Thursday, December 28, 2006

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste

George and I are off to the villa in Lake Como to ring in the New Year. We'll think of you dutifully drafting your resolutions as we sip bellinis under the moody Italian sky and go cliff-diving into the Med.

(Come now, don't be jealous. We'll invite you over next year if you're good. And by "good," I mean "bribe us shamelessly").

So here's to 2006! See you next year.

Random shit I wanted to post that has no feasible connection whatsoever to any definition of "rawness"

Ok, funniest thing I've seen in months.

Click on the link to behold the fabulosity.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey

Last night over Christmas dinner we had the pleasure of drinking a lot of ridiculously good wines. Gotta love Christmas for giving you an excuse to pull out the big hitters. The night was actually bookended by a little local red zin, though - a bottle we popped open early in the evening to sip on while baking, and another that, following some big cabs and a little bubbly, finished out the evening. I woke up this morning and the first thing I thought of (well, the second thing, actually; the first thing being the vague ache in my temples as I hit snooze for the twelfth time) was how damn *good* that little zin was. I can still remember that first impression rolling around in my mouth; the little raspberry brambles and the fuzziness of the berries just filling my tastebuds.

So if you're looking for a nice little Napa wine, or just want an excuse to find a package full of vino sitting on your doorstep, check out the D-Cubed website and order a few little post-Christmas treats for yourself. It's really a delicious little find, and a great introduction to red zinfandels if you haven't had much of them in the past.

You can find the site here, along with the vintner's back story and a few cute little quirks: D-Cubed Cellars

Friday, December 22, 2006

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.

And cue the silence.

The mass holiday exodus has officially begun. I woke up this morning to quiet streets, the strange void of no doors slamming, and the exaggerated squeak of my bare feet on the hardwood floors. It's Christmastime in the City, and that means one thing: everyone flees.

High on the laundry list of reasons that San Francisco rocks my world is its nature as a haven for transients, a destination from which few have come and to which many have escaped. It's always been that way, really, since the Gold Rush days on, and it remains a city where people come looking for something, flush with high expectations of widespread granola and anti-Bush bumper stickers and wild sex orgies in the street. And, given the right time of year, all of those expectations can pretty much be fulfilled. The upshot of this is that with so many transplants and so few natives, the City really empties out come holiday time. It's at once eerie and fantastic, but I'll take it, though I do miss the low baritone rumblings of the guys next door, strangely enough.

They're playing the Yule Log this year again on TV on Christmas Day, and I've gotta say, it's on my calendar. As long as I'm in the house, that little baby is going to burn, burn, burn. Don't know what I'm talking about, you say? Read here for the story of this hilarious holiday tradition. I discovered it last year in the throes of a not-so-stellar Christmas, settled here at home on my sofa with a pan of lasagna, a half-empty bottle of Bailey's, and the tinny sounds of 1970s "Little Drummer Boy" carols coming from the TV. And at once the sick notion of a perpetually burning yule log ON THE TV and the strange comfort it gave me to know other people out there were watching this absurd shit made me smile, and take another swig of the Bailey's, before diving facefirst into my pan o' lasagna.

Enjoy the long weekend - and if you are anywhere near Denver, I hope you're loaded down with lots of hot chocolate, a bottle of Jack and a few good books. We've been complaining about the rain and the wind here, but all I have to do is read the news reports from Colorado to know that I'm immensely content to be exactly where I am. As for me, it's going to be a weekend of baking, yoga, a few little Christmas gatherings, and maybe a quickie service at Grace Cathedral - they really know how to do the music right, especially if you've got a hankering to sing a bit. Mostly, though, I'm psyched to take advantage of the girls upstairs being away by playing piano and wailing my guts out without having to worry about them stomping around (i.e. passive aggressively telling me to shut the hell up). Sweet! Gotta love those thin Edwardian walls.

Cheers, and happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained

And you thought YOUR parents had issues?!? Someone's going to need a lot of therapy someday.

Woman Puts Baby Through Airport X-Ray

Monday, December 18, 2006

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data

Some of you may know that I shake martinis a few nights a week at a dimly-lit place here in the City. I must say, in spite of being pretty seriously introverted, I just love bartending, and have come to really look forward to those nights as a welcome change from my quieter days, which are generally spent in some combination of writing, researching and yoga. It's a perfect contrast to being so stuck in my head, and I love the physicality and the fast pace of it, along with the added benefit of getting to know so many cool and interesting people who I otherwise would just not run into.

