Under Pressure

New York's last seltzer man goes all in.
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Career Dilemmas Present in 'The Sims 4′

Sim working lateDifferent types of Sims players have different types of goals: The Architect wants to build beautiful homes. The Murderer likes to create Sims only to watch them die slow, painful deaths by trapping them inside their homes and watching them starve. Then there is the type that I fall under: the Careerist whose goal is to get to the top of whatever career their Sim is in.

I’ve been this way ever since I played the first generation of The Sims. I usually play as a woman, which makes things a little more complicated—just like in my real life. Things in the new Sims 4 are simpler and more progressive, but even in a simulation game the following finance and career dilemmas still pop up:

Struggling for a work-life balance
In previous generations of the game, you might have to work to increase your skill set, and maybe schmooze with some people outside of work to get a promotion. Now every position has a daily task to do once you get home. Were you looking forward to your Sim hanging out after work? Well if you want a promotion anytime soon then that’s too bad; get on that computer and start filing reports for several hours until it says you’ve completed them!

Take a long look at what may be the last generation of Manhattan-raised twentysomethings for whom Brooklyn will seem like a place that is far, far away—so far that they needed to convince all of their friends to move into the same terrible building with them:

All three couples were planning to move out of their Manhattan apartments by summer, and although the idea of Brooklyn was appealing — they could potentially get more space for the money — it was also unnerving. None of them had lived in Brooklyn before. Each worried that if the others did not follow, he or she could end up living in an unfamiliar borough without friends nearby.

“One of the issues that people my age have about moving to Brooklyn is that you think that the second you live there, you are moving to a foreign country and will never see anyone again,” said Woody Wright, 27, who grew up on East 58th Street and, at the time of the Hog Pit gathering, was planning to move in with his girlfriend, Britaania Poppie, who is 26 and works in finance.

Ms. Abrams’s enthusiasm proved infectious. By August, all three couples had moved into one-bedroom apartments at 388 Bridge, paying around $3,200 a month in rent for apartments on the 23rd, 24th and 25th floors.#

One day we might use the same faintly eulogizing tone to talk about Old Manhattan, a glorious island city that seemed to float in the clouds before the ocean reclaimed most of it, leaving just a handful of soaring skyscrapers which were abandoned and then slowly gentrified by a new wave of young people, pushed out over the water by the soaring rents in waterfront neighborhoods like Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill.#

Courtney Barnett, "Pedestrian At Best"


We’ve been big fans of Courtney Barnett since “the paramedic thinks I’m clever ’cause I play guitar/I think she’s clever ’cause she stops people dying,” and we are pleased to report that we have no need to change our status in that regard. Although you should probably steer clear of this one if you are disturbed by clowns.

All the Exposed Men's Ankles in the February "GQ," in Order

New York City, January 28, 2015

weather review sky 012815★★★ A few elongated clouds arrayed themselves on the sharp morning blue. The light on the slushy crosswalks was blinding; the puddles were a sinister clayey gray-brown. Mostly, though, the snow was enduring, still presentably white. The wet floor of the subway made it too risky to rush and jump into the open car at the warning tone, but the down parka made it relatively easy to take the blow of the slamming doors and squirm through. The sidewalks were everything from open pavement to solid packed snow, on opposite sides or even different lengths of a single block. An oncoming stroller bore down down along a channel just wide enough for its wheels. The paint of the window frames diffused generous portions of daylight into the office. Walking at dusk, small muscles in the lower legs tensed and ached a bit from making constant minor corrections on the slippery ground. The crisp-cut half moon, barely turning gibbous, was startling.

Fred Armisen on the Evolution of 'Portlandia,' 'SNL,' and American Accents

fred_armisen_spikePortlandia’s fifth season premiered on IFC earlier this month, and for longtime fans of the show, the newest crop of episodes have been the perfect culmination of four years’ worth of exploring the many characters, small businesses, and human idiosyncracies in the magical world of Portland. But Portlandia isn’t the only thing that’s evolved and changed over the past few years—co-creator and star Fred Armisen has moved from his SNL roots to be the new Late Night band leader and has a brand new IFC show set to debut later this year, so it looks like 2015 will be another busy year for one of TV’s favorite punk rock/comedian hybrids. I recently spoke with Armisen about how he approached the new season of Portlandia, NBC’s upcoming SNL 40th anniversary special, and his hopes to one day master every American accent since 1930.

The last time we interviewed you was almost a year ago, right after you started at Late Night. How’s your year been?

Inside the Mind of the Teen Male, Approximately

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I don’t command a nerd army, or preside over a realm of the socially ill-equipped. I’m small for my age, young for my grade, uncomfortable in most situations, nearsighted, skinny, awkward, and nervous. And no good at sports. So Dork is accurate. The King part is pure sarcasm, though: there’s nothing special or ultimate about me.

