Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mostly Mismatched ...

Regular readers know the story of G. We met on Match. We had a few good months, until we didn't.

When it ended, friends asked me if I was going to resume my Match membership. No, I told them. I just needed a break. And then, in July, I received a letter from Match. Turns out, due to a settlement (not that Match used the word "settlement"), I had a month of service coming to me. All I had to do was submit an e-mail with the customer number in the letter and Match would activate my membership again for one month, no strings attached.

So I submitted the requested information and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And on August 1, I heard from a Match employee, letting me know that my account had been reactivated. He apologized for the delay. The response, the letter said, had been overwhelming.

All those people, wading back into the dating pool, taking another chance on love.

Faced with the prospect of getting back on the merry-go-round, I had one reaction: Ugh.

As I wrote in this post, "Do I not really hunger for the food pellet of love?"

"... lately I've been wondering just how much I want it," I wrote. "If I'm so reluctant to wade into the waters, do I really care about getting to the prize on the other side?"

I figured that my account would be activated the day I logged in. So I waited, mustering up resolve to dive in. I'd updated my profile, posted a new photo (the one on this blog). I was good to go. All that remained was for me to flip the switch and make it public. I took a deep breath, and at 7:23 p.m. on August 26, I unhid it.

At 7:45 p.m., I had my first wink. Match has a winking feature. You don't have to write a word, not a single keystroke. All you have to do is click the wink icon, and the person whose profile you're viewing receives an e-mail. "What a compliment! Out of millions of users, UserName winked at you!"

Yippee! Some guy is so interested in pursuing a relationship with me, he depressed a button on his mouse! A girl could swoon from so much flattery!

The e-mail alerts started rolling in. Some were e-mails, most were winks. Some included pictures, many didn't. I asked one of my would-be suitors, "What's the deal with the winks?" And he told me that for every 20 contacts he'd send to women, he was lucky to hear from one. So he wasn't winking to be lazy. It was just part of the numbers game that is online dating. If he winked at a woman and she winked back, then he'd take the time to actually write to her.

Oh. Well. That's some seriously bad PR for my gender. It seems terribly rude to simply ignore someone who takes the time to say hello. I feel compelled to write to everyone, winker and writer, even to say I don't think we're a match. And I take the time to read their profiles first, so I can cite something from the profiles in my replies. Maybe they read my profile, maybe they didn't (I suspect a lot of guys base their decisions on pictures alone), but it felt like the right thing to do, to read theirs.

If finding a life mate is like a search for a needle in a haystack, you better turn over every rock you happen upon, just in case. It's always the last place you look, right?

Some guys' missives were brief. One simply said, "Hi." Some guys' missives were overwrought, effusive and flowery and what I can only surmise is the male take on what they think women want to read.

But we don't. Not this woman, anyway. Just plain honest and funny go a long way.

I've spoken to two guys on the phone. One last night, one tonight. Last night's conversation was more like an interview. I felt like I had to keep asking questions to keep the conversation from dying out. He's German. Apparently, listing German on my profile as the language I speak is like a beacon for Chicago-dwelling German guys. He told me he was shy. It was sweet.

Conversely, within seconds of getting on the phone tonight, I was cracking up and 83 minutes later, we were still laughing. There were serious moments, but the zings were flying. I love conversational sparring.

So I hid my profile tonight. My Match "month" was really only five days. My profile got 543 hits. I didn't hear from all those guys, of course, but I've written more than 60 e-mails over the last few days. Several guys wrote back to thank me for responding. Eeesh. Basic kindness shouldn't be in such short supply. If a guy approached me in a bar, I wouldn't just ignore him. I see no reason why cyberspace should be any different.

A few guys have my e-mail address. We'll see where things go.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Ultimate Bushism ...

Watching the news tonight, I went slack-jawed when the anchor reported that Bush, in New Orleans for the anniversary of the Katrina disaster, said the federal government would do a better job next time.

Hey, George: How about making sure there's not a next time?!

Monday, August 28, 2006

It's Been Curbed ...

Part of me feels like an anthropological failure, but I'm throwing in the towel. I cannot bear to watch another episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

I've posited in the past that perhaps my problem stems from watching it on DVD, one right after another. Maybe the show is more palatable as a weekly item on the television menu, but for the love of God, the samey-sameness of it all is killing me.

I mean, sure: Every show has a theme. I get that. "Friends" was about six pals in New York City, but within that framework there was interplay. One week, we were focused on Joey making a fool out of himself in a laughably bad play. The next week, we were focused on Phoebe singing off-color kiddie tunes. The same, but different.

But with "Curb," every week, every single week, Larry does something socially stunted, Cheryl shakes her head and rolls her eyes, Jeff props him up, life goes on. Until the next time Larry does something socially stunted, Cheryl shakes her head and rolls her eyes, Jeff props him up, and Richard Lewis acts manic. Or Wanda Sykes gets in his face. Or Susie has a fit. Blah, blah, blah.

I was so enthralled when I first started watching the show. Genius!, I cried to my television. The man's a genius! Finallly, I felt like I was in on the "it" conversation happening all around me. But watching made me weary. Episode after episode, Larry, Larry, Larry. And all I can think now is, "Why does Cheryl stay with this putz?"

Is it the money? Is he that good in bed?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

'Tristan & Isolde' ...

In the spirit of "Braveheart" and "Rob Roy" and all those other epic battle movies, "Tristan & Isolde" combines a bleak color palette and grubby locations with actors with perfect teeth and perfectly applied makeup. Did you know they had eyeshadow in the Dark Ages? Me neither.

So the movie, clocking in at just over two hours, feels even longer, but that didn't stop me from watching the "making of" featurette when it was over. I love the "making of" featurettes on DVDs. Most of the time, they're really fascinating, revealing how certain shots were composed or how certain locations were chosen.

But the "Tristan & Isolde" featurette was different. This time, almost everyone bitched, almost exclusively, about how little money they had to make the film. It went something like this: "It was really hard to built these sets with such a small budget," "This film looks like other epics, but we had very small budget," "Normally, I'd have 80 stunt men for five months, but not this time, because this film has such a small budget," "I've made films with big budgets, but this wasn't one of them. We had a very small budget," "Did we mention that we made this film in spite of a small budget?" "Mee mee mee mee mee mee, mee mee mee mee mee mee, small budget."

