Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Wednesday's quote

"The sea was angry, my friends. Like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli."--George Costanza

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The holy grail


Have you ever really wanted a hamburger?

Tonight I went to J.G. Melon, a neighborhood pub with incredible burgers and an atmosphere that could best be described as the total opposite of hip. This is a place you enter and think, wow, I am the person in this room least likely to vote Republican. You would think this even if you always voted Republican, that wouldn't make the slightest difference.

The sea of men in pink collared shirts and women with pearls suggests that one has not have left the 1980s, maybe even 1950s. But the clientele, these are a lot of young people, in their 20s and 30s, though you wouldn't know it from their habits, which are as far from macrobiotic or multicultural as can be. The food--lotsa meat--and the people give no signs of being in 2004 in Manhattan. Connecticut, Nantucket, a country club, sure, but 3rd Avenue? It just doesn't make sense.

The Upper East Side may once have been Manhattan's last holdout, resisting all that is multicultural or macrobiotic, but those days are behind us, or so I thought until the smell of delicious burgers lured me into J.G. Melon and that strange world of blond-on-pastel.

Does it make me an idealist if I dream of a world in which New Yorkers of all races, creeds, and degrees of preppiness (and hipsterness) would voluntarily come together to eat burgers and drink beer in harmony? How about a pub filled with faux-hawks and headbands, with upturned collars and spiked bondage collars? Where are the carnivorous progressives? The vegan neocons? Why can't we all just get along?

Friday, June 25, 2004

With "professional help," anything's possible

I apologize for that last post, which reeks of "Metropolitan Diary" but which nevertheless needed to be stated.

And now, a quote from television:

"She's a beautiful girl and I'm sure that, with professional help, she'll look great."--mother of woman getting made over on "What Not To Wear."

Overheard at a Battery Park City pizza place

"This is your dinner," a woman told her 4 year old daughter, late afternoon today, in reference to a nauseating-looking slice of broccoli pizza.

"I like fish eggs," responded the little girl.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Animals in urban settings

Walk around NYC at night, and you're sure to see a mouse or two, various insects, and, all told, quite the range of life forms. During the day, there are squirrels, dogs not much larger than said squirrels, and pigeons. But in art, unlike in life, there are sometimes more unusual species making their way through the city. Both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Rufus Wainwright pictured large mammals alongside the M4, the taxis, and the other, usual things one sees in Manhattan.

"We drove over to Fifth Avenue, so warm and soft, almost pastoral, on the summer Sunday afternoon that I wouldn't have been surprised to see a great flock of white sheep turn the corner."--F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

"Or a herd of bulls charging stoplights red."--Rufus Wainwright, "Danny Boy"

"So the day Noah's Ark floats down Park my eyes will be simply glazed over."--Rufus Wainwright, "Foolish Love"

If any sheep, bulls, or animal-filled boats ever were to make their way up Madison (they've already covered Fifth and Park, making Madison the obvious next choice) that would make my day.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Subtle Makeovers!!!!

I was just watching "Extreme Makeover" for the first time, and I now know more than I ever wanted to know about chin implants. Who (other than the surgeons who implant them) knew that they look like miniature breast implants?

It would be great if there could be a show called "Overly Subtle Makeover" in which participants go to the dentist for a regular cleaning, or maybe change from flats to high heels. It could be on IFC or Bravo, as an antidote to the other, more flashy show on ABC.

Here's an ethical dilemma posed by "Extreme Makeover," one entirely unrelated to the obviously controversial surgeries:

Let's say, like the chin-challenged woman on tonight's episode, you're at a restaurant with friends when suddenly someone comes to your table and announces that you're about to receive an Extreme Makeover. Isn't it at least a little bit rude if your friends start cheering, thrilled that you're finally going to be made less hideous? Sure, they're just happy for their friend who so wants a new nose/face/body, but such enthusiasm is simply uncalled-for.

What, then, is the appropriate response to finding out that one's friend is about to be made less ugly, on national television, no less? It seems there couldn't possibly be a correct response, given the ridiculousness of the situation, so maybe loud, enthusiastic encouragement really is the way to go.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

A paradox on Oxygen

"As Martha would say, although she wouldn't say it, sex is a good thing."--Sue Johanson

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Just say no, you're gonna make it after all

I was sitting in Midway Airport, watching the Reagan closing ceremony on a muted television overhead. I was a bit confused by one thing: Why was
Mary Tyler Moore there, and why was she of all people shown repeatedly, caressing the former president’s flag-covered casket? And why was she so much shorter than I remembered her being? Then it hit me, that’s not Mary Tyler Moore, it’s
Nancy Reagan. Ah yes, everything was starting to make sense. I maintain, however, that the resemblance is striking.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Hot is out. Here come the Olson twins!

