Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
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A Cool Book Review by a Hip Writer Who Has Definitely Had Sex

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I got my first asymmetrical haircut when I was 8. My mother was in the kitchen, reading, and I walked in with a pair of scissors. "Fuck you, Mom," I said, as I sliced off half the hair I’d grown as a protest against traditional masculinity. “Fuck the whole world.”

My mother doesn't understand me, still, to this day. She doesn't understand my smoking, my drinking, my casual drug use, or my biting and contemporary parody Twitter accounts. To her credit it is impossible to truly know anything. That, like how to make a bong out of a bottle I found in the garbage, is something I know.

One time I was in an orgy. READ MORE

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Rewriting History in Real Time: A Social Media Guide

In the process of trying to figure out when your cousin's birthday is, or looking at photos of your old partners' weddings, or deciding whether or not to attend your 10/20/30/40-year reunion, there's a reasonable chance you will come across some variation of this headline on Facebook. Beneath it will be comments from friends and family and strangers, in which the dinner table arguments of a decade ago are relitigated. The details, which were foggy in the first place, are now foggier. Someone will probably bring up beheading immediately.

The source for this post—which comes from a profoundly cynical, and popular, news project called the Independent Journal Review, which treats news stories like ideological choose-you-own-adventure books—is "The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons," a blockbuster report by C. J. Chivers. It will not come up, because it has been buried behind at least one layer of translation—from boring, caveated "writing" into pitched and colloquial social patois (but still with a VERY CREDIBLE font). Its new headline, or headlines, are not about the story so much as they are about their prospective sharers, and so those are the terms in which it will be discussed. The new versions of the story say, "I was right" or, at least, "you were wrong." The structure within which they appear is such that engaging with the post—sharing, disagreeing, Liking—is much easier than investigating is provenance, even if it's just three clicks away.

The Times story contains many "shareable" parts but its core is brutally unsharable: Behind every revelation is a complicating and depressing explanation.

READ MORE

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New York City, October 13, 2014

★ The clouds, torn in places early, thickened and assumed the color of old fingernails. The ambiguity resolved into a faint drizzle. A gloomy chill seeped through the office. Out on the fire escape, it was humid and a little less cold. The indoor hoodie stayed on for the commute–accidentally at first, and then out of necessity. Uptown, there was just enough light left to search the playground till the fallen leaves began to look too plausibly like they might be a yellow diecast anthropomorphic car. The drizzle rematerialized and as night fell it intensified into a soaking mist, till umbrellas came out and the sidewalk grew slippery.

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"While some elementary schools no longer have recess, and people like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie argue that school days should be even longer, a few schools are already moving in a different direction. Some are testing out standing desks, and realizing that a little bit of activity can actually improve attention spans. Others, like Ward Elementary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are starting to fill classrooms with exercise bikes, so students can work out while they learn." —Thought experiment: Would the ethical status of this program change, in any way, if the exercise bikes were used to generate electricity? The MOOC machines will need charging.

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Eye Contact in the Highest Court in the Land

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer looked at me and nodded at 1:33PM Eastern Daylight Time on January 21, 2014.

I arrived early that day. You have to. Seating is limited at the Supreme Court. At 6:04AM, I was eighth in the queue. Snow was imminent. Most schools in DC, Virginia, and Maryland were closed. The federal government was closed too, but Chief Justice John Roberts kept the doors of justice open. It takes more than a few flurries to close this Article III court.

The day’s docket was unique. Instead of the typical two cases, three oral arguments were on the schedule. I had no personal stake in the outcome of any of the disputes. I was simply interested in observing the process and witnessing the back-and-forth between the justices and lawyers in real time. Neither live audio nor video are allowed at the Supreme Court, so attending in-person is the only option. The justices’ questions and commentary, coupled with their body language and tone of voice, sometimes foretell how the cases will be decided. Armed with first-hand observation, journalists will often turn soothsayer after attending oral arguments.

At 7:25AM, the line had yet to move. I was just trying to stay warm, marching in place. I tried not to look strange, but it is hard not to look strange while doing high knees near the entrance of the nation’s highest court. I re-read my papers summarizing the trilogy of cases to be heard. First up was Harris v. Quinn. Harris was one of several state employee plaintiffs. The latter, Pat Quinn, is the governor of Illinois. I read the “question presented” three times and my confusion increased. My sense was that the dispute had something to do with a government worker who did not want to the join a union.

