Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Well, east coast girls are hip (that's right; we're back)

The American West coast is without a doubt the worst thing to happen to our nation since the American East coast.
That being said, it is definitively important to remember that the East coast, unlike its sunburned, smug little brother, is not all bad, having brought us, after all, not only John Adams, but also milkmen, lunch pails and Melungeons, as well as our very first liasons with the Canadians. Back in the day, Virginia claimed throne of sophistication and luxury, while the west loomed a slovenly wilderness of gophers and poorly surveyed homesteads. We could console ourselves with the land's savagery; what it lacked in refinement, it made up for in boll weevils; what it craved in intellectual discourse, it fed with sprawling fields of grass. There were barn raisings aplenty.

But the glorly couldn't last. The west changed. We built square gray buildings; we discovered surfing. Cowboys and Indians has been replaced with Xenophobes and Mexicans, and the murderous broods of horse thieves that once roamed the land have settled down to manage L.L. Bean outlet stores. Nary a mail-order Chinese bride, and all we have to show for ourselves in the betrothal department is Bristol Palin. And although Governor Sarah makes it look easy to shoot game, disenfranchise women, and establish reckless dictorship over an isolated town, I can assure that not all the grandeur of Gunsmoke has been so well preserved. Sure, Idaho was the tops in 1838; I'll grant it that: it was the place to be, especially for frustrated young men with a taste for ruthlessness and no hope of sexual satisfaction anyway. But we have anime for that now.

Meanwhile, the East has lost none of its glory; still industrial, still smoke-sooted, still stressful, incomprehensibly diverse, overcrowded, and painfully cerebral, it remains the gilded gloryseat of urban fulfillment. Why waste your years doing pilates and sipping yerba mate when you could be profiting from every espresso-jacked moment? Why ponder canyons when you can fall into electrically-charged subway tracks? People, please.
There comes a time when every woman must choose her heroes. This is not a question of land, of space, but of the human spirit, and we must ask ourselves, once and for all: Dr. Weil or Dr. Oz? Shwayze or T-Pain? Leno or Letterman? These are the chasms we must cross, both spiritual and intellectual, before we can achieve unity once and for all. But we must first remember what will unite us in the end: deep and enduring scorn for the midwest.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Go West, Young Man!

By Lauren Wood

A wise philosopher, Andre Romelle Young (known affectionately and professionally as Dr. Dre), once said "Cali is where they put they mack down."

I'm not really sure what this means, but I do know that it is meant to affirm the glory of the American West Coast. A land where cities are not merely industrial clusters packed with convenience-seeking residents, but meccas of culture and scenery. It is no wonder that the brightest stars of our generation have come to California to create their fate.

The West Coast is the Promised Land.

I chose this topic in light of my recent experiences on this half of our fine nation. I should point out that I have always been an East-Coast Girl. I was born and reside in Atlanta, Georgia. I go to school in a major Northeast coastal capital. I celebrate my birthday in that most infamous of American metropolises. And I vacation in/loathe Florida. As a result of all this, I am uptight, busy, rude (to be fair, Southern girls may not actually be your face), and direct. I am also focused solely on commercialism.

However, my co-op position with Campus MovieFest (the world's largest student film festival! sign up today!) has recently brought me across the Mississippi, and out to the Golden State, where the atmosphere is decidedly different. Californians, and West-Coasters in general, I feel, do not trouble themselves with silly things like deadlines or social boundaries. When you run into a fellow pedestrian on your way to class in California, you do not push them to the ground without a word. More often than not, you have launched a beautiful friendship based on mutual appreciation for the the surrounding nature, marijuana, tie-dye, and hair (all of which probably distracted you in the first place). And if the collision does not lead to friendship, but hostility, than you need not pay it any heed. It's his/her journey, man. Let it go. Peace.

This is not to say, of course, that California is not without its quirks, eccentricities, or just-plain weirdness. Why, just today, when I was at UC Berkeley, I saw:

-A man in makeshift pharaoh attire (complete with snake-shaped shaft)
-A large dog without an owner who frolicked in the fountain
-A girl dressed as a bottle of KY Jelly dancing with another girl dressed as a condom
-A crazy Christian railing against the devil
-A man standing on a chair saying "Happy happy happy happy happy" over and over again
-A campus group for every Asian nation and major (Laotian Philosophy Majors Student Association!)
-A student who actually bought food for a homeless man

My conclusion on this score is that while East Coasters are also crazy, their insanity is based on a hypersensitivity to reality and its pressures, while those on the West Coast choose to completely disregard reality. This is a far superior defense.

So while I doubt that Andrew Jackson had Mr. Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy in mind when he advocated for "Manifest Destiny," I am sure he would not disapprove. This belief in the American ability to reach its own outer-limits is perfectly demonstrated by the weirdly wonderful kooks in Cali.

Maybe one day, I'll have the courage to be kooky, too. For now, I'm just enjoying the trip.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I am woman, hear me whip!

