Saturday, December 06, 2008

Please share your stories of writer's block.

With the deadline for What Women Really Want in Bed about two months away, I've officially entered panic mode. I did get a good start last Saturday during a cafe writing date with my co-author, Dana Fredsti, but I spent the first half hour waiting for my laptop to boot up.

This afternoon, my son went to spend the night at my (sainted) mother-in-law's house, leaving me about three hours during which I could have gotten a lot done. Instead, I tidied up the kitchen, did some laundry, re-arranged my son's closet, downloaded my own story (and some others) from, and synced (sp.?) my iPod. Sat down to write, and look! It's time to get ready for my dinner date with my husband!

The thing is, I always do this to myself. When I was writing What Men Really Want in Bed, I went and had a baby as a way to procrastinate. I had to grovel with my editor to get an extension on the book and hire babysitters to stay with my infant son while I stole off to a cafe for a few hours. I once bought a book on procrastination, but kept putting off reading it. (Folks, I'll be here all week!)

What's the most creative way you've found to procrastinate? And why do you do it? Help.

Monday, December 01, 2008

New story published on

My story "Just Friends" was published today on a new Web site, Ravenous Romance. As usual, there's a story behind the story--although it's not the one you might think (you naughty blog reader, you). I wrote "Just Friends" one night when I thought I had writer's block. I sat down, started typing, and voila, before you know it I had more than 5,000 words. Oh, if only I could always be so productive!

If you want to read about Ravenous Romance and what its founders are trying to accomplish, you can, here.

And if you're interested in writing "sensual romance," well, they're looking for good stories and good writing. I've known one of the founders, Holly Schmidt, for several years now (she was my editor for Red Hot Tantra), and my dealings with her have always been positive and professional. And compassionate, in fact: she gave me an extension on a book deadline when I was a new mother suffering from extreme sleep deprivation and post-partum depression. So yeah, I'm a fan.

Enjoy the story, and let me know what you think. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Postcard from Chicago: March for Equality

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the passage of Proposition 8 here in California. While I pull my thoughts together (and try to carve out the time to write the post I want to write), here's an email I received this morning from a friend who marched in Chicago.

Subject: I marched this past Saturday...

Some of you have asked me what happened in Chicago, so here it is.

I went to the Chicago equal rights event Saturday. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever done. About 5,000 - 8,000 people jammed into Federal Plaza. The police had barricaded the plaza to a point where we only had half the space. It was shoulder to shoulder.

Across the street the religious right numbered about 20 and held the usual hateful signs we've seen for years at every gay pride event. Suddenly however, like divine providence, a huge gust of Chicago wind blew their signage into the street just as a huge city bus ran over the messaging, grinding their placards into the oily wet gutter.

When we started to march the police tried to cordon us to the SIDEWALK. A group of over 5,000 was told to walk only on the sidewalk. It was ridiculous and people started getting angry. Finally we broke through the police blockade and took over the street. As we walked by the Palmer House Hilton, the entire street filled with protesters, a woman in an SUV tried to pull out into the crowd from thef ront of the hotel. A cop jumped in front of her and hit her hood. She rolled down her window and he shouted at her to stop because she was going to hurt someone.

"I'm late for a wedding," she shouted at him. Everyone who heard her burst into laughter at the irony. I've known people who've been late to their weddings for over 20 years, I thought.

We marched to Michigan Ave and Grant Park - the site of the 1968 demonstrations - and it felt like history was being made again. We brought traffic to a standstill as we marched northbound. The police tried to use horses to push us back on the sidewalks but we turned and headed back into the streets, over the Daly Plaza then back to State Street past Marshall Field's/Macy's and up to ABC studios, where the crowd came to a halt in front of the cameras.

Tom chatted with a very elderly man who was from Poland. He told Tom it was amazing to see gay people be able to march like this. "In Russia, in Poland, in Germany, this never would have happened."

We marched north to the river and once again the police tried to get us to turn back into the loop where there was little traffic or people. But the crowd pushed in the opposite direction and we walked along Wacker Drive and then turned up Michigan Ave.

Up the avenue we march. Everything brought to a standstill. From the sidelines some people looked fearful or disgusted, but mostly we say people smiling and cheering us on. Cars were honking in support. At one point we passed a group of mothers and their daughters out for a day of shopping. They collectively started cheering and chanting along with us. It was amazing.

When I reached the John Hancock Center I turned back and looked down Michigan. As far as I could see, I saw flags and signs. It was incredible.

As I walked to the train I felt empowered. After years of having our lives controlled by other people, we for at least a few hours controlled several streets. It reminded me of the activism I hadn't seen since the AIDS crisis. People are angry and people are motivated and people are tired of passively taking this crap.

While sitting on a bench in the L tunnel, I overheard the comments of a family from out of town who were next to me. They were talking about the freaks on the streets. Laughing and making disparaging comments. It was a rotten thing to hear after feeling so upbeat. But at the same time, it reminded me there's a long way to go.

Check out Join the Impact. Over 1 million people have signed up to be part of the nationwide fight for equality.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama wins.

I never thought I'd see this day. I don't think my husband, 10 years younger, quite gets it. Thank God for YouTube.

I feel like I should say something profound, but words fail me. Truly, the mind reels.

On a less happy note, Proposition 8 looks like it's passing. I don't get it. As a friend said, how can California elect Obama and still vote for Prop 8? It's cognitive dissonance, writ large.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Dear married folks.

Please take a moment (41 seconds, to be exact) to watch this video by my dear friend Jeff, especially if you live in California and are undecided about Proposition 8. And especially if you're married.

Or this one, "12 Years" (a whopping 37 seconds):

Heck, if you pay taxes (41 seconds):

And last but not least, one of my favorite arguments for voting no on Proposition 8 (20 seconds):

That's why I can't understand all the people that are for Proposition 8. I find all this talk about protecting marriage to be a little disingenuous, because when I look around at how straight people are "honoring" marriage, well...we're not, often. (I botched my first marriage, so I count myself as Exhibit A. I'm hoping to do better with my current one.)

Anyway, just take a look at these videos, and consider what they have to say.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A snapshot from my wasted youth.

If you want to get a glimpse into the experiences that have made me what I am today, head on over to this post on Zhadi's Den. Then come back here and make fun of me.

