Wednesday, February 18, 2009

insular media trend watch: twitter!

LA Times

NY Times

British People

Also, last week my paper offered a "webinar" so the middle-aged set could learn about writing snarky things in 140 characters. The Cut is tweeting from the Fashion Week tents. Seriously folks, the service is over two years old, and tech-savvy trendsters (I'm a latter-day Luddite and I beat the trend explosion by a solid week) have long been updating their Twitter feeds from their iphones and are sick of it.

Rachel Maddow FTW.

UPDATE: First few sentences of a Times article about Fashion Week posted this afternoon:

“HEY, this is my Twitter!” one journalist scolded another backstage Monday at the Marc Jacobs show.

Thumbs cocked, the two were having a backstage showdown, a BlackBerry quick draw. Everybody, from makeup artists to publicists to hairdressers, was similarly squaring off. Who would be first to record the very latest and most supercrucial bit of subtrivia to transmit to “friends” in the cybersphere?

Can we agree that most Twitter posts are about little beyond the fact of their own occurrence? Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that something existential is afoot?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

tired metaphors

Last night, the woman practicing beside me at yoga asked how long it took before I could do a headstand. A bit less than a year, I told her. She asked if I'd done the whole year here, and I said I had. I told her that the trick was core control, and it wasn't too difficult, but headstands still actually terrify me (which is why I am determined to continue doing them). It requires courage and confidence to balance upside down, especially because the perfect position, which feels weightless and liberating, is just a tick mark or two from falling - a tired metaphor. I suggested she begin by practicing near a wall.

I swiveled to return my mat (I don't bring my own when I leave work for yoga; my editors don't need to know exactly why I come and go when I do), and I saw that the teacher, who is petite and was wearing all-black and can be silent, overheard the exchange as she tidied. I felt like I explained math homework shortcuts to my babysitting girls before realizing a parent was listening. She is more about legs and muscle wrapping than core, which seems remiss to me, but what do rookies know?

Our eyes connected. "Don't think I haven't noticed that you've been stealing my color scheme lately," I deadpanned. My urban monochrome. She laughed, the silence shell shattered and vanished and I turned away. Almost a year is long enough to learn how to manage people.

I'm starting to fear that I will be trapped here forever.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

25 things

The latest fad flitting around Facebook is to write 25 random facts about oneself and tag 25 people, who are in turn supposed to write their own 25 and tag their people... It's silly, yes, but I love to read them. Twenty-five is a large enough number that it's necessary either to be flippant or to spend more time than anticipated mulling over it. It's interesting to see what people think of themselves and how telling small facts and details can be.

In the spirit of self-indulgence - and what is a personal blog, if not self indulgent? - I'm copying mine here. People with good sense will stop reading now.

1. I think this sort of exercise will not begin to encapsulate my senses of contradiction – my favorite movie quotation, from Philadelphia Story, is “The time to make up your mind about people is never.”

2. I will do almost anything for people I love; I will do absolutely anything for three former babysitting charges, because I love them more than I love myself.

3. That fact makes me both want to have and fear having children of my own, one day.

4. People often see “quiet,” “frantic,” “panicked” or “observant” and think they’re seeing “serene.” Heh.

5. I’ll always pick coffee shop over bar, except if sangria is involved.

6. I took flying trapeze lessons during college, which meant I often had stigmata-like wounds on my palms from gripping the bar. I loved how I got them, and I loved grossing others out with them. One day I explicated the thesis of “Imagined Communities” to an instructor who made the mistake of inquiring as we both stood two stories in the air on a tiny platform.

7. I tell people I did not study abroad because I was too busy. The truth is that I was too sick.

8. Studies show that many people would opt to die young, lose limbs or go blind rather than be fat. I like to think I have moral fiber and good sense, but I (embarrassedly, and despite internal lecturing) definitely empathize.

9. I have a hard time convincing myself that I became a journalist for reasons other than the fact that I’m not creative enough to write fiction.

10. I have a hard time convincing myself that I’m not a waste of space and resources in general.

11. My mom’s mom died when she was around my age, so nobody else in my immediate family ever met her. Still, there are photos of her - and her framed baby dress - all over my parents’ house. Things have extra value in our family if they were hers.

12. When I walked home on my last day of eighth grade, I bid farewell to the imaginary friend that kept me company when I needed her.

13. I love the fact that I get paid to write and be nosy.

14. My favorite milkshake flavor is black raspberry with thick hot fudge mixed in.

15. My first psychologist taught me how to spell raspberry (as late as high school, I didn’t know it had a “p”). She was also arrested a couple years later after passing out in the local supermarket by the dairy case, huffing whipped cream cans without first bothering to buy them. But that's another story.

16. There were better ones after that, and I love them.

17. Madison Square Park is my ideal place to spend a warm, lazy afternoon.

18. I still don’t like living in New London most of the time, but I treasure the fact that the place taught me to enjoy the company of a broader range of characters. Also, the move finally pushed me to become a yogi. Also, yoga with Coast Guard cadets? Fabulous.

19. I’m proud of my ability to do most anything while one hand is holding a cup of coffee.

20. I only sing when I’m alone, or when a certain toddler refused to sleep without lullabies (see number 2 above; she had to make do with Billy Joel and Disney)

21. I get along well with headstrong people, because I can defer to their decision-making without losing my sense of self.

22. I get really upset when people mistake my tendency to overthink with judgmental silence.

23. I’m simultaneously confident and insecure.

24. I’ve yet to (let myself) fall in love.

25. If you hear someone chuckling and can’t figure out what’s funny, it’s probably just me, back there in my corner, filtering a random observation through the Woody Allen section of my brain.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

a quotation for your perusal

She had been secretly offended and hurt when strangers said that New York was noisy and dirty; when they called it vulgar, she never wholly forgave them. She was of the New Yorkers who adore their New York as Parisians adore Paris and who feel that only within its beloved boundaries can the breath of life be breathed. People were often too hot or too cold there, but there was usually plenty of bright glaring sun, and the extremes of the weather had at least something rather dramatic about them. There were dramatic incidents connected with them, at any rate. People fell dead of sunstroke or were frozen to death, and the newspapers were full of anecdotes during a 'cold snap' or a 'torrid wave,' which all made for excitement and conversation.

(From the novel The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett, published in 1907.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Monday, January 26, 2009


Consciousness hovered, tickling her eyelids, and TK knew her alarm was about to buzz. Her eyes twitched, trying to bat the intruder away. She rolled onto her side and curled her head under the sheets toward her legs, a daily attempt to postpone the inevitable. She felt a familiar pain in her knees and shifted the top one back a couple inches to get rid of the bone-on-bone pain that could be grounding but, at that moment, was requiring more awareness than she wanted.

Her legs stayed sideways and she flattened her back again into the mattress and then removed one arm from the bubble of warmth to reach above her head for her cell phone. It began to vibrate as she picked it up. She turned off the alarm and released the phone, leaving her arm arched above her head, hand cupped over the device. Her body felt weighted, and after the bravado she mustered to silence her alarm, she feared she lacked the strength move again.

“Three, two, one, up!” she murmured. Like friends scheming to jump off a wall in tandem, beginning a countdown aware neither of them will move on command, her body did not buy the ploy. And her brain remained heavy, threatening to pull her headfirst through the bed, the floor, her bass-happy neighbor’s apartment. She’d be the brave explorer who discovers what the bottom turtle looks like. Her wager: like turtle pancake.

A boat down on the river sang. She no longer reacted by thinking its hum was her cell phone. There would be seagull chatter filling the morning air come summer, too. But it was still January, and frigid. These facts did not stop two men from sauntering onto the State Pier the other night in diving gear. Police added them to a homeland security list but did not arrest them, because idiocy, though ill advised, is not illegal.

She’d missed the latest art party working late, listening to scanner reports of would-be divers and alleged structure fires. She missed most goings on either working or claiming to be, the soirĂ©es where bright young downtowners played their songs, displayed their paintings and strutted around like pioneers for moving a couple stops down I-95 and foregoing health insurance For Their Art. They would be flattened in a day in New York, she always thought, where young artists had degrees from Parson’s or NYU and drank with the critics who mattered. That New London artists promoted on MySpace was enough to mark them amateurs. TK scoffed at the notion that the enthusiasm required to nurture vitality in a tiny, empty city could be a serious choice for a serious artist.

The truth was that she’d gone to great lengths in college to transform herself into the elegant New Yorker that could share tapas with a young Joan Didion or a lucky E.B. White, those who came for the myth and stayed because New York’s hardscrabble truth is still more seductive than most others. She learned to order straight-up espresso and to float like a trapeze artist along the sidewalks.

Then college ended and she slept, and struggled to believe it possible to commit to any one thing at, it seemed, the expense of all others. Still missing Malinowski, she shut both eyes, held her breath and moved worlds away to train – to write – and then return. But month followed month, and she no longer knew what was on the MoMA's exhibition floor. And she awoke in a “Mrs. Doubtfire” haze: Robin Williams, carting packages around a warehouse, says to his indifferent boss, “Did you ever wish you could freeze-frame a moment of your day, look at it, and say, ‘This is not my life?’” And just about then, the damned cell phone alarm begins to buzz.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

cops and reporters

Part of my job Saturday nights is to spend a couple hours driving to four area police stations to collect lists of everyone who has been arrested and why they were charged since a colleague made the rounds the previous day. The task lends an interesting perspective on police and crime; I develop bantering relationships with some of the cops working the same delightful Saturday shift ("How are you?" "Not as good as I'll be at 10:30"), and I become a semi-insider. I don't get treated with the same courtesy as the public but, in return, I get more sincerity.

These months of contact mean I think more like a cop than a lay person. When I pass car accidents, I scan the scene, looking for the number of ambulances and where they came from in lieu of rubbernecking at the damage. Whether people are hurt enough to go to the hospital or if a main road is closed during cleanup is more important than the dramatic look of a crushed car.

Either way, like police, reporters banter about crime and destruction to make it digestible. A policewoman and I joke about the unflattering cut of her mandatory bulletproof vest. The next day I see her in the photo of the incident I helped cover where a mentally ill man stabbed his mother repeatedly with a kitchen knife, outside, in (as they say) broad daylight.

Last night when I entered the New London station, the bail bondsman was there, surrounded by a lobby full of thugs who spent the past day or so in jail and were waiting to be sprung. As they waited their turn, they bantered about the relative comforts of area jails. I stood among them, copying the day's arrests from the illegible police log book into my notes, probably writing the names of the men around me.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

are you, like, checking me out?


Might I pontificate for several moments about pepperoni?

My parents did me a grave disservice keeping Kosher during my childhood. And it wasn't really a Kosher home so much as (Dad would say) maintaining a level of hypocrisy that made them comfortable. We had meat dishes, dairy dishes and Pesach dishes, and we couldn't eat ice cream directly after a chicken dinner. Then all the dishes went into one sink and one dishwasher. Leftovers were stored in a Tupperware mishmash that held whatever was being plopped into them. We did not mix meat and dairy or eat shellfish in the house, and we ate Chinese leftovers on disposable plates (sometimes on the porch, which was considered sort of part of the house, I guess, and sometimes in the kitchen, depending on whether my father was home). I've seen Kosher, and this isn't it.

I reached college knowing how to eat lobsters - Mom loves them - and knowing cheeseburgers did not interest me (childhood McDonald's fact-finding missions). The thought of chicken parmesan turns my stomach (or: I don't know what I'm missing), and I had to learn that some people find grating cheese over meat sauce a logical decision.

I was on the Kosher meal plan my freshman year of college. I'd kept my own version of Kosher, with stricter boundaries than my parents, since a trip to Israel the summer before tenth grade as my own small means of remaining connected to the religious spirit I felt leaning my forehead against the women's side of the Western Wall. The Kosher food in Barnard's dining hall was a small section in the back. It had its own salad bar and its own teensy hot food service area that somehow nourished Columbia University's undergraduate orthodox community. At the time, they had no Kosher dining hall across the street.

I recognized the beginning of the end to my diet-based religious expression when (a) my sense of religiosity was waning and (b) a work-study student serving kosher pan-fried noodles said, "Are you really on the Kosher meal plan? What's your Hebrew name?" (Funny, she doesn't look Jew-ish.)

Boundaries cracked, and I discovered pepperoni pizza. You know those kids in grade school whose parents restricted access to candy, so they'd come over for play dates and eat all the cookies? Or - and this really happened - a friend who grew up without cable came over and forgot you existed upon discovering a marathon of "The Real World"?

I missed out on two whole decades that could have been full of pepperoni slices. It's salty and spicy and bite-size, and perfectly complements the blandness of mozzarella. But the noble meat can stand alone, as lunch meat or a sort of red, bendy potato chip. Talk about food and religion: this shit's my manna.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


On the outside, nose scrunched on the glass, and not sure what I think of that.

(This says it better.)