For the love of God. OK, I get it. You made this film on a small budget. So I went to IMDb to see just how small it was, and you know what? It's not listed. So I Googled "Tristan + Isolde + budget" and lots of sites mention the now-legendary very small budget, but no one seems to know the dollar amount of the very small budget. Apparently, it's a mythological very small budget. (Complete aside: I'm watching "Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones" - well, I'm not actually watching it, I'm writing this, but it's on the TV, and I just gotta ask: Was Natalie Portman's acting so stilted on purpose?)

So, the very small budget. We can only hypothosize just how small the very small budget was for this movie, but it made less than $15 million, and you gotta figure that they had more than $15 million to make a film that shot in Ireland and the Czech Republic, so we can presume that it lost money, which is to say it did not earn back its very small budget.

Aside from all the griping, the movie itself was fine. Not great, not awful. If you like period pieces and you like love triangles, it's worth a view. The battles aren't as bloody as "Braveheart," but then, Mel Gibson likely had something larger than a very small budget. (He made "Braveheart" for $53 million in 1995, and you might be thinking, "Well, that's quite a lot of money," until you consider that "Waterworld" was released that same year, and it had a budget of $175 million and it earned $88 million in this country, $225 million worldwide. "Braveheart" earned $75 million in this country and $202 worldwide.) And this film didn't have Big-Name Movie Stars to lure moviegoers into the cinema.

But is does have Rufus Sewell. Woof.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blunder The Knife? ...

Do Kenny Rogers and Barry Manilow go to the same plastic surgeon? Sigh. Barry is 63. Kenny is 68. They don't look their ages, they just look weird.

Big Sur ...

I woke up early today, a seemingly grim way to start a Saturday. But I've been tremendously productive, so perhaps hauling out of bed at 6:30 wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Part of last weekend's tasks was to go through the pile of magazines that had built up in my office bookcase. As I've written before, I get far too many magazines. I've let some of them lapse, but sucker that I am for shelter titles, I hold onto back issues until I can go through them and rip out pages for my "design" file, at which point the magazines are plopped in the recycle bin.

Once in a while, I tear out articles, too. This morning, I decided to read them and clear them out of my life. The first one I picked up was from an issue of House & Garden (one of my now-lapsed mags) written by Mayer Rus. "I can't fully explain Big Sur's palliative effect," he wrote. Nor can I.

Back in my Tribune life, my friend Rick liked to hoard his vacation (I suspect he still does) and attempt to take an entire month. Newspapers and deadlines being what they are, his plan was usually foiled, but he could sneak away for shorter spells.

Once, he told me he was going to Big Sur. Until then, I had only ever heard of it. But Rick planted an idea in my head and I became intent on making my own Big Sur sojourn.

Seven years ago, I made the trip. I was staying in San Francisco. I rented a car for the day and hopped on 101 South. Made my way through Carmel (Clint Eastwood was nowhere to be found) and eventually picked up Highway 1. I drove along the coast, high above the ocean's edge, and pulled off at every lookout. I shot a lot of film (film was still widely used seven years ago; this image is a photo of a photo - I don't own a scanner - so the quality isn't ideal, but even a less-than-ideal image of Big Sur is pretty spectacular). I eventually settled on a spot, perched on a rock overlooking the water, and started writing in my journal, listening to Gabriel Yared's soundtrack from "Message in a Bottle."

I'd never seen the movie, and now, I never want to. I don't want the film's images to overwrite my memories. Even today, when I listen to that music, I'm transported back to the edge of the world, marveling at the iridescent light. "The waves seem to be choreographed to the music, rippling in slowly, then cresting and breaking on the shore, flowing slowly up the sand and then retreating," I wrote that day. "Perhaps it's my perspective, so high above, but the water and waves seem to be moving in slow motion."

It is simply the most beautiful place I've ever been. Granted, there's a lot of the planet I've yet to see, but there's a magic to Big Sur that defies explanation.

I need to go back someday. And when that someday comes, I want to stay at the Post Ranch Inn.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Tee Hee Hee ...

Copied in its entirety, from Reuters:

Taller people are smarter: study

NEW YORK (Reuters) - While researchers have long shown that tall people earn more than their shorter counterparts, it's not only social discrimination that accounts for this inequality -- tall people are just smarter than their height-challenged peers, a new study finds.

"As early as age three -- before schooling has had a chance to play a role -- and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on cognitive tests," wrote Anne Case and Christina Paxson of Princeton University in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The findings were based primarily on two British studies that followed children born in 1958 and 1970, respectively, through adulthood and a U.S. study on height and occupational choice.

Other studies have pointed to low self-esteem, better health that accompanies greater height, and social discrimination as culprits for lower pay for shorter people.

But researchers Case and Paxson believe the height advantage in the job world is more than just a question of image.

"As adults, taller individuals are more likely to select into higher paying occupations that require more advanced verbal and numerical skills and greater intelligence, for which they earn handsome returns," they wrote.

For both men and women in the United States and the United Kingdom, a height advantage of four inches equated with a 10 percent increase in wages on average.

But the researchers said the differences in performance crop up long before the tall people enter the job force. Prenatal care and the time between birth and the age of 3 are critical periods for determining future cognitive ability and height.

"The speed of growth is more rapid during this period than at any other during the life course, and nutritional needs are greatest at this point," the researchers wrote.

The research confirms previous studies that show that early nutrition is an important predictor of intelligence and height.

"Prenatal care and prenatal nutrition are just incredibly important, even more so than we already knew," Case said in an interview.

Since the study's data only included populations in the United Kingdom and the United States, the findings could not be applied to other regions, Case said.

And how tall are the researchers?

They are both about 5 feet 8 inches tall, well above the average height of 5 feet 4 inches for American women.

A copy of the paper can be found at

Thursday, August 24, 2006

School Days ...

Today was the first day of school. Summer is over. Fall is here.

Last Sunday, I sat with one of my nephews on his bed and flipped through his yearbook. His first yearbook. When I was in high school, we got our yearbooks at the end of the school year, which was good because we were able to have all our friends sign them when we should have been paying attention in class, but it was bad because all the end-of-the-year stuff wasn't included, so if you were a senior and you wanted a record of all that prom-y jazz, you had to buy the yearbook the following year.

But this school hands out yearbooks when you register for the next year of school. And so we were flipping through it. The design is impressive. But the thing that pleased me most were the pages upon pages of extracurricular activities.

So many schools are being forced to cut all their non-essential programs. But the school that will shape my nephews and niece has even more teams and groups and clubs than my school. So many opportunities, so many choices.

