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  • I read a lot, and I have a lot of opinions, so I can't believe I haven't made a list like this before. If you are even a little bit like me or you want to get a peek into my psyche (you probs don't), these are the books to read.
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Archive for September, 2010

Weekend Update

Posted on September 27th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Hey cats and kittens! I just got back from a nice (albeit short) weekend with my family in Chicago, where we all attended a wedding for my brother’s best and oldest friend, Nick. I don’t even have the energy right now to write up a post about it, so suffice it to say that it was a wonderful, fun party, which is pretty amazing coming from me since I’m usually very bah humbug about weddings. Instead, I’ll just provide you with a couple of pictures of random things and cute animals, since that’s what the Internet was created for anyway. Enjoy!

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I saw these dogs on Thursday, just chilling outside the Dunkin Donuts where I get my coffee every morning.

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Just to illustrate the unfairness that is my life, this is the view from my nineteen year old sister’s apartment on Michigan Avenue–that’s NAVY PIER IN THE BACKGROUND! Meanwhile, I live in a tiny, cramped, dark apartment in Manhattan. Why is that, again?

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Another view from her apt–that’s the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum.

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Just a random photo of some weird aloe vera drink my aunt bought on a whim at the store. Just to be clear, if it’s not obvious from the picture, those are cubes of gelatinous aloe vera floating in flavored water. Nectar of the gods! I volunteered to try it, and I’m telling you, chunks of ANYTHING in your drink is undesirable at best. I was like, “UGH, it’s like drinking Jell-O” and my cousin Emma was like, “What did you think it was going to be like?” My answer: “I thought it would be like drinking ghosts!” What does that even mean?

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Gratuitous cute cat picture!

Make It or Break It

Posted on September 23rd, 2010 by annakjarzab

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m sort of newly obsessed with Make It or Break It. If you follow this blog (and if you don’t, I’m not entirely sure how I think you’re reading this now), you know that I recently went through a spell of self-doubt, negativity, and creative doldrums that were all the cumulative result of a long, hard year and a very bad book that I ended up having to abandon in July. Whatever! I started watching Make It or Break It on a whim when I ran out of episodes of Greek to watch, and IT IS THE BEST SHOW EVER YOU GUYS. I’m being a little bit hyperbolic here, but not much. Because the show isn’t what it appears at first glance–sort of a low-rent Gossip Girl with tumbling. It’s actually far more accomplished than that.

I love three things about Make It or Break It, and because I’m in an organized mood, I’m going to lay them out for you here in bullets, from most frivolous to best:

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  • Damon Young: Yeah, he sort of looks like a douchebag. And, yeah, he’s being sort of a douchebag right now (I’m in season 2A, episode 9, the penultimate episode of the series so far), with his skinny jeans and his emo haircut and his, “But I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to take the money to continue doing gymnastics from your mother’s morally questionable boyfriend!” BS. But Damon starts off as the snarky, brooding guy we all love to love (or is it just me? I know it’s not just me), a boy scared of his own dreams who is inspired by a girl who lives by the skin of her dreams to make something of himself. You know, that old yarn. I find it particularly compelling. Damon is pretty consistently supportive of Emily’s gymnastics; he helps her sneak into the Rock to practice when Sasha kicks her out for disobeying him, he brings her brother Brian to Nationals and cheers her on from the sidelines as she makes the National team, he’s constantly encouraging her and telling her she’s great and talking through her problems with her. He’s a pretty great boyfriend, all things considered. He’s even willing to put their relationship on indefinite hiatus while Emily gears up for the 2012 Olympics and he mopes around Europe singing sappy songs about her. Right now, I’m sort of annoyed with him, because he’s feeling so sorry for himself at this point that he’s lying to her about how he feels (that speech he gives her about how he “doesn’t have time for love” in the second to last episode just about made me want to punch him, because it’s so pathetically self-pitying, and meanwhile here’s Emily about to break down in tears because her life’s falling apart and the one person she wants to count on is giving her a brush off because after all this success, he’s still totally insecure about her), but even he can’t resist telling her, “Good luck at Worlds–I’ll be thinking about you,” and you know that guy’s going to be glued to the TV. I don’t really know what they’re going to do with Damon in the next season; as far as I can tell, he’s one of the most beloved characters on the show, and if they’re in the midst of character assassinating him so that Johnny Pacar can go off and actually be a rock star, I’m going to be so annoyed–but I think probably they’re either 1.) being lazy and throwing wrenches in what is by far the most angst-ridden-for-almost-no-good-reason relationship on the show just because they need to create drama, or 2.) being much craftier than that with their character arcs, which is what they’ve shown themselves in the past to be capable of. For now, I’m going to trust the MIOBI writers and assume they know what they’re doing. They rarely let me down, character-wise.

