Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Day, A New Year, A New Decade...


What a numerically auspicious day!

I have made wishes as the clock strikes 11:11 since I discovered the superstition as a child. I spent most of 1.1.11 making wishes, planning my intentions for the year, and yes, even devising a couple reluctant 'resolutions' to mark the fresh start.

Among them:
  • Write more!
  • Set clear(er) boundaries
  • Speak my truth
  • Live more fully in the present moment
  • Take things less personally
  • Drink more water
I made most of these after watching the final three minutes of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.

I imagine that I was not the only soul watching the televised ball drop in Times Square.

However, was I the only one wondering why Ke$ha in her green Lip Smacker and those gaudy "2011" plastic eye covers was chosen to help ring in the new year on camera?

Members of aging boy bands New Kids on the Block and The Backstreet Boys blandly resolved to spend more time with family or exercise more. Seacrest wore his best Guy Smiley face and pretended to give a shit.

Then Ke$ha blurted that she intended to "not be a douche bag."

Jeff Lebrecque finds this comment "irreverent" and "refreshing." I, conversely, think that the pop tart, by virtue of that very comment, could not sound morel like a D-bag. That plan for 2011 is working as well as my intention to remove refined sugar as a staple of my diet.

On January 1st, I awoke with a mild hangover and remedied it with a spoonful of Nutella, chased with condensed milk-sweetened espresso. Better luck setting boundaries and writing more...

Good luck with that those douche-y aspirations, girl. You have inspired me to add another resolution to my 2011 list: to continue to not listen to any of Ke$ha's music.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wax On, Wax Off...

One thing scarier than Paris Hilton's performance in the remake of House of Wax is a crotch full of it--wax, that is; not Paris Hilton--which I discovered first hand yesterday in Cambridge.

For years I have heard, read about and watched (remember that Sex and the City episode when the girls go to LA?) the joys and sorrows of waxing various parts of one's body. I even summoned the courage to have my eyebrows done by an esthetician friend of mine two years ago. It hardly counted, given my seven errant hairs. I struggle with certain body image issues, but a unibrow is not one of them. Besides, I pluck like a maniac!

Amazed that I had made it to thirty without having experienced a bikini wax, I thought that the time had come to put on my proverbial big girl panties by taking off the literal ones.

Before making the final decision, I consulted girlfriends who wax, some of whom have blogged about their own Brazilians, and read an array of online literature. Not one to pass judgment merely on hearsay, I insist on personal experience whenever possible to draw conclusions on my own.

Being a Myers-Briggs INFJ personality type, I carefully ponder every option before making well-informed decisions. Menu options can overwhelm me, so imagine the thought that went into ripping out hair on my hooha with hot wax! The entire process seems like a counterintuitive assault on the body.

It is. But, so are corsets, foot binding, Botox, 6-inch stilettos, breast (and any other bodily) implants and a plethora of other lotions, potions, contraptions, processes, practices and self-imposed torture devised in the name of fashion and beauty.

This wouldn't be the first time I subjected myself to pain for such superficial purposes. Besides, my Whiskers-like curiosity, pseudo-masochism and sense of adventure prevailed over reason and feminist sensibility.

The timing of my final decision coincided with bikini season and my 31st birthday. What a handy birthday gift idea! At least I wouldn't have to justify spending $50 of my own money on excruciating body hair removal.

Bikini waxes require hair a minimum one-quarter inch in length, which forced me to spend an itchy three-week phase of growing mine out. With my furious, clandestine scratching, I think that strangers suspected I had crabs.

The night before my appointment, apprehension set in and I nearly shaved it all in one fell swoop. After a 12-second internal gemini chat, the twins made peace and I opted to compromise with a bikini wax; just the outskirts would be affected.

Or not.

Allow me to break down the process.
  • I arrived five minutes early for a 10:30am appointment.
  • Entered the sterile waxing room looking like a deer in the headlights.
  • Met Roberta, my friendly esthetician.
  • Stripped everything from the waist down per Roberta's instruction.
  • Laid back on the gyno-like massage therapy table covered in wax paper (intentional?).
  • Let the fun begin...
Roberta exuded a warm professionalism and efficiently ripped my bikini line out by the roots. With a smile to boot.

