• because i have a long postscript this week, i am not going to do an exhaustive study of this week’s episode and am mainly going to focus on the two set pieces at the heart of the episode: the text messaging scene and the fashion show scene.
  • as loyal readers know, i do not tend to be a fan of crosscutting between scenes in different locations and think it is a break in the house style of “the hills.” but that scene with stephanie pratt text messaging heidi and then lauren text messaging audrina was pure genius. when the camera cut, after that break with, from stephanie pratt’s gaze to lauren, i knew the shot of lauren text messaging was coming but then it came and i could not help but kind of laugh with joy at the fact that it had come and the truth of its coming and the way that it came.
  • it’s genius because the text messaging scene is a direct mirror of what is going on with the audience as they watch the show. they are text messaging (or IMing or blog commenting) and almost undoubtedly their messages are beginning with “omg” or “oh my god” and then going on to lol about this crazy situation.
  • also lauren’s performance during her first confrontation was absolutely breathtaking. like, the on the edge of tears, whispery thing? omg! tell me how real actresses are better than this? the only acting i saw of this caliber in a fiction film last year was “margot at the wedding” and everybody seemed to hate that.
  • something i forgot to write about during the paris episode was that the girls’ scenes with the driver did not only kick up those meta-connotations of the producer-star relationship but also really made me think of of that michael mann movie “collateral” with jamie foxx and tom cruise. you know, driving around at night, commanding the driver where to go, etc. i am sure there are plenty of other like hitman/mobster/thriller movies that are examples of this, but i think i focused on the michael mann movie because he shot “collateral” on digital which was a big deal at the time and then he did “miami vice” which everybody again talked about the gorgeous cinematography and how vacuous the thing was besides that gorgeous cinematography, which, hello.
  • the scene in the paris episode that really sparked this association was the scene where the girls find out that lauren can get another dress if she can be at alberta feretti in ten minutes and so then there is a quick-cut, drive, driver, drive sort of sequence, the car cutting corners, speeding down rain-slicked streets, all to make it there just in the nick of time. it’s a feminization of an action movie trope; instead of racing to defuse a bomb or save some hostages or kill a villain, they’re rushing to pick up a pretty ball gown before the store closes.
  • a much better example of this is the second set piece in the episode, the whitney scene at the fashion show. it is the girl version of the scene in star wars where they blow up the death star. whitney has to wear a uniform (“we all wear black, everyone wears black”); she is working for a company called people’s revolution. sass and bide look like aliens with their bizarre hair. at the fashion show, whitney and sass and bide and the troops stand in disarray backstage, waiting for the show to start. they are wearing headsets and are in constant radio contact. they are lit by a brilliant and otherworldly and blinding blue light. the cutting here is faster than maybe every before and the cameras backstage are, for once, handheld, not locked down; there is overlapping dialogue and it’s clashing texturally because of the sound of the walkie talkies. the show starts and whitney is sending the models out, ships into battle. then, in the middle of the scene, something goes wrong, someone is missing. the radio is going crazy. “what’s going on?” but whitney works it out and everything works out. in the end, sass and bide take their victorious runway lap and everyone claps and cheers and awkwardly high fives.
  • (i am eagerly awaiting the attack of the clones.)
  • one last thing; the scene with lo and audrina warning lauren to “keep her guard up” because they “don’t trust” stephanie pratt is hilarious because it’s a total inversion of every scene where lauren warns someone about how they shouldn’t trust someone and then that person does something untrustworthy. foreshadowing?
  • one more last thing; i would be remiss if i didn’t note the incredible traveling shot of lauren conrad and stephanie pratt becoming friends. again, the dialogue, about steph quitting smoking, is a little camp in a kind of bret easton ellis cum “clueless” sort of way but at the very end when stephanie pratt says “now if only i could quit tanning beds,” like, i really don’t think that’s ironic or a joke, it’s real. loved it. she has “won me over, in spite of me” and shouldn’t be “alarmed if i fall, head over feet.” also genius: ending things in the school cafeteria to underscore the high school melodrama of the whole thing.

