Msnowe's Blog

M.Snowe Reviews: The Uncoupling

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on April 4, 2011

M.Snowe read a book, and had some opinions about it. That book was Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling. (The book takes themes and a few plot points from Aristophanes’ Lysistrata–which is a play about Greek ladies refusing to have sex with dudes until the end of the Peloponnesian war. Hot.) So I wrote down what I thought of the book, and submitted it to an online magazine. They were gracious enough to make some awesome edits, then publish it on their website here. It’s a great site, you should check it out.

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Fashion Week: Bahrain

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on February 16, 2011

We now join our commentators live from Pearl Square  for their post-protest runway run-down:

MATTY: Clearly, Giselle, this year, the designers thoroughly prepped their models. The models showed a committed intensity second to none, and weren’t afraid to show emotion. They all decided to go big or go home. And you can bet they didn’t go home. In fact, they’re still out in the city square runway right now.

GISELLE: OMG, Matty, so true. I loved the dark circles around their eyes, as if they hadn’t slept in a bed for days. And the haute couture is out in force tonight on the catwalk, which, incidentally, is made from shellacked protester tent poles and ransacked wooden structure scrap.

MATTY: Tres grunge chic! And did you see that floor-length number from the Al Jazeera line ? You know, the red and white flag that they wrapped, on the catwalk, on the bearded male model?

GISELLE: How could I miss? Beards are so in this year, btw. I mean, really. As are male models–we’re seeing a lot on the catwalk and in the crowds this year. Totally outshining the women.

MATTY: But you know who else is out? Yemen. I mean, one day you’re hot, the next you’re not. Watch out, Tunisia, you’re next, if you keep up that singed, frayed look.

GISELLE: They need to figure out a way to be classic. Like Egypt. I mean, did you SEE those angled hemlines? Umm, Excuse me! The ivory cashmere and lambskin protest signs? What a signature collection of protest vogue!

MATTY: I couldn’t agree more. Glam-O! What about those bold colors and the poufed shoulder pads? Way to put the “rev” in revolution! Gerry–everyone, our producer Gerry!–So Gerry, can you put that live feed from Egypt’s fashion week up on the big screen?

[Gerry mumbles something]

MATTY: You mean, you don’t have a live feed? The internet feed from Egypt is down? Don’t they know there’s a fashion show going on!?

GISELLE: Srsly. Oh well, onward! Guess what else is old yet new again this year? Headscarves! Seriously, these are in everywhere. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but metal grommets are so in too! Grommets are one of the only fashion devices that really say “I’m so serious I’m keeping metal near my body at all times.” You are instantly so tough!

MATTY: Look at them sparkle with insistence! Such an inspiring collection from the Dissidents label.

GISELLE: Okay, Matty, you know what time it is…

MATTY: Time to scrape the fashion roadkill off the runway before it starts to make stink!

GISELLE: Last year, it was Prada Doha that really stunk it up with neutral-on-neutral tops and enlarged tulle hats in the shape of oil spigots. This year, the honor goes to…drumroll please…

MATYY: Mubarak! The glamour of the monarchy and totalitarian states is so last year!

GISELLE: OMG, I could not agree more. I mean, the military color palette and bobbles, along with the knit duffel capes couldn’t be more insulting to fashion. So imperialistic and stiff.

MATTY: All right, Gerry’s waving hysterically and saying something about evacuation. So look’s time it’s time for us to go. Remember–fashion is life! See you all for the next big event–Fashion Week: North Korea!

The Immortal Life of Good Reviews

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on January 11, 2011

m.snowe’s “tips” for how to write a book that will invariably be reviewed well by the general/intellectual audience and the media outlets they praise (i.e. NYTimes, NYRB, etc.):

1. Be pretty/handsome in your author photo. Smile into the camera and tilt your head if female. Gaze ponderously (with glasses) and look towards something in the distance if male.

2. Have a long title (so that it eats up review word count and reviewers don’t have to say as much about your book, or alternatively, they can give it a snappy abbreviated title). Example: “The Soul-Crushing Work of Staggering Boredom in Which Everything is Illuminated to Radioactive Levels, Bitch.”

3. Make your book at least partly about race or poverty, and be sympathetic to it. That, or the plight of middle America. Immediately, Oprah will make your book into a made-for-tv movie on HBO, and no reviewer will ever be able to completely hate your book, for fear of being labeled as a racist or upper-class elitist. (But do not think you will get a similar reaction if it’s about gender or neuroscience.)