"Ok, so that's it?" I asked. "You're fast!"

"No, there is more." she replied. "I'm from Brazil. You're getting a BRAZILIAN."

It was neither a question nor a request.

"Did you take Advil?" she asked.

In jest, I asked my boyfriend if I could pop a couple of his Vicodin before my appointment. Little did I expect to actually need them.

"Uh, no. Do you have any bourbon in the house, though? I could use a shot of...something."

Roberta laughed at my feeble funny as she ripped out round two of the runny, green wax.

"Almost finished," she reassured me.

We chatted about Brazil and Boston, our respective families and travels.

Each time she pulled out the wax, I flinched and once I even squealed. However, I took pride in my tolerance, given my boyfriend's mantra: "honey, you know what a low threshold for pain you have."

Determined to prove him wrong, I felt like William Wallace in Braveheart, covertly spitting out the anesthesia before being disemboweled.

After every strip, Roberta chanted, "almost finished."

"You said that fifteen minutes ago!" I whimpered.

When I could see not a trace of stubble, Roberta paused. I began to sit up, sweating profusely by now.

"Now, turn over."

"Wha-?? There is nothing back there you need to wax. TRUST ME." I assured her.

"Almost finished."

"Yah, yah. Listen, Roberta, I will pay you extra NOT to go there, OK?"

The effort was futile. Roberta covered every nook, cranny and crack.

"You don't have much there," she claimed. "Some women, they have lots of hair. Many don't like this part. They feel nervous."

Hmmm, I can't imagine why.

I surrendered and just pretended that I was visiting my gynecologist...and proctologist.

Expecting another thirty minutes of Brazilian torture, Roberta halted.

"Ok, done."

"NOW I'm done? But I'm finally getting used to this!"

Sort of.

I returned my panties to their proper home, checked to clock to learn that the process took about 45 minutes, and allowed Roberta to escort me to the front desk, where I tipped her generously.

"So, when you want to make next appointment?" she asked with a mischievous smile.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Joys of Neti Pot

*Post-publication note (10 June 2010):*
Upon editing this post, my boyfriend suggested that I refer the Neti pot interchangeably as "his" and "mine." Indeed, it does belong to him, but I use it intermittently. I have not yet committed to obtaining one of my own. Besides, "it's always more fun to share with everyone..."

This is one of the gifts I gave my boyfriend for his birthday. If you're thinking that it is:
  • a genie's lamp, acquired only with Aladdin's assistance
  • a handle-free teapot, short and stout
  • a fun new gadget for your next passion party
  • the best imaginable present
then you would be incorrect, but close.

It is, in fact, a handmade neti pot.

You are either reading this now with a quick nod and knowing smile, or with glazed eyes and a vague recollection that it may have been something you smoked in your dorm room...which looked nothing like that bizarre contraption in the picture.

For the neti pot neophytes, I will explain in greater detail. For you veterans, feel free to follow along at your leisure and add any a propos comments. I am hardly an expert; rather, a former skeptic who has recently warmed up to the notion that nasal passages could somehow benefit from irrigation practices, which is what the neti pot is designed to do.

Variations of neti pots have been circulating for centuries, originally used by yoga practitioners in India and the Far East to aid in breathing exercises. The popularity exploded in North America in the 1970s and is used to ease and help prevent sinus problems and infections.

I was first introduced to neti pot via infomercial during my freshman year of college. The demonstration fascinated, frightened and disgusted me, in equal parts. After watching the host shove a spout up one nostril, allowing salt water to flow up and out the other nostril, I put down my half-eaten slice of pizza and vowed never to subject myself to such home remedy torture.

After losing my appetite that night, I have since eaten my words. Now, more than a decade later, I use my neti pot daily. Mine is small and compact, easy on the eyes and true to its yogic origin. The aum design adds a nice, crunchy touch; and it matches my tramp stamp tattoo to boot.

