burger itself is obviously of good quality, but it's sadly overshadowed by the liberally applied condiments. There is way too much mayo and mustard on the damn burger. Granted, I hate mustard, and truly believe the spice and tang of the rye is more than sufficient to cut the fatty goodness of the Swiss cheese and beef. Still -- they overpowered the yummy dead cow, which knocks it down a peg in my book. The meat should sing in a burger, not the sauces.

The shake was equally disappointing. It was made wayyy before the rest of the meal ( I know because I was sitting near the end of the bar and watched it being made) so it melted and became a runny mess, rendering it no more than melted ice cream. Tasty melted ice cream, but not a shake.

Overall, it was a decent meal. Sure, the burger fell short, and the shake was laughable, but those fries -- THOSE FRIES -- were delicious enough to forgive puppy kicking. My biggest issue with Taylor's is the overinflated prices. Maybe if everything was perfect spending $20 on a burger, fries, and shake would be worth the cash, but not if my meal was the best they could offer.

The sweet potato fries, though. They were miraculous.

#49 -- ginger snaps at Miette
Miette is somewhat legendary in the confection/baking world. Bakers and major sweet teeth make pilgrimages to the adorable bake shop in search of their notoriously delightful cupcakes. Or so I've heard. I don't think I've ever had one of their cupcakes. I'm a snob, you see.

Anyhoodle, I was a little surprised to see their ginger snaps as the list-maker over their more well-known cupcakes or macarons, but I jumped at the chance to try a new ginger cookie. I love ginger confections, and ginger snaps are some of my favourite cookies.


"Adorable" is the best way to describe Miette. Everything, right down to their shopping bags, is tooth-achingly darling. I didn't get any photos of their Ferry Building location, but it's a nice French girl respite from the stark architechture that predominates.


The ginger snaps were ... well, there's a reason their cakes are more famous. That's the kindest way I can put it.
The cookies, despite looking lovely, were disgustingly stale. They lacked anything resembling the "snap" necessary to make a good ginger snap. They had a strange bite; soft, yet tough and chewy. I took a bite and had to chew for a good 5 minutes. My jaw was aching so bad I couldn't get through an entire cookie.

I made the Boy try one, and I wish I had taken a picture of his expression. His entire review: "Ew. God, ew. No." A couple days later, he informed me that they made impressive Frisbees.

But! I am no fool. I was wary of the ginger snaps, and had heard incredible things about Miette's macarons. I snapped up a classic raspberry for the Boy and a chocolate-lavender for me.


Let me tell you, the macarons should be on the Big Eat list, not the ginger snaps. They were the most perfect macarons I've ever eaten. The meringue had a slight crunch, yielding to a soft, melt-in-your-mouth fudge/jam centre.


The raspberry tasted true to the berry, without being overly jammy or sweet. The chocolate was a study in unfolding flavours: the fudge melted across the palate, giving way to a gentle lavender flavour, which, miraculously, didn't taste a bit like soap.

I could have eaten a million of them.

While the actual entries on the Big Eat Challenge fell short of my expectations, they pushed me in the direction of some really great food. If the rest of the challenge continues in this way, I'm going to be very fat. Very happy, but also very, very fat.

--amanda

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Big Eat Challenge

Dear No One in Particular,

I have long established that I am a foodie of the highest order.

Once upon a time, I thought about starting a food blog of my very own, but decided that a) try as I might, I am not nearly pretentious enough and b) I am too picky an eater for most food snobs to take me seriously.
To be fair, I will try just about anything twice. I came up with the theory that it takes two bites (or sips) to get the true measure of a dish (or drink). If it's still gross beyond that, then I can refuse to eat it ever again.
This theory has gotten me pretty far and added some interesting dishes to my love/hate lists. Pork blood stew? YUM. Barbecued chicken intestine? Meh; a little too chewy. Wasabi? DO NOT WANT.
Naturally, there are somethings I absolutely refuse to eat under most circumstances. I very rarely eat fish or pork. I refuse to eat any melon or cherry, and mashed potatoes make me gag. Seriously, just thinking about them makes me dry heave. I hate pickles and their slightly-less-evil kissing-cousin, the cucumber. Beyond that: what's for dinner?

Luckily, I live in the gastronomic capital of the universe, so I can happily entertain my taste buds whenever a craving strikes. Given my intense love of food and of the Bay Area, you can imagine my total delight at finding the 7x7 list of 100 Things to Try Before You Die, San Francisco edition.

I had been knocking around the idea of adding a weekly foodie feature here on Blog for No One, but didn't know exactly what it would entail. Now, thanks to 7x7, I do. I'm going to eat my way through the list, blogging as I go. Very Julie/Julia, only with more eating and less dish washing.
I've eaten quite a few things on the list already (soup dumplings, spring rolls, prime rib -- tangent: I had my 21st birthday dinner at the House of Prime Rib and got spectacularly drunk on lemon drop martinis), but I'm going to start with a clean slate to better aid the blogging. I also reserve the right to switch up menu items, so long as they maintain the spirit of the original recommendation; I don't eat pork, so I'll be trying the carne asada tacos at La Taqueria, I'm more interested in Humphry Slocombe than Bi-Rite, etc.

I technically started this challege 2 weeks ago with a quick trip to the Ferry Building, but I think I'll save that for a later post. Like the Julie/Julia project, this will most strongly impact my wallet and my waistline. Unlike the Julie/Julia project, I will keep whining to a minimum and not regale you with tales of visits to my gynecologist's office.

Bon appetit!
amanda

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A True Story


This is the story of a little yellow sweater.

Handmade, obviously done by an amateur, it seems relatively ordinary. There are, no doubt, hundreds of little yellow sweaters being knit every day by hundreds of kind aunts, mothers, and grandmothers for hundreds of little girls. Hundreds of little yellow sweaters, each bearing hundreds of mistakes and dropped stitches that make them stand apart in the sea of sun-coloured yarn.

This little yellow sweater, with its mis-matched white bands on the arms, rough hem, and missing buttons, was never completed. To finish that hem, to add the missing buttons would be a disservice to the story of the little yellow sweater -- but we must start that story at the beginning.

The story of the little yellow sweater begins almost exactly 20 years ago in a City by the Sea, in an apartment at the edge of the City.
A kind aunt decided to make the little yellow sweater for a favourite niece, presumably as a Christmas present. I can only guess as to her feelings and thoughts, but perhaps she was pleased with herself for completing the little yellow sweater so quickly. It was only October; Christmas was months away. All that was left was to fix up the hem and add some buttons. Maybe, if there was time, she could still re-knit the right sleeve. Maybe; I can only guess.


