Thursday, May 31, 2007

Marjorie Knoller

Good to know this sicko may go back behind bars. Four years is not enough for a woman so negligent that she let her dogs attack and kill -- in a horrible way -- an innocent person.
Adam and I were talking about Annabel Chong, the porn star turned web designer who's perhaps most famous for taking on 251 guys in a gang-bang.

She's a trip. She really challenges your assumptions. The chick's smart. A former porn star's my hero!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sherman Alexie

Saw him speak tonight. The man is my new god. Among what he said (I'm paraphrasing on a lot of this):

- "I'm tired of the fundamentalism from the left AND from the right."
- "I like the (dark) parts of my writing as well as those with heart."

One of the best parts was when he lampooned what he called "public-face" (I think) Indians, those who get up and speak with great seriousness, but with nothing to say. He also railed against Tom's of Maine deodorant, which I appreciate.

Alexie can be found here on good ole KPFA. Amusing as hell.

"We slant toward good-looking people and nightlife"

Sounds like a reasonable job ad, but that line just makes me sad. I guess the ugly losers should check out other sites.

"Susan Orlean thinks you're fat"

This doesn't surprise me. I think she's a great writer -- read Orchid Thief and Saturday Night in the last few weeks -- but she comes off as the kind of person who snickers behind just about everybody's back.

You'll pardon my cynicism ...

"In a company with hardly any hierarchy, people talk and act freely, even walk around barefoot or perform backflips. They share everything: research, software code, bad jokes. Each feels empowered to make critical decisions. Everyone gets paid the same salary and gets equity in each of the five startups being incubated. And they all get the kind of benefits more common at major corporations. The resulting camaraderie is palpable in the ping-pong-paced banter and in the employees' favorite pasttime: Calvinball, named after the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, played with fitness balls and rules they make up as they go along."

Hmmm, like we haven't heard this before? Let me work independently, in my own time and space, and you can keep your Calvinball.

Speaking of freelancing, I've been thinking about potential employers who require free work. In the last few weeks, I've been asked several times to work for free, with an uncertain outcome. The most egregious example: A guy who not only asked for free work, but then put me on his ad-spam mailing list ... complete with a return receipt to ensure I read his spam. Jerk.

In happier thoughts, graduation was EXCELLENT. It was great seeing Sophie, Evan, Ben, Emily, and Angel walk that line.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bitter little poem

I've never dealt well with PDA -- even though I'm affectionate with Adam in public. I'm a hypocrite. I know.

She walks in with her husband

She has a wife too, another husband at home

It’s polyamory, it’s the joy of multiples.

They touch, kiss, love.

My stomach clenches.

Take it home, I want to say.

Take it home.

My new favorite client continues to be my favorite: consistent and considerate. Not to mention that I billed them and -- amazing! -- got a check without having to bug them a single time. I'd love to keep working with them.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Good for Berkeley High

WTF? So the military's putting pressure on Berkeley High to get kids to turn over their contact info ... so they can go fight for -- what? And they risk losing federal funds for education if they don't. Totally retarded.

On Harry Chapin

ADAM: I want to be a concrete castle king.

ME: Yeah?

ADAM: Yeah. But maybe not. I don't want to lose my bitch to some gay folk singer.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Portland, Oregon

This place is really beginning to appeal to me.

I'm not about to give up The Farm any time soon, so Adam and I have been talking about subletting and hanging out elsewhere for a few months. We've discussed NYC and Boston, but Portland seems to have a stronger hold on us at the moment.

Freelancing means I can go anywhere I want, and Adam figures he could land some sort of temp QA situation just about anywhere. Let's hope!

Of course, this is all pending our landlord's approval of subletting. If he says no, forget it. But Mike's a really chill guy, and he rented to us NOT because we had great credit or references (he never checked any of those) but because he liked us. He went on his gut. So I hope that, so long as we get a great subletter in, he'd be cool with it. Also, his son and daughter-in-law live in Portland ... so maybe that'll sway him?

