Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ambition and the kitchen

Really? I mean, fine, the everything-must-be-from-scratch brigade needs a dose of pragmatism and could stand to lose the sanctimonious tone. And yes, if you live near an Amy's, you don't need to bake your own baguettes. But seven hours a week preparing food seems a harmless enough trade-off, considering how much less you'll spend (esp. if your preferred meal is pasta) and how much more control you'll have over the ingredients - important whether your concern is taste, health, or both.

'Just stay home!'

Why, why, why does this week's Complaint, about tipping, fail to distinguish between the restaurant tip, which everyone understands to be part of the quasi-official cost of the meal, and the coffee bar tip, which is a way to get the hipster barista, who already makes more than minimum wage, to like you?

A few thoughts:

-As irritating as the tip-jar phenom may be, what really needs to happen is for restaurants to go that route. Not literally, with sign-bearing tins at the register, but by raising prices by 17-18%, so that a tip returns to being just that. Which is to say, eliminating tips altogether has a certain appeal, but removes a perfectly harmless way for those who appreciate good service, or who want to show that they're big-shots, to increase the incomes of people in the service professions. A number of customers would tip what they used to regardless, even with a giant "Service Included" on top of the menu. Meanwhile, if an implicit twice-the-tax were part of the bill regardless, those who didn't want to tip beyond what fairly pays the server could do just that, and those who never cared about fairly paying the server in the first place are, at long last, forced to do so or not dine out in the first place. Problem solved.

-Why do we have the tip-based system to begin with? As one of the commenters points out, it makes things easier for restaurant management if the waitstaff fumes at individual customers, rather than at their own bosses. So that explains their reasoning. But why do customers put up with it? Is it the illusion of lower prices? Or (as I suspect) is it that we, Americans in particular, feel guilt at having someone do something for us we could do ourselves. Unlike Europeans, who see getting a coffee, meal, or drink out as just part of civilized life, we see these things as somehow shameful. Even if we ultimately pay the same as we would in a service-included system, we on some level like how the tip reminds us that we are indulging in a luxury. It's a sort of puritanical self-flagellation.

-The people who comment on articles like this claiming it's unheard-of to tip less than 30% in a restaurant, or classless to tip under $2 per drink in a bar, a) work as waiters or bartenders, and b) should get over themselves. Everyone knows that normal is 15-20% in restaurants, a dollar per drink in normal bars, assuming drinks at give or take $7. Given the number of patrons who comment with pride that a) they never tip, or b) they consider all tips as optional and for good service only, which is to say, they don't consider a baseline 15% or any % as part of the bill, it seems absurd to try to shame the 17-18% tippers into eating at home. If people who couldn't afford or didn't wish to tip 30% stayed home, good luck keeping restaurants open.

-Why are commenters so convinced the author of the rant has never himself worked in food service? What great miracle is supposed to take place if one has? I worked in a coffee bar, and that doesn't make me think $5 is an appropriate tip for a muffin and coffee to go, or that any tip is needed in that situation. Nor did I spend the years prior to that job oblivious to the fact that restaurant servers live off tips. And really, are we supposed to believe that the people who make asses of themselves in restaurants, snapping for waiters, not leaving any tip, behave this way because they grew up so wealthy that they never had to work crummy jobs? I have my doubts.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Baking makes no sense

For some reason, these brownies - recipe followed exactly, except for the '40 strokes with a wooden spoon' bit - tasted, a few hours out of the oven, like something of a disaster, a waste of time and ingredients. Not only did they not look gooey and amazing like in the picture, but they tasted just... wrong, too greasy and almost sandy in texture.

Then I forgot to cover them overnight, but felt it would be wrong to throw them out. I tried one, expecting it to be just a stale version of the previous day's brownies and... it was delicious! Jo confirmed that they truly did taste entirely different the next day. Not sure the chemistry of what happened there, but it was like accidentally discovering penicillin.

Friday, February 26, 2010

In the other window is my paper

-19th C lumberjack chic and all that fun stuff done right, which is to say, reinterpreted rather than stitch-by-stitch imitated. Personally, I don't want them, but they'd look good on someone, I'm sure.