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  • Mama Keeler: Pop Quiz: Who’s the best mom on TV? That’s right, Tammi Taylor from Friday Night Lights. But Kim Keeler (Peri Gilpin) on Make It or Break It is the second best mom on TV–I like to call her Tammi Taylor Lite. Actually, Make It or Break It has by far the best group of parents on television, and that’s not to say that all of them are especially good parents, but I feel like they’re all realistic and act according to their personalities and also like real parents with children whom they love (exactly the opposite of, for instance, Lilly BassderHumphrey and Rufus “The Worst” Humphrey from Gossip Girl). Kim is the best of them, but of course Chloe Kmetko, Emily’s lovably trashy loudmouth of a single mom played by Susan Ward of Sunset Beach fame (!!!), follows at a very close second. I just got done watching the episode where Payson kisses Sasha (her coach) in a moment of emotion, and her mother counsels her through the abject humiliation and resulting awkwardness with him at the gym. And when Lauren sends a photo of Payson kissing Sasha to Ellen Beals, Nationals Committe Chair/horrifying beast of a person, in order to discredit Sasha and have him removed as the coach of the Rock, Kim doesn’t keep it from Payson as she would do if this was any other show. Look, I’m not a gymnast or even a huge gymnastics enthusiast, so I don’t know how realistic the gymnastics portion of this show actually is, but you know what? The human portion, exemplified by Kim Keeler but also by every other character on the show except Carter because YEAH RIGHT, is so spot on most of the time. If I didn’t already have a great mom, I’d want Kim Keeler to be my mom. She and Tammi Taylor are the sorts of characters that TV writers should aspire to create.

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  • Payson Keeler: I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Payson Keeler is my spirit animal. I gave my friends this whole speech the other day: for the past nine months, I’ve been Emily Kmetko. I’ve been given some wonderful opportunities, and all I’ve been saying is “I can’t, I’m scared, I’m not as good as everyone else,” etc. But when I started watching this show, I realized that there’s another way to be: The Payson Keeler Way. The Payson Keeler Way consists of just believing, really believing, to the point of delusion (like when you break your back and every doctor says “You can’t ever do gymnastics again” but then you read some new age book and convince yourself you will, in fact, do gymnastics again–although look, she was right!), that you will succeed. It means saying “I will”, not “I want” or “I’ll try” or, GOD FORBID EMILY KMETKO, “I can’t.” Payson believes she’s going to win an Olympic gold medal; she just does. She knows she’s the best, even when she’s not the best, and she knows she’s going to win. She doesn’t need to be sneaky and underminey and awful like Lauren, because she doesn’t think about anyone else, she doesn’t even entertain the possibility that someone might beat her. Who’s going to beat her? She’s Payson Keeler! She’s the best! She’s totally focused and dedicated, she works hard and she listens to her coach and she adapts to her circumstances and she still believes she’ll be on the top of that Olympic podium someday. That’s the sort of dreamer I want to be. I’m sick of saying, “I wish I had this” or “I want this”–all I’m saying now is “I will.”

In general, MIOBI’s agenda is to continually discuss, from all possible angles and points of view, what it means to have a dream and to sacrifice for and work hard in the pursuit of that dream. When you should give up, if you should give up, what you should be willing to put on hold or wait around for, who you should trust and who you should avoid, what you deserve–all of these things are constantly being talked about and figured out and revisited. But it’s not boring–it’s actually the most interesting part of the show. It’s the best show I know of that does this, and does it so well. Look forward to (or avoid!) my MIOBI recaps when the show comes back in 2011.

Au revoir, l’enfant terrible

Posted on September 22nd, 2010 by annakjarzab

So it shouldn’t shock you that, once again, Gossip Girl decided to blow a great storyline in one tiny little episode. The Great Does Chuck Bass Really Have Amnesia? question was not even ASKED by the show! If I were running that thing, I’d’ve called into question his memory loss for at least one episode, if not two, before revealing that he was a Faker McFakerton faking his fake amnesia. UGH! YOU GUYS! STOP THAT! YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF STORIES!

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Anyway. So I stopped watching this show for the non-Chuck/Blair storylines a long time ago, but this episode I couldn’t stand to see Dan’s face, so I literally fast forwarded through every scene that didn’t have one of my two little monsters in it. Which means I missed a lot of the episode–or, rather, didn’t miss. I did catch a few things. Like how Rufus is SO HULK SMASH about Georgina’s supposed faking of Milo’s paternity test that he, get this, refuses to go help his wife create a nursery for his GRANDSON, the SON of HIS SON who is a BABY and also LIVING IN THE LOFT THAT HE OWNS. As always, stellar parenting, Rufus! And Lilly sent her daughter, who is wearing an OMG ridiculous outfit (think drag queen linebacker from the mid-eighties), to go IDENTIFY THE DEAD BODY of HER STEPSON! And then Serena runs around town in that get up, teaming up with Inspectors Chevalier to help solve the mystery of the missing Basstard and his stolen sparkly jewel. This show is a parody of a parody of a parody of itself, you guys. WOOF.

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Other than that, Nate Serena Vanessa Dan something something blah blah blah. God, they are so boring. I did catch the end, where it turns out that when Dan and Nate actually think about it for a second, neither of them wants to date Serena! LOL.

I guess the scene in the gare with Blair and Chuck was sweet, in a way. And gorgeously shot, as is obvious from the screengrab above (courtesy of the youknowyouloveme peeps). Fleur Delacour is no match for Blair on a mission, so I can’t even be too concerned about Chuck dragging her back to the UES with him, even though, if Fleur and I were girl friends, I would call lying about your identity a dealbreaker. Blamo!

Still, this will always be the touchstone of this show:

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Can’t wait till they’re back in business. I mean, Bass-ness.

Speak loudly

Posted on September 21st, 2010 by annakjarzab

I tend to go mostly offline most weekends (except for Four Square! And, of course, Tweeting about Make It or Break It with Adele at Persnickety Snark), so I didn’t even know about the whole Speak Loudly controversy until the very end of Sunday evening, but now that I’m all caught up I want to echo the sentiments of the entire blogosphere when I say, OMG CENSORSHIP IS GIVING ME AN ULCER.