I dabbled in clubs when I was in high school. I didn't stick with most of them, except for speech and theater. Theater was voluntary. I was recruited into speech. It served me well, set me on a path that I tread to this day. High school wasn't a total waste.

My 20th high school reunion is coming up next year. This school year. It seems completely impossible that I've been out of high school nearly 20 years, that I've lived more life after high school than I lived before I graduated.

I didn't go to my 10-year reunion. The "can't find" list contained almost everyone I would have wanted to see. And when you're 27, 28, you're not so far removed from the bullshit. You're still trying to prove yourself. You're still a jock or a cheerleader or a geek at heart. Not that people really change, but we grow. With some life experience, with some perspective, we move beyond our inner cheerleader or geek or jock to a wider world view. We live in a world outside those locker-lined walls.

I didn't neatly fit into any real high-school niche. I identified with the punk kids (today they're called goth) with the wild hair and black clothes and stark makeup and the cool music. But I didn't decolorize my wardrobe until college. Well, technically, decolorizing would mean everything I wore was white. On the contrary, everything I wore was black. My wardrobe was actually oversaturated. It was the color of all colors. Black shirts, black pants, black skirts, black socks, black Ts (concert Ts, of course), black jackets, black coats, black sweatshirts. And hair that defied gravity, thanks to ozone-depleting Aqua-Net.

I got through high school as most of us do. And I fell in love with college, once I decided what I wanted to do, where I wanted to be. I miss the sociability of it, the chatty nature of the classes, getting together after class for coffee to continue our chats.

And then we graduate, our mission seemingly accomplished, and we get jobs. Which are social to a degree, but much less so.

I almost envy my niece and nephews. A new school year, new books, new school supplies - oh, school supplies! - new classes, new clothes. After-school snacks, homework at the kitchen table. I don't miss the classes I didn't care about. I don't miss the catty cliques. I don't miss fretting about tests.

But I would like, as Tom Hanks writes in "You've Got Mail," a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sampled 'Paris' ...

Ooh, the iTunes community is not pleased with Paris Hilton's eponymous effort.

I sampled all the tracks. And then I wrote this:

What does she really sound like?

There's so much production on this album, I have no idea what her actual voice sounds like. From her now-infamous line, "I, like, cry when I listen to it, it's so good" to the track "Fightin' Over Me," how can this be taken as anything but an enormous vanity project? And covering Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" seals the deal.
I want to hear acoustic Paris, not Pro Tools. Just her voice and a mic and an unplugged band. Until then, I'll chalk this effort up to studio magic.

Most of the reviews are not so kind. Interestingly, used copies are already for sale on Amazon.

Simple Equation ...

A link to this was sent to me by an Internet pal, who, for the purposes of this post, will remain anonymous, but is in no way a fuckwad. (Also note that "2+3=Cats".)

Meanwhile, In News That Really Matters ...

Hailstorms cause pesto shortage in Italy

By ARIEL DAVID, Associated Press Writer

ROME - Lovers of pesto, the tangy green pasta sauce, are bracing for increased prices or even shortages after unseasonable hailstorms in northern Italy destroyed much of the most prized variety of basil, the key ingredient in the Genoese specialty.

Hailstones the size of tennis balls smashed glass panes on scores of greenhouses and pummeled fragile basil plants this month, wiping out entire crops near the town of Pra, west of Genoa, the capital of the Liguria region in northwest Italy.

"The heart of basil production has been hit," Andrea Sampietro, director of the Ligurian chapter of Confagricoltura, an Italian farmers' lobby, said Monday.

I'm not belittling the plight. The hailstorms caused $6.5 million in damage. I just think, in these days of oil prices escalating because of unrest in the Middle East, the headline is funny.

Oh, By The Way ...

... Bush admitted yesterday that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Small World And Dessert ...

A couple weeks ago, I found out that a woman I used to work with in our Thomson days lives on the next block! It's some crazy kind of world we live in that we've never run into each other at the grocery store or the dry cleaners or any other neighborhood haunt. No, it took a mutual friend and a Thomson reunion to connect our dots.

So tonight was the night to reconnect. She invited me over for dinner and put me in charge of wine and dessert. All righty. Now, let's see: I make spectacular brownies, I make a bazillion kinds of cookies, cheesecake, layer cake, tortes, pies. So, of course, I decided to make something I'd never made before. Now, everyone knows that if you're going to try a recipe for the first time, you don't try it out for any kind of occasion. You make it for no reason and if it's inedible, you foist it on your immediate family or toss it in the yard for the critters.

I decided to make a rustic tart. What kind of tart would be determined by what kind of ripe fruit I found at the store. When I got there, nothing appealed to me except the apples. So, rustic apple tart it was. For good measure, I added toasted walnuts, some vanilla, and lemon zest. Two kinds of apples. And a recipe for foolproof pastry dough.

Foolproof, my ass. As written and prepared, there was no way this dough was going to yield anything resembling a crust. I eventually rolled it out and cut leaf shapes out of it and baked it off, figuring it might be good for garnish. And then I hauled out my tried-and-true recipe for pie crust and made a recipe I knew would work.

Yup, like a charm. Here's the result: This is a slightly arty shot of it. There's only so much I can do with existing sun for lighting a shot. The cleaner shot of it is at the end of this entry, but I took it when it was still cooling, and a cooling rack ain't sexy. Still, it's a pretty, pretty thing, my rustic apple tart.

I plopped a chilled bottle of pinot grigio and a pint of vanilla ice cream in my nifty insulated shoulder bag and hopped in the car, yes, to drive to a house less than a mile away. But I had a dessert to transport. Driving made sense. I was having a bit of trouble figuring out which door I should approach. "Hello?" I said through the open back door. No answer. I walked around to the front. Clearly, the front door wasn't used, as suggested by the volume of scattered newspapers that are delievered but apparently not read. I wandered back around back. There was another door next to the open door, but it was closed. "Debbie?" I called through the open door.

"Come on in!" she said. So I did. She met me in the back hall for hugs. We weren't best friends in our Thomson days, but I always liked her. We'd have interesting chats in the kitchen, avoiding work. We shared red hair in those days. I've since moved on. Turns out, she hasn't. But it never suited me, and it looks great on her.

She was cutting brie into the pasta sauce when I arrived, so she continued on. We chatted while she stirred, I opened wine. We plated salad and moved out to the deck. Lovely. As Gemma would say, the temperature where there is no temperature. Normally, in groups, I'm the person who rarely speaks. I sit back and take it all in. But with only two people, it's hard to be entirely mute, thouh it felt a bit strange to speak so much.