4. Where appropriate, add “local color.” That can be in the form of cool story framing or the use of accents specific to Southern locales. Do not correct grammatical errors in speech. You’re not being lazy or exploiting a different race/class because, you know, it’s for local color and authenticity.

5. Write well, but not unimpeachably so. Because if you write too well, people will review your book poorly just to be contrarian or self-aggrandizing.

6. Add a spiritual revelation. Laying on of hands and shaking are optional, but encouraged.

–m.snowe just finished reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot. While m.snowe for the most part enjoyed reading it (especially the aspects of law, science, racial tension, and privacy), she really hated the sections written in the first person by Skloot. Her interaction with the family, while unavoidable to mention, is covered in a way that is deeply patronizing and self-congratulatory. And considering everybody has been shitting daisies all over this book, she thought someone should mention its flaws.

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For All You Winter Travelers

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on January 4, 2011

Apologies, I’ve been neglecting my blog in favor of far-flung voyages (as if anybody actually reads this blog anyway!).

But here’s a little snippet of an extremely-satisfying -to-compose story… m.snowe has found that perhaps better than any corporal reality, fictional punishment is quite enough when exploring very personal injustices. Hope you enjoy, and please do let m.snowe know if she should compose further hellish levels.

BUSFERNO…The stress -reducing imaginings of a withering traveler.

While sitting on the MEGAbus one cold November evening along the Hudson River, I remember falling asleep, my head stuck in the vice-like crack between my headrest and the window, and then I woke up with a jolt…I think…

To my surprise, a rather portly man silently tapped me on my shoulder to wake me. The bus, it appeared, had been emptied; all the other passengers were gone. The most peculiar glare was coming from the windows, as if light was filtering through a deep fog against the glass. The rotund gentlemen with a blue bowler cap beckoned me forward silently with his index finger, and let himself out the bus door, which opened as he approached it as if by a motion sensor, without any levers pulled or buttons pressed.

I decided to follow him. At once, as I stepped off the increasingly narrow and angled flight of stairs, I was thrust into a world that looked nothing like the boring suburban hometown that was my bus’s destination. The first thing I noticed was the ground (if you could really call it that). It was littered with all manner of garbage in such a way that you couldn’t decipher the bottom–gum wrappers, dirty clothes, used condoms, half-eaten sandwiches, sticky old already-been-chewed gum, snotty hankies, banana peels, all manner of rotting food–I only mention the most inoffensive objects to you now, to spare you the gruesome scene. It was worse than Brighton Beach the morning after a college all-night bonfire party. By no means did I want to stay in this neighborhood. It expanded out as far as the eye could see, and the sound of crunching and crumpling and grunting got louder as I carefully maneuvered through the filth.

The portly gentlemen seemed to want me to follow him, and in the distance, I could see what looked like another bus, parked and ready. Perhaps my way out of this horrid place. Halfway there, I noticed that some of the garbage was moving.

In fact, it was moaning. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the upright bags of Sunchips–those eco-friendly, extra-noisy crinkly bags–were spinning around. I leaned down to look closer at one of the slowly oscillating bags–indeed, amongst the logos and pictures of chips, was a tiny set of eyes, a larger nose, and at the bottom—a gaping human mouth. When the eyes focused on me, I realized, it was a person, buried in the trash-laden ground up to their neck, head glued tightly inside a potato chip bag, as if it were a mask. To say the least, from what I could make out, this guy looked incredibly stressed out. “Nom, nom, nom! Help me eat out of this!” he cried, mouth full, in between huge chomps of brownish black apple cores, used chewing gum, and moldy, half-eaten sushi. “Imost aate talll!!!!” was his cry of increasing urgency. But it seemed no matter how much he consumed, the pile of putrid refuse just refilled itself and tumbled into his screaming and chewing mouth. Only after his cries became piercing did I run away, and while running, remember that he looked strikingly similar to the man I sat across from on my bus–the one who was constantly eating with his mouth open and smacking for all to hear.

In Rare Cases

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on November 23, 2010

This past week, it was big(ish) news that the Pope let down his guard on the absolute, across-the-board Catholic ban on contraception (but only in theory, and only if you’re a male prostitute):

In the book, Benedict said condoms were not “a real or moral solution” to the AIDS epidemic, adding, “that can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.” But he also said that “there may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.”