Any theoretical plans she may have had for the little yellow sweater, any dreams she may have had about her niece wearing it were crushed, buried under a pile of rubble as the earth began to shake and sidewalks erupted, as bridges collapsed and buildings folded like houses made of cards.

The apartment at the edge of the City was located in perhaps the worst neighbourhood for earthquakes. Buildings were built on top of nothing more than sand and water; when the ground began to roll, homes -- including the apartment in which the little yellow sweater was made -- crumbled to the ground.

Everything was lost. Everything was destroyed.

Some were lucky: they lost only material possessions.
Some were not so lucky: they lost lives, loved ones.

The kind aunt was lucky; she was not permanently hurt, and neither were her two little boys. Everything they owned was buried under piles of rubble; most of their possessions were burnt to ashes. But they were lucky: they survived.

The kind aunt visited what was left of the apartment at the edge of the City often, hoping something might be yet be salvaged. Sometimes friends came with her, so she wouldn't have to face the heartbreak of staring at the ruins of her life alone.

One day, while standing at the police barricades separating her from what used to be the apartment at the edge of the City, the kind aunt experienced a minor miracle.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with a friend (who was really more like a sister), staring out at the wreckage, the kind aunt spotted a bright spot at the corner of what used to be her block.

Gasping, she flagged down a firefighter. Breathlessly, she pointed out the bright spot:
"That's mine!" she cried. "That little yellow sweater! I made it for her daughter", she explained, motioning to her friend (who was really more like a sister).
The firefighter, understanding what it meant to have something personal pulled from the ruins, dug through the mess and pulled out the little yellow sweater.
The kind aunt held it in her hands for a moment. "I made this for Amanda", she said, even though the gift didn't require any explanation. She handed it over to her friend (who was really more like a sister). "I didn't get to finish it."


The little yellow sweater was the only thing to be saved from the remnants of the apartment at the edge of the City.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Working for the Weekend

Dear No One in Particular,

I've been in a foul mood recently.
I often find myself suffering from a case of the grumblies for no reason other than I want to feel as though the world owes me a living, but that really isn't the case this time. Believe me when I say I wish all my problems were in my head and not out there in the real world, poking at me and pestering me.

I try not to take things for granted -- after all, my health is relatively good, I have a solid job and (for the most part) fantastic coworkers, lovely friends, an even lovelier boyfriend -- but you know how things can just snowball and all of a sudden you find yourself tumbling in a world of white and the only way out is to spit and pray for Beethoven to pop up with a case of brandy?
Speaking of which, do you know how much it costs to register a vehicle in California? Enough to make me want to go back to Hawaii, where their vehicle registration process makes sense and is inexplicably cheaper. And smog inspections? On a car that is less than 3 years old and is made to produce low emissions? Give me a fucking break, California. By the time I'm done paying to have my beloved car re-registered here, I'll have personally taken care of the state budget's deficit.

Honestly, I could go on all day, bitching and moaning about how I am now broker than broke (THANKS A LOT, CALIFORNIA. I wasn't saving that money for rent anyway), but then you'd probably want to strangle me with your bare hands, and really, I wouldn't blame you. Not one bit.

I've been told over and over again that "when God shuts a door, he leaves open a window". Can we just discuss for a moment how utterly impractical this is? Have you ever locked yourself out of a house? I have, and climbing through windows may sound like fun, but breaking and entering is not an adventure worth exploring. I feel like a more apt description would be God put the key to the locked door in a hide-a-key rock and he didn't tell you where it's hidden. And you're in a Japanese rock garden. Start turning stones over; you're bound to find it, so long as you look carefully.

This is my roundabout way of saying "Life kind of sucks right now, but I'm going to focus on the positive and try to make things better, especially since it could suck so much worse". So, let me tell you about my fantastic weekend.

Normally, my weekend could be summed up in a couple short sentences: I slept in late. I watched a movie and read blogs. I may have eaten something delicious. The end.
But this weekend was different! It was adventure-filled and fun! I socialized with real people instead of hiding in my room! I took pictures!

Friday:
The Boy took me to the Sonoma Mission Inn, which is apparently owned by Fairmont Hotels. Can I just say I had no idea the Fairmont was a chain? Not that it matters.
The hotel spa offers a "good neighbour discount" to those that live within 100 miles of the Mission Inn, allowing them to use the spa facilities for a meagre $25/day.

Knowing I would be in bougie-yuppie territory, I dressed up like Doris Day.

We brought a picnic lunch to share while lounging poolside, but never ate it. Apparently, the hotel's small cafe that serves overpriced salads and smoothies frowns on outside food being consumed in their midst.

Lounge chairs on a balcony overlooking the pool.

I did nom on some of the snacks we brought up here while reading book 3 of the Southern Vampire Mysteries (a.k.a. the True Blood books). This is also where I realized that the girl that best mirrors my mental image of Sookie Stackhouse is, in fact, Kendra from Girls Next Door. I know.

Just about every doorway/arch had some ivy creeping through:

So romantic.

I didn't take any pictures of the hotel's mineral-hot spring pools, mostly because I didn't want to be a creeper skulking around, snapping photos of middle-aged yuppies.
I spent the majority of the day floating around on water noodles, my head tipped back into the water so warm it felt like a bathtub, listening to a string symphony playing underwater.*

Later that night, I got a message from my favourite cousin, Mel**, asking if I wanted to go out. Naturally, I said yes; the last time we went out, a Berkeley hippie asked us if we wanted half of his watermelon. That's not a euphemism: he was sitting in the back of his pickup truck, eating a watermelon and genuinely wanted us to have the other half.

The Boy and I met her at Butter, my new favourite bar in San Francisco. Located in crazy-popular SOMA, Butter is a genius white trash bar. They serve drinks like the Tang-tini and snacks like deep-fried pb&j and Twinkies. You want to go now, right? Unfortunately, the "ironic" nature of Butter means it's insanely popular with the hipster crowd. Apparently, a gaggle of the hip were throwing a moustache party that night. I would ask if anyone knows the significance of a moustache party, but I figure we're all better for not knowing.

Regardless, the unwashed irony of hipness didn't throw off the night. Mel ended up getting me my first ever Jello shot for free, after trying (and failing) to help one of the bartenders. Related: I don't like Jello shots.