We moved onto the pasta, along with a massive loaf of garlic bread. But not the garlic bread you're thinking of; no, this is bread with whole cloves of roasted garlic inside. Carbohydrate heaven. And more wine.

The daylight waned and we bussed the table. Debbie scored a Diet Coke out of the fridge, I got a glass of water, and she gave me a tour. I love her house. It's fabulous. Actually, decor-wise, it's a lot like mine. Me 'n' Debbie got a lot in common. Planted in her den, we sat on opposite loveseats and chatted some more. Time was ticking away. But we made time for dessert. It was, happily, quite good. Would have been better warmed, but neither of us was complaining.

And now, of course, we'll see each other at the store all the time.

(Work Pal Kelley thinks I should start taking orders and make these for Thanksgiving, the first step in my baking empire! When the cookie story is published, I'll share the image from that photo shoot, too. I saw a PDF of the page today. The layout is fab.)

Friday, August 18, 2006

'Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price' ...

I don't shop at Wal-Mart on principle. I've been in Wal-Mart twice in my life: once I was tagging along with someone, once I was in California on my way to Big Sur and needed to use a bathroom.

But my parents have a Sam's Club membership that they used for their business. They've retired but the Sam's Club membership remains. I have a card on their account. It's the same company, of course. And we've visited Costco to investigate if it carries the products we pick up at Sam's. Costco doesn't carry the things we go to Sam's for, but after watching this documentary, I don't care. I've paid my last visit to Sam's Club. I can't in good conscience support the evil empire. And if that means that I have to spend a few more dollars to buy products at their regular retail prices, so be it.

You might dismiss these documentaries as propaganda. But any company that puts together a "war room" to help combat all its negative publicity can't just be the victim of a smear campaign. The truth hurts, eh?

This documentary shocked me. I've heard the stories about Wal-Mart not paying its employees a living wage. I've heard the stories about uncompensated overtime. I've heard the stories about illegal immigrants being locked in the stores at night to clean them. I've heard the stories about employees needing to rely on state-funded healthcare because their Wal-Mart benefits are too expensive to pay for from their meager wages.

Here are a few things in the documentary that I didn't know: I didn't know that Wal-Mart can boast that 74 percent of its employees are full-time because Wal-Mart defines full-time as 28 hours a week. I didn't know that Wal-Mart spends about $8 million per store to quash unionizing activities. I didn't know that Wal-Mart receives literally billions of dollars in subsidies, money that isn't going to local police and fire departments and schools. I didn't know that just when a community is about to start receiving 100 percent of the sales tax revenue generated by Wal-Mart, it will build another location, sometimes just a couple miles away, to avoid paying the taxes. I didn't know that as of the creation date of this documentary there were nearly 27 million square feet of empty Wal-Marts, enough room to build nearly 30,000 classrooms and educate nearly 600,000 kids. I didn't know that the living conditions in China for the workforce that makes $18 billion worth of goods imported by Wal-Mart every year are so despicable, and that even if workers elect to not live in the cramped conditions, Wal-Mart still deducts the rent from their paychecks. I didn't know that those people are earning about $3 a day. I didn't know that a toy that Wal-Mart sells for $14.95 is assembled in China for 18 cents. I didn't know that in this country, Wal-Mart encourages its employees to get on state-sponsored health and food plans. I didn't know the extent of crimes that occur in Wal-Mart parking lots that in many cases have no security coverage, or have cameras installed (often put in place when management got wind of talks of unionization) but have no one monitoring the camera feeds inside the store. I didn't know that Lee Scott, the CEO of Wal-Mart, earned more than $27 million in 2005 while the average Wal-Mart hourly sales employee earnings were less than $14,000.

The poverty level for a family of four in 2005 was $19,350.

All of those things piss me off. But it gets worse. The Walton family is worth a combined $102 billion (as of when the documentary was created). The family has given one percent of its wealth to charity. Bill Gates has given 58 percent.

But this is the best: Wal-Mart employees have the opportunity to donate a portion of their paychecks to a fund to help fellow employees in the event of a disaster. In 2004, employees donated more than $5 million to the fund.

The Walton's family combined annual contribution for that same year was $6,000.

There's a Wal-Mart about 10 miles from my house. Last year, No Wal-Mart signs started popping up in local front yards. Huh? Wal-Mart is already in the area. But no. Wal-Mart was planning on building another location, literally seven miles from the other store.

The measure was defeated.

(An aside: Hats off to Springsteen's camp for giving the filmmakers permission to use Bruce's rendition of "This Land is Your Land." It's a really powerful choice that underscores an early, crucial part of the film.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Story Of O Brother, Where Art Thou? ...

I recently watched "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (yeah, it took me six years to get around to it) and "The Story of O" (I was six when it was released).

George Clooney is reason enough to see any movie, our generation's Cary Grant, as I've said before. And leave it to the Coen brothers to say, "Hey, let's write a movie based on Homer's 'Odyssey.' But you know what would make it better? Hair pomade." It's a shame that George didn't do his own tunes, though. I'd like to know what he sounds like as a singer.

"The Story of O," though. Whoa. As a movie, well, it's a '70s flick with all the production values you'd come to expect from an X-rated film from the '70s. But I was watching it because it came up in a conversation about submission. There's a blog I check from time to time, written by a submissive with an occasional entry from her dom.

I'm fascinated by it, not for the lurid details of their sex life, but because the wiring of my brain can't process why a woman would allow herself to be treated in such a way. It's not even that she allows the behavior, it's that she asks for it. I'm not saying that it's wrong; everyone lives their own life and makes their own choices, but I can't help but be fascinated by what makes these women tick. The blog I read is very focused, so I don't have any understanding of her life outside of the relationship. Is she a manager at work? Does she lead outside the home and so desires to be led at home? Is it about balance?

Or is it about self-esteem? Does she feel unworthy of love unless she is required to do her lover's bidding? Or is it about fear? Is she afraid of responsibility and wants someone else to take the reins?

Really. I'm asking. What's the allure of such a relationship? I'm interested in the male perspective, too. Aside from the obvious sexual reasons, what do the men in these relationships gets out of them? An ego boost?

Everything I know about relationships is that they're supposed to be essentially equal, each person's strengths complementing the other's. Never in my upbringing was I taught that a good relationship involves a collar and a leash.