NYTimes

Well, this opened the floodgates. If the Pope can flip-flop, in rare instances at least, anyone can, right? An outpouring of hypothetical opinions, which seem counter to the strongly held beliefs of a plethora of powerful and outspoken leaders, businesspeople, and celebrities of both the past and present have been leaked by many different sources in order to jump on the wagon (or Pope Mobile, if you will) before the Pope’s window of acceptably divulging small concessions closes like a time vortex in an action/adventure movie.

The recently embattled Four Loko’s creators admitted this week, that in certain rare circumstances, say if you’re in your 7th month of pregnancy, Four Loko might not be the most healthy option, and although their studies were conclusive, the immediate premature labor that follows drinking a can is not necessarily a boon.

After forceful questioning and upon further reflection (and an Oscar), Al Gore admitted that perhaps in the rarest instances, his Truth wasn’t all that personally Inconvenient.

Historians who interviewed the leaders of the Global Medieval Society report that major headway is being made in their research and development committee–they have some very encouraging data on the theory that perhaps, just perhaps, the world is not flat, or even rectangular.

Gandhi devotees, upon visiting his final resting place last week, discovered that if you look at the bottom of Gandhi’s grave with a very strong magnifying glass, backwards and cross-eyed, it says, “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil…But sometimes, in rare cases, you just need to slap a bitch.”

A lost recipe book recently recovered from of Julia Child’s archives contains a recipe for a rather bland, gluten-free, lactose-free dessert, and explains in her handwriting that sometimes, in the rarest cases, “the French and their food are just so fucking rich and flamboyant it’s disgusting.”

The Scarecrow, of The Wizard of Oz fame, said that if he really sat down and pondered it for a while, well, golly, maybe he does have some neurological function after all.

Fidel Castro, not wanting to miss out on the fun, reports that communism is great and all, but in some rare instances, after a good public march with comrades, he just wants a McDonald’s cheeseburger, but in the end can’t bring himself to bring himself to Guantanamo.

Snooki reports that sometimes, on rare instances, the best way to party is with a nice spot of tea, an afternoon of watching BBC America reruns, and sleeping with a Tolstoy novel. But only while tanning.

Meanwhile, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin have nothing to report.

Stalling

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on July 15, 2010

I always go for the stall nearest to the wall. It makes me feel better knowing that at least on one side there is only concrete and not another person doing their own business while I do mine. There are four stalls, so there are few things more annoying than someone coming in and occupying the one next to me  when the other three are all unoccupied.

Coworker always takes a stall in the middle, next to me. Coworker is also always in the bathroom when I am. Others have whispered that coworker is always in the bathroom when they are, too. This leads me to believe someone spends a large part of the workday in a restroom stall. The one in the middle, next to me. Thinking about it further, there seems to be no escape from a presence on one side of my wall–whether I’m in the cubicle churning out workplace refuse, or in the bathroom expelling the bodily kind.

If not for a few behavioral oddities, I would concern myself with coworker’s overall urinary tract health. But the oddities. They point more to eccentricity and less to functional, physical defect:

Coworker always wears trainers. With slacks. Coworker has many different pairs, in which to walk briskly towards the bathroom.

If I am already in the adjacent stall, this is how coworker proceeds. (Clearly, I am inferring the methods by the sounds that emit from the next stall).

Oddity #1:

  • Coworker faces the wall and uses foot or hand to flush the toilet before sitting down. Every time. When this occurs, coworker does one of two things, depending on mood: 1. Coworker holds down the handle so the normal flush time is extended by at least 15 seconds. Or, 2.  Coworker pumps the handle, so that the flush recycles, and the initial swoosh of the mechanism is reengaged four or five times.

I have no idea why coworker does this. I cannot imagine that the toilet needs flushing every time upon entrance to the stall.

I apologize for those who think that women don’t pee; those who like to imagine women are immune to the regular kidney/bladder processes of the human species. But anyway, then coworker urinates. This is always a stop/start venture.

Oddity # 2–

  • After every stop/start, coworker retrieves a wad of toilet paper from the dispenser (I can hear the rolling of the plastic dispenser and the scrunching of the two-ply from my stall). Similar to the extended flushing, coworker must being using about a third of the roll of toilet paper. The paper is rolled out and wadded at least twice, maybe three times.