The second case was Petrella v. MGM. The case stemmed from the classic boxing movie Raging Bull. That sounded pretty cool. The overriding legal dispute centered on whether the doctrine of laches can be invoked as a defense to a copyright infringement claim. That didn’t sound very cool. My Black’s Law Dictionary started collecting dust years ago. I couldn’t recall what laches meant.

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Life Coaching for Life Coaches

ProSolutions National 2006"Don’t pick it up," my mother said to my 14-year old daughter last summer. "Faeena said it was bad luck. The money will never come to you if you pick up pennies."

Faeena was a woman my mother used to know once upon a time. And not picking up pennies was a superstition that apparently dictated financial success or lack thereof.

I immediately protested.

"Nonsense," I said. "If you don’t pick up coins lying on the ground then you are showing disrespect towards money and that’s when the money will stay away from you."

My mother shrugged and changed the subject to avoid an argument—which in this particular case was to my advantage because if she had asked me how picking up change had helped me over the years, I wouldn’t have had much evidence to present.

I first heard about this strategy of attracting money a few years ago from a life coach who claimed that picking up change lead to her six-digit earning success. At that time I was a life-coach-business beginner and desperate for any tip that could help me build my own successful coaching empire. So I started picking up coins wherever I went. I picked up U.S. cents, Euro cents, and even Russian kopeks that were at the time worth less than broken pieces of glass littering the streets of St. Petersburg. Eight years into this routine and into running my coaching business I was no closer to six digits than when I started. READ MORE

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Intimate and Anonymous: Alejandro Cartagena's 'Carpoolers'

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The Art Museum of the Americas stands at the junction of Virginia Avenue and 18th Street in Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. The red-roofed Spanish colonial villa that houses the museum is a sort of in-law residence annexed to the palatial Organization of American States headquarters (also known as the Pan American Union Building), which occupies the 17th Street side of the same block. A well-tended public sculpture garden featuring the busts of pan-American statesmen and writers separates the two buildings. There are no fewer than four statues of Simón Bolívar on or near the grounds, as well as castings of Pablo Neruda, Abraham Lincoln, José Martí, Gabriela Mistral, José Cecilio del Valle, and Gabríel Garcia Marquez. Walking among those art works assembled in the name of inter-American unity and cooperation is a melancholy experience; such aspirations are so out of synch with the current political reality that I half-expected the plaques on the statues to be in Esperanto.

What brought me to the AMA was a show by the photographer Alejandro Cartagena, titled "Small Guide to Homeownership." Cartagena, who was born in the Dominican Republic but lives and works in Mexico, certainly fits the pan-American mold. The exhibit begins humbly enough, with a looping black and white video of the entrance to a 2010 "real estate event" in Mexico: Potential home-owners wander in an out of a doorway marked "Buscando Casa" as music plays, depicting the banality of the consumerism that drives the continued expansion of the outer suburbs of Monterrey, Juarez, and Apodaca (not to mention Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C.).

But all of that was prelude. Thirty startling images from Cartagena's "Carpoolers" series, taken in 2011 and 2012, comprised the rest (and best) of the show. "Carpoolers" is a found poetry of terrific power: Twice a week, during the morning rush hour, he set his camera up on a pedestrian overpass above Highway 85 in Monterrey and took bird's-eye-view images of day laborers in the backs of pickup trucks on their way to cut lawns, plaster walls, and excavate swimming pools in the city's wealthy neighborhoods. Intimate yet impersonal, voyeuristic yet respectful, the photos offer glimpses at men who are usually overlooked or hidden from view. "I was very excited when I found these workers going to work this way," Cartagena told me in an email. "I had been looking for a way to represent the people who had bought the small suburban houses and how they were managing going to work every day."

READ MORE

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How to Change Your Name in 41 Easy Steps

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1.) Practice saying your new name. Say it aloud to friends, family, and police officers. Ask yourself these questions: Can I pronounce it? Can I spell it? Can I remember it?

2.) If you are changing your name as part of getting married, proceed to step 2b.) If not, skip to step 3.