I would never say that books aren’t influencers; after all, that’s tantamount to saying that books don’t have power, and I just don’t believe that. But books, in my experience (and I have been a reader since age three, and a really, really big reader at that, of books at my age level and above and below and everything in between), are about strengthening the human condition, not weakening it by asserting that people should keep low moral values close and not hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior. I have never read one novel whose agenda it is to encourage people to think less, to act worse, or to devalue themselves or others. The purpose of most fiction, at least, is to investigate what it means to be human, to enter into a conversation about how much power we have over our own lives and our own choices, to try to puzzle out just how best to communicate with people, be part of a community, find family, embrace change, to love, live and set forth on a path that will hopefully someday bring us happiness. Maybe I’m just reading the wrong books; maybe there are a bunch of novels out there about just how horrible the world is, and how we should all behave like animals because what else is there to do with our miserable lives but look out for ourselves? But I suspect not. If those novels do exist, and their messages are sincere and all they aspire to be is evil, well, pass them on to me and I’ll get back to you.*

Wesley Scroggins, the man who so vehemently opposes Speak and other books–such as the tried and true classic Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, or Twenty Boy Summer by 2009 debut author Sarah Ockler–is choosing to rush to reaction instead of to think critically about exactly why books like Speak, Slaughterhouse Five, and Twenty Boy Summer are being taught in school. Unless he thinks that the teachers in these schools are actively trying to titillate their students with soft core pornography, which seems pretty unlikely to me considering they are TEACHERS and not Larry Flint, what Scroggins seems to be objecting to is not their messages, but instead the very idea that Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Ockler, and Kurt Vonnegut find issues like sex, choice, doubt, anger, fear, remorse, pain, and especially sex, to be important topics of discussion for their readers. He’s not championing morality; he’s actively trying to squash any discussion surrounding difficult topics in favor of limiting ideas about adolescence and sex and violence and faith to one–his.

And this is why books exist. The whole reason all books–not just Speak, but every book written in the history of mankind–are even written is because there is not just one perspective, not just one right answer, not just one experience and not just one thing worth fighting for. It’s why all art exists–poetry, music, movies, television, painting, sculpture, architecture, you name it. By closing your eyes to the reality of human existence and refusing to look at, talk about, or engage with difficult topics, you are closing yourself off from the world and the many things it can teach you. But that’s your business. But to actively hinder others, especially people just coming into their own like teens are, from doing the same is criminal. It really is. And I’m not even saying that parents shouldn’t take an interest in what their children are reading, for school or for pleasure–of course they should! Parents should take an interest in all areas of their children’s lives.

But the thing I believe most fervently is that children (and teens, and adults, too) will put aside books that they aren’t ready to read, for any reason, whether it’s content, or straight up boredom. The thing about books is that they can’t actually hurt you–they’re made of paper and ink. Their ideas are potent, but they’re not going to turn anyone into a slavish zombie who never thinks for themselves ever again and just blindly follows the lead of admittedly fictional characters in a book about events that did not actually occur. In fact, books help create critical thinkers! JUST READ THE BLOGS. And the thing about books that is different from movies–and that’s why they don’t have ratings or ID checks when you’re trying to buy them–is that they’re totally opt-in. A movie, you might not know what you’re going to see until you’re seeing it, and then you just can’t unsee it (not that I’m advocating censorship in movies, of course I’m not). But a book isn’t like that. If its ideas or characters start to bug you or upset you, just can just set it aside and move on to something else. People make those sorts of choices every day. It’s natural, and great! We should be able to pick up and put down books as we see fit. That is the beauty of living in a free society full of choice.

Having read it, I can say for sure that Speak is a powerful, important book about taking power over your own life, the process of recovering from abuse, and not letting your past dictate your future. Rape is what happens in the book, but that–self empowerment, self acceptance, self expression, self love–is what it says, what it means. To dismiss such a deeply important message as soft core pornography is absolutely ridiculous (and, to be honest, downright disgusting and suspect of Monsieur Scroggins). But in order to say the things it says, Speak first has to show you how things got that bad, how the need for the message, for the conversation the book creates, even came about. THAT IS HOW STORIES WORK. God, I’m sorry for all the CAPITAL LETTERS, but seriously. I feel like all of this should just be self-evident, and I’m sure it is to you, dear readers (Mom).

It’s so alarmingly ironic that the book is called Speak and it’s about giving a voice to a survivor of sexual abuse and Scroggins is saying that because the book depicts “immorality”, it should be silenced. I’m sorry, but at the risk of being indelicate about this, that’s just plain stupid. It is. Only stupid people believe that by refusing to talk about something, it goes away. Wesley Scroggins is an idiot.

And I don’t care about him. It’s likely that all of our raging on this topic isn’t going to change this dude’s mind at all, and I couldn’t care less. I couldn’t even care less about the people who are going to read his article and assume Speak is a piece of trash they should shield themselves from–it’s their loss, and God bless them. People are responsible for their own critical thinking and the choices they make as a result of it. But the people who really get hurt here are: 1.) the teachers who obviously felt strongly enough about Speak that they decided to teach it in their schools despite possible controversy, and 2.) the students who may or may not pick the book up outside of the classroom if it’s removed from the curriculum, but who will definitely miss out on the opportunity to discuss it as a group in their classroom with their peers.