Zhadi's Den is the work of my childhood friend Dana Fredsti. Dana and I have been friends since junior high and, because I have the memory of a goldfish these days, I can't remember how we met (but she will). Dana and I are hard at work on What Women Really Want in Bed.

And we're both writing for Ravenous Romance (although my guess is that she's the one actually "writing," as lately, all I've been doing is thinking about writing).

By the way, in case you're too busy making fun of me to read the comments on Zhadi's Blog, know that it wasn't "booze" that we were drinking. Heck no. It was Scotch and sweet vermouth, also known as a "Rob Roy." I feel a little queasy just thinking about it.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

All That We Have Chosen | Reproductive Health |

All That We Have Chosen | Reproductive Health |

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, September 22, 2008

Micro-Mini Movie Review: The Women

The. Worst. Movie. Ever.

Read Anthony Lane's review in The New Yorker until I calm down enough to write mine.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Take a survey for my next book (but you only have 48 hours).

Yeah, I know I haven't posted in a month. I started a new job, and you know how new jobs go: My butt is getting kicked, soundly. But let's not talk about that right now.

Because I have something more exciting to share with you! In my copious spare time, my dear friend Dana Fredsti and I are conducting a survey for a new book, tentatively titled What Women Really Want in Bed. The survey deadline is drawing close--it's Monday, in fact--and we could use a few more women. So if you're a woman (you know who you are), and you want to sound off about sex (you know who you are):

Click here to take our survey!

Yeah, we know it's a long survey and it asks a lot of personal questions. You don't have to answer every single one, although Dana and I would love you forever (relatively) if you did. We promise that you'll spend less time taking this survey than you would listening to the average political convention speech--and we'd hazard a guess that this survey is a lot more fun and thought-provoking.

In case the title What Women Really Want in Bed sounds familiar, well, yes! It is the sequel to my last book, What Men Really Want in Bed, which I wrote with my husband, Nima Badiey.

So if you'd like to help us out, take the survey sometime during the next 48 hours. Dana and I thank you from the bottom of our sleep-deprived hearts.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Coco de Mer's new Web site worth a look.

Normally I wouldn't write about a company's new Web site--I mean, in general, snore--but in this case, I'm making an exception because the site's so cool.

Anyway, erotic toys and lingerie purveyor Coco de Mer has just revamped its site, It's worth checking out, not the least because it weaves together two words I really like: "erotic" and "luxury."

I love the photography, and the site seems easier to navigate. Good job, guys and gals.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

BlogHer '08: Fivestar interviews me at the Sex & Relationships Birds of a Feather Meet-Up.

One of the sessions I enjoyed most at BlogHer '08 was the Sex & Relationships Birds of a Feather Meet-Up on Friday. (Details later, in a subsequent blog post. Yeah, I'm a tease. Sorry.)

Afterwards, video artist Fivestar interviewed me for a video, "The Quick and Dirty BlogHer '08 Sex Video," for her blog, iamFivestar. We talked about how I got started writing about sex (accidentally), how the Internet has changed sex (more choices for women), and a bunch of other stuff.

Fivestar's friendliness and warmth made it a really fun interview. I'd talk to her about sex any time!

The unfairness doctrine, revisited.

Back in March, I wrote about "The unfairness doctrine." As in, "It's just not fair that [insert name of unfit parent here] gets to have children, and I don't." Of course, we infertile people don't like to admit that we even have this thought, but we do.

The unfairness doctrine raised its ugly head for me again when I found out recently that a family friend is pregnant with her second child. She's a wonderful person and a great mom, so normally, this would be cause for celebration. And I am happy for her. Really. But here's the thing: She got pregnant during a visit from her estranged husband, who lives on the other side of the country.

So my first thought when I heard this news was: It's just not fair. I mean, on our third and last IVF, which was medicated and timed to the minute, we transferred four embryos and a goddamned blastocyst, and I still didn't get pregnant. And I'm married to a guy who's one of the best dads I've ever seen. If anyone "deserves" another baby, it's him.

But then I noticed something else. This time, the unfairness doctrine only lasted for a second. (OK, maybe 5 seconds.) It resolved quickly into an internal shrug of the shoulders and the thought, Oh well, who can explain how the Universe works? I didn't feel that blow to the heart that I used to feel when hearing or reading about someone else's pregnancy. Could it be that I've actually come to terms with my infertility, and with being the parent of a singleton?

A lot of doors have opened for me since we stopped trying to get pregnant. I finished a book, signed a contract for the next one, and had a short story (which the publisher wants me to turn into a novel) accepted to a publication. In my "other" life, I also got a great new job that I'll start Monday. Not everything's perfect (witness my thigh and my sex life), but it's pretty good.

I will always wonder what our second child would have been like. And it's hard not to be aware of one's cycle, or worry about what you eat and drink. But in some ways, I'm moving on.

I was also going to talk in this post about one of the great panels I attended at BlogHer '08: called "When the Road to Motherhood is Anything But Smooth: Infertility, Adoption and Miscarriage Bloggers." But this post is getting hang on to your horses. I'll talk about it, and the fabulous Sex and Relationships meet-up I sat in on, in my next posts.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Just back from BlogHer '08, and now have blogger's block.

So I just finished two days at BlogHer '08. It was wonderful and amazing and I feel like I should blog about it at length.

But I can't.

I have total blogger's block. I'm on complete blogging overload. I met so many great bloggers and heard so many great posts read at the BlogHer Community Keynote and sat in on so many great panels that I'm convinced right at this moment that anything I wrote would SUCK.

I even left the closing cocktail party at Macy's early, after hanging out with a very nice woman named Anna from Austin who blogs about cookies and gets like 4,000 hits a day while I get maybe 2, because I was so overwhelmed and yes, a little burnt out on talking about blogging. (Anna, I'm terribly embarrassed to admit that, because I have the memory of a goldfish, I've already forgotten the name of your blog but will link to it if/when you email me.)

And I wanted to see my husband and son.

So I will write a better post about BlogHer. Just not tonight.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I'm published in Brazil.

Imagine my surprise yesterday to get a package from my publisher containing two copies of the Brazilian co-edition of What Men Really Want in Bed. Or, in Portuguese, O Que os Homens Realmente Querem na Cama.