By Lauren Wood

In 1558, Queen Elizabeth I became Queen of England, and led her nation into a golden age (or so says the film.

In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in the United States of America. If you don't know what this amendment says, then go ahead and vote for lace, to your right.

In 1963, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was published, and those liberated women who read it were encouraged to further liberate themselves, and condescend to their lace-y housewife friends.

Finally, in 2004, Halle Berry became Catwoman. The movie may not have done extraordinarily well in the critical realm, or at the box office, but it reflects a continuation of times that are a-changin' when it comes to women's roles in society.

We no longer must disguise ourselves as bedding in order to entice men (or women, if that's your choice, soul sister!) Women of the 21st century can convey strength, and dominance. Our choice of textiles need not trap us in a delicate netting of traditional gender roles, instead our second skin can be as impenetratable as our spirits and sexual appetites (yes, that's right!), and can tear at flesh when flicked in violence (cue whip noise).

Leather can endure the elements just as easily as it can endure a mosh pit, and so it is a uniform of those who dare to be as tough as tanned animal hide. Cowboys wear leather as they lasso and ride the wild, bucking bulls in the harsh environment of the American Southwest. Punk rockers wear studded leather jackets as they ride the wild, bucking bulls of substance abuse (often both heroin and cocaine!) and sing before the great unwashed swells of violent, misguided youth. Tough New York professionals wear leather accessories as their own quiet reminders of the tough skins they acquire as they face the jungle of the corporate world.

Lace, try as it might to be "deceptively" innocent, simply lacks the wherewithal to endure the world's dangers. It is fragile, intricate, teasing, and pretty. In other words, it is everything women were supposed to be before the dawn of feminism. The women of Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare all decked themselves in gentle lace, usually in an attempt to ensnare a suitable husband, so that they can lose their identities for the sake of family.

Or so says Betty Friedan, anyway.

Anyway, Catwoman's leather-clad superheroine is strong, enticing, sassy, agile, smart, and yes, sexy. And it's all because of the leather. Or so I gather from the trailer and wikipedia article. I didn't actually see the movie.

So, in the words of another feminist icon, Helen Reddy:

I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.

Hear me whip.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Holier Than Thou


It is the soul and cloak of sensuality. It is delicate; it is coquettish; it is hopelessly and proudly romantic. Provincial and urbane, antique yet ageless, lace is a beautiful and confounding mystery almost as enticing as those who wear it.

Lace is without peer in sophistication and expression. Versatile, joyful, and sheerly pretty, it queens over every false pretender to the great upholstered throne. Cotton is dull, wool impossible, polyester obscene. And leather! Leather is brutal, blunt, and impenetrable; it shouts hostility and self-absorption in the clumsiest way. Leathercladsters do not extend the hand of mercy or drink from the cup of kindness; they have no opportunity to surprise or deviate from the frowning visage their garment cuts out for them.

Lace, on the other hand, is more than a ready-made punk megaphone. It can be dark, certainly, and heartless, icy, and predatory. But it can also be sweet, fitting clean on the hem of girl’s Sunday dress or a grandmother’s hanky. Yellowing and frayed, lace promises nostalgia, history, earl gray tea, the impossible romance of dying refinement. But black and premeditated, it can be a vixen’s miracle. And what greater pleasure can there be than in transforming your grandmother’s nightgown into a weapon of mass destruction?

Leather’s rumored appeal is only a reflection of our masochistic society’s desire for cruelty and dominance, a manifestation of our guiltful self-hatred and bourgeois thirst for direction. Its gross texture and putrid origins can never compare to the precise craft of lovely, lovely lace.

If I did not loathe PETA and object to animal rights as much as I do, I might frame leather as the dark twin of fur, a needless, superficial robbery of life, and point out our absolute piggishness in demanding bestial satiation for our own vain insecurities. But I’d hate to fall in with the wrong crowd there.

Speaking of the wrong crowd, please also take note of the lace-related

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ask a Wood: Tragedy for a New World

Dear "Sandra,"

You are very, very right to believe that your demise is imminent. I'm sure it will come as uplifting news that you need not carry the pressure of trying to find your fault (as it is apparent) or waiting listlessly for ill fortune (as it is precipitate). As anyone with half a brain knows, hubris is the most common hamartia, and you, my friend, are chin-deep in it. In words a plebe like you would understand, this means that the great gum-gobbed shoe of tragedy is already on its way down, and only a deus ex machina could stop it.

 You are blind to the truth of your doubtlessly dissipated family life (just how "little," curiously, are your boys? Is this a genetic inheritance (perhaps you yourself are a "fox" in stature alone?), or is it the result of syphilis or drug use?). You are indecently vain about your corporeal charms, and your "husband," "Ronaldo," has plainly blindsided you in all but the most obvious of arenas. He is probably having multiple affairs with men and women of all social classes; the best you can hope for is that he's not paying for it (or, more aptly, that they're not).