I often think about what my policy about media consumption in my household might be when I have children. When I was a kid, my TV watching was monitored, as was my movie going, but I don’t ever remember being told not to read a certain book. I had the run of my parents’ bookshelves; I don’t know that my parents ever deliberately made sure I wasn’t reading anything “bad”, but I sure didn’t hide what I was reading from them–I left books all over the house, splayed open upon coffee table and arm rest and kitchen counter. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what it was I was reading, and I don’t ever remember having books kept from me, even, like, The Clan of the Cave Bear. I don’t know if I’ve ever asked my parents why this is, but I assume it’s because they’re readers and they understand the value of the written word. They also probably had way more faith in their parenting than to think that some random novel was going to scar me for life and transform me into an immoral person–I mean, their influence had way more to do with how I turned out than one freaking book, no matter how good it is.

Not being fool enough to say “this is the kind of parent I’m going to be!” when I am not a parent yet and probably won’t be for a while, I’ll just say that my parents’ strategy worked for me and I’m likely to continue the pattern. I think literature is just about the safest place for children, teens, and adults, too, to be challenged in a real way. Speak does that, and parents and school administrators who are denying their kids and students the opportunity to discover things for themselves within its pages are committing a far greater moral crime than any book ever has.*

*Except Mein Kampf and the like, obviously. Here I am talking about fiction, not propaganda or political manifestos.

Steal this meme!

Posted on September 16th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Alex posted this meme on her blog, and because I’m lazy about blog content today, I’m stealing it!

5 Books I’ve Read Recently
1. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
2. Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (fun fact here!)
4. Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
5. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

5 Books I’m Planning to Read (in the near future)
1. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
2. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
3. Blameless by Gail Carriger
4. Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund
5. Autobiography by Agatha Christie

5 of My Favorite Books
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2. Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
3. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
4. Atonement by Ian McEwan
5. The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

5 of My Least Favorite Books
1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
2. I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe
3. The Frog King by Adam Davies
4. The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud
5. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

5 of My Favorite Book-to-Film Adaptations
1. Atonement
2. Pride and Prejudice (THE BBC VERSION NOT THE KEIRA KNIGHTLEY VERSION)
3. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
4. The Princess Bride
5. Clueless

Paris, je t’aime

Posted on September 14th, 2010 by annakjarzab

OMFGossip Girl is back! Admittedly, I think I missed a few episodes at the end of last season–well, I definitely missed the *spoiler alert* season finale where Chuck got shot and Dan found out Georgina was pregnant with “his kid” (I really want it to be his kid, you guys; I just feel like that’s just more interesting than the usual “Georgina tricked us all again because WE ARE IDIOTS!” gambit) and Vanessa…went to…somewhere? And Jenny left the show for a long hiatus, which is awesome. And Nate was zzzzzzz…Nate’s so boring, you guys. Oh so pretty, but boring.

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Okay, so! Let’s break it down to its essential elements:

  • “Paris is burning, and Serena and Blair lit the match!” I’m so sure Parisians give a damn about Serena and Blair and their various mundane interests and romantic conquests. Also, if Kristin Bell’s French accent is that bad, why did they give her all those words to say? It’s just offensive. So while Serena’s dating every waiter, bartender, and guy on a Vespa in Paris, Blair is spending her days shopping, reading Collette in the park, and standing for hours in front of her favorite Monet waiting for Prince Charming to come sweep her off her feet. Which is why it’s so surprising when it happens! Except, this particular prince (of Monaco, I guess) wants nothing to do with aspiring Grace Kelly types (i.e., Blair Waldorf types), so he pretends he’s his own chauffeur while his driver acts as “the real royal.” As Cambria said, “I saw this Olsen twins movie.” Dumb! Of course, Blair gets found out in the end, mostly because, for the most deliberately and consistently dishonest person on the show, she’s not very cunning. Well, I guess that’s because Blair cannot for the life of her hide her feelings from anyone; she’s as open a book as it gets, which is why she’s always getting punk’d by her own badly formulated plots. But she always gets to wear hot dresses, which is pretty awesome.
  • Also, Blair’s still in love with Chuck, like we didn’t know that already. I’m surprised she would even admit it.
  • Oh, and because she’s the worst, Serena decides to chuck her already falling apart plans to go to Brown and to enroll at Columbia instead. Remember how Blair transferred to Columbia because NYU was too downtown for her and also going to college with Vanessa Abrams is a fate worse than death? Way to step all over Blair’s life plans, Serena! I’m with Blair on this one (I’m always with Blair). Why does Serena need to go to Columbia? There is no reason. It’s such a farce that she would even consider going to college anyway! Shut up, Serena.
  • Georgina had her baby! And it’s Dan’s. Ostensibly. Even though they had it like three months ago, Dan still hasn’t gotten around to having a paternity test done. Because he’s an IDIOT. Even all the other idiots in his life (Lilly, Rufus, Vanessa, Nate) are like, “HAVE YOU MET HER?” Of course Georgina crashes the weekly GG bash (some kind of cocktail party thing at Lilly’s apartment for no apparent reason except Eleanor is there so it’s about fashion?) and introduces everyone to little Milo, who is cute, I’ll grant that. And then he just BELIEVES HER when she gives him the paternity test that says he’s the dad? And then he BELIEVES THE DOCTOR? Get your own doctor, Dan! They can be bought! Of course, his dumb parents don’t think of this. They’re all like, “Okay, this piece of paper that could totally have been faked and this disembodied voice on the phone who could be a real doctor, or not, or a bought and paid for doctor, said the baby’s Dan’s? INCONTROVERTIBLE PROOF!” Ugh. I mean, I understand that Rufus is too busy not giving a shit about Chuck possibly being dead or kidnapped to deal with his own son, and Lilly is obviously throwing a gala and putting the burden of figuring out what happened to Charles on Nate, who I guess has nothing better to do, so it’s impossible for them to dedicate anymore than five minutes to this “Is it possible that Dan is getting screwed by Georgina, the queen of screwing people for no reason?” problem, but you’d think Nate or Vanessa would push a little harder for an actual paternity test that Dan actually participated in voluntarily. I guess we’ll never know.
  • Because Georgina is gone! Duh. Of course she left. Whose kid do you think that is? As I said above, I really hope it is Dan’s. It would serve him right.
  • Nate and Serena are the same person. While she’s sleeping her way through Paris, he’s sleeping his way through Chuck’s little black book. Well, supposedly. He says that he is, but I think he’s just having these girls over to his house for pillow fights and Rock Band because he’s lonely and this is the only way anyone will pay attention to Nate Archibald these days. EXCEPT: it turns out someone’s been paying a little too much attention to him. That would be “Juliet”, a girl who Nate met cute with at some restaurant while he was hungover with a leggy blond bimbo in tow, but of course she’s a crazy stalker. Or Gossip Girl. This is what my friends think, but I don’t think she’s Gossip Girl–I think she’s just nuts and obsessed with Nate. She also seems to be a shoplifter (maybe?) and definitely a serial returner-of-clothes-after-reattaching-the-tags-with-one-of-those-tag-attacher-things. Quelle horreur! (See how well I speak French?)
  • And the piece de resistance: Chuck is dead. Just kidding! He’s not. Someone is, though. They found a dead body, shot and floating in the river in Prague, with Chuck’s wallet on him. But we know Chuck’s alive because he was rescued by Fleur Delacour? And taken to her home? Where she treated his GUNSHOT WOUND TO THE STOMACH with vodka and brooding stares? And now he thinks he’s someone named Henry and he’s in love with Fleur and has a limp and they’re moving back to Paris? All of this is so awesome. Except I think he’s faking the amnesia, which is fine with me, in fact it’s better. Because the Chuck Bass Problem has always been the Chuck Bass Persona, which casts a long dark shadow over the life of Charles and the man he wants to be. Of course he flashes back to all the rapey crap he tried to pull in the pilot while he’s feverishly recovering from his–let’s recall–GUNSHOT WOUND TO THE STOMACH (seriously, they don’t have hospitals in Prague, Fleur?), because it’s been haunting him this whole time. Every time he thinks he’s out from under it, every time he thinks he’s better than it and has escaped its clutches by loving Blair and forgiving her and being forgiven by her and raising the stakes and humbling himself and trying so hard to be the sort of man that HE, and not Bart Bass, can be proud of, he gets scared and reverts or he lets the jackbass get into his head or he doubts himself or he doubts Blair and suddenly he’s Chuck Bass again.

