Friday, October 31st, 2014
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Places I've Lived: Detroit Edition

Fielding Street – Ferndale, Michigan – $200 + utilities (my share) We lived in a brownstone off of Eight Mile in a decidedly not dangerous and predominantly gay area. To the west of us, houses began to fall in on themselves and the night became progressively darker. The streetlights were out.

My friend and I moved into a raised first floor brown brick row house. It was agreed upon by all her relatives that the raised first floor would keep us safe from people that molest at ground level but in the event that our building was set on fire, it would be easy to escape. These concerns were foremost [...]

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Bloodfeast: Scary White People Tacos

Happy Horrors, my sisterwitches of The Mystical Menorrhea! How’s everyone’s ovaries doing? Me and mine are preparing for All Hallow’s Eve celebrations. I’m thinking about finally dressing up in the costume I’ve wanted to since the late 1990s–a box of tampons, like Kelly Macdonald’s character did in the movie Splendor–but alas, that might be too obvious. Still, I just want to pay Halloween homage to our cherished Female Curse!

Which brings me to this month’s Goddess feast, which is a quick and easy one. Being born and raised in Southern California, I’ve eaten my share of delicious authentic Mexican tacos. But sometimes, just sometimes, I get [...]

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My Last $100: Should I Own My Date at Mario Kart?

Or, What Prompted Me to Change My Tinder Bio to Simply: Buy me a drink.

Date 1$18, Downtown Brown (2) If the beautiful oblivion that only the vague promise of not spending your life alone could take a physical form, it would most certainly be the act of paying $9 for a beer you have at least three of in your fridge.

Date 2$10 – arcade tokens The eternal second date question: How hard should I own this guy at Mario Kart?

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In Defense of an Unlikable Protagonist, When the Unlikable Protagonist is Yourself

There’s this thing I’ve done since I was a kid that I rarely talk about—mainly because it’s embarrassing. Anytime I’m alone, I'm probably scripting scenarios in my head of how my life should go. Not the kind of fantastical daydreaming that encompasses what would happen if the fates were ever to align and I finally got to meet my pun-loving idol Dave Coulier; actual, real-life situations ranging from romantically tense showdowns with men (that never actually come to fruition), to the mundane small talk I practice to ensure I’m the most charming customer in the cramped waiting room of my local auto body shop.

Maybe it's a childhood tic, [...]

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The Cost of Traveling and Moving Across Canada

I recently moved across Canada, from Vancouver, BC to Toronto, ON, with my boyfriend, in a van with all of our worldly possessions! Here’s what it cost us:

Van rental: $842.11, ALL IN. I emphasize that because it should have been significantly more. The prices we were initially quoted for the 11-foot cargo van were at least that much, plus an additional $1,000 drop-off fee because it was a one-way rental. Had that been the case, we definitely would have just thrown away all of our stuff and flown. Then we discovered that my boyfriend was able to use his company’s corporate account for the rental, which meant a huge [...]

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Amy Poehler's 'Yes Please' Is the Best Non-Self-Help Self-Help Book Ever

Before I can start my thoughts on Amy Poehler’s Yes Please (Dey Street Press, out today), I have to put aside Professional Writer Voice and make a confession: I love self-help books. I’m not talking about the ones that promise if you just think positively piles of money will magically appear. I mean the ones that urge us to be better people, that gently tell us it’s slowly inch-by-inch going to be okay and that it helps our hearts to be kinder to others and to ourselves. I have an entire shelf of them. If there’s a Brene Brown book to be had, I own a dog-eared, heavily-underlined copy, [...]

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A Reasonable Conversation About Taylor Swift's New Album, Which Is The Best Album Ever

JEN VAFIDIS: HI JANE. There is a new Taylor Swift album out today, and it is already totally undeniable. The first single is a #1 hit, the second single was #1 on iTunes within 10 minutes of its release, and Taylor has been teasing us via Instagram about these new songs for what seems like years. It’s only been a few weeks, but still. I love her, you love her, let’s talk about her.

JANE HU: When I tell people that 1989 is going to get me through the rest of 2014, I’m 100% not exaggerating. Even though the three pre-releases have really sent some MIXED SIGNALS about [...]

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A Fractured Skull, a Lost Sense of Smell, and a New Job

This summer, my friend Rachel Bailey was working as a waitress in Athens, Ga., doing social media for some restaurants, writing when she could, but not as much as she wanted—just scraping by in a town where it’s easy, sometimes even fun, to just scrape by. But she wasn’t having fun. She’d been out of college a few years and had imagined something more for her 20s. She was feeling anxious, stagnant and just generally crappy about life. And then she hit her head in a piggybacking accident and almost died. And then things got better.

Rachel lost her sense of smell and is still slogging through (and mourning) that [...]

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Ghosts Of My Youth

The first ghost story I ever heard was from my mother. She described how once, while sleeping in an upstairs bedroom in her sister’s house, she woke to the feeling of twin icicles curling around her ankles. They were hands, but she didn’t see a body, exactly. More like an abstract interpretation of a body, female, crouched at the foot of the bed. It yanked once, hard, and she opened her pink teenaged mouth and screamed, causing it to let go and vanish. The details shift uneasily when she retells this story—sometimes there is a horrible, unseasonal rainstorm beating the roof, sometimes she is 15, or 17. But these two [...]

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How to Play the Airline Miles Game

I am a 30-year-old woman with an arts degree and some geographic commitment issues, so for much of my adult life, I’ve been in situations where I’ve earned unimpressive amounts of money, but have needed (or wanted) to fly to places semi-regularly. As a result, I’ve become a sort of unabashed, salivating fangirl for airline miles, and something of an expert when it comes to accumulating them. I offer here a primer on how you might join me in this rewarding hobby.