I figure this picture is fair game, since we both look like idiots.
(Also, don't try to enlarge it. It won't work. )

The best -- and most blasphemous --conversation of the night centered around us talking about getting fresh ink.
Mel: I'm going to get 'redemptor' tattooed.
Amanda: Oh God, you're serious about that?
Mel: Why the hell wouldn't I be?
Amanda: *shakes head in disbelief*
Mel: I AM THE REDEMPTOR. That makes you John the Baptist!
Amanda: Why, because I'm six months older?
Mel: You should get a John the Baptist tattoo! That way, we match.
Amanda: I'm going to pass on that. Does this mean some bitch is going to have my head cut off?
Mel: *shrugs her shoulders* I'm just saying .... pave the way. 35 is coming up real fast.

Saturday:
Wine and Cheese Parties are something of a tradition with my girlfriends and I. For the past 5 years we've been flung across the country, meeting only when school breaks for summer and winter vacations. Every summer we would have a Wine and Cheese Party every week, weather permitting. Now that we're all back in the Bay Area, it's been oddly difficult to schedule a party, since it's now our job schedules that get in the way. Miraculously, we were all free Saturday evening, so we celebrated by throwing our first party of the summer.

We always hold Wine and Cheese parties at the Berkeley Albany Bulb. Apparently, it's a landfill? I obviously know nothing about the pretty little peninsula that I've been frequenting for years. It's a wonderful place to walk your dog or throw an outdoor picnic; it's quintessentially Berkeley, filled with grafitti and makeshift art.

We always -- ALWAYS -- hike out to what my friend L calls "The Castle". It's a bizarre mishmash house-like structure made of rebar and concrete.
It's difficult to get to, unless you know exactly where it is.



One of the better shots I got of The Castle. Up top are my gorgeous friends, N and L. M is the lovely girl waving from the doorway and ... the back of the Boy. Uh, none of these people know about the blog (Boy excluded), so let's not tell them, kay? Good deal.

Anyway, we always eat on top of The Castle, since the inside is small and usually littered with broken bottles. Every surface is painted in bright, bold graffiti, even the small concrete bench sitting below the sole window.



We sat and talked, eating bread and brie, watching the sun set across the San Francisco Bay.

M: "I like the way the clouds look sun-dappled. Like a palomino.
*laughs*
The sky looks like a dirty horse's hindquarters!"

It was a lovely couple of days, and a wonderful way to end the week.

I hope to have more of them.

--amanda


_______________________
*You read that right -- one of the pools plays music underwater!
**Quick warning: while I find Mel's blog HILARIOUS, her writing can -- and probably will -- offend more sensitive readers. Everything's SFW; just don't read it aloud while children are in the room. ***
***I'm pretty sure hers is the only food blog that requires such a disclaimer. (You're totally interested now, aren't you?)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cupcake Dreams and Bugaboo Mornings

Dear No One in Particular,

HI THERE. Remember me? I missed you.

Based on the theme of my last posts, I'm sure no explanation regarding the radio silence here at BFNOIP* is required, but the one word that sums it all up is "chaotic". "Soul-crushing" is another good one, considering the fact that I graduated university only to be thrust into a crippling worldwide recession. If ever there was a time to join the world of adulthood, now would not be it.

I keep hearing two conflicting pieces of advice regarding the economy, and therefore, my future. One is "Now is a terrible time to be looking for a job!" and the other, naturally, "Have no fear: there are tons of jobs out there!"
Oddly enough, I've found that both are true. Yes, there are tons of jobs available -- any cursory glance at craigslist would tell you that -- but what the proponents of #2 are forgetting is that with unemployment rates through the roof, there are also tons of people looking for jobs. Competition is stiff, folks, so if you're securely employed count your blessings. If not, there are tons of jobs out there!

After a really rough couple of weeks spent staring vacantly at craigslist, desperately shooting off resumes, I've finally landed a job. I won't go into specifics for fear of being dooced, so all I can say is that I work for a good company with a fun name and if you have any questions about strollers or anything baby-related, I am here to help.
On the flipside of the paycheck, I have much less free time. I'm hoping against all hope that this doesn't cut into my writing too much, but we'll have to see.

I keep having to tell myself that my current position is simply a job and not a career. It's difficult to see the difference, especially as a new grad having to field oh-so-unique questions like "What are you planning on doing now?" and "Where do you want to work?"** The hard part -- the part that keeps me awake at night and constantly second-guessing myself -- is that I just don't know. I have a degree, but, like most degrees, it doesn't amount to a whole lot. There is no set path in front of me; I have to pull out my machete and start blazing my own trail. The difficult part? Figuring out where to start.
We all want our careers to be something we love doing. No one sets out dreaming about working in a forest of cubicles, just making it through the week. I've spent a lot of time mulling over what makes me happy -- really bone-deep, I-could-do-this-for-a-million-years-and-wake-up-with-a-smile-on-my-face-happy. One of the few passions that fit that criteria is baking. I l-o-v-e baking. As anyone who's looked at my twitter stream knows, I bake a lot. The kitchen is my happy place***. I've named my KitchenAid and have more muffin tins than any one person should be able to own. And lately, I've been dreaming about opening up my own bake shop.

I've been feeling down recently, for various reasons. I decided the best thing to do to fight off the blues would be to use up the giant bag of lemons and the pint of blueberries in the fridge and make some muffins. I love muffins, especially when people say they're healthier than doughnuts in the morning. They're mini-cakes for breakfast, you guys. Anyway, I found this lovely recipe on smittenkitchen and decided to give it a try.

I love lemons.


Lemon rind + sugar = lemon sugar!

Little sapphires


Only I screwed it up. By a lot.
I kept trying to course-correct based on my meager knowledge of baking science (thank you, Alton Brown), but eventually I just tossed the lot into the oven, fingers crossed.

I can't be the only one who thinks these look vaguely nipple-like

Not so much when there's four berries ...
at least, I hope your nipples don't look like this!



And they turned out just fine.
Sure, it could have been a bit more lemony, but they were nice and moist and the blueberry the perfect foil for the citrus-sweet of the cake.

Fresh out of the oven!

Berry ooze

I'm slowly realizing that baking is going to be my career. Dreaming about cupcake flavours or new twists on cannoli fillings -- that's what makes me wake up with a smile on my face. Peddling strollers and eco-friendly diapers to gather enough cash to make The Nifty Bakeshop (working title) happen is simply a cut through the brush.

Glamour shot of one of the mini-muffins

Big, bronze beauty

The muffin version of Rob and Big


So, interwebs, that's what's been going on with me. What about you? What's new in your world? Tell me; I'd love to hear something lovely.

--amanda



_________________________
*My God that is a catchy acronym. Say it out loud, and I bet you $1 that someone says "God bless you!" and hands you a tissue. BlofoNOiP, perhaps? No; that sounds vaguely dirty and drug-related.
**My stock answer: "I plan on working for whomever pays me." So far, so good.
***I choose my choice, third-wave feminists!