Allow me to help you out. As fine tragedists like Euripides, Shakespeare, and Middleton labored tirelessly (but usually unsuccessfully) to prove, a hubristic downfall is not always entirely predictable, and it is crucial that you have a gameplan. I shall now go about suggesting a number (2) of possible tragic scenerios, and you can decide which sounds like the most fun.

1. You, in your foxiness and desire for revenge on "Ronaldo," begin a torrid affair with one of his brothers, Geraldo and Craig, only to discover that they have been abusing your sons for years with the help of your avuncular priest, hence the boys' crippling syphilis; you contract the same infection from said Craig, dying dramatically in the vestibule at the very moment you hear your husband confessing to said priest that he did, once, plan a liaison with a prostitute, but, out of fear and shame, backed out and passed the reservation off to his brother, and that he has felt guilty ever since Craig fetched the Syph the very same night, and that he wishes his penance to be a life of unfettered service to his wife's whims


2. You, in your vain quest to look a bit less like a fox and more like, say, a Brazilian fox, decide to have every hair plucked from your body; the resulting pain forces you to use your societal connections to acquire an under-the-counter prescription of Oxycontin; your drug-thirsty son, finding the stash, overdoses and dies, after which your bereaved husband subtly poisons you, only to marry a young, fearlessly furred fox in less than three months, commenting all the while that he has always preferred more "natural" women.

I personally recommend Option 1. 2 just sounds heinous.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A question for Caroline...

Anxious (surely) Readers,

I have sifted through the multitude of troubles provided in your many, many e-mails. Unfortunately, none were sufficient. You all must try harder to be pathetic and interesting. A difficult balance indeed, but if you dream you can achieve!

Take the following as an example. A very delightful woman managed to catch my attention, and I think that none but Caroline Wood can assist.

Dear Miss Wood,

Help! My name is "Sandra," and I am a very happy woman in the prime of my life. I have a wonderful husband, "Ronaldo," and two lovely little boys. I enjoy healthy relationships with my family and friends, and (if I do say so myself) I am quite a fox (still!) My one crippling concern is that something must give. Perhaps I read too many tragic novels, perhaps I am a paranoid schizophrenic, but regardless, I am concerned that in a minute my world will collapse. Will it now?...Or maybe just the next time I walk outside? Will you help me feel content in my life, or at least realize some flaws so I don't have to wait for a shoe to drop?


P.S. I don't mean to say that I'm perfect, of course...Just ideal. Oh dear, am I sounding conceited? I don't mean to sound conceited. Oh, do help, please!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dear Despondent "Don,"

Welcome to Ask a Wood! (tentative title), the new monthly segment of friendly advice from Caroline and Lauren Wood. Today, I'll be addressing the query posted to us (quite anonymously) from a fellow called "Don." If you'll remember from Caroline's previous post, in which she so graciously forwarded his plight, "Don" has a thing for staples, and a fledgling romance. Will he be able to reconcile the two? Read on!

First, though, I should like to invite anyone and everyone to write in to Wood vs. Wood at No real problems please, we just don't care.

So, "Don," I am so very sympathetic to your problems!

You should know that you are by no means alone in your specific brand of fastenerphilia. Remember Stephen Root's brave performance in Office Space, or that of Mackenzie Crook in the (far superior) British version of the television series, The Office. Which reminds me, do you work with an idiotic boss?

But I digress. Given my finite knowledge of your life and personality, I think I can say with absolute confidence that the staples are the problem in your burgeoning relationship (I'm a bit psychic).

You see, your "Deena" sees your fascination with these toothed tools of togetherness, and understands that this stems from a psychological need to attach (this is also evident in your dedication to your beard). While your other acquaintances only recognize your undue interest as a simple quirk, this potential Romantic Interest reads the deeper implications, and is therefore intimidated by your commitment to keeping papers (or wounds) together. She knows that you'll work tooth and nail to keep her attached to you, and that's enough to scare anyone!

My advice: Give her time. It's highly likely that she'll soon meet, date, and be mercilessly dumped by some good-looking cad, and your commitment to fastening will suddenly become the sexiest trait to ever grace her cubicle. As for you, Darling "Don," you adorably wayward Random Gentle Love Dreamer, staple on! without fear of judgment or censorship. It is cute!

Just don't hurt anyone, and especially not "Deena."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Attention Querents Everywhere!

Feisty Readers:
Due to our overwhelming catalogue of life experiences, Wood vs. Wood has decided to add a monthly advice column for readers and friends seeking life direction. Our first query comes from a troubled young man whom I believe you will all find very endearing. I think we can all agree that it clearly falls into Lauren's category of expertise.

Dear Miss Wood:
I am twenty-eight year-old Random Gentle Love Dreamer called “Don,” I have a uncontrollable obsession with staples, any kind of staples, anywhere, most people consider this a cute personality quirk, my new romantic love interest Random Brutal Love Master “Deena,” seems to avoid me, I am wondering if staples are involved, or maybe my beard is ? Do you think there's a social problem, what’s to be done.

