I Pay Rapt Attention

Thoughts on being a “Tall”

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on July 10, 2009
Arianne Cohen just came out with “The Tall Book,” an examination of the world of tall women, and while I haven’t read the book itself yet, upon reading the review  in the NY Times, I started thinking (as I often do) about being a “Tall,” as the author calls us. Unlike the reviewer, I definitely count- I’m 6’2″ (that’s too tall to model, just in case you were wondering) and completely shameless about wearing heels. In fact, I typically have at least 2″ worth of shoe, if not 5. This is equal parts irrational love for shoes and thumbing my nose at those assholes who feel that my height makes my footwear subject to their judgment and regulation (yes, you know who you are.) Honestly, unless I’m roaming the city stabbing innocent people with my stilettos, you can back the fuck off, shorty.

Anyways. According to this book review, I am an “SUV of humanity.” That means all those great statistics you always hear about tall people- eat more, better salary, automatically given more personal space, longer life, etc etc. And of course, less likely to get married. Or find pants that fit. Regardless of whether or not those findings apply to me, I’m not really sure what I think about being called an SUV. Just saying.

That said, unlike the supposed majority of young tall women cited by the reviewer (and perhaps the author) as unhappy about their height, I like my height. I relish it. One of my college essays was about being tall, for heaven’s sake. Yet I’m confused by the problem that other tall women (including the author) seem to have with “dating down.” Maybe I don’t have a problem with it because I’m rarely really conscious of my height differential with other people (it’s just sort of how the world works- I tend to be literally looking down most of the time. I only tend to notice if I have to significantly look up) or because I tend to meet the people I’m dating when we’re both sitting down (I am, after all, a student, which means a lot of time at a desk) but I’ve “dated down” for most of my life. I can think of two people total that have been taller than me at all, and only one who was noticeably so. My longest relationship was with someone who was significantly shorter, and while he DID find as many curbs to stand on as possible, that was more of a running joke between us than anything else.

As for being treated differently… well, it’s hard to say, isn’t it? I’ve only ever been treated the way I am, you know? I find that I get substantially different treatment based on the amount of time I put into my appearance, not whether or not I’m wearing heels. That could be because my starting height is already pretty up there, but I think it’s more than that. Attractiveness and confidence are just as important, if not more so.

Penelope Trunk recently wrote about “How to Be a Tall Person at Work” which, to be completely honest, I had some trouble taking seriously (yes, because I’m already tall,) even though she does make an interesting point about body language and people’s perceptions. And she’s not the only one writing about such things recently. It’s everywhere. What is all this recent obsession with height, anyway? Is it that height is one of those few things that people can’t really change about themselves (as opposed to just about everything else these days) and everyone is hyperaware of any real or perceived advantage that a person can have? Is this part of a larger societal fascination that I’ve been willfully ignoring? Perhaps. Either way, perhaps I’ll pay closer attention to people’s body language when they speak to me for the next few weeks, and we’ll see if I notice anything special. Maybe I’ll take to wearing those really high heels more than I already do. Who knows.



Thoughts on Music, Literature, and (dreaded) Self-Reflection

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on June 24, 2009
Is it just me, or is the majority of popular music written in a range suited for most women? That is to say, I’ve noticed that over the years, the popularity of certain bands experiences an abrupt increase once they change the key of their songs to accomodate the typical female range (see also: Death Cab for Cutie, etc etc) There are obviously notable exceptions to this, but it’s an interesting phenomenon nonetheless.


I recently finished Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins. Now as I’ve mentioned before, I really like Marianne Wiggins. Her prose is gorgeous and she has the capacity to write some of the most beautiful and expansive sentences I’ve ever encountered. I’m a huge fan of The Shadow Catcher. In that context, Evidence of Things Unseen was surprisingly disappointing. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad book- it’s actually quite good. The characters are compelling and she makes some interesting moves throughout her narrative about this couple building a life together post-WWII. Yet even as she painstakingly produces the voice of the characters in their thoughts and their dialogues with each other, she completely ruins the practical-country-folk-with-quirky-scientific-interests by giving them her trademark beautiful language. This isn’t to say that I don’t think them/that type of person incapable of expansive thoughts or beautiful language- it’s just remarkably out of character and doesn’t fit with the other things they’ve thought and said. Wiggins’ prose gets away from her, and it’s disappointing, considering how well she managed it in the Shadow Catcher. Oh well. It’s always disappointing to realize that you may have discovered an author’s best work first- the others are unfortunately diminished by comparison.