Monday, June 1, 2009

E Hawaii Aloha e

Hi all!

So I'm finally going to make good on my promise: my giveaway starts now!

I've packed up little presents to send to you, my delightful readership, as tokens of my deep appreciation. There's something about the relative anonymity of the internet that continues to amaze and comfort me. I've shared more with perfect strangers than I have my own family, and, incredibly enough, a lot of you have showed me more support and love than I could ever have hoped for.
As I said before, my readership is tiny, but thoughtful; it's the perfect illustration of quality over quantity. I started this blog over a year ago thinking no one would ever be driven to actually read this, hence the title. However, I feel as though I've made friends here, like-minded women (and the occasional man) who hear where I'm coming from and care enough to present their own unique point of view. It warms my cold, dead heart to know that there are people out there who read what I write and are so moved to chime in with a thoughtful remark or motion of support. My heart is so full, and it you have all filled it.

Now it's my turn to give back. I was planning on divulging the contents of my care packages, but I think keeping it a secret is much more fun, no? (If you do want something specific, like flavoured spam, let me know!)
A few guidelines, however: only regulars apply, here. If you're a lurker, I'm sorry, but I don't have a package for you. Don't let that dissuade you from delurking -- there may be a tiny token in the post for you, too! If you've commented with some regularity, then this is all for you. Send your mailing addresses to goodbyeroosevelt@gmail.com preferably by Wednesday, 3 June 2009*.

Alright, my lovelies! Email me and watch your mailbox!

--amanda

____________________
*This date, although soon, is not entirely arbitrary. I'm moving back to the mainland on Friday, and will therefore be car-less on Wednesday. I need your addresses before then in order to mail them from Honolulu. If you miss the deadline, fear not -- I'll send them from California instead.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

No Worries

Dear No One in Particular,

I'm returning to the blogosphere bearing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology. I'm a college graduate. You have no idea how wonderfully bizarre it feels to type those words. In fact, I don't think it's fully sunken in yet; I've been so preoccupied with my trans-Pacific move that I haven't had time to really absorb the fact that I no longer have to do homework! My nights are free! I can read for pleasure! ...at least until grad school, which is still a rather nebulous option.


I was going to write up my thoughts on the whole graduation process and what it feels like to be a new graduate, especially a new graduate in such a rough economy, but I've decided against it. The whole thing would be so mentally- and emotionally-masturbatory and consist me gazing at my navel, which is fun for no one. Instead, I'm making the conscious decision to change the course of my life. (This is not to say that the following post won't involve some navel-gazing. I'll try to keep it to a minimum.)

I live entirely in my head. I'm rather introverted and enjoy mostly solitary activities. I tend to space out a lot, daydreaming of alternative futures or working over past events. I live in a world of words and thoughts, rather than a world of action, and for the most part, I've been pretty happy with this. However, I've grown increasingly tired of working things out in my head. Every sentence, every decision is a complex puzzle to be solved -- which often leaves me in the dust of opportunities that have flown by while I pondered every possible outcome.
I've decided I'm going to follow my intuition more; I'm going to stop over-thinking every little thing and just start doing. I've been told time and again that my gut instinct is my best option, and it's high time I start utilizing it.


A couple of months ago, my wanderlust kicked into high gear. My parents are big on travelling, so I feel that the itch in my feet comes from them. My mother is especially bad when it comes to impromptu travels: she moved to America 30 years ago just because she wanted a change.
Anyway, I woke up one morning yearning for a change of pace, but without a particular goal in mind. I tumbled countries and cities around in my mind, but couldn't really commit to one place to visit. I'm not a huge fan of "hopping" when I travel; I like to stay in one place and really get into the feel and rhythm of the culture. After a few weeks of hemming and hawing (Peru? Puerto Rico? Prague? Turkey?), a word/a name/ a country flashed into my mind.


Australia.

I'd never had any inclination to visit the country before. I mean, I wouldn't have turned down a vacation if it were offered, but there were so many other places I had on my top ten list ... so why Australia all of a sudden?
A couple of days later, I was reading a blog when Australia popped up. The original post had nothing to do with the country, but someone in the comments mentioned that their time in Australia was just incredible, and they longed to revisit. I thought nothing of it.
A couple of weeks after that, I purchased a magazine only to find an 8 page spread on the Australian outback.
A couple of days after that, a long-awaited book arrived. A chapter in, the author mentioned going to grad school in Australia, and how it was the best 2 years of her life.
A week later, a news program mentions Australia.

It seems the universe was trying to tell me something.


Going on a dream vacation after graduating is something of a tradition in my family, and I've been so lucky and so grateful that this has been possible. My mother and I talked briefly about what my grand graduation present would be this time around. She was planning on sending me to South America, but had forgotten all of her brochures and travel information. Sensing an in, I mentioned the country that had been appearing in my dreams. Apparently, a good chunk of my extended family has immigrated to Australia and have recently purchased homes in Melbourne. Here's where it gets freaky, folks: I really, really want to visit Melbourne -- not Sydney (though I'm sure it's lovely), but Melbourne.


I've spent too long thinking about what this could all mean, but I've decided to stop worrying over it like a string of prayer beads or a rabbit's foot. I'm grabbing my life by the reins and steering it toward Australia. The universe has put a hand at my back and is pushing me down under. I don't know why, but I do know that I need to go. Something is waiting for me there. I'm scared as all hell as to what it could be, but so excited to see what it is.


Ok, enough about me.
I've kept up with blogs as best as I can, but what's going on in your lives? Good news, bad news, weird news -- I'd love to hear it!

Also: I think I've finalized what's going to go into my care packages for my lovely readers. Things are finally starting to fall into place on my end, meaning that I suddenly have time for things like visiting the beach! And reading! And, of course, sending out little packages of my affection and aloha for the people who make me feel like I'm saying something worth listening to. Watch this space, dolls -- I'll be asking for your addresses soon.

--amanda

[all photos: mine; Honolulu, HI, May 2009]

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bad Blogger

Dear No One in Particular,

I know, I'm a bad blogger. I'm sorry for disappearing, but I'm dealing with a ton and a half of stressful mess right now and it doesn't look like it's going to let up soon.
I graduate on Saturday (!!!! Oh God, I need a paper bag to breathe into) but have two humongous finals to deal with before I get to don my green cap and gown* and parade about in front of a thousand of my classmates and all of their friends and families. On top of that, my parents (and the Boy's parents, natch) are coming over not only to watch the ceremony, but to "help" us pack up our apartment. We're tenatively slated to leave Hawaii (and ne'er to return ... maybe) by 6 June, which is right around the corner and creeping closer every time I look around our place and see piles of stuff to be sold off and walls to be painted and I can hear the arguments already Oh Christ's Holy Pita Pocket I'M DONE ALREADY.