The style section of the Times has declared sexy unfashionable. Used to illustrate this is a picture of the Olson twins.

Seems everyone, the fashion icons that are (icon that is?) the Olson twins included, has decided that the hot new look for summer is...long sleeves, long skirts, turtlenecks, pretty much anything required by the stricter religions, but now even the secular are covering up, just to look hip.

Summer sure is an obnoxious time for the fashion world to order its followers to abandon their miniskirts and tank tops in favor of Olson-esque kaftans, or whatever the twins usually wear. I really have no idea, but their caption reads: "Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen were never ones for showing skin." How disappointed that must make so very many older men if it is in fact true.

"Like herpes at an all-girl's private school"

Gawker, the NYC gossip website, slanders the city's private-school girls:

"Now we're semi-sure that yesterday's ridiculous impending-terror email started with a young man at CNN. (Of course, you can never tell with these damn things -- they spread like herpes at an all-girl's private school.) "

Hey, the least they could do would be to also implicate the private-school boys or sleazy club-going men, etc.--not everyone is a lesbian at a girls' school, and the herpes had to come from somewhere. Maybe that's also the fault of some young man at CNN...

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Ahh, to watch the sun rise...

...from the A-level of the Regenstein library. I hope to never, ever do this again.

TV-14, tailor-made for Stuyvesant freshmen!

A new, tamer (well, edited) version of Sex and the City is coming to TBS. And who does the NYT turn to as its man on the street? Who would know more about sex and the city than anyone else? None other than a Stuyvesant freshman:

"Nelly Mecklenburg, a 14-year-old freshman at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, said she could not believe it when she heard that 'Sex and the City,' one of her favorite shows, was moving to TBS. 'The idea was ridiculous and completely inappropriate,' she said. 'Then I heard it was going to be edited and figured that was even worse; it would be terrible.'

But when Ms. Mecklenburg saw advance tapes of several edited episodes, she was pleasantly surprised. 'I was very impressed,' she said. 'You couldn't tell when they edited certain words, and it actually still seemed like the same show.'

Still, she said, people who see only the cleaned-up versions will be missing something.

'HBO makes it special, because the show can be raunchy,' she said. "The language and sex aren't the most important part, but they add to it.'"

(Shouldn't she be doing bio homework or something?)

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

France is a complex nation...(updated post, now with more underwear info.)

This just might have something to do with why I'm a French major. Sure, there's the literature. That also no doubt has something to do with it. But just take a look. Mmm.

But then there's another side to the country, unrelated to cheese and books, that confuses me. The anti-advertising movement, which is all the rage in Paris, pretty much makes no sense. A group behind the movement, "Résistance à L'Agression Publicitaire," offers this as an explanation:

"Dans un souci permanent d'humanisme et de démocratie, elle vise enfin la sensibilisation du public, notamment celle des plus jeunes qui doivent pouvoir acquérir l'esprit critique nécessaire à leur futur rôle de citoyens autonomes."

In other, English, words: In the name of humanism, democracy, and all that is sacred (err, secular; it IS France, after all), the public must be made aware of how advertising is preventing them, especially the nation's impressionable youth, from becoming autonomous citizens.

But how? Are the things that are being advertised on the Metro, from department stores to underwear to, um, more underwear, supposed to no longer exist? Will all goods be produced communally, or may capitalism continue, just without the aid of those flashy posters?

UPDATE--link via Andrew Sullivan: Apparently underwear ads are not just a problem in France. At least the Brits have a reason--the ads might be offensive if near mosques. Sullivan calls this "p.c. hell." Wonder what he calls the French movement to get rid of underwear ads in general...

Monday, June 07, 2004

"I'm not gonna pay a lot for this Muffy"

A NYT article about Manhattan real-estate "bargains" notes the following:

"Right now, there is a 1,600-square-foot first floor maisonette for sale in one of Manhattan's fanciest buildings at 131 East 66th — Blaine and Robert Trump own an apartment here, shoulder-to-shoulder with a tenant roster right out of the Social Register. The apartment is $875,000. Incredible? Impossible?"

The idea being, for those unfamiliar with NYC real estate, that this is shockingly low.

