Friday, October 10th, 2014
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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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This Week in Lines: Soup

kiosk 12:46 PM Thursday, October 9 — Soup kiosk
Location: Prince and Mercer
Length: Eleven people, five cardigans
Weather: 68 and partly cloudy
Crowd: Solo Soho soup slurpers
Mood: Noodle-y
Wait time: Five minutes
Lingering question: Do you want bread with that?
READ MORE

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Interpreting the Animal Choices on the World’s Most Popular Programming Books

If you are a software engineer, or work in an office with software engineers, or have ever been near more than one software engineer, you’ve seen the O’Reilly programming books with the animals. A bit of digging on the company website reveals that each book’s cover animal is selected not by the author but by O’Reilly’s creative director, Edie Freedman, who goes on to state: “I never reveal the reasons behind my choices, but I can assure all interested parties that there is always a reason.” So in the end, it’s up to you to figure out how a Mexican agouti, tarsier, or axolotl will guide you on your programming journey. For now, I did my best to decipher a few myself.

Learning Python
Cover Animal: Wood Rat
Meaning: Python, the programming language, was named in reference to Monty Python, not the snake. But this isn’t a snake. Not even a baby snake, still learning how to snake. It’s an animal that a python would probably eat, which is a huge bummer.
DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE: OK so maybe the wood rat has to learn about pythons to avoid death? Still sad.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS: No, but you should probably learn python, it’s fun!
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Cook the Grape

graping

Here’s a controversial opinion: Grapes are very good. The grape vines in places that suffer through winter are still pumping out the last of the season’s fruits, which means two things: First, your standard-variety supermarket table grapes are very cheap. Second, and more importantly, you can get locally grown varieties, which have way more flavor—sweet and tart and floral and bitter all at once, with that very particular pop that only comes from a grape whose skin is less attached to its flesh than your typical supermarket grape—at the farmers market. And they’re pretty cheap.

The most common way to eat grapes is as follows: Eat a grape. That’s it. It’s a pretty good strategy, really. But I suspect that, because they are so good for munching, people tend to stop there and assume that’s all that can be done with them. This is false; there are many more things to be done with grapes.

As far as varieties of grapes go, there are about a billion, and I can’t keep track of them. Typically, though, they are placed into one of four major categories, based on color: white (read: green), red, blue, and black. Generally speaking, grapes get juicier, sweeter, and richer the darker they get; think of how sweet and almost cloying a concord grape is compared to a white table grape. The best way to approach a farmers market grape booth is simply to eat a couple from each bin and figure out which one you like. But, because I like to cook them as much as I like to snack on them, I find that certain categories of grape (or, at least, grapes with certain characteristics) have ideal uses in the kitchen.

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The Homeland Generation


This is Figure One in a document published by the White House, on Medium, called "15 Economic Facts About Millennials." It is included to establish a premise for the post: that the "Millennial generation will continue to be a sizable part of the population for many years." It seals off that generation at 2004, which means the next one begins at 2005. The next one is labeled without explanation: The Homeland Generation.

This data is credited to the Census Bureau, but presumably only the raw population numbers—the “Homeland Generation” is not, apparently, an official census designation. The choice to use it, then, fell to the people handling communications for the White House.

These people would have been presented with a number of options, none of them appealing: Generation Z. Post-millennials. Plurals. These are early and over-eager names concocted by marketers, and it is obvious. Gen X didn't know it was Gen X until it was teenaged; the first millennials were old enough to roll their eyes at the term as soon as people started using it earnestly. Coinages are deliberate. Winners are decided in retrospect. There was no need for the White House to use a distinct name, here, except to fill a blank label in a chart. Not the current administration's problem!

This was what a political operative might call an unforced error. The Homeland Generation is not just an unnecessary choice but a jarring one; its optics are conspicuously clumsy considering that optics are the sole concern of this document. Read it from the perspective of a non-American to get the full effect: The "Homeland Generation" sounds paranoid, xenophobic, and ready to fight. It's almost like something out of speculative fiction, what a writer might call the first generation of people after some great collapse shattered the modern world into nationalist tribes. It would be very useful in this context—it would convey fear and selfishness and reversion, instantly, to use such a darkly coded word. It's the kind of name you would give to a lost generation, seeing as the "Lost Generation" is already taken. The reader would get it.

READ MORE

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Watching Roseanne's Early Standup and Secret Sitcom Pilot

126 - roseanneBefore we begin, I must first make a confession. My knowledge of Roseanne Barr's comedy is based solely on my memories of watching her sitcom as a kid in the 90s, and that time she screamed the national anthem. But in a way, my lack of knowledge has perfectly primed me for the subject of today's article. Today we're going back to 1987 to watch a proto-version of Roseanne, which was, for many, our introduction to this singular comedic voice.

