Thursday, September 29, 2005

It's hard to be Kate Moss. Not!

Here's my much-awaited take on Kate Moss's cocaine use/abuse/extracurricular activity:

She's 31 years old, and is still a successful model. And I quote: "Kate Moss - the 31-year-old supermodel." Think about this for a moment. Remember heroin chic? Remember grunge? Remember the 1990s? Remember when you could negate an entire previous sentence by simply saying, "Not"? If you do, then you're probably not currently employed or employable as a model.

Spelling bees are this week's cowboy boots-in-summer

The Thursday Styles fails to correctly identify the beginning of one of those hipster trends the paper periodically likes to discover:

The new focus on bees began in 2000 with the publication of Myla Goldberg's widely read novel, "Bee Season." It continued with the release in 2002 of "Spellbound," the Academy Award-nominated documentary, and in April the acclaimed musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" transferred to Broadway. On Oct. 2 there will be a one-night-only "adult performance" with mature material and politically incorrect humor. Perhaps the last time that spelling bees received this much attention was in 1992, when Vice President Dan Quayle added an "e" to "potato" during a bee at Luis Munoz-Rivera Elementary School in Trenton.

Not quite. The bee revival can be traced back to one bee winner who was a classmate of mine in high school. In 1997, in what would have been her eighth grade (she was homeschooled before high school) Rebecca Sealfon won the national bee, and her enthusiasm and eccentricities put her on, among others, the Rosie O'Donnell show and inspired a character on South Park--homeschooled spelling bee participant Rebecca, to whom Kyle sings a love song. Rebecca became something of a cult figure, just the sort whose image would transend dorkiness to gain a hipster following. I'm just saying...

You! On the bench.

Amber Taylor doesn't like a law banning the childless from playground benches, and suggests that the greater problem is children alone in parks. At 22, I still vaguely remember being a child, so here's my take: Children playing in a park may not be alone, but a caregiver will presumably not be climbing the monkey bars, etc., with an 8-year-old. Society does what it can so that urban parks are safe enough for a kid to play without--as is sometimes the case in NYC--being attached to a parent via a leash. A determined pedophile (and, from what TV movies will teach you, they're a determined bunch) will seize the opportunity to kidnap a child when a caregiver is not right at the child's side.

And Rivington Street--along with the Lower East Side, not to mention Lower Manhattan in general--is a veritable playground for grown-ups. The bars and restaurants of the area are out of reach, legally or price-wise, for the city's kids. Is it really so bad for one part of the place to be designated as children-and-caregivers-only? For rational reasons, minors can't go to, say, Max Fish. Not legally, at least. So, for other, equally if not more rational reasons, adults wishing to chill on a bench, maybe whine about bad blind dates and so forth, maybe just sit and stare, maybe molest children, are not allowed in this park.

That said, how odd that this law was actually enforced, and yes, how unfortunate for the woman made an example of. I've seen those signs before and always assumed they were to prevent groups of menacing late-teens from lurking and dealing/promoting drugs. If I get all Freudian-like and think back to my own childhood, I don't (thankfully) know of any pedophiles, but I have a vague recollection of menacing teenagers, who, in retrospect, were probably just relatively harmless potheads, but you never know, and therein lies one possible rationale for a strange but not altogether objectionable law.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Shopping and anonymity in the city

I used to travel miles and miles in the snow and ice, on buses that would regularly break down mid-route, on trains that seemed likely to veer off their elevated tracks, just to look around in H&M or Urban Outfitters, to get a cappuccino in a non-campus, non-Starbucks environment, and to take the occasional peek into Bloomingdales, for that taste of home. Well, now that I'm back in my hometown, I work within maybe a block of all of the above. On my lunch hour I can see what's new at H&M, purchase a sufficiently over-the-top espresso drink, and comb the sale racks at Urban Outfitters, but you know what? I'd rather not. I miss the Reg. I was telling this recently to a fellow Broadview resident whom I ran into two days in a row on the subway. Two days in a row--how weird is that?