Also for those not "in the know"--Blaine Trump is not Donald's drag persona but is in fact a socialite. Proximity to socialites raises the price of an apartment, but also lowers its hipster quotient, thus explaining why the Upper East Side, home to many a socialite, is not always the most expensive part of town.

School pride

As an avid Crescat reader and a former intern at the University of Chicago Magazine, the school's alumni magazine, I am obliged to point out that both David Brooks and Joseph Epstein, as of 11:19 pm Chicago time the subject of the 2 most recent Crescat posts, are both University of Chicago graduates.

I always enjoy reading about people who've attended the same schools that I have. This must be because it's quite the list. As WWPD readers well know, Gwyneth Paltrow and, if the Stuyvesant alumni association website is correct, Daniel Bell, are a Spence girl and a Stuyvesantian, respectively, the latter having taught at Chicago and the former having appeared in a movie shot on Chicago's campus.

The reason I find this interesting is that, if I play my cards right, my combination of degrees will lead to a career as a columnist-novelist-sex-symbol-sociologist. And who doesn't want to do something like that with his or her life?

Sunday, June 06, 2004

At the intersection of nerd and socialite

One more post, before returning to the most happening place for miles:

In less than I week, I will return to New York where I may relax with my crew.

"What Would Phoebe Do? promises to improve tremendously when I once again have access to a certain stimulant. I think of tasti-d-lite as a sort of madeleine; at the first spoonful, I will instantly recall years and years of...small vanillas with rainbow sprinkles. I'm pretty sure Proust would have produced an entirely different, dare I say superior, work if his memory had been awoken by something more "tasti".

"I'm gonna be an actress, a ballerina, or secretary-general of the UN"

A Vanity Fair article on Mystic River's Emmy Possum notes that the 17-year-old actress attended Spence, which is identified as Gwenyth Paltrow's alma mater, through the 6th grade. Like Ms. Possum, I had the honor of attending that particular Manhattan girls' school, but was lured away not by the glamorous world of opera (as was Ms. Possum) but by the siren call of math, science, and nerdy boys.

The thing I remember about Spence, though, was that we had a fifth grade sleepover, an event everyone looked forward to immensely as it marked the end of Lower School, and thus the switch in uniforms from the green plaid jumper to the seersucker skort, the navy pleated skirt and, if I remember correctly, some other options as well. At this sleepover, which consisted of all the fifth graders sleeping over at the school, chaperoned by our teachers, said teachers told each student what they imagined she would be when she grew up. Despite years of feminism, most girls got things like "dancer" or "movie star"; I got, I believe, "United Nations Secretary-General," which at the time I took to mean that I should probably start brushing my hair.

There was a point to this...yes, here it is: Why must a school that is supposedly among the best in NYC be reknowned for the hotness of its graduates? Sure, it's not as if Vanity Fair ought to be talking about the school's math offerings... The more important question, however, and one I would very much like to have answered, is why girls look so much conventionally "hotter" coming from a girls' school than a co-ed one, where male attention (or lack thereof) might be something of an influence?

A devout dachshund!

Now that I've already made my point about hats and synagogues, here's a picture of what looks like a Jewish dachshund, if one is to believe the hat, in an old Gothamist post about dogs' coming-of-age ceremonies. New York being a city with both a large Jewish population and a Dachshund Oktoberfest, somehow it doesn't surprise me that the city's dachshunds are becoming men (and women).

Confidence is always good, but...

William Kristol has asserted, in a Weekly Standard article entitled "Yes, Bush Will Win," that yes, Bush will win. I understand that Kristol would like Bush to win, and that there are plenty of arguments (some that I agree with more than others) for why he should win and why he well might, but this is taking things a bit too far. Conservatives might as well declare that pink button-down shirts will come into fashion, that promiscuous teens won't be happy with themselves when they get older, etc. Sure, Kristol offers up some reasons why Bush might get a second term, but this sort of rhetoric just makes me think that yes, Bush will get William Kristol's vote.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

One more thing about the hats

"I once read an apalling etiquette book that suggested bald men could wear baseball caps to church. No."--Will Baude, Crescat.

Might I suggest that these men attend something called "synagogue", where hats are, I believe, encouraged.

Reagan dies, I eat noodles with broccoli, and the world keeps on turning

Thanks to my newfound celebrity status, the E! channel has decided to profile me in their upcoming "Blog till you Drop" spring break miniseries.