so, juliana hatfield wrote an entry on her emo myspace blog about “the hills” last week. i have been trying to think of a way to respond to it and have been so stuck and it has been so unpleasant. at first, i was going to do a line by line annotation and just sort of tear her writing up, which honestly would not have been hard in part because making up mean jokes is fun and in part because she’s just not a very good writer and says things that are at turns ridiculously hyperbolic (“I’ve watched The Hills when I could’ve been reading a book or painting a painting or trying to find a cure for cancer “), absurdly sanctimonious (“There is no joy in the la la’s“), and/or straight out of an ashlee simpson song (“so i give you pieces of ‘me’“). but i’m not going to do it. and i know this kind of move i just did is like rhetoric 101, like, making mean jokes about someone under the pretense of saying you’re not going to make mean jokes about them and writing about something under the pretense of not writing about it – it’s the classic way of being an asshole in the guise of being a nice, ethical person – but i’m not doing an annotation to her post. this is not because i want to be seen as a nice, ethical person (although of course i want to be seen as a nice ethical person) but because her post is a lot more complex than the blogs that linked to it made it out to be and after doing a close reading of it and the post that followed it i have too much respect for her as a person to be that much of a dick, even though i think she is totally fucking wrong about a lot of things.

so anyway, i’m not going to do that, but what i am going to do is quote just one part of her post, the part where i think we fundamentally disagree. she writes:

The song is scolding myself for doing this at all – for building songs and releasing them out into the cruel world – for wanting and needing attention from an audience and critics. For needing to be seen/heard/consumed/praised in order to feel good about myself.

But I only want to be seen in a certain way. I want to be able to control it. I want you to think I’m cool. I mean, I AM cool, but there are parts of me that are not so cool. I only want you to see the cool part. The good-looking part. My good side(s). So I give you pieces of “me” – a torso, a clavicle, an arm, eyes, legs (on the new album), a bunch of carefully formed words but I am thoroughly conscious (if I can help it) of everything I choose to give (though it all often backfires, anyway, despite my best intentions).

The fact that I still want and need and court an audience – to be appreciated and acknowledged by total strangers – seems, to me, a failing, a weakness, a character flaw. I consider the fact that I submit myself and my work over and over again to the judgment of random people – when I have such a low opinion of humanity (myself included) in general – to be seriously twisted. It doesn’t make any sense…

there was a minor uproar a few weeks ago because ginia bellafante called heidi montag a “feminist hero” in her review of this season of “the hills.” there were a lot of blog posts and comments about critical standards, ginia bellafante’s stupidity, the audacity of the new york times, “i’ll never read the new york times again,” blah blah blah. personally, i don’t doubt that bellafante was completely conscious of what she was doing, that it was an intentionally provocative line, since “feminist” is a loaded word that’s difficult to define, that has a lot of connotations to a lot of people and a lot of emotions tied into it, that you wouldn’t use casually or without some consideration to describe heidi montag.

a word that’s not very loaded, though, or difficult to define, is “human.” i think we can all generally agree what a human being and that heidi montag is in fact a living, breathing example of one. yet a great many people apparently disagree with this assessment. on blog comments, on message boards, in reviews of “the hills,” heidi montag is called inhuman, subhuman, soulless, worthless, empty, plastic, a robot.

why do people feel this way? why do they hate her so much? the reason that’s given over and over again to justify the hatred of her is that she “wants to be famous,” that “all she cares about is being famous,” that she is “a talentless fame whore” or a “fameball.” this has become the go-to reason for reflexively hating heidi, and paris hilton and julia allison, too: their desire to be famous.

i don’t argue with the fact that heidi montag wants to be famous or even that her major motivating factor in life is to be famous: to argue with that would be, i think, both stupid and wrong. i don’t even argue that this desire for fame isn’t a flaw; it probably is, for reasons which i’ll touch on later. the thing i do disagree with, though, is that this flaw is a reason to hate heidi or julia or paris, that it is something nasty and ugly and wrong about them. rather, i think that it is a beautiful, beautiful flaw, that it is the thing that makes them most beautiful, that it is in fact the fundamental reason why they should be loved.

