Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sweeter words...

...were never uttered:

"We are going to start getting first-round proofs... Will you be ready to help? Work should be pretty steady for the next two or three months."

Yes, please! :)

Geez, it's sad to be grateful to a potential employer like you would be to a potential lover! :)

p.s. Thanks to news sources for pointing out that the actual unemployment rate in the US right now is much closer to 20% than the official government version of 9.7%. The 9.7% refers to those filing Unemployment claims every week. You're only allowed to file the claims for so long. In my case, based on my New Jersey work, I got benefits for 6 months, then I was cut off. While I still can't find a full-time job and scrabble for free-lance work, I'm also no longer considered "Unemployed" according to the US government stats. Just to point out that the "9.7%" is completely false. This country's unemployment rate is actually at Great Depression levels.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sylvia Plath (October 27)

With a love poem from her husband:

CHAUCER

'Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote...'
At the top of your voice, where you swayed on the top of a stile,
Your arms raised -- somewhat for balance, somewhat
To hold the reins of the straining attention
Of your imagined audience -- you declaimed Chaucer
To a field of cows. And the Spring sky had done it
With its flying laundry, and the new emerald
Of the thorns, the hawthorn, the blackthorn,
And one of those bumpers of champagne
You snatched unpredictably from pure spirit.
Your voice went over the fields towards Grantchester.
It must have sounded lost. But the cows
Watched, then approached: they appreciated Chaucer.
You went on and on. Here were reasons
To recite Chaucer. Then came the Wyf of Bath.
Your favourite character in all literature.
You were rapt. And the cows were enthralled.
They shoved and jostled shoulders, making a ring,
To gaze into your face, with occasional snorts
Of exclamation, renewed their astounded attention.
Ears angling to catch every inflection.
Keeping their awed six feet of reverence
Away from you. You just could not believe it.
And you could not stop. What would happen
If you were to stop? Would they attack you,
Scared by the shock of silence, or wanting more --?
So you had to go on. You went on --
And twenty cows stayed with you hypnotized.
How did you stop? I can't remember
You stopping. I imagine they reeled away --
Rolling eyes, as if driven from their fodder.
I imagine I shooed them away. But
Your sostenuto rendering of Chaucer
Was already perpetual. What followed
Found my attention too full
And had to go back into oblivion.


-----------------------------------------------------------

And a death poem from her husband:

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

At your sixtieth birthday, in the cake's glow,
Ariel sits on your knuckle.
You feed it grapes, a black one, then a green one,
From between your lips pursed like a kiss.
Why are you so solemn? Everybody laughs

As if grateful, the whole reunion --
Old friends and new friends,
Some famous authors, your court of brilliant minds,
And publishers and doctors and professors,
Their eyes creased in delighted laughter -- even

The late poppies laugh, one loses a petal.
The candles tremble their tips
Trying to contain their joy. And your Mummy
Is laughing in her nursing home. Your children
Are laughing from opposite sides of the globe. Your Daddy

Laughs deep in his coffin. And the stars,
Surely the stars, too, shake with laughter.
And Ariel --
What about Ariel?
Ariel is happy to be here.

Only you and I do not smile.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What $1,000 will get you...


In real-life financial terms, when you have no constant source of income, a gift of $1,000 gets you a reprieve from fear for one month. This $1,000 from my great aunt just paid for me to live (rent/bills) for the month of December, which I'd been worried about. (I'd figured out that I was covered for the upcoming-in-one-week November rent.)

In the short term, the fact that I'd just received $1,000 also enabled me to go to the drug-store to get a few "luxuries" that I'd run out of over the past few months and hadn't replaced because they weren't really "necessities":

(1) Reading glasses. The glasses that my mom gave me a few months ago look like shit. I kept thinking, "What if I actually get hired somewhere and want to look decent??" So I splurged on a pair of drugstore reading glasses, with case and cord: $14.99.

(2) Lotions. I like Eucerin for my face, Cetaphil for my body. Have been living on the dregs of the old containers and cheapie substitutes for months. Finally today was able to buy new.

(3) Whitening mouthwash. Total "luxury" that I'd done without for the past 6 months. And bought again today.