2b.) Go online and print out an application for your marriage license. On the application, there will be a question asking what you want your new name to be, followed by a large blank space. Whatever you write here will be your new name! Congratulations! Mazel tov!

2c.) The application will most likely have some rules attached stating that you can only change your surname during the marriage process, but apparently this is bullshit. If say, you are going from Kathleen Hale to Kathleen Rich, but want to change your middle name from Erin to Hale (sorry Ireland) you should do it here. Otherwise you will find yourself going through the usual name change channels at the courthouse, which, as you can see by the length of this guide, is a total nightmare. Not to mention: once you have gone through weeks of bureaucratic bullshit, and endured a lot of snark from government employees, you will find yourself face to face with a particularly snarky government employee, who will tell you, "haha, you could have just done this when you got your marriage license—yeah it says not to, but they have to honor whenever you put down" and you will understand in that moment why he is talking to you from behind bullet proof glass. If you were stupid enough to take these bullshit rules at face value, proceed to step 3.

3.) Your only option is to Google "how to change your name in [insert your city, state, country here]." There will be application forms available through a government website. Fill one out. Press print.

4.) The printed application will include a list of things to bring with you to the courthouse in order to change your name. Some of these things are hard to find and scary to lose (birth certificate, etc.) Also, the courthouse might not accept copies, depending on where you live, so put everything in a special folder.

4b) Duct tape shut the folder.

4c.) Wrap it in chains.

4d.) Padlock the chains around your waist.

5.) Proceed to the courthouse.

6.) Take a number.

7.) Wait for the rest of your life. READ MORE

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Ex Hex, "Waterfall"

Most of the songs on Ex Hex's Rips aren't quite as short as "Waterfall"—the twelve tracks on the album, which has appeared on most of the streaming sites by now, clock at thirty-five minutes. But it's a certainly a concise album, and in the best way: quick, full, never dense or rushed. It's an album you can play a few times in a row before noticing that you've started over.

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The Rats Among Us

On Tuesday, Dr. Lipkin and his colleagues published their initial results in the journal mBio. Although the scientists examined just 133 rats, they found plenty of pathogens. Some caused food-borne illnesses. Others, like Seoul hantavirus, had never before been found in New York. Others were altogether new to science…So far, they have identified 18 unknown species related to viruses already shown to cause diseases in humans. Two of the new species were similar to the virus that causes hepatitis C.

One scientist told the Times that the discovery of these brand new, never-before-seen viruses in New York City rats is not "a call to wage war on rats just yet." This scientist lives in Montana.

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New York City, October 12, 2014

weather review sky 101214★★★★ A thick, spine-like streak of cirrus ran straight across the zenith. Light came into the playground sharp and sideways. The white parts of a mockingbird flashed as it crossed above the treetops. The leaves were going yellow generally. Maple wings were strewn on the padding under the swings. The spine of cloud slid off sideways, to the east. In the afternoon, the river was smooth upstream, the far hills in New Jersey crisp against the sky. The cauliflower would go in the oven, not a saute pan, to buy free time for one last look outside before sundown. Fading orange was on the building tops. "After I'm cold, I'm going to be warm," the three-year-old said, shivering in his t-shirt, to explain why he was refusing his hoodie. One lingering pigeon flapped in a dim and stained crevice in the next building's facade. The boy buried himself in the front of an adult's jacket, his own still unworn. Airplanes passed, showing not only their own colors but an extra livery pattern of gold.

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The @UberFacts Manifesto

Life according to wildly popular Twitter account @Uberfacts.

Part One: On Love

Love actually has nothing to do with your heart — It's all chemical reactions inside of your brain. Our brains love music the same way it loves food and sex — We download songs we enjoy because the mind perceives them as rewards. Its possible for someone to feel “addicted to love” — Sniffing cocaine and being madly in love affect the same areas of the brain. Falling in love produces the same type of high as doing cocaine. Falling in love can act as a potent painkiller. It only takes about 0.2 seconds to fall in love. It takes a person about 15-17 months to get over a break up with someone they were in love with.

In addition to love, St. Valentine is also the patron saint of plagues.

Pixar credits its success to its anti-Disney approach — Meaning no songs, no happy village, no love story. Narcissism stems from the Greek God “Narcissus” who was a heartbreaker and was cursed by the gods to fall in love with his own reflection. The Beatles used the word "love" 613 times in their songs.