Which leads me to my next, equally random thought for this post: There are like a billion people I see regularly who do not, as far as I can tell, work or live where I do. They must work close enough to where I do to either get coffee in the same place in the mornings or take the same train in the evenings. There's black-haired, 60s-glasses, almost-too-chic coffee place woman; super-effeminate but almost 50s-macho coffee place man; the goth-turned-businessman subway man; the naturally blond Asian woman on Park; the superskinny startled-looking German businesswoman... the list might well go on, but I find it hard to remember all these people when not actually seeing them. Thomas Mann's narrator, in either "Death in Venice" or the story that comes right after in my mother's copy of "Death and Venice," refers to the relationship of two people who see each other regularly like this but do not speak for reasons of social convention, I think it was the strangest possible relationship two people can have. That's a bit of a stretch--in Midtown, it would be far odder if social convention encouraged introducing one's self to everyone with an overlapping commute. But nevertheless, keeping track of these people makes me feel very literary, as though I will one day turn them all into characters for a novel. Or, at the very least, list them all in a rambling, going-nowhere blog post.

A third way for the woman who wants to have it all

A Victoria Roberts cartoon in the latest issue of the New Yorker is especially relevant to the Yale Future Housewives debate. It shows two women sitting on a couch, having drinks. The caption: "I would like to be supported, not by a man, but maybe by working animals--say, a troupe of tigers working in the circus, or two racehorses, or a dog who's landed a sitcom." As someone whose dreams of one day participating in the Iditarod far exceed my dreams of being supported by a workaholic banker husband, I identify with the women in this cartoon, not to mention take the cartoon a whole lot more literally than it's probably meant to be taken.

Monday, September 26, 2005

"J. Peterman."--J.Peterman "J. Crew."--George Costanza, gesturing to his outfit. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 25, 2005

No sleep till Brooklyn

Actually, tons of sleep. My cousin got married this weekend on Nantucket, and now I'm back in Brooklyn. As tree-lined as my street may be, as quaint as the local market looks on Saturday mornings, "brownstone Brooklyn" is the city, so yes, I'm back in the city. Having spent the last four (no, 22) years almost entirely in cities (New York, Chicago, Paris) I'm not used to sleeping in a silent room. Having not long ago started working 9-5, I'm not quite used to the new sleeping schedule. So this weekend, I slept a ton, ate a ton, and saw a ton of people I rarely see, including a Canadian cousin of my mom's who's apparently read this blog!

But a couple things, before I forget, as I may well forget things, as I'm not used to getting this much sleep:

1) Not long ago, as Sam reminded me, there was an article in the NYT about "old" vs. "new" Nantucket, the idea being that the island is becoming yet another playground for the nouveau riche. Which of course leads to the question of what's wrong with flashy rich people, since the tasteful ones in Izod are the true American class snobs...or are they? Discuss. But from what I could tell, everything was tasteful as could be. The only problem, if this is indeed a problem, is that bucolic New England has become associated in popular consciousness with Bucolic New England, Inc., aka the J.Crew catalog, or similar. I couldn't help but thinking (and remarking) "this is so J.Crew" all weekend long. Authenticity as a concept has been commercialized, to the extent that the real-deal islanders will themselves wear Ralph Lauren and other brands inspired by--and profitting from--the image of real-deal islanders. It's a strange cycle, but a very American one.

2) There's a town in Connecticut we passed on our way to and from Nantucket called "Mashantucket." I had no idea my friend Masha had a ntucket named after her. A quick Google search reveals that the town is not, as I'd hoped, a cross between Brighton Beach and Nantucket, some kind of sedate, picturesque resort town for Russian-Americans, but is in fact home to a Native American-run casino.

3) There will be pictures. My mother is going to email them to me, since my camera's battery charger either doesn't like the sockets in my apartment or simply doesn't work.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Yale co-eds, barefoot in the kitchen*

The blogosphere moves quickly, so this story may already be so last blog-session, but last night I had the honor of screening "Yossi and Jagger" for Katherine and Sam on my tiny-screen laptop, which meant no blogging. Oh, and Ariel Sharon, hear me well: Judging by the response of the female friends I've shown this movie to, Yehuda Levi's very existence could bring about more Aliyah than you'd know what to do with.

