Laura's Brant

Spawn of

Friday, December 3, 2010

So You're Jewish But You Have A Christmas Tree

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Laura's Brant has moved! Again!

Laura's brant has just moved -- again! -- to a new location!  Please forgive her on-going Escape Fantasy Disorder and constant brant-address-switching but it was time to have a site with a clean white background, big type, and a different format.

Come visit and continue to follow Laura's bragging and ranting at  
-- thank you!

See you there!

Monday, August 31, 2009

GPS Upgrade

Given last week's brant about Laura and her GPS, she couldn't resist posting this link about the possibility of Bob Dylan becoming a GPS voice.

Laura would definitely get lost on purpose as much as possible (as opposed to getting lost not on purpose the way she usually does every minute of every day).

(photo credit: AP Photo)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

(Mis)Reading the Map

Laura and the family just returned from a 9-day modified staycation -- she'll call it a drive-cation -- which included five days in Maryland/DC and then three days in, or at, or down, the Jersey Shore.  They made the trip because Laura's sister Linda and her husband Richard and their fantastic kids were coming east from L.A. to see DC and go down the shore, so Laura and the family decided it was a perfect opportunity to glom on to their plans and go along for the ride.


Laura's friends and loyal brant readers know that one of the (many) things Laura hates more than carrots is flying, so taking a drive-cation is one of her favorite things to do.  She packs up the car, sets Ben up with DVDs and her Nano in the backseat, makes sure the dog is in the crate with a big fluffy $2 faux bone from Petco, and prints out a whole stack of mostly wrong Mapquest maps and sets out across the great frontier that is her road trip thinking her deep thoughts.  This time was no different -- the DVDs, the Nano, the dog, the faux fluffy bones, the deep thoughts -- except for the fact that there were no Mapquest maps. 

There was a GPS instead.

Yes, Laura got a GPS for her birthday and this was the first time she was going on a real road trip with something other than a stack of printouts and her lousy sense of direction.  She ended up using the station wagon that has a Stonehenge-type-built in GPS with a cumbersome and annoying GPS already it in (the car that Brendan always drives) and left her brand new stylus-pen touchscreen no-frills unit at home), and she ended up having a completely ridiculous and infantile meltdown somewhere off I-84 because she couldn't figure out how to communicate to the GPS that she wanted it to calculate her route from Newton to Maryland via the Tappan Zee Bridge, not the George Washington Bridge -- anything to avoid the traffic sinkhole that is I-95-- but aside from that, and aside from the fact that it literally took almost 15 minutes to set the fucking thing every time they went somewhere, it was an amazing way to travel.

Laura's actually been reading a lot lately about how navigational systems in cars are changing  the way people relate to each other -- she's thinking specifically of an article that ran recently in the NYTs about how couples are fighting less because they're not getting lost as much (she can't find the link but will add it when she does)-- and she'd like to add, just for the record, that she thinks this is absolutely ridiculous.  Couples aren't fighting less because they have GPS units in their cars -- they're just fighting differently. Because the GPS instructions are so incredibly confusing and annoying.  Every time they set the GPS on this trip, the monitor became a kind of test -- how to read the instructions, or more exactly, how to interpret the instructions the GPS was giving them.  Did the yellow arrow on the upper left corner of the screen pointing to the right mean take a right right now? Or did it mean, take a right later.  In a little while.  You know, when you feel like it.  Did the thick blue highlighted road mean the road they were on, right now? Or the road they were trying to get to next, in 04. miles, the way it said in the upper right corner of the screen?  

Their differing interpretations -- sometimes vastly differing interpretations -- of the instructions on the GPS -- reminded Laura of why she got such shitty scores on her SATs (and GREs): because she could never really understand the questions.  I mean, she understood the questions, sort of, but after reading the question the first time she would start to have questions about the question:  did the question mean this? or did the question mean that?  did it mean this AND that? or THAT and THIS?  Half the time she got so confused about the question itself that she had no idea what to pick for an answer.  Which is exactly what happened while driving.  Half the time she would get so confused about what the GPS was telling her that she would end up getting lost anyway.

Parsing out the directions was, though, a small part of an otherwise great trip.  A trip during which lots of small thoughts occurred to Laura:

-- After her 10 1/2 hour drive from Newton to Maryland two Saturdays ago in her black Volvo XC wagon, Laura realized that hers was the only wagon without a  Thule storage unit on the roof.

-- After walking the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ, she realized she was the only 47-year-old-mom without a tattoo.

-- After days of super-high humidity, Laura realized her hair had gone horizontal and there was nothing she could do about it.

-- After eating crap for 9 days, she realized she was sick of eating crap and wanted to stop.