Research says people who love and feel loved tend to live longer, have better health, and make more money. 80% of people claim they love pizza! There's a Japanese word for that "we could fall in love" feeling you sometimes get when first meeting a person — It's "Koi No Yokan."

During the earliest wedding ceremonies, the bride and groom would make love for the first time in front of the entire village. The drop in serotonin levels in the body when in love, is what causes us to literally obsess about someone. The brain overlooks the flaws of a person you are in love with, making it harder to leave them after they’ve hurt you. Love is more powerful than sex.

Love is more powerful than sex.
Love is more powerful than sex.

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Our Eyebrows, Our Selves

WEBBERHairpin_EyebrowIllo1I’m not sure when I decided that my eyebrows—thick, dark, and joined—weren’t considered attractive, but I was a preteen when I realized that I would have to do something about it. When I was 12, I begged my mother to let me get the offending patch waxed. Getting my eyebrows “fixed” was Step One of the makeover process that I just knew was necessary if I was going to be a pretty teenager. In teen magazines and on The O.C. (everyone’s favourite show in 2003), I saw smallness and whiteness celebrated in bodies, in clothes, and in upturned noses. Even Kristin Kreuk, the only image of non-white beauty I remember from that time, was hairless and thin.

I always wondered if my eyebrows could be a little better—a little more arch, a little less thick, a little further apart. Maybe, by some miracle, my eyebrows would make the rest of me seemed smaller, small enough to fit into a white, blonde, hairless ideal that seemed to be attractive to everyone around me. I understood that to be small, to not offend, was to be feminine, which seemed instrumental to achieving all the milestones of successful teenagehood—parties, boys, Marissa Cooper’s hipbones. READ MORE

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Who Leaves Half of Their Dog's Poop Behind on the Sidewalk?

Jen! So what happened here?

It was a beautiful Saturday and I was spending it in a rather stereotypically Brooklyn way, but you know, I’m not going to hide in shame from the truth of my life. I had just done yoga, and then gone to the farmer’s market for fresh vegetables that would soon rot in my refrigerator. I was sitting on the stoop with my friend Blair, with whom I had yoga-ed and marketed, and we were enjoying the sun and chatting and watching people walk by. I live on a pretty high-traffic street, especially on a sunny Saturday, so there is lots of good people watching. As we sit, a short, older man with salt-and-pepper hair lugging a wheelie suitcase and walking a small dog—like a Yorkie type of thing, or a slightly bigger kind of terrier—stops and lets the dog poop, basically right in front of us, on this high-traffic street, which is in itself a bit rude and disgusting and graphic. (Plus, poor dog, I think it was ashamed; it looked ashamed.) Then the man bends over and picks up HALF the poop with a bag, leaving two large pieces of it on the sidewalk. I open my mouth, but I can’t say anything because I am frozen in horror and disgust and shock and most of all, confusion. Did he not SEE all the poop? Did he purposely leave half behind? Who picks up half the dog poop? READ MORE

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Jessie Ware, "12"

Jessie Ware has a new album out today. This track, with Robin Hannibal or Rhye, is, for some reason, not on it.

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"I am the Jonah Lehrer of sex, a serial plagiarist of stunning bravado and insouciance. So are you."

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Bill Hader's 'SNL' Master Class

billhadersnlYou can judge how great a past SNL cast member was by the void they refill when they return to the show. Maya Rudolph's hosting gig in 2012 reminded viewers not only how irreplaceable of a triple-threat talent Rudolph is, but how colorless (in every possible meaning of the word) the cast seemed in her absence. Andy Samberg's return last May revealed the cast remained short of a goofball viewers seemed to like, even if the show could still produce amazing video content without him. If SNL needs to know what it's missing, it needs only bring back an old cast member to highlight the weak spots.

Bill Hader returned to find his seat at the table still very much empty. To be fair, that's largely a credit to Hader's uniqueness. A master impressionist, star character performer, and eager utility player until the end, Bill Hader's value to the show only seemed to increase as time went on… even after he left the cast. Bill Murray recently praised him as having done "the best work anyone ever did on that show," and it's true — not only did Hader's characters rarely show the gray hairs that other cast members' recurring bits quickly formed, he exhibited a Phil Hartman-esque cohesive quality of a performer who legitimately loves the people he works with. Seeing Hader share the screen with Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins reminded me how much I've missed watching SNL performers try to make each other laugh, as opposed to aiming to play their individual roles as efficiently as possible.