The unexpected gift of $1,000 was worth about $25 in actuality, as far as my beloved products went, but about a million psychologically.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Letter


I got a letter in the mail today. In a small envelope, hand-addressed. I didn't recognize the sender's name, but the return address was from my dad's home-town. My initial crazy thought was: "My father is dead. And his East Texas relatives didn't know how to reach me, so they wrote me a letter."

(Who sends letters today? In "The Olden Days," there'd occasionally be a letter from someone you cared about in your mailbox among the bills. Getting the mail used to, thus, be somewhat exciting!)

In this case, my father wasn't dead. The letter was from the sister of my grandmother on my father's side. I still don't know how to spell what I called my Texas grandma: Me-ma. Meh-ma. (It's pronounced "Meah-ma.") She was always nice to me. (I remember crying after the one time I got to spend a whole week with her -- when I was 8 -- and then had to go back home to my parents...) At the time, back home, I couldn't figure out what it was that was making me cry about being away from her. What it was: Me-ma was just nice to me. There wasn't tension around her. She listened and responded to my 8-year-old conversations. (Even at 8, my own parents constantly made me feel like shit. Even at 8, I completely recognized the difference between how my parents acted toward me and how my grandma acted toward me.) I could talk to Me-ma.

And I thought her costume jewelry was very pretty. Boxes of it that she let me sift through and try on. And she gave in to the pleas of me and my cousin who lived down the street from her and who hung out with me that week to buy us both MOOD RINGS, please Me-ma! (They were so trendy in '73. At the time we 8-year-old cousins got them -- me picking the oval one, my cousin picking the round one -- my mood ring was too big for my finger, so I had to tie yarn around it so I could wear it. I still have it and wear it today, 37 years later.)

The one moment of discord: We -- Me-ma, my cousin, and I -- were sitting outside of a drugstore, and I started to recite something I'd heard from my step-Grandpa (my Me-ma's second husband):

Beans, beans, a musical fruit
The more you eat 'em, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So why not eat beans every meal!

Me-ma told me I shouldn't talk like that! :)

The letter I received today was from my Me-ma's sister, now nearing 90. She'd invested money in the past and, having no kids of her own, wanted to now distribute earnings among the grandkids-slightly-removed. The letter held a check for $1,000.

A check to me for $1,000.In the middle of my sporadic free-lance jobs, my scrabbling about for anything to pay my bills... I'm in shock at her kindness and remembrance of me. And at my utter out-of-the-blue luck.

Thank you, great-aunt Edna. Thank you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Timothy Donnelly poems

CHAPTER FOR BEING TRANSFORMED INTO A LOTUS

The comparison only went so far: the suffering
from which we had come to expect so much
remained mere suffering; the swamp due south

to which we had thought to compare it in our youth
stayed water choked in excess life, its voices
thoughtlessly forcing the same plump syllables

across the distance into windows furred with night.
But here in the room where we sit thinking that
if suffering had to enter our house, it should have

been the kind that sang, or else the kind from which
small shapes would zoom and circle the light
hanging in the middle of the room like a thought

whose fifteen petals open and whose opening we become
custodian to, here in the lotus of half-sleep, I am
beginning to forget where a comparison falls short.


----from his new book "The Cloud Corporation"

-------------------------------------------------------------

from FUN FOR THE SHUT IN

Demonstrate to yourself a resistance to feeling
unqualified despair by attempting something like
perfect despair embellished with hand gestures.

[…]

Take notice of the slow, practically imperceptible

changes always underway around or inside you like
tooth decay, apostasy, the accumulation of dust,
debt, the dead, and what the dead are preparing to say

if offered a seat at the table.

[…]

Offer the dead a seat at the table. Now take it away:
just pull it out from under them. Hypnosis is like deep

focus with a sleeper hold on self-critique.

[…]

Soon one of the dead will conduct an infinitely slow

white envelope across the unlit tabletop, a human sigh
through a wall of exhaust. The letter itself will be left
unsigned, but you’d recognize that handwriting anywhere.


----Columbia Poetry Review, No. 22, Spring 2009

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Facebook Credentials

I was looking up a couple of my old lovers online tonight.

Found my first ('89 - '91) on MySpace and Facebook, with moribund entries that contained little more than her current age (57) and her "single" status. Though on Facebook, she added a little bit of description of herself: "El Jefe" (the chief) and "black sheep."

