Monday, July 28, 2014

"Bushy-brow fatigue"

-The strong brow trend has come and gone, which means the time is ripe for the NYT to discover it. As someone whose eyebrows simply don't do the caterpillar thing, my thinking is that, by accepting them as they are (which is to say, shaping slightly, but not striving for the illusion of thickness), I'm simply anticipating what ITG is already referring to as "bushy-brow fatigue." I am, as always, a step ahead of the trend. Which is why I will not be going to Doris Day (!) the dermatologist for eyebrow-enhancing medicine. The near-unused eyebrow pencil was plenty to throw at the now-non-problem.

-HMYF (hipsters make your food), your day, like that of the bushy brow, is done. The newish Viennese coffee shop in town has no hipster shabbiness whatsoever. It's full-on elegant, like if you order tea (which I will have to do sometime), it comes in a white-and-gold porcelain tea set. And it's just so much better than all the hipster-lite establishments, none of which have managed to have decent coffee, food, and atmosphere. And then... There are two much-celebrated farm-to-table places in town, neither of which is even a third as good as Little Sheep, the Edison outpost of what seems to be a very international hot-pot chain. You get to Little Sheep and while you wait for your table (and it's quite a wait), they have a video up promoting their corporation, complete with scenes of the marketing department meeting to discuss how to promote the company, as well as ones of the factory (?) where everything's standardized. HMYF can be a proxy for quality in an otherwise barren landscape, but it can only ever be so good. Whereas really good strudel, hot-pot, bulgogi, oyako don, bagels, pizza-by-the-slice, pain au chocolat... And this isn't even, clearly, a "white" vs. "non-white" issue, except under the OITNB/"white lady" definition of "white" in which "white" stands in for bland-and-yuppie.

-Considering a shimmery cream eyeshadow. Yes? No? Anyone with thoughts on the RMS line?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Euphemistic humility

Thank you, thank you, Doctor Cleveland*:

There is nothing a snobbish Ivy Leaguer likes better than putting down the Ivy League. It's an easy way to signal that you are above your own Ivy League school and the privilege it confers -- all a big humbug that your superior perspective sees right through -- while holding on to every last scrap of that privilege. It allows you to position yourself as not only 1. better than people who didn't get into Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, but 2. the benevolent champion of those little people who didn't get in and also 3. better than everyone else who did get into your school and who, unlike you, need to take the place seriously.
This is more or less what I was thinking, but unable to articulate, when I read that Deresiewicz piece, but also Reihan's takedown of Stuyvesant. These essays are always a way to announce that you made whichever cut, while at the same time... just read Doctor Cleveland. It's a little different when it refers to a high school - there, the provincial nature of the concern can outweigh the rest, and most of the readership didn't even have the chance to not get into the school in question, so there's maybe more tuning-out than resentment - but the principle's the same. Whenever these debates arise, what happens is, the only people qualified to speak are those who went to whichever school (which even Doctor Cleveland can't avoid, but somehow this is much easier to take from a pseudonym, esp. one making the better argument), alums of which are already having their voices heard plenty. These articles inspire immense, intense interest from fellow alums, but not a whole heck of a lot from everyone else. Not because "everyone else" is too busy drooling in the vague direction of a Kardashian show to read The New Republic, but because reading about the fate of schools you didn't attend is never that interesting.

Which is... fine. If the graduates of schools both fancy and schmancy want to have an insular conversation about euphemistic-whichever-location, that's perfectly reasonable. But maybe classify these stories as "lifestyle" and not "education." It's not that they never delve into big-picture questions about the educational system, or that there's never any reason to look at how it goes in the top 0.0001% of any hierarchy. It's just that the bulk of this Very Important Conversation is of the small-potato variety.

*This bit was spot-on as well: "Public colleges, and the students at public colleges, are merely rhetorically convenient symbols for him."

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Friday night unlikely to inspire a pop song UPDATED

Bus to the train to the other train to the shuttle. Lags almost each step of the way. It's almost as if I don't really live in greater New York, is what I start to think on such occasions. Princeton's a suburb, but one where you need to sign up years (!) in advance to be able to get a parking spot at the train station, and where overnight parking is permit-only regardless. It's certainly suburban, but what exactly is it a suburb of? Philadelphia radio works here better than NY radio, which maybe tells us something.

