Thursday, August 31, 2006

A brief taxonomy of English language and literature related Facebook groups.

Let me begin by saying that the English major in me is overjoyed, and the linguist in me is completely appalled.

I am pleased as punch that there are groups uniting English majors, uniting specific classes (like Arden of Tombstone), professor/TA fan clubs (Prof. Rita Railey has one), and some others.

But the groups that proclaim that English needs to be spoken in this country at all times, the groups that proclaim a hatred for non-native speakers being TAs and professors, and the groups that are dedicated to the so-called preservation of the English language . . . I am worried about all of these groups.

Mostly because there are a fuckton of them.

I'm sure that group of hearty defenders of the English language would really not appreciate my use of "fuckton" just now.

But you know what? Fuck them.

English is a wonderful language because its most heralded writers have contributed so many completely made-up words to a language that had otherwise cannibalized basically every language with which it came into contact. No language is pure. Languages change and evolve as people do. And anyone who thinks that languages are better off in their dictionary form really has no basis making an opinion about language use.

Dictionaries do not include the richest parts of languages: slang and dialect. English dialects are so rich, and if these naysayers had read any Harlem Renaissance writings they might understand that Zora Neale Hurston is a better speaker than they are because she can successfully navigate both dialect and cannonical, grammatical English. When you push out slang and dialect, the language loses the character of its people. Which is a complete tragedy.

These people also seem to have a disdain for "netspeak." Which makes me wonder about their opinion on medical and legal speak, both of which are comprised more classically than the rest of English speech as they are heavily reliant on Greek and Latin. As for netspeak, I can only assume they're talking about IM shorthands and misspellings, which, for my side of the story, are really only improving the completely whack spelling of this language by reducing it to what language essentially is: symbols that stand for phonemes. Netspeak reflects an essential part of English-speaking culture: the internet. It's our essential mode of communication. It has its own grammar, own rules for usage.

To the people who hate this, get with the times. I'm sure you can't stand that you're reading this diatrbe in a blog, which is a far better word than weblog, for my money.

For those who are represented in the groups that discuss the frustration with non-native speakers, I understand. I know its hard. I can't fault you for expressing your frustration. But you all have won. English is now the official language of the good ol' USA. And I can not even begin to tell you how much that kind of Nativism hurts me. My family lost its language coming here because back in 1901, being American was the thing to do to fit in in America. That, and Italian-Americans were only allowed certain kinds of jobs, so being a fucking WOP got you absolutely nowhere. So we stopped speaking Italian. And now, 3 generations later, I am the only person left in my family who speaks our once-native tongue. And that's because I chose to learn it on my own. It's all I've got that's Italian about me. That and my last name.

Like me, many 3rd generation sons and daughters are struggling with their cultural identity, their loss of culture. So why are we all so eager to make our new citizens conform? Have we really forgotten that they're here for the same reason our families came here? I guess we have. The reason I love Europe is because I can walk down the streets in Milan and here 8 different tongues. The same thing happens in LA. NYC. San Francisco. In any big city, there's multiculturalism. There are many languages. Deal with it. America is a country of immigrants.

You have your official language, but that doesn't mean you have to take away everyone elses.

And as to professors and TAs who speak English as a second or third language, they're not stupid. They have MAs, Ph.Ds. Just because they don't speak English exactly as you do doesn't make them any less qualified than those who do. In fact, even if they are teaching an English lit class, they may have a better perspective on the work studied as relative newcomer to the language. Just ask Professor Huang. The man gets Ezra Pound. And Gertrude Stein. And I do not have to tell you just how difficult of a work Tender Buttons is if you've ever read it.

Every language has equal value. And all languages evolve and change as the culture of its speakers evolve and change. I say we embrace it, and erase and notion of linguistic purity from our vocabularies.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Holy cock.

Right now, someone on Santa Barbara Craigslist is giving away one of these fine fowls.

He is a White Crested Polish Rooster (blue variety).

I've never seen a crazier looking bird in my life. I need him.

An inventory of stuff in and around the vicinity of my desk.

*Two luna bars. One, iced oatmeal raisin. One, chocolate peppermint stick. I am stocking up for winter and long Wednesdays putting the paper to bed.
*A shit-ton of file folders. Don't ask me how many. I have no idea. But you better bet they are impeccably organized. Especially the green one full of Who's Who in Financial Management data.
*Lavendar Chamomile Aveeno Baby lotion. Because I like to smell like babies.
*24 1.5x2 inch colored post-it note pads, organized in my drawer according to color.
*Burt's Bees lip balm. Take it and you shall experience a slow and painful death.
*A photograph of a water buffalo with the caption "Say Cheese: Water buffalo milk makes a mouthwatering mozzarella." The covershot from this month's AgAlert.
*4 movie ticket credit card reciepts stapled together by Bill and given to me prior to our viewing of the finest peice of cinema known to man, Snakes on a Plane.
*A list of the emails and extensions of everyone in the office.
*A post-it note on my monitor that reads: "Manitees are very ethical writers; either everything is okay to write about, or nothing is."
*A bag of Lay's Classic potato chips that I bought last week and will consume eventually. It's just good to know that they're there.
*A copy of about 6 different economic forecast guides, from a variety of universities, including UOP, of which I have fond speech tournament memories.
*2 notebooks, one black, one a white reporter's notebook.
*A picture of a wild west crayfish with a lasso. Caption: "The Bayou Goes Southwest." My subcaption: "Snippy Mosebar: The fastest claw in the west." I am collecting bizarre pets.
*A small stack of calendar entries I haven't felt like filing.
*Several of my ink pens from home because I despise ballpoint pens, even when free.
*A blue highlighter.
*Scissors--I lord them over everyone because they know I have them and they do not.
*A grip of business cards.
*The 2006 Book of Lists, both the love of my life and the bane of my existance.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What Not to Wear: Project Runway edition.

I read PostSecret every Sunday. While an overwhelming number of secrets pretain to sexual violence, there are occasionally some that bring an ounce of levity. Some of them, very well could be mine.

While that one is not mine, I, too, value Stacy and Clinton's opinions over all others. In fact, if last week's Project Runway decision was any indication, I think Stacy and Clinton need to be guest judges on the show. Vincent's dress should not have won, based on proportion alone.

I don't know what the hell that bizarre middy collar is doing on that dress, but it is not in any way suited to that model. The challenge was to design a look for the everyday woman, using the other designers mothers and sisters as models. Most of these women were in the 12-14 range. And there is a lot that can be done to make an average-sized woman look smaller. Most of which are simple things involving piping, adding a central seams down the center, rich colors, appropriate-sized patterns and, most importantly, making things that actually fit the model well! Basically, everyone failed this challenege. Though I think the best of the bunch was probably Uli, once again making a great use of her understanding of pattern.

Anything was better than Robert's atrocity for Vincent's very large and probably diabetic sister (woman literally gimped down the runway), which wsa a black jersey tube dress and some bright red kimono-like thing that made her look about 3 times bigger than she actually was.
Stacy and Clinton, Project Runway desperately needs your help. Please save Michael Kors from himself. And punch Elle magazine fashion director Nina Garcia in the face for me. She has broken the no miniskirts over 35 rule numerous times. And once with leggings.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"Who puts their resume in Comic Sans MS?"

I really don't know if its awesome or sad when I can identify a font. I clearly spend too much time in front of a computer screen.

But that's a serious question. I should never see a resume in Comic Sans MS. Never.

That's, like, 10 kinds of wrong.

Monday, August 14, 2006

You've gotta get a gimmick.

Everyone who loves kittens needs to know that our Zoey is now featured on

She is kitten #72. Her picture is doubly good because she's sitting inside a shoebox that's inside a bag. It's twice the bag goodness.

Just wait. We'll get her into places like,,, Baby's gonna be a star!

Hollywood missed connections. w4m.

Walking back from Java Jones with Rose, I was stopped in the middle of the State and De La Guerra by a tall man holding his coffee in line with his necktie. He looks at me for a long while before stopping me as we pass each other. He reaches out to lightly touch my arm.

"We really miss you at Hollywood," he says.

I am always so caught off guard when things like this happen. The witty part of me is dead.

"Do you, really?" I say, turning back.

"Yeah, we do. Seriously."

"Thanks." Because smiling is all I can do.