the contemporary discourse on physical beauty in pop culture is all about embracing flaws. thus, the popular concept, which probably developed contemporaneously with the explosion of reality television, of the “real woman.” real women have curves, the dove campaign for real beauty, lifetime real: women, the real woman project. “celebrity, sex, fashion. without airbrushing.” love the real you, love yourself, love your imperfections; embrace your flaws, kiss your scars, hug your defects etc. etc. yet for all this lovely rhetoric about physical beauty, there is no equivalent discussion of mental or emotional or social flaws. even though it’s arguably much harder to change these defects than physical flaws, narcissism and self-centeredness can never be seen as beautiful in the way that a fat ass or crooked nose can. julianna hatfield concludes her post on “the hills” by saying, “it’s what’s inside that makes us who we are.” well, what if what’s inside you isn’t perfect? what if you’ve got mental cellulite and social acne and philosophical love handles — does that make you less worthy of love?

what i find really ironic is that all this hatred of heidi and paris and julia for their flaws of personality is coming from people writing comments and blog posts on the internet. as heidi montag said about comments the day after she apparently cried herself to sleep over all the negative comments about her first single, “higher”:

“I appreciate people taking time to write any kind of comment. Do you know how much effort it really takes to sit down and write a comment? I’ve never written a comment in my entire life…you really have to have a lot of passion and thought to write any comment, so thank you. “

heidi is wrong; it doesn’t really take a lot of thought to write a comment: you just type it and click post. she’s at least partially right, though: it may not take a lot of effort or passion, but it does take at least some. i started a new job a couple of months ago and i was talking to another new hire during our training. we didn’t really have a lot in common, but we were doing your standard bullshit small talk. i mentioned something a blogger had written about something related to our living situation. he snorted and said something about how “those bloggers” don’t really have lives and if they did, they would be living them instead of writing about them. now, even if i am a total example of it, i am not going to go on that “people who spend time on the internet don’t have a life” trip. but what i will say and what i think is obvious is that people who are posting on the internet, whether they are posting comments or blog posts or youtube clips or whatever, they are in some way incomplete; they need something that they are not getting from their everyday lives, from their jobs, their friends, their family, their significant others, and so they are extending themselves onto the internet to try to find it.

they are going to the effort of posting something on the internet because they feel that they need to. they need to express themselves, they need to communicate with others, they need to impress people, they need other people to see some manifestation of them and validate it and them with a comment or trackback or thumbs up or kudos or just a page view, just a pair of eyes on this thing they have created; they need attention. this is no different than how it has always been with writers and artists, who by and large aren’t creating their work in a vacuum or hiding it away like kafka, but the internet has made it possible for anyone to get this kind of attention in two seconds from the comfort of their own home, without having to even make anything besides a two sentence response to something someone else said.

so heidi and julia and paris want to be famous. what does that mean? it doesn’t mean they want to be rich, even if they all do, that’s a separate thing, it’s “rich and famous,” the one doesn’t contain the other, just ask gary coleman. so they want to be famous. what does that mean? i guess that they all want attention, a lot of attention, a lot of people to watch them, to read them, to hear them, to want them. heidi and julia and paris all want attention, just like people on the internet do. they are incomplete the way that those people are incomplete, the way all human beings are incomplete.

whether you believe in original sin or common sense or have just lived on planet earth for a couple of years, you know that human beings aren’t perfect. the beautiful thing about heidi and julia and paris is that their imperfections are magnified to giant size by the lens of celebrity, that their auras are exploded by the million copies of their image. they don’t want attention the way most of us do; they don’t want somebody to notice the outfit they’re wearing or that they got a haircut or the good job they did at work or the funny thing they said at the party. well, actually, they do, they do want all those things, but that’s not enough for them, they need more, more, more. they can’t get the kind of satisfaction they need the way so many “normal” people can, from their family and friends and lovers and coworkers, they need more than that. they want a hundred eyes and when they get them they want a thousand and when they get them they want a million. and sure, that’s narcissism, totally, but narcissus was a human, not a god. heidi montag is not only human, she is beautifully human, she is powerfully human, she is radiantly human.

like, ok, i am already oversharing here, just like juliana on her myspace, and so i’m just going to go all out. last fall i had a chance to be in a national magazine. notice i said “be in,” not “write for”: it was a tiny little layout filler thing, it wasn’t real writing. still, it was a national magazine and i am 22 and i have no publishing credits besides my school’s shitty undergrad magazine. yet i said no. i said no because i thought (and still think) that it was a horrible fit, that the feature would have made me look either stupid or pretentious or (most probably) stupid and pretentious at the same time. i decided, no, you have to have some kind of integrity, and so i politely declined and i felt good about it