UPDATE: At least Shadow Catcher was more recent, and thus represents an improvement over her earlier work. I am slightly less disappointed.

What I’m reading now:

Zelda by Nancy Milford; Underworld by Don Delillo; House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski


As part of the process of writing essays for business school, I’ve been forced to think a lot about two relatively nebulous and thus uncomfortable topics: my past accomplishments, and what I hope to achieve in the future. I’ve had no problem articulating what I’ve learned from mistakes, or the trajectory of my academic career, but trying to identify my three most significant achievement is particularly problematic. I’m not trying to imply that I think I’ve accomplished nothing- I consider a lot of things I’ve done to be significant, at least to me. The issue is more attempting to find the balance between the things I find important (which tend to be more intangible and related to the relationships I have with people) and concrete projects that might be impressive to an admissions committee. As for my future plans, well- I don’t have to answer the question about my career vision. In fact, I probably won’t. But its presence made me stop and think a lot about why I’m even applying for this program in the first place. I know it appealed to me in that it built in 2 years of work prior to going back to school, but still guaranteed that I’d have a place if I wanted it. But why business school at all? It’s still a little unclear, but here’s what I came up with:

1. Business is a profession that appeals to me. I navigate complicated structures with relative ease, I’m a social person, and the types of problems that appear in a business situation appeal to me. I believe that communication between a business and its clients (or employees, for that matter) is incredibly interesting, and has the potential to be important. Also, I like delegating.

2. At present, I don’t want to be an entrepreneur. I have ideas, of course, but I don’t feel I’m in a place to develop them yet. I’d rather take existing entities and make them better. In several of my recent jobs, I’ve essentially acted as an internal consultant, and I really enjoyed the experience. I like dropping into a situation or organization and identifying problems or solutions that had been overlooked because of the culture of a company. I like clarifying the vision of others, and helping provide next steps to achieve it. To put it bluntly: At this point in my life, creating a business of my own feels like having a child, and I’m not ready to be a mother.

 Thus: If I want to be involved in business, but do so in the capacity of engaging with existing organizations and improving them, I could stand to use an MBA. I’ll learn things there that could be helpful, and I’ll get to meet people who could be helpful later.  Also, I can always change my mind.
A final note about current events:

-There are rumors that BART might go on strike because of potential paycuts. I know that paycuts are unfortunate, but they’re happening everywhere. The UC system is taking 8% paycuts across the board. As someone dealing with the impending unemployment of a family member and all of its repercussions, I say: suck it up. At least you have jobs. And relatively high-paying ones at that. If you go on strike, hundreds of other people (ok, I) can’t go to work. In this economy, that just doesn’t seem fair.

-North Korea is making me nervous, but that might be because I’m on the West Coast right now.

-I can’t come up with anything interesting, original, or even particularly informed to say about Iran right now. I can’t even clarify my thoughts on the issue. But it certainly feels significant, and I’m interested to see what happens. I wish I thought the outcome (either way) would mean much for women’s rights or attitudes towards the West, but I honestly don’t.



I’m back! (also, my word count is currently 666. Creepy.)

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on December 21, 2008

So apparently posting from school didn’t work out so well for me this semester. It’s been a while, let’s say. Regardless,  I’m back in California for the next several weeks, and finally have access to a computer again. I apparently have the worst luck with laptop monitors that has ever existed- both of my laptops have been put out of commission by problems with their screens. Sigh.

Anyway, what a crazy ride the last few months have been, right? There’s the economy, and everything happening in Mumbai, and that awful movie Twilight. That’s right, I saw it. In fact, it was so bad, I saw it twice. I’ve never had to do that before, but I suppose there’s a first time for anything. I simply couldn’t believe it was as atrocious as it was after the first viewing. Needless to say,  I wasn’t wrong. Who knew an American accent could be so bad? (That’s right, I’m looking at you, Robert Pattison) Who knew vampires glittered?  At least Australia had Hugh Jackman going for it…

While we’re on the subject of movies, I will say that Slumdog Millionaire was incredible. The movie ranges from depictions of abject squalor to startling wealth, showing along the way both the briefest glimpse of the range of Indian society and a truly compelling story about the power of human ingenuity and feeling. There are poop jokes and religious killings, blindings and riding on trains. I can’t even express how worthwhile this movie was. Go see it. I’m seeing it again.