P.S. Please do not bring up “staple remover” in your answer, as it causes me grief.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Yes, let them. It serves them right.

By Caroline Wood

Strawberry Shortcake is corrupting our youth.

As many of you know, I am neither an alarmist, nor an over-reactor; nor am I a weak, passionate girleen ferried to lunacy on the critically flooding stream of her own emotions.

That is all, in fact, untrue. But like any concerned, slightly bored citizen, I bear the duty of proclaiming when our nation is in trouble, and perhaps even filming a major cable news network documentary about it. Although I am still finalizing the rights to “Strawberry Thwartcake: Putting our Children’s Conscience in a Diabetic Coma,” my heartfelt message of condemnation will never be negotiated.

“Strawberry Shortcake” does not meet even one of the most basic key Educational Enrichment Video requirements: it features no clergy, no extended families, and no chastening rod. Strawberry herself is a pampered, bratty loser. Innocent? I don’t think so.

Unfortunately, the Shortcake debacle, though sobering, is only one example of a self-evident trend: cake is simply getting out of hand.

Back in the 90’s, when the cacophonous minstrels known as “CAKE” were releasing such aberrations as their notorious cover of “I Will Survive,” we said it could do us no harm to turn a blind eye to the cultural crises this diabolical treat was bringing upon us. Since then, things seem to have
only gotten worse, what with the advent of “diaper cakes” (right), The Cheesecake Factory, and the equally cacophonous band “The Sea and Cake.” And yet as we consider history, it becomes increasingly clear that cake’s pernicious influence is nothing new. It is no surprise that “Let them eat cake!” has become the tagline of ruthless and self-centered rulers throughout history.

It would certainly not be difficult to opt for pie out of our own selfish motives. It’s hard not to cave to crisp, flaky crusts, steaming, juicy fruits, and velvety smooth custards (chocolate cream, I must point out, is no “fruit mixture”). Many of our personal favorite gourmands prefer a dessert that actually imparts a distinct, recognizable flavor, a baked good you can eat warm with ice cream while still maintaining your identity as a self-respecting adult.

Boycott cake today. You could easily do it for yourself. But please, do it for your progeny.

For more on the horrors of cake, please visit (Warning! Only for the brave of heart! (sorry)).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Let them eat cake!

By Lauren Wood

Cake is the pizza of sweets.

Not only is it popular and easily accessible to anyone with an oven and some flour, its ability to bring people together is unrivaled. The circular nature, while not particular to the cake, naturally calls for congregation and camaraderie, as celebrants of a birthday bask eagerly in the candlelight waiting for their piece. Those who do not like the icing can scrape it off the top, and those who do not like the filling can pick it out, but everyone will eat, and eat plenty as the jubilation continues.

And let them, I say.

Pies are grand, of course, and a classic symbol of Americana. But they are limited. A pie is merely a pastry filled with some sort of fruit or fruit mix. If one does not like the filling, they are doomed. Unless of course there is a cake around. Also, pies have no potential for growth. No pie can be stacked upon another, while cakes can expand toward infinity. And while the circular properties of cake create unity and friendship, when picnic-goers look down and see a sweaty, soggy pie, the only looks received are those of malice, competition, despondency, or possessiveness. Pies are simply too small.

With cake, the possibilities are endless. Not only can you add layer after layer after sweet, sweet layer, but you can decorate your cake however you like. If it is your blog-mate's birthday, you can scribble out "Happy Birthday Caroline!" in scarlet icing, dotting i's with goldfish and adding sugary profiles of Hamilton and Burr. Icing will simply not work on pie. Indeed, it would interfere with the charming little lattice pattern that adorns the most adorable of pies. You can not personalize a pie, or stick candles in it, so as to mark Grandpa Freddy's seventieth.

In short, nothing spells out celebration quite like a cake.

This has been a rather difficult entry for me, since I am having a rather difficult time stretching out the fact that cakes are simply tastier. Suffice it to say, Caroline Wood did not prepare a pie for my birthday last month.

And it was tasty.

P.S. Stay tuned for big changes and shiny new developments from the Woods! Coming soon: an advice segment, arguments without premeditation, and the highly anticipated fiction vs. poetry debate!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chutes and Ladders

By Lauren Wood

Why do you do drugs?

Prestige, class, elitism? The ornate dens of yore? The Romance?

No! For these, you duel (with swords, of course). Drug use is no way to relax, or to revel in your superiority. Drugs kill, or turn you into a very mean old hag, as you may have learned from our helpful disclaimers, and any number of A&E series will show you to what extreme extent illegal drugs ruin lives, families, bank accounts, complexions, cuticles. So why take that risk? Why ruin lives? Why do you do drugs?