It was a night of few surprises and little new material, and perhaps that's a good thing. There's a certain joy to watching someone do something they were made to do. And no one alive was made to do SNL moreso than Bill Hader was. READ MORE

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Pathogen Privilege

Amanda Uhry, who runs a consultancy called Manhattan Private School Advisors, which, as its name suggests, helps parents through the private-school application process, said she recently turned down a half-dozen clients when she discovered that they were opposed to vaccination. For a long while she had never inquired about the issue, but a few years ago, a child she was working with missed his kindergarten interview because of whooping cough, which left her stunned. "I thought, Whooping cough? Who gets whooping cough anymore?" she said.

While the Times strains to paint the wealthy parents New York City as marginally more reasonable than the wealthy parents of Los Angeles when it comes to anti-vaccination fervor, it's clear that their pampered, all-organic, macrobiotic-fed, micro-managed children—who are able to skirt the city's otherwise rigorous vaccination requirements, thanks to their malevolently ignorant parents' preening—are going to reintroduce us all to antiquated diseases which had otherwise been wiped out of the public sphere. Call it pathogen privilege.

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The American Ebola Story

This is the App Store ranking history for an app called Plague Inc. It's a game in which players design and deploy a disease into the world with the goal of infecting the entire planet—to win the game you must infect every country, no exceptions. The game has been around for a while—the CDC invited its creator to speak to the agency's staff last year. The pretense, according to a CDC spokesperson: "Meeting with industry leaders is a great way to learn more about reaching new audiences through mobile apps." The game's sales spiked on October 1st, immediately after the hospitalization of Thomas Duncan in Dallas. Ebola felt suddenly close for Americans, captivating our imaginations. So we downloaded an Ebola game.

This may have been the moment when the American's public's interest in Ebola went from real but removed to real and urgent; this was also the moment that television coverage of the disease took on a new and ugly form. Not that it was particularly great before: The earlier faraway-Ebola narrative played up the gruesome details of the disease while simultaneously assuring viewers that its spread could be blamed on infrastructure weaknesses and destructive superstitions in affected countries, problems that were characterized as uniquely African (or, at least, not American). Experts would file through the TV studios, repeating their mantras: No contact, no spread. Don't touch dying patients, follow the rules, and you'll be fine.

Now that people are paying attention to cable news for breaking updates about a domestic disease, as opposed to swashbuckling warzone-style coverage of a foreign disease, the tone has changed. I watched a series of segments yesterday, on CNN, in which the hosts' sole concern was to assign blame: Had the hospital broken protocol at any point in treating Thomas Duncan, leading to the infection of a nurse? Had there been even more protocol breaches in the course of her hospitalization? Who can we get fired for the appearance and spread of this natural pathogen? Heads must roll! It was like a Fox News segment about Benghazi, circa election 2012. There were expert guests, but they weren't delivering any advice, condescending or otherwise. They seemed a out of their elements. In the studio where they had previously been tasked with explaining the origins and spread of an unfamiliar disease that has been devastating for thousands of people, they were now tasked with assigning responsibility and guilt in a single case.

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New York City, October 9, 2014

weather review sky 100914★★★★ Colored party lights flashed from a dark apartment, persistently, in irregular sequence: shiny hanging decorations, twisting and catching the sun. The rope from the building-maintenance rigging whipped back and forth outside the window. Dilute white washed the sky, and there were yellow tips on the honeylocust branches. The air was cool on the cheeks. A little waddling dog wore a dog-garment. As Broadway opened out to Columbus Circle, the brightness accumulated like floating dust, forcing a sneeze. A crew was up on a lift stringing lights on the trees. Downtown the clouds were white scratchings on the blue. For a moment in late afternoon, a beam of light succeeded in penetrating the gloom of the office. Leaves and grit scraped along the sidewalk. Light was up in the cornices, and the luxury tower downtown was as bright as a butter knife. Even in this season of sunsets, the opalescent colors at day's end were a surprise.

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