Sunday, July 20, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Honestly, folks. I know I sit funny, but do I sprawl funny?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The main problem with the New Yorker cover -- if it's a problem at all -- is that its humor is intended for a relatively insular, like-minded readership: subscribers to the New Yorker, a presumably urbane audience with strong Obama tendencies. No matter what the New Yorker says about holding up a mirror to prejudice, the cartoon certainly didn't do that. It was more like a spyglass.
The cover, like so many self-deprecating, wryly funny, overly self-referential New Yorker covers before it, is just another prism through which New Yorker readers confirm something that is true and easily caricatured at the same time: They are an elite, a minority, and while they might be more educated or sophisticated or adept at the play of humor, they will always be outvoted by Texas. And Kansas. And the rest of the states beyond reach of the A train. The cover says as much about the political influence of Manhattan as it does about the prejudice of the rubesoisie.
The cover's artist also made the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wide stance cover last fall. My Columbia friends and I thought the cover was hysterical; understanding its humor required: knowing that Ahmadinejad gave a speech at Columbia, an awareness that the speech mentioned the Iranian president's belief that homosexuality does not exist, the fact that reaction to that remark in Columbia circles was often amusement, and a familiarity with the Larry Craig gay bathroom sex scandal. Insular indeed.
And while I can't speak for my friends, I appreciated the cover even more knowing that most people in the world would have no way to understand the multi-layered joke that I got by virtue of where I lived and who my friends are.
Monday, July 14, 2008
N: sometimes you amaze me
Sunday, July 13, 2008
The good news is that the awesome yoga teacher who lives in my building latched onto my elbow for awhile and walked me around to introduce me to a bunch of young, artsy New Londoners. I met a crop of great people yesterday, and I hope I can parlay some awkward introductions into a new social circle. Probably not, because I'm usually the least alternative of my friends, and I'm an introvert. We'll see.
But my moods swing like the unsafe looking rides that dotted the pier for Sailfest. Last night, I sat on the roof of the parking garage near work with a colleague and her boyfriend watching the Mashantuckets' grand fireworks display (one of the fireworks was in the shape of a dollar sign, lest viewers forget who's running that show and, really, most others in the area). Before the explosions started, the boyfriend's former girlfriend and her son came over to say hello, causing my friend to stiffen beneath her gracious exterior. She told me later that, after she was already dating her boyfriend, that ex had written a text: "Missing you from the waist down."
And this woman seemed like one of the classier folks in the vicinity. The Star-Spangled Banner played before the show began and, when I groaned (oops), various neighbors, who had stood and removed their hick baseball caps from their greasy heads, scowled at me. I was surrounded by motorcycles, cheap, ugly clothes, flab, petty conservatism, stupidity, bad food, hair, and teeth, etc.
I was not surrounded by: fashion sense, cultivation, subtlety, class, grace... all of which I've worked hard to cultivate and all of which stands out in me enough so that a waitress at a bar near Niantic called me "Mary Poppins," because she found my mannerisms prim. Yes, I was the one at "Sex and the City" who leaned over to the girl sitting beside me and said, "You can't actually take books out of the 42nd Street library." I miss New York, where fools still have great shoes and if I make a Kafka reference without self-censoring, every single person over 15 on the Upper West Side would get it instead of going slack-jawed.
But I'm here, and I came to do good journalism. I did not anticipate how a lack of media sophistication here would make me so tired - I constantly have to put up with disrespect that borders on verbal abuse, small-minded suspicion and a misunderstanding of what media is (things that it is not: a glorified series of press releases, a place for feel-good spin, a place where things are not "balanced" - only negative when not glowing). Readers have venomous reactions when what they read is not exactly what they think. This is not a blanket observation - there are residents, school officials and town officials who have educated, nuanced understandings of our mission as a news-gathering organization. But they're in the minority. And they often have name-brand college degrees and experience living places that are less insular. Just sayin'.
I abhor the rednecks who comment on stories, because their comments have nothing to do with journalistic skill, good writing, getting the innovative angle or the unique voice, and everything to do with their narrow, unsophisticated agendas. A senior profile a colleague wrote last month about a teen mother who is going on to college was plastered with Puritanical reader comments about how she should have kept her legs shut.
Comments on the story I posted yesterday, my A1 coup, were evil. Readers took a piece of thoughtful writing with a specific angle and (I maintain) subtle, balanced execution and panned the fact that I mentioned the fact that teens drink when I could have written about the agricultural nirvana that is the fair for a 44th consecutive year!
Here's the best one:
This was a very poorly written article. Kira: Your choice to soil the hard work of those involved with putting together such a great event for a town that has taken so many hits this year was a poor one at best. What was your motivation behind this? North Stonington has received a lot of bad press this year and this did nothing but make it worse. How about you get it together and start looking at some of the great things that happen in this town. Where are the articles about the great success our kids have in the outside world? Where are the articles that highlight the fact that our taxpayers take on a tremendous financial burden to maintain a high quality of life for our families? Where are the articles about the classic New England farming traditions that are still maintained in this town? Where are the articles about the diverse education we manage to provide to our kids despite the extreme financial challenges our the town faces? Where are the articles about the incredibly creative teachers we have in our classrooms? Thanks a lot for dragging us through the mud again. Talk about kicking a town when they're down. This was a cheap shot and it's time for The Day to back off for a while. This is a great town and the negative perception the newspaper has is based in rumors and poor research. This is a pathetic example of journalism and a poorly written article. You should be ashamed of yourself Kira.The poster is anonymous, because there's nothing like not putting your name on something that screams "legitimacy." (Bear with this post's shoddy writing, friends - I'm frustrated, lonely and have a headache.)