The last time I saw her was in 2000, on the 4th of July; also the last time I slept with her. We ate hot-dogs and went swimming at her apartment pool. She had a paunch. We went to watch city fireworks. She bored the hell out of me all evening with boring talk that I can't remember now, other than that I remember to this day that I felt like I was about to scream with how stupid she was. Yet when she didn't call me for a week after, I was pissed. Called her a couple of days after the 4th and left her a long-winded message ("What do you WANT out of this relationship?"). No return call. My birthday was in mid-August; she called a few days late. I never returned her call. The end of that. The REAL end of that.

Her Facebook and MySpace entries that I looked at now made me sad for her. "El Jefe," indeed. She had a certain cache in the gay club world at the time I knew her ('89 - '91) because she was a dominatrix and had slept with many, many people (female and male, gay and straight), and had "dominated" many gay boys behind the scenes, but she was also kind of a joke, even at that time. The weaker people in that crowd might have considered her "The Chief," but the more intelligent people thought she was an idiot (as I did, but didn't want to admit at the time -- the "dominatrix stuff" was initially fascinating, but ultimately incredibly stupid).

The other former lover I looked up is now a filmmaker living in Hollywood, having won legitimate awards for her film shorts. Her Facebook page was chock-full of information about her current professional goings-on. When I knew her, in '92 or so, she was attending the local community college (but would, as I found out, later go on to be an assistant professor in film studies at UT); she lived in a one-room rooming-house apt off Guadalupe in Austin, with the bathroom down the hall... We dated for about 3 months; usually whenever I was drunk I'd call and go over. She was a tepid lover overall (not to be disgusting, but there was also a problem with her bodily fluids)... But sometimes late at night, it felt good to call someone and have somewhere to go...

It's funny. I don't in any way desire either of these women any more. But the first lover, whom I was seriously obsessed with for 11 years, I tonight felt sorry for because her Facebook entry had nothing at all to show. The second woman, whom I quickly got over at the time, I tonight found impressive because of her "Facebook credentials."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Did you find everything OK?"

The checkout girl at the supermarket asked me yesterday if I'd found everything OK.

"No," I said. "For the past 3 months I've been buying Oscar Meyer Turkey Pastrami here, but today there wasn't any anywhere. The label for the pastrami was on the shelf, but some other kind of meat was in that spot."

Girl: [looks at me blankly]

Me: "Do you need to write down the brand and type, to let the deli manager know?"

Girl: [looks at me blankly]

Me: [gives up]

Joel Burns tells gay teens "it gets better" www.joelburns.com

Joel Burns is a Fort Worth, Texas, city councilman. He made this speech on October 12. And got a standing ovation from both his fellow councilmembers and most of the audience. (I'm so amazed, and so proud of Burns, Fort Worth, and Texas.)



For those of you who aren't gay, you have NO IDEA what we've had to go through. Especially for Middle America kids, like myself. (You urbanites have, I think, had a much easier time of it.) Burns spells out his (and my) rural Texas childhood, and the shit we've had to face. I'm glad he came out OK on the other end of the emotional abuse. I haven't yet.

Fuck all the straight (and closeted gay) men who gay-bash.

Fuck all the straight/"bi-curious" women who come on to gay women for "fun."

Congrats, straight people, for imposing your own psychological damage on others. I don't know, quite, which is worse: A gay man who gets beaten by a straight guy for revealing his sexuality. Or a gay woman who gets led on by a straight woman, then is immediately dumped when she (the gay woman) responds. Oh, of course the physical abuse is worse. Gay men DIE because of straight men. Gay women don't die. They just get repeatedly damaged emotionally.

Again, congrats straight people for your game-playing. In truth, the "problem" has never lain with "gay marauders out to corrupt your youth." Gays are just gays, and usually keep to themselves, like cats. Instead, the problem lies with sexually confused people (claiming to be straight) who are sometimes attracted to gay people, then get all disturbed and defensive when the gay people that they come on to respond to their advances. That's when the murders take place. That's when the emotional abuse takes place.

Like I said above: Fuck you, in-the-closet "so-called straight" people who turn out not to be so straight after all. You're worse than any Republican right-winger who believes that homosexuality is wrong for crazy biblical reasons and so doesn't interact with gay people. At least with the latter type of people, you know where you stand.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm trying to make a living, people!