My boyfriend's sinus problems motivated me to shell out twenty dollars for a neti pot, after years of avoidance. The birthday guinea pig volunteered to try it first. Every morning for three days I watched in awe. On day four, I tried the process myself, with shocking success.

I had intended to post photos accompanying the step by step process, but my vanity prevented me from doing so. While interesting, neti potting (an expression which I have integrated into my vocabulary, well aware that it may not qualify as a verb) is hardly a flattering activity. In lieu of my own nostrils, I have perused my internet options for other, existent blow by blow visuals. I discovered a helpful video proffered by the Himalayan Institute.

In a nutshell, for those of you who may still be confused:
  • Mix 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized salt (or the special neti pot salt, if you prefer to spend more money on the fancy stuff that has essentially the same effect) with 8 ounces of warm water (it should be the same temperature and saltiness of your tears)
  • Fill up the neti pot (each one is sized somewhat differently) with the water mixture
  • Tilt your head at a 45-degree angle (away from the neti pot and preferable over a sink) and place the spout snugly into one nostril
  • Open your mouth, bend forward and tilt your head further until the water fills one nostril
  • It will naturally drain out the other nostril
  • Continue the process until the neti pot is empty
  • Gently push air through both nostrils and allow the water to drip out
  • REPEAT the process with the other nostril
Voila! You have just completed a process I endearingly refer to as 'hippie waterboarding.'

It may feel counterintuitive and somewhat masochistic. I think it is. However, it has also helped assuage the symptoms of my springtime allergies, warded off my boyfriend's sinus infections and gives a great head buzz first thing in the morning. I hardly need coffee or Benadryl anymore; neti pot offers an apt alternative to both.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Everything is Broken

Broken bottles broken plates
Broken switches broken gates
Broken dishes broken parts
Streets are filled with broken hearts
Broken words never meant to be spoken
Everything is broken.

Seem like every time you stop and turn around
Something else just hit the ground
Broken cutters broken saws
Broken buckles broken laws
Broken bodies broken bones
Broken voices on broken phones
Take a deep breath feel like you're chokin'
Everything is broken.

The whirlwind of events over the past couple of months has left me in the wake of broken, lost and misplaced pieces of my life; literal and figurative pieces of physical, emotional and mental destruction. To dispel any doubt, I'm leaving no stone unturned; hence, the truncated Dylan lyrics.

In the midst of crisis lies the seed for opportunity. Or something. Isn't that what the ancient Chinese proverb teaches us, anyway?

That said, I have been granted no dearth of opportunity to put on my big girl panties and deal with it lately. In this case, 'it' encapsulates several components, which include, but are not limited to:
  • A broken digital camera
  • Lifeless laptop
  • Random broken household items, adding up to a rather costly TO DO list
  • The dissolution of my relationship with my live-in boyfriend
  • Extensive car damage, resulting from a fire on my turbo (which sounds naughty, but I assure you, it's been more frustrating, time-consuming and costly than anything else...)
Yes, I know that millions of Haitians could trump my Saab story with their own tales of lost loved ones, destroyed homes, demolished businesses, hunger, dehydration, lack of basic necessities...

I also know that there was a BUT point to make here, but now I've lost track of what that was.

Oh yah...and the devastating earthquake of Port-au-Prince compounded my January melancholia as I read headlines in a constant state of horror.

But, I mean, this IS about me, so let's get back on track, shall we?

My mother attributes this recent winter 'one step forward, 5 steps back' phenomenon to the stars. No, not Hollywood; the OTHER ones. You know, the zodiac. Apparently, mercury has been retrograde for some time now, affecting most saliently the signs ruled by that slippery planet.

There can't be THAT many Virgos and Geminis in Haiti...

Whatever the reason--astrology, karma, negative thoughts, mischievous deities, fate, destiny, free will, old fashioned back luck, none or all of the above, or something completely different--brokenness abounds.

The first two dictionary definitions of "broken" include:
  • Forcibly separated into two or more pieces; fractured.
  • Sundered by divorce, separation, or desertion.