Perhaps I need a thicker skin to last in journalism. Or perhaps I need to scale back my idealistic naivete, to stop giving two shits about what people in my coverage area think, and write my way back into an unrealistic bubble full of educated intellectuals who understand the importance of curiosity, creativity and writing.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
All's Fair In North Stonington
North Stonington - Everyone in town attends the annual agricultural fair.
Children chomp on fried Oreos and screech aboard the rides. Adults watch tractor pulls, dog shows - and their screeching children.
And rounding out the crowd are the teenagers.
“When you get done with school, you're like, 'When is the fair?' “ said recent Wheeler High School graduate Mackenzie Robert, 17. “You can always tell when people aren't from here because they walk around thinking, 'Why is this so cool?' “ she said.
But everyone who grew up in town knows that the fair is a surefire opportunity to catch up with friends and family, teens said, as well as providing something to do in an area with few entertainment options.
Teens of various ages mingle in constantly morphing groups with a comfortable camaraderie, sometimes detaching to wander with family or buy french-fry baskets to share.
Some teens volunteer at the fair to maintain a family tradition. Other, more agricultural-minded youth use the fair as a showcase for their farming talents.
The Hollister-clad set came for the Thursday opening because, in the fair's 44th year, it's not summer in North Stonington without it. And some teens seize the opportunity to party on their own turf, bringing alcohol to the officially dry event.
”In the beginning of the week I'll ride by here because I like to see the progress” of fair preparations, said 20-year-old Kaitlyn Holliday, who worked at the fair information booth Thursday evening alongside her mother, Norma, the town clerk. Holliday also planned to help serve Saturday night's ham and bean supper, which her mother and grandmother have both helped organize in years past.
Alan Ladd, 17, rakes the ring after the oxen, horse and pony pulls. His cousins train oxen to pull. The Grasso Southeastern Technical High School student enjoys the chance to catch up with his North Stonington friends, whom he rarely sees during the academic year.
”At the fair, it kind of all just comes together for four days,” Robert said. She and her friends used to wash tables in exchange for complimentary ride passes.
An eye on alcohol
There's a quiet area beyond the livestock pens where farmers park their trucks, trailers and gear during the fair. Bats swoop above and fireflies flicker in the brush. Local teens talk their way into parking back there, too. After dusk, they buy Pepsis from a vendor in small groups and then wander back to the coolers stashed in their vehicles, seeking rum or vodka to make the sodas more interesting.
”I'm not too impressed with the Ferris wheel anymore,” one teen explained with a smile and a shrug.
”Over 17, it's pretty much guaranteed” that people will be drinking, another college-age teen said. Even adults are drinking at the dry event, the person added. “They'll be walking around with coffee cups. It's not coffee.”
At an organizational meeting Tuesday, a Grange member complained that some fairgoers brought alcohol with them last year. Organizers asked that resident state troopers keep an eye peeled for illicit beverages.
Johanna Wertz, 19, who was chosen as Fair Queen on Thursday, thinks that drinking at the fair is limited to “a few specific kids that can't keep it under control.”
Wertz, who helped organize the fair this year, won her crown before an audience of mostly adults and younger children who watched from bleachers facing the front steps of the Grange Hall.
Asked how to make the fair last another 44 years, Wertz mentioned the need to bring more young people into the planning process.
But before next year's planning begins, Wertz was busy preparing to show cows at the fair from her relatives' Stonington beef farm. Other teens will show rabbits or horses, or enter the pie-eating contest, or gorge on ham and beans, surrounded by friends and memories.
”Mostly we just walk around and make fun of people,” said Jon Banker, 18. “I don't know what else to tell you.”
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
me: I need stuff done to my car
Simon: You need it serviced?
me: Yes, I think so.
S: What kind of car do you have?
S: What year is it?
me: Sometime after 2000, maybe? 2002? 2004?
S: How many miles?
me: 6...66... I don't know. Should I run out and check?
S: No no. How do you know you need it serviced?
me: The sticker on the windshield said so.
S: Oh, so you need an oil change.
me: Yes, I guess that's it. By the way, are you Simon?
me: I'm E's friend.
S: Oh yes! Hi. I was warned multiple times that you'd be calling.
Monday, July 07, 2008
"Have you seen a little boy?" he asked.
"His name's Shimay, and he's brown?"
Thankfully, he was just around the corner.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
629 Montauk Ave., New London
Price (including tax): $3.71
The scoop: It was Connecticut homeboy Wallace Stevens who wrote, “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” assuring us that the only emperor is the emperor of ice cream. Of course, that was a poem about death - but my poem “The Arch-Duke of the Morgue” is a poem about ice cream, so I guess we're even. I think about this whenever I'm at Michael's original Dairy, munching my dip of Monster Mash. It's a dangerously great combo: vanilla ice-cream hosting a Battle Royale involving M&Ms, caramel swirls, malted milk balls and fudge, and the Michael's servers usually craft a softball-size hunk of ice-cream balanced tenderly atop the sugar cone.
- RICK KOSTER
(I slipped a cheesy Macbeth reference into my own dumb weekend story running today, so all is well with the world.)
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Maybe I have been seduced by the Mamma Mia preview, during which I had the following response: "This looks TERRIBLE. Is that Meryl Streep? But wait...no, this is so cheesy. Although...no, it's....hang on. I feel so confused. ABBA....Colin Firth....Meryl is singing...wow, does that jumpsuit have bell bottons? What's this strange emotion sweeping over me. HANG ON. It feels like...delight. SHIT. Now I think I have to see this movie."