In the absence of my computer, I was fortunate enough to get a lot of reading done. What is finals period for, right?  I finally finished The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano. It’s a wonderful book (if a bit sluggish in the middle) and incidentally, I’ve finished just in time for two new Bolano translations to appear- what’s being touted as his magnum opus, 2666, and a collection of his poetry, The Romantic Dogs. I’ve also been fortunate enough to read a collection of his short stories entitled Last Evenings on Earth, so I can safely say that based on that and Detectives, I’m looking forward to reading these new works. Bolano somehow manages to write obsessively about the same topics or characters (usually struggling writers and their interactions with others of their ilk) without driving me crazy. This is an impressive feat, considering how short my attention span is.

Yet perhaps the most wonderful piece of writing I’ve read recently was The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins. Wiggins has a way of stringing together words that’s truly moving. I found myself wandering around reading the first page of the book outloud to my suitemates, trying to figure out exactly what it was in her prose that was compelling. Let’s just say that it’s pretty enough that my suitemates didn’t mind (which is also saying something, considering that they were studying for finals…) Regardless, it’s a beautiful book, and I’m currently desperately trying to get my hands on a copy of “Evidence of Things Unseen” as a result.

Other books consumed in the last month: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson, Women with Men by Richard Ford, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges by Nathan Englander, The Book of Ralph by John McNally, The Burning Plain by Juan Rulfo (and many more)

It’s raining here, so lightly that I can hardly tell. Instead, the sky seems to flicker outside my window. It’s an odd effect. I’ve got to plan my trip to Southern California now, but I’ll be back to talk about my classes (Digital Literature and Graphic Forms and Advanced Fiction Writing oh my!) and the GMAT (terror!) and my fantasies of throwing dinner parties (which are more exciting than you might expect) and perhaps even the new projects I have in the works. Who knows? There may even be a graphic novel adaptation of the only good short story I ever wrote. Featuring old robots, no less.

Slam, Savage Detectives, and Soy Sauce

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 7, 2008


I’ve spent the past year or so trying to weasel my way into the poetry slam* community of the bay area. Basically every Wednesday these last two summers I’ve appeared at the Starry Plough at 5:30 or so and stayed until midnight. The intervening time is filled with schmoozing, gossip, poetry and some very drunk writers. Now that I’ve come to terms with the fact that my being an actor and a poet separately does not automatically make me a natural performance poet, I’ve been living the life of the trusted regular in the audience. I sit at tables populated by poets, provide editting and advice, and joke with Shahin, my favorite bartender in the history of ever. I even know the local afternoon drunks by name (in fact, I’m writing a screenplay with one of them. Theoretically.)

Yet last night I decided to stay home. Last night’s exploits wore me out and so I curled up with the final episode of So You Think You Can Dance. From what I’ve heard, I didn’t miss a whole lot. But of course none of that is particularly interesting, except that I wasn’t surprised- the best poets of the bay are at the National Poetry Slam championships in Madison, WI!

From what I’ve heard, they’re kicking ass. Slam championships are essentially a weird cross between hypercompetitive summer camp for poets and a really nerdy orgy. They last for nearly a week, and feature both traditional bouts with 4 teams each, and some extra fun events on the side (like the Erotic slam, and head-to-head sudden death haiku.) It’s a writers greatest dream realized; needless to say, I’m disappointed not to be there.

*If you don’t know what a poetry slam is, don’t fret- you’re a normal human being. Congratulations. To learn more about the rules (this ain’t no open mic, honey, this is a BATTLE) click here or here.


Savage Detectives

In my previously mentioned top 101 books I must must read list, the very first is The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolaño. I first heard about the book when it showed up in the SF Chronicle’s best books of 2007. Considering how the reviewers at the Chronicle hate EVERYTHING, I knew I had to check this book out.

Now that I’m finally reading it, I haven’t been disappointed for a second. Admittedly, it’s pretty slow going (which is rare for me), but it’s slow going in the way that The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa (one of my favorite books) was slow going. I can’t race through each page, because I’m too busy savoring each sentence. I’m not the most patient reader, either, so the fact that this book has kept me coming back every day for as long as it has is a testament to its craft.

