Part of a month-long series on the people and peculiarities of where we're from.
List the twentieth century's most iconic television characters for children. Some obvious candidates off the top of your head: Fred Rogers as Mr. Rogers was a gentle and avuncular mainstay for generations, as was the more colorful and whiskered Captain Kangaroo, portrayed by Bob Keeshan. Both were televised nationally—the Captain on CBS (for the first 29 years) pre-school mornings, and Mr. Rogers syndicated to your local public television station—and as such they were something all children had in common. If you were a little kid in America sometime between the 60s and the 80s, there's [...]
The conclusion of a month-long series on terrible trips, great journeys and getting lost.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was 1996, and I was still imagining myself to be some sort of actor. I had acted in a play written by a charismatic young playwright and directed by my best friend and roommate the summer previous, a four-hander, as they say. The playwright, also the star of the piece, decided that he was going to take the show on the road. For three weeks. And, on top of that, one of the roles would be recast with my girlfriend at the time, "Erin." [...]
It’s a done deal: taxicabs in New York City will become more expensive, as last Thursday the Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to increase fares by what they calculate as 17%. The changes take effect in September, when we will see if anyone actually notices.
This may be a matter of parochial interest, as, contrary to the beliefs of most New Yorkers, not everyone lives in New York City. And no matter what impression a visit to Times Square will leave you with, some non-New Yorkers don’t even visit NYC. But taxis are about the most New York-y thing of all, immortalized in television and film, [...]
So what happens to bridesmaid dresses after the wedding is done, the cake is served and the shots of Gentleman Jack from the open bar metabolized? We asked a group of women the ultimate fate of the bridesmaid dresses they've worn; one respondent, teacher Becca Simone, who's had bridesmaid twice on her résumé, wrote of one dress, “I wore it twice recently: bridal shower and when I chaperoned a prom.” Another, filmmaker Sara Lamm, of Los Angeles, said, "I will say that bridesmaid dresses make good costumes for comedic variety shows. You can always use a bridesmaid dress in a play or horror movie, no?" Sure you can.
One of the more noteworthy qualities of the martini, the quality that sets it apart from all the other drinks mixed at your local watering hole, is the disproportionate effect it's had in inspiring witticisms. Dorothy Parker, as usual, leads the way, with this bit of light poetry: "I like to have a martini/Two at the very most/Three, I'm under the table/Four, I'm under the host." James Thurber added, "One martini is all right, two is too many, and three is not enough." Winston Churchill has a good one (maybe apocryphally) attributed to him, too: "Martinis are like breasts: One is not enough and three is too many." Sure, whiskey [...]
Content series are produced in partnership with our sponsors. This edition of "Pants: What Are They!??" is brought to you by Life Khaki from Haggar.
Do you know who really, really cared about pants? Peter the Great, that’s who. “Peter The Who?” you ask? This specific Peter was the tsar of Russia who became the "Emperor of All Russia" in the early 1700s. His tenure was committed to the modernization of Russia, which at the time was not so modern. Of the reforms enacted was the Decree on Modern Dress, issued in 1701, providing for Russians that "the upper dress shall be of French or Saxon [...]
Content series are produced in partnership with our sponsors. Up first: Pants! Brought to you by Life Khaki from Haggar.
Over the weekend I went to the Lehigh Valley Mall. It’s just outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania, and would rank as the most popular (and second-most swanky) of the malls in the region. It’s standard-issue, two-levels, lacking a proper food court (although it does have what they call a “lifestyle center,” which was added in 2007, and which is basically a strip-mall add-on with stores slightly more upscale than the ones inside).
Recently I have become concerned about my own wardrobe. I have been somewhere just north [...]
This is a big week for the comic book industry. On Friday (at midnight!), the first of the summer blockbusters, The Avengers, opens in the U.S. The Avengers is, of course, one of three superhero actioners to be released this summer, with The Dark Knight Rises and the reboot The Amazing Spider-Man on deck. Then on Saturday, it's Free Comic Book Day, with free offerings from publishers, big and small, hopefully drawing in hordes of potential customers to stores. As comic book writer Fred Van Lente told me, “It’s a good annual promotion to get fresh faces in the stores. I was flown in to at an event at [...]
Top row: Dorothy Parker, Zora Neale Hurston, Shirley Jackson, Gael Greene. Bottom row: Patti Smith, Susan Sontag, Tama Janowitz, Kate Christensen.
In 1967, Patti Smith wrote in Just Kids, she was considering a move to New York City. "I had enough money for a one-way ticket. I planned to hit all the bookstores in the city. This seemed ideal work to me." Twenty-seven years before her, in 1940, Shirley Jackson and her soon-to-be husband Stanley Hyman graduated from Syracuse and moved to New York. According to this biography, "For quite some time they had known exactly what they were going to do: move to New York [...]
Earlier this month, Becca Simone’s music appreciation class at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY, sat down to a test. It was four pages long. The test started with:
1. List three characteristics about the Bronx in the 1970s:
2. What type of music was popular during the 1970’s when the hip hop movement was beginning?
And once the students got through those (and the 28 questions following) they were met with the essay question:
Part 2. Write a brief (about 5-8 sentences) response about the hip hop movement. What about it do you find interesting? How has the music changed over the years (i.e., in terms of [...]