-Local-sustainable done wrong. OK, not so much done wrong as described wrong. Why was deli food "Jewish" when in Europe, but merely "American" in the US? Are Jewish and American mutually exclusive? Are we pretending latkes and the like have no non-Jewish Eastern European culinary roots? What I like about the article, however, is that after I (and, fine, a few other people as well) pointed out that Pollan's suggestion to eat what our great-grandmothers did is kind of ridiculous for many cuisines, here we are learning that shtetl food is, in fact, to be emulated, if only because back then they had less food and worse cuts of meat. (For full-on shtetl recreation on hipster terrain, this could take place in Williamsburg, what with neighboring Greenpoint...)

-I keep getting academic-list emails that catch my attention for the wrong reasons. One was about a conference quite literally on images of the penis, a conference no doubt designed as fodder. Another led to a site that looked quite interesting, but with an unfortunate link: "Click Here For Antisemitism." "Antisemitism" meaning, apparently, articles analyzing the phenomenon.

-I am suggestible, and have hair that should probably get some professional attention prior to this conference. Not the penis conference. A different one.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On bangs

Are bangs a good idea? Yes? No? Maybe? So much of a haircut's appeal or lack thereof is about associations.

On sticking it to Hitler

Can we please, please see a moratorium on referring to Jews' procreation as somehow 'sticking it to the Nazis'? Please? I noticed a reference to this in the NYT story about a Holocaust survivor who recently died leaving 2,000 descendants, which is apparently a lot even by Hasidic standards. Now I see that Jeffrey Goldberg not only agrees that this fruitfulness was to spite Hitler, but chooses this as the angle of the story to highlight.

I mean, I get it if someone who personally survived the Holocaust decided that having a kid would be a way to affirm continued Jewish existence. (There's an interesting academic paper on this topic - a DP camp baby boom - I could dig up if anyone's interested.) But in this case, it looks like religious faith, not populationist revenge, was the issue.

As for Jews today who are not members of particularly pro-natalist sects, it's not only dangerous but unnecessary to suggest that baby-making is the way to get the Nazis back. Simply continuing to live and breathe is, if you're Jewish, half-Jewish, of Jewish origin, sticking it to Hitler. And that's enough. True, Hitler didn't want Jews having babies, but the more significant thing to remember is that he didn't want already-existing people who happened to be Jews according to his definition to go on living, period. The loss of potential Jews and of a civilization, as tragic as both were, cannot be compared with the actual loss of millions of individuals who, proud or not, observant or not, counted as Jews at that time. The way to get revenge against* the Nazis, if you're Jewish and so inclined, is to just keep doing what you were doing already.

*Thanks, PG!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Conspiracy theory of the day, II

Is "The Biggest Loser" perhaps kinda-sorta sponsored by the government? I ask because I was watching it just now while making dinner (ah, Hulu), and at one point, one of those ads came on for what might be the First Lady's attempt to end childhood obesity - or what was at any rate an ad about preventing childhood obesity - by encouraging children to play outside and risk an infinitesimal chance of abduction rather than play video games inside with a much greater chance of needing to buy an extra plane ticket as an adult. It got me thinking: is the whole show a giant public-service announcement? It's certainly got private sponsors galore, clumsily inserted into the script, with contestants saying things like, 'That's right, Bob and Jillian, by eating Name-Brand 99% fat-free turkey burgers, I'll lose those extra 400 pounds in no time!' But there's something about the show - is it the flawless racial and geographical mix? the nonsense message that weight loss comes nearly entirely from exercise, with diet almost too taboo to mention, perhaps because of corn subsidies or whatever it is Pollan's going on about when he's actually making sense? - that makes me suspect it's more official than meets the eye.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 1 as a hat-person

So I spent much of the day with my hand gripping the hat, for fear that in a gust of wind, the thing would fall off on the very first day I wore it, which would be tragic. Jo found this amusing, so I now have an iPhoto album largely devoted to shots of me gripping my head, prompted by Jo saying, "Watch your hat!" I caught on eventually, but to err on the safe side, grabbed the top of my head at every opportunity:

Completing the hat experience: the 23rd Street R train station, which I had never before noticed is hat-themed:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Frizz is in

Ha. This will speed up many, many women's morning routines if it catches on. Here's hoping the trend lasts at least through the humid months this summer.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

They say something happened with Sullivan and Wieseltier?