Yes, that sounds judgmental, but I'm really just trying to understand another facet of human behavior.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

'Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room' ...

Oh my.

Ethan, my cyberpal, has written about this movie. As he says in his opening salvo, he and his wife were "shaking the Snoopy fist" at their DVD player after watching the film. I love that image. Ethan is a very good writer (check out more of his blog, er, site; he insists it's not a blog; it looks like a blog and it reads like a blog, but apparently, it's a duck), always very readable, but this particular bit of imagery cracks me up. In honor of him, I was shaking my fist at my TV tonight, pretending to be Snoopy.

Which, I suppose, makes Enron the Red Baron. Curse you, Enron! Turns out, it's pretty hard to find an image online of Snoopy shaking his fist. I like this one for its primitive quality. But I digress.

Ethan called this flick required viewing. No kidding. The story was all over the news for a long time, but to see it presented this way, to see the rise of a company and then to see it fall by the very hands that built it was staggering.

At one point I actually yelled at my TV, "How do you live with yourself?" Funny thing is, onscreen was George W. Bush. I didn't realize just how chummy he and his dear old dad were with "Kenny Boy." Oh, but I digress again.

I also didn't realize that Enron essentially orchestrated the California energy crisis that led to the downfall of Gray Davis. Energy that should have been trading in the $30-$40 range was selling for more than $1,000. In the end, California was faced with a $30 billion bill. The recordings of the traders cheering on castastrophe were chilling. But they were earning multi-million-dollar bonuses. What's fair market value for a soul these days, anyway?

It was awful to watch the footage of the rank-and-file employees the day they lost their jobs. Losing my job at Thomson was like experiencing a death. But I lost my job because Thomson decided to divest itself of all newspaper holdings, not because of financial collapse, and especially not because our company had been nothing but smoke and mirrors. And while the initial announcement was stunning, I was asked to stay on to help fulfill our contracts to clients for the next several months. I had time to mentally prepare.

And I didn't lose my life savings. While Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow and others were cashing out tens of milions of dollars worth of stock, the everyday employees were losing their shirts. One lineman in a company Enron had acquired revealed that at the stock's peak, his pension was worth $348,000.

When he was finally allowed to cash out, he got $1,200.

Of course, Ken Lay died recently - apparently some people really can't live with themselves - and the others have seen their reputations reduced to shit and are living life in a cell.

Meanwhile, that lineman probably can't afford to retire any time soon.

I used to have Tribune stock. I sold it when I bought my house. It wasn't worth a lot then. It's not worth a lot now. And my friends who still work there are understandably upset. To see a couple hundred thousand dollars evaporate out of your retirement fund? I'm not comparing the Tribune to Enron ethically. But people think a large company means security. When I was getting out of college, a lot of people walked right over to Arthur Andersen and got jobs. Andersen was always hiring. Not anymore.

My grandmother collected a pension until the day she died. She received a pension for many more years than she actually worked for the company. Today, no one could fathom such a thing. A company paying you because you *used* to work there? Who could afford it? I'm employed full time and pay for my own health care. FICA is taken out of my check this month and probably mailed to my father the next. If it calls in its chips tomorrow, China will own this country. Our national debt is $8.5 trillion. Congress raised our debt ceiling to $9 trillion. Over the past year, our national debt has increased, on average, $1.75 billion a day.

I was going to calculate how many $4 cups of Starbucks that would buy every day, but my calculator doesn't have enough spaces to enter 1,750,000,000.

And The Award For the Biggest Bullshit Self-Congratulatory Gesture Ever Goes To ...

This is from an AP story about the IRS, taxes, and the Emmy gift bags this year, but the taxes part isn't the point here. Read it, and I'll meet you at the bottom.

"Meanwhile, here's a complete rundown of the final list of goodies heading into the ultra-swank 2006 Primetime Emmy Presenter Gift Bags:

* Five-day stay at Old Bahama Bay on Grand Bahama Island, plus access to all water sports;
* One-year bicoastal membership to the Sports Club/LA (which, contrary to its name, has locations in San Francisco, Miami, New York and various other hotspots);
* Sprint Fusic mobile phone, retails for $329;
* Two nights at the US Grant in San Diego, including spa treatments;
* One-year bicoastal membership to YogaWorks;
* Five-day golf or ski getaway at the Adara Hotel in Whistler;
* Six days at the Wharekauhau Country Estate in Featherston, New Zealand;
* Four days at the Dolphin Bay Hotel & Residences in Pismo Beach, California;
* Six days at The Lodge at Molokai Ranch on Molokai, Hawaii;
* Babystyle gift card, Lulu the Lamb original stuffed kids' chair and personal shopping consult;
* Gift certificate for two-day "Emmy Crush Camp" wine appreciation at the Napa Valley Hotel;
* Food & wine pairing for six people from the Crustacean Restaurant in Beverly Hills;
* Spa gift certificate and products from Fresh;
* Gingi skincare products;
* Ike Behar silk tie, button-down shirt and lapis cufflinks;
* Morton's Steakhouse gift certificate (last year's was for $1,500);
* String of pearls from Pearl Paradise;
* Prive and Ona Spa gift certificate;
* Dooney & Bourke leather roller luggage;
* "365 Days of Dove" chocolate assortment;
* Gift certificate for linens from DreamSleep Studio;
* Instructions on how to donate gowns, tuxes and other Emmy goodies to the Clothes Off Our Back Foundation to benefit relief efforts in Darfur, Sudan, the Children's Defense Fund and Cure Autism Now."

When L.A. Dave read that list to my yesterday, I nearly jumped out of my skin when he rattled off the last item. Are you fucking kidding me?

I think the Clothes Off Our Back Foundation is a fabulous thing. But I'm guessing that "other Emmy goodies" doesn't refer to all of the swag that's included in the gift bags.

The thing that pisses me off is every single person who will be receving said bag can well-afford every single thing on the list. Even those poor underpaid schlubs who are only making $50,000 an episode.

The value of this year's gift bag, given as an inducement for people to show up and hand out awards, even if they're not nominated, is around $33,000. Thirty-three THOUSAND dollars in swag for the trouble of having to show up at a glamorous awards show and say 12 words? Oh, the poor babies. How about just making it part of the deal: Hey, you're lucky enough to be a well-paid actor with a regular gig. So in exchange for your hugely inflated paycheck, we're gonna expect you to show up at the industry awards show once a year and fill a seat, OK?