But now, as I meant to do yesterday, and as every other blogger already did yesterday, I'll respond to the "18-year-old Yale women, barefoot in the kitchen" article:

How exactly do 18-year-old not-girls-not-yet-women, about to start at elite colleges, know that they will work for 10 years, then have two children, then work part-time until their children start college? Answer: They don't. Their plans may change, or the implied wealthy husband may never appear. The NYT article hits on this for a split-second, but deems it mainly irrelevant that what someone--especially someone with so paths open to her--predicts for her future may not come true. We as a country may be at a tradition-embracing moment, but for every child of the 1960s who swore she'd never, ever move back to the suburbs and raise a family and then found herself doing just that, there will be one of this generation who will read NYT archives 20 years from now, from her home in San Francisco, where she and her wife of ten years work as corporate lawyers, and will chuckle at her own publically-declared plans to raise her husband's kids.

This is the David Brooksian ideal--women whose presence at top colleges is more or less decorative, who are unlikely to have retained knowledge gained there by the time, around age 40, that they finally begin their careers. Women who obtain or retain their "bobo" class status by getting that SAT score and high-end BA, just to make sure their children will be sired by someone with similar credentials. Do these women sign up for econ classes in the hopes of meeting the right sort? Or do they just work out all day so that they'll be the hottest one at that evening's frat party, figuring that one thing will lead to another...

The strangest part of the article, though, is the idea that schools may be less interested in female applicants if this trend continues. Liberal education as a means to support one's self--rather than as a way of turning someone into a fuller, more well-rounded human being/fuller, more well-rounded member of a certain class, is a new thing. Even schools not meant for landed gentry--say, the University of Chicago--sometimes take pride in the impracticality of the education offered, or at least in the idea that, while the education may reap material benefits, that's not the point. No "communications" or "marketing" majors for us, even if many of us end up in jobs with these titles.

Maybe it's different at Harvard and Yale. Maybe education for learning's sake--or, to the cynical, for seeming-sophisticated-at-parties' sake--never caught on at those schools, just as elbow-patched blazers and house-cest pseudomarriages aren't such a thing when you leave Hyde Park. But what I'm getting at is that I cannot imagine anyone at Chicago saying it's less important to educate women because many will stay at home. Why would Chicago care if the Plato-learning turned into more meaningful iBanking or Medieval art-teaching or a more meaningful raising of an iBanker's or professor's children?

That said, I wonder how many Chicago women, as opposed to women at other top schools, have these plans. No one I know has claimed to want this. OK, no one I know has claimed, unironically, to want this.

And finally, as for the young women profiled in the article, assuming they do, in fact, represent a trend: Should we be concerned? What if half of all potential top-notch bankers turn to child-rearing? If obscenely wealthy two-income homes give way to super-wealthy one-income ones? That sounds nice, doesn't it? Well, it's not. Keeping top-earning professions male won't make them disappear and won't bring about a socialist utopia; it will merely reduce options for half the country. And options, those are, as mogul Martha Stewart would say, a good thing.

*Nothing should be inferred from the fact that I, while writing this post, was, quite literally, barefoot in the kitchen, which was perhaps what made me think of the expression to begin with.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hello Kitty Haiku

The only time I ever felt I truly connected with the haiku form was a couple of nights ago looking at a Hello Kitty day planner (2006?!) at the Virgin Megastore (internationally renowned book store, of course) and realizing they were dotted with these nuggets of contemporary verse. Since WWPD is has of late been intrigued by the curious world of JAPanese culture I thought some of these were all too appropriate to share:

"Seagulls may swoop low,
But I only hear the wind.
Kitty in motion!"

"With a splash we leap
and plunge beneath the surface!
oops- I lost my bow!"

"Entranced by the koi
I did not hear you approach
won't you walk with me?"

Who gets free Krugman?

Matthew Yglesias doesn't want to pay for the new NYT Select. He writes:

Boy, I'd sort of like to know what Paul Krugman's column on race and Katrina says. But that's not a fifty bucks a year kind of desire to know. If I'm lucky, Krugman will decide he'd better email the text of his articles for free to influential bloggers and the like.

So who are "influential bloggers and the like"? Do they need to influence the mainstream media (or, better yet, work in the mainstream media) in order to count as influential and thus worthy of free NYT access? I ask because I am a blogger who has written for non-self-published things, but whose blog--and self--are by no means famous, yet who is read by plenty of people I do not know personally. Should I be getting free Krugman? Do I want free Krugman, or was my free cappuccino (12 stamps on my coffee card later) good enough? What about people who write blogs that are read only by the person they're currently dating, their ex, and their best friend--do these bloggers get free Krugman? I can't quite see where the line would be drawn, and it strikes me as presumptuous to assume Krugman or the NYT knows who the influential bloggers are, and that these people ought to be getting the NYT Select free while the rest of the online population--the people less likely to otherwise have NYT Select access--get stuck with nothing.