But, pieces can be Gorilla Glued back together; fractures heal; new relationships arise from the ashes of divorce; separation allows for introspection; desertion....well, I'm not sure what good comes from desertion, but it must proffer some opportunity for growth. I'll think of something.

Things break; and they usually break OPEN. Even if it feels like Pandora's Box, the process invokes change, facilitating personal development and all of that encouraging therapy jargon.


So, why does the process feel so TERRIBLE?

We no doubt do it to ourselves.

My only advice is to JUST STOP. Stop fighting the current and enjoy the ride downstream.

Cameras, laptops, businesses, boyfriends, even engines...can all be fixed, replaced or released.

Or all of the above.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Million Dollar Question

"Blog (a contraction of the term "web log"): a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video[...]

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs." (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Blogging crosscuts a multitude of information and media currents, running the gamut of communication, dialogue, personal expression and interaction. It is a relatively new, somewhat unregulated and expanding media, which has exploded in the last decade, forcing the online world to keep up with its growth.

The blogosphere is democratic, interactive, and simultaneously diverse and specialized. It spans the spectrum from hard-nosed journalism to personal journal entries, offering something for just about everyone: niche blogs, anecdotes, press releases, how-to manuals, fact, opinion, questions, answers, perspectives and nearly everything in between.

In Clear Blogging, Bob Walsh asserts, "blogging is about power...defined as 'an ability to act or produce an effect.'" He continues, "blogging gives us a new way to communicate, to share, to influence, to connect, to outrage, to matter," (Walsh, 3).

Bloggers write to get and give attention, share ideas and expand on them, generate a voice and connect with other individuals to form a community in yet another realm of communication. The results are immediate, timely and interactive.

Mainstream journalism and marketing have primarily provided a one-way street of communication, speaking and writing from a position of authority to passive consumers and readers. The advent of blogging has shifted the power and granted the public a voice to talk back and influence the powers that be.

The inclusiveness and immediacy of blogging offer strengths:

  • Citizen journalism plays a key role in the dissemination of information and opinion.
  • Returning 'power to the people' with a democratic forum where anyone's words can be read.
  • Connecting with other, like-minded individuals in an increasingly isolated society.
"Blogging is the new campfire, office water cooler, town meeting, pub, and place of worship--the place where you can connect with people who understand you and who[m] you understand," (Walsh, 75).

However, there are also drawbacks to this double-edged sword of the information age.
  • Democracy in communication does not guarantee quality.
  • Reliable, interesting, timely, well-written ideas and information are hit or miss.
  • Readers must explore the blogosphere with a discerning, discriminating and critical eye to choose quality blogs; they can't believe everything they read!
Fabrice Florin claims, "It's wonderful to get everybody empowered to get their own voice, but journalism is the practice that requires discipline, training, and just like being a good doctor, a cop, it takes experience to get to a point where you can really serve the public," (Walsh, 214).

For these reasons and others, lines of demarcation have been drawn in the blogging world. Independent bloggers are not officially considered journalists and, hence, not granted many of the same privileges and protection. For instance, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently ruled that unaffiliated bloggers must disclose product endorsements in their posts. Affiliated bloggers, i.e. journalists, on the other hand, are not held to the same standards.

Journalism constitutes but one of several components in the gray area of the muddled, ever-growing blogosphere. Another popular form of blogging has emerged in the vein of the personal essay.

According to Phillip Lopate, "The hallmark of the personal essay is its intimacy. The writer seems to be speaking directly into your ear, confiding everything from gossip to the core of the personal essay is the supposition that there is a certain unity to the human experience," (Lopate, xxiii).

Many blogs adopt this personal tone, drawing their strengths from observations of the human condition through personal experience. "The spectacle of baring the naked soul is meant to awaken the sympathy of the reader, who is apt to forgive the essayist's self-absorption in return for the warmth of his or her candor. Some vulnerability is essential to the personal essay," (Lopate, xxxvi). A potential weakness of blogging as personal essay, though, is the slippery slope into narcissism.