This is probably ho-hum news to authors used to being translated into multiple languages, but it's a first for me. I must say that I love the cover, which is a bit more lurid (in a good way) than its American counterpart.

Now, if only I actually spoke Portuguese, maybe I could translate some of the blog posts about the book. But despite my lack of language skills, I'll gladly volunteer to do a book tour in Brazil. Anyone? Anyone?

In related news, I'm about to start the sequel to What Men Really Want in Bed, focusing--you guessed it--on what women really want in bed. If you're a woman and would like to participate in the online survey, please send me your email address using the contact page on my Web site.

Friday, June 13, 2008

LELO's new "pleasure object" for techno-lovers.

"Swedish sex life accessory label" LELO has a new product that should appeal to the technorati. MIA is a lipstick vibrator that you can re-charge using your computer's USB port. What will they think of next?
According to the press release, "MIA is a discreet pleasure object carefully designed to combine versatility and convenience, intended for private enjoyment at all times. She nestles seductively in the user's handbag, her size and chargeability making her available whenever needed, whether on a long intercontinental flight or during a break on a busy day."

I really like LELO and its products, so I don't want to tease them too much. But I'm picturing some gal sitting in Business Class on that SFO-to-JFK redeye trying to surreptitiously use the MIA under her airline-issued blanket. Without attracting attention from the half-drunk consultant in the seat next to her. And then re-charging it from her laptop while she works on a PowerPoint presentation. It's a seductive image, but I'd probably wait until I was settled at the Hyatt before relaxing with my MIA.

Still, the MIA is cute, compact and well-priced. And it has an "intuitive interface" and "four stimulation modes allow total control in the midst of ecstasy," which means that it will appeal to Type-A gals (like your author) everywhere. All LELO products come in a beautiful gift box; these folks really know how to do classy packaging. I should know: I still have two gorgeous LELO products that are still in their packaging (see my June 9 post for hints on the reason), although I do plan to review them any day now.

So check out the MIA. And if you do manage to get it past the TSA and onto your flight for your "private enjoyment," let me know how it works out.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Who says we're not reading?

I belong to a group of women writers. Once a month, we meet at someone's house to eat, drink wine, and talk about "the craft." We try not to discuss "the industry," but inevitably, the talk turns to marketing and publishing, and how horrible the situation is. (Then we drink more wine.) This past Sunday, when the talk turned to the supposedly dire state of the publishing industry, someone in the group announced, "No one reads anymore!" Cue chorus of agreement.

But I disagree. While I can understand where my fellow (fella?) writers are coming from, I think people are reading. How else do you explain the popularity of book groups, and conferences like Book Group Expo dedicated specifically to people in book groups? How do you explain the fact that every week, I get an invitation to a new book-related social networking site? I now have my lists on GoodReads and Shelfari, to give a few examples; I've gotten to the point where I can't even keep my virtual bookshelves up to date.

There's something else I wanted to tell my writers' group. From the time our children were blastocysts, almost every mother I know has been inundated with the importance of reading to her child. My niece has belonged to a book-of-the-month club since she was about 3 (she even picked out her own books). I could swear to you that I remember hearing a suggestion that I read to my son while he was in the womb as a way to get him used to the sound. I didn't do that--although I was reading The Apple's Bruise by Lisa Glatt when my water broke--but I did read to him from about the time he was born.

Here he is thumbing through his book collection at 15 months, looking for the good parts:

He's now almost 3, and yes, I was thrilled beyond words when one of his preschool teachers termed him "the class bookworm." He also likes to watch trains on YouTube, but he still loves his books. I have now read Where's the Poop more times than I would like to count.

Granted, I will admit that I'm part of an overly educated demographic. You could call our kids "Generation 529," so concerned are we about getting our kids into (and being able to pay for) good colleges. When I lived in San Francisco, I belonged to a mothers' group where women were frantic about getting on preschool lists before their children were actually born. Every family I know has shelves of children's books in their home. I realize, of course, that many families are not so fortunate.

There seems to be a disconnect between the dire predictions about American education, and the fact that many colleges have to turn away qualified applicants. Stanford received 24,000 applications for its Class of 2011--a record high (but accepted 10.3%--a record low). A "a significant fraction" of those accepted, says President John Hennessy, are "prepared to do Stanford-caliber study." Test scores and GPAs are higher than ever.

How can that be, if no one's reading? I'm curious to know what you think. Like I said, I realize that I'm part of a particular demographic, and that the picture isn't so rosy for a large segment of the population. How can we instill a love of reading in all children, regardless of income? And I don't think the answer is more computers in schools or access to the Internet. But we shouldn't throw up our hands and say "no one is reading," either.

It's not going to stop writers from writing, anyway.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Parenting and sex (and the lack thereof).

Spot-on post today on's "The Poop" blog about parenting and sex. Or the lack thereof. The comments are almost as good as the actual post. I particularly like the M&Ms solution used by one parent.

But what if your problem is not lack of time (say, for example, your son is reliably asleep by 9pm for the rest of the night), but...well...sheer exhaustion?

If after a full day of work, daycare pickup, dinner and bedtime routine, all you want to do is flop on the couch with your TiVo remote? Would it be any wonder if one's libido was MIA?

Not that I'm naming names.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

BlogHer '08 in San Francisco

Just signed up for the BlogHer '08 Conference, July 18-20, in San Francisco. I'm pretty psyched. I attended Web 2.0 Expo in April (seems like it was just yesterday), and really enjoyed it, but women were a definite minority.

BlogHer has several breakout sessions devoted to "MommyBlogging": I'm not so sure I'm crazy about the term (I haven't seen many references to "DaddyBlogging"), but I'm very interested in the topics: "Is MommyBlogging Still a Radical Act?", "Public Parenting and Privacy," and "Mirrors: Ours, the Media's, Our Cultures' and Our Kids'."

And there's also a session on infertility: "When the Road To Motherhood Is Anything But Smooth: Infertility, Adoption and Miscarriage Bloggers."

Oh, and there are even birds-of-a-feather sessions on "Sex and Relationships" and for "Entertainment Bloggers." So it looks like I'll have all my bases covered, no pun intended. And you thought I was just indecisive in my choice of blog topics.