"Somewhat healthier cookies"

Now that the NYT has gone all Select on us, what are bloggers to do? I suppose come up with our own material?

Certainly not--we still get some articles, and how's this for a headline?

"Kraft Introduces 2 Somewhat Healthier Cookies Made of Whole Grains"

"Somewhat" is such a wonderful qualifier. Leave off the icing, halve the cookie's size, or better yet eat cookies less often, and you have a somewhat healthier cookie. But this cult of whole grains (yes, Katherine, I'm still harping on whole grains) has gone too far. I'm sure, all things being equal, whole grains have some kind of advantage over Wonder Bread, if only taste-wise, but what has this country come to when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is mentioned alongside whole grain Chips Ahoy? And do we really need tastier cookies?

In a taste test of the new Chips Ahoy version and the original, The New York Times Dining section gave the whole-grain cookies a thumbs-up. While testers said that the texture was more akin to an oatmeal cookie than a chocolate chip cookie, they said it was an overall "better-tasting cookie," with a "toasty and nutty flavor."

Seems nutritionists worry that, as with low-fat cookies, people will now eat the supposedly healthy but still-high-calorie whole grain cookies by the truck-load. But I'd say there's more of a concern here, because low-fat cookies are what foodies call narsty, whereas a non-low-fat combination of whole grains and chocolate might be less so.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What poufy-haired women want (and why)

Matthew Yglesias wants to know why women want straight hair. As a woman who wants straight hair, I will give my own reason, such as it is. I have hair that is naturally somewhere between wavy and straight, but almost curly on humid days. I don't like having it look entirely different every day, and the simplest way to maintain any sort of consistency is to keep it all straight. I've never gone the Japanese route, but I suppose I see the appeal. If I could let my hair air-dry and have fabulous curls, then I'd do that, so I don't really see the appeal of straight hair over curly hair, just of straight hair over all-over-the-place, semi-straight hair. Also, I want, on a certain level, to look like a Japanese pop star, and having stick-straight near-black hair is a start. Even if, as I now know, some of these pop stars are clumsily wielding hair equipment like the rest of us. The pink streak I had for a while helped this look, but a combination of impatience with Manic Panic and getting to the ripe old age of 22 have led me to give this streak up. While I claim Francophilic Zionism, I am also a Japanophile, and would eat, dress, and look Japanese before I'd so fully embrace the food, clothing, and style of France or Israel--agnes b. and Taim notwithstanding.

While I don't know if there is some unconscious racial reason for my wanting straighter hair, I sort of doubt it, since a) I have no interest in having blond hair, blue eyes, or a different nose, or even Lilly Pulitzer shift dresses; and b) many people of my ethnic background--my own father included--have stick-straight hair. Of course, as with all things anyone desires, there are probably a billion unconscious reasons behind my wish for less poufy hair, but, as with Manic Panic hairdye, I haven't got the patience to figure it out.

An undocumented success

My roommates and I had a fabulous housewarming party last night. It allegedly went till after 4am, but I was tired and am a deep sleeper (read: am far geekier than my two roommates) so I did not witness the last couple hours. In my defense, I've been on those notorious party drugs, Sudafed and Tylenol, the last few days, so my stamina was not what it might have been. But it was quite incredible how many people showed up, despite the rain and the mysterious disappearance of the 2-3 train on weekends.

I wanted to take pictures--not so much to document the party itself as to show how cool our supermarket-special posters look under the glow of pink Christmas-tree lights--but my camera batteries refuse to charge. But, to report, ala NY Social Diary, among the guests were a surprisingly large number of Jewish day school graduates; a not surprisingly large number of Stuyvesant graduates; many of Katherine's co-workers; the couple who kindly lost interest in their couch right after we moved down the block from them; and a guy named Boris, whose presence prompted Katherine and Masha to tell me this morning how that name is actually pronounced in Russian (Boh-REECE, no?). There were two Borises in my high school homeroom, so having this knowledge earlier might have come in handy.

A political alliance with wholesomeness

"Seinfeld" is a thing of the past, both literally--the show has ended--and figuratively--the show could never happen now. The final episode of "Seinfeld" predicted television's (as well as society's) trajectory--normal, nice, real Americans with good values sabotage sarcastic, witty, mean-spirited New Yorkers.