Qualities that make for "literary" blogging in the tradition of personal essay, while avoiding narcissism, include:
  • The expression of a universal truth of the human condition through personal experience.
  • Discussing yourself without discussing ONLY yourself: using the self as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
  • Avoiding sentimentality: illustrating emotion, rather than describing it to readers.
  • Humility and/or self-deprecation, particularly in a humorous fashion, which makes the ideas more palatable to readers.
According to Lopate, "the trick is to realize that one is not important, except insofar as one's example can serve to elucidate a more widespread human trait and make readers feel a little less lonely and freakish," (xxxii).

Blogs like Gwenyth Paltrow's GOOP toe the dangerous line of narcissism, with its lofty and self-important tone and content. On the other hand, The Nienie Diaries, for example, addresses intensely personal issues and experiences, while universally connecting to ideas much greater than the blogger herself.

Even in the event of narcissism, if personal essay-style blogs are well-written, some self-absorption is forgivable. Conversely, blogs that could use polishing can still be entertaining, education and/or quality work, depending on the content. For example, a blog like passes for all of those things, despite minor errors in spelling, grammar and syntax. Ultimately, good content supersedes all other tricks of the trade.

The strongest blogs offer a diverse mix of both journalism and personal essay, providing reliable facts and a sincere, personal voice; clear, concise use of language and a casual tone that connects with readers on their level. Whether or not bloggers are considered journalists or literary writers, they are nonetheless, changing the shape of the information age and influencing the world.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Engrish Brog

I was living in Montreal when my sister emailed me the link to, a website dedicated to real sightings of incorrect and/or humorous English translations, primarily in East Asia.

Since I was a student in a bi-lingual (French and English, although Montreal is a de facto polyglot), multicultural, cosmopolitan city, I had been acquainted with the entertainment and occasional frustration of language barriers. However, most Quebecois ideas lost in translation differ from those rampant across the Asian continent.
  • Francophones make adorable references to things placed next to one another being "side by each." It resembles the anglo "side by side" enough that the similarity is endearing.
  • They make up cultural dishes with names like poutine, which would make anyone else in the world cringe.
  • The French word for "seal" always makes my dirty little mind chuckle, though.
Not unlike les francais themselves, their linguistic differences exude a certain--uh, no, not je ne sais quoi-- but a subtlety and delicacy which can be overlooked and excused with a sideways glance and slight smile. The charming inaccuracies simply add to their appeal.

However, on the other side of the globe, even the low-key mistakes appear in neon pink, usually on Hell(o) Kitty stationary. Like the crosswalk in Tokyo's Shibuya or a marketplace in Beijing, the Engrish transrations are an assault on the senses.

  • Cantonese menus leave me in stitches, not to mention curious about my questionable culinary options.
  • Cambodian instructions in English confuse me to the point that I'd possibly better understand the ones written in Khmer.
  • The fact that 'fuk' is even a word in Mandarin makes itself an easy target for juvenile westerners with potty mouths such as myself.
  • Japanese t-shirts boast poetic lines--sometimes entire novellas?--which, by the time the reader reaches the end of the story, realizes that there is no verb! And I thought that I was long-winded...
And sometimes I just see things like this and think, 'WTF?!'

Make no mistake, despite these observations, I am not an ethnocentric imperialist who is trying to exploit the westernization of the eastern hemisphere. Nor am I attempting to deconstruct the finer points of globalization and life among the subaltern. I have read Edward Said's Orientalism and my intentions are far less ambitious or lofty in nature.

As a traveling American, I cannot poke too much fun without admitting my own ignorance. After five years in La Belle Province, zee French still insist on speaking anglais avec moi because my attempts at their language are, at best, botched. At worst, offensive; hey, I just wanted to know about the baby seal...

Furthermore, after 2 years in Japan and trekking around Southeast Asia, my communication abilities stop short at truncated sentences, inaccurate conjugations, excited hand gestures, body language and a sheepish grin.