That being said, I also meet a lot of men. Which I am, for the record, totally not complaining about. Added perk of the job, shall we say. So, as a bartender, I probably talk to, oh, say fifty men an evening, give or take, and the vast majority of them are cool, good for a laugh, good for a flirt if I'm feeling like it. Always makes for an interesting evening, and I love the rush of the unexpected dreamboat sitting down at the end of the bar when I am least expecting it. But now and then I do get the random stalker type who nurses a little crush while failing to realize that no, I am not in love with him, I just get paid to talk to him. There's a difference.

But after a little run-in over the weekend, I've got men on the mind; more specifically, older men, confidence, and the bizarro phenomenon of misguided entitlement that one sees now and then as a young chick behind the bar. So this guy comes in Saturday night. He'd been in a few weeks ago, maybe a month ago, and we'd had a few conversations about football, the weather, San Francisco, you know. The usual small talk. He rolls in again Saturday night, sits at the bar, and I can see from the look in his eyes that - oh dear god - we've got a case of the Misguidedly Entitled Middle-Aged Man Syndrome. What is that, you say? Well, briefly, it's when some middling 45 year old dude, in this case a Danny Devito lookalike (minus a few pounds, plus a bad goatee) decides you, a smokin' and independent young chick, are definitely into him (on the basis of, well, no evidence whatsoever), and proceeds to harass you with irritating confidence while grinning slimily and checking you out when he thinks you're not looking. It's pretty gross. Leaves you feeling slightly molested. And makes you wish you weren't trapped behind that bar and having to make further conversation in spite of your lack of interest and, well, complete revulsion.

So, long story short, this guy proceeds to harangue me with "When are you free??" and "How can I take you out?" and "When are you here?" etc., ad nauseum, while I, stammering awkwardly, and being the awful liar that I am, mutter something about being really busy, uh, "baking for the holidays" and whatnot. Yes, I actually said that: "No, sorry, I can't go out with you, because I am really busy baking for the holidays." Ok, I know that's pathetic, beyond pathetic, and I promise to come up with a better retort next time, something along the lines of being a lesbian and having a boyfriend who is a 7'5" body builder (yes, both of those things at once). But anyway - if you're a dude and the chick you just asked out tells you she can't go out with you because she's busy BAKING for the HOLIDAYS, don't you get a clue and realize she is definitely, most definitely, not into you??

Well, not this guy. He persisted. He asked my co-worker how he could get me to go out with him. He tried to follow me out. It was bad. Really bad. And finally I got rid of him. But now I am going to be holding my breath every time he rolls in, all 4 feet of him, flashing that stalkerly glint in his eye.

And the whole point of this, what I keep rolling over in my mind, is the way this parallels other experiences I have had in the past with older, socially inept men following me around in public places and carrying themselves with this insanely overblown sense of confidence in their powers of seduction. And I am just baffled as to where this false confidence comes from - especially when I flip the gender roles and imagine if it were, say, some middle-aged housewife a la Roseanne Barr following around, say, Justin Timberlake and assuming with the utmost confidence that she could absolutely seduce him with very little effort. That's laughable. I don't see it happening that way. What's the deal? I mean, obviously, there's the well-known double standard of older men being with younger women. But geez. Most of the time those match-ups involve clear trades of cultural capital, e.g. Donald Trump's vast wealth and social power for Melania Knauss's great beauty and reproductive capacity. (Not to be too crassly sociological, but that's a pretty accurate understanding of those types of relationships, per social theory). What about for those of us who don't trade in those kinds of extreme sources of cultural capital but still see this dynamic reproduced? Where does a middle-aged Danny Devito lookalike get that kind of swaggering confidence? I don't get it. I know it's gendered, I can see that, but geez, wow, this is ridiculous.

I don't know really what my point is - just that this is happening, and will continue to happen, and where the hell do these guys get their blind confidence in the face of clear rejection? And is there anyone out there who is 7'5" and wants to stand in as my body builder boyfriend for the next time this dude rolls in and sits at my bar??

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.

It's official: vegetarians really are smarter.

Kids With High IQs Grow Up to Be Vegetarians

The smarter they are, the more likely they'll shun meat as adults, British researchers contend.

FRIDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- As a child's IQ rises, his taste for meat in adulthood declines, a new study suggests. British researchers have found that children's IQ predicts their likelihood of becoming vegetarians as young adults -- lowering their risk for cardiovascular disease in the process. The finding could explain the link between smarts and better health, the investigators say.