"Seventh Heaven" is second only to "Designing Women" as my sedative of choice--it's remarkable how much I get done when I do not have a television and thus have access to neither of these. I do, however, intend to get the "Seinfeld" DVDs one of these days, because the show does not, from what I can tell, turn my brain to complete mush.

I was too young during most of the "Seinfeld" era to say whether society is really all that different now than then, and my sense that middle-American values, or what's seen as middle-American values, are now all the rage may come from the fact that, until four years ago, I hadn't met that many middle-Americans or seen the Midwest. But I do get the sense that we're becoming more of a "Seventh Heaven" country, one in which even cynical, Seinfeldian neocon-types--Jews, often, but hardly all American Jews fit into this category--find themselves forced into a political alliance with wholesomeness.

In the NYT article about post-Seinfeldian NBC, a viewer is quoted as saying, of why she would watch a show in which NBC buys things for people in need: "It's refreshing to see good things happen to people who deserve it." That it is. But it's also refreshing to drink a glass of mint iced tea, turn on the TV and see people run out of the bathroom in their friends' apartments, holding the newspaper and screaming, "Say Vandelay, say Vandelay," or to see people make a remark about how awful kids with ponies are and then discover that the aged immigrant relative at the end of the table had a pony as a girl in Poland.

An hour in Midtown

Forgive me for my lack of humility, but say this I must: I am the world's foremost expert at making the most of an hour in Midtown.

During my lunch break a few days ago, I remebered my mother telling me about a Japanese grocery store not far from my office. All this talk about Japanese hair-straightening led me to crave sushi (the humidity made craving straight hair somewhat futile), and the rate at which my cold meant I needed tissues meant it probably wasn't the day to get lunch with other people from work, so off I went. Four pieces of salmon roe sushi and four of asparagus sushi, plus a diet Coke, for the price of lunch at a nearby deli, or maybe even a bit less. Almost everyone else there was Japanese--including a man working there with what appeared to be naturally wavy hair. What do you know?

With time to spare, I was able to check out the latest in designer-inspired fashion at a nearby H&M, and still make it back to work on time.

The best way to make use of an hour or a bit less is to know what's within walking distance of where you work. Subways and buses are unreliable and whatever you'd take them to could probably--assuming you work in a busy part of a major city--be found nearby. Also key is not thinking that because a break is referred to as "lunch" means that you have to eat and only eat during this time. Eating's probably a good idea--assuming you're not on lunch break from being a model--but NYC is filled with places where you can get that eating out of the way quickly, which is good if you need to return to work immediately, but also if you have other things--admiring $29.99 blazers, hoping to run into Molly's wonderful dog Lola--on the agenda for that hour.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


I'm not sure how I hadn't noticed this before, but I am now at my second job in a row located on East 58th Street, except that last time it was Chicago's and this time it's Manhattan's.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The N'awlins Address

Last night, el Presidente vowed to help prepare the nation for an "act of evil men that could threaten our people."

...Is that same-sex marriage? Sodomy? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

French Quarter

When I saw that there was an article in Slate called "Louisiana's Napoleon Complex," I immediately guessed what it would be about, and was wrong. But upon guessing, I figured that since the article did not make the connection I'd imagined it would, I might as well make it myself.

The obvious parallel to Hurricane Katrina is not 9/11 but rather the tragic neglect and mass death of French elderly people during a heat wave in the summer of 2003. Both catastrophes shock not because of what was done, but because of what wasn't done, and because they were things that one doesn't expect to happen in a modern, Western country. "How could this happen here?," we ask, mystified, and then the rounds of blaming begin. Our own government may indirectly be at fault for not putting appropriate measures into place that might have prevented an attack like 9/11, but an external enemy made the situation easier to grasp.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Japanese hair-straightening: The follow-up

Kei has responded to my request for information about the seemingly oxymoronic, or at the very least improbable, "Japanese hair-straightening" trend. Her post is complete with pictures of and references to ethnically Japanese women who do, in fact, straighten their hair:

Phoebe asked, "Is it just that the minority in Japan without naturally straight hair feel especially bad about it, leading to an especially efficient hair-straightening process to fill that niche?" Basically, the answer is YES.