Not to be a scold right off the bat, but this method involves credit cards, so it may not be for everyone. You’ll need to have good [...]

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Dramedy and the Grim Future of Comedy

In a recent Salon interview, Bob Odenkirk warns aspiring writers to “get out of comedy, because it’s about to collapse.” Sketch comedy, he says, is having its time in the sun now — what with YouTube, Comedy Central’s burgeoning lineup and the legions of theater sketch teams popping up all over—but the market is becoming saturated. What’s next then? He suggests that once the market tires of short sketches, it may turn to more long-form, dramatic material. “I do think that after sketch comes story,” he speculates.

And when you look at the TV landscape, that makes sense. (Plus, Odenkirk’s been ahead of the game for years. Why wouldn’t [...]

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Ghosts Of My Youth

The first ghost story I ever heard was from my mother. She described how once, while sleeping in an upstairs bedroom in her sister’s house, she woke to the feeling of twin icicles curling around her ankles. They were hands, but she didn’t see a body, exactly. More like an abstract interpretation of a body, female, crouched at the foot of the bed. It yanked once, hard, and she opened her pink teenaged mouth and screamed, causing it to let go and vanish. The details shift uneasily when she retells this story—sometimes there is a horrible, unseasonal rainstorm beating the roof, sometimes she is 15, or 17. But these two [...]

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'I'd Like to Dispute These Charges, Please'

Yesterday, I received a text from my bank alerting me of some possibly fraudulent activity on my debit card. Despite the fact that it was tucked securely in my wallet, right next to my Qdoba rewards card, someone was using the number at a gas station in Lebanon. I can only assume they used the $97.60 to buy a tank of gas and then 57 hot dogs.

The matter was resolved very quickly, but my bank prompted me to comb through my recent activity and ensure everything else was kosher. Well, USAA, you were right. I have found some charges that must be fraudulent because I would never spend money [...]

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How Going Cash-Only Helped Me Curb My Spending

The Problem I never carry cash. This shouldn't seem like a big deal, because debit cards can be cancelled if you lose them; parking meters, farmer’s markets, and even jukeboxes in the good dive-y bars all accept Visa these days.

For someone who has had the experience of clocking out of waitressing jobs and hurrying down the street at night in Queens trying hard to look like someone not carrying a bunch of low-denomination bills, sometimes just having a debit card feels safer.

And yet personal finance writers repeatedly offer numbers showing that cash-only spenders save more money than plastic hounds like me. According to a Time magazine piece [...]

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A Cool Hip Writer Who Has Definitely Had Sex Profiles Cameron Diaz

It is always hard to know what to wear to meet an icon.

I imagine this is what Cameron Diaz is thinking as she heads to our meeting in a dirt hole behind a Chinese restaurant somewhere near the Lower East Side. I love this hole; it is dark and and wet and fecund, like…well. Wet holes, I write in my notebook, oooh. The actress enters the gaping chasm—like a mouth, like the void, like… well—and seems perturbed, a propitious beginning.

“Does it bother you that I’m high right now on four kinds of Vicodin and a drug used to treat alopecia in animals?” I ask. “Does it?” [...]

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My Day Interviewing For The Service Economy Startup From Hell

I was running to the interview, worried I’d get there late. My temp job was over as of a few days prior. Rent was due at the end of the month, and I needed a new source of income, fast. I was sending out multiple applications per day and I finally had a bite.

A new start-up company called Handybook called me quickly after I hit submit on their online application. I breezed through a phone interview and was invited to interview in person for a Customer Experience Associate position the very next day. Although it wasn't an ideal job, and I wasn’t sure how much it paid, it did [...]

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Getting Personal with Jonathan Katz

Interviewing Jonathan Katz is an interesting experience, especially when doing so over the phone. After all, most of us know him from the animated sitcom he created, wrote and voiced in the 90’s, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the series and is being celebrated with the release of a new album, Dr. Katz Live. Speaking to Katz over the phone was like talking to the Doctor himself. In fact, at times I caught myself opening up to him as if I were in an actual therapy session. Perhaps this is from his inquisitive nature and because he was genuinely interested in learning more about [...]

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Perverts & Prisons: Madeleine Holden on John Grisham

The internet throngs daily with bad opinions, but every few weeks an argument will emerge that’s so thoroughly wrongheaded and deeply reprehensible that we're all forced to engage with it. Last week it came in the form of statements made during an interview with once-popular crime novelist John Grisham. Grisham, in case you missed it, issued a suspiciously impassioned defence of middle-aged white men who are imprisoned for accessing child sex abuse images, arguing that these men are harmless because they don’t physically touch children and should therefore be receiving more lenient punishment; and and if that sounds like an alarming position for a best-selling author and lawyer [...]

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Counselor, World Traveler, Wrangler of Young Jews: A Hiring History

Camp counselor: In the days of yore, when I was eighteen, I chased 6 and 7 year old children around five days week for eight weeks for one thousand dollars. At the end of everyday they got in the cars of their grownups and drove away and I listened to Dar Williams over and over (ON CASSETTE TAPE). I discovered her after our camp music director played “The Babysitter’s Here” on her guitar. I also made out with another counselor a lot, and then drove at high speeds from their house at five in the morning so I could be at work the next day. As you do.

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Spell Book of Beauty

I’ve talked about makeup as magic before—it bleeds through my work. Sometimes I take the message literally and make beauty a ritual to do in the dark. And you know, it’s always worked, even if not entirely in the ways you would expect it to. Here are a few of my favorite spells.

For Recovery & Purification I do this in the dark times where I relapse into “It was my fault” territory, when I am preoccupied with what I could haves and should haves and what my demons are doing now. Take some clove and burn it in a stone bowl, put it on the ground and start [...]

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