So yeah, my personal life is a bit of stress-riddled mess right now, allowing for very little blogging time. I have posts all lined up, but no time to finish them. Hopefully I'll catch a break and find a quiet moment to slap something up here, but until then, who knows.

I do have some news that directly affects the wonderful people who read and comment on this drivel! I'm planning a giveaway -- a true giveaway in the sense that there's no contest, just me sending a care package. I'm working out some of the kinks, but it boils down to the fact that my readership is tiny, yet incredibly thoughtful. You have no idea how excited I get when I see someone out there feels so compelled to read and comment on what I've written. So, as a demonstration of my gratitude, I'll send you a little giftbox filled with some of my favourite things from Hawaii.
Details to come soon, I promise!

xoxo,
amanda



______________________
*Yes, we have to wear green graduation robes. Effing GREEN. What university requires coloured robes? I thought black was de rigueur? Oh, added bonus: throw my honour cords and stoles over the forest-coloured polyester and voila! Amanda-Christmas tree.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Suffer for Fashion, or Whatever

Dear No One in Particular,

I really wanted to write up a couple of happy and upbeat entries (especially given that I vanished for a week, leaving a screechy post raging at society to "leave Susan Boyle alone!") before I slipped into my ranting pants again, but alas, I can not hide my true, rage-filled colours.
Apparently, disposable clothing chain Forever 21 is launching their new "plus-size" line, Faith 21, tomorrow. Normally, I would be all over this like Whitney Houston on a crack pipe, but everything I've been reading about this launch is making my scalp crawl.

CNN recently published an article about Faith 21 and the fashion industry's "stretch" to produce plus-size clothing. First of all, I'm a little weirded out by the fact that CNN is reporting on the goings-on of Forever 21 -- was it an exceptionally slow news day? Totally off topic, but it's a little jarring. Second of all, can we address the fact that F21 felt the need to produce a sister line? What's wrong with simply adding larger sizes to the existing stock? Having a separate line featuring separate clothing that will no doubt be shoved into a corner of the store isn't empowering for bigger girls, it's shaming them. And we all know that what full-figured ladies need is to feel more shame about their size, especially when they're teenagers.

Which brings me to what I think may be the most hateful quote I've read in a while:
"However, when you look at the human cost, what we're doing is we're on the Titanic and rather than forcing our children into the lifeboat, we're telling them to join the band. Worrying about fashion rather than worrying about the food is a horrible message that we're sending these kids," -- MeMe Roth, president of the organization National Action Against Obesity.
First of all -- and I don't say this often, since it's wholly unhelpful and dismissive -- STFU, MeMe. You know not what you speak, although it is painfully obvious you speak out of your ass. Catering to women of a larger size is not "worrying about fashion" it is clothing the masses -- literally, given that the average woman is a "plus-size" 14.

Hatefilled, deeply disturbed people like MeMe* and willfully ignorant high-end designers like Miuccia Prada continue to ignore the fact that the average American woman is considered "plus-size" in hopes of shaming them into a more slender shape. Refusing to clothe them is not a solution, just as holding up a size 00 as the ideal will not inspire them to "put the food away" and hit the gym. It will, however, inspire more disordered eating -- both of the anorexic/bulimic variety and of the overeating+depression variety. Either way, people aren't going to be healthier, nor are they going to have anything to wear.

Plus, newsflash, people: if shame could actually make people thin, there would be no fat people to hate on. Get a fucking hobby that doesn't involve passing vitriolic judgment on others. I hear knitting is very "in".

Moreover, while actually catering to the majority of women is commendable, it does not make you a saint. It makes you a sensible business owner. I know I will catch a lot of flack for this, but just as I despise the pervasive fat hatred (for lack of a better term), I don't understand the suffering stance so many are taking when they actually provide clothing over a size L/size 10. Just as the Roths and Pradas and Lagerfelds of the world need to cry themselves a river, build a bridge and get the fuck over it already, I feel that those who deign to cut a larger swatch of fabric are just as obnoxious. Again, you're drumming up further business, not sacrificing yourself for the good of the fashion industry. Now stand up straight: that martyr pose only further reveals your judgement.

I guess this can be interpreted as though I am damning the fashion industry for both ignoring AND supplying, but I'm really not. There is a difference between saying "We recognise that women come in all shapes and sizes and we're going to do our best to provide them with fashionable clothing options" and "Aren't we sooooo brave and wonderful for daring to venture into the double digits?! PRAISE US." I just don't buy into this "A for Effort" nonsense that's being awarded to designers and companies that actually dress the average woman. Especially when, as in the case of Faith 21, the sizes really aren't that inclusive: Faith 21 carries XL and XXL. This, coupled with parent F21's tendency to size smaller makes the whole exercise feel, like, well, an exercise and not so much a valid foray into offering plus-sized options.

I think there can be a happy, healthy middle ground where women and fashion can meet and discuss the new trends for the summer season. However, that middle ground rests on society's ability to recognise that women run the sizing gamut -- from a slender size 00 to a voluptuous size 30 -- and all deserve to have options. Beautiful, fashionable, flattering options that cater to the beautiful, fashionable, incredible woman wearing the clothes. We're just not there yet.

--amanda

__________________
*Based on this article -- which is HIGHLY inflammatory, and will cause you to headdesk repeatedly -- I think it's safe to say Roth has some serious psychological issues with regards to food. I genuinely hope she gets some help.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beauty Misadventures: Smooth Away Layers of Skin!

Dear No One in Particular,

I am a huge fan of infomericals. I think they're hilarious, and if they're good (or at the very least, ubiquitous), I'll consider buying whatever they're shilling. I blame this on my mother, who is Billy Mays's dream customer. She'll buy almost anything, so long as she can convince herself she really does need a special chair to help her wiggle her way to a smaller waist. But this isn't about her -- not yet, at least.

Ok some background information: I am a hirsute lady. I'm not about to join a sideshow or anything, but I've always been aware of -- and therefore painfully self-conscious of -- my general furriness. No joke, I've met men with less arm hair than me.*
Only recently have I adopted an "Eh, fuck it" attitude about these things, but that changed when I saw the informercial for that best-selling European depilatory product, Smooth Away. $10 and I can have the hairless arms I've always wanted?! Jiminy Cricket was right: when your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme. My request? Not looking like Teen Wolf.