I am one of the minority that Phoebe speaks of; I was annoyed by my not-straight hair, and yes, this especially efficient hair-straightening process was created for people like me....

....I will say this in it and other relaxing techniques' defense: it may not seem a big deal to people with straight hair, or people who don't care about straightening their or anyone else's hair. Rather, these processes mean more to the people who want their hair stick-straight. Speaking from experience, I can say that it does make a significant difference to all of a sudden have manageable hair, and to not have to spend 30-45 minutes straightening your hair before you go to bed, before you go out, etc.

Read her whole post. I say this not only because I'm amused that someone of Japanese heritage has the exact same concerns about her hair (too poufy, too inconsistently wavy) as I do, but because she really does shed light on 1) the subtle things people want to change about their appearances, things no one else would notice--hair that would seem straight to someone non-Asian might seem excessively poufy to the person whose hair it is; and 2) the fact that women of all ethnic backgrounds apparently straighten their hair. The women you see walking around NYC, if not elsewhere, with stick-straight hair do not, by and large, come by it naturally. That African-American women often straighten their hair is common knowledge, and apparently there's a special term, "jair," for the straightened hair of Jewish women. ("Apparently" as in the NYT Style section heard one person say it and thus suggests it's a commonly-used term). But I also know women with ethnic backgrounds ranging from WASP to South American who straighten their hair, so hair-straightening is by no means just a Japanese, black, and Jewish thing.

Why is this so significant? Because hair often is seen as a political issue--natural and proud of one's heritage versus artificial and self-hating. But if many, many women of all backgrounds are doing it, at most it can be seen as a political issue insofar as men of all backgrounds seem to be spared from this particular chore. But as I see it, even if the fashion of straight hair comes from a desire to "look white" (absurd, given how few white people have naturally stick-straight hair, but I suppose not unlike the trend of blondness in that respect), society is improving if not only is this physical trait something that can be bought, but is something that even white and Asian women are buying. Natural versus unnatural ceases to matter, which, while it might sound upsetting for those reared on the rhetoric of Whole Foods, is actually a good thing in this case. I'd rather live in a society where, for a small amount of money, the desired look can be achieved, than one in which racial purity determines who's considered attractive.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Muffin as madeleine

It is a miracle that I had any friends whatsoever during high school. Whenever I met a new friend for lunch, I'd bring the unsuspecting classmate to Downtown Delicious, a place very proud of its anti-Starbucks identity, which nevertheless charged as much as if not more than their much larger competitor, and which offered the decor of a corporate bathroom and a wide variety of Yura muffins and espresso drinks, along with some sketchy wrap sandwiches. Downtown Delicious is no more, but today I got lunch at a coffee bar in Midtown that sells Yura muffins, and felt drawn to the banana cranberry, despite knowing all to well that it contains what I'd guess are pecans.

Proust's madeleine brings back memories worthy of what might be the greatest novel of all time. What memories did the muffin bring back, other than that I do not like muffins with nuts? Did it bring back AP classes and the college process, or the surprisingly complex social life of New York's most fantabulous science high school? Did I remember the people with whom I ate these muffins and drank--as I did today--skim cappuccinos, or did I just remember how sometimes these muffins are stale and sometimes less so? I came to the profound realization that no classic novel will ever come out of my muffin consumption, along with the less profound realization that I should have gotten a blueberry muffin instead.

Monday, September 12, 2005

An attempt at yuppiedom

I live in gentrified Brooklyn and am a young urban professional. So today I went for a run, which I'd better call a jog, and which included a bit of a walk. After work, convinced from the air-conditioning at the office that it must be cool out, I headed to the park to run what I thought would be a 2 1/2 mile loop. After over half an hour of slow running, I realized I had not yet completed this loop. While I am not by any means a fast runner, I am not generally this slow. Had I overshot the mark? I had absolutely no idea how far I was from where I'd entered, so I asked a couple of teenagers, who informed me that the entrance I was looking for was really far away. So I began to walk, thinking myself pathetic for doing so, but realizing that the end might never arrive. And then a few moments later...the entrance. Turns out there's a smaller running loop and then a road that's well over 3 miles, and I'd taken the road, on which I dodged bikes, cars, and a horse being ridden by one not especially advanced riding student. Oh well.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A timeless question unanswered.