So yes, slightly tired, even though none of this was today, even though I just had a jumbo cappuccino* at the (fabulous) Viennese coffee shop in town. Commenters who believe my linking to a story about French anti-Semitism makes me a fascist (!!!) can expect snippier and shorter responses than the usual graphomaniacal graciousness to which they've grown accustomed. (And, uh, no further responses. Tapped out when it comes to that sort of thing.) Great ambitions for the evening include remembering where I parked, driving home, walking my supermodel dog, and... that's probably it.

*Caffeine, wonder drug. I tend to forget, because the coffee I make at home, no matter the method, no matter the beans, never seems to have much of it. Meanwhile, thanks to the hugeness of this outside-coffee, I finally figured out this thing I've been trying to write, finally. And no, I'm not referring to this somewhat phoned-in blog post.


So the evening ended up more exciting than planned - I ran into some astrophysicists and ended up seeing Saturn through a telescope. And before that, parking someone I don't normally park led me to pass by the... Japanese language school of Princeton. I had no idea such a thing existed, but now know its fees (not bad!), when the intro class meets, and when I'd need to have signed up by. Technically Dutch is first on the new-languages priorities list, but there's the small matter of it not being taught anywhere outside the countries where it's spoken. (I exaggerate, but slightly.) Also of being able to get by in Belgium in English or French, whereas if I ever do make it back to Japan...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Poodle privilege

My mother took Bisou for a walk in Central Park this morning, and Bisou - fresh off NJ Transit - was, it seems, 'discovered,' in the way that sometimes happens to waifish Estonian 13-year-olds. Which is to say, she made her modeling debut. For a big-name Italian magazine, it seems. No spoilers, but let's just say there's photographic evidence. Pictures of Bisou with a human model and what may very well be next season's it-bag. This really happened. As for whether it will appear, for this we have to wait until September.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

For the farmer's market love-haters among my readers

While assembling my beige, too-tired-to-cook dinner of rice and defrosted (prepackaged) yuba (with scallion, mainly for aesthetics, and with the packet of whatever the sauce was that came with the yuba poured on top), I noticed that the local farmer's market had posted to Facebook (yes, I follow them on Facebook) about a produce recall affecting NJ supermarkets such as Wegmans, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. In other words, my fruit! An unsearchable PDF would tell me what this means for my apricots, or, rather, since I'm planning to eat those apricots, what to expect for the next 24-48 hours. (Upon closer examination, I see that apricots are in the clear. And thank goodness for that.)

Anyway! The point of this story was actually the farmer's market's takeaway: "We can't stress enough the importance of knowing your farmer." Because, the implication goes, a farmer's market couldn't possibly sell contaminated fruit

And, I mean, I like this farmer's market. I follow them on Facebook! I "like" them and everything! But this seems a bit ridiculous as a way to promote the weekly event. Especially considering that anyone wishing to eat fruit more than a month out of the year is, in this region, shopping at the supermarket. If the farmer's market really believed you're poisoning yourself if you shop elsewhere, maybe they want to find a way to be open every month of the year, even if that means a single stand selling a single turnip.

Monday, July 21, 2014


A month or so ago, I bought sneakers. I love these sneakers. I'm wearing them right now. They're not only the best-fitting shoes I've ever owned, ever, but they're super chic.

Or so I thought. Think. Everyone else, however, has been... less enthusiastic. After holding forth on their fabulousness to my nearest and dearest, I've heard a variety of frank assessments, all adding up to, they make me look like a badly-dressed teenager. And I was starting to think those around me had a point. (Not that this in any way stopped me wearing them.)

Well! I noticed some sneakers with a familiar silhouette on Pinterest. Pinned onto (into?) the shopping cart of one... Garance Doré. Yes, that Garance Doré. The one who dates The Sartorialist. And, as anyone who follows such things knows, Sart is way harsh about such matters.

Now I'm just waiting for a prominent fashion blogger with a discerning beau to endorse the unflattering-but-comfortable, possibly-tempura-splattered linen pants I recently got for $25 at J.Crew.