Could've told you that myself!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste

Last night I saw this film, and man, it was a piece of shit. MAN! Piece. Of. Shit.

Yeah, yeah, so I should've seen it coming. Holiday movie, Cameron Diaz, Nancy Meyers writing and directing...all the puzzle pieces fall into place easily enough to predict that it's going to be a pretty blase clump of bourgeois cliches. But it was a cold and windy night, and I had the evening blessedly to myself, and so I popped into the movie theater for a quickie as I am wont to do when that sort of situation presents itself.

But geez. It was a thousand times more stupid and offensive to intelligent good taste than I ever imagined.

Ok, so first of all, Nancy Meyers is officially a schlockmeister. Her writing is such cliched bourgeois middle-aged woman fantasy crap, from the cheesy-ass Thomas Kincaid cottage in England to the one-dimensional archetypes (the cad! the plain Jane! the old guy who imparts the wisdom while doing cute old man things!) to the utterly whitewashed occupants of her films (hello, post-imperialism Britain: no, they are not all white and Anglo). Critics raved about her Something's Gotta Give from 2003, and so I expected to like that one, too, given that Diane Keaton can be a pretty sexy older-lady badass when she wants to be, and Jack Nicholson's rogue act never fails to charm me. But when I finally did catch it once on a cross-continental flight, I almost ripped the little TV monitor out of the seat in front of me, it was so bad. Embarrassing, cliched, whitewashed, bourgeois, blah. The thing that really riles me about Meyers' stuff is that she so clearly thinks she's saying Big Profound Things about sex and love and relationships and independence and whatnot, and in fact is often described in reviews as providing characterizations that are empowering, and I've gotta say: where the HELL does that idea come from??? Her characters are all prancing around like little children (witness the usually elegant Diane Keaton flitting around like she never had a self-possessed moment in her sixty years) or utterly swimming in insecurity (as are both Winslet and Diaz in this film). And if I ever have to sit through another gratuitous air-guitar scene, I think my insides will shrivel up and die.

And on that note: Cameron Diaz. Wow, dude. The woman is stunningly beautiful, I will grant that. But jesus. Her acting in this film is the most piece of shit acting I have seen in a long, long time. Overacting up the wazoo. Arms flailing, face scrunching up into ridiculous contortions, mannerisms so affected and cutesy and over the top, I was ready to walk out within the first five minutes. How does this woman get roles?? Obviously it's not on the basis of her acting. Now Winslet, on the other hand, was quite good, per usual, in spite of the dreck she was given to work with, and in spite of some awkward moments with her supposed lover, Jack Black, who tried desperately to be the straight man while slipping here and there into his classic manic Jack Black-ness. And Jude Law, well, let's just say Jude is the only reason I stuck around. I seriously started to get up and walk out when the urge to vomit got too much to bear, but then I'd think of the fifty-foot Jude who was due to replace Diaz onscreen any second, and settle back into my chair. The guy is lovely. And granted, while his character was yet another Total Shit Piece of Middle Aged Lady Fantasy, he was still pretty to look at, despite the godawful things they gave him to say. I just have to say, on behalf of all not-middle-aged-ladies who do attend the movies now and then: LET HIM BE A CAD! Please! Don't apologize for the pseudo-caddishness at the beginning by castrating him halfway through the film ("oh, he's not a dashing playboy, he's a sad widower with two little girls and the perfect dad who spends his weekends looking for tutus"). Yes, the tutu thing is an actual part of the script. Let him have his balls! Please! The characters are so much more fun when they actually have a few layers and they aren't so goddamned easy to like! In fact, I liked him better before he was the dad who sews buttons onto the kids' sweaters at night! Arghh!!

Sorry. This rant has been coming for awhile now. I just feel like Meyers' films represent so much of what is so wrong with mass-marketed art and culture and aesthetics right now: they are so whitewashed, so clearly motivated by this bourgeois white fantasy of a land where everyone wears neutral tones and decorates in Pottery Barn and reads Jonathan Franzen and listens to boring music and wallows in questions of self and everyone is white and pretty and upper middle class and utterly vanilla. Give me complicated, give me messy, give me diverse, give me difficult. Give me no easy resolution at the end. Give me more Jude Law in a topcoat and glasses. And just give me no more Nancy Meyers. Ever. Again.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.

I've found my official December 2006 theme drink. Thanks to Larry the Bartender at the old man dive bar around the corner for this delicious discovery. If you can't find me at any point in the next three weeks, you now know where to look.

