Thursday, May 29, 2008
There's a style column in The Wall Street Journal today arguing that "Sex and the City" made women proponents of sexier office attire and that this shift has had a negative effect on women striving to reach the corporate ladder's top rung.
The show promoted the idea that successful women could take a liberated attitude toward fashion; they could dress like women at work and not look like they were copying men. [...]The author's evidence that "Sex and the City" makes whoredom OK and that the movie will have some impact on women's fashion includes "online guides to dressing like your favorite character" -- welcome to the internet -- and the fact that costume designer Pat Field promoted her accessories choices as the next big fashion items, something which, more than anything, would be a boon to Pat Field. (But really,would you take fashion advice from this woman?)
As Carrie might write in one of her columns, has sexy office attire gone a step too far? Women now feel empowered to be girlie, flash cleavage or have a rollicking good time. But how liberating is that if these freedoms fail to advance women's push for better jobs and salaries?Women's gains in the workplace have been slipping for the past several years. In 2007, women earned median weekly wages of 80.2 cents for every dollar earned by men, down from 80.8 cents in 2006 and 81 cents in 2005, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The evidence continues to mount. "[W]omen seem to be unaware that liberation comes from actual power, not the power to wear bold clothes," the author, Christina Binkley, writes. "After a recent column on sexy evening clothes at business events, I received an outpouring of emails about smart, well-educated women wearing the kind of clothing inspired by 'Sex and the City' to work. One California man complained in an email about his psychologist's bared cleavage during their sessions."
There's no way that being distracted by the sight of a slight crease on a professional woman's chest would do more than make that man look lewd or puritanical, right?
The whole argument here is rife with irrelevancies. Women don't conflate the "power" to wear revealing clothes with the influence that comes with holding a prominent position in the corporatocracy, though I think many hope that, as women fill those ranks, dressing as though they're men who happen to have rounder bodies to be taken seriously will no longer be necessary. Look at the amount of influence Field has had on the fashion industry for the past decade despite looking like a refugee from an Almodovar film. What she wears had no bearing on her ability to do her job. If men can't keep their brains under control when women show collarbones, that speaks to the fact that, as successive generation of women learn to view themselves as equal players, their male cohorts need to be raised to think that way too.
My clothing choices are more complicated than "I'll wear this because I can" (tendency to wear predominantly black and green aside). I wear clothes that I think will make me look quietly attractive; I want to feel pretty without making a bid to be noticed as I proceed through my day. Some days I wear bolder clothes to challenge my own sense of confidence or to reflect an especially upbeat mindset, and other days I slink around in a hoodie. Some days, I build an entire outfit over the desire to wear a sports bra or a certain pair of earrings (fancy earrings need to be offset with more casual clothes in my style world, etc). But I never think, "What can I wear today to help me get ahead in a stubbornly patriarchal society?"
The funniest (and most telling) line in the column was when Binkley spoke of perusing photos to gauge how prominent businesswomen -- who achieved success in a man's world and continue to carefully deflect attention from their smaller, rounder figures -- dress for success: they wear "striking scarves or necklaces that distract attention from what lies below."
What would that be, again?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
walking in New York
The Chocolate Show
flying trapeze, for those with the means
finding more acolytes of the CM school of delightfully batshit
reading academic books when it's no longer mandated
homemade red velvet cake
convincing multiple people to feed me in one day
UPCOMING TRIPS TO THE BEST CITY
That's enough positive thinking for today.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I walk back home, hoping to shake them, but they keep following me, these two goons. Depression has a firm hand on my shoulder and Loneliness harangues me with his interrogation. I don't even bother eating dinner; I don't want them watching me. I don't want to let them up the stairs to my apartment, either, but I know Depression, and he's got a billy club, so there's no stopping him from coming in if he decides that he wants to.
"It's not fair for you to come here," I tell Depression. "I paid you off already. I served my time back in New York."
But he just gives me that dark smile, settles into my favorite chair, puts his feet on my table and lights a cigar, filling the place with his awful smoke. Loneliness watches and sighs, then climbs into my bed and pulls the covers over himself, fully dressed, shoes and all. He's going to make me sleep with him again tonight, I just know it.
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love (not that I'd ever admit to reading it)
East Lyme - Campers hoping to spend Memorial Day weekend roughing it at Rocky Neck State Park's camp sites should plan to reserve them 11 months beforehand, when the state starts taking reservations.
But chances are they'll be competing with members of the Valley Bible Evangelical Free Church, based in Haddam, who have a traditon of getting there first.
Church members have camped here over the long weekend for the past 24 years. The trip started with six families. Now, about 230 members spread over a quarter of the campground. They have a friendly competition with other return visitors to grab enough camp space.