What's most interesting about The Roseanne Barr Show is that it is a standup set within a show, within a show. Let me explain. Layer number one is the standup itself. Roseanne performs her standup live on stage in Los Angeles. To reflect her "brassy mom with an attitude" persona, the stage is designed to look like a regular, middle-class living room, complete with ugly throw pillows, an easy chair, and coffee table. This show, the announcer tells us at the beginning, is brought to us by FemRage, which we'll hear more about later in the program.

Occasionally, Roseanne's act is interrupted by a couple of actors playing her children. They'll run on stage to have their mom settle an argument, or to inform her that they had to get out of the room, and run on stage, because their dad farted. These interactions require Roseanne to be a mom, and smooth over whatever's going on, so she'll walk backstage, out the door to the street, and step inside her family's trailer home, parked outside. Here, in the second layer, we have another household set, this time resembling the trailer that she and her family lived in before she broke in to comedy. In this world we have the same child actors but in a weird twist, her then real-life husband Bill Pentland is portrayed by her then friend and future-ex-husband Tom Arnold.

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A Poem by Kathleen Ossip

The Arrival of Spring

                                 (Botticelli)

“So then you were….”
“So then I was what?”
And the whole seabeach

just beyond the trees
widens. Italian? Blonde?
Charming? In a

scarcity economy,
kindness is bread,
and if kindness comes

from lust, so be it.
A bubbly state of
monumental

opportunity has left
every gal a
little bit pregnant,

while every guy
hangs around the edges,
stirring the shit.
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The Tortilla's Last Light

bowlifeIn May, in the course of conducting what could be the Awl's first annual Chipotle State of the Union survey, idk, Bobby Finger discovered that far more people ordered bowls than burritos, even though Chipotle is generally known as a burrito chain. Today, in a piece on the rise of grain bowls as a meal format—which strangely omits the Korean dish dolsot bibimbap, the ultimate bowl of grains and cool stuff—is official confirmation of the tortilla's fall from grace: "For evidence that the bowl has gone mainstream, look no further than Chipotle, whose burrito bowl is the biggest selling item on the menu."

Chipotle, America's favorite bowl chain. Weird.

Photo by David Ciani

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New York City, October 8, 2014

weather review sky 100814★★★★ Clouds the color of heavy cream stood below whiter clouds in the morning west. Then somehow they darkened to purple before resolving into pert, rounded shadings of gray below and white above. The breeze had an easygoing strength to it. The choice between walking down to the B/D and taking the 1 was so arbitrary and narrowly balanced, it took the impact of an unyielding turnstile to shake loose the realization that one path was supposed to involve using a MetroCard. Beside the bodega downtown, the tops of the trio of trees had quietly thinned to bare twigs. The late-day glow got a few feet into the glassed conference rooms at the street side of the dark office, if not into the office proper. Bright late clouds illuminated the shaded streets, and there were scattered bits of pink up there. 

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Barack Obama, 2005, to the graduating class of Knox College:

The true test of the American ideal is whether we’re able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time. Whether we allow ourselves to be shaped by events and history, or whether we act to shape them. Whether chance of birth or circumstance decides life’s big winners and losers, or whether we build a community where, at the very least, everyone has a chance to work hard, get ahead, and reach their dreams.

Barack Obama, 2009, accepting the Nobel Peace Price:

For all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

Barack Obama, 2014, on Medium:

History has dubbed you the “Millennials.”

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Worst Behavior

15039944632_28a53a4ba2_z
From the outside, Toronto seems like a utopia: the world’s greatest rapper calls this city home (that’s Drake, if you haven't been paying attention), gay couples are free to get married, our healthcare system is beleaguered but subsidized, and our film festival is a barometer for Oscars. Torontonians are a happy clash of cultures; almost half the population are native speakers of another language. Vogue recently named our bustling Queen West the second hippest neighbourhood in the world. THE WORLD, YOU GUYS. VOGUE.

But in the tense run-up to the municipal election later this month, there’s been a lot of drama that exposes the conservative, xenophobic face of this city’s power elites. Two female candidates, both women of colour, have publicly come forward about incidents of basic bullying hate rhetoric directed at them online and IRL, some originating from self-professed members of the ill-defined, amorphous mob known as Ford Nation. READ MORE

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A Field Guide to the True American Diner

dinersHello, I am an American from New Jersey and I care about diners.