As we walk away, I know everything about this guy except his name. He always came in late, 10ish, and I always gave him shit. He would purposely ask for bad movies because he knew that I would give him some snide look that said, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Seeing regulars outside of the Hollywood Video environment is definitely odd. I feel like Donna Beth, my Chaucer instructor, must have felt when she spun around after getting her hair done last weekend to see me sitting in the chair opposite her. She looked at me like she was watching a dog walk on its hind legs. (Or a dog with no front legs at all, for that matter. Evidence here.)

It's nice to know that I'm that memorable, and that I managed to create a lasting impression with regulars. Somehow, that makes it better that I spent nearly 4 years of my life working for Hollywood Video, because I built a relationship with customers that made them feel less like they were entering a part of a giant corporation and more like they were visiting a neighborhood store. So many of them were so happy that I was taking a better job, a career-type job. But its nice to know they miss me.

Still, the exchange in the middle of the intersection was odd. What business does he have in a tie? And what business do I have in dress pants and heels? This is not how we know each other. Two-legged dog odd.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I must share this sentence with the world.

"And then Tim Gunn said, 'Don't worry, there's a Dairy Queen near my house.'"
--Marcus, explaining his dream about Tim Gunn after last nights wicked awesome Project Runway.

This sentence was followed by: "I just don't know why Tim Gunn wanted to take me to a Dairy Queen."

If there are people out there who don't know why I love this man and why I'm going to marry him, this is why. It's moments like these where we are absolutely ridiculous that make my goddamn day.

Baby, I love you. And next time Tim Gunn wants to take you to the DQ, invite me so I can get some advice on following grain lines. I'll buy.

Monday, August 07, 2006


The Italian Grocery on De La Guerra is my savior.

I no longer have to make pizzocheri with delicious, though rather flimsy and inadequate, garlic noodles from Trader Joe's. Now I have an outlet at which to purchase real pizzocheri, which is what thick, hearty Italian buckwheat pasta is called. For those who have not been blessed with this gift from the Vatellina, traditional pizzocheri are cooked with boiled potatoes and cabbage, then smothered in a garlic-butter-sage sauce and choked to death with a variety of cheeses. As I am unable to find Toma and Bitto in America, I've been using a blend of melty mozzarella, fontina, asiago and parmesan.

Pizzocheri, specialty of the Vatellina aka a meal to last a week if you get snowed-in in your small Alpine village

Learning how to make this dish was one of my Italian cooking goals I set when I came back from my summer in Italy. Mission accomplished. I also set out to learn my favorite dessert, Tiramisu, which I think I do a decent job of, especially with extra Kaluha.

Along the way, I've completely abandoned store bought pasta sauces. I can't stand them anymore, and I really don't know how I could ever stand them in the first place. They're never hearty; even when there are tomato chunks in them, its not the same. My father always made a rich, red Sicilian sauce from scratch for me when I was a kid. He put hours into it, which is why my sauces are still not my father's caliber. I make lighter, more Roman-style sauces. And I make a mean vodka sauce, which is creamier than one might expect.

I always marveled at how my father rarely used a recipe for sauces, but the more I make them, I see why he didn't need them. I've figured out how to do an alfredo sauce sans recipe, which I really thought would be the hardest sauce I could ever make. For sauces, a recipe is too limiting. They're really meant to be more like guidelines--especially in an Italian kitchen.

So, pizzocheri and tiramisu are two of my completed Italian cooking goals. Now I just have to set aside the time to make gnocchi from scratch.

It is, however, unfortunate that no where in the country can I get cheap grappa. It's like 5-10 euro a bottle in Italy! It's $40 a bottle here! Even at the Italian Grocery! I guess my next goal is to learn how to put my winemaking skills to good use and figure out how to distill me some Italian rocket fuel.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Guess I shouldn't have made that left turn at Albequrque.

I discovered last weekend on a fabric run to Ventura with Jenn that the space between Santa Barbara/Monetecito and Ventura is suspiciously like West Virgina.

I also discovered I had a flat tire, which is how I discovered the strange cultural topography of Carpinteria and Summerland in the first place.

For those of you who have seen my car, you will know that it has two neat dents on the passenger side: a large one on the back passenger door courtesy of Sam and Kian's old apartment building and a small one on the front wheel well, thanks to my own shitty driving on moving day.