If you're going to BlogHer '08, let me know!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The China earthquake.

First Burma, now China. And with this latest disaster, the stories that break every parent's heart: schools buried under tons of rubble, entire families lost. I just read a CNN story about the tragedy at Juyuan Middle School, where hundreds of kids are still trapped. The sound of firecrackers fills the air each time a body is found; it's a Chinese tradition to ward off evil spirits.

A reporter says he hears firecrackers every five or ten minutes.

I think of China's one-child policy, and I almost can't read any more descriptions of grieving parents hurling themselves on their child's body.

The truth of the matter, which a lot of people don't talk about, is that when you have a child after miscarriage and infertility, one of the things that makes you want to have another child is the fear that something will happen to the first. Not that the second child could make up for the loss of the first. Nothing could. (Note: I didn't say that these feelings made sense. That's why another word for these feeling is "neuroses.") In fact, one of the feelings you have to manage, as the parent of a "singleton" (especially a singleton who almost didn't happen in the first place) is fear. Because if you don't find a way to manage the fear, you'll live your life like you're walking around with a gun to your head.

So in an effort to do something other than drive myself crazy and make donations to disaster relief (which I've done), I asked my brother the architect a few questions.

Cynthia: So why did all those schools and buildings collapse? Other than the magnitude of the quake. Don't they have building codes in China? Give me your architect's opinion and I'll put it on my blog. [Editor's note: If this sounds a bit like a sisterly demand, remember that this is the brother whom I once threatened, in my diary, to sue for ruining my childhood.]

Cynthia's Brother: The media is saying it's because of the vast right-wing conspiracy. Just kidding. Don't put that on your blog.

Seriously, I don't know enough about the facts to offer any type of opinion. [Editor's note: As you can see, my brother does not live in Silicon Valley.] It could be due to the amplitude of the quake, just as much as the magnitude. Amplitude is the measure of the quakes wavelength. Imagine ripples across a pond. Either they come in big rolling waves, or short frequent ripples. A building has amplitude also. If the amplitude of the building matches that of the quake, it's bad news. Thats what happened in Mexico City back in the 80s when that big quake hit, and why there were so many failures of a certain building type, such as newer 3-to-8-story apartment buildings, while a 150-year-old cathedral right next door was left undamaged. Sometimes it's just bad luck.

Cynthia: OK. But I don't understand how a building can have amplitude? (Sorry, English major here.)

Cynthia's Brother: A building is either built extremely rigid, or designed to flex. It depends on a lot on the structural system used. Imagine a Bundt cake taken out of the mold. One cake is Jello, the other is regular flour cake. Then you shake the plate it's sitting on. The Jello one wobbles (at a certain frequency/amplitude), the other one stays relatively rigid.

Cynthia: Which is better? The one designed to flex (Jello), right?

Cynthia's Brother: You want the building to flex to a certain point, but again, you don't want the amplitude of the building to match that of the quake. You have to shake pretty hard to get the flour cake to fall off the plate, but if you get the jello one going just right, it will wobble-roll right off.

There's one state-of-the-art high rise being built, I think in Taiwan, where they are placing a giant suspended counter weight at the top of the building to counter the oscillation of the quake.

A structural engineer would really be able to give you better information. If you'd like I can put you in touch with my structural engineer and she could fill in the blanks. [Editor's note: This is loving brotherly code for "I'm busy, sis, get back to work."]

Cynthia: Thanks, dear brother. (OK, I really didn't say that. But I should have.)

So now I understand the science of earthquakes and building a little bit better. I still don't understand the why. Not "why are there earthquakes?" I get the stuff about tectonic plates and all that. I don't understand the why of children buried under earthquakes. The why of firecrackers.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Dance first!

Every day, my son's teachers write a few lines about how his day was. Here's his report from yesterday:

"Loved to dance with his friend. Went [sic] I said "Snack time" he answered "Dance first"*

Indeed. One should always dance first.

* (Note that my son loves music more than anything, except maybe trains or books or his grandmothers. )

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Unnecessary play, and an a-ha moment.

About a week or so ago, I attended Web 2.0 Expo. Lots to talk about there, but that's not what's important right now. What is important is something that happened after the conference one day. Something that had nothing to do with the conference, and yet it did.

On Thursday of the conference, I left early to go to a meeting at my son's school for the parents of kids in "junior preschool." The director of the school, Rachel, has these meetings about once every three months to give us a chance to vent about what little monsters our children are. Ha ha. Not really. The meetings are to talk about child development, and anything else we have on our minds. On this day, the topic was "The Necessity of the Unnecessary in Play," based on a newsletter article Rachel had sent us recently.

So Rachel, a very cool woman who has cropped white hair and great African jewelry, started out the meeting, as per usual, by showing about eight of us "junior preschool" parents video of our kids. And there, right off the bat, was my son, building a Lego tower. We all watched as my son's tower kept breaking apart, pieces flying off out of camera range. He continued to rebuild it, unperturbed, while I waited for him to scream in frustration, which is what he would do if either of his parents were in earshot.

But no, he just kept working on it, even though it broke again and again. I couldn't believe it. "He's so focused," said one of the other parents.

Then Rachel pointed pointed out that my son wasn't building a tower. He was just building. Just building, for the sake of building.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I had just come from a conference that was all about social networking, and blogging, and Twittering--all for a purpose, whether that purpose was to get recognition, or sell something, or make a fortune, or whatever.
And I had been drinking the Kool-Aid. But now I thought, When was the last time I did something just for the sake of doing it? When was the last time I wrote something just to be writing, and not to meet a deadline, or sell books, or get people to link to what I had to say?

When was the last time I watched a movie without thinking about the review I was going to write? Went for a walk without calculating how many calories I was burning? Helped someone without hoping to be thanked? Or, most poignantly for anyone dealing with infertility, when was the last time I made love without trying to get pregnant? When everything you do has a goal, your whole life is living in the future, and you don't ever get to play, and you very rarely have much fun.

"Children aren't busy," I once heard someone say. Yes. And I'm jealous. I want more Legos, and fewer deliverables, in my life. I want more fun.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman on the globalization of surrogacy.

I'm not just a little offended by Ellen Goodman's tone in her April 11 Boston Globe essay, "The globalization of babymaking."