The True American Diner is a casual sit-down restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner—all three meals—all day, often for all twenty-four hours of it. Time has no meaning in the presence of eggs, steak and hash browns. Portions are large but not obscene; sides are available with nearly everything. The food is sturdy and simple, a few strong flavors and techniques. Nothing in a True American Diner couldn’t be made by a moderately skilled cook in their own kitchen: corned beef hash, club sandwiches, and a variety of scrambles.

Menus are oversized and presented as a single, huge laminated page with unavailable items taped over, or in a leather-bound binder. Everything in the “diet” section of the menu contains cottage cheese or is steamed. There are daily specials, and they come with soup or salad. Chicken Parmesan and mozzarella sticks must be available. Ketchup is served in bottles, not packets. The coffee is available and drunk at every meal; cups may even be set out on the table before patrons arrive. Refills are free and assumed to be always wanted, unless you indicate you want no more by turning the coffee cup over. Dessert is pie, and if displayed in a glass case at the end of the counter, it must rotate. We did not free ourselves from England's cruel yoke to have static pie. READ MORE

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Girls in Country Songs

The beginning of Maddie & Tae's video for "Girl in a Country Song" is familiar to any CMT viewer: two sun-tanned hotties in cowboy boots and bikini tops walking on a dirt road, ogled by plaid-shirted men hanging out on their pickup truck's tailgate. But then we pan past some hay bales to Maddie & Tae, two blonde nineteen-year-olds from Texas and Oklahoma, respectively, holding guitars and rolling their eyes. "Well, I wish I had some shoes on my two bare feet," they sing, "And it's getting kinda cold in these painted-on cut off jeans." In the rest of the song, Maddie & Tae not only call out country bros' clichés, but directly quote and satirize a dozen of the genre's biggest acts: artists like Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, and Jason Aldean, who have, taken together, easily held the number one spot on Billboard's Hot Country Songs Chart for eighty percent of 2014. This is a brazen move for two teenagers to make in their first single—especially at a time when number one singles by women on the country charts are coming at a rate of one per year.

Country music has been in extreme party mode for going on three years. Nashville producers discovered autotune and drum machines, and country radio transformed into a permanent tequila-fueled dirt-road bonfire bacchanal. In a basic way, "Girl in a Country Song" is meant to address the annoying and gross ways these songs—where singers evoke guys who talk too loud in bars, yell stupid things out of their cars, and are so drunk that they mess up their own pickup lines—talk about women. Maddie & Tae counter a lyric like Florida Georgia Line's "Slide your little sugar shaker over here" in the only appropriate way: "There ain't no sugar for you in this shaker of mine," they sing. "Tell me one more time, 'you gotta get you some of that'/Sure I'll slide on over, but you're gonna get slapped." As they note later, "Conway and George Strait never did it this way."

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The Penthouse at the Edge of the World

A superlative piece of New York real estate:

And there on the map lies the farthest residential building from a subway entrance in Manhattan according to my analysis: 10 Gracie Square, located at the end of 84th street at the FDR Drive. It is 0.7 miles from the subway station as the crow flies, or 0.8 miles using the grid.

There are plenty of places that are nearly as inconvenient to the subway as this address, 10 Gracie Square, on top of which sits a $18,900,000 penthouse apartment, from which you have an unobstructed view of the Coler Goldwater Specialty Hospital & Nursing Facility, which sits just across the water on Roosevelt Island. But none quite so. (A sample Google review: "This hospital sucks patients killing themselves serve spoiled food and drug dealing so sad nyc what is wrong with you.")

Interesting how, among the twelve beautiful photos of this apartment, the only blurry one looks east, out the window:

This is the Gracie Square—south of Carl Schurz Park and Gracie Mansion. Which maybe casts Mayor Bloomberg's storied insistence on taking the subway in a new, slightly heroic light? IF you ignore the fact that he didn't actually live in Gracie, and IF you also forget that he took an SUV to the subway most days.

Anyway, now we know the actual reason for the Second Avenue subway project: to shave one avenue off the walking commute from 10 Gracie Square.

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Saturday Night's Children: John Belushi (1975-1979)

john_belushiSaturday Night Live has been home to over a hundred cast members throughout the past 39 years. In our column Saturday Night’s Children, we present the history, talent, and best sketches of one SNL cast member every other week for your viewing, learning, and laughing pleasure.

SNL's first party monster legend was a Chicago boy born to Albanian immigrants — a short, squat, blue-collar popular kid whose fierce presence dominated everything from the high school football field to the improv theater stage and, during his final years, the silver screen. Many of the late John Belushi's friends and former collaborators have attempted to describe the man behind the SNL icon — longtime friend Dan Aykroyd called him "all-American" while former cast mate Jane Curtin claimed he was an unrepetant misogynist and saboteur of sketches from women writers — but no matter what the opinion, most would agree with Lorne Michaels's assessment that Belushi was an "absolutely indestructible" comedy genius whose influence on SNL and today's comedy creators can never be overstated.

