Archive for the ‘Yadda Yadda Yadda’ Category

Worst Baby Names of 2016

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

I’ve been seeing some lists floating around. I made my own.

  1. Aspic
  2. Balmoral
  3. Crevasse
  4. Effluent
  5. Dirge/Dirndl (tied)
  6. Frankincense
  7. Grotto
  8. Helium
  9. iPhone
  10. Janissary
  11. Klonopin
  12. Laundry
  13. Mange
  14. Namibia
  15. Ovoid
  16. Pterodactyl
  17. Quesadilla
  18. Rivulet
  19. Sorry
  20. Tissue
  21. Unguent
  22. Vengeance
  23. Whut
  24. Xingu
  25. Yling-Ylang
  26. Zumba

Sleepy Alphabet Tricks

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Sometimes when I’m lying in bed at night and wish I were sleeping, I challenge myself to generate alphabetical lists. When I choose the right sort of list, I find the task occupying enough to distract me from unpleasant thoughts (EARTHQUAKE EARTHQUAKE EARTHQUAKE) and calming enough (usually) to invite sleep. The first few lists I made were names: 10 “female” names for each letter, A – Z, and then ten “male” names. At some point I switched to books and movies; I’m currently working on plays. (Stuck on J. Please do not help.)

Two recent lists that I enjoyed making immensely: movies with one-word titles and movies whose titles begin with progressive verbs. Remember, I made this late at (or in the middle of the) night, with no access to IMDB. I’m reconstructing both lists here, from memory and imperfectly.

One-Word Movie Titles

  1. Amelie
  2. Babe
  3. Chicago
  4. Dune
  5. Election
  6. Fargo
  7. Gremlins
  8. Happiness
  9. Inception
  10. Junebug
  11. Koyaanisqatsi
  12. Lilies
  13. Memento
  14. Nell
  15. Oliver
  16. Parenthood
  17. Queens
  18. Ray
  19. Sideways
  20. Thumbsucker
  21. Up
  22. V (oops, TV miniseries only)
  23. Wild
  24. X-Men
  25. Yesterday (guessing that there’d be a movie with this title; there are several)
  26. Zoolander

Progressive-Verb-Initiated Movie Titles

  1. Awakenings (well . . . that’s a gerund, so . . . maybe doesn’t count?)
  2. Breaking Away
  3. Capturing the Friedmans
  4. Driving Miss Daisy
  5. Eating Raoul
  6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  7. Going the Distance
  8. Hanging Up
  9. Inventing the Abbots
  10. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  11. Kicking and Screaming
  12. Leaving Las Vegas
  13. Making the Grade
  14. N . . . NO N? There’s NO N?
  15. O . . . also no O?
  16. Playing for Keeps
  17. Quitting Time (guess)
  18. Remembering the Titans
  19. Saving Silverman
  20. Trading Places
  21. U . . . I think I feel asleep here.
  22. V . . . and now that I’m awake, the Internet isn’t helping.
  23. Walking and Talking
  24. X . . . ha ha ha ha ha.
  25. Y . . . nada.
  26. Z . . . kaput.

Okay, so perhaps this latter list wasn’t as successful as I’d imagined. Maybe it was the two-word title list I loved? So you have that to look forward to, if I ever get around to reconstructing it. Meanwhile, I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice that almost all of the lesser-used letters are at the end of the alphabet. How did that happen, I wonder? And why are the vowels so evenly distributed?


For the Love of Ramen (and Where Are they Finding the Duck?)

Monday, March 9th, 2015

First things first, Bay Area: If you are a living human being with a functioning sensory system and an appreciation of deeply layered flavors, get yourself over to this place. I’m not an expert in ramen or anything else, really, but OMG OMG OMG, GREAT BROTH OF SENSUAL WONDER! It was basically a (very large) (quite beautiful) (appealingly imperfectly hand-made ceramic) bowl of salty, earthy, smoky, umami-y liquid fat, with chewy noodles to soak it all up, plus various chopped items (cauliflower, cabbage) to hold the globules of deliquesced pork belly in their cruciferous crevices.

Deep bog of aromatic unction, when will I next experience you?

(Answer: I ate some of the broth, with newly cooked noodles, for lunch just now. It was but a sliver  of an intimation of a suggestion of la chose même, but oh, adipose cauldron of slippery saltiness!)



Suddenly, apropos of pretty much nothing, I realized that there must be iPad apps to learn/remember/re-learn languages. As is probably evident from the above, I really love French, even though my experiences with it throughout school were mixed. (Spanish, which I also took all the way through, was for some reason taught by far more competent people, resulting in a far more competent level of fluency.) Anyway, so, I tested into a beginnerish level of French and began running my lessons.

Almost immediately, I was reminded both of how delightful it is to learn to say very basic things in other languages, and also how random those basic things so frequently are. Sample sentence #1, translated from French to English:

“Where are they finding the duck?”

Which raises so many questions. First, why is more than one person looking for the duck? Is the duck that important? It seems like one person could potentially cover that job, given that there’s generally a lot of other stuff to do in life. Also, they haven’t already found the duck, I see, so much as that they are currently in the process of finding it, which limits the use of this sentence quite dramatically. What are the chances, after all, that I will one day need to ask one person about a group of other people who are currently not simply looking for a duck but in the very act of finding it?

Or are we perhaps talking about dead duck? At the market? At the fourth cart on the left? Is that where they’re finding the duck?

I’ll never know.


“It’s my first cow.”

Yup, that’s another sentence that I had to translate from French to English in one of my initial lessons. This one also seems fairly limited in usage potential, given that I would have to come to own a cow. Of course, the minute I did come to own a cow, it would be my first cow. And I suppose it would remain my first cow, no matter how many other cows I would later come to own, or not. (Newsflash: “My second cow is young.”)

Sure, I understand that I’m not literally learning, Suzuki-like, to parrot existing constructions but instead to make sense of subjects and verbs and objects, to which extent meaning is not entirely relevant. And yet! It seems possible that someone could have rethought “Where are they finding the duck?”

For about a week after I began these lessons, John and I kept having the following discussion:

Me: Where are they finding the duck?

J: I don’t know. It’s my first cow.

M: Of course! How could you know? It’s only your first cow!

J: My second cow is young!

And so on*.

Fwiw, I’ve now switched to Spanish, since it’s far more useful and also since I read in a NYTimes article about Japanese AirBnB hosts that, at least según Japanese AirBnB hosts, the French are the very worst house guests. (Random, I know. And unfair. And yet, it soured me, a little, on the duck-loving French.) The Spanish lessons have yet to charm me as fully, but I did place much higher up the chain, so perhaps they feel they have to be sensible with us higher-level learners. Or perhaps it’s all waiting for me in the subjunctive!

*Our sewer lateral replacement guy is French, and he arrived this morning (before, very shortly thereafter, departing—I’ve not seen him since!). When I was greeting him I asked him how he was in French, and he very quickly launched us into a French conversation; after a couple of volleys, I very quickly choked. Nevertheless, I did manage to ask him where they were finding the duck! And he told me that “La Canard” is not merely a duck but a newspaper, or perhaps what they call the newspaper? Either way, good to know!**

**And then there’s the “joke”/”trick”/”ruse” connotation of “canard.”

Duck’s got legs!



Thank You, Bay Area

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Today is the 15th anniversary of my arrival in the Bay Area.

I’d love to write a long and loving piece about everything that this exceptional place has given me, but I’m cramming in more than a reasonable number of end-of-the-year projects before we head east on Monday, not to return until 2013. So instead, I’ll write a quick little gratitude list.


1) The weather. True, it’s funny to write about climate when it’s currently 55 degrees inside my home, but that’s more about the lack of central heating in 100-year-old structures. The weather here is glorious, almost all the time—and it’s (almost) never too hot. In 2012, we had one day above 90 degrees. (My dear friend O will remember this day as coinciding with her 40th birthday party.)

2) The people. What I sought when I came here was a community of open, compassionate people who were interested in looking at themselves to uncover depths of feeling and live according to their values. Done. Thank you, friends.

3) The culture. It’s not just that we have fantastic theater and performance of all kinds—although we do, and John and I certainly partake—but that there’s a pervasive, kind-hearted social consciousness that makes living here feel rich and connected. So many people are working on important issues, from social justice to the environment. And if you’re interested in doing personal growth work, you’ve come to the right place.

4) The work. I write, as you know. And in the Bay Area, I’ve been able to make a living doing that—and in more than one way. I’ve also been lucky to find clients who value my work and treat me beautifully. Thanks, clients.

5) The geography. Marin Headlands. Mount Tam. Twin Peaks. Berkeley Hills. When you’re in the flats, you can see these gorgeous heights. And when you’re on top of them, you can see the Bay Area, laid out before you like a bumpy blanket of beauty. Almost never a bad view.

6) The food. Mexican, Ethiopian, Burmese, Vietnamese, Korean. Raw. Macrobiotic. And vegan all-of-the-above. Is there another place in the world with so many vegan restaurants? And oh, the produce. Satsuma mandarins—and Satsuma sweet potatoes. Hachiya persimmons. Fuji apples. A bazillion types of lettuce. And melons. And tomatoes. Honestly, if we ever move away, I may miss the produce most of all.

7) The Mr. Yeah, maybe there were other guys in other cities. Maybe. John was in Berkeley, and that’s where I found him, and I’m keeping him. In a month, we hit our 11-year mark, and I’ll be ordering up about 100 more.

Yes, there are a few elements of life in the Bay Area that I would love to wish away (earthquakes, parking, housing costs), but they’ve all been worth it. I came into my own here, and I could not be more grateful.

Gratitude to all of you for reading, and Happy Holidays! See you in 2013.

On Cooperative Games

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

I have a competitive streak. A tiger-fierce competitive streak. So even though winning is anything but a core value—as a resident of Northern California I recognize the myriad inherent problems with competition and believe in cooperation as the more effective approach—when I play games with others, I very intensely want to win.


As a service to my fellow game-players, I try to keep this impulse in check. But it is NOT. EASY.

One of the things that has been suggested to me is to play the newfangled cooperative games, in which everyone works together toward a common goal. My friend Carey (Hi, Carey!) helpfully brought one of these games over, and she and I played together.

Verdict: While there was some relief in knowing that we would share the same fate, that very knowledge did sap my motivation of some of its fire. Weirdly, at the same time the game felt very stressful, because the stakes were so high: If we didn’t get often the island before it sank, we were both going to die! AAAAIEEEEE!

Cue this morning’s conversation, with John.

J: Last night Steve was telling me about another cooperative game, called Pandemic.

M: Uh-huh.

J: You work as a team to save the world from a deadly infection.

M: Uh-huh.

J: And it’s not at all clear that you’ll be able to succeed!

M: Oh, great.

J: What?

M: So everyone dies!

J: Yeah.

M: Of a miserable disease!

J: Well, if you fail.

M: You don’t even get to drown!

J: No.

M: I’d rather lose at Cranium than die at Pandemic. At least with Cranium you’re not worrying about the fate of the ENTIRE EFFING WORLD.

J: [Laughing.]

M: I need a cooperative game that is not about the end of the world. Like, what about we’re in the supermarket, and we have to get everything on our list before it closes?

J: Okay, or what about you’re the caterer and you have to cook all of the food before the wedding starts?


Malaise-a LaVigne, Depressed French Drag Queen

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The 5:30 P.M. sundown is back, and with it the inevitable early-evening malaise. It astonishing how quickly it sets in: The clocks go back, and BOOM. 5-7 P.M. is suddenly a netherworld of ennui.


Last night as I was pouting through dinner, beginning to question the meaning of . . . you know, anything, I realized that I must be experiencing la malaise saisonnier. And to help me embody this decidedly uncomfortable state of being, I invented:

Malaise-a LaVigne, Depressed French Drag Queen

For Malaise-a, every day is uninspiring. In fact, every moment is utterly un-thrilling, to the point of pretend tears. You could sit her down in front of a parade of giant tap-dancing lemurs, and it would only make her heart cry out in pain.

“I het mahnkeys,” she would say. “I watch until one of zem falls down, and zen I laugh weakly, only to show Death zat he has won yet again.”

Naturally, this cheered me up immensely.

And because she later said this—“Tomorrow eez not anozer day. Eet ees zee same day, but wiz a different name”—I think we might be seeing more of Malaise-a.

Melissa Levine, 5-Minute Babysitter

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

The other night during a visit to the restroom at Picante, I had a peak babysitting experience.

It went like this:

As I was exiting, a father was ushering in his young daughter, a big-eyed sprite with a mop of black curls. As he did, he kept reassuring her that she could do everything by herself.

“Go ahead, Sweetie,” he said. “You know what to do.”

But she didn’t know. She bumped around, bumble-bee-ish, without going anywhere in particular. And this was before she had even properly entered the bathroom.

“Would you like some help?” I asked in their general direction.

“That’d be great,” the father said, so I led the little mop into the restroom.

“Why don’t we choose one of the stalls?” I asked.


“This one looks great,” I said.


I opened the door and, without a word, she pulled down her pants, turned her back to the toilet, hopped up, and began to pee.


As she finished, I said, “Do you know where the toilet paper is?”


I pointed to the dispenser. “It’s in there. Would you like to get it yourself, or would you like some help?”

Silently, she reached over and pulled some toilet paper out.

“There you go,” I said. “Now it’s time to wipe.”

Pants at her ankles, she hopped off the toilet, turned to face it, and patted her rear with the paper. Just a couple of gentle love-taps, high on the toosh, nowhere near the Danger Zone. I opened my mouth to say something, but then—not my child! Not my problem!

Say it with me: Melissa Levine, 5-Minute Babysitter.

She pulled up her pants, flushed, and we headed for the sink.

“Let’s wash!” I said.

We placed our hands in front of the sensors and let the water flow.

“This feels so good!” I said.

She smiled.

“I love washing my hands!” I said.

More smiles.