Larry's Late Night Post-Champagne Nightcap:

6 oz coffee
1 1/2 oz Rumplemintz peppermint liqueur (like peppermint schnapps, but 100 proof!)
1/2 oz Creme de Cacao, swirled on top
Whipped creme to finish

All my favorite things - coffee, cordials, and dessert - wrapped into one.


Friday, December 8, 2006

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air

Have you been following this story about the missing San Francisco family that was stranded in Oregon and eventually rescued, only to find the husband's body floating in a creek after he'd gone off to find help?

It's absolutely tragic and I can't seem to get it out of my bones.

Seems like the case has gotten quite a bit of national media coverage, but if you're not familiar with the story, basically a young SF family with two small daughters veered off into a canyon in some rugged terrain and bad weather on their way home from a trip to Oregon the weekend of Thanksgiving. After being stranded in the snow for a week, burning the tires for warmth, etc., the father finally set off in search of help, and the mother and two daughters were rescued by helicopter 9 days after being stranded. His body was found, dead of hypothermia, on Wednesday afternoon. For some reason, I just can't shake the sorrow of this story. The whole city's talking about it; not only was the father a respected and beloved local guy, but people just somehow found themselves highly invested in this sweet little family's hope for a happy ending.

Yesterday I was walking down past the Wharf to run a few errands and noticed that the flag there was half-mast, and teared up all over again. The news coverage was such a rush of joy and fear, especially when the days passed and they still couldn't find the father, knowing that the nights were dipping to 20 degrees and there was increasingly little chance he could've survived. I think the saddest part is knowing that the two little girls, aged 7 mos. and 4 years, will not know or remember their father, outside of a few blurry memories for the older daughter. It's amazing how a routine trip home from the holidays can suddenly change everything. All those Buddhist themes of transience and living in the moment rush into my mind as I try to make sense of this sort of thing; how little we can plan for, and how much of living is knowing that all meetings end in separation, and that, in spite of the tragedy and seeming implausibility of getting lost in the mountains in a country that sometimes seems to be all interstates and cell phone networks and wireless connections, it's still possible to lose everything in a wrong turn.

Sorry for the heaviness; it's been weighing on my mind, and in this holiday season when we're so caught up in sparkles and scents and sights, it's a sobering reminder not to take one single second of it for granted.

Enjoy your weekend, the holiday parties and the snow and the cold. We're getting our first "big storm" of the season tonight - nothing in comparison to what many of you in the middle of the country are getting, but a storm nonetheless. Stay warm, and hug your pets and/or children and/or live-in mistresses.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men - go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families - re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.

-- Walt Whitman, from the 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass

(I love me some Edward Hopper! This one: "Compartment C, Car 293," 1938. Oil on canvas.)

Monday, December 4, 2006

Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal

In breaking world news, we have a Christmas tree!! And now the whole place smells like forest. Delicious.

Yesterday's Times had an important, if not particularly incisive, article on the increasing minority of straights in long-term relationships who are choosing not to marry as a statement against the continued illegality of marriages for all people who'd like to commit their lives to another person. I was glad to see this article for a number of reasons: first off, because it makes the important point that this is not just a "gay" issue, it's a matter of civil rights being violated, similar to the ways in which blacks were not permitted to sit at pre-1960s lunch counters, etc. That comparison might not be completely perfect, but I do think it's apt in drawing on past examples of civil rights violations that were once perceived as "normal" being flung out into the light as obsolete and unfair. And in reminding us that it's ALL our responsibility to cry out against that, especially those of us who have the luxury of marrying without being questioned by the government.

Secondly, as vanilla as this article is, I'm glad to see it appearing in a mainstream rag. I'm not surprised to see mention of the whole Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt refusal to marry. People are often quick to deride celebrity attempts to make political waves, but I have to say how pleased I was when they made that statement. Joe Blow at the supermarket check-out stand might not read a polemical treatise about how marriage is a civil rights issue, but he'll sure as hell pick up InTouch to find out what Angie and Brad are doing. And it's in the baby steps that things change. So check it out:

"The Sit-In At the Altar: No 'I Do' Til Gays Can Do It, Too"

Friday, December 1, 2006

Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal

Support World AIDS Day

It's World AIDS Day. Do something.

The Chron did a week-long series earlier this year to mark the 25th anniversary of AIDS in a city which has been, of course, particularly shattered by the epidemic. This link will take you to any number of articles, charts, links, etc. Really very touching and eye-opening.

It's definitely worth a look.