— Frank Portman, King Dork (2006)

King Dork Approximately is the recently published sequel to King Dork. They are very funny and truthful YA novels, written by Frank Portman, with a quite pro- sex and drugs and rock and roll vibe to them. They are told by protagonist Tom Henderson, a disaffected, cynical, guitar-playing teenager in a band whose name changes every other minute (The Mordor Apes, with Mithril-hound on guitar, Li’l Sauron on Bass and Necrology, and Dim Todd on Percussion and Stupefaction, soon gives way to The Elephants of Style: Mot Juste on guitar, Sam Enchanted Evening on Bass and Animal Husbandry; First Album, Devil Warship). In King Dork, Henderson’s discovery of his late dad’s annotated copy of The Catcher In The Rye creates all kinds of havoc for our hero. The movie of the first book has been in production for ages at Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s production company, Gary Sanchez; Miguel Arteta (Freaks and Geeks, Youth in Revolt) is attached to direct. Portman is also the frontman of the old SF pop punk band, The Mr. T Experience. MTX, as it is known locally, was formed in Berkeley in 1985, so Tom Henderson comes honestly by his rock and roll bona fides.

These are the only YA books I know of that describe teen sexuality convincingly from the boys’ side of the equation. Here is a quote from Tom Henderson:

You can’t control “the hots.” You don’t say, like oh, I would ordinarily like this girl’s ass, but now I know she’s a Republican or likes the Doors then I suddenly don’t. It doesn’t work like that, at least not for me. And it’s true the other way too: things like accomplishments or abilities don’t much matter like people seem to think they should. “Well, Gwendolyn, now that I know you came in second in the spelling bee, I suddenly inexplicably want to ramone you.” No, not so much. An ass is an ass is an ass. You either like it or you don’t, and spelling bees don’t enter into it, so to speak. But honestly? I usually do like it.

In the travails of Henderson and his friends and foes, Portman expertly portrays the real-life horrorshow teens face in attempting to form a halfway operational understanding of—well everything, but most specifically, how gender politics will operate in the adult life they’re about to embark on. We really aren’t serving the teens too well there, it has to be said. What have they got to work with? Some ghastly farrago of Grand Theft Auto, The Fault In Our Stars, The Hunger Games and Nicki Minaj videos.

I met Portman in the sumptuous wood-paneled Tap Room at the Huntington in Pasadena, where he was staying during his book tour for King Dork, Approximately. He’s handsome, not too tall, dark hair, blue t-shirt. Strikingly, Portman’s gimlet-eyed, cherubic mien has remained unchanged for decades.

What is YA literature, even?

Well, another question is: What is an adult? and then, What is a young adult?

The Man Who Won't Let Go

“He Stopped Loving Her Today” might well be George Jones’s most famous song, but I don’t think it was his best. Eighteen years before that one, he released my favorite: “She Thinks I Still Care.”

The two songs are a little like bookends. “She Thinks I Still Care” is a first-person confession from a man who cannot stop loving a woman who has left him; “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is a second-person elegy for a man who only stopped loving a woman when he died. George Jones didn’t write either song, but he made you believe he had lived both, falling in love so foolishly that only death could release him from loving a woman who had long stopped loving him.

The Possum never said the two songs were related, but they’ve always seemed that way to me, especially since the man in “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is reading love letters from 1962, the same year that “She Thinks I Still Care” was released. Jones stretched a single love affair the way he did the songs themselves; he never met a syllable he didn’t like well enough to turn into two. Part of what’s so distinctive, so delightfully Jones is that his vowels seem to go on forever and ever: Sheeeee thinks I stiiiiiiiill caaaaaaaare, and that’s just the chorus.

A Poem by Henry Israeli

SO MANY MACHINES

The car is a machine
that spins the world beneath it.
The heart is a machine
that sits like a hunched little man.

A child is a machine
to keep balls bouncing.
Balls are machines that keep
gravity from crushing us.

All machines depend
on all the other machines.

The Sporting Contest As Metaphor For Life: A Consideration In Verse

What Time Is The Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl is always now.
It takes place every minute.
It doesn’t happen somewhere else
Just look around—you’re in it.

You start out full of faith and hope
and joy for what will be.
You end up with your brains bashed in
and fractures in your knee.

Your arms are sore, your legs are weak
Your mouth is slack and muddy.
You’ve wet yourself and crapped your pants
The rest of you is bloody.

At every turn you’re smacked around
And even if and when
You somehow reach a goal of yours
They send you back again.

A bunch of larger angry men
Keep mashing up your head
And when they finally stop the clock
It’s over and you’re dead.

The Super Bowl? Well, that’s your life.
The suffering’s what sticks.
Oh, you meant this Sunday’s game?
That starts at half past six.