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So anyway, yeah, I think this is the last act of a desperate man. This is his chance to start over, to be someone else, to be this Henry character, whoever he is. He can be anybody. He can be a good man. He can love Fleur Delacour, who is sweet and pretty and low maintenance (I guess? We don’t know much about her, this could swing either way) and loves him, and even though she’s not Blair, if he doesn’t have to be Chuck then it might not matter. GOD, I love this show. Welcome back, Gossip Girl. XOXO

Wah

Posted on September 13th, 2010 by annakjarzab

I forgot to show you the other thing that happened this weekend:

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That’s my beloved Timothy O’Toole’s “Win or Lose, We Came For the Booze” pint glass that I bought at the end of my time at the University of Chicago. I have no idea why I went to Timothy O’Toole’s so often–it’s in the weirdest neighborhood of Chicago, near the AMC River East theater, just south of the Streeterville area? Which is very much not where I was living. All I know is that I ended up going there more than I ever thought I would have–probably about five times total, but you know. Anyway, I liked the glass, and now it’s broken. It was sitting on the bookshelf that serves as my nightstand and I was laying down watching Hulu with my head near the foot of the bed and I just kicked it off. 🙁 All it had was water in it, because I’m old and boring.

Out-of-borough experience

Posted on September 13th, 2010 by annakjarzab

I don’t know if you all are veteran Sex and the City fans, but there’s this one episode in like the third season (or maybe second?) where Carrie is dating some guy (duh) and she brings Miranda along with her to Central Park on a date with this guy, because she’s setting Miranda up with this guy’s friend. Obviously, I’ve managed to retain a lot of details. Anyway, Miranda’s blind date seems all right until he admits that he hasn’t left Manhattan in ten years. Like, at all. And when she, aghast, asks WHY, he’s really judgy about it, saying how everything you could ever want is right here in Manhattan, why would you EVER EVER LEAVE?

I’ve been feeling a little bit like that guy as of late. Not in my opinion of Manhattan, but in my lack of going anywhere else. Of course, I’ve left the city–I went to D.C. and Chicago and California and New Orleans, all in the last four or five months. And I go to Long Island about once a month to visit Kim. But this weekend I was trying to recall the last time I went to another NYC borough and COULDN’T DO IT. That’s messed up. When was the last time I went to Brooklyn? I HAVE NO IDEA. I mean, I have a pretty terrible memory, all things being equal, but still. It’s been a while.

But I made up for it this weekend! You should know now that writing a post about leaving Manhattan usually involves a lot of complaints about transportation, and this one will be no different. I was not blessed, transit-wise, this weekend, although the weather was GORGWA, as my Contiki European tour guide Raquel would say.

Friday:

Friday I mostly chilled, and did not, in fact, leave Manhattan. I had to work until 5, which was torture–the first Friday back from summer (during which all we publishing drones get to leave work at 12:30-1:00 PM) is always really brutal. We were actually pretty punchy around the office, but by 5 everybody was like, GET ME OUT OF HERE OH MY GOD. We were crawling the walls.