Danger! That's why! When we take our first hit of whatever substance strikes our fancy we are immediately entering a strange and intriguing new world of sin and peril. Habitual drug use introduces us to shady casts of characters, precariously ramshackle locations in strange and exotic lands ruled by shadier casts of characters. Now is not the time for professions of distinction. You live a life too full of risk for such silliness. You are a rebel. And you snort coke.

Cocaine is gritty (often literally). It is stark-white, flashy, and difficult to handle. Those who abuse cocaine often start in glittering dance clubs, and end as dingy heaps in dark alleys. Sometimes, they start in the alleys, and end up among the glittering beautiful people. All because of blow. It is versatile in that it is cool, hip, and prestigious (like Heroin), as well as edgy, terrible, and pedestrian. There is a reason cocaine is so popular in America.

That reason is social mobility. Cocaine is the American Dream, and the American Nightmare. It is feared, almost as much as it is coveted. One clean line of wintery powder can be either a chute or a ladder, and there is no way of knowing which. Do you want to know? Where's the fun in that?

The White-Gold Age of Cocaine was truly the late 70s, with the rise of Disco and Studio 54. The wild, beautiful denizens of that place and time did not want to sedate themselves with opiates. Disco, as they were so quick to assert, is life! and so their drug of choice must make a similar assertion. The risk of cocaine, its physical mutability, and its typical method of intake (what could say "I am alive" more than inhaling white powder through a raw and sensitive nose?) only magnify its ability to shake up your life and take you for a wild ride.

And though Studio 54, and the glamor of Disco have long since faded into history, the need to feel alive has not. And so we do not take hard drugs to die in style...we take hard drugs to live! We do not concern ourselves with fashion, or poetry, or gilded triangles when we abuse substances. We want only that wide-eyed sensation of vitality and possibility, that can only be found in the face of danger.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Taste for Luxury

By Caroline Wood

Few of us like being accosted by a drug addict. How many times have you stepped onto public transportation or simply walked peacefully down a city street without a crusty, strung-out old man yelling at you, preaching to you about race relations in an obscure and disorienting fashion, demanding to use your nonexistant lighter, or even peeing on you? I hate to admit it, but the majority of these people are cocaine users.

Why not try something a touch classier? Why not consider a drug that will erase your pain rather than make you paranoid, one that offers euphoria rather than stress? Not only is heroin more addictive than cocaine, this prince of drugs is also exponentially more expensive and more dangerous. And as we know from prostitutes, military strategies, and rock concerts, these are both major plusses. Delivery is the soul of style, and rest assured that medium plays an indispensible role in heroin's elegence. In all fairness, both drugs, unlike many of their pitiful hallucinagenic and prescription-abuse counterparts, are available in a myriad of forms, whether smokable, snortable, or just plain loveable. Don't doubt that we Woods debate only the best and most versatile. But we must consider the norm, and there's simply no contest: shooting up is sharper, cleaner, classier, and sexier than snorting. And, of course, more expensive and more dangerous.
The banality of cocaine is evident in her low price, high availability, and shocking popularity, but the most glaring shortcoming of all is pedigree. Heroin, needless to say, is a member of the illustrious opiate family, a dynasty whose romance and exoticism are legendary. While the sunparched fields of Columbia might be mysterious in the same way as, perhaps, a grainy photo of your grandmother, the opium dens of the east are the stuff of lavishly gilded fantasies. How can barely rumbling pick-up trucks compare with the Thai golden triangle? How can dessicated coca leaves match the fume of poppies?
I admire cocaine's success in America, and I'm willing to invest my own resources to improve her reputation. But until there's such a thing as "cocaine chic," until blistered nostrils grace designer ads, until I discover long-buried poems by romantic poets mesmerized by crack, I really cannot compromise.
Oh, yes, drugs kill. But we simply must go out in style.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Listen to Caroline...

This is your Mom on drugs.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tankfish: An Ode

By Caroline Wood
The torpor of the afternoon
Had forced poor Thomas to presume
That life could offer naught

To ease the horrid, weighty gloom
That hung about his musty room
And poisoned all his thought.

He could not write! He could not eat!
His mind was empty, yet replete
With boorish, noisome waste.
No flighty muse would take a seat;
No inspiration came to greet
The poet’s fussy taste.

In his pain, his head lolled right,
And suddenly beheld a sight
That makes priests crane their necks:
A humble fish, his baby girl
Were caught up in a watery whirl,
Yes, they were having sex!

At that moment, in a flash,
Tom realized how to make a splash,
What muse could grant his wish:
For ‘tis not knights and nightingales
Or kings and queens that merit tales,
But nature's gem: tankfish!

Although our fish’s walls are glass,
They’ve secret lives we cannot guess,
Dark dramas without match;
If Goldie dies immediately,
Don’t blame her; it may just be
That you’re not such a catch.

If more youth witnessed piscine death,
They might not be on crystal meth
Or smoking their lungs black;
A proper sense of gravity
Is hardly something to decree
A worse life choice than crack.

