Monday, April 14th, 2014
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A Conversation With Philomena Lee

In the ‘50s, Philomena Lee became pregnant outside of marriage at the age of 18. She was sent to an Irish convent to have her baby, and after that, worked off her expenses in the laundry, permitted to see her child for an hour each day. Against her will and as part of a large and secretive program of forced adoption, the nuns gave her young son away when he was three years old. Philomena was able to track down her son—a successful lawyer and former chief legal counsel to the RNC—only after his death. Her search is the subject of the movie Philomena, starring Judi Dench.

I talked to Philomena and her daughter Jane on the phone this week.

In the abbey, you went by the name Marcella, right?

Yes. As soon as you entered, you weren’t allowed to use your own name at all. I was known as Marcella and that was that. We didn’t talk about our families or use our own names.

Does your time there feel like it belongs to another person?

It’s such a long time ago. I do feel like a different person now, of course. Anthony would have been 62 years old if he were alive today.

But in the abbey we just all had to do it. We all had to lose our identity. And at the time I was so young, and every other girl was in the same boat. It did bother me that I couldn’t use my name, although I do like the name Marcella. But then again that’s how it was in the early ‘50s—you just accepted what you were told. They never gave us any reason. READ MORE

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Are you ready for THE BIG COOLDOWN? THE BIG COOLDOWN is coming and none of us will survive! BIG BIG BIG COOLDOWN.

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This woman is correct. Everybody on the Internet sucks, and your thinking you can identify the medical basis for everyone's suckishness vaults you to the front of the first float in the cavalcade of platforms passing by for the Suck Parade. Stop sucking.

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How To Ditch Your Job And Flee The Country

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, producer and editor Mike Byhoff tells us more about what it’s like to leave your job, get on a plane headed for a country you know nothing about, and then spend a month abroad without an agenda or being able to speak the language.

Mike! We spoke at the end of February after you frightened everyone with that tweet, and we decided to hold off on a Tell Us More until you got back. Now that you’ve returned home, let’s begin with this: So what happened here?

To get to me hyperventilating on a plane as it landed in Guatemala City, I should probably start from the beginning, which is the wonderful world of unemployment. I took a job as an editorial director of a video start-up in March of 2013. It seemed like the "right move" for my career, as it was part of a well-known company in the tech scene, the guy who started the company is one of the most brilliant people I have ever worked for, I got equity, and I could frame the editorial direction the way I wanted to.

Cut to 12 months later, and we’ve barely acquired users, we’ve pivoted three times, my job responsibilities shifted DRAMATICALLY, and we were going to partner with another company for content. I was sat down and given the option to take a scaled-back role or severance. Without much thought, I took the severance. READ MORE

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The Torture Of Giving Critical Feedback at Work

[byline]
Hands down, my worst work experience to date was trying to tell someone they have a bad attitude. This someone was my coworker, Ruth, and technically, I was her supervisor even though we were the same age. My boss directed me to give her this feedback during her annual review. Ruth was actually terrific at many parts of her job, but according to my boss she had a "negative attitude." It was a combination of an unfriendly and unhelpful demeanor (that I think was accidental, e.g. that she frowned when her face was at rest), and a tendency to avoid taking on additional work (mostly pretty boring stuff that I wouldn’t have wanted either).

I was only 25 at the time, and totally unprepared to present this in a constructive way. I failed miserably, erring on the side of not offending her and landing squarely in the center of avoidance. The conversation went something like this:

READ MORE

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Maybe Shoving Kids In Front Of TVs Isn't The Best Way To Calm Them Down: Study


This is hard to believe, but it turns out that exposing children to the bright screens and flickering lights of television may not in fact help soothe them. The good news is now we also have tablets and smartphones with which to instruct children that they need never be alone with their own thoughts when there is a surface nearby on which something will pop up to provide distraction, so soon enough everyone will be ruined for sustained contemplation and we will thus hasten along this species' destruction in a way that simply fucking up the planet through development and use of fossil fuels might not achieve on its own.

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"It opened April 14, 1989, and that weekend, it made $5.2 million. It wasn't enough to come anywhere close to what Major League pulled down in its second week ($9.1 million), but it was enough to come in one slot ahead of the opening weekend of the Tony Danza comedy She's Out Of Control ($4.6 million)."
Say Anything is 25 years old, as are all the unfulfilled hopes and aspirations of your youth, including but not limited to the dream you had of making a difference in the lives of people other than your friends and family and the vague ideas that at some point in your life the work you would be doing would have meaning in and of itself and not merely be the thing you dragged yourself into each morning because you became a prisoner to status and possessions and the ever-increasing series of compromises and "temporary" positions you took with the delusion that you would only do those things until you got yourself to a place where you were able to follow your bliss, and now when you look back on that idealistic kid from 1989 you are stricken with a mixture of disgust for the ignorance of youth and sadness about the hard realities of life. But of course this is only true for people of a certain age; if you are much younger, don't worry, I'm sure everything will work out exactly the way you expect it to.