I had dinner at Chat ‘n Chew with Alex, and then we, of course, went to the bookstore, where I got to see firsthand the horror of the new toy section. This non-book emphasis in bookstores is really bumming me out, yo. I know it’s hard out there for a pimp these days, but it breaks my heart to see what was once a robust teen section shoved into a corner to make way for Dora the Explorer plushes or whatever. Sad face to the extreme. On the upside, I bought Blameless, the third book in Gail Carriger’s awesome, hilarious, sexy Parasol Protectorate series. So it wasn’t a total loss.

It was also Fashion Night Out, but as you know I’ve been having my Fashion Week Out recently, so I decided it was best for all parties if I skipped it. Nevertheless, Alex and I ducked into the Union Square Sephora after B&N and it was a madhouse. And then we saw this in the sky:

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Okay, I know that’s a crappy iPhone camera photo in the dead of night, but it’s the lights coming up from Ground Zero. At first I thought it was the moon, but no: so much sadder than that. On September 11, 2001, I was at home sleeping–it happened early in New York, and I was three hours behind in California. I was bumming my way through my last weeks pre-freshman year in college. I remember my dad woke me up and told me that someone had just flown planes into the WTC, and those words took a while to sink in; I just rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, but in a few seconds I was up and out of bed and sitting in front of the television all day. It was horrible. A week or so later, my parents were moving me into the dorms at Santa Clara, and there was a giant memorial outside the mission for a SCU junior who had died on flight 93. I just remember being totally devastated, and it did color all of my college experiences, because I was a poli sci major, and it was so fresh and awful and people were taking 9/11 and pushing and pulling it in a million different ways to extract what they wanted out of it.

Sorry to be such a bummer. Let’s move on to Saturday.

Saturday:

My first out-of-borough experience. My friends Nikki, Cambria and I decided to go to the Bronx Zoo. The only zoo I’d ever been to in New York was the Central Park Zoo, even though they literally have one in every borough. The Central Park Zoo is probably the least awesome of all of them, because how many animals can you reasonably fit into a small corner of a park? Not many. One depressed polar bear, a couple of penguins, and a red panda who you can never see.

Of course, this was my first standoff with public transportation this weekend. The New York City subway system is actually very reliable on the weekdays, but on the weekends it’s like it goes off its meds or something–nothing goes where it’s supposed to, entire lines are canceled, you can’t get anywhere, it’s a total nightmare. And this weekend was no exception! You can take the 2 or the 5 on up to the Bronx Zoo, so, because we all live on the west side, we decided to take the 2 from 96th St. Except that the 2 was only running up to 96th St, and then randomly switched over to the 1 line (the 1 and the 2/3 diverge at 96th St, if you care) and stopped at 103rd St (on the 1 line, not the 2 line) and 137th St. on the 1 line. WTF? We luckily jumped off at 103rd before we got trotted all the way up into Hamilton Heights. We had almost no other option but to take the 5 train, which is on the other side of the park, so we took a cab to 125th and Lexington Ave and waited for the 5 there. After that, it was kind of no problem. We got to the zoo in good time and spent pretty much the entire day there.

I didn’t take very many pictures because of course I forgot my camera, and my iPhone camera is whack, but I did get this one of some giraffes:

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I guess it’s a little impossible to see them. But this red panda is really easy to see!

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I used my Cam Zoom app to get in close to this one. Cam Zoom is not such a super great app, at least the lite version I have isn’t, and most things were so pixilated when I used it that it was useless to me, but this one turned out okay. That red panda (not actually related to the panda, it turns out!) is very close to where I was standing, and it’s just sleeping there like a stuffed animal you can grab off the shelf. Amazing. And so cool. It was my favorite animal I saw all day.

We also had something of a gastronomical adventure. First of all, I had Dippin Dots (or whatever they were called there, I will always call them Dippin Dots):

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I remember the first time I had Dippin Dots–it was at Space Camp, and they were called Space Dots. Yum! Also, Nikki got this awesome novelty cup with lions on it:

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The thing about the lion cup was that you could get free refills anywhere in the park as long as you had your receipt. Since I drank like half the Diet Pepsi in there, I offered to facilitate the refill, so I went up to one of the snack counters and showed the girl my cup. She said–I KID YOU NOT–“Take off your top.” Meaning, of course, take off the top with the lions so that she could actually refill it, but for a second I just stood there like, “What can I say to this that is funny but not stupid because this lady seems to not be in such a great mood, but you can’t pass up this opportunity, can you?” I couldn’t come up with anything, so I just meekly handed her my cup–top off–and then took it back when she’d filled it and raced back to my friends. GOD, though. If I’d only been quicker, the JOKES I could’ve come up with.

Here’s a pic of our friend Kyle drinking from it later. I told Nikki we should get the bar to fill the thing with beer, but I don’t think that happened:

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After the zoo, we took the 5/6 back down the east side so that we could watch the Texas v. Wyoming game at Bar Coastal. If you ever come to New York and want to watch sports, go to Bar Coastal. They have the best waffle fries known to man, and about a glockjillion TVs. We were so zonked by the end of the game (Texas kicked Wyoming’s butt) that we couldn’t stay awake for the USC v. Virginia game, but I was delighted to discover, upon waking up the next day and checking my ESPN app, that USC won, too!

