Thursday, April 30, 2015

I believe the expression is "subtweet"

Recently, a beer company you've almost certainly heard of, whose product you maybe last consumed at a frat party 1,000 years ago, had an ad campaign urging customers to use their beer to facilitate rape. Shockingly this didn't go down well - even the not usually outraged were all, what's that about? So the beer people apologized, leading me to theorize, on that great theorizing platform that is Twitter, that this was the marketing campaign - offend, cause controversy, apologize.

Maybe something similar was afoot when a newspaper you've almost certainly heard of decided to run an op-ed by someone identified in the headline as "Name-of-Sexy-Celebrity's Ex-Fiancé," about a beef between the two. This was a bad idea for so very many reasons (more on those in a moment), and the paper replied with a public editor's note about debate having been sparked, but with an admission that this was indeed celebrity dreck. That piece also allows comments. Given that the celebrity in question is among the few globally with a break-the-internet physique, her mere name is clickbait.

To be clear on what was wrong with this, it's first necessary to state what the problem was not. It wasn't that this venerable institution had chosen to cover something lowbrow. Yes, there are terrible things going on, globally and nationally, yet style coverage exists. As well it should - different sections serve different purposes. I've never understood the people who go to the fashion pages and leave comments complaining that they're not reading the front section.

No, the problems were a) publicizing a private dispute, b) giving one party only a platform, and c) choosing to intervene on a massively controversial topic through the lens of an absurdly biased observer. But mainly that first one. Did they consult the actress herself before running this? Has anyone in the history of op-eds ever come across worse in theirs as dude did in his? But there will always be sleazy, conniving people. Newspapers don't have to publish their grievances.

Because... what were they thinking with this? Was the idea to publish something in the mold of the Angelina Jolie cancer and genetics columns? As in, Big Issues, Big Celebrity? Because those were completely different - admirable, useful, and not about an interpersonal spat which many of us (including some of us who do read the occasional bit of dreck) had not heard of previously. That someone's in the public eye doesn't mean their relatives get to put their ongoing family drama in a newspaper.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Varying seriousness as usual

-On Baltimore, you'll want to read Ta-Nehisi Coates and Elizabeth Nolan Brown.

-Is Stella McCartney showing the world that she wears Stella McCartney going to help garment workers in the developing world? Does showing proudly that one's Burberry coat was made in England aid some noble cause? Installment who even knows at this point of ethical fashion as an excuse to promote designer shopping.

-Can a massacre be a "narrative"? Does it matter if not all the "white" victims were actually white?

-What exactly makes Jason Brennan think underpaid adjuncts aren't already trying in vain to get jobs at Geico?

-And finally, in the area of dream interpretation, the alarm this morning interrupted one I was having about a discount on $18 nail polish. Specific $18 nail polish that is not, in fact, on sale, and that I'd admired recently at ABC Carpet, the eco-posh Sephora alternative that one should never enter if one is not prepared to discover a new and useless product of any kind.

How to interpret? 1) My unconscious is very basic. 2) If you look up a product online, ads for it cover everything else you look at online. Facebook is just now reminding me that this nail polish ships free from Nordstrom. Because I'm suggestible, that nail polish is already on the list, as the reward for once I've Marie Kondo'd my stuff from the study.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

In all seriousness

I don't believe I'd ever seen a dig at a specific publication in a different publication's submission guidelines page before, but hey, what do you know? The New Rambler Review does look interesting, though, and smart people I know and don't know are involved, so I won't hold this against them. (Their statement about not paying contributors, that I might, but maybe it's an academic publication? Kind of?)

From that same submissions pages, I learned the following: "The New Rambler Review publishes reviews of serious books about ideas, including literary fiction." This means that they probably wouldn't be interested in my (Miss Self-Important-inspired) review of British crime shows available for Netflix streaming. Well, not so much a review as a downward spiral:

-"Last Tango in Halifax." Excellent highbrow (who am I kidding) soap opera, with a crime backstory, but mainly a lot of technically legal bad behavior. Two easy-on-the-eyes actors. A fantasy world depicted, in which middle-aged women have their pick of good-looking, often-younger men and women. A show I was genuinely sad to have reached the end of.

-"Happy Valley." More from the excellent Sally Wainwright and Sarah Lancashire. So much heroin in picturesque England, who knew? People in England, probably. There was recently a news story in Princeton about someone ODing on a bench in town, so it really does seem to be everywhere. Apart from that, the thing to know about it (or not, if this ruins it) is that it's basically "Fargo."

-"Broadchurch." Weird twist of an ending I hadn't seen coming, but otherwise not memorable. I must have enjoyed watching it enough to finish it, though.

-"The Fall." Starring the woman from "X-Files" (which I don't think I've ever seen) and the male model from "Fifty Shades of Grey" (which I also haven't seen). There are think-pieces about whether or not it's feminist - does the often gratuitous centrality of Mr. Abs's torso cancel out the serial-killer-of-professional-women plot? Discuss, or just watch the abs, and listen to the cool Irish accents. I like how they say the word "why"?

-"Hinterland." Accents posed a challenge. Star was too brooding. But having recently read some (literary) fiction set in Wales, and having once reviewed a book for a Wales-based journal (which I think involved sending a copyright form to Wales?), and having once learned how to order coffee in Welsh from an office-mate, I enjoyed the virtual trip to that part of the world.