Oh for pete's sake! Any readers remember my post weeks ago, being so excited about all the companies I was about to be doing freelance work for? Well, seems like there's a little catch...

One company pays 1 cent a word. OK, I thought at the time. I'm sure it'll be light stuff that I can just crank out in no time at all... WRONG. All the stuff I've gotten so far has been densely written AND riddled with errors. I've been keeping track of the time I spend doing each assignment, and it turns out that I'm making between $7 and $10 an hour!

The above company's a small one, so I thought: Fine, they're small-time. I'll just do the random assignment here and there, just for some pocket change, and concentrate instead on doing more work for the bigger national companies...

One of the "biggies" gave me a project that paid $1 per page. OK, I thought at the time. I'm sure it'll be light stuff that I can just crank out in no time at all... WRONG. A typical page has around 500 words. And I'm not just straight copy editing, but also proofing against another text, and checking design elements, and making sure definitions in boxes appear properly in the text, and looking up constantly-misspelled pop-culture names, and checking folios, footers, endnote numbers, etc. I just finished doing 80 pages. Time spent? 16 hours. That's a whopping $5 an hour!!!!!!!

The US MINIMUM wage (for, like, kids and high-school drop-outs working at McDonald's) is $7.25 an hour!

When I started copy editing back in '98, I made $17 or $18 an hour. The highest I ever earned was in NYC in 2007/early 2008, before the recession hit: starting for one company at $25 an hour and within weeks getting a raise to $28 an hour. After the recession took hold (and the above company closed), I was getting around $20 an hour doing various temp legal proofing jobs, and on one job for a newspaper (before it, too, closed). My boss at the latter actually apologized to me for the "low" wage he was able to offer!

Now, recession or no recession, outsourcing or no outsourcing... I KNOW that my time is worth more than $5 an hour! (Even the US government doesn't allow less than $7.25, for pete's sake!)

Conclusion: These "per word" and "per page" ideas are financial scams, pure and simple. For a little, obscure company to operate that way? OK, I can see it. But for a major national company to do so? That's just preying on people who are desperate for work. Though, RE the latter, I did inform my contact person about what the hourly wage was working out to be; she didn't express that the pay outcome could/would be amended, but did say that she'd let her supervisor know about the situation... I really want to work for this company -- among other reasons, they have a branch in NYC -- but, though I signed a contract with them, I'm going to bow out after doing one more chapter if the pay situation doesn't improve drastically.

In more positive news: There is one company I've been doing work for that does pay a fair wage for the field! ($26 an hour) They've been light on work the past couple of weeks, but I just got word that they're gearing up for a new project and want me to be a part of it... YES, PLEASE!

Damn. I'm just trying to make a living!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Now HERE is a LAMP!



$25 on eBay. I won! Just one tiny step on the road to self-recovery... (Sad but true: "Things" really do sometimes help you feel better, when they're an outer reflection of your inner self... This damn lamp is ME!) ;p

Weehawken Fall



After 6 months away, I keep thinking about and seeing and smelling the place. I liked so much about it. Especially the trees and how they looked. And the walk along the Hudson and the view of the Manhattan skyline. And my slice-and-a-salad once or twice a week, from a pizza shop where the boys wore their hair gelled and upswept long before the rest of America ever saw "Jersey Shore."

I'm a lonely, and alone, person by nature. In Austin, my home since '83, my internal loneliness was/is hardly ever assuaged by my outer surroundings. When I lived in Weehawken, working in Manhattan, I might have been personally depressed while sitting around the house (no job, no love life), but the second I stepped out of the door, I almost always felt invigorated, excited about how pretty and/or grand things looked around me. I forgot my self and my problems and was amazed and interested and blatantly thankful.

Not just a case of being in a new place -- when I lived in San Francisco for 2 years in the '90s, the physical beauty of the place did nothing to overcome the shallowness/dullness/PC-ness of the town's occupants, or the hideous two-note weather. Living there, I couldn't wait to get back to Austin.

Weehawken/NYC are a completely different phenomenon...I immediately felt at home there -- aesthetically, historically, climatalogically (all 4 seasons), psychologically (down-to-earth, but merit-based, and with an admiration for glamour), organizationally (public transit, nearby shops), what-have-you. What/how it was pleased me, my psyche in many ways.