About a week after my television beamed video of some toothy dame gleefully rubbing her hair off her arm into my living room, I traipsed into my local As Seen On TV store and was greeted with the glorious sight of a Smooth Away display. I eagerly grabbed one of the shiny pink-and-white boxes, daydreaming of my soon-to-be naked arms.

When I got home, I opened up the package to find a little blue plastic oval with something that looked like fine-grain sandpaper stuck to one side. It reminded me a bit of a curry comb, only more industrial.
I decided to try it out on my legs before I moved to virgin territory. I followed the directions, gently rubbing the Smooth Away in circular motions over my skin. It took a bit of time, but it did what it advertised: it removed the hair and left smooth, if slightly grey, skin in its place.
So emboldened, I went to town on my forearms. Again, it took some time (probably somewhere in the vicinity of 45 minutes) and a lot of effort, but my arms! They were bare! I danced around my apartment singing "Nooo hair! Nooo hair!" for about five minutes before the burning set in.

That's right: burning.

I don't know why I was so surprised (although, in my defense, the ad did say it was "painless"), since I was rubbing my hair off with "superfine crystals". My arms hurt so badly, the Boy suggested I apply some aloe vera to soothe the irritated skin. I don't know what happened, but "soothe" the aloe did not. It felt like I had dipped my arms into carbolic acid. I spent the rest of the night with ice packs on my forearms, whimpering about what went wrong.

We eventually chalked it up to applying too much pressure when rubbing with the Smooth Away pad. It sounded plausible enough, so a week later, after the burning subsided and the hair grew back, I (idiotically) tried again. Despite my best efforts to be as gentle as possible, the burning returned, and this time, it brought friends! Along with the pain, redness and rash decided to join the party. More weeping, more ice packs, etc. I decided that the Smooth Away people were sadists -- rich sadists, no doubt -- and liars, so I ended up tossing the whole lot.

Two weeks later, I get a call from my mother.**

Mom: You know that hair remover you bought? Rub Off? Hair Away?
Me: Close; Smooth Away. What about it?
Mom: I saw it at Walgreens and decided to try it!
Me: What? Why? I told you about what happened to me.
Mom: Yes, but that was you. I wanted to try it anyway. So, I bought it a while ago but I forgot I had it until last night. I wanted to try it on my moustache.***
Me: Oh God.
Mom: So I rubbed like the thing said and it hurt!
Me: Why didn't you believe me? I told you.
Mom: [swears that I shall not translate] And then, when I woke up this morning, it was all red! Really, really RED. And I had little ... you know, spots? Like pimples. ALL ON MY UPPER LIP.
Me: *can't breathe, I'm laughing so hard*
Mom: WHY YOU LAUGH? DON'T LAUGH. I had pimples! RED PIMPLES all over my lip. I didn't know what to do! Oh God, Aman, I had a big meeting this afternoon, and I was talking to, you know, a manager, and she couldn't stop staring at my lip! She was giving me this ... look ... like she was so grossed out. She was so grossed out.
Me: *gasping for breath* Stop! I have to go to the bathroom!
Mom: Oh. My. God, I looked AWFUL. It kept getting worse as the day went on, too. And that's not the worst part.
Me: You're kidding.
Mom: I was talking to my coworker, and I told her about the Smooth Away, and how it made my skin blister and she said "Oh, thank God. I was going to ask my husband to get me some tonight, and now I know to stay away." BECAUSE OF ME.
Me: She owes you $10.
Mom: I'm the opposite of a billboard for Smooth Away!

Moral of the story: Smooth Away is terrible. I can't get over how something so simple caused so much pain. For all the irritation, I'd rather wax and have the results last longer.

Anyone else try it and have a positive experience?

--amanda

____________________
*I've also met men who insist on pointing this out. Yes, I have hair on my arms, thank you for pointing that out. You will have intense pain in your groin in 3 ... 2 ...
** She'll probably kill me for telling this story, so shhh! She already thinks I'm the Bad Seed.
***Her word, not mine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Voices Soft as Thunder

Dear No One in Particular,

A week ago Susan Boyle was not a household name. Now the 47 year-old Glaswegian is all anyone can talk about.* Since I'm an only child, and therefore the centre of the universe, I feel the need to weigh in.

What troubles me about Boyle's newfound fame is this ridiculous obsession with her appearance and its apparent relationship to her ability to carry a tune. Shows like "Britain's Got Talent" and "American Idol" rub me the wrong way because, as much as it is a search for a genuinely gifted individual, it's also freak show: attention seekers and clueless individuals alike are humiliated on national (and now international) television, creating a sort of weeks-long Roman holiday for the tuned-in masses. Naturally, this always works out well.
People are lauding Boyle as this season's Paul Potts: a working class schlub who most unexpectedly turned out to be a hit. Articles on Potts and Boyle often have an oddly reverential tone, as though they triumphed over great adversity -- but, really, they didn't. They overcame grinding mediocrity to become national sweethearts. That's the rub -- they're almost aggressive in their total normality.

Contrary to what people are saying, Boyle is not ugly. Sure, her brows could use a quick pluck and she could benefit from a slightly more flattering frock, but she's not exactly the monstrosity the media is making her out to be. Granted, she won't have a She's All That transformation should she make a threading appointment and slip into a new dress, but she's not climbing down from the bell towers in her current state, either.
So why are her looks as important as her singing voice? When token lady-judge Amanda Holden bestows Boyle with the backhanded compliment "I am so thrilled because I know everybody was against you", you can be sure the audience wasn't rolling their eyes because Boyle lives with a cat named Pebbles**. Why was the state of her hair enough to set an entire nation against this sweet, unassuming Scottish spinster? What shift occurred in our thinking that makes us equate external beauty with talent? Katy Perry is conventionally attractive, yet she doesn't exactly have the voice of an angel. Why, then, are we so ready to dismiss Boyle based on her looks? What prompts Ant or Deck to point at her gleefully and squeal "didn't expect that did you? Did you?! NO!" as she sings?

When I first watched Boyle's audition, I was actually a bit scared that she would be the British version of William Hung. You remember William Hung, right? God, I felt terrible for that man. The optimist in me would like to think that he was in on the joke, yet the realist in me knows this not to be true. Watching so many people laughing at him made me feel like the entire world was back in high school, bullying the poor "weird kid". I hated what happened to Hung, and I really wish that on no one.