Sunday:

Sunday I went to two boroughs, although one was just in transit. You know I’m Polish, right? Maybe I don’t mention it enough…anyway, my friend Monica is also Polish (she actually speaks Polish, which makes her cooler than me), and we like to try out the local Polish fare together. The best (only) Polish food I’ve ever had in the city is at Krolewski Jadlo, which is this great authentic Polish restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Greenpoint is a traditionally Polish neighborhood, although, like all other ethnic groups, the immigrant population that’s been there for decades is being pushed out by gentrification. Still, there’s a healthy Polish population still alive and kicking there. I love going there; it’s sort of like being back in my grandmother’s neighborhood in Chicago, although being surrounded by all the Polish signs and people speaking Polish makes me miss my grandmother a lot.

Getting to Greenpoint is sort of a nightmare, though. There’s only one subway line that goes directly there (the G), and it’s notoriously awful and unreliable. To get to Greenpoint from my house, I have to take the 1 to the 7 at Times Square, then switch from the 7 to the G in Long Island City, which is in Queens. EXCEPT: the G train was not running this weekend. It had been replaced by a shuttle bus. And you know what? A shuttle bus (which is just a normal city bus that has been repurposed, and is free) is actually a lot smaller than a subway train! So of course it’s packed to the gills with people, and I had to wait a long time for it.

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Oh, and it was raining. This strange place was right across the street from the bus stop. I kept staring at it and wondering, “What could possibly go on in there?” I posted that question to the Twitterfaces, and I think we’re all in agreement: it’s best not to know.

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Finally I got off the bus at Nassau and made my way to Krolewskie Jadlo–right on time. Not much to say about this, except that the food was delicious, as always.

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This is a terrible picture of a not-so-photogenic but oh-so-tasty prune wrapped in bacon. Or, as it said on the menu, “bacon stuffed with plum”, which doesn’t make any sense.

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My entree. This is what they call the “Polish plate”–pierogi, golombki (stuffed cabbage), kielbasa (Polish sausage), and potato pancakes. It came with a side of shredded beet salad and a very sweet cole slaw.

After lunch, my friends and I went to a chocolate shop, where I bought some Polish chocolates to bring back to Chicago in a few weeks, and then to a bakery where we got some sweetbreads stuffed with cherry jam. After a long subway ride home, I collapsed on my bed and proceeded to watch hours and hours of Make It or Break It, which is my new favorite obsession show now (full post about its awesomeness to come). I actually stayed up till 2 AM to keep watching it, then wanted to kill myself at 7 when my sunrise alarm clock woke me up–and then watched another episode while I was getting ready. OB. SESSED.

Smacznego!

Shopaholic goes to Old Navy

Posted on September 10th, 2010 by annakjarzab

OMG, you guys, something is WRONG with me. I have been bitten by the shopping bug, badly. I have to tell you, I hardly ever buy new things. Clothes, eh. I don’t care much about them. There are things in my closet–things I still wear on occasion–that I bought freshman year of college. And it pains me to say this, but I was a freshman in college in 2001. 2001 you guys! I have a sweater that I STILL WEAR from 2001 in my closet right now! Why is that a thing?

Anyway, every season I buy something to refresh my wardrobe. This summer it was two summer cardigans from the Gap in gray and black, and a couple of t-shirts that were on sale at the Gap and J. Crew. That’s basically it. I don’t shop. I don’t go shopping. I’m simply too lazy and not vain enough to care what I look like most of the time. I mean, all of my work trousers have dropped hems. Why haven’t I had this fixed? Laziness. Pure laziness.

And yet, I love the fashion blogs! I love it when people like Jessica of What I Wore post about their daily outfits. People wear outfits daily, you guys! I wear an “outfit” maybe four times a year. I’ve always been a fan of designer bags, and the occasional pair of designer shoes and sunglasses, but I’ve owned the same pair of Ralph Lauren sunglasses for five years, and the same Skaagen watch for five years (which currently doesn’t work because the battery needs replacing–see? LAZINESS). They were “expensive” when I bought them (little did I know JUST HOW EXPENSIVE things like sunglasses and watches can be), and I considered them investments and haven’t replaced them since. I seriously have only had one pair of sunglasses in the last five years, if you don’t count the totally awesome but completely too cool for me plastic aviator sunglasses from the seventies I took from my grandmother’s house that used to belong to my grandfather. I wear them every once in a while, even though everyone I know has told me how stupid I look, as a tribute to him. But otherwise, one pair of sunglasses. Because they were an INVESTMENT.

I feel like I’m going off on a tangent here. Suffice it to say, I don’t shop. And when I do shop, I don’t buy things that are in any way a risk. Like, I don’t normally buy costume jewelry from Target, even, because when I do I wimp out on wearing it because I don’t think I’m cool enough to pull it off, and then it just sits on my dresser for years until I finally just toss it so I don’t have to feel guilty for having bought it and not worn it.

But recently, I was in a B&N and I happened to open a copy of Nina Garcia’s The One Hundred. Listen, people: much as I love Nina Garcia, I recommend you do not look at this book, because if you do, you are going to immediately have this little voice in your head that says, “YOU MUST OWN ALL OF THESE THINGS.” Because that’s what happened to me. I now am fully convinced I need everything on the list except the few things I’ve nixed: Ankle Bootie (too ugly), Stilettos (too tall), Bikini (too old), BlackBerry (got an iPhone), Caftan (don’t really know what that is), Push Up Bra (do not need help in that area), and Underwear (just kidding!). Otherwise, I NEED IT ALL. I was explaining this to Emilie today and she was like, “You’re such a slave to marketing, it’s insane.” SO TRUE!