Mostly, tonight, I'm missing the fall (soon-to-be-winter) trees. I'm homesick as hell.

The Worst Lamp Ever

For years, I've always mocked this lamp when it used to sit as a fixture in my mother's living room. There's the hideous shade, the hideous fluted faux wood, and, to make matters worst of all, the fact that the on/off-switch no longer works: You have to physically plug/un-plug it each time. All the way around, it's a stupid lamp. And, boy, did I let my mother know it! (Lest you think me ogre-like: The woman's not poor. If she had been poor and could not afford any other light fixture, I of course wouldn't have criticized!)

End of ironic story: The ugly sonuvabitchin' lamp is now the sole source of independent light in my one-room apartment! (There are built-in track lights, and kitchen/bathroom lights, but this is the only living-room light.) Thank you for the light when I need it, yet... Damn You, Ugly Lamp! I hope you and your other mom-cast-off cohorts -- the white kitchen table, the 1970s TV table, the green fold-out chair -- are having fun while it lasts. (And the fun may be over soon -- I just bid, eBay, on a COOL vintage 1950s lamp for $17.99 + $8 shipping... It will be a pleasure and relief when my surroundings begin to mirror my tastes once again and I'm not forced to live among, and be grateful for, purely utilitarian, unaesthetic things...)


Thursday, October 07, 2010

No one makes passes...

...at me in these glasses!

Oh my god. I'm officially middle-aged. In 2009, I noticed that my eyes were starting to dim a little. I could still do all of my proofreading and New Yorker-reading without glasses, but had to have really good light. As of 2010, though, I'm officially decrepit! Most texts are a bit blurry now without my super-duper READING GLASSES, courtesy of what my mother dug up from her cache of old, used reading glasses lying around her house. Circa 1986 or so, I'm afraid. They're fine for around the house (and I'm grateful to them), but... if/when I get a job in a public office, I'm going to have to NOT be seen like this! :)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Cheese Whiz

Was I just, in my earlier post, mocking others for being proud of "doing homework" on their Facebook pages? Oh my goodness.

For today, I returned some cheese, and was proud. And recount the tale here...

Hey, I recount the tale here because it's a big-ass hassle for me to buy groceries via bus in the first place, much less having to return sordid, stinky cheese that has gone bad! I bought the stuff Monday (9/27), first cut into it Wednesday, discovered its saggy (in)consistency, looked for the first time at the expiration date... 9/08/10. Fuck. I don't have a car that enables me to zip on over to the 2-mile-away supermarket, so the nasty cheese had been sitting in my fridge festering all week, me worrying about getting rid of it and getting my money back and also needing some non-rotten cheddar cheese for my food...

Let me, for a sec, go on with further trivialities: For the past 2 months I've also been without a USB cable from my digital camera to my computer. Why? I got aggressive with trying to plug in the original cord and bent it. So I couldn't download any pictures I took. The sad mutilated cord has been sitting around for ages. Me worrying about how to replace it and really wanting it replaced...... Finally scheduled the long bus journey to a shopping center with a Best Buy. They didn't have a replacement. Staples didn't have a replacement. The guys at the stores said such a cord wasn't available any more. One guy offered a $22 substitute involving a memory card that I didn't need. I said no, gave up, got on the bus to go home.

After all of this, I felt like a burger, which I hadn't had in 2 weeks. Got off one bus to catch another to Whataburger, stood on the side of the road by the bus-stop like a dork for nearly a half-hour, both to and fro.

The day's events in short: Finally got my money back at the grocery store, got some non-expired cheddar cheese. Went to Whataburger, got my burger. Got home, went online, found a USB cable for $1.29. All of this took all afternoon (more than 4 hours), when it should have taken under an hour. I don't recount this here for any reader's benefit, but just for myself ---- the bus-life in Austin, Texas, is ridiculous. And one day, I will be beyond it and able to look back here to see what kind of shit I had to go through just to do 3 simple errands.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

What did I do before the Internet?