Oddity #3–

  • When done peeing, again with the extended flushing. Usually pumping the handle for repeated flushes. One time, upon entering the bathroom to wash my hands at the sink in the front of the bathroom, I could hear coworker’s trademark–the held-down-handle flush. Coworker emerged from the middle stall, yet the held-down sound of the toilet she just emerged from was still occurring. I kind of looked at her, smiled, and then turned my right ear towards the sound. Coworker saw this, and made a matter-of-fact comment about how that toilet “does that sometimes. You just have to ignore it.”

Indeed.

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Graduation

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on May 11, 2010

Keynote Speaker Address:

Class of 2010, You DID IT! [Fist Pump]

As the recipient of this honorary 2-year doctorate in refrigeration management, I want to explain the path that led me to this podium today. It was neither an easy road, nor one that was particularly arduous either. Kind of a middle-of-the-road road. But it was a road that got me here nonetheless. Route 28 to be exact. Trust me, it’s faster than the thruway. But anyway, it’s kind of amazing I was offered to speak here, because I’m just 25, and usually, honorary degree folks are on death’s door. I mean, they’re usually coughing up blood, puss and scholarly advice. But I’m 25 and healthy as a horse.  That’s younger and healthier than even most of you are. But I believe, and I think you should too, that the youth are your future. So really, please, please listen to this advice, as the generation that is going after you and will forge the road that perhaps, if you’re lucky, your great-grandchildren will walk upon with tremendously cushy space boots.  It’s universally acknowledged that no one remembers or hears their graduation’s keynote speaker or the speech they give (sometimes due to heavy medication, other times because sound technicians are probably the most poorly trained electronics folks in the business, but let’s be magnanimous here–refrigerators are king, it doesn’t mean we should take pokes at the little guys and their laughably puny microphones). So back to y’all probably forgetting my speech–I’m not going to claim that my speech will be memorable  or any different from all the other speeches long forgotten. And to assure you of that, I will ask you what all honorary doctorate recipients ask: just remember this one piece of advice that I give you. You can forget everything else I say. In fact, it would be preferable, as you have enough to be getting on with, and ice makers are a bastard to fix on their own without worrying about remembering this entire speech, word for word. So this is the advice: Wait. Are you really listening? Okay.

Here is my advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

You might say to yourself, “Duh. I don’t worry about the small things in life–I look big picture, and get the job done. That’s how I was able to get through 1,500 hours of on-the-job training, even while half my fingers on my right hand were broken during that unfortunate touch-synchronized-swimming accident.”

But you have misinterpreted me already. Okay, that is a good lesson, and I’m sorry about your fingers. But seriously. During the five minutes of studying up I did on exactly what a refrigeration specialist is in order to write this speech, I learned that: “When your business depends on keeping goods at just the right temperature, even a single degree can mean the difference between success and failure.” This means, you can’t let those tiny plastic containers of olives at the back of the third shelf on the refrigerator sweat. They need to be kept at the perfect temperature. Otherwise, you have failed.  Think of the power you wield–you are all like tiny gods in control of the weather in a tiny atmosphere of food and baking soda. You make frost, and wind, and create a crisp day, probably like a day sometime in the beginning of October, but in a Kenmore. So don’t fuck up. Don’t let the small stuff sweat–because with the tiniest surface areas, they are more susceptible to tiny variations in temperature. And also, no one–I mean no one–likes limp lettuce.

So now, I would like to extend my genuine congratulations to you and your families and friends for completing your certificate in the HVAC cooling program. You may not have truly heard all I had to say, but I have confidence that this speech got through to you all. It will never get freezer burned, or make a soupy mess at the bottom of your hearts. That’s a little refrigeration humor for you. I’m so delighted and thank the trustees of the school for allowing me to speak to you today. During this online ceremony. The text of this speech is provided above. As it was provided to you, during the emailed ceremony.