It would have been nice if she had actually talked to some couples who turned to surrogacy. I can assure you that no infertile couple travels halfway around the world, and gives up their dream of biological children, "in search of lower-cost ways to fill the family business."

I can assure that by the time a couple gets to this point, they've probably exhausted all other options. No one chooses voluntarily to "outsource" conception to egg donors and sperm donors.

She say she doesn't "make light of infertility." Then she does exactly that.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Joy of Sex Research: "Bonk" author Mary Roach talks about her latest work.

Thursday night, I went to hear Mary Roach, author of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, speak at Kepler's bookstore. She described to packed house--I felt like I was sitting in coach on a United flight--her many amusing experiences writing a book about the study of sex physiology, as well as the unusual facts she learned. A few notable excerpts:

  • When you write a book like this, everything becomes about sex. (Tell me about it.) For a while, she kept thinking the name of the bookstore was "Kegeler's."
  • She never thought she'd be finding out about thinks like a "phallus-cam." Or the things humans insert into their rectums (known as "collections" if there are more than one).
  • The term "upsuck" refers to the notion that the female orgasm "sucks up" semen--of interest if you're trying to increase your changes of getting pregnant. This notion, however, has not been proven, perhaps due to the difficulty in finding willing research subjects.
  • Her book contains three different recipes for simulated semen. One of the recipes lists its yield as "one ejaculate." (Those of you who are cooks may find this amusing.)
  • She told a hilarious story about a skeet shooter who took part in a study on male multiple orgasm at SUNY. I can't even describe what he called out at the height of passion. Something about the term for shooting two skeet with one shot, an occurance that may be more rare than the male multiple orgasm.
  • There's a woman in Oakland who can think herself to orgasm. In less than a minute.
  • During "foreplay," the male porcupine stands on his hind legs and pees on the female. (I just write it down. I don't make it up.) Skeptical? Well, I just Googled "porcupine foreplay." Here's what I got.
As if those points weren't interesting enough, what were some of the more surprising things she learned?
  • Women have nocturnal erections. (Again, I just report, I don't make up.)
  • The human nose has erectile tissue.
  • How much we don't know about human sexuality. Still researchers looking into the subject are constantly getting turned down for funding, because sex is considered a "lifestyle" issue.

What was the most fun she had while researching the book? Her trip to a factory that makes sex toys. She'll never forget, she said, the image of a guy with a hairnet holding an armload of fake phalluses.

Oh, and then there's the story of when she and her husband became human guinea pigs and had sex in an MRI machine. Dear reader, despite the sacrifices I'm willing to make for my art, even I'm not sure I'd go that far. Mostly because of the danger of the resulting video finding its way onto the Internet--which is what happened to Roach. ( apparently edited the 1-second clip into a repeating loop to make the event look like it lasted much longer than it did. I'm searching now, but not finding it.) She talks a little bit about the experience here:

Maybe this is why Roach's next book will be about space travel. There's a joke in there somewhere, but I've already shot my wad.

See? You start writing about sex, and everything is a double entendre.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Violet Blue on "feminist porn."

Violet Blue has a thought-provoking column on "feminist porn" on today. Read it here.

I'd write more about it but I'm tired and on deadline (translation: in slideware hell) for my day job.

I gotta say, I love the idea that someone is making great porn for women (that isn't all soft-core and lame), because most of the videos out there are pretty ridiculous. To each his or her own, of course, especially when it comes to erotica.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Calling all rum lovers!

Hey, this is a strange request, but here goes. Send me your favorite mojito recipe! I need one for the book I'm writing about seduction, and I'm trying to create a scenario with a Cuban vibe.

I'll give you credit (anonymously, if you want). Thanks...

57-year-old woman gives birth to "surprise" baby.

According to, a 57-year-old woman has become one of the oldest first-time mothers in the UK (via donor eggs). Eight weeks before she gave birth, doctors had told the woman, Susan Tollefsen, that the swelling in her abdomen was ovarian cancer. It's quite a story. Read it here.

I think the key here is "first-time" mother. As much as I wanted a second child, part of me won't miss the lack of sleep and everything else that comes along with having an infant. I'm not, shall we say, a spring chicken anymore.

But then I get another email full of pictures of someone's newborn (these days, it's usually a second child), and...well...a little bit of my heart breaks off when I think that I won't get to experience that again. And that when I was experiencing it the first time, I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Fertility research study looking for volunteers.

Got this email today from the American Fertility Association. If you're interested, click on the links.

We are a group of six dedicated therapists and researchers who have been involved in the field of infertility for more than 20 years. As practitioners, we are committed to counseling, educating and supporting infertile patients.

We are now embarking on a research project - backed by Adelphi University - whose goal is to study the impact that the infertility experience has on your (the patient's) greater life. We want to learn more about how people cope while dealing with infertility.

We believe that the results of our research will bring to bear influence on how health care providers may counsel and support patients and more importantly, how future patients may view their experience.

The bottom line is that we need your help! If you are someone who has experienced infertility for at least one year during the past six years, we hope that you will take the time to respond by clicking on the link and be a participant in our research. Once we receive your information (all strictly confidential), a questionnaire will be sent to you with a stamped & addressed envelope for you to return to us. The one-time questionnaire will take approximately 40 minutes to complete and there is no cost and no obligation on your part.

We will be happy to share the results with you when our research is complete. Please seriously consider our request and click and follow the instructions.

We want to thank The AFA for the opportunity to recruit participants from their membership and we thank you for your time and participation.


Lyn Paul,PhD,

Anne Malave, PhD,

Nancy Berlow, LCSW,

Lesli Figlerski,PhD,

Susan Gardner, LCSW,

Harriette Rovner-Ferguson, LCSW

I spoke briefly with Lyn this morning. Nice gal. I'm just hoping that my "journey" can help someone else. Makes me feel a little bit better in a week when the baby announcements (all for Baby #2) have come fast and furious.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

New book targets cost of baby gear.

Heard an interesting story this morning on NPR: Steve Inskeep interviewed author Pamela Paul about Parenting, Inc. , her book about the baby gear industry. Listen to it here.