and that was the total fucking wrong decision! it was so stupid. i write a blog about a popular television show for free, what integrity do i have? i have bit my nails and stressed and agonized over tens of thousands of words that very few people actually read, that are completely dated and useless a week after i write them, yet i can’t cash in (figuratively) and see my name printed in a magazine? why the hell not? do you know who would have never made a decision like that? heidi montag or julia allison. they wouldn’t have made that decision because they’re not afraid to look stupid in front of other people, because they’re not afraid to look ugly in front of other people, because they’re not afraid to look human in front of other people. obviously, like anyone, they would prefer not to look stupid or ugly in front of other people (thus julia’s trademark pose and heidi and spencer’s faked paparazzi photos), but they’re not afraid to look stupid or ugly and they do, all the time. and obviously, heidi and julia, like anyone, want people to perceive them in a certain way and so they speak and act and dress and write and sing and mime in a way that they hope will make people perceive them the way they want to be perceived; obviously, they are “fake” and “constructed,” the same way that you are “fake” and “constructed” in a job interview or on a blind date or talking to a cop or just trying to look cool to some people. above all, heidi montag and julia allison are these glossy, gleaming, big-titted reminders that perfection is impossible, that we are all flawed, that we all need people to pay attention to us and think about us and love us, and the fact that they remind people of these things is why so many people hate them and it’s why i think they’re the most beautiful women in the world. maybe they’re not “real” women, but they’re women living in “reality,” the same place as you and me and everyone else. they are showing us how to be human just as we are showing them.

ryan adams did a better soundtrack to this post than i could but since i am doing a song a week, here is a cover i did of the “friends” theme.


“They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.”

– barack obama, 3/08

I don’t believe that life, or especially dating, is a zero-sum game

– julia allison, 9/07

1) Immigration (Dad’s against it, Mom thinks everyone who has a job should be able to stay here, I tend to agree with Mom, because I don’t see immigrant-citizen employment as a zero-sum game.)

– julia allison, 8/07

But does that mean that good looks and mixed-gender friendship is a zero-sum relationship? If Nietzsche is right, the answer would be yes – the less attractive one is to one’s friends, the easier it is to maintain that friendship in a non-sexual manner. Perhaps the question should be rephrased to: “Can one really be friends with someone you’re sexually attracted to?

– julia allison, 10/02

🙂 Anything with color, I like, so I was happy. See? Fashion’s not zero-sum! Mary & I can BOTH win. haha

– julia allison, 3/08

To be quite clear, I believe in win-wins – I don’t think everything has to be at either your expense or someone else’s. Life doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.

– julia allison, 1/08

I want the entire world to get “life = not zero sum” tattooed on a body part they see every single day. I feel like it would help.

– julia allison, 1/08

she knows how to stay on message. so am i right yet? JA is obama, LC is hillary. (spencer is romney – a glossy villain, interestingly bizarre yet, where it counts (in terms of plot) a nonentity. heidi is huckabee – a fundamentalist christian who can appear on tyra and the tonight show. whitney is john edwards – lovable and adorable yet completely unelectable because she’s not enough of a politician. i don’t think any of julia allison’s friends are interesting enough to warrant this treatment.)

i love LC and i feel close to her and, thus, to hil. i feel more like her than him because she is more flawed and complicated and human and real, with all the connotations that word has, that her story is more scandalous and gawkable and worthy of telling, that it is not some dated rags to riches alger narrative but is a real contemporary gossipy chick lit rag, that at heart she is not cool and suave and able to make people faint and swoon with a wink and a smile but is basically a boring and ordinary everyday person who works hard and wants people to like her and has to try to make people like her and has caught the cameras and gleam and has liked the feeling of the cameras and gleam, that these cameras and gleam and this attention have had an effect on her, have made her so self conscious and neurotic, that she is the fucking “bridget jones’ diary” version of a politico, trying not to look fat in an ugly suit while she eats hamburgers and chili and state fair winning barbeque. at the same time, i don’t like her because i feel that, like LC and like me, she is neurotic and self conscious, she is prone to lose, she is prone to fail, to be screwed over, to be neglected or hated, she is prone (with good reason) to cynicism and negativity, to not believe, to not hope, and that she is trying to hold on so tight to something not even necessarily because she really wants it, but because she’s scared not to be holding on to it, because she doesn’t know what to do if she’s not holding on to it. i hate her like i hate myself. i know i’m not a woman, but i still get to have feelings, right? we are all having a moment now. i am more like LC and hil but i know that those parts of myself, even if they are the most myself parts of myself, aren’t the best parts – i know that the feelings that JA and BO represent, i know that even if those feelings are empty that, well, empty feelings are better than feeling empty. is that phrase trite or will it hold for five minutes or so? i know that the fact that i am equating JA and LC with BO and HC could be taken as a sign of the vapidity and stupidity of the young, of the image politics that have replaced the politics politics, of the triumph of surface over substance. whatever, it probably is all those things, but it’s really just a sign that i stretch metaphors way too far.