The group's trip was organized this year by Theresa Kegley (Cietek), who grew up nearby in Waterford. She describes Valley Bible as “your basic Bible-thumping church.”
She values the holiday weekend for “having a chance to be with each other, to pray with each other, to just enjoy each others' company” in a space where kids are free to roam and adults to mingle.
Members of all ages biked and snacked in the tentative bursts of sunshine Saturday afternoon, weaving between tents and trailers. Children hung on new friends as though they'd been cradle mates.
They also gravitated toward Kegley (Cietek). She has taught in the church's children's ministry for seven years and said she considers all her pupils partially her own. Their signed, multicolored handprints decorate her minivan. They flock to her family's camping area to reveal all things great and small gathered on a scavenger hunt - a seashell, a pair of socks, a Bible verse printed on orange paper.
At a camp site across a field, three New York City natives who never before slept in a tent were excited to spend a couple of nights camping and star-gazing.
”The s'mores - I can't wait,” said 20-year-old Sandra Segura. “I've only had two s'mores in my life, and one of them didn't have chocolate.”
The three New Yorkers came with Debby Minell, a Campus Crusade for Christ International employee who has fostered connections with Valley Bible. Minell works with New York high school students interested in Bible study or Christian-themed after-school clubs, she said.
Segura and fellow Howard University junior, Oneka Kelly, taught their new Valley Bible friends to jump rope double dutch-style. And in return, Segura learned how to ride a bike.
”I almost ran into a truck,” she said, laughing.
Minell has known the pair since they were in high school. She also mentors Kelly's younger sister, Calah, who sat cradling Minell's cockatiel. The bird sometimes says “Praise the Lord.”
The Lord is so intertwined in their lives that Kegley (Cietek) described him as a friend that, like all her other friends, she's eager to introduce to others. He's even the reason Bible Valley is holding a “bond-fire” during the trip.
”I originally misspelled it,” Kegley (Cietek) explained, “and then I said, 'No, that's another one of those God things.' “(link)
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I was about to meet a walrus for the first time in my life, and I felt fabulous. After all, Ronald J. Schusterman of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has studied them for years, had assured me over the phone that to meet a walrus was to fall in love with walruses — the mammals were that smart, friendly and playful. “They’re pussycats!” he said.
And that's just the lede. Read on. (It's written by a Barnard alum.)
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I had assumed that anyone who "achieved" did so with the help of an internal tyrant who established rigid standards, rules, routines, timetables, codes, and expectations. My father did. My mother did. I figured my cohorts at Yale all did, too, even if they hid it so well you couldn't tell from the outside. It never occurred to me that among other high achievers, compulsive perfectionists were the exception rather than the rule.
Aimee Liu, Gaining
Like Clinton, our daughters are no victims. And yet, all is not quite well. Not when achieving C.E.O., M.D. or Ph.D. status can still come appended with a second alphabet of b- and c-words. Not when a woman who runs for office is accused of harboring a “testicle lockbox.” Clinton, whatever else she may be, has become a reflection, a freeze frame of the complications and contradictions of female success. Her bid for the White House has embodied both the possibilities we never imagined for our daughters — shattering not just the glass ceiling but the glass stratosphere — and the vitriol that attaining them can provoke. Both are real; so Godspeed, girls.
The Hillary Lesson, NYT Mag
(There was another decent one I can't find right now, but I'll update if I remember where I read it. Anyone remember? It was about how troubling it is that Clinton's campaign revealed a deep-seated cultural hatred of women. I thought it was in NYT or Slate, but really can't remember.)
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
As usual, I flubbed and babbled my way toward some ambiguous response full of "if I'm smart enough, that is" and "but I don't know enough about that yet" caveats. We'd just finished a chat where he gave me many reporting pointers, it's true, but that's because I'd asked for them.
[Note to self: next time, just answer the damn question, even if the answer is "I'd write like a Jane Kramer disciple because, face it, I'm a sucker for good conversation."]
Thursday, May 08, 2008
IT TURNS OUT YOU CAN FOOL most of the beavers most of the time, and that's a good thing both for these infamously industrious rodents and for humans who love their wild neighbors.
On Wednesday morning a device of deception called a beaver impeder was installed at Pequot Woods park by a team from the Connecticut chapter of the Humane Society of the United States as a solution to a problem that threatened the continued peaceful co-existence of hikers and beavers at the park.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
I bought a muffin and a made-to-order chicken salad sandwich, lead-footed it back to New London, parked by my building, and then rushed the few blocks to the office as I ate the potato chips piled next to my sandwich. As I entered the building, I lost my grip on the container. The sandwich flew all over the entryway floor -- chicken salad everywhere -- unsalvageable. While sitting through the panel, all I could think about was chicken salad.