I was inspired by Kei's post, "A Timeless Question Answered," exploring fake nails, to ask a timeless question of my own, one which Kei, being experienced in things Japanese, might be able to answer: Why Japanese hair-straightening? It's apparently a technique that comes from Japan--but why would hair straightening be so popular in Japan? Is it actually popular in Japan, or is that just how it's marketed in the States? Is it just that the minority in Japan without naturally straight hair feel especially bad about it, leading to an especially efficient hair-straightening process to fill that niche? Japanese hair straightening seems pretty popular in NYC, perhaps because non-Japanese-American women associate the process with getting Japanese-looking hair. I remain perplexed, and would thus like this timeless question answered.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I lost the top of Katherine's head in order to be certain to get in her flat, chic, yet sadly less-comfortable-than-they-should-be shoes. Masha, well-accessorized, wishes people had more power, or so her shirt would have you believe. Posted by Picasa

Looking more francophilic than usual, and wearing somewhat impractical shoes.  Posted by Picasa

At a local bar, which may or may not be a male-friendly lesbian bar, but which apparently sells pierogies. Posted by Picasa

The women of the Prospect Heights-Park Slope border. Posted by Picasa

I love where I live

I've never been able to say this before. I've loved parts of the cities I've lived in, but have never before lived somewhere where all the fun was within walking distance. My definition of "within walking distance" allows for a great deal more walking than do most, but even I will attest to the fact that Hyde Park, Chicago, is not within walking or running distance of downtown, and I have walked and run this route several times. On the Upper East Side, there was plenty within walking distance, but very little, with the exception of museum admission, that I could afford, or would even want in the first place. In Paris, the really good flan was a commuter train and a metro ride away.

Now, within walking distance, there are: a farmers' market comparable to the one at Union Square; a gazillion places selling iced coffee and iced cappuccinos; bars cheaper and with better atmospheres than those in the East Village; people who, though often attractive, are not aspiring model-actors; a bunch of useful subway lines; multiracial hippie families; multiracial yuppie families; legitimately nice and cheap vintage clothing; a park, in which, in theory, I will go running; a small dog that has been dyed bright blue. And so much more. A blue-state paradise, without the insularity of the Upper West Side.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The worst pizza in NYC

Ray's on 63rd and Lex. Over $4 for a slice that makes Bartlett pizza look like John's, Two Boots, or Pintaile's. Consider this service journalism.


Right before I started college, September 11 happened. Right before I started my first post-college job, Katrina. History is repeating itself on a national and personal level. It's very odd, grounding, yes, but in a depressing way, to be reminded of the silliness of one's own concerns--What will I wear on the first day? Who will be in my dorm or office?--when faced with incomprehensible, gruesome tragedy. Starting school after 9/11 seemed much stranger, most likely because I was in Manhattan at the time but left a couple days later, and because it's more culturally expected to make a fuss about starting college than about starting a job.

I feel no major guilt for being happy and excited to start school or work despite the times at which these events have fallen. Life should go on. I do, however, catch myself whenever I start to complain about these changes, to dread the commute or to think how awful it is that Orientation Week includes a swim test. Catch myself, but continue to complain--life goes on, and no hurricane or terrorism victims are helped by internal stoicism. Also, I feel--reasonably, I think--incapable of thinking of either event as, objectively speaking, a big deal. It's expected that people temporarily, or at least momentarily, consider their own situation the most important in the world whenever they reach some life-change or another. Not under these circumstances.

Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens

Mmm, tasty. Posted by Picasa

I suppose that makes this technically an internship. Posted by Picasa

Where my driverginity was lost. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Recent happenings of no global import whatsoever

1) My driverginity was broken. In a gigantic Rockaway Beach parking lot, all classy-like. By this I mean that I drove for the first time. Ever. I have a permit, and was in a car with a licensed driver, so no worries.

2) I've discovered Pain Quotidien to-go near where I work. Oren's coffee, also not far. Barneys, again, not far. Temptation is everywhere. My splurges have thus far been limited to two iced coffees a day and some organic take-out Belgian food.