I've opted to sit out the latest round (summed up here, via) of 'who're you calling anti-Semitic, beeyatch,' basically because I feel I've already said all I have to say on the topic of why it's impossible to use the term 'anti-Semitism' in reference to anyone other than Hitler himself without being accused of hysterical paranoia. One cannot properly refer to anyone pre-1880s as anti-Semitic, because that didn't exist then, even if it basically did, because of questions of anachronistic terminology. This much makes sense, academically at least. But then we're to believe there haven't been any anti-Semites since World War II, because once we established that Hitler Wuz Mean, Jews today are the leaders of gosh-darn-everything, and are basically like white people, privilege-wise, but more so. Rather than defining anti-Semitism as hatred of Jews, we've so thoroughly equated it with that-which-manifests-itself-as-an-otherwise-respectable-Western-country-going-genocidal-in-the-early-1940s, so mere down-with-Jewish-influence-ism in other contexts can't be labeled anti-Semitic, because that would be going overboard. It's all just an amalgam of genuine concern about Wall Street and AIPAC, and anyone who says otherwise is one of those whiny Jews.

In other words, I'd whine more, but it's exhausting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Assorted food items

-Like I said.

-Motorino's is the best pizza in NY? Are we even supposed to pretend this is a meaningful superlative, on such a subjective matter? My theory is that whichever pizza place you eat at when you are hungriest is the best pizza in that locale, which puts the Two Boots slices they used to serve after evening workshops in my department around 9pm at the very top in my book. Although for nostalgic and I'd like to think objective reasons, I'd have to go with the Pintaile's plain slice.

-Left with extra cornstarch I don't know what to do with from after the plum tart, my plan is to make agedashi tofu. My expectations could not be lower. We shall see.

Grad school for boys and girls

The manifestos against going to humanities grad school (which, like those against the skinny-models, are eternal) are often guilty of not differentiating between funded programs and non-, well-ranked ones and less so. But another angle they leave out, and that I hadn't really thought about until reading Matt Feeney's recent post and its comments, is gender. What difference does it make if the 22-year-old choosing between doctoral programs and whatever else is a man or a woman?

The 'plus' of being around undergrads that Feeney alludes to, then explains outright, is obviously somewhat gender-specific, as in, the presence of 19-year-old boys is of no particular advantage to most mid-20s straight women. Feeney writes of meeting his wife "when my dissertation was already finished... when she was a senior." This is not a situation I could imagine any of my female classmates finding themselves in. That said, the drawback of "'being poor through your late twenties'" (Feeney quoting a commenter) is probably a lot less pronounced for women than men. The market for well-read women who can make intelligent cocktail party chit-chat but who don't do anything that sounds too intimidating career-wise (and when I tell anyone what I study, and what my boyfriend does, take a guess whether it's French or astrophysics that gets the stunned silence) is surely greater than for our male equivalents. If the argument against humanities grad school is that it's basically a type of finishing-school, then that's in a sense an argument for grad school for women in urban areas looking to meet rich, possibly older, men.

Then there's the question of fertility, which for women we've decided ends at 21. Or, even if we're going with 35, grad school is reputed to keep women hostage till that age. Does being a grad student make marriage/kids in one's mid-20s less of an option? Or (as I suspect) is it just that the sort of people who go to grad school are the types who go to PhD programs are not typically the sort interested in either that young, or at all? Because plenty of couples are starting families on household incomes the same as mine without this being even a tiny bit tragic. If we the childless 26-year-old humanities grad students list income among the reasons we don't have kids, it's mainly because the people we know with kids make more than we do, either because they're already profs or because they work in a different field, and we associate having kids with already having a particular standard of living. And... if you're a girl grad-student who's parlayed your sophisticated non-intimidatingness into a hedge-fund beau, problem solved, assuming you're not dead set on taking that tenure-track job half a country away from Wall Street and are OK with teaching high school on the Upper East Side.

Then there's the question of ego. In my limited experience of the world, those who enter grad school imagining a future of tenure, wood-paneling, and nubile acolytes, those who enter grad school because It Is Their Calling, because they are Intellectuals, these are in virtually all cases men. On the one hand, having this attitude towards grad school makes you an annoyance to fellow grad students, and leads to severe disappointment when The Job they are owed isn't there. But! It probably helps in terms of getting through grad school not to dwell too much on the Plan Bs. But! It helps, if you're not actually a genius, not to go through life convinced you are one, and since most of us, male and female alike, are nothing of the sort, here, women may have the advantage.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Conspiracy theory of the day

Every Fashion Week, the question gets asked.* Every week, even: The models, why are they so thin? So young? What's driving this? When will someone help the poor girls?