Oakland Ambassadors

On Tuesday night, I saw this story -- and blinked.

"An Oakland City Councilwoman today proposed that the city employ at-risk youth as safety escorts in and around BART stations.

"Following a spate of robberies in her North Oakland district, Councilwoman Jane Brunner said she came up with the idea of the Oakland Ambassadors program as a way of improving public safety in a city where criminals are taking advantage of an officer shortage.

"'We need it for two reasons,' Brunner said. 'It will help people getting off BART in our city feel welcome to Oakland. We're having serious issues at eight in the morning, but particularly at night ... All people using BART ... need to feel safe.'"

So you're putting would-be robbers to work walking old ladies to their homes? Seriously, I think I've lived in the Bay Area too long. I'm about to go Republican at this point.

I emailed Brunner about her plans. Below is our exchange. Start from the bottom and read up.

Thank you for your email about the Oakland ambassadors program. This program is employing 18-24 year olds to be ambassadors in downtown and neighborhood Bart stations. The young people will give direction to visitors and escort residents when requested.

I am writing to respond to a few concerns some people have had regarding the Oakland Ambassadors Program. I appreciate both the willingness of many to look at this approach to dealing with public safety, as well as the concerns others have with the safety of people using the program and even the Ambassadors themselves.

I want to clarify how I envision the Ambassadors program will work, how the participants will be trained, and what we could realistically expect them to do:

§ First, the Ambassadors will be in teams of two and have a supervisor. They will be wearing uniforms and highly visible. Second no one needs to use them. It is a voluntary program. The ambassadors will be in radio contact at all times with their supervisor.

§ The Ambassadors will be adolescents and young adults who have been actively involved in programs that are committed to training them for employment or preparing them for college. For example, I see the Ambassador job, as a perfect part time evening job for a young person entering community college.

§ No young person will act as an Ambassador without extensive training and orientation. Ambassadors would receive customer service training and we will work with neighborhood merchants to familiarize them with the Ambassadors and to make sure the Ambassadors know enough to be truly helpful to visitors.

§ An Ambassador will never be expected to serve in a law enforcement role or be a substitute for the police. Ambassadors would receive training from the OPD in the best ways that they can work with the police and be effective eyes and ears for them.

§ The Ambassadors program is not an intervention program, but a prevention program. They will simply accompany those who request it, the simple idea being that groups of people walking down the street are generally safer than people walking alone. The Ambassadors will work in pairs, so that no Ambassador will return to a BART station alone after accompanying someone.

§ Every Ambassador will receive a background check to ensure that they have no history of drugs or violent activity. We do not want to undermine the credibility of the program, and we want our Ambassadors to have the skills and personality to be helpful, courteous and even potentially to be able to de-escalate tense situations. It’s in everyone’s interest to make sure our Ambassadors have solid reputations.

I hope the above gives you some more detail as to how we envision this program. I want this to work and to be a positive contribution to our community. I think offering more eyes on the street to keep us safe, while employing young people who are committed to having a productive life are both great things for Oakland.


Jane Brunner

-----Original Message-----
From: Allison Landa []
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 9:54 AM
To: Brunner, Jane
Oakland Ambassadors program

Dear Jane:

I read with interest your idea of putting at-risk youth to work as ambassadors around local BART stations.

According to the Chronicle article I read: "The ambassadors would work in five-member teams at each Oakland BART station from dusk until 8 p.m., helping commuters to their cars, accompanying people to restaurants or guiding elderly residents making their way home."

I trust you've taken into account the necessity of background checks, as well as the high potential of lawsuits should one of these at-risk youth take advantage of this job opportunity to engage in a little lucrative crime. Pardon my cynicism, but these things happen.

Allison Landa


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Rosie and Elisabeth muck it up

You know, sometimes I'm a sucker for celebrity news. Especially when I'm taking a fairly rare sick day, recovering from one of the worst migraines I've had in years.

I love Rosie. She's a loudmouth and not stereotypically pretty. Oh, how much can I relate to that? Every time she opens her loud yap, it's like a blow for people like me.

