Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Universal Disgust


I love my nephew so much. He's much sweeter than anyone else I know -- except for maybe his dad, my brother Ilya. At 15, big kid that he is, he still cuddles up in Ilya's lap.

He sent me this Facebook thing today, a protest that if McCain is elected that he won't go to school on Nov. 5.

The amazing thing is that the kid lives in Denmark.

We ate hot falafels until we cried in Tel Aviv last April. I know he's too big to think of him as my baby. But he is.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Full and happy

This picture of me with singer Amos Lee was taken solely for the benefit of my former intern, Carlin, who is a huge fan of his. He was very nice and didn't make me feel like a dork for asking.

I missed a couple days of dispatches from Pop!Tech, mostly because they had me so dang busy thinking up ways to save the world. And of course, there was my mad passionate affair with lobster. However, I no longer discuss my love life on this blog, so you'll just have to use your imagination about the things I did to those poor unfortunate crustaceans.

I wish you could have come. I wish you were moved to tears with me when Ben Zander made a room full of 600 people sing "Happy Birthday" to one person, like it mattered. Like it was a ballad to a disappearing lover. Like it was the celebration it should ALWAYS be.

I wish you could have talked all night about energy and politics to Rufus Cappadocia, a revolutionary cello player who has deconstructed classical music into something so deeply moving and profound and funkalicious.
The economy as told by Juan Enriquez, illustrated.

I wish you could have watched Juan Enriquez so eloquently describe how the US got into the clusterf*ck it's in and how we need to get out -- if we can at all. I'll have a manifesto for you to mail into your leaders soon.

I wish you could have breathed the snappy Maine air and slipped through the carpet of leaves on Camden's sweet narrow sidewalks.

There will be video posted of all the presenters, we're told, and I'll point you to the ones you absolutely cannot miss.

In the meantime, I leave you with my new friend, Frank Warren, who spoke about his Post Secret project in which hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world have sent in their secrets for him. He does it for the love of humanity. He has saved lives because of this project. Write to him sometime, it's cheaper than the shrink.

Frank Warren wants to know your secrets. I didn't tell him any,
mostly because I have so very few and don't want to run out.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pop!Tech - Day 2 - Love and Horror

This second day of Pop!Tech inspired by beyond any words I can piece together. I heard Imogen Heap, one of my faves, LIVE, 50 feet from me. She is beautiful and charming. But the overall mash up from the day, without looking at my notes, is this:

  • Passion and creativity do not come from your head. They come from your heart.
  • Create for one person. Make it good. Make it the best it can be.
  • Love is the square root of everything.
  • You can text 30644 with the word FISH to check to see if your sushi is from a sustainable fishery. More at http://blueocean.org/.

    On a more horrifying note, my mother's home caught on fire. She's OK, as is the dog. A faulty heater set the bathroom ablaze and wrecked the back half of her home, and the roof. Her clothes and carpeting are ruined. Here's the amazing thing: For her birthday last Sunday, I sent her a Mexican bingo game and a Virgin Mary bracelet. The fire stopped at the bracelet and all her paintings -- 100 or so -- were spared from fire, smoke and water. She is also lucky enough to have a friend who is putting her up in his empty apartment, but she still needs a bed -- if you live in the Port Townsend/Seattle area and have a bed she can borrow until we figure out what's happening, please let me know.

  • PS -- Tonight Malcolm Gladwell introduced me to his parents and gave me a piece of dark chocolate. I was all tongue-tied. And at dinner, by happenstance, I sat at the bar of Cappy's, ordered my lobster and began talking to the woman next to me. Turns out she's married to Richard "Empire Falls" Russo, who won a Pulitzer Prize. This is all surreal. The nexus of all my favorite things and people. I will probably meet God tomorrow.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Pop!Tech - Day 1 - Speaking the Unspoken



    Holy crap I am hyperventilating about what just happened on my way back from the opening-night cocktail party, but first here's the meaty part of the post:

    I am here in Camden for my third Pop!Tech conference, where culture and technology come together, presented by today's greatest writers and thinkers. Today there were special pre-conference sessions. I went to see Joe Navarro, a retired FBI profiler, who spoke about nonverbal communications. Among the gems he imparted to us:


    • We are constantly transmitting information by how we present ourselves, our
      actions, expressions and how we choose or not choose to appear.

    • Our limbic brain controls our emotions and "gut" reactions; thinking is not involved.