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Parsing Puppet Patriots

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on April 7, 2010

Sam the Eagle is a Republican. He is pompous, arrogant and he censors the other Muppets. He pretends to be cultured but also thinks that Shakespeare wrote The Sound of Music. He is hostile towards other people’s views, and most of his political logic has no grounding in fact or even common sense. He’s a character we are supposed to recognize as over-the-top, hilarious, ridiculous. But honestly, slap some feathers and a unibrow on Glenn Beck and it’s hard to differentiate. The only difference m.snowe can see is that the boundary of fiction is crossed when we observe Sam the Eagle, so we recognize the irony, the exaggerated winks at hypocrisy. Even the most hard set Republicans would be able to see Sam’s puffed up political feathers for what they are–farce, satire. m.snowe is not going to attempt to venture a guess as to why some people can’t just as easily see the same aspects of a Sam-the-Eagle character in many real-life political wonks. She just wants to talk about fictional folks who are outspokenly political.

Doing a quick scan of wikipedia’s list of fictional Republicans and the list of fictional Democrats, it’s clear that Republicans get a larger share of fictional space in television, movies and books. But it’s also clear that most of those characters are written to look ridiculous like Sam Eagle. Is this because most writers are liberal, or Democrats? Or is it something inherently fictionally appealing about creating Republican characters? Sure, some fictional Democratic characters can be amusing and slightly mislead, but they’re also often the protagonist, or at least someone we are “supposed to” have an interest in other than sheer mockery. It also reveals something else about the way we view political people, real or imagined: declaring a party comes with a set of pre-determined assumptions about an individual, no matter how true they might be. Your party’s platform becomes the base of an audience’s knowledge whether they recognize that or not. They add to or chip away at their assumptions from there.

Personally, I found the wikipedia lists incredibly weak. They must be missing fictional people. Thoughts?

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Healthcare.

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on March 22, 2010

m.snowe offers a meaningless story meditation.

One day, a group of flowers found themselves grown into a cluster.

Their elongated and vibrant pedals became intertwined. They felt the sway of their neighbors.  Sometimes, the soft pushes in the breeze were exhilarating. Sometimes, they were vexing, depending on a flower’s mood. But soon enough, they grew so accustomed to the movement that one flower’s pedals became the other’s, and it was hard to decipher just who was brushing whom.

The flowers started to grow and grow in their felicity. But soon enough, the space that was already so little and most agreeable began to swell with too many pedals. “We must expand,” they cried. Their intertwined tendrils fought each other, the colors at war. The pedals whirred, weakened, and bent.

Eventually, one of the brightest and sturdiest reeds was knocked to the ground. There, it shriveled and the pedals lost their shape and color as it sunk into its earthbed. Those looking down from above didn’t see this  necessarily as a targeted attack, or at least not really. Some of the flowers still tall and exuberant cried, and shed a few pedals in lament. But not too many. Others, they whooped in joy that it was not them, or that ultimately it did not concern them. But after a time, all the flowers grew afraid as they saw the browning remains of their once-breezy brethren disappear below their roots and felt its nutrients give them life.

The flowers decided that only in the worst circumstances should they agree to repeat such a warring, turbulent engagement. One by one, they gave way to the seasons, and all was repeated  by an innocent, unknowing generation in their stead.

*Untitled photos by Charles Ray. More here.

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Back Seat

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on March 19, 2010

Our father would drive us 3 miles to the house where he grew up. We turned onto his old street and jostled down the pot-holed stretch, creeping along as both my mother and father craned their necks in opposite directions out their side-windows, ensuring that kids on the block were not poised to run out between the tightly spaced parked cars on either side of the curb.

Our grandparents’ driveway sloped down and ended where their short backyard began. The backyard was small, with a tiny hill in the very back that led up to an iron-wrought fence cordoning off the local cemetery. Their powder-blue Chrysler was parked perfectly at the very bottom of the sloped driveway, passengers facing the street. Every Sunday we arrived at the same time. Every Sunday, both my grandparents were already buckled in, staring out and up into the street, waiting for us.

Our parents would pull up to the curb and rush us out of our minivan and into Nan and Pop’s back seat. One of the three of us would jungle-gym over the adjustable armrest into the middle front seat between them. Cars were also sofas: comfortable, spaces for a playful jump or push. As soon as the car started, it would talk to us in a robotic male voice. “The door is ajar.” “Please buckle your seat belt.” Never once were we given a command in that car by a living, breathing person.

Our grandparents slid in the tape they played for us on Sunday drives. “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” would cycle on after a few seconds of rewinding clicks and burps from the mouth of the tape deck. My sisters and I had the timing down, and in unison would add our own “woof woofs!”

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