Uh ... yeah. From Craigslist.

Need writer for amazing, true love story

Reply to: gigs-XXXXXX
Date: 2007-05-24, 12:41PM PDT

Hello, I am a tremendous, engaging love story to tell and need a writer to help me. I am a working professional and have little to no time to tell my story on my own. I can not advance money to you for the time spent creating this masterpiece. The revenue generated would need to come from sales of my story. Please let me know if interested.

  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: no pay

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A new pro-life tack

Wow. I was totally disgusted when I read this.

"'We think of ourselves as very pro-woman,' said Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee. 'We believe that when you help the woman, you help the baby.'"

Now there's a load of political double-speak crap if ever I heard it. Wanda, hear me and hear me good: By forcing me to have a child who may be unwanted and unplanned-for, you help no one. Not even your own pitiful cause.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Time is money

And few things piss me off like having my time wasted. In the words of Irreverent Freelancer, "Screw You!" to those who jerk me around!

What is an internship ...

And what is just ridiculous?

You be the judge.

Literary sports and adventure writing intern (west marin)

Reply to:
Date: 2007-05-17, 11:05AM PDT

The Pulitzer Prize Winning Point Reyes Light newspaper in Marin, CA is looking for a summer sports writing intern. We are looking for a writer who can tell more than scores, but can tell the stories behind the scores. I find most sports coverage boring, but enjoy the writing of Frank Deford, NPR correspondent and Sports Illustrated writer. He is lyrical and literary and is able to transcend the genre of sports writing. The position is unpaid, full-time for four months. You will join an elite crew this summer; six graduates from Columbia Journalism School are coming out as reporters. I want emersion journalism, where you travel on baseball team busses, ride horses, kyak the ocean, and surf local breaks. Please email a cover letter resume, 20 photographs as jpegs, and five clips.

The job-ad shuffle

Catch my guest post over at Deb Ng's blog. (Scroll down for the weekend discussion.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

"After one visit, she forgot to return Homer's favorite shoes and 'his bedtime stuffed animals, which are very important to him and which caused him extreme distress,' Laffoon said."

Maybe Anne Heche should hook up with Alec Baldwin.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

You have got to be kidding ...

"Great project to build resume." Yeah, and I have a bridge in Thailand to sell you.

"Students welcome but must have some past experience." We have no budget.

"This is a non-paying gig at this time." See above.

Come on, guys. Try. At least ... try.

Screenwriter / Sci-Fi Film (belmont)

Reply to:
Date: 2007-05-17, 9:39AM PDT

Looking for screenwriter to write a script for Sci-Fi action film. We are looking for a local writer in the bay area to help us build the story. Students welcome but must have some past experience, this is a non paying gig at this time but we can provide credit + copy of finished film. You will need to sign an NDA before seeing the treatment. Great project to build resume and have alot of input on the films direction. Please email me at or call 650-508-9411.

Thanks for your time!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Aw man!

This would be an awesome job .... if only it were a telecommuting gig! I would love to write for ACT ... but I don't want to be in an office.
My li'l bro is on his way to London as I write this! I feel like a proud mother. I'll be transferring money into his account as I can ... so he can have beers or whatever.

The case for telecommuting

More employers are open to the possibility. Huzzah!

Let's tote up the benefits:

- Less overheard for you, the employer. Remember that desk you were going to buy? The chair, the phone, not to mention the computer equipment? Work it out with an employee and they'll be using their own stuff. That's savings right there.
- Reliable, loyal workers. Employers can be resistant to telecommuting because of, let's face it, the trust factor. How do you know your employee's not screwing off when he or she should be working? Well, by giving your workers the respect of trusting them, you gain their loyalty. Or you wind up firing them. It's a risk worth taking. Besides, how do you know your on-site people aren't screwing around?

- A more down-to-earth, businesslike workplace. Face it: A lot of office time is wasted -- a bunch of water-cooler conversation over brownies brought in by the receptionist. Telecommuting brings business back to business -- you communicate with your employees on an as-needed basis. Cuts out a lot of those awkward "How 'bout them A's?" conversations.