One thing that I really loved about the Internet when I, a late-comer, first discovered it in 2000, is the "web" concept of all of the links on a site. An interest in one thing will lead you to another related thing, then another, then another... But back before I ever had a computer, I used to do the exact same thing, just in a physical, and a more time-consuming and much more thorough, sense, i.e. READING BOOKS! Good non-fiction books provide a Bibliography list, plus I always ended up wanting to know more about the other characters peopling the books, or the cities, or the time period as a whole. Luckily, I was for several years the 6th-floor supervisor of UT's Perry-Castaneda Library (same floor where the AK-47-bearing guy at UT killed himself earlier this week), so I had easy access to the vast collection of fiction, poetry, movie books...My actual work only took about 3 out of the 8 hours, so I'd spend the rest of my time holed up in my office, reading and reading and reading...

This week flashed me back to that "old-fashioned" way of learning about stuff: The slightly cooler weather put me in a mood to read; I was missing Sandra so I thought I'd revisit the excellent Zelda bio by Milford to see if I could pick up any clues; the Zelda book mentioned that Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night" was partially about their relationship, so I read that for the first time (I've got all of Fitzgerald's novels, but was never able to get into "Tender" before); "Tender" led me to Scott's essays, including "The Crack-Up" (his self-flagellation about his drinking and perceived failure) and his look back at his time in New York City (interesting to compare my experience with his -- he was, ultimately, a huge success there but found it too enervating; I was a huge failure there but fell in love with its energy); the essays, plus accounts in "Zelda" about her and Hemingway's mutual dislike, led me to Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast," about his '20s years in Paris, including intimate details about his encounters with the couple...

It's interesting to try to puzzle out "how it was" from different perspectives. Just shallowly: Reading "Zelda," I found myself judging Scott for being a horrible drunkard and partially to blame for her mental troubles; reading "Tender" and his essays and Hemingway's account, I saw much more how he was struggling to work on his craft and how she kept hindering him with demands to be entertained, how he really wasn't the ideal "help-meet" for her, but, rather, quite needed a help-meet himself, as genius-level artists (or any genius-level people in any field) do...

From Hemingway's "Moveable Feast"? Well, I just read a bio of Sylvia Beach and her "Shakespeare & Co" bookstore this summer, so I'm not in the mood for that again so soon... I'm definitely not in the mood to try to re-read any of Gertrude Stein's stuff. (God help me. The first time was annoying enough.) And, strangely enough, being lesbian myself, I'm not in the mood to re-visit accounts of the decadent lesbian '20s Paris scene, which was mentioned in EVERYTHING I've read over the past few days. (Fitzgerald and Hemingway both freaked out by it; the Zelda-book hinting that she'd been under the sway of the ladies...) I think at the moment I've pretty much had it with "decadence"... Had to go look up the definition: "characterized by a highly mannered style and an emphasis on the morbid and perverse." Yes, I'm definitely sick of it.

(BTW: I think the Internet by its very anonymous nature contributes to too much "stylization," i.e., creation of fake personae -- a bit thrilling at first, but ultimately soul-deadening when one attempts to make the leap from fantasy to reality after being attracted to the online persona... often, there's no "there" there, other than the image that the person has falsely created... At 25, 30, 35...that attraction to surface was still quite interesting to me. At 45, it's extremely boring. What I've also found boring is the fact that quite often -- really, the majority of the time -- people online, when given a public forum like Facebook, for example, have absolutely NOTHING TO SAY! They'll post their Farmville or Farkle scores; they'll tell you they're about to do their homework or go to the doctor or breastfeed their kid; the right-wing (my hometown people) will say stupid stuff about Obama and the lefties (my Austin people), stupid stuff about Palin; they'll tell you they finally got caught up on their DVR-watching... Out of my 50-odd Facebook friends, there are maybe 10 that actually say anything at all. The nearly constant onslaught of dumbness is just plain soul-wearying.)

Probably why I've, sans Sandra, returned to books this past week! I was starved for anyone, anything that said anything, that made me THINK and FEEL. I like thinking and feeling. I've missed it. Even "Tender is the Night," which is definitely not a very well-constructed or psychologically astute novel overall, provided much more mental sustenance than TV or the Internet, just on the merits of this quote alone: "...we are seldom sorry for those who need and crave our pity -- we reserve this for those who, by other means, make us exercise the abstract function of pity."

I'm sure I'll be in the mood for "Jersey Shore" bons mots like "You dirty little hamster!" sometime quite soon, but in the meantime... Thanks, Scott, for the anchor to the actual complexity underlying human interaction! :)