    • Pointing with one finger is one of the most offensive things you can do. Use
      your whole hand to wave, instead.

    • When we get away with something or when we get caught, we do the "tongue jut," ala McCain after the last debate.

    • The most honest part of anyone's body is his or her feet. Watch where they are
      pointing, or not pointing. That will tell you everything. The face is the least
      reliable.

    • The weak never assess or adjust their judgment if a situation or person is a threat or not a threat. Think of paranoid schizos.

    • Watch what happens when you shake hands with someone. Do they back up? They need more space.

    • Watch people who display their thumbs out of their pockets, like doctors or politicians or even Sarah Palin. It means, "We are not equals."

    • Always frame people in blue; it is soothing and also a demonstration of power.

    • If you want someone to rememeber something, present it in yellow against a blue background.

    • Life is a movie, not a photograph. But you can tell a lot from a photograph.

    • To establish an empathatic channel with someone, use the same word as they do.

    • A head tilt is one of the most powerful comfort signals there is. Abusive
      mothers do not tilt their heads toward their children.

    • You can tell which child a parent favors by his or her body language. Watch for the weaker, more relaxed leg toward the favored child.

    • There is no single behavior that is indicative of deception; just look for indicators of stress. Which you can find out about in Navarro's book, "What Every Body Is Saying."

    Before I tell you about how I made a geek of myself in front of one of my heroes, I will tell you that I made a new friend upon checkout, and we are suddenly BFFs and tomorrow AM we will go to yoga where he promises to teach me to fly! (It involves me balancing my pelvis on the soles of his feet.)

    OK, so we're leaving the cocktail party, walking up the blustery, leafy streets of Camden, and a guy with a radical mop of hair asks us where the restauarant is and is the party still going on. I take a look and without thinking, I blurt out, "Are you Malcolm?"
    "Yes I am."
    I introduce myself and tell him I am a huge fan. And of course he thanks me.

    This is Malcolm "Blink" and "The Tipping Point" Gladwell.

    And then we told him where the party was and send him on his way. And I start hyperventilating and staggering up the street because I have read his work and it has affected me most profoundly. And then my new friend Michael and I start emailing and texting people that we just met Malcolm Gladwell as we say "holy shit" to each other over and over again.

    This is going to be an amazing conference. It feels like the first day of the best semester ever. Holy crap. Malcolm Gladwell.

    I am such a geek.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    The Maine Event


    Cousin Elizabeth's daughter, Mary, can kick
    anyone's hiney when it comes to monkey bars.

    Each October I haul my tukus all the way to Maine, where I go to recharge in nearly every way. First I spend time with family, get all gushy, and fantasize about moving here (where you can buy a huge house with water view for 300K, a Victorian manse for $600K). Then I hit Pop!Tech in Camden, which fills my head with radical and innovative ways to make the world a better place. (Feel free to drop in any time, the conference will be webcast!)

    It is all a state of absorbtion. Absorbing the good, good fun I have with my cousins and their kids. Absorbing words from great minds and souls like Malcolm Gladwell, Chris Anderson, Brian Eno, Imogene Heap, Tom Friedman (I bumped into him last year, got all weak-kneed and asked him to sign my book), the people who started KIVA ... the list goes on. The world's best thinkers and creators, telling us how they did it and what we can do.

    And each October, I realize how I need to quit whining and realize how lucky I am that I can come here, that The Powers That Be at work are supportive and understand that if I don't feed my creative brain I might die, that my family is hilarious and lovely and will take me in, no matter what tales of chaos I bring to the table.

    Oh, and have I mentioned that my last 4 out of 5 meals have involved lobster? ($3.99 a pound! Bad for the lobstermen. Good for us, though.)


    My handsome, charming and freaking hilarious cousin Seamus serves up a "lobby."

    Friday, October 17, 2008

    It's Just Not Working Out

    Dear Frigidaire Dishwasher,

    I loved you from the start. You, with your shiny stainless chest, your sleek black sides. That Smart Soil SensorTM that separated you from all the other contenders. Those cute little groaning noises you made when you were working really, really hard.

    You fit in so well with the family: The stainless/black Frigidaire fridge, stove and microwave. Don't you remember when we were all so happy together?

    You gave and gave and gave, only asking for a little Jet Dry in return, every now and then. And I?