The book's already in my Amazon shopping cart, and I'll review it in a future blog post. Because oh, how this topic hits home. When I was pregnant with my son, I became well-nigh paralyzed by the amount of "stuff" I was supposed to buy. Changing tables! Swings! Baby carriers! Strollers costing $800 or more (yes, I'm talking about you, Bugaboo)! Cribs costing over $1,000!

This is why I became a Baby Gear specialist on to help new parents sort through the marketing and figure out what they really need, as well as to overcome what marketers call FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Because when you have a newborn and haven't slept for more than a three-hour stretch for the previous three weeks, FUD becomes a way of life.

Speaking of sleep (and I do, often), I completely agreed with the author when she said that in spite what she first thought about sleep consultants (i.e., that it's the most ridiculous idea ever), in the end it was absolutely the best money she spent. (Noelle Cochran, if you're out there, you saved my life and probably, my marriage.) Next to my Lasik eye surgery, it was the best investment I ever made.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Onion: George Clooney still looking good.

Back in December, one of my favorite sources of hard-hitting journalism, The Onion, reported some news that still makes me giddy:

Sources: George Clooney Looking Good

The Onion

Sources: George Clooney Looking Good

HOLLYWOOD—Clooney, whose steely gaze has captivated millions around the globe, has attained the highest possible scores in every known measure of attractiveness.

How in the name of all that is holy did I miss this article when it first came out? No matter. From what I understand, this news is still true. He is still looking good. And no one can tell me differently. I mean, did you see the article in the March 3rd issue of TIME magazine? I did, on one of my rare lunch hours at the gym. I almost fell off the Stairmaster. (The online version of the article has a video. And pictures. Lots, and lots of pictures. Oh. My. God.)

And yes, I did hear that my spiritual soulmate is engaged. Thanks for rubbing it in. But can you blame him? Me being already married and a mommy and all? Now excuse me while I go cry myself to sleep.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

PowerPoint breakup.

Wish I'd thought of this back when I was dating. Although once I did create a line chart showing my then-boyfriend (now husband) how the possibility of me saying "yes" to a marriage proposal decreased precipitously the longer he waited.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The unfairness doctrine.

One of the most frequent, and most heartbreaking, complaints you'll hear from anyone suffering from infertility goes something like this: "It's not fair that [insert name here] gets to have children, and I don't."

And by "[insert name here]," I don't mean that we begrudge our families or friends their pregnancies, even though there's always a pang when you hear on the day of a negative pregnancy test that your cousin-in-law, say, is pregnant with her third.

I'm talking about the people who abuse or neglect their kids. Who abuse or neglect themselves, when they have kids. Here, a certain fallen pop star is often mentioned. Example: After the failure of our most recent, and final, attempt to get pregnant, I whined to Dr. R something along the lines of, "It's not fair that Britney Spears gets to have two kids, and I don't." He chuckled sympathetically. "A lot of my patients are mad at Britney right now," he said.

Every day, it seems like I read or hear about some horrible thing some parent has done to their child. Just today, I read a news story about a Dallas woman who threw her two sons off a freeway overpass. Miraculously, they all survived, but I can't tell you how many similar stories I've read recently where the poor kids didn't. In fact, I could make a weekly feature of candidates for "World's Worst Parents." It's enough to make me start a self-imposed news embargo.

I'll tell you this now: I haven't met ONE infertile couple that wouldn't make great parents. These are the people who really want to have a child. They want to shower a child with love and affection. And for those of you who are going to say, "Well, you/they can adopt": yes, infertile people can adopt. But that doesn't take away the pain of infertility. And it doesn't take away the pain of hearing about people who abuse their kids, when you want one so, so badly.

It just doesn't seem fair, and I still haven't heard anything to make me feel better about it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cinequest 18: A conversation with Michael Arndt.

I can't believe it's taken me three days to post this, but that's life with a full-time job and a toddler. Anyway, Friday came close to my idea of a perfect day: I spent it talking about movies at Cinequest's Day of the Writer event. If they had tossed in free martinis and a shoulder rub, I would have achieved Nirvana.

The mega-fabulous Jens Michael Hussey, Cinequest's Director of PR, invited me to lunch with some of the speakers. (Full disclosure: I used to volunteer for Cinequest in the PR department. So it wasn't just my wit and charm that got me invited.) Jens, bless his heart, introduced me to the day's guest of honor: Michael Arndt, who won the Academy Award in 2006 for Best Original Screenplay for "Little Miss Sunshine" and is now working at Pixar on "Toy Story 3."

I'd like to report that success has gone to his head and made him an insufferably arrogant Hollywood a-hole, but I can't. He's really nice, friendly, humble guy. When I told him how much I'd enjoyed "Little Miss Sunshine," his response was, "I was really lucky." Then he went on to talk about the great cast and crew. Then he graciously inscribed the copy of Little Miss Sunshine: The Shooting Script that I'd tucked into my purse. Basically, I wanted to hug him.

Later in the afternoon, Arndt did an interview with Richard Walter (who chairs UCLA's graduate screenwriting program) at the San Jose Repertory Theater and received Cinequest's Maverick Spirit Award. Here are my notes, as least as far as I can decipher:

On how he started out: "I originally wanted to go to film school. I ended up working as a script reader for studios like Fox and Columbia...I wrote a bunch of edgy, dark scripts that didn't go anywhere. Then I decided to do the exact opposite: a script where people would go insane with happiness."

On the idea for "Little Miss Sunshine": "I happened to see a beauty contest on TV with little girls. I thought, what if one of the contestants was this fat little girl?"

On how his life has changed since winning an Oscar: "'Little Miss Sunshine' didn't get made for a long time. By the time it won the Oscar, I was working on staff at Pixar. I went back to work the next day [after the Academy Awards] and it was like, 'That's nice.' At Pixar, no one gives a shit if you won an Oscar. It's Pixar. But it's like working at Disneyland. I was so used to working alone."

On his writing habits: "Now that I'm working at Pixar, I go into an office in the morning and write all day. But when I'm home in Brooklyn, I wake up around 11, go get coffee, goof around, and when there's nothing else to do, I'll start writing. I can work about four or five hours before I'm ready to jump out the window. I'm not someone who believes you have to write every day. A lot of writing is sitting in a room solving problems and coming up with ideas. It's subterranean work."