It was Tuesday night, April 2, 1974, and America and various other parts of the planet were knee-deep in the telecast of the 46th Academy Awards. David Niven (co-hosting with John Huston, Diana Ross and Burt Reynolds) was introducing Elizabeth Taylor, who was to present the Oscar for Best Picture, only to be interrupted by a young man running across the stage behind Niven. The man flashed the peace sign and kept running. He was wearing no clothes. And Niven noticed, and paused to acknowledge the amusement of the audience, and said something Niven-y and withering. And the live broadcast continued. (The Sting won!)
This event is notorious, and often [...]
You do not need the ghost of Andy Rooney to remind you that, if traveling by automobile is a big chocolate cake of frustration, then the tolls that may be collected from you are the frosting. These tolls are such an annoyance (if not an outright burden) that they're avoided as a topic by even the most amateur of our stand-up comics. And of the costs that are difficult to avoid in the day-to-day, these are definitely increasing, right? Increases mount, and what was once an afterthought, tossing some change into a basket, is now an expense to be reckoned with.
But even if we all agree that, yes, [...]
We're entering the Year of the Dragon. Last night was the beginning of the new lunar year, which makes today what we call Chinese New Year (and what they call in China, New Year). It may seem pat to take this occasion to discuss our relationship with Chinese food, and the relative expense of it over time, but it's not meant to be. At feasts all over the world today, dumplings will be eaten for prosperity and noodles for long life. And while Americans use a different metric for determining what year it is, Chinese food is as mainstream in this country as French fries and buffalo wings (both [...]
One thing aspirin is not: polarizing. If you are going to have a tiff with a friend, aspirin will not be the topic. Aspirin is actually a great unifier—it’s one of the sundries that can be found in every home across the country. Aspirin is easy to find, and it is here to help. With all sorts of things, of course, but between you and me, mostly hangovers. And people who are paranoid of incipient heart disease, they also are big aspirin fans.
Shut up about Brooklyn already. We all know about Brooklyn, that shining city on the hill, where everything is made only of awesome. Yes, there are beards and clunky eyeglass frames and lawyers who skateboard and grandpas with noise bands. The hipsters run-off freely now, the cheesecake is largely appareled American and vice now has a market cap. There's even a successful sitcom that purports to be set there, which is as large a cultural signifier as anything—Brooklyn may be located on the western-most tip of Long Island, but where it actually lives is dead solid in the middle of the zeitgeist. It's now, it's hip, it's hot, it's happening. [...]
The New York Times Best Sellers list has come a long way—so far, that it’s no longer just a list or two (Fiction and Nonfiction). Check in now and you will find that there are 21 separate lists, everything from Combined Print and E-Book to Manga. Manga! This is no longer the NYT Best Sellers list we grew up with, checking the paper each Sunday for (after we read the funnies in some other paper). It’s all grown up, and reading manga.
In recognition of the steadfastness of the New York Times Best Seller lists, let’s see what books were topping it, going backwards in time, and use the [...]
It's gift-buying time, for whichever ecclesiastical reason you personally buy your gifts. So here’s a nifty trick question for the daughters/nieces in your life after they’ve opened their presents: how old would Barbie be in real life? The easy answer is that she would be 52, as she was introduced in 1959. But not so! She was introduced as a teenager, of course (let’s say sixteen), so the actual year of her birth would be 1943. And do you know who else was born in 1943, do ya? This guy.
Oh, that should be a good one.
But if you are shopping for young kids of a certain age, [...]
Sometime between July and September of this year, you may have heard that America’s poor are not really all that poor. Something like this bit of wisdom from Heritage Foundation researcher Robert Rector from July 27, 2011:
How poor are America’s poor? The typical poor family has at least two color TVs, a VCR and a DVD player. A third have a widescreen, plasma or LCD TV. And the typical poor family with children has a video game system such as Xbox or PlayStation.
My goodness, that almost makes you wish you were America’s poor, doesn’t it? (Or maybe you already are—congratulations!)
The implied redefinition of [...]
"Marlene Dietrich once said that if she heard an American man rave about a meal, she knew he must have eaten a steak," says A Treasury of Great Recipes. Published in 1965, the book was written by Vincent and Mary Price (yes, that Vincent Price, or that one, maybe you remember). Price drops the quote in a section on great New York restaurants. And it’s not just the American men who thought this (though more on that below): restaurant critic Ruth Reichl in a 1994 steakhouse round-up wrote, “But there is one thing I have no doubt about: steak is a New York tradition, and when I [...]
They called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force, or the Bonus Army or Bonus Marchers for short, and in 1932 they set-up semi-permanent encampments in Washington D.C. Nearly 80 years later, people are occupying Wall Street, and many, many other places around the country. And as loud as the shouts of deliberate mass media ignorance were a month ago, the Occupy movement is not all over everything, and it’s as difficult to avoid coverage now as it was to find it then. It seems to be a unique construct, a product of now—nonviolent, persistent and inchoate in the sense of there's too much to say (rather than not being able to [...]