There is no doubt in my mind that if Boyle was not in possession of a good singing voice, she would have been laughed off that stage. Hell, she was laughed at the second she walked on.
And here's where I express my most unpopular opinion: I don't think she's that good of a singer. Don't get me wrong, she has a beautiful voice, but she's not exactly blowing my mindgrapes with her rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream". She hits the notes perfectly (though she struggles a bit with the low notes), but there's no oomph. The whole performance, frankly, is a bit reminiscent of karaoke; I don't get a sense of strong emotion driving the song and "I Dreamed A Dream" is all about emotion, you know? It should sound like her heart is breaking with every syllable. I'm sure the standing ovation from the people who, just seconds before, were laughing at her affected her performance, but ... ok, I'm really cynical, but I think that if she had just a so-so voice she would have had audience support, and I think this is because the audience had lowered their expectations of her due to, you guessed it, her appearance.

As it is, Boyle really does have an immense talent and deserves to be praised. But what really floors me is how delighted people are to be proven wrong. If the media is to be believed, Potts and Boyle save us from our shallowness. Just as that teenaged snot in the audience rolled her eyes at Boyle, I can't help but roll my eyes at society: if we are simply giddy over our false judgements, why don't we actually take the necessary steps to remove such misconceptions? Why don't we stop the painful, mortifying auditions for American Idol and its ill-gotten ilk?
Why don't we do as Boyle recommends and learn the big lesson to stop judging a book by its cover. Since that book has no interest in being made over, let's focus on her lovely voice for once.***

--amanda


[ETA:]

Apparently, whether or not Susan Boyle needs a makeover is the talk of the nation -- I just listened to an interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation discussing this very topic. The contributor, Robin Givhan, a fashion editor for the Washington Post (natch), was insisting that Boyle be "polished": pluck her brows, get her hair did, etc. What galls me about this nonsense was Givhan's insistence that this is simply the way the music industry works. Boyle is talented, and will no doubt get a recording contract and then go on tour; she is expected to pretty herself up for her performances and be "the whole package". End of story. Now get in that salon chair, woman, and shut up until you're asked to sing again.

I call bullshit on this. No one is going to buy a ticket to a Susan Boyle concert expecting something on the level of Celine Dion. She isn't going to put a show on the for the masses, she's going to open her mouth and sing -- which is what she should be doing. I still don't see how the thickness of her eyebrows relates to the quality of her singing voice.

Givhan kept pointing out that singers -- really, performers -- are expected to look a certain way, and Susan Boyle does not fit that mold. While Gihvan points out that Boyle is something of a Cinderella story (I don't believe she is, but no matter) for the normal person (a fairytale in which someone who dares to be average reaches above average heights), she seeks to penalise Boyle for that very normality. Boyle has a gift, and we have to pretty up that package in order for her to be anything of interest.
Disgusting, and I can't believe my beloved NPR allowed such ignorant drivel to be spouted on the airwaves. Instead of insisting that this is the way the music industry works and condescendingly patting Boyle on the head, saying oh, it's lovely that you're you, but now you have to change, we should be engaging with why we believe that Boyle needs to slip into some Spanx and have her hair frosted in order to be a worthwhile musician. Again: bullshit. She's a worthwhile musician because she can sing, not because her highlights look nice under the stage lights.

All I'm trying to say is: the question should not be "does Susan Boyle need a makeover?" but rather "why do we insist that she does?"



_________________________
*The weirdest part about Boyle-mania? My father, who watches only 24 and CNN, knows who she is. Listening to him talk about her is like like listening to Paris Hilton wax intellectual about Keynesian economics.
**For whatever reason, I think 'Pebbles' is the most hilarious cat name ever.
***I love her for refusing a makeover. LOVE her. Her sensibility is refreshing and hopefully contagious.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

If I Were ...

Dear No One in Particular,

I first learned about Isabella Rossellini's new project, Green Porno, through the following quote:
"I was reluctant to do mammals, because they look so similar to us. But what's interesting about the whale is the female puts her vagina on the surface of the water, out of the reach of the male. Then she can see the males fight and she can select which one she likes, and then she turns over and lets him get to her. I thought, I can do that!"
I had no idea what she was talking about, but I wanted to know more.

Green Porno is a webseries hosted by the Sundance Channel. Starring Isabella Rossellini, it chronicles the sex lives of various animals. The first season was all about backyard bugs; the second, which premiered on 1 April, is about marine animals. The videos are super short -- only a couple of minutes long -- but chock-full of information and utterly hilarious.

Rossellini plays the animals featured; she begins each episode saying "If I were a ____", filling in the blank with the creature of the day. Various body parts attach to her, making her a male bee, an earthworm, a right whale. She then earnestly describes and acts out the mating rituals of whatever animal she happens to be, copulating with paper cut-outs or papier mache partners.

The webseries is unlike anything I've ever watched. It's so bizarre, I don't know what to make of it, but I know I like it. The script is fantastically funny -- I now pepper my speech with non sequitur quotes from the show, saying things like "I would light up my ass at night" and "so I don't get screwed by a bear!" -- but always smart. The science of reproduction is first and foremost; the humour and dry wit simply season the science.

Rossellini has said in many interviews that her goal was to make people laugh, but also to educate them. You giggle at the snail's confession "sadomasochism excites me!", while you learn that they shoot daggers at their mates.

My only complaint is that the videos are too short. While, admittedly, there's only so much you can say about starfish sex, the episodes are addictive and engaging. I want more! I only hope that season 2 hasn't finished yet. I want to know more about the sex lives of fish, plankton, whatever brings us more Green Porno.

--amanda

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What's in a Name?

Dear No One in Particular,

Last night, the Boy and I stayed up until 2:30 am talking about baby names.

Hold on -- let me be perfectly clear, in case someone I know finds this: I am not pregnant. I am so far from having children, I am not joking. I don't think I can handle a dog right now, much less a miniature human.

Ok, moving on. Back to the story.

So, for whatever reason, we were talking about what we would name our totally hypothetical future children. I love the Boy, but he's not allowed to name anything. He came up with some really awful options* but my favourite was far and away "Christian" for a boy.

The Boy's last name has very strong ties to the Roman Coliseum. Normally, this is just a neat little factoid about his family history. Yet with the first name "Christian" tacked onto it, it becomes a slightly different story: it is believed that many early Christians were executed in the Coliseum, oddly making it a holy, yet gruesome, place for modern Christians.

The hypothetical name is totally hilarious when taken as a whole, considering the Boy's surname and its connotations to the Coliseum's bloody history. Naturally, the Boy was delighted by the history lesson our hypothetical son's name would bear, especially since this apparently isn't common knowledge? So while most would think nothing of it, a handful would consider us to be either totally insensitive or big fans of gallows humour. I agreed so long as his middle name would be Leo.

Now I can't help but think that if our names shape who we are, what kind of person would a son saddled with such a name be like?