I’m not done yet, but I’ll write a proper review when I am. Regardless, it’s good stuff (at least through page 242.) I can’t believe it wasn’t translated into English until 2007- makes me wonder why I haven’t been searching out these books in their original language years ago (after all, I’m proficient-ish in Spanish, so I can’t use the wait for translation as an excuse…) Sigh.

Soy Sauce

On a completely different note, my family has gone through a radical transformation this last week and a half or so. It all began when I discovered food bloggers. Whereas at the beginning of the summer I procrastinated at work by wikipedia-ing random things and hitting refresh on my email, I’m now consumed (har har har) by Epicurious and Food Blogga. My waistline will never be the same.

So far, we’ve made Avocado and Radish Green Mini Quiches, Breakfast Quinoa, Indian Curried Eggplant, and Asparagus and baby Artichoke Risotto.

I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Last night was Thai Peanut Sauce Tofu and String Beans with a side of fried plantain and coconut pineapple ice cream for dessert. I have not eaten this well since I was like… 12.

If you’re bored with your cuisine (or just your day), check them out. Your taste buds will thank you.

PS: If you’d like the recipes for any of the above-mentioned recipes, just let me know and I’ll send them on over. The risotto is particularly amazing.

Bruises, BART, and my inappropriate writer crush

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 5, 2008


Well, it’s almost been a week since the accident, and I’m back to my usual surly, unappreciative self. No more musing about the miracle of life for me; it’s back to bitching. Seriously, though, I’ve been told that experiences like this are supposed to make a person feel as though everything is completely different- and to be honest, I feel basically the same. Except without a car, which blows. Being trapped in my mother’s house is no fun, let’s say. Luckily, I head back to Connecticut in less than two weeks (!).

My legs look like the canvas of a domestic abuser with a baseball bat, but the transformation from blue to purple to red is strangely fascinating, and they don’t hurt (unless I’m being clumsy [which is often]), so it’s OK. I can turn my head a normal amount again. I no longer really have an excuse to put off exercising. Yep, back to normal.


On a completely unrelated note, for the last few hours I’ve been trying to figure how I’m going to pull off this evening’s crazy schedule- there’s a book reading at Booksmith at 7:30 (put on by Counterpoint Press, a really fantastic independent press based in Berkeley, where, incidentally, a friend of mine is working this summer) and then my cousin’s band, Maus Haus, is playing at the Bottom of the Hill. We’re hoping it doesn’t sell out before we get there- apparently some of the other bands (Nomo, in particular) have been getting a lot of press lately. Regardless, all of these little adventures are in San Francisco, which means I have to get from Oakland (the location of my job) to Berkeley (the location of my ride) and then from the Haight to SOMA and then back to Berkeley, all without dying or being mugged. And public transit is being a pain in the butt. Did I mention that I left my wallet at home today?

Yeah, it’s going to be an interesting night.

My Inappropriate Writer Crush

So i recently saw Daniel Alarcon, a fantastic young Peruvian novelist (though, to be fair, he grew up in Alabama [though he does write about Peru {whatever}]), at a reading at 826 Valencia in the city. I’d been meaning to read his book, Lost City Radio, for a very long time (in fact, it made #5 on my top 101 books I must must read list, which is a feat, let me tell you.) and having seen him (and heard his delicious Spanish… oh god, Spanish gives me weak knees…) I decided it was probably time that I check out his book. While I waited to get paid so that I could purchase said book, I took the time to read a few of his short stories in various journals, and though they’re fine, I wasn’t particularly impressed. Luckily, before I had much time to reconsider his book’s ranking on my list, my dear counterpoint friend surprised me with a copy of the book (after all, I had been jabbering on about this guy for several days at this point, and I’m sure she was tired of hearing about it.)

If you haven’t read Lost City Radio yet, drop everything and go buy it. I’m serious.

I’ve been suffering from a lot of book fatigue recently, struggling to get through even books that my more impatient friends found smooth sailing (Everything Is Illuminated, etc). There was none of that here. Now admittedly, my voracious reading might have been fueled by the previously mentioned crush, but I prefer to think it has something to do with sentences like this:

“The city was impregnated with the smell of ruin: it swirled in the sodden air and stuck to you, wherever you went.” (134)


Just read it. Really.