Election Season in Sierra Leone

“I didn’t have to wait long before I ran into Reagan Bush, a man gifted in the art of mocking earnest American writers.”

In the Trenches of the Facebook Election

For a profession locked in a perpetual psychodrama with Facebook, I think journalism underestimates Facebook. It’s not that journalists don’t pay enough attention to the site (god no, lol), just that, as a journalist, your perspective is obscured, and it’s difficult to conceive of Facebook from the outside. You experience it through your profile, your site’s official page, your sttories, or your analytics suite. It feels both unfathomably more powerful than you and yet somehow all about you; your experience is acute and personal but so are the experiences of other users, which are therefore inaccessible. David Carr’s characterization of the media as wary of working as “serfs in a kingdom that Facebook owns” is doubly apt for its implication that Facebook’s kingdom can only be as large as the publishing world it is apparently subjugating.

This, maybe, is why journalists are so bad at seeing where they fit into the grand scheme of social media feeds—that is, that they now compete, head to head, with videos and games and comedy and posts from friends and family for a limited amount of attention. Believing that the dominant social software does not think you are in any way special is difficult to reconcile with the conventional wisdom that it also controls the future of your industry. Together, these ideas are fatal to the ego, and so they cannot both be true.

New York City, November 19, 2014

★★★ “The sun puts water in my eyes,” the three-year-old lamented, as the morning brightness met his congested head. The floors were cold underfoot. Crows, their throats bronze in the strong light, perched on the television antenna of the apartment block to the west. Now the leaves were bright red down on a cross street. Some distant birds flapped and glided on the wind, too quickly to find on the binoculars. At sundown, the northern sky glowed as strongly as the southern. A worker swept up dead leaves below the lumber frames awaiting the sidewalk Christmas trees. A Hampton Jitney stood in a no-standing zone. The supermarket was not warm enough to make the case for taking off the knit hat. The crosswalk signals were sticking with both icons showing at once. A dry, gloveless hand whistled when blown on.

Spending Money To Make Money: The Cost of Getting Your Law License

miranda-the-look-02-1024This year I graduated law school, took and passed the bar, and was admitted as an attorney in my state. It’s a given that law school itself is expensive. But like a lot of other professional programs, there are also tons of costs when you’re coming out of law school that I didn’t really think about until I had to. Since you have to be licensed in order to work and make that sweet professional salary, there’s no getting around some of them. For lawyers, of course, there’s the bar.

One option for law students are bar loans. My school was mysteriously quiet about this process, but they are the most common option for people who need to borrow in order to cover their post-grad expenses. Basically, your school confirms to the federal government that you will need extra funds to cover “education-related expenses” after you graduate. This allows you to then apply for more federal loans. If you miss the deadline to do this (December for my year), private loans are available, and are also called bar loans, and they typically come with the same or similar terms as most private student loans.

If it is at all possible, the best bet is to plan for this expense at the beginning of your final year: you can set aside any loan money you take out and earmark it for your bar expenses, or you can opt not to take out the maximum amount of federal loans offered to you, and go back and take it out later. This is what I was lucky enough to be able to do, and it’s worked out well.

Reviews of Store Catalogs

The_J._Peterman_Company_(emblem)The J. Peterman Company: Owner’s Manual No. 121
By John Peterman
The J. Peterman Company, 74 pp., $0.00

Not long ago, I spent an afternoon in a sparsely populated cafe on the bank of the Seine with an older gentleman, an Ernest Hemingway-type in rolled-up sleeves. His chief claim to fame was that he’d successfully wooed Audrey and Marilyn in the 1960s, but while the glamor of his private life eclipsed his public travails, he’d been busying accomplishing more than his fair share of success in life—or should I say exactly his fair share; when you meet the man it becomes immediately clear that he runs on only a dash of luck generously greased by a certain European charm and personality—and today his résumé includes climbing Mount Everest wearing only a motorcycle jacket and adopting a coterie of displaced polar bears from southern Alaska, which he raised as his own children. We’d been talking for three hours before I realized I wasn’t in a weathered cafe off the Seine at all: I was in a small room in my own home—my bathroom—reading a J. Peterman catalog.

Mary J. Blige and Disclosure, "Follow"

The very best musical theme of 2014: Artists returning to their most comfortable sounds to find brand new people—children, basically!—waiting to meet them there. One of the Disclosure boys was born the year before Whats’ the 411? came out; the other was born two years after.