On how he wrote "Little Miss Sunshine": "I resisted it. I thought it was too small. Then I saw an anime feature called 'My Neighbors the Yamadas." I realized that every family has a story. I wrote 'Little Miss Sunshine in Three Days.' [Three days? Three days? I almost feel out of my chair.] But I had spent five years thinking about the story. So I would just wake up and start writing."

On why "Little Miss Sunshine" worked while his previous scripts didn't: "Previously, I'd start with an idea of a story and the characters were just to fit that idea. But with 'Little Miss Sunshine,' I saw the characters first, and the story evolved. Once they start talking to each other, I just started hearing their voices in your head. And that tells you what they'll do."

On writing comedy: "In comedy, you set up absurd situations, and the more rational the character acts, the funnier it is. Like when the emcee asks Olive where her grandfather is, and she says 'In the trunk'...If you have a distinctive voice, you'll succeed in comedy. Diablo Cody [the screenwriter for "Juno"] has work for the next three years. With comedy, the writer is in control. Action movie writers are a dime a dozen. Comedies are also cheaper to make!"

And speaking of Diablo Cody: "I'm last year's Diablo Cody. It's amazing that the Academy has honored first-time writers two years in a row, and it's exciting that a low-budget, female-centric story can do so well. I'm a great fan of movies from the 1930s and 1940s, which had strong women. Female energy is great comic material. Comedy has become a boy's club, but in 'Juno,' the male characters are peripheral. The main relationships are among the women, and I hope that's a game-changer."

On the character of Duane: "Duane was especially close to me, probably because I read too much Nietzche when I was young. I thought it would be great to have a character take a vow of silence until he achieves a goal. Duane wants to take off and transcend his situation. He's a prisoner in his own home. I'm in love with characters who have a lunar sense of alienation."

On "Little Miss Sunshine"'s alternate ending, available on the DVD, where the family steals the trophy and hightails it out of the pageant: "That came from the mind of Abigail Breslin. It was shot in one take, because that's all we had money for. The original ending hadn't been working. I had eight different drafts of it." But the ending that they finally used "was an example of finally trusting your instincts. The meaning of the story was revealed in the climax. In this case, procrastination really was my friend."

On determination: "I didn't give up. I wrote 10 screenplays, and none of them went anywhere. I didn't have a Plan B. In the end, writing has to be its own reward. Writing is taking an active stance toward life. By writing, you're finding out how you think."

Why doesn't he write novels? "Good novelists see more deeply into life. Screenwriting is about action. Film can't compete with fiction's sense of interiority. Fiction seems like the deep end of the pool, and I'm a shallow guy." [Editor's note: Hardly. I've met shallow guys, and Michael, you are no shallow guy.]

But of all the things Arndt talked about, what really stuck with me were his comments about authenticity in writing. "Emotion is the final frontier," he said. "Honest emotion is the best special effect." (Think about that next time you're forced to watch "Transformers: The IMAX Experience.")

When they stopped the Q&A to give Arndt the Cinequest Maverick Spirit Award, I couldn't believe that 90 minutes had passed.

But I can't forget to tell you the joke with which Richard Walter ended the event.

"How many screenwriters does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bye bye, meds.

I got rid of my extra meds this morning. And as soon as I'd done it, my eyes welled up with tears. That surprised me.

But here's the thing: I didn't get rid of all of them. I still have one partially used Follistim pen in the fridge. But what am I thinking? That I'm going to randomly inject myself in the first half of my cycle, just to see what happens? Yeah, that would be safe.

Oh, the stories we tell ourselves.

Clearly, I'm still holding on to...something.

But if it's this bad with the meds, wait until I start giving away and selling the baby gear.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The ethics of eggs.

Came across this article, "Trading on the Female Body," in the newsletter of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. It covers a panel of speakers last November that called "for a moratorium on the exploitation of women through the trading of human eggs." They want "to raise awareness and promote safe research and regulation of this industry."

The issues the panel raised were real, and a little scary. I still don't know how I feel about egg donation. Even though I strongly believe that being a mom or dad is ultimately about parenting rather than DNA...I seem to have this primal instinct to want to bear my "own" children (even though now I'm apparently too old to bear more than one). My thinking is somewhat influenced by this article, "Your Gamete, Myself," by Peggy Orenstein, which appeared in the New York Times last year.

Of course, if I didn't have my son, I'd probably be giving egg donation much more serious consideration. I would want to have the experience of pregnancy (but is that only because I've been pregnant?).

This is much too much to think about on a Saturday morning, before coffee. Which, of course, I'm not supposed to be drinking, if I want to get pregnant again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Brenda Strong rocks. (Family Matters conference report, Part I.)

If I were a real reporter, I would have been fired by now, because I'm just now getting to talking about the American Fertility Association's Family Matters conference, which happened a week ago in San Francisco. Even by blogosphere standards, my sense of "news" seems to, well, suck. Just keep in mind that I'm the person who bought a book on procrastination, but finally had to sell it on Amazon because I never got around to reading it.

So anyway.

Let me just start by saying that Brenda Strong (a.k.a. Mary-Alice Young, the narrator of "Desperate Housewives") is my new hero. At Family Matters, she led a session on "Yoga for Fertility." (That's also the name of her DVD, which I did regularly before getting pregnant with my son. I'm not saying there's a connection...I'm just saying.) Anyway, she actually got a room full of men and women dressed in street clothes doing yoga. I did feel much better afterwards (no word yet on whether I got pregnant). I guess that's why the AFA made her their national spokesperson.

Why is she my new hero? Basically, she's the grown-up version of the girl I would have been afraid to talk to in high school. She's very tall, slender(without being anorexic), beautiful, poised, smart, and really, really nice. She was down to earth and funny about her secondary infertility problems. When I stopped her after her session to tell her I had her DVD, I thought she was going to hug me. She has incredible blue eyes and looks directly at you, talking to you as though she's known you forever. And her story--what little of it she was able to share with me--was remarkably similar to mine. Infertility, it seems, is an equal opportunity condition.

Later, in the conference exhibit hall, I saw her sitting at a table, talking to anyone who approached. This being San Francisco, people were too cool to swarm her. I was going to ask to take a picture with her for this blog, but I chickened out. No idea why. I've asked to have my picture taken with other celebrities (Harry Belafonte, Peta Wilson, Alec Baldwin), but with Brenda, I lost my nerve. Given the setting, it just didn't seem right, I guess.