-- After paying almost $45 to get into the Spy Museum in DC (not including parking) and paying over $50 for lunch at the otherwise free National Portrait Gallery, Laura realized sightseeing in the Nation's capital wasn't as cheap as it was back in 1972 when she went with her parents.

It had been a pretty long time since Laura had taken a family-type vacation -- the past few years had been kind of complicated and difficult for a variety of reasons and she'd had to forgo this type of thing.  But after a terrific 9-days, a few bigger thoughts occurred to Laura, too, including realizing that:

-- Life is short and kids grow up all too quickly and even though three extra nights at a hotel feels like it's going to almost break the bank she should break the bank anyway because her niece will never again be 14 and eavesdropping on her son and nephew talking about skateboarding and school is priceless.

-- Memories of family vacations, especially good ones, have a very long half-life for children, which is why she should do anything to take them.

-- Life is good, and she is lucky, no matter how she mis-reads the map or mis-interprets the directions.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Writing a Good Bio

Laura's been kind of obsessed lately with networking -- and "kind of" is kind of an understatement (kind of!) -- so she's been spending a lot of her time ("a lot" is kind of an understatement, too) on-line on every single social networking site known to man.  This includes Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and she has to say, while she's been ambivalent about these sites for a long time, wondering if they waste more time than make good use of time, she's definitely not ambivalent anymore.

For one thing, she sent an email to lots and lots of friends on Facebook -- friends in publishing -- editors and agents and authors (Laura's not bragging, just trying to make a point) -- to let them know she was interested in ghostwriting and collaborative work and she got a great response!  From everyone! Except from the Facebook Team who threatened to shut down her account because apparently you're not supposed to send around a giant email letting people know you're interested in gainful employment. Instead, you're supposed to set up a "Page" of some kind to "advertise" and "promote" your "services" but that seems like an awfully passive way to go about expanding your work-sphere compared with just being direct.

Then she went on LinkedIn and had another positive experience (and no one there threatened to shut down her LinkedIn account.  At least not yet.)

Twitter proved to be the biggest surprise because while Laura had been slow to realize how fun Twitter is with its 140-character micro-blogging business, she didn't have a clue that it was a good networking and friend-making tool, too.

First of all, she became excellent "Twitter" pals with an author she loves but has never met -- Julie Klam, whose book Please Excuse My Daughter is the funny but really moving memoir Laura wishes she wrote (for a rave review by a #1 NYTs bestselling author, go to  Laura and Julie share a mutual friend, one of Laura's bestest [sic] friends of all time and book publicist-extraordinaire, Marian Brown, and Laura and Julie were Facebook "friends," but somehow the immediacy of Twitter really cemented their virtual-friendship.

Not that Facebook doesn't generate that same potential "heat" for making Insta-LUV-friends: Laura and Jane Green, another author Laura has never met, have had some great exchanges on FB, and Laura and Stephanie Green (no relation to Jane Green) met on Facebook (both are breast-cancer peeps -- Stephanie's amazing blog is and will hopefully provide tons of material for the book she's working on) and recently had a fantastic lunch together in Boston when Stephanie was in from Miami.  (Laura's sure she's forgetting a few other Insta-LUV-friends and will update this post later with additions...)

Back to Twitter, though, which started out being the point of this post:  Laura ended up answering a Twitter query from Marci Alboher -- Marci, until recently, had a blog for the New York Times based on her terrific book, One Person/Multiple Careers, and currently guest blogs for Yahoo on her new blog, Working the New Economy.  When Marci tweeted that she was looking for people with interesting bios (resume-related), Laura sent her a quick message with a few suggestions (namely, writer Tom Perrotta whose website bio is hilarious).

(Before Laura goes any further she wants to apologize for all the name-dropping which isn't the point of this post [you might be wondering: What IS the point of this post?  Good question...])

Anyway, Laura and Marci had a great exchange and it turned out that Marci included a link to Laura's third-person-website bio in the blog she was writing about bios -- which is the point of this post.  Here's the link to that post and Laura is not only grateful to Marci for the mention but would like to share Marci with anyone who reads this because Marci has some of THE best and most interesting and intelligent advice about staying relevant and hire-able in this ridiculously awful economy.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Laura's posting the link to the "Vows" piece she did for this Sunday's New York Times -- a great couple, Victoria Rowell and Radcliffe Bailey.  Laura's done a bunch of these in the past and she has to say that this one was her favorite -- despite the fact that she had to go up to famous people (e.g. Samuel L. Jackson) and interview them (Laura's really shy in case you didn't know it) and despite the fact that being in the midst of someone as fantastically and naturally beautiful as Ms. Rowell made Laura feel, well, like another species.  But what incredibly accomplished people and what a wonderful love story, which, of course, is what these Vows pieces are all about.