I wrote the story fast, because my desire to take a yoga class trumped the fact that all the top editors were watching or participating in the panel and knew what had happened and how they viewed it. It came out OK, though the smidgen of snark (the ME called it "being flip." Ha) was edited away.
Anyhoo, here's the article (the link to which doesn't have my byline, even though it did earlier, because our ability to maintain a Web site is crap):
Editors, reporters, readers and media experts discussed the relatively new and challenging world of online reader comments at a forum at The Day on Tuesday.
Some of the participants were troubled by the vitriol that can characterize comments posted to articles on newspaper Web sites.
”The free flow of ideas has more often become a sewer,” said Christopher Clouet, the New London schools superintendent and a frequent target of irate anonymous comments on theday.com.
Clouet said he steers clear of answering inaccurate comments, wary of entering a virtual shouting match or, as he called it,“a food fight.” But he said he would“welcome the opportunity to have the space to say, 'Actually, it's the board of ed who votes on these issues, not me.'”
Other panel participants included four Day staff members, New England News Forum executive director Bill Densmore, lawyer Robert Bertsche, University of Connecticut journalism professor Marcel Dufresne, two frequent commenters and Jim Konrad, executive editor of The Norwich Bulletin.
There were multiple opinions about what newspaper Web sites like theday.com can or should do to maintain some standard of civility, and whether anonymous posts should be allowed.
Some panelists said newspapers need to continue to serve as gatekeepers and should moderate the discourse.
Densmore, however, described modern journalists not as gatekeepers but as“information valets,” providing a service, not a product.
Panelists floated many suggestions about how, or whether, to regulate online comment postings. The Norwich Bulletin recently closed its site to comments due to high levels of profanity and irrelevant ranting.
”Finally, folks found the wedding and engagement announcements and decided they would comment on the bride,” said Konrad, The Bulletin editor. He added that comments can harm the newspaper's reputation if readers“can't tell where the story ends and the comments begin.”
The Bulletin will relaunch user comments once it installs a program requiring user registration and will have staff approve posts.
Beyond The Bulletin's chosen course, other suggestions for moderating online comments included requiring users to confirm their identities with a credit card; grouping registered and anonymous posters separately; blocking users who submit too much irrelevant ranting; disabling the comment function on certain stories; and depending on users to flag other users' inappropriate comments.
But even though panelists agreed that online commenting can degenerate, they differed on whether that meant censoring was necessary.
”Somebody who writes in that fashion is probably not worth listening to, and I just go on to the next one,” local blogger John Wirzbicki said in defending the practice of allowing the posting of comments to stories.
But some readers may be thinner-skinned than Wirzbicki, who authors the liberal blog CT Blue.
”One person's offensive word is just a synonym for 'lousy' for someone else,” said Sally Stapleton, an assistant managing editor at The Day.
Friday, May 02, 2008
(Reported there today: Brad and Angelina are one notch higher on Time's 100 Most Influential list than Oprah! Vindicated by the mainstream media.)
So I did a Google news search for Britney -- and, phew! Still alive and tending toward naked.
North Stonington — The Board of Education considers two plagiarism allegations against Superintendent Natalie J. Pukas closed after adding a letter of reprimand to her personnel file.
The board voted 6-1 in favor of the reprimand and of accepting a written apology from Pukas after a five-and-a-half hour executive session that ended around midnight at a meeting that began Wednesday evening. Board member Bob Testa opposed the motion. Member Cres Secchiaroli was absent.“I think it's not a good day for the school system that this is going to be resolved in this fashion,” Testa said just before the vote. He had brought up the first set of plagiarism allegations March 5.
The 20 parents, teachers and residents who waited in the gymatorium hallway until the executive session adjourned left after the vote clutching copies of the reprimand and the apology. Many showed up at the meeting because they thought there would be a public hearing on issues like the $246,000 budget cut from the initial proposal for next year.
Most stayed, however, even after it became clear there would be no opportunity to speak.
“If a student had plagiarized anything in school or cheated in school, they would be disciplined,” said parent Ron Lewis. “How can you hold our children to a different standard than an administrator?”
The board's reprimand directs Pukas to mark all unfinished documents she presents to the board in the future as drafts and to develop a policy for the “presentation of written materials” to pre-empt future issues.
The reprimand also commends Pukas for her apology.
“I never intended that document to be the final document,” Pukas wrote, adding she planned to present a final, sourced document at the March 12 school board meeting.
“I realize that offering the Board of Education an unattributed draft was an error in judgment,” the apology said.