“Let’s get some soap!” I said.

We got some soap, and I began to sing a  washing-hands ditty. Smiles smiles smiles.

I started to dance. She started to dance.

“Now let’s get dry!” I said.

We danced over to the hand dryer, and she stuck her hands in. WHOOSH! Dryer on.

We danced around the dryer, singing about how much fun it was to dry our hands.

Smiles. Laughter. Joy. Healing. Unicorns leaping over rainbows.

A moment later, I delivered her back to her father, mission accomplished.*

*Nobody say anything about the wiping.

I am a babysitting genius! For 5 minutes!


Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Last night John dreamed he was running an applesauce factory, and all the pipes were half-pipes, like aqueducts, and applesauce was spilling everywhere.


Dishes, Chez Nous

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

In our house, the dishes policy is basically 50-50. If we eat together, we wash together. If we eat apart, it’s DYI.

There’s some leeway, naturally. If John leaves a few breakfast dishes before dashing off to work, I throw them in with my lunch pile. And because I don’t much like washing plastic bags, he does more than his share of those.

Good, right?

It is good. But once in a while, my obsessive need to calibrate accounts results in discomfort. Witness:

Yesterday, mid-afternoon. I’m washing John’s breakfast dishes, his lunch dishes from work, and my own pile. PLUS he’s left various cleaned-and-dried things out from the night before (to avoid waking me with the clattering noise of putting them away, I later learn). PLUS there’s a pile of plastic bags that he hasn’t addressed for a couple of days.* So I’m feeling grumbly and put-upon, especially when I get down to the bags.

*Through no fault of his own, really. The man has been out of the house from 7:30 – 9:30 (or later) every day.

So I’m beginning to rinse the bags, thinking, “This sucks,” “I hate this,” “Why why why why?” and “You know what I should do? I should just put these with his stuff,” when I get a really good idea. I should just put them with his stuff! And the reason I know it’s a good idea is that John has actually suggested it in the past. So I bundle the bags together, grab a Post-It, and label them “Anti-Resentment Campaign.”

And when we get home from Teatro ZinZanni last night (at 11:24), he finds the bag and loves it.

“Good plan, Sweetie!” he says.

I know, I know. He’s awesome.

Flash-forward to this morning. Because Teatro ZinZanni was a post-holiday celebratory event with John’s office (thanks, John’s office!), John’s allowed to show up to work late. So we’re both home, making breakfast, showering, etc. And as per usual, I leave my dishes in the kitchen for later, because I owe it to my adoring public to be at the computer as soon as humanly possible, lest you suffer from extreme wanting.

And all of a sudden John charges out of the bedroom, iPod in pocket, ear buds in ears, a man on a mission. And I know what mission that is! It is the Dishes Mission!

M: Sweetie, I’m planning to do my dishes.

J: No, I’m planning to do your dishes.

M: I’m going to counter that with a No, I’m planning to do my dishes.

J: I don’t mind.

M: No, but it isn’t right. I haven’t done enough of yours.

J: But what about the anti-resentment campaign?

M: That was just the bags. And it was just one day.

J: It was . . . yesterday.

M: But you haven’t built up enough undone dishes to do as many dishes as I just left in the kitchen!

J: But that . . . what?

M: It’s too much! You’re tipping the scales! Too much!

J: [Laughing.]

M: Seriously! It’s upsetting! Don’t overdo! Do. Not. Overdooooo!

J: [Quickly calibrating how best to set me at ease.] But I like to do a lot of dishes at once. It makes me feel like I’m not wasting water.

M: Oh. Well, that’s . . . good.

J: So it’s fine.

M: Okay. Okay, I guess.

J: [Looking at the dessert-of-breakfast yogurt bowl in my hands.] I’ll do that dish, too. When you’re finished.

M: [Cupping bowl protectively.] Okay, fine. Jesus.

Three minutes later, John passes back through my office and swipes the bowl from my desk.

J: Got the bowl!

M: Oh, fine, fine. But I feel bad.

J: [Charging back into the kitchen.] It’s really okay.

M: Wait!

J: What?

M: Here, you forgot my napkin. Can you put it back in the drawer?

J: [Laughing.] What?

M: I feel bad. But not that bad.

A Little Ditty on a Topic of Great Importance

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Automatic faucet,
you make me so mad.
All things about you
are totally bad.

You’re hot when I’m hot
and cold when I’m cold.
You clearly were fashioned
in a stupidity mold.

I can’t turn you on
without just the right spot
which is frankly a mystery
as often as not.

And then you turn off
before I can lather—
another big bother—
as surely I’d rather

be able to handle
the knobs on my own.
I know when I need you
and when I am done.

But you couldn’t care less
about what I need.
Thus I’m driven to drivel
via Internet screed.