    Well, I don't like to keep score. You know that. I'm not petty. But I think you should know that I had my WHOLE GODDAMN COUNTER replaced, in GRANITE, so that you would fit nicely, not jutting out like an ass all the time from the original too-narrow 1947 tile counter. I had to fire one counter guy and fight with the second, who drew on my freshly painted wall IN PEN, just so you would have a frigging decent home.

    But then you got all leaky -- major puddles -- and I couldn't figure out where the water was coming from. I even ordered a $13 gasket smaller than the top to a small yogurt container that came in a gigantic box.

    OK! So maybe I didn't hire a "professional" plumber to get you all back and nestled into place. Maybe I didn't "realize" that you need only special dishwasher soap. And maybe, just maybe, I should have "turned on the water supply" before running you again to see if my Christian Science approach to your healing had worked.

    That stinky smoke smell you've been belching out all evening? Is that a hint? Do you hate me? Do you want me to replace you with a younger, shinier model? In this economy?

    You know what? I don't know how to express what I'm feeling in words. I'm still processing. Can we just take some space from each other for a while? Good. Because I'm going to Maine to Pop!Tech for a week and I'll just leave you home alone to think about what you've done.

    Yours in Christ,

    Vanessa

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Cheap Chic! Body Lotion!


    My fave bloggers are all about living on the cheap these days; to wit: Bake Like a Ninja and Half-Assed Kitchen. They also happen to be hilarious and lovely people, too.

    I work with a sassy and charitable and funny woman named Katie. Over lunch the other day, we lamented that our high-power friends who ALWAYS make money are scratching around for work. Our sort-of employed creative type friends (the class to which I usually belong) are having a REALLY tough time of it. What we realized that in this time of roller-coaster economics, we're kind of like bonds. We're not in the sexy or exciting job. We tell people we work at the power company and they're all, like, "eh." But what we traded for is stability, and the good feeling we get when we can take our friends who need it the most to lunch.

    Which leads me to a new feature on 40licious called "Cheap Chic!" with a cost-cutting measure so that you can still live your fabulous glam life, but without spending a lot of dough. Today's entry: Body Lotion!

    Body Lotion!
    Assemble all the creamy lotiony stuff people have given you over the past couple years that you never quite took to, or products that you bought for your face but didn't work out. Now empty them into a large measuring cup, and whisk them around for a while. Add some olive oil, drop by drop, to increase viscosity. Then add a drop of essential oil or two, or maybe some vanilla extract, and put it all back in the most decent bottle you have from the bunch, maybe with a new label. Voila! New life for old lotion! More space on the shelves! No perfectly good stuff in the landfill! No having to hassle with the overly made up woman in a lab coat at Macy's!

    DUDES: You can also use this as a thoughtful, homemade gift for your lady. She won't even notice her stuff is missing. HOWEVER: MAKE SURE that you are not using her Creme de la Mer or similar expensive face cream that she relies on every morning to make her feel human. Your gesture will backfire and you will feel bad, and then she will feel bad because she knows you were trying to do something nice, but damn, that stuff costs $119 at the Duty Free place and, well, just never mind. Thank you, honey.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Irony Check

    On a scale of 1-10, how ironic is it to administer my glucosamine, probiotics and vitamin tablets with a swig of organic merlot?

    Getting Engaged



    This video made me want to do something to help somebody. To engage with the world. To shut my trap and actually do something with the creative brew inside. To be a better person.

    Will.i.am for VP!!!!! Write in!!!!!

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Two Weddings


    #1 - Saturday night
    Malibu beach at night. Beautiful dahlias and matching red and orange tablecloths. Congressman with dentist-white teeth officiated, full bar. When I say "Malibu Beach," I mean that. We were not allowed to go inside the historic mansion. Cold. Gathered around heat lamp. Sneaked back to cocktail area, swiped red shiny tablecloth and wore it as my wrap the rest of the evening, as we foraged for food. To be fair, they DID serve food. Tiny burgers, cones of fries, grilled cheese that quickly cooled in the windy night air, little Chinese containers of shrimp chow fun. Danced and danced and danced in order to preserve all limbs from falling off.

    #2 - Sunday morning
    Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at LA Music Center. Bagpipes ushered us in. Stunning view of Downtown and mountains from 5th floor on impossibly crisp, clear LA day. I was inspired to begin with, because the bride is my good friend Liz, who is 62, has never before been married. She was fine, alrighty, with her perpetually terrific haircut and living her good political life, making the world a cleaner, greener and more honest place. Then six years ago she went to the opera, by herself, and the man who sat next to her, also by himself, was to soon become her best friend. Then boyfriend. And now, husband.