- It's environmentally friendly. Employees can work from home, coffee shops, wherever. It'll likely cut down on driving -- always a good thing.

- Promotes work-life balance. This pays for itself.
The latest Critical Mass dustup can be viewed here.

How convenient that the bicyclists had cameras at the ready. How sad to watch them pushing around this older couple. I'm not sure what happened, but their own self-made bit of propaganda makes them look like the bullies.

Sometimes Berkeley feels like such a joke.
"And maybe, just maybe, given how we are still losing double-digit numbers of good, honest American bodies every week in Iraq, just as we have for the past four solid years, perhaps we should be equally -- if not perhaps quite a bit more -- appalled and disgusted and shocked that this "war" is still raging, nonstop, to the tune of 3,400 dead Americans and tens of thousands wounded and counting fast?"

In elementary-school English, I learned that run-on sentences were distracting and unreadable. Guess Mark Morford wasn't in that class.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A recounting of Jerry Falwell's career

Man oh man. If there's any justice in the Afterlife, that guy's going to have to answer to a whole lot of pissed-off people who are waiting for him.

Summer in Berkeley

Summer is coming.

You can go to Robin's Sandwiches in the middle of the day and not be run over by the Berkeley High School brats/good kids/middle-of-the-roaders.

You can park near Telegraph to get your Yogurt Park fix. RELIABLY park!

There are seats in the cafes.

There are flowers in the gardens.

Summer is just about here!

The vagaries of email

I checked in with a potential client to see if they'd received my samples. They said they had, and had requested longer ones, and never heard back from me. So they went with another writer.

I never received the email requesting longer samples.

One of my main priorities as a freelancer is quick response. Email doesn't often get lost, but it does piss me off when technology not only screws me out of potential work, but makes me look like a flake. Damn.

So Falwell croaked

He lived a long and hate-mongering life. Bye, Jerry, we won't miss you.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tag! I'm it!

Kathy over at Screw You! has tagged me with a "Thinking Blogger" award. Awesome! Thanks, Kathy, for making my Friday just that bit better. Later today I'll try to post my own Thinking Blogger nominees.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

This is totally not OK

I sent off a resume in response to a Craigslist ad. They came back with a blind response to everyone who applied (okay, that's fine so far) requesting two sample articles. They've dictated the topics and even the keywords to be used.

Free work in exchange for -- what? Give me a break. Give me a SERIOUS break.

I usually love what I do, but I hate running into jerks like this who think they can get something for nothing. Really pisses me off.

I won't embarrass the company by naming them publicly -- though they deserve it -- but if anyone reading this is interested, shoot me an email.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The suck of small talk

I read this article with amusement. Absolutely nothing groundbreaking here.

I have an alternative approach: I try the outrage card. When Adam and I were in New York, we met up with a few of his acquaintances. I was fresh off what was probably my weakest performance (it was a late show, it had been snowing all day, I was tired and felt locked into my script, which I busted up very successfully the next night) and we went to a bar. I thought, I'm in a lousy mood and I could potentially ruin it for everyone, which would be completely lame.

Turns out these guys were Miata drivers. So I looked at them and said: "Okay, guys, when you're sodomized, do you prefer it gentle or rough?" Fun ensued.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Oh boy, can I relate to this story, given that Vacaville is a 10-minute (if that) drive from Fairfield, where I cut my journalism teeth. I stayed in Fairfield for two years and that was at least a year too many. I made $24,000 a year (or slightly less, actually) and was constantly in debt.

These small papers have lots of talent who work their asses off and usually leave quickly. The crappy pay and constant deadline crunch, I'm sure, have a lot to do with it.

Did I learn from working at a small paper? Sure, but I learn way more from what I do these days. And like it a hell of a lot better.

It's 1983 today on 10 at 10!

I was nine years old. We lived in a home with brown shingles and a bottle-brush tree out front. We weren't normal. Was anyone?