So Brenda, if you're out there, thanks for coming to San Francisco, and thanks for talking to us (and to me). And thanks for being the spokesperson for the AFA. We need someone like you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

When toddlers get hold of your credit cards.

My son sent me a bouquet of roses yesterday (with a little help from Dad).

I really am lucky to have two such thoughtful males in my life, even if one of them doesn't quite get the concept of Valentine's Day yet. However, he did seem to like (for about 3 minutes) his Valentine's Day card, which featured a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine and made a very annoying "peep peep" noise when he opened it again and again and again.

In blog-related matters, yes, I'm really behind in my posting. I sent to the American Fertility Association's Family Matters conference on Sunday. Lots of news from that. Most notably, I found myself on all fours in a room with Brenda Strong. (Calm down. We were doing yoga.) Story to come, but let me just say that she is my new girl-crush.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Family Matters conference in San Francisco

The American Fertility Association brings its "Family Matters" conference to San Francisco, February 10. Looks like an interesting agenda. I've been to a similar conference before (at Stanford) and found it to be really helpful. For a day, at least, I felt a little less alone.

Oh, and Brenda Strong of "Desperate Housewives" fame is giving a keynote. I did her Yoga for Fertility DVD a lot before I got pregnant with my son. I just couldn't get over the fact that I'm doing yoga to the voice of Mary Alice Young.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger, R.I.P.

I don't know why the news of Heath Ledger's death at the age of 28 is making me so sad.

Maybe it's because he had a daughter about my son's age. Maybe because he was such an incredible actor. Maybe because he seemed like a decent person. His daughter should have had the chance to grow up with him in her life.

Lately, I've been grieving over the deaths of strangers more acutely, but this death, of such a talented person, at such a young age, really gets to me.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Caffeine and miscarraige linked. Time to go cold turkey.

Well, here's some more news with which I could torture myself, were I so inclined. A new Kaiser Permanente study published today in the Amerian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology says that "high doses" of caffeine during pregnancy can increase your chances of miscarriage:

Women who consumed 200 mg or more of caffeine per day (two or more cups of regular coffee or five 12-ounce cans of caffeinated soda) had twice the miscarriage risk as women who consumed no caffeine.

The increased risk of miscarriage appeared to be due to the caffeine itself, rather than other possible chemicals in coffee because caffeine intake from non-coffee sources such as caffeinated soda, tea and hot chocolate showed a similar increased risk of miscarriage.

In a word: crap. Let the inventory begin. I've been allowing myself that one small (often decaf) cappuccino in the morning, because I'm zombie-like without it, and with it, I find myself just a leeettle bit more focused. I maybe have a cup of tea in the afternoon; somewhere I heard that that was probably OK. I don't drink diet sodas (OK, well maybe a sip off my husband's here and there...but wait...I had a few slugs off a flat diet Pepsi yesterday afternoon while I was getting ready for a dinner party...).

Is this what's keeping me from getting pregnant? Did this cause my miscarriage in October 2007, and my two miscarriages in early 2004?

Oh, probably not. My advanced maternal age (love that term) is more probably the culprit. In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Dr. Aaron Caughey, a perinatologist at USCF, reminds us that the majority of miscarriages (up to 80%) are "due to chromosomal abnormalities that have nothing to do with the mother's behavior. The last thing women who have had miscarriages need to do is blame themselves, he said."

Oh, but we're so good at it.

Decaf it is.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mini-Mini-Movie Review: Transformers

Worst. Movie. Ever.

No, I did not rent this turkey on purpose. I gave my husband his own NetFlix queue, and "Transformers" is how he repays me. He now owes me a month of foreign films and chick flicks.

For a much more cogent review, head over to Great White Snark.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mini-Movie Review: Syriana

Well, it's official. I can no longer see any movie where a child is harmed. I mean, I knew that something bad happened to a kid in "Syriana," but I figured I could handle it. I couldn't.

Let's just say that my son will never be allowed to attend pool parties at the homes of Saudi Arabian princes. (Fortunately, there isn't much chance of that happening.)

Anyway, back to the movie. It deserves a long, more thoughtful review than the one I'm about to give it. It's an ambitious work of storytelling, weaving together multiple threads in a tale about the CIA, oil, Islamist terrorists and Saudi Arabian princes. And of course, all the bad things that the United States government is doing in the Middle East, all in the name of oil. It really makes you want to go out and buy the first Prius you see. The director is Stephen Gaghan, who also helmed the very fine "Traffic." Ensemble casts and dense plot lines seem to be his stock in trade.

"Syriana" probably could have been a very satisfying six-hour miniseries. I'm embarrassed to say that found myself struggling to follow it, and I'm usually a pretty careful viewer. I would watch it again...but there's that "bad things happen to kid(s)" problem.

Of course, my inability to completely follow the plot may have been due to the fact that I was mightily distracted by George Clooney. I usually am, but in this film, I was a bit discomfited (and impressed) by his 35-pound weight gain. He certainly deserved the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his subtle, heartbreaking performance as CIA operative Bob Barnes. I would have also given him the Directing Oscar for the stunningly great "Good Night, and Good Luck," but then, I'd give him an Oscar just for being George Clooney.

See "Syriana," and let me know what you think. But if you're a parent, you might just want to skip the pool party sequence. (Note: Big spoiler ahead.)

Not to mention the convoy-in-the-desert scene at the end of the film. What is it with these directors? Don't they have kids? And why does the death of the prince's two small children, whose seem to function as collateral damage, seem to hold less cinematic weight (their death comes almost at the end of the movie) than the death of the son of Matt Damon's character?

Wait, I think I can answer that. I just don't want to.

(Photo courtesy of spcoon.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mini-Movie Review: Sin City

My husband rented "Sin City" on NetFlix. I'll sum it up in one word: Vile. And that's just the writing.

This movie is Exhibit A in why the NC-17 rating should be applied more liberally to violent movies. It seems that because this movie was "cartoonish," the gore and sadism was OK.

While it's pretty trite to say that there should be less violence in movies, I'm going to go one step further. There should be more sex in movies. (More good sex, that is.) And less violence.