While that is sadly false, it is true that today, Reagan died ala James Dean or Kurt Cobain, I ate the same thing for the second night in a row at Snail (uninspiring pad see ew, if you're curious--hopefully this will not lead to premature death ala Reagan), and Republicans nationwide mourn the lackluster restaurant scene in Hyde Park.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Crescat: OK politics, misguided fashion sense

I've never been much of a fan of hats. They mess up your hair if you have hair, and a man in a hat always leaves people wondering if the hat is there for a reason, i.e. no hair. Better to just see the baldness from the get-go. Like tweed, elbow patches, and carrying around old books as accessories, hats are compensation devices for those who wish to be seen as intellectual but feel their credentials are lacking. As a response to all the inexcusable pro-hat propaganda on Crescat, here is a bit of dialogue from Seinfeld, in which hats are systematically demystified and deglamorized:

George: All bald people look good in hats.

Elaine: You should have lived in the twenties and thirties, you know men wore hats all the time then.

George: What a bald paradise that must have been. Nobody knew.

Elaine: Well, you can wear a hat all the time now. Who's stopping you?

George: No, I can't. What if I meet a woman? I'd always be worried about that first moment where I'd take it off and see that look of disappointment on her face.

(It remains to be seen if Mr. Baude of Crescat fame will consider this anti-hat post sufficient fodder for picking a fight. If not, libertarian-bashing will follow. Sadly I'm not entirely anti-libertarian, but vouchers, dude, that's a terrible, terrible idea.)

"France isn't so bad, I swear!"--NYT

(Let me preface this by saying that I like France, or at least many aspects of it, or at least enough to study French and go to France. Cheese and shoes. Other things, too, but really, the cheese and shoes are the hardest to track down elsewhere.)

Interesting op-ed by Felix G. Rohatyn, U.S. ambassador to France from 1997 to 2001. His point is basically that Americans are supposed to care about France, that the country still matters. This assumes, correctly, that many people have ceased to think it does. Anyway...

He begins by offering some vague praise of France, unlikely to convince anyone of anything: "I travel to France regularly and it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world — one that is inhabited by some of the most intelligent and, yes, complicated people in the world."

What country would the Times op-ed pages be willing to say was inhabited by some of the least intelligent people in the world. Just wondering.

Next come the references to what "they"--all French people--think about various matters, as opposed to what all Americans think--guess who comes out ahead?

"While there are, today, some Americans who like to think that the French don't remember D-Day, that is far from the truth; they do remember, and they are grateful...On the American side of the ocean, there is no such curiosity, much less anxiety. There is only a certain dismissiveness and this silent reproach: 'They don't remember.' That is both untrue and self-defeating."

I am under the impression that there's plenty of American curiosity about France--why else are Petit Bateau tee-shirts chosen over GAP ones? But seriously, to say that "the French" do this, whereas those idiotic Americans do the opposite, isn't going to make those same Americans like France any more.

"Although there will still be differences about Iraq and other issues, I know that France and America need each other strategically, economically, culturally."

Does this last part, about the cultural codependence, mean that the French don't just furtively and bitterly consume the jeans, popular music, and fast food with which we provide them? How many French people, in this ambassador's opinion, would freely admit to needing America culturally?

The "Why not me" generation

Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. The men profiled in "Arguing the World" (Irvings Howe and Kristol, Nathan Glazer, and Stuyvesant alum Daniel Bell). I picture them all on the Upper West Side, eating tuna salad sandwiches at some diner on Broadway and 78th while talking about things more important than blogs, whether to take the GRE or LSAT, who likes whom, and which type of diet coke (lemon, lime, vanilla, or original) is best. I imagine that it was all fascinating conversation, all the time, with these people, if indeed they all ever ate lunch together. Should I be harkening back to the days before the University of Chicago dining halls served 5 different kinds of pizza, edamame, and salads made to order (why do I suddenly feel queasy?) and when tweedy, ragged, drab-colored outfits were worn by even the unaffected? Should I simply embrace modern life, a fast-paced world of instant messager, online friend networks? Should I just finish this bottle of diet coke (original) and stop fantasizing about a world that may not have been all that different from my own?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Bizarro Phoebe

There's this girl at Harvard who has my name, writes an opinion column in the school paper, and worked at the school's alumni magazine. What should I do about this, there obviously can't be two of us. Somehow I think she wins this battle, in that she goes to Harvard and I...don't. But still, there really should be some sort of showdown.