This, as the kids used to say. Writers writing about writing not paying. Shall I join in? Places I've written for as a freelancer tend to pay between $50 and $100 an article. This can be parlayed into other things, and something is absolutely better than nothing (which is what my first regular post-college writing gig paid, back when I was too naive to know one was meant to ask for payment), and it's probably a different story for people who establish themselves on staff various places and then switch to freelance (I'm thinking of someone like Jessica Grose)... but it does say something about the viability of full-time freelancing as a career.

What the article unfortunately doesn't mention is how what "writing" consists of has changed. Yes, if you wanted to be a poet or novelist, this was always going to be a struggle if you didn't come from money or hit it big with something you wrote while still in high school. But now, anything however tangentially related to publishing or journalism likely won't pay. I do repeat myself on this, but it's important: The day job has become, for many, an unpaid, no-insurance-providing "dream job." Work that isn't particularly artistic (sorry but that first episode of "Girls"...) is somehow The Arts.

I could try to analyze this further - is this about places marketing themselves cleverly in order to get clerical work done for free? - but I want to make the most of this enormous stamp-card mocha and get some other writing done.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

In ascending order of seriousness

-Because all roads lead to Sunrise Mart, I now have nigari tofu coagulant. In liquid form, because that was what they had. Not sure what that'll mean for the recipe, but this is on.

Only the essentials. (Wall of DeCecco not pictured.)

-NJ Transit has basically given up for the summer. They seem to have put all their resources into keeping the train refrigerator-cold, and exactly none into such things as having trains match up with other trains, or arrive at something like the time indicated. I think this may be my first time experiencing "As a New Jersey taxpayer..." thoughts, but there it is.

-I don't do Middle East on social media. (By which I mean, Facebook or Twitter.) I observe. I read what friends and journalists and such post, and am definitely getting a wide range of at the very least Jewish opinion, ranging from the Israel-was-a-bad-idea-in-the-first-place perspective (yes, there are Jews who think this - maybe worth noting if you're hoisting up a placard against The Jews) to it's-all-Hamas's-fault (gosh, not all, but even if that were the case, these deaths are plenty upsetting), and, thank goodness, lots in between. I do plan to write on this at some point, but not in 140-character bursts. I don't think my views on this lend themselves to sound bytes (I do go on), and my reaction to the situation is more sadness than outrage, and it's the latter that's expected in such forums. If you're not outraged, you can't possibly care, or something. If I did enter a thread, I could probably summon some outrage, although depending whose thread, it could be in any which direction. (Well, not any.) And I'm not an amateur military strategist, which is the other approach that seems to lend itself to social-media weighing-in on such topics.

But I did pass along the Tablet stories about the French synagogue attacks, because that's sort of my beat, and because... ugh. One way to think of it: Let's say you believe Israel is 100% in the wrong, and get all Godwin about it. How does that justify attacks on French Jews? Ah, but they may support Israel! They may have family there! Think for a moment about where this logic leads. Oh right: stuff like internment camps. Was Japan on the right side of WWII? Not so much. Did that justify internment of Japanese-Americans? No, it did not. And no, it's not a perfect analogy obviously, for so many reasons, but I think the connection is clear.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Groceries are complicated

-I need something called "nigari tofu coagulant." After watching the latest and most compelling Cooking with Dog, where Chef and Francis Host of the Show prepare soft tofu from scratch and top it with scallions, ginger, and bonito flakes... actually, even just once seeing such a video existed, I realized I'm obviously going to be doing this. It's only a matter of time. Well, of time, and of finding this ingredient in a quantity not advertised as allowing one to make 100 pounds of tofu. Where the proper sort of soy milk will come from is its own question. One I've answered before, that time I made yuba, but I'd rather avoid DIY on that part if possible.

-Caryatis, you'll be so proud! I bought eggs at a farmers market and totally checked them for cracks. The farmer or farmer-stand-in selling the eggs didn't seem even a little bit offended.