So I’ve of course gone on a shopping spree. Let me show you some of the things I got!

sailorshirtStriped boat neck tee from Old Navy (Nina Garcia’s One Hundred #83: Striped Sailor Shirt)

cardiganButton-front rosette cardigan from Old Navy

[Pretend there’s a picture and link to another shirt I bought at Old Navy that appears not to exist on their website. It was navy blue and it’s sort of a tank and it’s got some ruffles. I wore it to work yesterday.]

minnet82Thunderbird suede boat-sole from Minnetonka Moccasins (Nina Garcia One Hundred #55: Minnetonka Moccasins)

sandalElvera demi-wedge sandals by Merona at Target

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Mossimo moto jacket in tan at Target

medDouble link bracelet by Privileged at Gilt

It’s the faux leather motorcycle jacket that’s really boggling my mind here. Why the heck did I feel the need to buy that? I had a perfectly reasonable Anna-purchase in my Target bascket–a nice twill trench (Nina Garcia One Hundred #86: Trench coat) that I’ll probably end up buying after the motorcycle jacket arrives and inevitably doesn’t fit and looks awful–and yet I veered left and bought that instead. I’m a stranger to myself. I keep telling myself that I never buy myself anything, I deserve it, it’s been a difficult year, I just finished a book, I work hard, yadda yadda yadda, with the kicker being that none of these things was particularly expensive on its own, even that damn bracelet because it was on super sale at Gilt (oh, by the way, I belong to Gilt, Swirl, and Rue La La now…pity my bank account, pity it!). But still. This stuff adds up, as I know, and I still have an overpriced apartment to pay for each month! And I want more things! I AM NOT DONE YOU GUYS. Because every time I open my closet or a drawer, I realize just how old and raggedy all of my shoes and clothes are. Seriously, you should see the state of my shoes. They’re beaten up and worn out and have been rained and snowed and sleeted on and baked by the sun and scuffed and shredded to pieces by all the blocks I’ve walked in this damn city, plus they’re all from Payless or 100 years old and in need of replacing. Maybe it’s the nesting feeling that comes with the season change, I don’t know.

At least I actually needed those sandals to wear with a dress to my bro’s best friend’s wedding in late September. Those felt justifiable (and they were dirt cheap). Now I can throw away the two pairs of “cute dress up shoes” that I hate and hurt my feet and I never wear. Unless these turn out to be fug, in which case, I just have to start over.

On the other hand, though, I feel decidedly too cute today. I’m wearing that sailor shirt with a long beaded necklace that’s got a gold/brown/amber theme going on, but I’m wearing it knotted so it hangs nicely, with small gold hoops, a new pair of jeans (Old Navy, of course) and my Minnetonkas, which I’m happy to say were a terrific purchase. They are comfortable and adorable. I was worried about not being cool enough for the beading, but I think I’m working it out. And you know what? Feeling like I look cute actually gives me a little confidence boost. So THIS is what Stacy and Clinton have been talking about all these years! Hm.

The last days of summer

Posted on September 3rd, 2010 by annakjarzab

So on Wednesday, it became September. And can I get an AMEN on that?! This summer could not come to a close any faster, in my personal opinion. Here are the things I like about summer:

1. Summer fridays
2. Avocados

Yup, that’s it. I tried to think of more things, but I couldn’t, because I don’t like summer at all. It’s my least favorite season. It’s been this way for a long time. I attribute this to my general Bad Attitude towards the sun. People always give me a hard time about this, because, like, who hates the sun? Its warmth makes life on this planet possible! It helps the body create Vitamin D, which is important for some reasons I don’t even know about because I’m not a doctor! Its harmful cell-damaging UV rays allow the cast of Jersey Shore to GTL all over Seaside! THESE ARE WONDERFUL THINGS. Yeah, I know. And I do like to be alive, and I’m sure Vitamin D is very important for my immune system and fighting cancer, and I would also cry tears of neverending sorrow if Paulie D and The Situation didn’t get look like traffic cones with hair. (No I wouldn’t, I don’t even watch that show; ALSO, I’m not lying about that.) But the sun makes me burn and makes it necessary to wear sunscreen, which I hate, and makes me hot and sweaty and I hate that. I like a nice fall day. Heaven for me is a nice fall day. If Heaven is a physical place, it will always be fall there. So, as you can probably imagine, I’m excited for fall.

So excited, in fact, that I’m getting out of here tomorrow and going to Long Island to visit my friend Kim. I like to think of Kim’s apartment as my summer home, where I escape like a Richie Rich “to the Hamptons” even though she doesn’t live in the Hamptons. But my summer home is more fun because Kim’s there and also she has a car and can drive us around so it’s almost like having a chauffeur. She’s reading this right now and writing me an email saying YOU’RE UNINVITED! Just kidding, she’s not. But she’s probably rolling her eyes.

Anyway, here’s the main problem with going to Long Island this weekend: Hurricane Earl. Or, it was the problem a few days ago–now, Kim assures me, it probably won’t hit LI at all (you’re welcome, New Englanders), and even if there’s some residual rain it’ll happen tonight and I’m not going until tomorrow. Which is great, because I just want to chillax this weekend. I finished my Book 2 manuscript on Monday night, and then started rereading it on Tuesday which is such bad mojo. I emailed Alex crazy things like, “IT’S SO TERRIBLE!” over and over again, until we had a come to Jesus moment where she was like, “WILL YOU PLEASE STOP WORKING ON THIS NOW? GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.” So I’m taking a break. Since I’m signing off for the weekend, I want to leave you with this song that my friend Mardie just sent me; this song is so awesome I can’t even tell you.