Dear readers, take it straight from me:
All other pets are mere debris;
Dogs slobber, cats are cold;
But every fish is true and good,
Inspiring, noble, sexy, shrewd
And worth his weight in gold.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Go, fish! To the Ocean! Be Free!

By Lauren Wood

Gus was allergic to dogs. Mom hated cats, and denied the existence of domestic rodents. My father isn't allergic to anything, but for some reason, cared enough about the others to not invest. Joe had not yet joined the household.

And so, for several years, until Gus miraculously got over his allergy, I had fish. And as I have never had easy access to a body of water, they were kept in a tank. Remembering this sad time in my life makes my heart swell as I look down at the delightful Q (my dog, my real pet).

When Gus was born, I wanted to name him "Fred." It was something of an obsession. At the last minute, my parents decided to go with some horridly sentimental combination of my grandfathers' names. And so I was given a fish to name "Fred."

This, in my experience, has been the pinnacle of a pet fish's purpose. A place-holder for a name. Indeed, a place-holder for personality. I only imagined that "Goldie" was in love with "Fred" and had to ward off the advances of the evil "Al." Of course, there was no way of knowing gender, ages, or even propensities toward affection or reticence. In fact, there are hardly any signs of such qualities at all. No femininity, masculinity, wisdom, self-awareness, personality. They simply exist in their little world, until that dreaded day when they go belly-up.

I'll never forget the moments when I would discover a fish at the top of the tank, floating like a soggy, multi-colored french fry. "Goldie" was dead! Never was death so apparent! And just when I had seen her swimming alongside "Fred" (thus confirming their nuptials). It was all rather more than a child should be subjected to. Even now, I am filled with sadness as I consider the nooks of the plastic castle she never got to explore. Alas, poor "Goldie"! I knew her...for a week.

Not only does this form of domestication subject children to lifeless vessels that expire before a proper life story can develop, it is cruel to the animals themselves, too! Now, I am no activist for animal rights, but I must acknowledge that it is highly unnatural and ridiculous to confine living creatures to any sort of box. It matters not how you stuff it with hypercolored gravel or bubbling plastic ornaments, the fish are trapped like rats.

It's no wonder that once, in the course of one week (true story) five of my seven fish leapt out of the tank and died on my bedroom floor. Though, if I remember correctly, it was the influence of the evil "Al" that drove them.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

World Dominance is so 1850!

By Lauren Wood

I am an anglophile.

I trust implicitly anything said in a British accent. I laugh when John Cleese walks, when Stephen Fry wears a false mustache, when Ricky Gervais is silent. I've read and enjoyed The Canterbury Tales, Much Ado About Nothing, Pride and Prejudice, High Fidelity and Harry Potter . I can confidently tell you the names and marriage termination circumstances of the six wives of Henry VIII (Catherine-Divorce-Anne-Beheaded-Jane-Died-Anne-Divorce-Katherine-Beheaded-Catherine-Survived). I worship the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Who, and the Rolling Stones. My heroes are Winston Churchill and James Bond.

My every area of interest is covered by natives of this tiny constitutional monarchy. This is no accident, or coincidence. England is simply bloody great. Just ask Henry V. Or Kenneth Branagh.

I did promise Caroline that I would be defending England here, and not Europe in its entirety (Obviously, that's just not fair), so I'll try to exclude any arguments regarding the United Kingdom's proximity to the cultural meccas of Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and (let's face it) Italy in general. However, I don't think either of us can deny that this proximity is highly in its favor. But, for the sake of balance...let's leave it unsaid.

England is so absolutely fantastic because it, unlike America, has History. And not just the arbitrary wars for independence, expansion, union, and defense. For these, while noble and important, are just the basics. England has seen it all. She has witnessed the rise and fall of Empires, including her own. Sure, the England we know today is a mere shadow of what it once was, with her people so rainily resigned to their mediocre, pasty Britishness. But really, what's the use in conquering when you've been there, done that? And this national spirit of rainy resignation leaves it entirely to the people to achieve greatness. The need is not force-fed to school children before they can say the words "manifest destiny" (let alone understand what it means), making it all the more spectacular when a skinny British boy with a lightning scar realizes he's got the magic. Or when someone writes about him and hits it big. Or when Eddie Izzard puts on a dress.

As far as politics go, I shan't attempt to make or break an argument for either nation. I know too little about both systems, and I shouldn't be surprised to learn that England's is just as corrupt and despicable as our own. Politicians are the same everywhere. I do sometimes wish that America had a queen, though. If only to detract from Paris Hilton. That's all I'll say.

Let us not forget, also, that America is a product of Mother England. Almost all that is good or bad in our culture is owed to the Brits. And I don't just mean The Office. I mean the science that makes watching it possible! The scientific enlightenment, while not necessarily British, filtered through to America via these colonial ties.

So, while America is at this moment a dominant power in the world, and England is not, I can only think of what advice our motherland could tell us. Probably "enjoy it while it lasts!" would feature in the conversation, said with characteristic wit, detachment, and, naturally a stiff upper lip.