While the biocon (h/t to Isabel Archer for this oh-so-useful term) answer would be that men lust after 15-year-olds like no one's business, I suspect that men at the very least like 15-year-olds with breasts, and that an alternate explanation is needed.

The easy answer is that models are as thin as they are because people can't get enough of reading the same story again and again, and if the models were size 6, there's be no story. But my conspiracy theory is that they are as they are because this makes grown women with an interest - professional or amateur - in fashion take pity on the poor dears (see the comments to the video, but perhaps also the video itself). If the women fashion was being marketed to were confronted with models who were simply beautiful, well-proportioned 24-year-olds from happy suburban homes, young women who make more in this career than they would otherwise but are not fleeing post-Soviet poverty, the only feeling would be jealousy.

It feels wrong to envy the prepubescent Lithuanian peasant girl, away from home for the first time, an innocent, deer-in-headlights, whatever, in the scary world of judgmental casting directors and worse. We sense that they are if anything more victimized by Fashion than we, the jeans-dig-into-our-hips-no-matter-what audience. As was not the case with earlier incarnations of models, we have trouble imagining this set as vain, or even as cheerily enjoying their youth and good looks. "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" is something one could imagine coming from a Naomi Campbell or a Brooke Shields, but not from one of today's waifs. We picture this set going straight from being teased for their lankiness in middle school (or whatever that's called in Estonia) to leading a life that, we're forever reminded, is not glamorous, contrary to what we surely expect. How can we - heavier, older, and with careers that extend past age 18 - wish to trade places with them? They're tragic, basically, by industry design.

*Uh, typo fixed.

The academic relevance of Jezebel

So my dissertation's basically about this, but in 19th century France. Seriously.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"'He’s 41, tall, cute, Jewish, smart.'"

-Yes, yes, and yes. All I'd add is that grad student TAs can sometimes look ambiguous age-wise, at least from certain angles, and that for this reason students should not assume all the trendily/shabbily-dressed 20-somethings on campus are your classmates.

-Speaking of which, my least practical purchase in ages, inspired by the chic women of Tribeca, with whom it's safe to say I'm never confused.

-My suspicion that the Lori Gottlieb Grand Theory of Male-Female Relations In the West Today is in fact about the 35-plus Jewish singles scene in a couple cities is confirmed by Gottlieb's description of the things a mysteriously still-single man has going for him: "'He’s 41, tall, cute, Jewish, smart.'" Is "Jewish" a trait that, like "tall," "cute," or "smart," is understood to make a man more desirable? (The "41" is presumably there not because men peak in some way at that age, but to show that he's been single since forever.) Aside from Jewish women who care about this, and some tiny but much-discussed subset of non-Jewish women who read one of those "shiksa-mensch" dating books, it seems like this quality would be neutral at best, and off-putting to the pious of other faiths and to the not-so-keen-on-Jews among women Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for a certain amount of Jewish parochialism. But only if it's self-aware, and if the focus is explicitly on only-Jews in a given context. Simply projecting a specifically Jewish experience - one relevant not even to all Jews or all American Jews, but to a particular culture-within-a-culture-within-a-culture - onto humanity, the coasts, or even the whole of the Upper West Side, doesn't quite work.

And, uh, I'd probably judge someone for declining tap water at a restaurant. It's anecdotes like the one at the beginning of that article that make me think Gottlieb's describing not the Jewish singles scene of New York or L.A., but a subset thereof considered generally undateable within that community.

Major culinary achievements

Below is evidence of my proudest moment ever: a successful recreation of a Belgian plum tart recipe that - and here's the important bit - involved yeast, which I'd never figured out before. Jo and I had been looking at this picture in a recipe book his brother got us since forever, assuming it was in the realm of the unrealizable. And yet! And, the excess dough, rolled into a ball and cooked for I'm not sure how long at 350 degrees, made a totally passable, if dense, breakfast roll.

