The Sims 3

On the PC.

Once again, I’m engrossed in the imaginary lives of imaginary people. I’ve been playing with Sims ever since the first iteration of the game, nearly a decade ago, and it’s kind of embarrassing. I’m not even one of those players who use the games to construct elaborate buildings or design clothing, which would be more justifiable, I think. No, I just get a kick out of telling myself stories about the imaginary people, like a little girl with her dolls. Like I said: kind of embarrassing.

Green Porno

Seasons 1 and 2 online at

First, let me assure my parents (and disappoint anyone who stumbled here looking for masturbatory material) that there’s actually nothing pornographic about Isabella Rossellini’s fantastically weird series of shorts. They’re miniature films about sex, yes, but sex between snails and starfish and dragonflies and other creatures too alien to anthropomorphize. Green Porno isn’t titillating (and surely isn’t meant to be), but it is intriguing and funny and occasionally poignant, even beautiful. Rossellini might be a bit of a kook, but she creates an infectious sense of wonder with her vignettes.

Fallout 3

On Xbox 360.

I wish I could say that, while temporarily living the life of an anxiety-ridden, cold-weather-hating shut-in, I took the opportunity to complete an afghan or immerse myself in French New Wave films or organize the papers stacked on my desk or do something else productive, to quote my ever-productive mother. Sadly, I did none of those things. Instead, I spent an inordinate amount of time blowing the heads off terrifying, gun-toting mutants.

The Xbox is primarily Sean’s toy. Deprived as a child of all but the most educational computer games, I have no talent or affinity for the first-person-shooters he and his friends sometimes play together online. But occasionally, one of the video games hooks me in spite of myself, and I, too, am hypnotized by the screen, holding my breath, twitching my thumbs, and feeling very, very dorky.

The hook for Fallout 3 is the setting: a desolate, post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. I find an odd, Planet of the Apes–type pleasure in exploring familiar landmarks through a nightmarish looking glass, but beyond that, post-apocalyptic stories fascinate me. There’s a perverse kind of optimism in imagining a world gone utterly, completely wrong in which hope, somehow, still endures. The water may be radioactive, the mutants may be vicious, but people are still cobbling together communities—reduced in circumstances, perhaps, but surviving, in a bleak, sci-fi twist on the Little House books I loved as a kid.

Fun with music videos: Holiday edition*

*These videos are in no way holiday-related.

“Love Story,” Taylor Swift; “Paper Planes,” M.I.A.; and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” Beyoncé.

Since returning to New York on Sunday, Sean and I have had time for unpacking, catching up on work, and not much else, and I’m feeling antsy, not having anything to write about, so I’m falling back on my favorite standby: music videos.

Shiba Inu Puppy Cam

So I, like seemingly every other compulsive Internet user, have become semi-obsessed with the Shiba Inu Puppy Cam. I don’t remember which website first sent me there—countless sites have linked to it—but watching the live feed of six roly-poly puppies playing and wrestling and napping in their cozy little crate is now my favorite means of relieving stress or lifting a bad mood or simply killing a minute or two.

Another installment of fun with music videos

“When I Grow Up,” Pussycat Dolls; “I’m Good, I’m Gone,” Lykke Li; and “So What,” Pink.

Sean is in the last throes of a monstrously time-consuming project for work that has kept him in the office on nights, weekends, and basically every other waking moment. That’s left me with a lot of quality time alone with our cats, Tess and Luna (who have rewarded me for my loving attention by chewing up the venetian blinds), so I figure this is as good a time as any to indulge in music videos. Whee!

Opening ceremony, 2008 Olympic Games

Held in Beijing on August 8, televised by NBC.

The Olympic Games always pits cynicism against idealism, no matter where the event is being held. When you watch women’s gymnastics, do you think about girls being starved and overworked to prevent the onset (or at least slow the advance) of puberty, or do you just appreciate the artistry and athleticism of the competitors and the apparent joy they take in their routines? When you watch runners, do you think about how many of them might be boosting their performances with some drug cocktail or another, or do you just marvel at their speed and at the precision and teamwork of the relays? When you watch swimmers, do you think about the technical arms race of suit development and the global inequality it reflects, or do you just cheer for your country and beam at every new gold medal?

Every Olympic Games is an ethical tangle—a volatile mess of unchecked commercialism, rampant jingoism, vast financial disparities, questionable judging and refereeing, possible abuse of minors, and untold human suffering—so I don’t quite understand why the Beijing event has provoked so much more hand-wringing than usual, especially in the United States, where we’ve recently ceded the moral high ground when it comes to human rights violations. (By this, I do not mean that the violations are of equal weight, but rather that once you have to start arguing over which are worse, you’ve already lost.) Perhaps holding the Games in China does taint the event in some way, but so, too, do any number of other shameful blemishes on the ideals of the Olympiad. Pretending otherwise is naive.

But pretending there is nothing redeemable about the Games is foolish, too, because there are still beautiful moments, moments that do seem to live up to the ideals of international fellowship, of celebrating participation just as much as victory. I’m a sucker for the pageantry of the opening ceremony, for example, and Beijing’s was undoubtedly the most breathtaking I’ve ever seen.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog

Available online at through July 20 and available for download at the iTunes store.

If I didn’t already love Joss Whedon, I would for this: When the writers’ strike prohibited him from working on screenplays for film or TV, he used the break as an opportunity to collaborate with friends, family, and colleagues on an Internet project, an oddball musical about a would-be supervillain, his smug superhero nemesis, and the object of his unrequited affection.

Given that “Once More, With Feeling,” the musical episode of Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was one of the few truly bright spots of season six (I might love Joss, but I’m no apologist for Buffy’s sharp downturn), I was looking forward to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, and it didn’t disappoint. It did surprise, though. I suppose I had expected something lighter and breezier, a trifle to match its let’s-put-on-a-show roots, but now I wonder why. After all, Whedon has all but perfected the art of exploring hard emotional truths in potentially campy premises. Why shouldn’t he do that online as well as on TV?