I pondered offering my services as an editor for local businesses, correcting the misuse of English. Is that self-righteous? I mean, I was a visitor, albeit a long term one, in their country, telling them how to spell properly. Then again, I would want to know if the Chinese character for "truth" that I thought I was getting tattooed on my arm was really the symbol for "duck." Hey, it has been known to happen. Most Americans don't know one from the other. I certainly don't.

I giggled when my former students would tell me about the "big political erection" in Tokyo or insist that they were "very boring" at work that day. However, I have no idea how to write the word election (or erection, for that matter) in kanji. In fact, I can't even tell you who the new prime minister of Japan is! I'm sure that the erection was huge, though...

Since I no longer enjoy the day to day culture shock and translations firsthand, I vicariously rely on It never fails to cheer me up, or at least invoke a knowing giggle.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Literary Pet Peeves

For my 25th birthday my mother gave me a copy of Lynn Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves, a book about common grammatical errors. It was written by a linguistic stickler for others who share a similar passion for proper grammar. It made my top list of favorite reads, not least of all because it pleases my inner anal retentive editor.

Given her taste in gifts, it should come as no surprise that my mother writes a weekly column for her local newspaper. She dedicates a closing paragraph each week to one "literary pet peeve." I helped brainstorm ideas, keeping Truss in mind, and my mother has included most of my suggestions in her column.

Since I was the mastermind behind most of those literary gems, why not include some of my favorites in a blog?

Pet Peeve:
a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to them, to a greater degree than others may find it.

That Wikipedia definition exemplifies one of the very literary pet peeves I'd like to list:

1) Using inconsistent pronouns in the same sentence.
  • "Them" refers not to a single individual, but to a group of people with a minimum of two persons.
  • The political correctness surrounding the usage of he/she frightens many writers into defaulting to a neutral description, often at the expense of grammatical accuracy.
2) Misuse of the apostrophe (').
  • The biggest culprits are "its" and "it's." It's a common error, I realize, but it's really quite simple. "Its" is possessive, like "his" or "hers;" one does not write, "his's" or "her's." Conversely, "it's" is a contraction for "it is." Simple, eh?
  • I used to work for a business whose graphic designer made a sign which read "Welcome to Belly Up. Box office located downstair's." The mental grammar sirens immediately blasted and I covertly told the owner. Unfortunately for me (fortunately for him, though), the sign was replaced with the correct use of the word 'downstairs' (sans possessive apostrophe) before I had a chance to photograph the evidence.
  • Take caution with your apostrophes, or you may upset the hippo's...
3) The use of the word "irregardless" in any context.
  • I have heard on several occasions, and even read on a few, sentences beginning the the following fashion: "Irregardless of the fact..." or something along those lines.
  • The accurate segues include "regardless" or "irrespective."
  • Somewhere along literary path, the two correct usages merged, creating the illegitimate misnomer which has become the commonly accepted, though ultimately incorrect, irregardless.
  • Even writing the extra two letters makes me cringe.
4) Saying "for all intensive purposes" in lieu of the correct "for all intents and purposes."
  • This may sound odd, but I have heard it on more than one occasion. In fact, and I admit this reluctantly, I uttered the improper form of the expression well into my teen years.
  • I recently discovered via Facebook that a high school crony also made the same mistake.
  • Our mutual friend noted this and asked, "what, dare I ask, did you think was an intensive purpose, anyway?" We offered similar sheepish responses: a shrug, a grin and, "I dunno, a really, really intense purpose?"
  • As far as I know, there is no such thing as an intensive purpose.
5) Replacing "it's a dog eat dog world" with "it's a doggie-dog world."
  • "Dog eat dog world" refers to the animal-like instincts of humans, who often hurt others for their own interests (not unlike dogs, at times).
  • I don't know what "doggie-dog" means, if anything, but I'm fairly certain that this malapropism emerged before the popularity of Snoop Doggy Dogg.
These examples hardly scratch the surface of daily misuse of the English language. In fact, an entire blog could be dedicated to literary pet peeves!

In the meantime, do yourself a favor: pick up a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, if you haven't done so already, and get better acquainted with the rules, even if you break them. Especially if you break them.