Friday, February 12, 2010

One at a time

The two central messages we now receive about food are to eat more fresh produce and home-cooked meals, and to eat local. These might both be good ideas in general, and in theory compatible. But only in theory. Practically speaking, to introduce them both at once puts consumers accustomed to following neither rule in a bind for much of the year. There are lots of tasty, healthy food options that don't cost much in time or money to prepare, but I doubt if a single one could be prepared from readily-available local ingredients. The farmers' markets now have zilch. It's not just about greedy sorts who can't get through a few months without berries and asparagus. Even a home cook armed with a virtuous-sounding seasonal recipe will, post-Whole-Foods, end up with a canvas tote full of Californian kale. As convenient as it would be if we could fight obesity and promote local foods all in one go, even in winter, the only way I see this happening is if the local cheese and chocolate is too expensive to get fat on. Which it certainly is.

So maybe a better route would be first to encourage one, then, once that became the default, to start the campaign for the other. My vote would be to get people used to the idea of cooking and of eating non-crap, and once there's a demand for non-crap, looking for the best ways to produce and distribute non-crap, locally or otherwise. Thoughts?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The unreturnability of library books

After the last book saga, I was not delighted to see that the library believes I'm still borrowing many of the books from my orals lists, books that I most definitely returned at the end of last semester. After failed attempts at dealing with this with two different people at circulation (the first seemed to be new at the job, and the second just seemed annoyed and told me to fill out an unrelated form), a third employee seemed to get the issue. He took down the relevant call numbers, and asked me if I'd by any chance returned these books in December. As it happened, I had. Well! Turns out that there was this one day in December when the system crashed, and none of the data from that day got saved. The day happened to coincide with the one I chose for the Great Post-Orals Book Return - one of the major rounds of it, at any rate.

The next step is that someone will go into the stacks to see if the books I allegedly still have are there, which might be reassuring if books were where their call numbers might have you believe they'd be, not just in that general area. (No, "DS" doesn't just go with "DS".) And yes, having been a book-shelver during college gives me the autoritah to fuss about this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Assorted thoughts on past-it-ness

-If you weren't painfully hott at 16 - and most of us were not, as the recent Facebook trend of scanning and uploading one's high school photos reminds - it's all somewhat irrelevant. Sure, finite fertility is a question for all women. But if you know you were never "luscious," turning 28 does not signal any great loss.

-Even if - huge if - most men deep-down preferred virginal-at-marriage stay-at-home moms to ambitious, been-'round-the-block career-women who hire nannies rather than be sweetly domestic 'round the hearth, jump ahead a couple decades and... which 45-year-old woman has a better chance of relating to her 40-something husband: the one with a profession, or the one without? It's not as though "ladylike" women stay permanently 23.

-There's something refreshing about the fact that a 13-year-old blogger getting front seats at fashion week riles adult women more than the fact fact that the models on the runways are give or take that blogger's age. It shows that grown women with an interest in fashion are more jealous of successful fashion writers than of professional mannequins. Of course women care how we look. But when, say, we hear about the currents of our exes, or the exes of our currents, do we only size up their measurements and facial symmetry? Or do we maybe compare CVs?

-Best antidote to Charlotte Allen's piece: Léon Blum's "Du mariage." There's more to it, but here's the basic idea: The desire to see what's out there before settling down is common to men and women alike. Allowing men but not women to play the field prior to settling down forces men to experiment with prostitutes, and leaves the resulting young wives forever wondering 'what if?' every time another man walks by. Marriage is an important institution, and neither men nor women want to be alone at 45. Splitting the romantic lives of men and women alike in two parts, one a pre-age-30 passion-filled exploration, the other a placid, contented, post-30 monogamous partnership, is the best way to produce stable unions. If lust-filled 19-year-olds are allowed to pursue their interests, they will not turn into 35-year-olds who expect marriage to be based on feelings of adolescent-level intensity. All this, by the way, from the early 1900s.

-I still need to read Simone de Beauvoir's La vieillesse.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Don't mind the grad student

Working on a conference paper. The obstacle: two recently-published books, neither of which I've yet read, only one of which I'll have a chance to read before presenting (unless Interlibrary Loan comes through), might turn out to contain exactly what I was planning to present. Might. Seems like not, from articles I've read that (I think?) turned into chapters of these books. But there's always the danger that (goes the chorus) Every Idea I've Ever Had Has Already Been Published.