--amanda



____________________
*One of the suggestions? Wyatt. Totally serious. Yes, that would be a perfect name, especially if we have another boy named Jethro. They can play dueling banjos and and run around in overalls with no shirts on.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Epic Fail

Dear No One in Particular,

I arrived rather late to the "AmazonFail" party. I spent most of Easter Sunday either completely unconscious or feverishly delirious. When I became lucid enough to actually read up on the scandal, there were still few facts and a whole lot of theories floating about on the Twitterverse.

For those still unaware, news broke this weekend that online bookstore behemoth Amazon.com was systematically pulling the sales rank numbers from gay and lesbian books, labelling them "adult", thus excluding them from searches and best seller lists. The ramifications of such an action are massive. First of all, labelling such material as "adult" is patently ridiculous, especially since vibrators are available with sales ranks intact. How is a butt plug less "adult" than Ellen Degeneres's biography? Second, due to the massive stripping of sales ranks, when you enter "homosexuality" into Amazon's search engine, the first title that pops up is "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality"*. I'm not linking to that mess, but as of 7:53 pm Hawaii Time on Monday, 13 April, it was still the #1 spot.

I can't begin to express my rage and bitter sadness. I can do what Amazon claimed they were doing and think of the children. The tortured, scared queer youth who desperately want help coming out to their friends and family that click onto Amazon to find some literature and instead of finding something empowering, like the The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students, they're bombarded with homophobic tripe. That won't just send people back into the closet, it sets them up for a lifetime of depression and intense self-loathing.

This goes beyond Amazon trying to make a statement about homosexuality -- some books, such as Full Frontal Feminism and Chelsea Handler's memoirs don't quite fit the anti-gay purge -- which fits the original excuse offered by Amazon: that this is nothing more than a "glitch". But this fails to address the fact that author Craig Seymour's books were stripped of their sales ranks in FEBRUARY. This is not a weekend "oopsies", like Amazon would have us believe. There's something systematic about this, and it feels slightly sinister.

Amazon controls a LOT of data. They sell more than just books; they're becoming more and more of a lifestyle company: selling you stuff from conception to coffin, and everything in between. I don't believe that this is part of a grand scheme to bring an end to homosexuality (*snort*), but rather, a powerful, persistent push to further the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) and devastating homophobia that pervades societies world wide. And that is incredibly damaging.

Normally, I would give Amazon the benefit of the doubt. Like I said, they control a ton and a half of data: cataloging errors, as they later labelled the issue, are expected, and are expected to wreak utter havoc with the system. But again: this is not the work of a single, slightly inept man in France who mislabelled something during a long weekend. This has been going on for months. And I have no patience for Amazon's shady side-stepping and complete inability to apologize. Their PR department totally mucked this up, making it seem like the company really was up to something nasty, and the hesitation on Amazon's part was more than enough to send the rumour mills a-turning.
Really, I would have given them the benefit of the doubt if it weren't for the fact that Seymour's books were stripped months ago. That, coupled with the non-responses issued by various representatives and total lack of a formal apology, was enough for me to boycott Amazon.

This is a little painful on my end, since I've been a loyal Amazon customer for years. I've purchased many a textbook from them, and I buy at least one Kindlebook every two weeks. Hell, I've even bought lip balm and music through Amazon. I know it's folly to think that my tiny contribution to their bottom line will hurt them, but I can't give my money to a company I can't trust. I'm heading to my local library and independent used bookstores.

Now. If anyone knows how to get e-books for the Kindle without going through Amazon: I'll send you cupcakes and/or brownies. Seriously. The Kindle changed the way I read books, and I almost flipped when I realised that I'd have to tote around a 600 page hardback.

--amanda



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*Let me answer this oh so pressing issue of how parents can prevent homosexuality: don't breed, you homophobic hate-mongers. You're welcome. You may now send me the money you would have spent on the book. Spoiler alert: I'll donate that money to a local LGBT advocacy group!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

I woke up this morning with an intense bout of homesickess.


I don't know what brought it on. I suppose I had a dream about San Francisco, and the emotions that came to me in sleep carried over into wakefulness.

My friends and I jokingly resent the fact that we were lucky enough to grow up in the Bay Area. To us, it is the perfect place to live: temperate weather, incredibly diverse population, a city nestled between the sea and mountains surrounded by former hippie enclaves. There's no way we can move away and top that. (And we have tried. Trust.)


I also blame the Bay Area for making me a food snob. I see San Francisco as the gastronomic capital of America; the incredible diversity of Bay inhabitants leads to an incredible diversity of restaurants: some serve up deliciously authentic ethnic foods, some are on the cutting edge of culinary trends, some are hole-in-the-wall mom & pop operations serving up French toast so divine you will see God.

Of all the things I miss about the Bay Area -- Chinatown in all its morbidly hilarious glory; gold and red cable cars rumbling up the hills; former hippies mingling with "ironic" hipsters in notorious neighbourhoods; the chill, slightly salty air; stinky, barking, bellowing sea lions; The Palace of Fine Arts's terra cotta dome; passing over the salt flats as the plane dips into SFO; the Berkeley Bulb and the hidden, graffitied castle, perfect for wine and cheese parties -- I miss the food. Cheeseboard, Fentons, Citizen Cake, Kan Zaman, Sol Food -- oh, God, I miss Sol Food! I dream about their tostones. I wish I were kidding -- the entire Ferry Building: I could travel around the Bay Area and never eat the same food twice.

I have rituals whenever I go home; I have to eat at specific restaurants, eat certain foods I can't find in Honolulu. I have to have burritos, I have to visit Sol Food at least once, I have to have Cheeseboard pizza. It doesn't matter who I go with, I just have to eat these things -- these foods -- that I can't help but associate with home.
There is one restaurant, one ritual, that I absolutely have to do with my mother. As soon as I get home -- like, as soon as we get in the car to leave the airport -- we make plans to go to Out the Door. We must share a MANGO PUDDING as soon as possible. That's how we talk about it, in all caps: MANGO PUDDING. "Are you free Friday to get some MANGO PUDDING?" Naturally, they serve other things -- they have the most delectable summer rolls I have ever eaten. Seriously, I hate peanut sauce, but I just about lick the bowl when I order their summer rolls -- but for us, it's all about the MANGO PUDDING.



[all photos via: The Boy]

I haven't lived in the Bay Area for about 3 years now and sometime this summer, I'll be moving back an unemployed college graduate. I don't know what the future holds for me, but I know there will be much eating. Who knows -- I may find myself yearning for Honolulu.

So, no one in particular, is there a place your heart yearns for? Home? A favourite vacation spot? A fantasy home or vacation spot? Share with me and we'll pine together.

--amanda