More on the MFA

"The cold economics of the situation, moreover, are conflated with a not-so-subtle implication that poverty equals moral and artistic virtue. "How do we pay for this?" asked a freshman student, at SFAI's beginning-of-term assembly. "Learn to live on almost nothing," was the perfectly straight response, from the director himself. And it is true that practicing thrift and learning to prioritize has made my life infinitely richer and more enjoyable than if I were pulling down $100K a year in a profession that bored me.

"But that was the sum total of practical economic advice or assistance we received from the institution as a whole. Trivial, sordid subjects like marketing, career management, portfolio presentation, accounting, taxes, contracts, negotiation, and intellectual property law were never mentioned; still less did we make any of those useful, much ballyhoo'd "career contacts" that are indispensible in the 24-7 schmooze-a-thon that is the 'art world.' On the contrary--should a professor or another student happen to have a close personal friend who was opening up a new gallery, or know a dealer who'd be interested in a certain person's style of work, that person kept mighty quiet about it."

Now this does ring a bell. If I'd wanted a degree in business tactics, I'd have gotten an MBA. But one class in practical applications of the MFA, including an overview of ways to make money, would've been nice.

Monday, May 7, 2007

"Lucas says nothing more, but there is a hint of anger in her eyes. Pets are family, in her mind. You don't send them away. They're vulnerable and innocent. You help the innocent, and protect the vulnerable."

I see a little of myself in Carri Lucas.

Is an MFA worth it?

Found this huge (if a bit outdated) Salon thread about the whole subject.

Let's leave aside the relationship questions that that column raises. That controlling husband reminds me of my parents' marriage. Let's not even go there.

But the meat of the question: Is an art degree worth it? Granted, I've only read a page and a half of the huge comment thread, but (as usual) I have my own opinion on the subject.

It took me four years to get into grad school. Just about a year ago, I got my MFA in creative writing from St. Mary's.

I was damn lucky to have had a career in place when starting school. I won't speak for anyone else, but I can't see where having an MFA makes you marketable enough to justify the expense. Okay, if you're teaching at the academic level, sure. But an MFA won't make or break your success in any other profession. It may help, but it's a studio degree, not a practical one in the eyes of employers.

Will getting an MFA make you a better writer? It certainly helped my writing. I'm a more self-aware writer, more careful and self-critical. That's good for the most part ... occasionally I feel constrained by my own higher standards, but it serves the writing well.

The MFA certainly made me a better critic. I look at everything for craft. I can pick out the craft at work, and apply it to my own writing. Definitely a plus of the degree.

Does an MFA offer you a writing community? Not too sure about this. St. Mary's did a great job of pulling together an awesomely diverse group -- a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and styles. We were all amicable. But was it a community? Not really. We were a group of people who came together to talk about writing. I met a few good friends through the program, but that's not the same as a writing community. I don't blame St. Mary's, though -- these things are organic, can't be forced.

Many of my professors bent over backwards to help us. They were generous with their time and talents. You can't have a 100 percent winning team, but I met some real talents through the program. What they taught me will show in my writing for years to come.

Then there's the lit crit, the workshopping, the politicking, the sad state of affairs when it comes to financial aid. Enough said.

As I was telling Sophie the other day, you wade through 85 percent of Whatever to get to the good stuff. A year out of school, I'm trying to focus on that.

"The American Wedding, Assessed"

Adam just sent me this. Interesting read, even if the author doesn't entirely address the question of super-sized weddings in the context of her own relationship -- she soft-soaps the ending. Still, I get the point. Even the most cynical of couples can succumb to the gauzy-edged power that is the wedding industry.

Or can they?

To quote Chuck Palahniuk, who was an excellent read at UC Berkeley the other night: I'm not a nihilist. I'm a romantic. I believe strongly in what a wedding represents, the significance, the commitment. I also know my parents had a huge-ass wedding. And look where that ended up.

Is it that weddings are precursors to marriage in the sense that they're bigger than the relationships themselves? That they involve the whims and wills of the families, the wedding planners, the florists?