-I'm not going to defend this, but I'm one of those people who gets two different kinds of olive oil, the regular one for cooking, and the more expensive one for drizzling. I'm not sure I can taste a difference, but I tell myself I can, and even if it's just the pretty bottle, there are surely worse forms of self-deception, and clearly I'm not going through much of the fancy one. I have no brand loyalty in this area, and choose based on which pretty bottle is on sale at a given time. One or another always will be, and the brands seem to rotate quite frequently, rarely being ones I have any familiarity with. This evening, doing so, I was hit by a wave of cynicism: How on earth do I know that the bottle going for $11 (say) is really normally $20? Of course, if it's all the culinary placebo effect anyway...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In un-defense of Princeton in summer

-Because nothing happens in Princeton, and extra-nothing happens in the summer, the local news has taken to posting photos (well, a photo) of relatively minor (no apparent injuries) car accidents in the area, including of the individuals involved. I was not involved, nor do I know these people; this is an online-shaming question. It's not exactly unethical to post a photo of this, but is it necessary? Is it news? It's at any rate still up on Facebook but down from Twitter - maybe there are some legal or ethical issues here apart from being me being squicked out by that sort of thing.

OK, there's a slight personal angle, which is that I'm sort of convinced that someone's going to take one of those viral "bad parking" videos of me, given how long it can take for me to get into a spot.

-More flooding! While an excuse to not go running is semi-welcome, it would be nice to be able to properly walk a certain dog, as vs. taking her out in the snippets of time when it's not feeling too apocalyptic.

-If I were a 20-year-old model who looked great regardless, I might do one of those "ugly selfies" to convey just how terrible my hair looks in this weather. You will instead just have to take my word for it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

In defense of Princeton in summer

-It's not as bad as it might be. And low expectations have a way of being exceeded. I mean, my husband's away, as are most of my friends. It's hot and humid, and my hair looks awful. It's tick season for humans and dogs, so the woods are, if not out altogether, substantially less appealing. Expectations were really, really low.

-Everything's on sale. At least everything in Princeton I might want to buy, which admittedly isn't much. But I just got discounted coffee beans from Rojo's at a pop-up (!) in Urban Outfitters and then, for $25, the pair of $70 linen pants I'd long been admiring at J.Crew, thereby filling the summer-clothing-other-than-shorts-or-nightgown gap in my wardrobe. (While I'm by no means a 000 at that store, I can extrapolate from their vanity sizing why such a size would be necessary.) But J.Crew at sub-Uniqlo prices, with tremendous selection... let's just say whatever shtetl peddler-type lives within me returned atavistically at this discovery.

-No one's around. Which is sort of bleak when it comes to Bisou-walking (if easier to handle after a week in Manhattan), but sort of fabulous when it comes to driving and parking.

Excessive loyalty

I thought I'd organized my wallet and gone through stuff on the entryway table. Wrong I was. The loyalty card situation is out of control. Sharing partly to entertain the easily entertained, partly for my own "records", as I attempt to divide into NY and Princeton piles, and to prioritize each:

-One card to the new Viennese café in town, Café Vienna, indicating my one visit there thus far.
-One stamp card for Chelsea Thai.
-One for Bent Spoon, schmancy ice cream, and principle source of amusement in town.
-Two for Rojo's, a local coffee mini-chain.
-Surprisingly, only three for Small World, the default coffee shop in town.
-One for Joe, NY and Philadelphia (never been in the latter) coffee mini-chain.
-Three for Stumptown (one for beans, two for drinks.)
-I must have once bought underwear at frou-frou-in-a-good-way Journelle, because I have a stamp card indicating as much. Unlikely to do so the 11 additional times needed for free underwear.
-One Paris Baguette bread-specific stamp card. I do like their bread, and must keep this in mind for the next trip to Edison.
-Two cards for Murray's Cheese, indicating that I've bought cheese as well as grilled cheese there.
-A card with one stamp from Kaffe 1668, the very expensive but chic café near-ish to where I lived a while ago in Battery Park City. Chances I'd be in that area looking for coffee enough to merit this card are slim.
-Two from NYU-area favorite Third Rail. Miss that place!
-One from Commune, the fabulous and reasonably-priced Japanese salon in Williamsburg where I get my hair cut.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Probably the most WWPD post ever

-Parental overshare for profit.