anyway, SAT analogy:

mary rambin is to “newport harbor: the real orange county” as julia allison is to “the hills.”

(this is complicated by the fact that mary rambin was apparently on a “laguna beach” knockoff on ABC called “one ocean drive,” as documented in this clip.)

i have to learn to write again in time for next week. it’s scary. i’m scared. are you scared? the audacity of hope.

being able to read julia allison’s blog every day is like having a chocolate fountain in my heart that never runs out.  except it just did.  don’t stop believing.

That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. b.a.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, if who you really are is a douchebag, no one is required to love you (although I think life has plenty of examples of douchebags finding love at the same rate as nice, normal people. sigh.), but most of us are just your average (flawed) human beings. And the odds are, SOMEONE out there will find us captivating. – j.a.

[The] issues are never simple. One thing I’m proud of is that very rarely will you hear me simplify the issues. – b.a.

Blogging is so. So. SO. SO. easy compared to writing a cohesive narrative of 2000 words or more. Blogging is jotting down your thoughts. Anyone can jot down thoughts in a coherent and more or less amusing fashion. But try making an actual long-form argument – that MAKES SENSE – without resorting to cliche or banality or circular rhetoric or just filler … while still maintaining your voice? ugh, it’s not easy. – j.a.

Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. it’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere. – b.a

Moreover, if what we know about ourselves flies in the face of the perception of other people, we may choose to actively ignore that perception. For example, my love of the color pink may lead people to believe I am immature. Now, I may disagree with this, but that’s (probably) just how people will feel, no matter what. It’s better to know this, and deal with it accordingly, than to not.

…Is it fair that people judge? Of course it isn’t. But it’s reality. So what should I do, then? Not dress the way I want to dress? Or accept that some people will judge me inaccurately?

So far I’ve chosen the latter. – j.a.

The fact that my 15 minutes of fame has extended a little longer than 15 minutes is somewhat surprising to me and completely baffling to my wife. – b.a.

It seems that people AUTOMATICALLY assume if you want to write a dating column, you’re harboring an intense desire to be famous or buy a lot of Manolos or something. That’s not why I started my column (back in college), and my career ambition is entirely separate from that. I’m not ambitious BECAUSE I write a dating column, and I didn’t calculate that it would be easier to get more attention or succeed in the world of journalism if I were a dating columnist (although I think it HAS brought me more attention than if I were a regular reporter – but that was an unexpected byproduct).

I began the column because I was genuinely fascinated by the machinations between men and women, and I thought I could – gasp! – actually examine issues that people obsess over incessantly. It’s sort of ironic, how deeply relationships affect everyone’s lives, but how frivolously they’re treated in journalism. WHY IS THIS!?!? – j.a.

We live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. – b.a.

PS. I think sleep masks as headbands could be the next big thing.

PPS. I am kidding.

PPPS. God, I totally had a dream that I was driving in a car with Paris Hilton, and she was really, really smart, and we discussed her regrets about creating the ditzy, vapid “Paris Hilton” character.

PPPPS. I wish I were kidding. – j.a.

People are whupped. I’m whupped. My wife is whupped. Unless it’s your job to be curious, who really has the time to sit and ask questions and explore issues? – b.a.

I’m so, so, so tired. Sleepy, emotional tired, like anything will make me cry. If you told me now that you didn’t like my dog, it would probably make me cry. Okay, maybe I would just frown, but you know … it’s almost a PMS-y, illogical, irrational, over-sensitivity. I feel like this is a version of tired we should outgrow, but I haven’t. Meh. – j.a.