-"Midsomer Murders." Evidently big in (early-2000s) Belgium. Not particularly striving for realism. (Candlesticks as murder weapons!) Was going to praise it for progressive-for-its-time gender politics, but it's actually not an old show. But whatever it is, I'm enjoying it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


On the one hand, the most extreme example of parental overshare yet is in the NYT Magazine. On the other, pointing this out in an article would require linking to nude images of her children, and not just the long essay in which she defends her choice, so I think I'll pass. WWPD and no links is my compromise.

Anyway, the point of the essay in question is basically that what she's created is Art, and that her kids consented (impossible - they were children, and *her* children). But then if you question this at all, it's clearly that you're either a puritan who thinks babies should emerge from the uterus in full Amish/Hasidic/pious Muslim garb (how's that for a mix-religious metaphor), or - worse - one of those people who judges parents. She loves her children! Which... that's not even the question. It's entirely possible to love your children and to do make a very public ethical-though-not-professional mistake in your parenting, namely choosing to use your kids as your own nude models.

But the nudity's... not necessarily the least of it, but not all of it. There are also photographed having tantrums, etc. The text (especially the "pinworms" bit - why???) actually upset me far more than the images - images I wouldn't have otherwise realized were by these kids' parent, and that indeed don't seem particularly sexual. As in, if I were a guest at someone's house and their kids were running around like this, I'd probably think these were hippies, not child abusers.* The whole but-what-about-pedophiles?! angle seems like a bit of a distraction (although not completely, as the article gets into). A series of just photos like the one of a (clothed) child refusing to eat flounder would have also squicked me out, but again, for the usual parental-overshare reasons (giving kids lifelong reputations as brats; screwing up the parent-child relationship).

To me this is at least as much about these being her own kids as about them being children. She seems genuinely not to have put it together that just because the kids had the expectation of privacy when running around naked *at home* doesn't mean that photographs of them doing so wouldn't cancel that out. The issue is less the nudity specifically (although, yes, that) than the fact that the only reason she had access to the means to taking these photos was that these are her kids.

It's interesting that in the linked 1992 NYT article on this, so many years before viral articles and so forth, a journalist totally got it: "Can young children freely give their consent for controversial portraits, even if — especially if — the artist is their parent?" Also interesting: that it's only possible to have a conversation about the ethics of oversharing about kids if the specter of pedophiles is evoked in some way. Why can't the flounder photo have been enough?

*I love how, in the NYT comments, "Europe" is this place where everyone's naked.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Adventures at the French-themed food court

When I read that a Bon Marché-type French food hall would be coming to lower Manhattan, I was (I, ahem, may have mentioned this on Facebook), torn. Part of me was like, where was this I lived in Battery Park City? Another part of me thought this sounded like some bizarre, Vegas-style recreation of Paris, as well as the final step in a finance-ification of what is, yes, the Financial District, but still. It's an area I knew quite well before 9/11, given its proximity to my high school; avoided (for obvious reasons) for a while after; then ended up living in through one of those flukes of New York real estate where affordable-for-grad-students apartments pop up in unexpected locales.

Because of course, Le District is located exactly where there used to be that sneaker store that gave discounts to bankers. Those were, it turns out, the relatively simple days. In the time since I was there last - which was maybe last summer? - the rest of the Financial Center mall became super-high-end. No more Banana Republic, Starbucks, and Ciao Bella. (It was never exactly shabby.) Now it's Hermes, Gucci, and others of that ilk. The relatively-accessible options are (another "of course") J.Crew and Lululemon. Lululemon had a woman - as in, a real woman - stretching in the display window. When I say "a real woman," I don't mean in the sense in which "real" is used to distinguish regular women from those who are or resemble models.

Le District itself is, apart from a really nice cheese shop tucked away within, kind of a mess. I'd been expecting a market (and a companion who shall remain nameless had been expecting a chocolate mousse bar), but these things don't seem to have opened yet. Existing dessert items were a bit all over the place price- and quality-wise. (A chocolate mousse cake was something like $3 and apparently really good; a Liège waffle was $5 and... not.) The main thing about the place was how polished-and-finance the people there looked. Even by new New York standards. It didn't help that I was still in my I-work-from-home clothes, featuring gingham flannel. (Heritage-chic? Pajamas? You be the judge.) The place seemed to be an after-work finance-sort hangout. Which, fine, but then maybe it wasn't quite the NJ-Transit-worthy replica-of-Paris destination I'd imagined it would be.

But despite all the intimidating spiffiness, the prices themselves weren't all that high. Or maybe they were, but I was expecting them to be so much higher. We ended up having kind of a big meal unintentionally - an attempt at getting a post-dessert-as-dinner snack at a wine bar (the more casual of the two dinner options) led to a variety of service mishaps (not 'the waiter didn't smile' - more like we didn't get our food, then saw the fur-coat-wearing woman next to us who'd arrived later receiving part of our order), which we didn't actually complain about, but a waiter who eventually asked about our order felt bad about this, and suddenly appeared with extra food on the house. That, plus the (large, and also unsolicited) cheese samples the cheese place was handing out meant this was arguably one of the most affordable feasts in New York, although, again, for reasons unlikely to replicate themselves.

Will I return? Perhaps - it's trip into the city that doesn't involve Penn Station, or even going outside. (NJ Transit to Newark, then the PATH, leading to an underpass, then there it is.) But seeing as they also sell cheese in New Jersey, I can't imagine I'll be heading back any time soon.