-So much YPIS: A woman - sorry, a "white lady" - was middle/upper-middle class, until some life events happened, and she was all of a sudden poor. A turn of events led to her picking up food stamps in a Mercedes, thereby outdoing a certain food-stamps applicant from a while back, whose only crime had been spending $1.50 on a coffee she might have made at home or skipped entirely. But the Mercedes-ness and whiteness of all of this seems to have caused controversy. Presumably because of the broke vs. poor obsession - as in, it's seen as so terribly offensive to claim poverty when you're merely broke that people who honest-to-goodness once had some money and now don't end up somehow getting classified as "broke," as if the cultural capital from having once been not-poor can fix everything.

-Tara Metal seems to have had just the same experience I did upon seeing an image of Jenny Slate. I saw an ad for "Obvious Child" on the subway and thought, huh, so that's what's meant by seeing faces that look like yours. My only disagreement with Metal is over the need to explain that this was the experience of women who "may be Jewish, or Italian, or just blessed with slightly unruly strands that cannot be dyed lighter or made straight without a significant amount of sturm and drang." While it's absolutely true that white people of various ethnicities (including super-Anglo - see British actor Daniel Hill, the oddly attractive villain on "Waiting For God") can have not-so-"white" hair, this has particular significance to people for whom that hair texture has political significance. I know that there's this compulsion, if you're Jewish, to make a point of not being parochial, to explain that whatever you're talking about doesn't just apply to Jews. And... hair politics certainly don't just apply to Jews, but I'm not aware of other ethnic whites having this concern. An Italian-American woman might straighten her hair, but is it understood to be about wanting to look less Italian?

-Miss Self-Important and I may have different politics, but we definitely agree on the fundamental issue re: elite high schools, namely that, as she puts it, "when a school becomes 'too Asian,' we immediately complain that it is not black or Hispanic enough." The "we" being society, not MSI and me, neither of whom are arguing this. My pet theory is this: Some offspring of rich white families regress to the mean (see the second item here, actually...), and this produces tremendous anxiety in rich-white-land. It's not guaranteed that those from any but the most established families will do just fine in the end. But! No one wants to say, outright, that the mediocre offspring of the rich deserve better. It sounds so much nicer to complain about meritocracy on behalf of the poor or underrepresented minorities.

City dog

Since I didn't feel like being the last (wo)man standing in Princeton, Bisou and I have taken a trip to see what the bumper stickers would call her grandparents. (Hadley Freeman would maybe agree?) This isn't her first experience of being a city dog, but it's my first seeing her as one for more than, say, an afternoon. Thoughts thus far are below.


-If you have a fluffy little dog, you will have to converse with every other person walking a fluffy little dog. Given the area, that is a *lot* of people. Women of a certain age, but not exclusively. And... it's kind of nice! They say that people are friendlier in the country/suburbs than the city, but the thing is, there are actually people around in the city, so even if a smaller % of them are chatty, there's so much more chatting going on. Plus, being on my home turf, I must give off a vibe of familiarity. Even to socialite-seeming women! Who are oddly not put off by my choice of years-old Gap-nightgown-as-dress. Maybe it's the vaguely-Chanel-looking thrift store bag I'm using until my regular bag is repaired, but you'd think these would be exactly the women who'd know what's what in that department.

-A far, far longer walk is feasible when there's actually stuff to see. With all due respect to nature. The deers, etc., are great, but relatively infrequent. Whereas glamorous Italian tourists (who don't talk to me, obvs) are pretty much everywhere here.

-Thanks to those first two, headphones are not needed. I'm way behind in my podcasts, and thus extra-prepared for NJ Transit being useless.

-No ticks!


-There's so, so much on city streets for a dog to surreptitiously ingest. I'd like to think so far, so good, but who can say?

-The dog run is a nice idea and all, but walking Bisou to the run, as vs. driving her there, means she's exhausted by the time we get there. And while I'm sure Bisou wouldn't be the first poodle to ride the crosstown bus...