Maybe I'm just beating my own dead horse. I'm pretty sure I am.

I look inside myself to see if there's any desire to be that bride. You know, that one, the one in the unexpectedly beautiful dress, in front of the mirror, blushing and preening. That one feeding cake to her beloved.

I'm not seeing any indication that she's there.


"They don't care about us. We're disposable. We're numbers on a page and they'd rather forget we exist so they don't have to be reminded about the families and lives they ruined while they're sipping their cocktails at another fund raiser dinner. If they were really concerned about supporting the troops, they'd bring them home so their families wouldn't have to cry at a graveside and explain to their children why mommy or daddy isn't coming home."

Simply: wow.
I love being on the right track with a client. The first assignment is always the nervous one -- is this what they wanted? That's why I always try to run something by them early on, just to make sure. And when they like it, I'm happy!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Yay telecommuting!

So glad to see these forward-thinking people dealing with a collapsed freeway in a smart manner -- using the technology already at our disposal.

Client Breed No. 5: The Appreciative Client

I've been getting a kick out of this. Lots of truth here.

I'm doing a bit of work for a newer client, and so far they fall squarely in the coveted Breed No. 5: The Appreciative Client. They're a bunch of smart guys who have been more than responsive and fair to me, and I like the work I do for them. I basically landed them in a 20-minute phone conversation -- they decided they liked me and moved quickly. They've been totally above board and appreciative of my work. That's what a freelancer looks for!

Always love you, little New York

The week that I spent in New York City was incredibly happy. That city just suits me. How ironic is it that on a day like today, when it's 86 degrees in Berkeley, such a bright and beautiful day, that I think of snowy New York?

Friday, May 4, 2007

The beauty of writing in the electronic age: looking up Falco in Wikipedia and translating German to English via Babelfish.

Bob Saget's a member of the tribe!


I love that guy. He's SO dirty and SO funny!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Hmmm, looks kind of like the "urban youth" we hear so much about in the Bay Area. Call me a bitch, but I like the Louisville Slugger concept. I wouldn't want hoods hanging out on my doorstep at any time, day or night.

At Jumpin' Java

I was looking at this guy and thinking: Something's wrong with him. Then I realized: This is Berkeley. There's something wrong with everyone.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Adam and I were paging through the wedding discussion forum on Craigslist. "That's the worst forum I've ever seen," he said. "Trolls and flamers everywhere."

What amazes me is all the jockeying for one-upmanship, women who spend a year or more bossing around EVERYONE, only to play blushing bride on the Big Day.

What do I want?

Something incredibly simple. City Hall would suffice for me, or a ceremony in the backyard. If it takes more than fairly minimal effort to plan, I don't want it. If it causes anger or inconvenience to anyone, if it costs anyone (us or guests) a significant amount of money, if it involves interpersonal politics, I don't want it.

I never thought about my wedding day. I never dreamt of it or plotted it. I just hoped I would find someone who would love me as I am.
I'm at Bel Forno, watching the cutest kid EVER. He's this little red-haired guy eating a bagel, with a cream-cheese moustache. I think he's with his grandparents. They obviously adore him, but what's more, he makes them laugh. Damn, that little guy is so cute. I think his sesame-seed bagel is bigger than him.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Wrote this list to Thomas Cooney in response to his call for alumni achievements. It makes me feel good to read it:

- "International Incident" published in Pindeldyboz, September 2006
- "Maternal Instincts" published in CherryBleeds, April 2007
- "Milk Carton Poster Child" published in CherryBleeds, February 2007
- Performed at Inside StoryTime (Summer 2006), Porchlight, A Storytelling
Series (Fall 2006), and Tell It On Tuesday (Winter 2007)
- Julia and David White Artists' Colony, Ciudad Colon: Resident, December
2006. Scheduled to teach "Writing From the Gut" in December 2007 as part of
Intercultural Odysseys, Costa Rica.
- Performed "Andrea" at FRIGID New York theater festival, March 2007
- Got engaged in NYC. On stage!