    The amazing thing about this wedding was that it was all organically Dale and Liz. From the second the 60-something matrons of honor took the stage, I became unraveled. He read her a thoughtful, funny, poignant letter of vows. She read from her hurriedly scribbled paper, tacking on a "right to revise and expand" clause. The officiant was kindly, warm and wise in his words. One child sang "Home," from the Wiz, another played a slow and sweet excerpt from a concerto whose composer has left my brain. Throughout the ceremony and reception, Dale and Liz were cool, collected, and wildly passionate about starting their lives together.

    I choked through mascara-laden tears because I was so truly, genuinely touched by how they made this day their own, how they will go forward and make their life their own.

    And I took their vows, and made them my own. Just in case.

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008

    Woefully Unhip


    My coworker Steve has quit his job. He wants to do more meaningful things in his life. Like go to Southeast Asia for three weeks on Monday.

    My heart is heavy for two reasons: Because he was one of the two people from work who came to see Barry Manilow with me in Vegas for my 40licious birthday, and that cemented our friendship forever; and because he gets to move on, and not me.

    Tonight Steve and I went to celebrate and calibrate at the Edison Bar downtown, which is beautiful and mysterious and at the end of the evening, a woman in an angel bikini sauntered out and got in a cage, which was rasied over our heads. She did splits and intense gyrations 20 feet above the ground. I hope they paid her well.

    I have usually operated on the principle that I am the one who is likely to change. That I normally have a mouth full of news when someone asks what's up. Tonight, it's not me. Tonight, I'm the audience. Tonight, I'm staring down property tax bills. I'm glad that the dramatic spotlight falls on someone else's beautiful face. Just for tonight.

    Monday, October 6, 2008

    Friday, October 3, 2008

    A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

    I used to be open, loving, trusting, funny. I used to be patient and flexible and have a ton of cash on hand, just in case. People used to ask me, "what's up?" and I would could be cool and pithy in my reply.

    Now, I am none of those things. I am a hardened woman. And broke. I have traveled to the inky depths of my soul, and it scares me.

    You see, I have just undergone a kitchen remodel.

    Arthur, my contractor, is a lovely man. He was really, truly considerate and wanted everything to be right. His workers, Luis and Francisco, were flirty to the exact correct degree and quite talented and respectful, for the most part (I am overlooking the cigarette butts in my pepper plant and the mysterious disappearance of my eagerly anticipated leftovers.) Everything was priced just fine. I hired a different guy for the counters, fired him because he was a jerk, then hired a man married to my coworker to do the counters.

    I'm getting weeded by details, but suffice to say, after many, many trips to Home Depot, a leak in every hose, dust in my nose, electrical erratica, and more cultural and language barriers than Sarah Palin at tea with a Pygmy king, my kitchen is complete.

    It started like this. It had gone virtually unchanged since 1947, with perhaps the addition of new appliances in 1974.

    Then I arrived in summer of 2005, introduced the new appliances, an Italian ceramic tile floor and a paint job that turned out to be waaaaay too pink.


    I was carried away with the DIY spirit, and figured new hinges and a brightening of the cabinets would do the trick.


    Um, no. I was thinking "ballet class" theme with pink and black and white. Instead it was more like, "French prostitute flophouse."

    There was also an orange incarnation of cabinets, but that was too ugly for pictures. None exist, so please do not pester me with requests for photos. Like you know you want to.

    Then I went with just white and black and lived like that for a couple more years. Hinges didn't work quite right. Doors didn't shut all the way. Used a rickety metal cabinet I found on the street that left rust stains on the floor. Finally, the cumulative effect was to make me crazy. I'd snicker at the unstable cabinet and hurl insults at the doors when they kept popping open. It became time to ask for help. Professional help.


    After an initial extortion bid from Home Depot ($22,000 for cheap-ass resurfacing! With vinyl! On my cabinets!) I found Arthur from the underground network of people tippped off by the Home Depot coordinator when someone doesn't work out for them.

    There was this.


    And now, I am pleased to introduce my beautiful new kitchen. Come over sometime and I will proudly make you a sandwich and place it on my loveliest plate, which you can see through the clear glass in the cabinets.