-A country dog has certain... requirements, having to do with the need for a patch of grass.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

What lurks beyond the bagel shop

Lawrenceville, which I previously knew as the boarding school next to the so-so bagel shop we'd go to before discovering the far superior one in the Montgomery shopping center, is apparently more than just a bagel-adjacent landmark. It's also the most expensive high school in the nation. And - I learned from Jezebel and Twitter - it's the site of the race-and-privilege scandal of the moment. The student body president - black, female, and gay - had to step down after taking to the Instagram to make fun of the douchier elements of the white, male, and straight student population. If I had a thesis-driven sort of argument to make about this, I'd pitch and fast. As it stands, too scattered for that. So:

-This part of NJ is maybe not the least racist place ever. Even I, someone female and paler than most, have seen firsthand how young black men are questioned by the police, how black men of all ages are avoided and hassled on the train. If this is what I'm seeing, I'd imagine there's more I'm not seeing. There's also preppy culture, which is hard to explain, but which goes beyond whatever's experienced at any particular private school or college in the area. It's so white that even white people notice the whiteness. Friends even whiter than I am (being, as regular readers know, pale but ethnic) have pointed this out.

-Private schools are weird. They can end up this odd mix of rich white kids (getting in through the usual rich-white-person channels) and poor non-white kids (getting in through some mix of intellect, hard work, and having adults around devoted to their education), in some kind of tremendous exaggeration of society at large. As in, "white" becomes associated with wealth, "black" with poverty, in a way that far exceeds the situation at a regular public school. (From Buzzfeed: "Lawrenceville students say racial and class divides — which frequently work in tandem because minority students often come to boarding schools through scholarship organizations [...]." So it went at my private elementary-and-middle school in New York.) The numbers may say "diversity," but the reality can be something more complicated.

-The specific black, female student at the center of the controversy, the student-body president who had to step down after mocking douche-bro classmates on Instagram, was not on scholarship. Commenter Pronetolaughter, if you're reading, this begins to get at how "privilege" as a term can fail where "racism" succeeds at conveying a problem. As the half of the internet that's already weighed in on this has noted, if you're at an elite high school that costs $53k a year, certainly if you're not there on scholarship, you have just a touch of unearned advantage. As in, you're richer and probably better-connected than most. But! That doesn't mean you're not also the victim of some other sort of oppression - in this case, racism. Confederate flags, insistence that she didn't really win the election, and other racist incidents cited in the Buzzfeed piece suggest that the young woman in question had good reason to be fed up.

-But oh, social media! It's bad judgment - if entirely age-appropriate bad judgment - to have an Instagram mocking your classmates, particularly if you want to lead your classmates. Back in the day, the mocking of entitled douche-bro classmates happened, sure, but in private. Buzzfeed reports that this wasn't even the student's first blip of this nature - she'd already been in trouble for pot photos (real, and forwarded by someone trying to sabotage her) and racist tweets (invented by someone trying to sabotage her). If someone's out to get you - perhaps because you're a black lesbian in a position of power in a traditionalist environment? - then you, whoever you are, certainly if you're high school aged, have probably left incriminating dribs and drabs all over the internet and even if you have not, they can be created.

-The Jezebels are arguing about reverse racism - is it a thing? The usual argument - that you can't be racist against a group with more power in society than you have - is mostly right, but not entirely. For example: anti-Semites believe Jews to be more powerful than they are. That's how that form of racism works. For another example: one group may have more power than another in society at large, but not in, say, a particular community. It doesn't seem impossible that the only white kid at a high school would have a tough time. But yes, in usual situations, it holds. And here, I suppose I'm not entirely sure why this is being cited as an example of anti-white anything. What this young woman was mocking was a subculture, not a race. Is the idea that a white person mocking a black subculture would come across as racist? Perhaps, but this is exactly where the power-imbalance thing enters into it. No one thinks all white people are douchey lacrosse players (with all due respect to non-douchey lacrosse players), whereas conflation of minority groups with equivalent subcultures is definitely a thing. (I guarantee that every American Jewish woman has, whether she knows it or not, been called a JAP, no matter how hippie-dippie her routine.) But more to the point, she was making fun of white people who fly Confederate flags, in the North at that. Regardless of where one stands on it being possible or not to be racist against white people, I don't think you can be racist for mocking certain white people's racism.