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The Anti-Commitment Generation

Millennials are embracing their fear of commitment in a major way, and they don't seem to mind one bit. Check out the mini-documentary above for a glimpse into the mindset of what we might call the anti-commitment generation.

This interview series is the latest in The Mobile Movement campaign, in which AT&T travels the country documenting the life and times of millennials. In each case, they aim to capture a different angle on the "networked existence."

Follow the movement at www.youtube.com/themobilemovement.

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If You Are Too Bleary-Eyed To Watch This You Need More Caffeine


Do you know how much coffee will kill you? I think this video will tell you, but I am about to find out through personal experimentation. I AM SO TIRED THIS MORNING. Anyway, here is some learning for you to do about caffeine.

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"David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture"

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City Living: How We Make It Work Now

"Hookers are using the controversial Airbnb home-sharing Web site to turn prime Manhattan apartments into temporary brothels," while "[c]rafty hobos are turning the Manhattan Bridge into a veritable shantytown, complete with elaborate plywood shacks that are truly 'must see to believe.'" It is, indeed, a hell of a town.

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How Bookstores Survive

Here's a look at how six great independent bookstores make it in the big city, which is actually a question I have always wanted answered. The Park Slope Community Bookstore has done it in part by catering to Park Slope's child-related needs, which seems obvious; BookCourt did it by buying their building and, eventually, the building next door. PowerHouse Arena, as anyone who goes to things knows, does it by tirelessly having things to go to (and lots and lots of space rental). The lovely Greenlight books did it through canny investment and fundraising and by being a bookstore where a bookstore was needed. And Sarah McNally of McNally Jackson does it by selling a crapload of books:

She attributes more than $4 million in sales last year to an obvious factor: volume. “Instead of getting rid of shelf for display,” she says, “we’ve gotten rid of display space for shelf space.” So 65,000 books have been squeezed into 7,000 square feet (along with a café), while creative organizing keeps them compulsively browsable.

My only complaint about these bookstores is that, with the exception of BookCourt's cat (pictured!), there aren't enough cats in them.

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The Girl With The YOLO Tattoo

YUP YOLO
It was Christmas Day, my last day in Thailand, and I was looking for something to make my trip extra special. I roamed the streets of Chiang Mai, listening to Drake’s “The Motto” on my iPod, and I thought about how great those last few weeks had been, and how great the last few months had been in general. After four years on and off in New York City, I had made the decision to move to South Korea to teach English. Making the decision had been rough, and I had a hard time coming to terms with leaving the city. Brunches on Saturdays, partying in the evenings, smoking myself into a purple haze during the week, cookies from Milk Bar: I had carved out a decent little life for myself. Sure, I worked at a cupcake shop part-time and could barely make ends meet, but I was living it up in New York, one of the most diverse, most fun places ever. How could I possibly leave?

I loved the city, and also I had to admit that it just wasn’t giving me what I needed. If I didn’t want to be in my late twenties still living with two roommates that I didn’t know and couldn’t stand, I was going to have to put on my big girl panties and make some real decisions. Friends had been telling me for years what a great opportunity teaching in Asia could be. Still, I dragged my feet for almost a full year before things finally swung into motion. A part of me was excited for the possibility of life in a foreign land again, but another part of me was scared and kind of tired of moving and having to restart my life. Over the course of seven years I had lived in San Francisco, New York, and Amsterdam. I loved my time in each city but being so transient does have its downsides. Sometimes it feels as if I have no roots. Constantly moving makes relationships, friendships and romantic ones, difficult. Plus, I was kind of annoyed that I couldn’t make things happen a bit faster in New York. I finally powered through and started really looking for positions overseas in January of 2013, secured a job in July, left the city in August to spend a month at home in Cleveland, and moved to Korea in September of 2013. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

That morning, as my Christmas break was coming to an end, I thought about all the things I could get into. I could go ride an elephant, or take pictures with tigers, I could even go ziplining. Thailand has no shortage of tourist traps for the adventurous traveler with money to blow. None of those options seemed quite right. As I zig-zagged through the side streets I came across a tattoo shop. READ MORE

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New York City to Philadelphia to New York City, April 10, 2014