George Clooney, one of the people in Hollywood (who doesn't live in Hollywood) who has his head screwed on straight about all this insanity, auctioned off his Oscar swag last year and raised $45,100 toward the United Way's Hurricane Response and Recovery Fund.

Every year, one of my clients sends me a Christmas card that's imprinted with a message that a donation has been made in my name to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. I used to work for him full time and he did the same thing instead of giving us Christmas gifts. Well, the first year I worked for him, he gave everyone a gift certificate for an hour-long massage, to the tune of $80 or so. But nobody balked when he started donating that money instead. All of us recognized that it was more important for families to have food on the table.

I find it sickening that included in these Emmy gift bags are instructions on how to donate to Clothes Off Our Backs. Here, they're saying, here's a bunch of stuff that you don't need and could afford anyway, but we'll give to you just for showing up, and because we're all so special and we deserve lavish gifts, but oh, won't you consider doing a little something, you know, for the starving children in Darfur?

How about donating $33,000 in each person's name directly to the charity and letting them pick up their own tab at Morton's?

Monday, August 14, 2006

'Hell's Kitchen' ...

I don't watch reality TV. An episode of "Survivor" has never traveled through my retinas to my brain. I've seen one episode of "American Idol," but I was at Doreen's, and she and Ron were watching. I was eating Thai food. I don't know why, but I don't like it when people sing on TV. I find it embarrassing, even if they're good. Maybe it's just my fear of performing.

But flipping channels tonight, I was sucked in by what turned out to be the season finale of "Hell's Kitchen," Gordon Ramsay's make-a-star-chef screechfest. He yells at every contestant. He rips on their techniques.

I love him!

Tonight's episode summed up the entire season and boiled down to two finalists, both women, thank you very much. Heather is a much better leader, but Virginia has an impeccable palate, both key attributes for an executive chef.

The show got my heart racing and my blood boiling. The staff who had been eliminated over the course of the show returned to be the kitchen brigades. Heather and Virginia chose their sides. It was like picking teams for dodgeball in grade school. Virginia decided to pick Tom and Keith, two of the guys who had proven to be impediments earlier in the series, thinking that if she could win with underachievers, that would reflect well on her.

Good strategy, except for one simple fact: TOM IS AN ASS. This was the man who was ousted, in part, for SWEATING IN THE FOOD. Yeah, kitchens are hot. But ewww. But on Virginia's watch, Tom got his undies in a bunch because he didn't like taking orders from a woman. "It's like listening to my ex-girlfriend," he whined. He had a girlfriend once?

Then again, Keith extorted money out of her in return for his assistance. If she won, he wanted a thousand dollars.



I won't tell you who won, in case you've TiVoed it, but the winner was given a restaurant in Las Vegas. Not too shabby.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Media! Frenzy! ...

L.A. Dave has finally penned - well, keyed - the blog entry that explains the whole crazy "Snakes on a Plane" life he's been living for the past few months. Note the official cover.

The publicity machine, which has been humming along nicely for the past few weeks, is shifting into high gear this week, as the much-anticipated film opens on Friday. Until now, most of Dave's publicity has been in newspapers and magazines (it's a damn good day when you're quoted in Entertainment Weekly in the same story as Samuel L. Jackson), but today marks the beginning of the round of radio and TV, most notably, Keith Olbermann on MNSBC on Wednesday. Can Bill O'Reilly's people be far behind? Dave, if you see Fox on your Caller ID, don't answer the phone!

Friday, August 11, 2006

'Brimstone And Treacle' ...

Yes, that "Brimstone and Treacle," released the same year I started high school.

I've always wanted to see it because it stars Sting. I've been fond of him since his early days in The Police. He's fantastically multi-talented. Rock star, composer, author, activist, actor. Usually, those who can do one would do well to stay focused. Most musicians don't make good actors. Most actors don't make good musicians. But Sting is an exception. He's really terrific in this film. He should act more. You can scroll forever through his IMDb page, but his acting credits are the briefest of the bunch. I wonder if he chose to focus on music, or if he rarely found scripts he enjoyed, or if it simply becomes too hard to take on a character in a film when you're larger than life off-screen.

He wrote the music for the film and it was performed by The Police. I don't really understand the cover art for the soundtrack. But then, this movie is rather peculiar.

Sting's character, Martin, clearly a nefarious sort, possibly demonic, ingratiates himself into a home that bears a striking resemblance to a church. The too-trusting mother welcomes him. The ever-skeptical father wants him to leave. But Martin, so wholesome with his boyish good looks, wins over the mother with his willingness to care for her comatose daughter and tend to the house so she can step out to the beauty shop for a much-deserved break.

Of course, the father has good reason to be suspicious. It takes one to know one, after all. The mother is an easy mark, so desperate is she for a moment of a normal life that she's all too willing to see only the too-good-to-be-trueness of her serendipitous savior.

But, as the saying goes, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

The LT ...

It's already that time of year when people have too many tomatoes. I have a basketful on my counter, big, little, yellow, red. Perfect for making BLTs, except that I don't eat meat these days. So I made an LT.

It's not the same, of course, but it was still damn tasty. A little salt and pepper on the tomatoes, glued to the bread with a nice slathering of mayo, a pile of lettuce, all on 9-grain bread. Fan-tastic.

Yes, there's fake bacon, but I won't corrupt the lovely summer flavor.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

At What Price The Reward? ... owes me a free month of service.

On July 6th, I sent the requisite information in order to activate my account again.

The activation e-mail eventually came - response to the letter, the e-mail explained, was much greater than anticipated, and so it took nearly a month to receive my "clearance."

And the minute I did, my immediate thought was "Ugh."

I recognize that there is only one way to find Mr. Right: You've gotta kiss a lot of frogs. You have to go on a lot of dates. Some of them will be good. Some of them will suck. But that's part of the bargain, the price we must pay for this commodity called love.

So lately I've been wondering just how much I want it. If I'm so reluctant to wade into the waters, do I really care about getting to the prize on the other side? Or has a lifetime of sporadic dating and ensuing unsuccessful relationshps simply conditioned me to avoid the pain? Is the dating world one giant Pavlovian maze?

Do I not really hunger for the food pellet of love?

As Charlotte says on "Sex and the City": "I've been dating since I was 15. I'm exhausted. Where is he?!"

I have a theory about men and dating: I believe that men have a ridiculously long laundry list of "qualities" they say they're looking for in a mate, but the list is the escape hatch. Men think they're safe because they never expect to find a woman who matches the list, and so they can always point to it and say, "Well, she didn't have X," and justify walking away.