One possibility: Spin the paper, which comes out of something I was working on pre-dissertation and is about a tangentially related topic, into something more relevant for the dissertation, which I'm fairly certain (from much much searching around, and from asking those far more knowledgeable than myself) is on the one idea I've had that has yet to already have been done, and better, by someone else. Which... will have to be done eventually, but would require more work than can possibly be done before I present the thing, and would mean not ever getting to present this other apparently viable paper that I've been working on at this point since forever.

Another possibility: Set aside for an hour, eat lunch, drink massive amount of coffee, and then take another look.

Yet another possibility: These look good, don't they?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Which will it be?

If Roissy is the new socially conservative ideal, and Palin gets 2012, EU or aliyah?

New York Magazine on Real America

How, if at all, to relate this and this.

Or: Does the back-to-the-land trend, in its aesthetic variations, have anything to do with the populist moment taking place far from Greenpoint and Bushwick? Is this a fight for ownership of Americana, or a sign that Palindom extends further than one might imagine, with a subset of new-Brooklyn suspicious of cosmopolitanism and nostalgic for/convinced of the superiority of their own upbringings, which, even if suburban, were rustic by comparison? Because for ages, the thing new arrivals to trendy NY neighborhoods would do was try to hide the fact that they came from 'the provinces'. Now, the idea is to look the opposite of city slicker. Granted, the look is extremely urban, very much particular to certain neighborhoods and subway lines, and is if anything a reaction to whatever they're wearing back home, whether Abercrombie logo tees or Uggs, Seven jeans or Walmart sundresses. So are the unfortunate beards and pre-Franco-Prussian-War restaurant-sign fonts just an extension of the breathlessly-quoted idea from Michael Pollan about only eating foods our great-great-grandmothers picked at back in the day? Or is there more to it?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Old and New

-Almost finished Old New Land. Fascinating stuff - more on it later. Post-orals leisure reading is all about the books it would be assumed someone with my interests would have read, but that somehow I hadn't gotten to yet, priority going to books someone has, at one point or another, been shocked I haven't read. (Next up: Foucault on sexuality.) The line between work and leisure, when work means reading on the topic of your choice, will be the subject of another post.

-NYT trend-piece alert: A campus that's 55% female makes it altogether impossible for women to find decent boyfriends? The fact that a slight tilt in one direction appears to anyone as making a college 'all-girls' reminds me of claims that a neighborhood with a tiny but nevertheless new minority population is now 'swarming' with members of said group. Are schools with just over 50% men viewed as all-male? That said, a genuine all-female environment can lead to an idolization of males that's just the opposite of what such places are meant to instill. My complaint is with the 55%-means-no-men angle. 55% lets whichever percentage of 19-year-old girls would date older men anyway do so, while allowing the rest of the campus heteros to pair off however campus culture permits.

-Speaking of man-woman relations, why is the comments section of a certain DC 'game' blog with that car-wreck-can't-look-away quality a Jew-bashing extravaganza?

I know, I know! 1) The obvious: once people get into 'we're all anonymous, so down with P.C.!' mode, it's a short trip from misogyny to bigotry of all kinds, because everyone, if so inclined, is a rich, tall, straight, white male on the Internet. 2) The slightly less obvious: 'game', at least on that site, is about cultivating a sense of victimhood among a population that has experienced a loss of relative privilege. Even if the posts themselves tend to be misogynistic first and reactionary mostly by implication, the overall tone is one of nostalgia for an Old Order, the good old days when they knew their place. Back when women were in the kitchen, men were men, and Jews hunched-over peddlers. Now they control the government and media! 3) The least obvious and most paranoid: the popular view of Jewish women - spread in part, initially, by some Jewish men - as ugly, pushy, frigid man-haters makes it especially straightforward for someone who has it in for women already to denounce Jewish women in particular. Hmm.

-And once more: I was with Jessica Grose in her take-down of Lori 'Settle' Gottlieb, until, after correctly taking Gottlieb to task for assuming female journalists can only write what their emotions dictate, she... brings up her emotional stance towards the topic at hand, explaining, "In reality, my piece was not written because of personal problems with marriage (I'm engaged)." First off, women (and men) might have issues regarding marriage for all kinds of reasons, whether they're single, married, or affianced. But more to the point - why stoop to Gottlieb's level? If what Grose is arguing is that hers was a just-the-facts refutation of Gottlieb's claim, it shouldn't matter what's going on in her own romantic life.