Look, we live in a celebrity culture and sometimes you get caught in the wave and the buzz and a lot of it’s flattering but, you know, one of the things that I try to remind people of is, is that I was in politics as a state senator operating in obscurity for many years. Before that I was a community organizer working in low income communities in Chicago and nobody knew my name then. And so, having involved myself in public service for a pretty long time without getting too much attention, hopefully I can keep some of the attention that I’m getting now in perspective. – b.a.

As part of the article I’m writing, the editor suggested I cite a few of the insults lobbed against me over the past few years.

So, because I follow instructions (ha), I diligently waded through the murky abyss of internet hatred against me.

It’s not that I haven’t heard this stuff before, but I swear to god, after an hour I was THISCLOSE to slitting my wrists, just to get it over with …

UPDATE: Okay, I’m done trolling through the drivel and will literally NEVER go there again. Now, looking at the comments I’ve pasted onto a word doc, out of context they actually … make me laugh. I still feel sick from the entire process, but when I look at them, it’s like … “seriously???”

“slut with a pen”
“useless ho-bag”
“attention whore”
“chiclet-toothed asshole”
“old, ugly and over”
“dumber … than an autistic child”

“Boobs speak louder than words. And lucky for her.”

My favorite is “dumber than an autistic child.” – j.a.

Faith doesn’t mean that you don’t have doubts. – b.a.

Okay, so (for this article) one of the things I’m thinking about is what it is, at the root of everything, that makes us unhappy.

I think that most (needless) unhappiness stems from the worry that, on some level, we are not enough.

Not smart enough or beautiful enough or thin enough or successful enough or rich enough – or … yeah … LOVABLE enough.

We’re frightened of being criticized, of being rejected, of being unloved.

Many of us are giant balls of self-doubt and anxiety – and we’re freaked out that someone will FIGURE THIS OUT. – j.a.

We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expression of faith sowing division; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape. And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts, our politics fans them, exploits them, and drives us further apart. – b.a.

I want the entire world to get “life = not zero sum” tattooed on a body part they see every single day. I feel like it would help. – j.a.

We have a stake in one another … what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and … if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth. – b.a.

I remember thinking how funny that was, that they were insulting me for … being nice??

Now, looking back, I think it’s more sad than anything else. It’s sad that they were convinced it was an artifice – because they couldn’t believe that someone might ACTUALLY be interested, might ACTUALLY want to be your friend, might ACTUALLY think you’re great.

It’s not fake. I really am like that. 🙂 – j.a.

In an interconnected world, the defeat of international terrorism – and most importantly, the prevention of these terrorist organizations from obtaining weapons of mass destruction — will require the cooperation of many nations. We must always reserve the right to strike unilaterally at terrorists wherever they may exist. But we should know that our success in doing so is enhanced by engaging our allies so that we receive the crucial diplomatic, military, intelligence, and financial support that can lighten our load and add legitimacy to our actions. This means talking to our friends and, at times, even our enemies. – b.a.

Yes, that’s a nametag I’m wearing. I love nametags. I love wearing one, and I love when other people wear them. It just makes everything so much easier, you don’t have to worry you didn’t hear their name right, you don’t have to humiliate yourself asking someone you’ve met 7 times to repeat it, etc etc. I think we should all have cute permanent nametags we wear whenever we’re interacting with a large group of strangers. Just a helpful life suggestion. – j.a.

Hope — Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead. – b.a.

I mean, to have happiness without any pain. For the last six months it’s been on-and-off joy mixed with bad-relationship pain (and for the past two months, a TON of breakup pain), but for the last week, I’ve felt this pure unadulterated joy – like I’ve come through a very horrible sandstorm and I can breathe again.

It makes me a little NERVOUS, actually …(how weird is that??)

I call it Freedom Happiness: the happiness of not being dependent upon anyone for my happiness.

It’s lovely. I highly recommend it. – j.a.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. – b.a.

With a half dozen officially sucky Valentine’s Days under my belt, I’m still in thrall of the unmitigated potential of the occasion. This is perhaps surprising, given that my most memorable February 14ths include being given a regifted copy of All Quiet on the Western Front (um, it’s a war novel. What?!?) and years later, after even my backup date had stood me up, eating an entire jar of frosting. Alone.

No matter – I’m a perpetual optimist. And that frosting was actually quite good. Just because I haven’t had a “perfect” Valentine’s day … yet … doesn’t mean it won’t happen sometime in the future!! – j.a.