But one day, along comes a woman who has every quality on the list. The man, though, isn't prepared for this. He never thought he'd actually find her. She's not supposed to exist. So faced with exactly what he's always said he's ever wanted, he finds he has no idea what to do about it, and runs the other way.

Of course, women have lists, too. And our lists can be lengthy as well. The difference is, women don't expect to find a man with every quality on the list. They're guidelines, not rigid requirements. Sure, many women would love to find a tall, ripped, rich, funny, well-adjusted, macho-yet-sensitive cover model who can cook like a chef and fuck like a rock star, but we're rational enough to know we're going to have to compromise because we really want to share our lives with someone.

It's like Chandler on "Friends" who realizes that he's being too critical about all the women he dates, and, armed with this revelation, asks out a woman in his office despite her unusually large head. And on the date, he makes himself list five things he likes about her, and his list is "Smart, nice smile, BIG HEAD, BIG HEAD, BIG HEAD!"

Reading profiles on Match, I wonder: Are men looking for mates or are they looking for trophies?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Charles Effect ...

I do not believe in accidents. Coincidence does not exist.

Today, I received an e-mail. The sender? A lower-case "n." Spam, I thought. I clicked, ready to move it to my junk folder.

"Hello Beth," it began. "I was and am a friend of Charles Barile."

Nick, the author, "whether by accident or serendipity" happened upon my blog last week and saw my post about Charles.

He was writing to say, "I felt you should know that your beautifully written piece truly illuminated Charles' indomitable spirit and brought him back to those who knew and loved him in a very heartwarming way." He told me that he shared it with Charles' family and they were "heartened."

It is days like today when I am eternally grateful that I am blessed enough to be able to express myself with words.

Writing that post was cathartic for me. I cannot understand all the emotion I still feel for him. As I said to Nick in my reply, I miss him all the time. Part of my feelings stem from never having the chance to see him one more time. Why did we cancel our plans to see each other? Why were we so smug and cavalier? "We'll do it another time." Fuck. We always think we have more time, but it is dangerous to dawdle. That was the lesson I learned from losing Charles. It was a very swift slap in the face. Some lessons cannot be learned lightly.

Thinking about Charles then, crying, I realized that he would absolutely not tolerate any sadness in his name. As I replied to Nick, writing something I knew would annoy Charles, I heard his voice in my head. His voice had an Archie Bunker-esque whine to it when he'd say, "Oh, shut up." I laughed at the memory of it. Charles hated schmaltz.

There is a skylight directly over my desk. Today, as I looked up, it framed a perfect piece of clouds and sky. "Hi, honey," I said, knowing he was listening, knowing he was here.

I picture him as a resident of Judgment City in "Defending Your Life," charming all his fellow residents in the poshest accomodations, resplendent in white, cubes clinking in his omnipresent glass.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Bag This ...

Perhaps the love child of The Unknown Comic and Bert - oh, wait, they were both dudes, and one was a Muppet, which might severely constrict his ability to procreate - OK, then, perhaps the love child of The Unknown Comic and Frida Kahlo, Bag Boy is the resident anonymous sports commentator for RedEye, the Chicago Tribune's five-day-a-week, grab-and-go tabloid of all things, well, all things not in the grown-up paper.

You'll note, when you go to the site, that Bag Boy's disguise changes. It's always a bag, but sometimes, he goes for a full bag, while other times, the bag is cut down. I hope he recycles.

Now, the juicy part of this lil' post tidbit is that I know the identity of Bag Boy. Yeah, we go way back. He's been grumpy for as long as I've known him. If he had a yard, he'd yell at kids to get out of it. But, of course, I can't tell you who he is. No, really, I can't. You can pull out my fingernails with pliers, you can make me watch professional wrestling, but I'll never tell.

He rants weekly. Well, I'm sure he rants more often than that, but the Trib is pretty cheap, so Bag Boy and his producer (who's probably one of the nice cleaning ladies I used to know when I worked there) must only get access to a video camera once a week. So don't go gettin' all hooked on what he's sellin', man, cuz you're only gonna get one fix a week.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Breaking News: Science Is Fake! ...

Out and about today, I saw this bumper sticker: "Evolution is a lie!"

And I thought to myself, "Well, yeah, maybe inside that car. Neanderthals."

All my Christian friends are welcome to believe in Genesis, but it's kinda hard to deny evolution, seeing as how we, you know, have proof of it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Latest Hair ...

This was taken late last night. Early this morning, actually. So the style had fallen out quite a bit by the time I got home.

When J-D was finished styling it, he said, "It's very Jessica Simpson." It was much curlier than I ever wear it, but it's as blonde as ever. The last blonde hurrah for summer. The next colorfest will be warmer as the weather turns cooler.

Portrait Of The Artist ...

So there I was, walking back to my car, wending my way through an unexpected art fair - unexpected to me - and I casually glanced at some of the vendors' wares.

Nothing caught my eye. Until I crossed the street.

I found myself looking at a painting that would be perfect for mom's living-room wall. Except that the colors were too bright.

I ducked into the artist's tent and was faced with another near-perfect painting. Exactly the size mom is looking for. Square. A beautiful subject.

I said hello to the artist. "Do you do commissions?" I asked.

No, he said. Because invariably, the end result isn't quite what the patron had in mind, and he would absolutely love it. I explained the situation to him, that mom is in the market for a piece of art for her living-room wall, but that she'd need a more autumnal palette for that room.

He gave me his card - it's square - and asked me to e-mail him so he could send jpegs as he completes work. He works with some darker colors, not always the vibrant greens and oranges I was seeing.

W. Michael Meyer is his name. "Mike," he said, shaking my hand.

As fate would have it, he'll be part of a show in Lakeview the same weekend as the walk. The walk concludes at Montrose Harbor, nearly Lakeviewland. My parents will be there at the end to give me a ride home, so they can go to the art fair earlier in the day and see his work first-hand.

Reconnection ...

In 2000, five days after signing my mortgage, I found out that I was losing my job.

Believer that I am that everything happens the way it's supposed to, I wasn't altogether dismayed by the loss of the job. The universe has a repeated way of kicking me out of the nest.

Paul, my boss at Thomson, offered some sage advice as I embarked upon the new job hunt: "Buy the people." The people you work with make or break any job. When I left the Tribune, I wasn't sorry to leave a legendary paper. I was sorry to leave the people. And the same was true at Thomson: It was the people I knew I'd miss, not the work.