Don't Think I Don't Know That All You People Hate America and That This Post Is Making Me Even Less Fashionable Than I Already Am

By Caroline Wood

I have powerful feelings about America,

mostly, but not exclusively, because I believe that I strongly resemble John Adams. Although not everyone can boast that their face proclaims "Amerika!" quite like mine, each one of us can surely muster the self-respect and intellect to acknowledge the fact that we are living in a nation-state without European peer, whose dimensions, in both sheer buffoonery and opportunity for Greatness, comic potential and subcultural explosion, register on a scale no parliament, however creative, could conjure.

Gertrude Stein, one of our many sage yet benighted expatriates, mused that we should only value what is truly good or frankly bad, never wasting our time on the compromised, the lukewarm, or the face-savingly mediocre. If only she had seen the wisdom of her own words. Who could argue that America isn't, at various times and in a multitude of ways, frankly and egregiously bad? And yet despite such comically shameless turpitude, is it not also obvious that America is truly good at heart, trusting, naive, and foolish in a way that only the benightedly good can be?

Britain, on the other hand, is nothing, is the epitome of lukewarm; aloof and noncommital, she is afraid of success and ashamed of failure. Pasty and weak, like her people, she is spent and world-weary. Such dry apathy may be popular badge for a sardonicist, who is so hopelessly giftless, so ineluctably burdened by the past, that he has no choice but to mock what he cannot create. But it makes a poor credential for a human being.

Oh, it is not my intention to win over Brits; quite the opposite. I loathe and pity those who refuse to invest in their own place of citizenship, believing, or choosing to humor themselves, with the sad delusion that doting love of particular television programs, hairdos, or public transportation systems can in any way replace real life. Rejecting the serious issues of their country and replacing them with minor obsessions over soft drink brands and clothing sizes, these dilettantes have neutralized any power, any legitimacy they may have once possessed and have transformed themselves into mass-media megaphones, tragic gaping zeros empty of rational thought or useful action.

If you want to wed another lifestyle, motherland, political system, and worldview, by all means, do so, but do so with passion. Manage to contribute something to her culture, since you refuse to engage your own. Work to end her problems, since you are afraid of your own. Find a historical figure who is your doppelganger, since you have abandoned your own.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An Issue of Caliber

By Caroline Wood

Most young Americans first learn of pistol dueling in the dusty comfort of their fourth-grade classrooms, where they gaze up, entranced, as reluctant Miss Winkson relates Our Nation's Proudest Moment. The moment when Burr and Hamilton, our founding fathers, men of financial savvy, rapier-like wit, and finessing roguery, dueled to the death to protect their honor, the truth, and their dream for our great nation.

But perhaps you favor the sword. Perhaps you don't care about honor or rivalry, revenge or passion, risk in the hands of the fates. Perhaps you favor low-grade comedies whose most sophisticated jokes center on leggings or pseudo-parodic docudramas about El Cid. Or are you one of the many who fancies fly-riddled medieval festivals and portly chins dripping turkey leg grease? In any of the above cases, I direct you to Lauren's post; I'm certain you will have much to discuss with her.

If it is courage you seek, you will live and die by the pistol. I need only remind you of one thing: pistoleers are actually willing to die. The swordsman, however keen to engage in repartee, has the leisure to do just that; he can stall, he can taunt like a schoolchild bully, he can surrender, flee, or cheat. It is exactly what it is called: swordplay. Gravely worse, he can, as many "noble" swordsmen do, enter the duel knowing his skills will bring him victory. Where is the duel in that? Where is the surrender to the divine? The final word on a conflict so inflammatory no mortal can find a compromise?

The phallic joke is deeply below me, and below anyone with so noble and gentlemanly mind to surrender to the power of the pistol, but I must comment. Swords may be longer, but guns, fully loaded, eject. Powerfully.

Although it is clear, then, that pistols trump swords, it may very well be that we are asking the wrong questions. Perhaps it is not pistols we need, but switchblades, poison darts...tractors???

Monday, June 30, 2008

It's all in the conversation...

By Lauren Wood

Congratulations, Monsieur Chevaleresque! You have successfully stolen your true love, the beautiful and demure Mademoiselle Mimi from the clutches of your evil uncle, le Comte d'Infamie!

But he's tracked you down and now, before you and Mimi can live happily ever after, you must duel! Duel!

Since you know the duel will always be at dawn and by the nearest misty plain, there is but one question to consider as his glove slaps your shoulder: Swords or pistols?

And so we have our topic for this issue of Wood Vs. Wood. Caroline Wood takes the coward's route, insisting guns are the best means of settling the score. But, clearly, swords are the way to go! She mentioned something about nobility and honor, specifically referencing the turn-your-back-and-take-ten-steps thing. But what then? One blast (or two) and all is resolved!