“You don’t use fighting words and then become really surprised that it’s caused a fight. If I said, ‘Fuck you and your mother with a stick,’ you’d say, ‘Whoa, Jack!’ And then I couldn’t say, ‘I’ve just been lynched.’#

New York City, November 18, 2014

weather review sky 111814★★★★ The only trace of the past day’s soggy unpleasantness was a curbside puddle or two. The light was golden and abundant, the chill on the wind wintry, but not winter. A fruit vendor wore fingerless gloves. Down against the Puck Building, a vaping man issued a thick white plume. The maple trees were still densely crowned with pale yellow, even as the street and sidewalk filled with dry yellow leaves, fallen since the rain. Deep into the afternoon, the bright blue sky shone down through the office windows, and rolling up a shade brightened the area noticeably. Then night fell like a guillotine, after the last pardon was exhausted. One bright star shone near the zenith. The cold made the nose run and brought up a dry cough. The maple leaves were white under the yellow streetlight. Straight lines glinted on the top of a puddle where a skin of ice was forming.

The Cost of Being a Salmon Swimming Upstream

U-Haul It, U-Park ItAfter eleven years in New York City, I moved back to my native northern Virginia suburbs a few weeks ago. I’ve been planning this move for most of 2014, and thinking seriously about it since my younger nephew was born in 2013 and I realized I would only be That Lady Who Brings Us Books Every Six Months to him and his older brother unless I made some changes. Since I can do most of my work anywhere with a reliable Internet connection, in mid-October I packed up my entire adult life and shlepped it south on I-95. This is what that cost me.

Moving van rental: $335.43. When I started seriously planning the move, I got a couple of quotes from all-inclusive moving services of what it would cost to pack up my one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment and move my stuff to Alexandria, Virginia. The quotes ranged from about $2,000 to almost $4,000, so rather than spend a couple months’ rent on a moving service, I decided to rent a truck and hire movers. And then I begged my dad to come help me drive the truck. Included in the price was two days’ use of the truck and 280 miles. I paid $48 for U-Haul’s Safemove insurance, and $20 to rent two dozen furniture pads.

Movers: $149.95 to pack the truck in Brooklyn, $153.95 to unload it in Virginia, $80 in tips. When I booked my truck with U-Haul, I used the company’s Moving Help service to hire my movers on both ends. My parents and youngest brother drove up from Virginia a few days before my move to help with the packing, and also so my stepmother and brother could drive down in the car with my TV, my houseplants, and other delicate stuff.

My movers, both two-man teams, were more than worth the money on both ends. I decided to hire movers because my new apartment is on the third floor in a building without an elevator, and also because I own a lot of books. Twenty boxes of ’em. My sixty-year-old dad tends to think he still has the physical capability of a twenty-seven-year-old, and when I moved he was about six weeks removed from surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, which he gave himself by lifting weights. I didn’t want him hurting himself again. Instead my very capable movers did all the hauling and no one got hurt. 

The Humping of Larry King

By Larry King’s estimate, Jack Hanna’s January 11, 2001 appearance on Larry King Live was at least his twenty-fifth. The director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, a veteran on the talk show circuit, had also regularly appeared on Letterman for years.

On this night, Hanna brought with with him a menagerie, including a black-and-white ruffed lemur, a Rhinoceros Hornbill, an arctic fox, a sea lion and a Bengal tiger. He also brought an obsidian-faced monkey named Pete. King, arms crossed, greeted Pete. “What’s happening, baby?” Pete then dry-humped Larry King’s right arm.

Larry, what happened?

Jack Hanna had appeared many, many times on Larry King Live. He was a delightful guest. In fact, one time, a poisonous toad jumped on my son, who was on the show with me. My son went nuts. I guess he was seven. And he screamed, “Get me out of here!” and he jumped up. It was just wild.

You know, when you do shows with live animals—we’ve done many—you never know what’s gonna happen. I had a crazy bird fly across the studio once and land on my shoulder. But there was nothing like that monkey. I mean, to me, it proved Darwin. It was—I don’t want to say breathtaking—one of the rare moments in my fifty-seven years in broadcasting that totally shocked me.

The Symbiote

babbo

My mother, who had been dead for seven years by the time Zelda popped onto the planet, gave me the single best piece of parenting advice I have ever received: “Even babies need privacy sometimes.” At the time, my baby brother was happily playing in his crib, and I wanted to get him out to play with me. “Let him be,” she said. “He’ll want your attention soon enough. Babies learn things when they’re alone.”

The last time that I was truly alone was the day that I found out I was pregnant. Just for a minute, only I knew that I was going to have a child. Even a minute later, after my husband knew, not much changed. For months, carrying Zelda around felt like the greatest secret ever. I smiled to myself on the subway and in crowds. As Zelda grew, I felt myself becoming attached to her, even though I didn’t know anything about her yet. The first time I saw her face on a sonogram, I thought to myself, “Ah, there you are.” Being alone—“I”—suddenly meant something different than it had for the first thirty-five years of my life: It now meant “Zelda and I.”