3) I'm off heels. When you're in high school or even college, they're for special occasions, for parties or going out. When they become possible--even encouraged--everyday shoes, they start to lose their appeal. And, while I own a pair of white running sneakers, I'm not yet prepared to pair them with a suit.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A silly defense of literature

I am now reading three books. My roommates and I do not have a television, go figure. I have nothing against books, nothing against television but think it's something I should probably steer clear of, and--as should be obvious by now--have nothing against blogs. And despite being a UChicago grad, I have nothing against precocious Harvard types who get printed in the NYT op-ed section. So I must come to Jeremy Blachman's defence, albeit indirectly, by asking what on earth is going on with David Sharp of Paris's letter to the NYT:

To the Editor:

In "Job Posting" (Op-Ed, Aug. 31), his defense of corporate employees who blog, Jeremy Blachman writes: "Now that everyone can publish online, we can get these incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see. People across the world can share stories, commiserate and connect with each other. Potential employees can see beyond the marketing pitches."

There is already such a mechanism. It's called literature.

One form of content that can be very effectively delivered via literature is known as fiction, and it can be used to provide all sorts of "incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see," including the worlds of work.

Why did this letter get printed? Is it just so succinct and witty that it had to be picked, or is it that any letter promoting reading (or, alterately, whole grains) must be of interest to the NYT readership? Literature is a glimpse into different worlds, yes, but novels cannot--and never could--provide the same volume of instant, perfectly contemporary portraits of not just jobs in general but the very same jobs that are currently in the listings, held by your friends, and so on. Blogs don't necessarily provide readers with abstract, universally-relevant, for-the-ages information, but the details a novelist skips over for the sake of art might well be the ones Blachman's "potential employees" seek out.

Furthermore, why must blogs and fiction be in competition as genres? They overlap, for one thing, with plenty of blogs eschewing or bending real-life events in order to tell a better story.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Still here

Moving to a new apartment, starting a new job, and finding "suit"-able clothing (pun intended, obviously) have cut into my blogging schedule. As well they should--these things are important! Plus, said new apartment is wireless in a very real sense: not yet with Internet. So, while I have much to say about the men of Chelsea and how much they love chihuahua mutts (but not in a creepy way or anything--social commentary related to this anecdote to follow) and why French Jews are visiting Israel as tourists, and how some woman in Prospect Heights/Park Slope was really enthusiastic about a Whole Foods arriving until she found out my shopping bags came from Chelsea... So much to blog, but the blogging must wait. Patience, patience.

Friday, September 02, 2005


How exactly did an article in the "Hartford Advocate" about a woman who's bitter about her divorce end up getting a link from Arts & Letters Daily? It might be because it is the most bitter op-ed ever written. Sure, there have been plenty of angry op-eds, furious, even, but bitter? That's far more unusual.

Not for one second does Annabel Lee's account of her failed marriage read as broadly applicable social commentary. Lee's strong suit seems to be projection: her marriage didn't work, so no one's will. She and her husband didn't have sex, so marriage, by definition, dooms sex. She didn't get custody, so divorced mothers do not get custody. You think you're just hearing one woman's story? Oh no, this is your story, reader.

Her claims are preposterous. First, she blames the divorce rate in part on the availability of cable shows starring George Clooney or Kate Winslet. (Why those two?)It only gets more bizarre:

"[A]s I've learned, by inserting the well-placed question into many a casual conversation, most married couples are sexually incompatible. People with strong sex drives tend to admire and marry people who basically disapprove of sex. People with low sex drives are intrigued by people with high sex drives. Sexual opposites attract and then go on to torment each other 'til murder or divorce, whichever comes first, do them part."

Huh? While surely some are neurotic and twisted in this way, it's the "most"s that confuse things. Do any studies support this? Better yet, do her friends' experiences even support this, or does she assume incompatibility and squeeze the right answers out of her friends? And then there's this charming nugget:

"Marriage is a naturally polarizing process that causes one person to detest, over time, what the other person loves."

Bitterness defined. That's all this article provides. Lee makes no convincing argument about the state of marriage in contemporary society. She does, however, insert a "(ha!)" into the middle of one of her sentences, and for this we must be grateful.

As a personal essay or perhaps a first-person short story, Lee's piece makes for a compelling read. But her insistence that her story is everyone's story, and the placement of this story in what appears to be a news section, makes the whole thing a bit odd. The NYT's new "Modern Love" feature doesn't pretend to be anything other than individuals who write well enough holding forth on their breakups. It's once these stories replace more reasonable discussion that we should be concerned.

I don't know what to say

See CNN, obviously, and also Kei, who makes some good points.