This is why I thought people were just being complete dicks as they pointed to my front wheel and motioned in confusing ways. "Yes, fuckass, I am aware that there is a dent. Thanks for being so observant."

Only after the third Samaritan pointed did Jenn roll down the window to hear people explain we had a flat. So we got off the road just past Montecito, in to Summerland, which bears absolutely NO resemblance to the faux-C show of the same name that allegedly took place there. It is also not particularly summery.

In Summerland, we pull up to the first gas station off the road and inspect the damage. Yes. It's flat. Awesome. We assume there's a nail in it. So we amble inside the convenience store to ask if there's a station with a service shop around. Inside, a leathery woman reeking of booze is conversing with a leathery man, wearing sunglasses, and smoking inside the store. They tell us that if we "drive about three miles down the road there, there'll be a 76 station with a service shop."

So we thank them and head on our merry.

But they really have no idea exactly how many miles down the road this place is, because we drove far more than 3 miles, upwards of 5 by my estimate, to this elusive 76 station. In Carpinteria.

Wouldn't it have been easier to say, "If you go down this road until you hit Carpinteria, you'll find a 76 station?" Then I wouldn't have feared breaking down by the fucking polo grounds and being devoured by rabid and angry horses.

Carp, as locals call it, is also somewhat desolate-looking. We pull into the gas station and drive all the way around to the back, thinking this will put us closer to the service shop. But we find no one available for service. Rad. This is so rad. Luckily, from out of the convenience store emerges a short, old man with a dingy baseball cap and spectacles so thick his eyes are magnified to three times their size. Oh yeah, this guy also has a grill like a dirty picket fence.

We inform him of our problem and all I can do is stare at his teeth. We pull the car over to the air box and he takes one look at my green-capped Nitrogen filled tires and announces that we have a problem, other than the flat. "These tires is filled with helium," he says.

Helium? Dude, you work at a gas station. Shouldn't you have a basic primer on gases? Like, at least to know that helium can not possibly be in tires. Or my car might float. I say might, because I really don't know how well helium holds up under 2 tons of pressure.

In any case, I hedgingly ask him if it is safe to put air in tires filled with things other than air, whatever they may be. He tells me to check my owner's manual, as though an owner's manual comes with the most-replaced parts of the car. All the while, Jenn has noticed that there is a man on a payphone who may and or may not have a glass eye leering at us as we sit in the car and read the informationless owner's manual.

Gas Station Attendant with a Mean Grill returns and knocks horror-movie style on our window. I think: imminent death. He tells us that he "called somebody" and they "said it was okay" to mix air with "helium." So I say, what the hell, fill 'em. At least we'll get to Ventura . . . if we don't DIE FIRST.

So he airs up our tires and slaps the hood to send us on our way. We say "thanks" and drive off wondering how the fuck we ended up in a scene out of The Hills Have Eyes.

The good part of this is that Ventura is a land of wonderous automotive innovation. Right across the street from Joann's is a place called Just Tires, where they happen to do work on just . . . tires. They took the nail out of my tire and patched it for $10 flat.

And brocade silk was on sale! Badass!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

There are a few regulars I pass on the way to work in the morning, the Latin woman with the wheely suitcase who never fails to compliment me on my choice of skirts, the aging Hepcat who dresses like Johnny Cash and wears a black Fedora over his Elvis Costello glasses and impeccably trimed silver goatee--no matter what the weather might be.

I see these people nearly every day and feel like I ought to introduce myself to them, all friendly small neighborhood style, since we travel on the same trajectory every day, by which I mean we all have specific places we like to part our cars and probably get very irrationally angry when we can't park in our usual favorite spots.

I like to believe these individuals are like me, anyway.

I've always liked the idea of saying hi and being friendly with the neighbors, after all, you never know who's going to have a file to chisel melted plastic off your stove when your teapot . . . or, conversely, who you're going to have to report to the police when you start seeing little red dots all over the complex. (Yep, that's the Colonial for you and the dual personalities of the boys in 41: two were really awesome and helpful and rode motorbikes, the other two were drunken domestic abusers and drug dealers who I hear are now in jail somewhere.)

Why not strike up some sort of kinship bond with people who also walk equally far from their vehicles to the office?

Soon to follow: Why Carpinteria and Summerland are kind of like West Virigina.