★★★★★ Sun came in high through the leafless street trees and went glancing everywhere. The waters of the New Jersey wetlands were lightly ruffled. Someone's large-screen portable device caught the light and sent a retina-hurting beam across the train car. The phragmites and the trees and the gravel of the rail bed were all brown. A few miles later, dustings of pale green began flashing by, and  trees were tipped with red. Somewhere before Princeton, the lawns were green. Deer grazed on a field fuzzed green with new growth. The green smudges became patches; the patches became swaths. On the way into 30th Street Station, broken glass twinkled on the embankment. The cab driver let the road breeze battle with the Christian rock radio till highway speeds made it untenable. The college students had given themselves over to shorts. University-logo banners stretched and filled, conveying their intended unifying visual theme. The basement air conditioning was mortuary. There was day enough to absorb a missed train, and a delayed train after that one. Swarming shells of rowers darkened the river. The vernal gradient passed in reverse. A touch of haze kept the sky from being entirely flawless. Lower Manhattan showed in full color in the right-hand distance on the way through Newark. In town and uptown, outside Alice Tully Hall, a brass band flared, the white sousaphone fiberglass agleam. From the dinner table, the children exclaimed over the crossing contrails as they went from to silver to pink, then finally lost the light and vanished.

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"It’s just a chicken with its nuts cut off."

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How to Change Your Password: A Heartbleed Guide

Millions of passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information may be at risk as a result of a major breakdown in Internet security revealed earlier this week.

The damage caused by the "Heartbleed" bug is currently unknown. The security hole exists on a vast number of the Internet's Web servers and went undetected for more than two years. While it's conceivable that the flaw was never discovered by hackers, it's nearly impossible to tell. -The AP

Here is a foolproof guide to changing your personal passwords during this crisis.

MATT DAMON

Imagine you're lying in a meadow and Matt Damon is shirtless next to you. He smells like corn on the cob. He whispers something in your ear, something only you can know. Add an underscore, this is your Gmail password. READ MORE

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A Poem By Lisa Lubasch

[come to me, sweet stranger]

come to me, sweet stranger, and make of me a moment, a nostalgia, to give
to the wind, to give to the one, who is standing there, at the meeting place,
where the safety is immense, and not to tangle with, where the sentence
can arrive, as though through a spaciousness, surrounding her, through its
particulars, through its split, integument, intangible, what she will take,
what she will have, to wander, with, over the paths, with their names in
tow, in time, a morning, a motive,

come to me, sweet stranger, and make of me a ruthlessness, out of the fatigue,
a furlough or a breathlessness, to gather into the hands, to hone or hammer,
hurry, though, redemptive, as the gaze, untraceable, as the contagion,

come to me, sweet stranger, and make of me a henceforth, further, I am
willing to make it one, pronounceable, convinced of its own, utter,
patternlessness, through the wave, of inhumanity, throughout, the future,
READ MORE

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The Cost of (Almost) Getting Bed Bugs in Los Angeles


Three months ago, my boyfriend and I made the decision to move in together. We serendipitously found a perfect, large two-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms in trendy Los Feliz. For this area in Los Angeles, $1,600 for rent is an absolute steal for a place this size. We had to take it; even after the landlord raised the monthly rent a paltry $60 in exchange for some much needed kitchen updates. The building left its heyday 50 years ago but, despite the cracks and cheap repairs, it still has charm.

We couldn't believe our good fortune. How was this gem so unbelievably affordable?

Well, two months later, my boyfriend and I discovered we had bed bugs. OK, so maybe we didn't have bed bugs per se but, our friends—whom we had convinced to move into our dream apartment complex—had just moved into the apartment adjacent to ours, certainly did.

It was only the second night in their new apartment when I received a text from Erin, "We have bad news," followed by a graphic video of giant bed bugs squirming around in a plastic bag.

There was no mistaking this captured family of bloodsuckers. Erin and Ben definitely had bed bugs.

READ MORE

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"We like to blame the internet because it lets us off the hook. But it’s a bit like an alcoholic making a bottle of whisky bear the responsibility for his having drunk it, or a drug addict blaming her dealer for selling her a fix of heroin. The web is undoubtedly – pardon the rehab speak – a great facilitator for those of us who have a tendency towards distraction, and it is to blame for myriad pains in the buttocks: 'lolcats', 'selfies', 'vaguebooking', endless bloody passwords, endless bloody pictures of people’s coffee, know-it-all commenters, the phrase 'Is this really news?' (as used by aforementioned know-it-all commenters), viruses, perverts, Viagra spam, porn for the perverts to watch with their Viagra spam."
There was more but I felt like I had gotten all I needed at the end of this list.

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Eels, "Mistakes Of My Youth"


When I am in one of my more positive frames of mind I like to tell myself to focus on how remarkable it is that Eels have actually been able to be as big as they are rather than wondering what it says about the world that they aren't bigger. Either way, I am glad they're still at it. Sometimes just sticking around is a victory. Enjoy. [Via]

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