Laura would like to add, just for the hell of it here since it won't do any good, but she really wishes the part about how the groom's work is collected by over 25 major American museums (Corcoran, Smithsonian. Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan, to name only a few) hadn't been edited out (it was in the last draft she received from the Times to look at).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Memoir with Braces

Laura probably shouldn't say anything -- she should probably have a chapter or a page or a paragraph or even a line done before she starts shooting her mouth off about starting something new, but she just can't help shooting her mouth off about the fact that she's starting something new.

Or, thinking about starting something new.

Or, probably more accurately, dreaming/imagining/fantasizing about starting something new.

Something new in the way of a book type thing.

Laura doesn't mean to be coy when she calls it a "book type thing" -- starting  a new book, or more acurately, dreaming/imagining/fantasizing about starting a new book is always really stressful -- stressful enough to make her not want to do it! -- so she thought she'd call it something other than a book and "book type thing" seemed close enough without being too exact.

Writing about her life -- her early life -- her life as someone with braces*, for instance (*braces being merely one visual symbol of her emotionally [or orthodontically] imprisoned youth)  -- has been something she's thought about for a really long time -- especially since she moved back to her home town for no good reason after bragging her whole entire life that she was the least likely person to move home to her home town.  In fact, one of her book editors -- the one who edited Piece of Work, told Laura after rejecting her book on failure -- yes, the failure book that failed!! ha ha ha!! (or, LOL for younger brant readers) -- that what she should really do is write about what it was like to move home to her home town after bragging her whole life that she was the least likely person to move home to her home town.

At the time, coming face to face with the giant massive billboard of her own egregious pathology -- what the fuck was she thinking?!?! didn't she know living a mile away from the temple where she went to Hebrew school would spawn the biggest dissociative regression of all time?!? -- seemed impossible.  She was, after all, in the middle of the aforementioned biggest dissociative regression of all time since there was nowhere she could go without that giant massive billboard of egregious pathology being completely visible.  Writing about herself -- namely, writing about her own stupidity, just didn't seem like something she wanted to do right then.

Not that she hadn't written fluently and with great glee about her own stupidity in the past!  Why, just look at the marvel that is/was Animal Husbandry with it's self confessed supreme gullibility and willful ignorance of the fact that someone she -- oops, I mean, "Jane" -- was still in love with even after he had dumped her (stupid fact #1) was dating someone new right under her nose at work! (stupid fact #2) (Read the whole book to find all the stupid facts in it.) (Including the shockingly stupid fact that even after finding out that he was dating someone new right under her nose she was still in love with him!!!)

But even though Laura had written about stuff like that, she'd always written about it in her trademark (<--pardon the self-important "labeling" of her style as "trademark") thinly disguised autobiographical fiction -- something she'd written a lot about, too:  for she had no shame not only using all her past stupidities (for some truly epic stupidities find a copy of Her and enjoy!!) as material but telling everyone how she used her past stupidities as material by turning it into thinly disguised autobiographical fiction!

She had, though, never really written about herself - her life, her family, her true thoughts and feelings -- in actual non-fiction.  Straightforward, non-inside-out-non-fiction-into-fiction.   Except in her brant.  And even there she wrote/writes about herself in the third person.

Hiding.  Always hiding.

And so for some reason recently, out of the blue, little synapses started going off in her head, little flashes of light that made her want to write about things she's never wanted to write about -- or, actually, she'd never been brave enough to write about -- not because there's any Running with Scissors type stories in her past -- far from it, unfortunately! -- but because she'd always assumed it would be boring and because she's always been kind of a puss when it comes to being honest with herself.

Laura wishes she could point to some wonderfully memorable symbolic line-in-the-sand type moment when she realized she simply had to write about her life and couldn't remain silent a minute longer -- but she can't (except for the past week when two important people in her life told her she start looking inside for what to write about instead of looking outside).   All she can say is that she figures she should take advantage of that giant massive wonderfully bittersweet billboard that's been telegraphing the painful merging of her past and present -- a merging she herself was responsible for and is only now just beginning to understand -- before it gets replaced with an image of lame apathy.

And so she's going to take the plunge and start peeling back the layers.  She'd like to do it really fast -- like, over the summer -- but she knows that the onion she's peeling is bigger than she'd like to admit and more stubborn.  It's an onion that doesn't want to be peeled -- or, at the very least, is ambivalent about being peeled -- and even though right now she's lost in this bad cliched metaphor -- Is Laura the onion or the peeler? or both?! -- she knows that there's going to be some tears involved.

Enough for now.  Laura's got to go find a peeler...