Pukas distributed the document in question, “Research Based Model Leadership Team,” to board members in February. Pukas and district consultant John Petonito's names topped the paper, which is about hiring and promoting administrators. Petonito declined to appear for the executive session discussion and submitted a statement instead, according to the board's reprimand letter.
Pukas told The Day in March that the document was “a compilation of a lot of research, and quite frankly, my 35 years in education.”
Pukas has been employed by the North Stonington school system for 34 years and has been superintendent since December 2000. She declined to comment beyond the press release the board distributed with the reprimand and apology letters.
The document Pukas distributed in February does not cite any outside sources, but Testa discovered close similarities between it and a paper that ran last year in the monthly magazine The School Administrator, which the American Association of School Administrators distributes widely. That paper, “The four-quadrant leadership team,” was written by Donald A. Phillips, a superintendent in Poway, Calif.
A second plagiarism allegation was sent to board members and others by anonymous teachers at the end of March. That allegation was also taken up during the executive session, and the board absolved Pukas of wrongdoing, the reprimand letter said.
Steve Bickford, outgoing Wheeler Middle School/High School principal, sent an e-mail to the school board and Pukas on Monday that was critical of the school board.
Bickford, who has been principal for eight years, said Wednesday that his e-mail was intended as “an internal document in an effort to make some positive changes.”
“The superintendent has plagiarized two documents that I've seen to date. (Rumor has it there are more to come.) Whatever the excuse, whatever the rationale, both documents are clearly plagiarized,” Bickford wrote. “The board, with its inaction and silence, has given tacit approval to plagiarism.”
Thursday, May 01, 2008
This is my last day at work after nearly nine years at the Journal. I'm off next month to Fortune magazine.
Most of my time at the Journal has been spent in Boston, where I have been fortunate to witness some extraordinary journalism. The reporting here has been shepherded by three superb bosses. These editors - Caleb Solomon, Gary Putka, and Mark Maremont - created environments where tough, probing journalism flourished. They also understood that great Journal stories -- whether complex corporate probes or powerful narratives -- can take weeks, if not months of reporting time.
But I remember those stories. Like the article for the New England edition of the Journal in 2000 that exposed Boston's Big Dig as an enormous boondoggle. Written by Geeta Anand and edited by Caleb and the great Larry Rout, the 2,700-word piece began with typical Wall Street Journal understatement: "James J. Kerasiotes is not a meek man." It was a gutsy story. Geeta's work ran counter to other media accounts, which had characterized the country's biggest public works project as a success.
Then there was Dan Golden's powerful series on white affirmative action, edited by Gary Putka. "Of the 79 members of the class of 1998 at the Groton School, 34 were admitted to Ivy League universities. Not Henry Park." Three thousand words later, Dan had changed millions of Americans' perceptions of affirmative action.
My last boss, Mark Maremont, had the foresight to propose the project on stock option manipulations. It took a lot of courage for the paper to run the first story. Our editors made sure that plenty of space was available for ensuing follow-ups. The impact of the stories was considerable: more than 70 corporate officers and directors were fired and 18 were criminally charged.
The power of what we do became evident to me last spring at an awards ceremony in New York. At the event, an Iranian photographer was honored after 25 years of anonymity for a photo he took of an execution. The photographer, who risked his life for his craft, accepted a Pulitzer in the presence of two relatives of the dead. It was one of the most moving scenes I have ever witnessed. The photographer and the relatives had been discovered by our own Josh Prager. His stunning article ran at 5,439 words.
I'm grateful to have been given a chance to work with such fine reporters and editors. You inspire and inform. You shine light into dark places. And, yes, you entertain. Keep it up.
Thank you for your friendship.
And sorry, Mark and Gary about this email's formatting. I never did get the hang of it.
James Bandler is one of the reporters I meant to e-mail somewhere along the line; he and Geeta Anand both started their reporting careers at the Rutland Herald, where I nearly accepted a job. Geeta's niece is one of my girls, and when I was trying to figure out what to do a couple months ago, she patiently let me talk through things and found me helpful people. It was also because of Geeta that I read Josh Prager's work -- the man is an interesting and brilliant reporter. I stumbled upon James' letter via a Google alert I have set up with Geeta's name. She hasn't written anything in a while; last I heard from her sister, it was because she was considering moving to India.
James left the paper I hope(d) to work at one day, except that I'm not sure that paper still exists.
All this incoherence is... incoherence, I guess. I'm hungry, a little overworked, and still nursing a New York City hangover. It all seems so sad today.
New York Observer coverage of the White House press dinner is relatively amusing.
Also, here is a funny exchange, courtesy of a friend and her siblings: