Under Pressure

New York's last seltzer man goes all in.
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“The contrast between these two children’s shows provides a literal illustration of certain eternal tensions, not only in children’s entertainment but in literature and in American culture in general: Innocence vs. Experience, Nerds vs. Normies, Individualism vs. Conformity, Gender-Neutral Egalitarianism vs. Explicitly Heteronormative Sexuality—and maybe most strikingly, Art vs. Commerce.” —Read Awl pal and eminent cartoon writer Maria Bustillos on the cult and myth of My Little Pony.#

How I Got My Pre-Baby Body Back

Like Beyonce, by the time I gave birth, I weighed nearly two hundred pounds because, like Kim Kardashian, I suffered from a condition called preeclampsia. This causes, often later in pregnancy, high blood pressure and fast gains in weight from fluid retention. It’s miserable, but by the end, I was a little too preoccupied—new baby, slash in the abdomen—to really marvel at the state of affairs on the scale. I noted it, in passing, without remarking on it to anyone. I didn’t panic or feel like a failure for having gained more than the recommended twenty-five to thirty-five pounds for one baby; it was the most minor fact in a week full of overwhelming and sometimes alarming data.

The day that I found out I was pregnant, when I stepped on the scale, it said that I weighed 134.5 pounds. That number had been my regular weight for about five years, slowly rising a bit or falling with my state of mind, my moods, the seasons of the year.

I’d never dieted or exercised very regularly as an adult, and I didn’t worry very much about what I ate or drank. But pregnancy changed all of that. As I moved through the months, I began to watch what I ingested, not for myself or the fear of a rising number on the scale—I knew that couldn’t be avoided—but for the health of the baby. I noticed what a poor diet I had, sometimes going almost a full day without eating anything at all. I now tried to eat a “balanced” one. I became more active and conscientious about my lifestyle. Though I’ve always loved walking, I started to make a real chore of it; I’d walk an extra few miles a day. It was invigorating, and I noticed, more than the physical change, that I felt better emotionally.

It appears that the disingenuous faux-aesthetes will succeed in knocking down Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York:
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Gene Kaufman, the owner and principal of Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects in New York City, has offered to pay the county $5 million for the building and restore it as an artists’ live-work space, with public exhibitions. Mr. Kaufman has also offered to design a brand new government center next door for $65 million — millions less than the $74 million county officials allotted some time ago for the plan to tear down part of the building and add the glass box.

But Steven M. Neuhaus, Orange County executive, seems determined to pursue the teardown plan. MidHudsonNews.com quoted him the other day as saying that “construction and deconstruction work” will begin “by spring of this year.” He recently vetoed a proposal that would have allowed the county to sell the center to Mr. Kaufman.#

The Flexible Economy

fleeexAs far as euphemisms go for the venture-capital-backed means by which full-time employment and all of its benefits and protections are being hollowed out by piecemeal employment for certain classes of workers, there is already a small revolt against the “sharing economy”; it has become too obvious that the primary form of sharing it involves is a worker utilizing her own meager assets to generate revenue for a large, extremely well-capitalized tech company. Other proposed alternatives, such as the “gig economy” or “freelance nation” are just a shade too revealing for total comfort. May we suggest the “flexible economy”?

Alex G, "Sarah"

A small, warm song from Alex G, who gets consistently good results working within a stylistic framework that came to prominence on roughly the year he was born. (Via Noah.)

Spiritually Bankrupt: How I Went Broke Trying To Teach Yoga

I came to yoga, like most people, because I hated my job and going to yoga class was easier than finding another career. I was a well-paid corporate lawyer and, as I watched the gentle office dust drift through the filtered New York City sunlight, I dreamed of being anywhere else.

At first, it started with one or two classes a week, but soon, like an addict, I was there as often as I could skip out of work early. The yoga teacher was an escapee from the world of public relations. She had luscious dark, wavy hair, milky skin and sturdy thighs. At the end of every class, she turned off the lights, and we students lay there in the dark underneath musty, scratchy blankets.

“You deserve good things!” she intoned in a throaty voice.

I wept silently. I desperately wanted to deserve good things.

Over time, I needed that positive affirmation more and more. I needed a teacher, a spiritual guide, someone to tell me that I was worth loving, that my body was fine just the way it was, and that, somehow, the universe knew what it was doing. I decided that the most efficient way to do this was to become a yoga teacher myself.

Yoga teacher training isn’t cheap. A class consisting of six months of weekend-long training classes cost nearly $3,000 over five years ago; now it’s more. My first yoga teacher training class had about twenty people in it: several actors and dancers, a special-education teacher, a nutritionist, and a woman whose husband had celiac disease. We met all day Saturday and Sunday, as well as Wednesday nights. My tuition allowed me to go to unlimited yoga classes and to learn the difference between internal and external rotation. I learned how to avoid rotator cuff injuries and finally achieved a handstand. I hoped that by becoming a yoga teacher, I would have better hair, better abs, and better self-esteem. Now, I was the one telling people that they were worthwhile, so I had to believe it for myself.

In the midst of all this bliss, I got fired from my job. It was 2008.

New York City, January 26, 2015

weather review sky 012615★★★★ The snow was going by the windows in every direction except downward—raggedy scraps at first, then smaller flakes. The apartment door had to be pulled shut against the air pressure. For a while, New Jersey emerged from the whiteout and a spot that was almost the sun flared in the mirrored glass of the tower across Amsterdam. By the early emergency pickup time for preschool, though, the snow was blowing again. A fuel oil truck was preparing to make a delivery to the mirrored tower. Some of the sidewalks were still bare; some looked bare but were slick with slush. At West End, the snow went from swirling to shooting hard down the avenue. The supermarket behind the preschool was overrun, the line for the registers reaching all the way to where the line for the bakery counter would ordinarily be. By two in the afternoon, the snow was white smoke streaming by. The steps down from the forecourt were well mounded with snow when the older boy’s school let out. On the storm blew, now thinner, now thicker. Now thinner. What was it amounting to? Out in the night, the fabric-belted line dividers of the Apple Store stood on the sidewalk, warding passersby away from the place overhung by a row of icicles that buckled away from the smooth glass top edge of the building. The cross streets were full of fluffy chunks of snow, each lump distinct in its shadows in the retained illumination. A shutdown warning on the subway speakers carried up the un-shoveled steps out of the empty station. The streets were pale and vacant but they were still the streets. Things held their usual shapes, with no real prodigies or perils yet in evidence. Surely it had snowed this hard before. Where the way had been recently swept clean, the prints of the soles of boots, with dragging heel marks behind, stood cleanly in the thin renewed accumulation. A wide circle had been cleared around the fountain in Lincoln Center Plaza, and the water was going, lit from below, sending up a mist to mingle with the flakes in the glow. A scant handful of people had closed in around the brightness—a couple, slim in their cold-weather gear, snapped pictures and put their heads together for a kiss. Then a security guard in a flapped hat cleared the plaza, and the barren isolation of the fountain was complete. But was it necessary?

A Place Like Home: On Being Black and Punk

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 6.19.57 PM-2The first year I went to Fest was on a whim, with a ticket bought while drunk. I drove down to the annual punk music festival in Gainesville, Florida, and crashed in a double hotel room with seven white dudes. Fest is a lost weekend of sloppy music and sloppier crowds, a beer-soaked vacation. I didn’t regret it.

On the second night—a particularly long one in which I found myself falling asleep in a dive bar as a loud band played—I wandered to the back bathroom to splash water on my face and wake up. Someone walked in while I was at the sink and suddenly a girl wrapped me up in a drunk, sloppy hug. When we were untangled from each other, she exclaimed, “I’m sorry, I’m just so happy to see another brown person at Fest!”

I had, as always, been aware of the sea of whiteness in the crowds and on the stage, but I hadn’t thought about it much until that moment when I realized that I was so goddamn happy to see her, too.

Eat the Can(ned Vegetables)

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I went to the farmer’s market this past weekend. It was depressing. The meats and eggs and prepared foods were all very nice, but the produce—the produce is dead: apples picked months ago, stored in giant industrial fridges; wrinkled, overripe pears; and a few sad, scattered bins of potatoes. It’s still possible to eat seasonally, if you opt for stuff that’s in season in warmer parts of the world, but we’re mostly stuck eating subpar produce from the grocery store. This time of year, we have to look elsewhere for produce.

Instead of eating awful hot-house tomatoes, yellowed cucumbers, and flavorless blueberries, winter can be a time to experiment with preserves: shelf-stable foods sitting in jars or cans, which, admittedly, have a lousy reputation thanks to a couple of decades of American cuisine that relied too heavily, and not smartly, on them, giving us the wonders of bland potatoes, grey-green beans, and mushy peas. But canning can be a way to bottle in flavor at its peak to keep for the entire year, and when canned foods are used properly, they can be much more flavorful than the bland, pale—or suspiciously vibrant—vegetables available in the middle of winter.

Most canned green vegetables simply aren’t worth bothering with; some of them, like peas and spinach, freeze well, so you should buy frozen. Others you’ll have to wait until they’re in season to enjoy them. Below is a list of reliably good canned products; most brands will be anywhere from fine to excellent, as long as you stay away from dented cans. Tomatoes vary the most, but for everything else, I tend to just buy whatever’s cheapest. Goya makes nice stuff. Even the Jolly Green Giant makes some good stuff, as long as you buy the vegetables that work well in cans, rather than the ones you wish worked well, like peas. And in terms of cooking, I tend to rely on long cooking methods, especially soups and stews, for canned goods. You don’t necessarily lose flavor in the can, but you definitely lose visual appeal, so you’ll have to set aside salads and other fresh presentations.

Cold Fury

only mildly terrifying when the rails are sparking and you're 50 ft up #blizzardof2015

A video posted by Alfred M Maskeroni (@digimatized) on Jan 26, 2015 at 1:54pm PST

So, the snowstorm wasn’t as violent as you wanted it to be. You wanted it to howl in your windows, to bury the homeless and freeze-scorch the earth. You wanted to cower in the face of its might. Aren’t you disappointed that you’re not trapped in your home, that you can’t carve one of those beer-shelves in the snow piled up outside the door? What a pity. Poor old you.

Stop yearning for it! Snow kills people. It’s like a dangerous animal. It will let you cavort nearby, but get too close and it’ll murder you dead. In fact, I hate snow. It hasn’t always been like this: I remember putting a tiny snowman in the freezer and opening the door every hour, just to check that my beautiful creation could truly be real, like everybody else. That was fine. It is magical enough in the paintings of Pissarro and the odd infant memory, sure. But snow causes disaster, and lusting after it is morbid.