So thanks to a few commited colleagues, last night a group of us reconvened at Martini Ranch, our old watering hole, and caught up. It had been nearly six years since many of us had seen each other. After our little company that couldn't closed its doors (through no fault of our own; Thomson decided to get out of the newspaper business), many now-former staffers moved away. And so, yesterday, they returned. Some from Minneapolis, some from Boston, some from Scottsdale, and one, in particular, from northern England.

Warwick wasn't part of the office family. Not daily, anyway. He was a senior vice president and was stationed at headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. But Warwick, like Stuart and Terry, the CEO and another SVP, liked the Chicago crowd. They used to make up reasons to visit. And then we'd go to Martini Ranch to drink.

So last night, when Warwick, one of my favorite people on the planet, and his wife appeared on the patio at the Ranch, it felt oddly like no time had passed. And I was flattered that he liked us enough to get on a plane and fly across the Atlantic to hoist a few.

I hoisted one. With a $1 tip for the bartender, my gin and tonic set me back $10. And I wasn't sure if any of us would end up at dinner, but I knew that wine would be involved, and I had to drive.

Dine we did, at Scoozi!, which I hadn't been to in far too long. We got the biggest bottle of wine I'd ever seen. At least 8 of us were drinking and our glasses were filled more than once. Bread and pizza and pasta and wine. And laughs, just like in the good old days.

When some of my fellow diners excused themselves to the restroom, Warwick traveled down a few chairs so we could continue our earlier chat. Back at the Ranch, when I told him that I've started recording, his eyes got wide. His latest business venture is, a community for upstart musicians, a place where they can collaborate and get exposure. I think it's cute that Warwick would be involved in a music venture. In the make-believe cast that would portray each of us if a movie were ever made of our life in the office, we'd decided that Warwick would be played by Paul McCartney. Last night, at Scoozi!, I told him so. "But," I said, "You're better-looking." And he is. Charming as all get-out and more handsome than that.

This morning, I poked around the site. The copy is cheeky. Under the "questions, questions" navigation, hotlinks will take you to "what?", "who?", "why?" "where?", "what if?", and "eh?" Well, of course I clicked on "eh?" first. And then I read, "Look, you're supposed to be smart and this is supposed to be simple. What are you, a drummer?" I laughed out loud. Very little web content makes me laugh out loud.

The dinner party reconvened for brunch today, minus a few members. No one looked too worse for the wear. But they had Bloody Marys, just in case.

I drove Warwick and his wife to Michigan Avenue so they could shop for a while. We kissed each other on the cheek and promised to keep in touch. It's comforting that though time and distance may separate us, it's so easy to reconnect.

Some bonds don't break.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

'The Girl in the Cafe' ...

Richard Curtis, the filmmaking god who brought us "Love, Actually," wrote this script for Bill Nighy, plucked out of his "Love, Actually" role as a randy, aging pop star, and turned into a socially stunted civil servant, a right hand to a chancellor of the United Kingdom, who finds love on the eve of the 2005 G8 summit.

I was enchanted from the first frame. Amazed, maybe. The music that opens the film is from Damien Rice, who I just found out about last week thanks to Kelley. And Bill is so fantastically charming, so subtle an actor, so uncomfortable in his character's skin, that you can't help but love him. Everyone knows that awkward feeling, when you really, really like someone, of saying all the wrong things just to be saying anything at all. It's like an out-of-body experience. Inside, you desperately want to be collected and smooth, but somehow speech becomes an involuntary function, and all manner of insanity starts spewing from your mouth.

But in a crowded cafe, the only available seat is across from a young, beautiful woman, and our story begins.

As a screenwriter, I bow to Richard Curtis. His ability to write socially relevant films masquerading as comedies is astonishing. This film is essentially a 95-minute education about the horrors, the "casual holocaust" as it's brilliantly referred to in the film, of global poverty. If you're thinking that this sounds like The ONE Campaign, you're right.

And even though Bono isn't talking about it in the news these days, the fight continues. Every three seconds, someone dies. And we can prevent that. My own blog post about it is more than a year old now. We cannot let our memories be so short. I read a quote today from Arianna Huffington that she follows a story until the end. Our attention spans have been diluted by information overload, I fear. If something isn't playing out on our television, we forget that it exists.

This film was released last year to coincide with the G8 Summit. I missed it then, but am so glad to have found it now.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Making Christmas ...

I knew I had a right half of my brain.

It's been in my head, withering like a grape in the sun, desperate for me to stop editing white papers and publishing automation strategies long enough to give it a little workout.

Today was the day.

Photographer Bill (and his amazing, amazing home; oh, how I covet his built-ins and moldings, the eyebrow archway between his foyer and living room, the oversized oak, glass-paned door leading to his bedroom ...) and I convened and put our heads together about how to best shoot the cookies.

I brought plates and trays. He pulled out plates and trays. We decided on his oval silver tray, purchased from the Ambassador East's restaurant collection when the building went condo, and one of his small, pretty glass pitchers. I went to work arranging cookies. He and his photographer eye made suggestions to make the composition even better.

We shot. We put the card in his computer (with the orgasm-inducing, 30-inch Apple monitor) to check the image. He made adjustments to his 16-megapixel camera (which cost as much as my last car) and lighting and shot some more. When he was happy with what he was getting, he shot it a number of times (with 25-second exposures; I spent a lot of time not breathing, not wanting to move and possibly jostle the camera in any way), then we shot each kind of cookie individually.

I am astonished at the beauty of the main image. Bill doesn't normally shoot food. Normally (when he's not shooting for the New York Times), he shoots architecture. For books. Like the one he's working on now. Today was a favor for a friend, the editor who assigned this feature to me. But seeing as how he doesn't normally shoot food, and therefore has no need for this image, he was very kind and told me that I could use it in whatever form I wanted to down the road, if it would help me. What a doll, this man.

Sometimes, I'm lucky enough to encounter someone with whom I feel an instant, easy bond. I clearly do not spend enough time with artists. Other artists. And it was fun to speak "newspaper" again today and say things like "full bleed" and "cutout."

I left a plate of cookies for Bill and his family, and took the balance to the editor's office. Hey, it's 100 degrees outside! Have a Christmas cookie! And wouldn't you know it? They had a small Christmas tree set up. But something tells me they're just lazy and it never comes down.