Friday, May 08, 2009

Thoughts of the moment

-It's a library, people! I will come at you soon with my Duane Reade umbrella if it doesn't stop soon. (I kid. But please, stop.)

-Anne Hathaway, star of the nausea-inducing but chic-haircut-inspiring film, "Rachel Getting Married," spotted yesterday in that no man's land between the East Village and the Lower East Side. Looks quite like me (including the frightening pallor) but taller, better, which is reasonable, considering that she's a movie star and I'm a backpack-wielding grad student. (Incidentally, a friend of mine named Rachel is soon to wed, and I cannot refer to this event without that movie's title coming to mind.)

-Wish you were thinner and more productive? So does Judith Warner. So does everyone. Thus the appeal in this day and age of drugs that increase productivity while decreasing appetite. You know what also increases productivity while decreasing appetite? A giant and perhaps too strong iced coffee and a raspberry muffin. Highly recommended.

-Who are these people, and how did they come to be so fabulous? Zana Bayne, whoever you are, you are also American? Around my age, yes? How did this world of minimalist Berliners (or is that the pastry?) come to be your life?


Paul Gowder said...

I am not at all convinced that coffee can be too strong. Maybe if your heart explodes before sip 3.

Phoebe said...

If you keep adding more and more milk but it still looks black, and if, after drinking the thing, you can't stop babbling, then yes, the coffee is too strong. Which is still, of course, better than too weak - it permits energetic blogging and even more graphomaniacal paper-writing, which, with coffee, is kind of the point.

Matt said...

Judith Warner is terribly unpleasant, I think. I can never finish one of her articles whenever I make the mistake to try to read one.

What were the annoying library people doing? Being noisy, or something worse? Noisy in the library is already pretty bad, though.

What do you consider the "no man's land"? I kind of like the area South of Houston and north of Grand. South of that is the far edges of China town, mostly, no? The non-tourist part?

Miss Self-Important said...

I think this essay managed one essential truth: "In other words, they are decent students at schools where, to be a great student, you have to give up a lot more partying than they’re willing to give up." Knowing that, we should stop caring about their plight, right? But no, then there are seven more pages.

Phoebe said...


After taking many a driving lesson in and around Chinatown, I guarantee there's no longer a "non-tourist part." But this was Bowery, near Bleecker, which is either the East Village or NoHo, or just kind of its own thing.


Was there supposed to be a "plight"? I thought if there was one, it was that our society may turn into one of automaton accountants, with drugs that sap creativity replacing ones that (allegedly) encourage it. But I didn't get the sense that we were supposed to consider underachieving Harvard grads objects of pity. (Then again...)

Phoebe said...

Oh, and the library noise? People talking, then, after a respite, graduation-related bagpipes outside. Why does graduation render otherwise normal American universities Scottish?

PG said...

"But I didn't get the sense that we were supposed to consider underachieving Harvard grads objects of pity."

Not so much objects of pity as Horrible Warnings who are culturally expected to have been Good Examples. Maybe this is just immigrant culture, but the idea that you would put so much effort and money into having a kid graduate from Harvard, and then he ends up an underachiever, is nightmarish for many people. Albeit not the kind of people who passively accept their kid's getting a film degree and who don't pressure him to plan out what he's doing with his life.

Phoebe said...


Do you mean the New Yorker story or the Salon letter? Because the latter does seem to be directed at the parents of overeducated slackers, whereas the former struck me as a warning more about the lack of creativity coming from Our Best And Brightest than about a lack of achievement in the immigrant-culture sense you describe. The idea being that it might be better if the Harvard guy were on acid than if he were on whatever the drug he was on is called, not that it would be better if he were a successful doctor/lawyer.

PG said...

I think both are about mediocrity in Our Best and Brightest -- the pill-poppers in the NYer article, as MSI notes, are the B students. The article's larger point is about neuro-enhancement on a larger scale and among non-students, but I was looking mostly at the first part and the other bits focusing on students. (I was particularly amused by the suggestion that UVa would have people pee in cups before taking an exam, considering that pretty much all exams are on the honor system already -- people who would break a rule against performance enhancing drugs probably already break other rules.) If you're taking Adderall not to be the best, but to compensate for having spent the weekend smoking pot and watching "Lost," you're not living up to Grandma's dreams.

Also, I didn't get the sense from the article that Talbot is anxious about a lack of creativity that otherwise would be spurred if he were on acid -- the only reference I saw to that type of drug was in the second and third to last paragraphs of the article, and then very glancingly. There is creativity involved in being a highly successful doctor or lawyer; your brain has to have some freedom to pull together associations to come up with a solution. (At least, "House" gives this impression about being a doctor. Even at my fairly piddly level of litigation, I think there's some creativity required where you have to come up with a rationale for why USB has liability, and I hear tax work is very creative ;-)

Phoebe said...

Ah. I took her conclusion to be her argument.

"There is creativity involved in being a highly successful doctor or lawyer"

Of course there is - did I say there was not? OK, my wording was a mess, but at any rate that's not where I was going with that. My point re: "doctor/lawyer" was that these are examples of careers immigrant parents are known to encourage, and that the author was, as I understood it, questioning the lack of creativity of the Adderall users, not (as would the immigrant parent) their lack of professional aspirations.

"If you're taking Adderall not to be the best, but to compensate for having spent the weekend smoking pot and watching "Lost," you're not living up to Grandma's dreams."

I mean, maybe? But if the Adderall compensation works, and allows you the pot, the "Lost", and the decent grades, how crushed can Grandma possibly be? Wouldn't that be something of a win-win? Unless Grandma expects a valedictorian, but not everyone can win at everything, so Adderall or no Adderall, that theoretical Grandma will be disappointed regardless.

(I don't remember my own grandmother, technically an immigrant, ever expressing concerns about my college performance, but I'm assuming Canada doesn't count.)

PG said...

In aid of celeb-spotting.