Where is the conversation? The exchange of witty repartee (a word that actually comes from the French fencing term meaning "an answering blow or thrust")? Shall we have no shouts of "Aha!" or "Take that, villain!"? What about that quickening pace of combat as the adrenaline courses through your very being and your swords flash in the dim light of the rising sun? In other words, where is the Romance of violence?

You see, I used to fence. I know! I know what it's like to slash and thrust and stab and parry. It really is the best way to communicate, especially during a disagreement. The force with which you duel shows your opponent how deadly serious you are about winning this bout, or your love for Mimi, or your revenge for your slain brother, or your desire for the last chocolate doughnut. The power can shift and fortune can turn, with your terrain expanding and the danger increasing every step and every second the duel continues. It is a dance! With crescendos and diminuendos and spontaneous choreography of passion! And then someone dies! It just does not get much better than that!

This is already quite long enough, and I haven't even gotten into the phallic characteristics of swords. Nor the fact that they are, literally, flashier. But this argument could go on for pages (or hours), just like a sword fight. When you duel with pistols, it is over after just ten paces and a shot. Caroline clearly has her work cut out for her, despite the fact that pistols can stop a good swordsman before he gets started.

But that's cheating. Not honorable at all. And it's why I went first.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Visual Aid

This is what Lauren looks like. But only most of the time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lauren tells you about Caroline...

By Lauren Wood

Well, I had a wonderful blog all planned out, in which I chronicled my association with Caroline Wood from the very beginning, that auspicious first day at the Pace Acadmey "Open House."

I also mentioned that it was "just like Caroline Wood" to wait until I post first, so that it would fall to me to establish the tone of this, our nascent blog. As she has craftily posted first, my initial attempt is now both inaccurate and unnecessarily long. This is, in fact, just like Caroline Wood.

In her post, she mentioned all of those small, ridiculous things that fall into my area of expertise. She is correct. I know way more about John Cusack than Caroline. I know that Joan Cusack is his sister, and she is in all of his movies. He also has a sister named Ann Cusack who is also in several of his movies, as well as many crime and medical shows. However, this knowledge of John Cusack's prodigious career (and thespian siblings), means very little in the grand scheme of things. Concerning the things that matter, such as poetry, cooking, philosophy and yes, lipstick, Caroline is the authority.

Caroline Wood knows what the opposite of "hyperbole" is (I don't remember...she told me once). She also knows what a logarithm is. Well, I assume she does, anyway. She was in calculus, while I never made it through that section of Advanced Math Honors. As promised, she knows what is meant by "pastiche" and "chiromancy" and you have no idea how many times I've been asked to combine elements or read a palm. "If only Caroline had taught me chiromancy," I have often lamented, tearing at my hair in anguish, "then I could tell my Modern Poetry professor just why he needs to give me an A!"

For my birthday, Caroline made me an ice-cream cake, and bought me Sex Lives of the Popes. She promptly returned Sex Lives of the Popes because she assumed I already had it, but promised to buy it again once I told her I did not. Instead, she went to a botanica in Decatur, and bought me a number of items including a powder labeled "Powerful Lover." This is evidence of Caroline's cooking prowess, generosity, and embrace of exotica. I have none of these things. My recent successes in the cooking arena are merely attempts not to flounder in comparison to Caroline. I embrace my own selfishness with the same relish that I selfishly reject alternative cultures. As for the book of essays (I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley- Excellent) she decided to go with instead of Sex Lives of the Popes, I am sure she only meant to inspire and intimidate me into writing a better blog here!

Crafty! I never would have thought of that!

But did you know that John Cusack is a fan of heli-snowboarding? Or that his first movie was 1983's Class starring Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy?

All About Lauren

By Caroline Wood

Perspicacious readers:
There are a few things you ought to know about Lauren before swearing your allegiance to her shameless charm and tireless wit. I have composed a few (2) useful lists for your reading pleasure.

Things Lauren knows infinitely more about than I:
1. Journalism
2. Actors, Actresses, Television productions, major motion pictures, John Cusack, John Cleese, Flight of the Conchords, British Literature, American Literature, music of all kinds, 19th and 20th century novelists, Edith Wharton, William Faulkner, fashion, Boston, New York, London, public transportation, World Literature, vermouth, Sandy Springs, comedy, employment, the art of persuasion, Jane Austen, Saturday Night Live, the 80's, the history of song and dance, the human face, Decadence, Verizon wireless, The Importance of Being Earnest, grammar, exorcism, saints, libel, and the like.
3. Gay men

Areas in which I excel but in which Lauren, unfortunately, is pitifully unaccomplished:
1. Chiromancy
2. The art of pastiche
3. There is no number three
4. Lipstick

It is clear, then, that my strengths outnumber hers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Filling space...

By Lauren Wood

Well, our blog just looked so very empty.

So, I thought I just had to say something. Hey! Look at that...italics!

Anyway, we'll pick a topic soon and then you, nonexistent reader, will be able to enjoy the highly intellectualish musings of your favorite people with the last name "Wood."

But for now, simply, welcome!