If you're writing on anything remotely girly, and you're a woman, it's only a matter of time till you start getting the 'but you think this because you're so obviously single/coupled/fat/thin' response, from those who may not even have this information about you. While I see nothing wrong with mentioning the personal if that's what you were doing anyway, the absolute worst reason to fess up is because it's been demanded. The answer to 'you think X because you can't get a man' isn't 'lookie-here, ring,' it's... either no response at all, or a clearer reiteration of whatever the point was in the first place.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mariage Frères's boums

See? I'm not the only one to see the worst of French history in whatever happens to be going on these days in the States. It's what happens when you spend lots of time studying the less-pleasant things about France. Since my research stops in 1940, it had been a while since I'd thought about Poujadism, but yes, shocker, I'm convinced.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Oh Well*

Think all it takes to be healthy is to stay slim, avoid tobacco, eat a balanced diet, and maybe exercise from time to time? Not so! By sitting and salting, we are all killing ourselves slowly. Well, not all - Jane Brody is primed to live forever, once she abandons her pernicious diet-ice-cream habit - a problem not, as one might imagine, because the real thing's probably better for you, but because it's dessert. Which, even if it's not making you fat, nevertheless causes pleasure, and so should be avoided at all costs.

Unlike a certain columnist, I have mixed feelings about the whole personal-health genre. On the one hand, taking care of yourself is the decent thing to do for yourself, for those in your life, and all that. Yes, we're all going to die anyway, but that doesn't make that four-pack-and-ten-cheeseburger-a-day routine some kind of stick-it-to-the-Man heroism. (Although reading that Jane Brody column encouraged me to have a milkshake, and has perhaps encouraged others to do worse. If 'worse' exists in her book...)

On the other, once health becomes an ongoing research project about which tiny subset of foods and behaviors don't cause heart disease, the whole 'by doing/not doing X, you're basically doing yourself in' line gets to be a bit much. There's a spectrum from suicide to highly reckless behavior to known bad habits down to 'what was it they were saying about Aspartame this week?', down at long last to 'I can't remember the last time I ate a vegetable not grown on my organic farm,' cheerfully related to one's jogging partner. Is regular consumption of a dinner that does not include every desirable nutritional field 'bad' enough to qualify as self-destructive behavior, and if we decide it is, does this perhaps take something away from the weight of the expression 'self-destructive'?

So my question is: at what point does paying attention to health switch from the only moral thing to do, over into self-indulgent narcissism, gratuitous sanctimony, or just a waste of time? Short of definitive revelations such as those regarding tobacco and obesity, is there any benefit for public health to these constant updates about what's bad this week but set to be considered innocuous or even beneficial next? Doesn't the nonstop nature of these reports make one type of person (ahem, a-J.B.-who's-not-my-boyfriend) get just a bit too obsessed with hitting every mark, all the while making another sort (ahem, P.M.) start thinking it's all nonsense anyway, why should this night be any less pasta-filled than all other nights?

*Note, libertarians and those used to blog-arguing with libertarians, that I'm not asking anything about what role the state should have in any of this.

Yes, please

Among the many social ills that can be traced to "Sex and the City" is the popular conflation of 'interest in shoes' with 'hoarding of haute stilettos.'

To correct this error, some of my own current favorites:

Space-age Keds (via).

These, if they had the space-age print, or just as they are. If they could be Yves Klein blue patent leather...

Canadian hiking boots.

These shiny ballet flats will be mine, all mine, as soon as they drop to the inevitable sale price of, I've decided, $9.99.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Oh no, Uniqlo

The good news: jeans for $19.50 that fit perfectly. Free hemming. Nice, dark color, no streaks. The best part: mid-rise waist! Who could ask for more?

The bad: they come with a warning label about how the dye will rub off on light-colored clothes, sofas, etc. I was almost going to go ahead with them regardless, but then remembered that sometimes it rains. It's not clear what one's meant to do when that happens, or how long one can expect one's light-colored legs to stay blue.

In further fashion-and-body news, in the oh-the-irony department, Facebook ads are urging me to consider breast augmentation. This does, however, make for a pleasant change from what had been an odd alternation between Facebook ads for sausages and ones for a mohel.