Belushi was born the oldest of four children. His father worked endless hours at his own restaurants in Chicago, and the family moved from the city to Wheaton when Belushi was six years old. In Belushi's 2005 biography, his younger brother Jim describes their parents as not "like parents; they were like siblings, very immature and competitive." Quickly rising to popularity during his Wheaton school years, Belushi became a favorite in school plays, speech competitions, high school rock bands, and the football team (his teammates dubbed him "Killer") but it was his obsession with comedy albums by Jonathan Winters and Bob Newhart that began to take hold. Despite his all-star school status, Belushi ultimately turned down two college scholarships to pursue an acting career, which got a kick-start thanks to a monologue he performed during senior year as a Nazi camp counselor. The performance won him several local awards and led to over a year of summer stock productions, on which the high school grad was the youngest performer. It wasn't until Belushi caught his first real improv show at Chicago's Second City Theatre, however, that he felt he'd found his calling. READ MORE

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Yumi Zouma, "Alena"

Here is New Zealand's Yumi Zouma with a genuinely relaxing track. It's a build-and-release song structure, except muted: It doesn't work you up—it gets your attention and then calms you down.

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"The term of choice for its practitioners is BLARPing—business live action role play."

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New York City, October 7, 2014

weather review sky 100714★★ Near-identical shadows of torchiere lamps stood in the same place on the same wall in two different apartments, one directly above the other. The clouds knitted together uptown, but were apart downtown for a while. Blue mottled with white became white mottled with gray. Still the afternoon sun found a place over Lower Manhattan it could mostly burn through. By rush hour, the sky overhead downtown was clear and blue; uptown was nearly the same blue, but now it was the blue of twilight on clouds. 

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Cash and Anxiety on the Weird New Internet

Welcome to ᴄᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ ᴡᴀʀs, an occasional column intended to keep a majority of ᴄᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ coverage in one easily avoidable place.

Here is something that is not quite missing but also not all the way present in stories about Fusion's all-star hiring spree: The money. It is not yet clear, from the outside, what Fusion is planning on doing with all its new hires, but they're getting very good people: Anna Holmes, Dodai Stewart, Felix Salmon, Jane Spencer. Yesterday The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal announced that he too would be joining. Madrigal in 2013:

I am an Atlantic person. I love this place. I feel it in my bones. If I open up one of our musty tomes at the office, I can get sucked in for an hour just looking at the ads, or marveling at the eloquence of W.E.B. DuBois. When I look back at old Ta-Nehisi posts or see Fallows in the halls, I can get emotional.

Here is what I understand about the Fusion proposition: Fusion has money. TV money. This money affords its web operation editorial freedom and the ability to ignore the most exhausting parts of the internet (see: Felix Salmon's Actual Auction Price Calculator), which is huge. Of course this money also affords new hires money, and a chance to work onscreen: The Fusion job discussions I've heard about put its offers in an entirely different ballpark than most of its "competitors," except maybe Bloomberg, which will throw huge amounts of cash at the people it wants.

Anyway, this is great: Talented people get to pay off debt and do work they want. And because of the contrast it creates with the companies more commonly associated with the internet publishing boom. Big internet publishers pay well on their scale, and on modern print scales. But nothing like this.

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Patriarchal Parody: The Rom-Com Logic of David Fincher

Gone-Girl-Trailer
Disclaimer: If you don’t know what happens in Gone Girl by now, please send me an email explaining how that is even possible. Otherwise, be warned spoilers lay ahead.

Like six million other people, I read Gone Girl. I’m assuming that, like many of those six million people, I read it in a matter of days (one and a half, to be precise). I binged on Gillian Flynn’s easy-as-breathing prose and nearly ripped out the last page of each cliffhanger-concluding chapter in excited frustration. When I finished, I texted the friend who had loaned me the book, admitting I’d skipped dinner plans to stay in and read. She replied to the effect of, “It’s great, right? But aren’t your feminist senses tingling?”

Gone Girl, with its false rape accusations and domestic abuse-inventing protagonist, Amy (played in the film by Rosamund Pike), represents what can be construed as terrible gender politics. To me, however, Flynn’s book read as a satire of the very kind of man who dismisses women as “crazy bitches.” But given these murky misogynistic grounds, I understood where my friend was coming from. In fact, I assumed it was this aspect of the book that compelled bro-fave director David Fincher to adapt it for the screen.

Instead, it’s the opposite; Fincher has made Gone Girl into one of the best satirical romantic comedies of recent memory. READ MORE

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