In the modern world we’re never more than a glance away from a digital display of today’s date or the time to the nearest second. The use of GPS devices in cars or even in our own pockets with smartphones has all but eroded the art of map-reading and navigation. This is all exceedingly convenient, of course, but I think that many of us in developed nations are feeling increasingly disconnected from the fundamental principles and processes that support our lives, sensing that our basic skills are atrophying and perhaps feeling anxious of being a little too reliant on the magic of modern technology.
Now, I don’t think I ever actually believed in Santa. The closest I came was a slow-burning conviction that his name was Santa Sauce because he was, in some sense, actually a marinara-ladled meatball given life and laugh and beard. I don’t think that counts, really—certainly a meatball could never hold a sleigh’s reins, or operate a multinational corporation—so I'll claim that I knew from day zero that Santa was, strictly speaking, a kind of lie.
But he's a useful lie. One that parents can deploy to effectively trick children into not behaving like tiny sociopaths who are too short to drive themselves to school. (Imagine attempting to get full [...]
Recently I've been rewatching "Battlestar Galactica." On a rewatch, I feel like it's a very long haul. And I've now seen a lot of people cruise through the first couple seasons then get bogged down in, say, season three. It's quite a bit of TV! For a non-fanboy or non-fangirl, it can get tedious. Reordering the Star Wars movies made so much sense; the so-called "machete order" for Star Wars (IV, V, II, III, VI, skipping "Episode One"!) is a work of genius. So I began to wonder, not so much about order, but: how can we chop down "Battlestar"? The answer: pretty easily. (DON'T KILL ME, FANS!)
Sometimes, the curses of living in NYC turn out to be its blessings. When you can stretch your arms out and touch both walls of your bedroom—or, both roommates—the great outdoors becomes less an escape and more of a living room. Luckily, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux had your back even before you moved in with your "boyfriend." New Yorkers have long enjoyed recreational use of open public spaces. I like to uphold that tradition with the classic picnic in the park. And sure, grabbing a slice and flopping down on someone's sweatshirt in Washington Square can be perfectly nice—and easy. But with a little more effort, [...]
Although I’m huge on newspapers, no New York newspaper seems to fit my demographic: aging socialist who only wants to read the Sports Page and Garfield. I give up on newspapers ruthlessly and as permanently as I can. The Boston Globe and The New York Times were the first to go by the wayside. The Globe because The New York Times destroyed it, and then The Times because of their craven build-up to the Iraq War. That, and all their annoying Brooklyn trend pieces. I read the Boston Herald in Boston, minus the entire front section (except the always-enjoyable “The Inside Track,” because I want to know what Matt [...]
First things first: Murder is wrong, OK? But let's say, hypothetically, that you're considering committing one anyway: how would you do it? Practically everyone wants to murder someone. That jerk that got the job you want. That guy who gets all his books reviewed while your books don’t even get published. That handsome, horrible dude everyone loves when only you know he is a complete fraud who must be exposed. Jonathan Franzen. Maybe you want to murder novelist Jonathan Franzen. Let’s say you do. You want to stand over Jonathan Franzen's wrecked body as it bubbles over with his own blood. You’re laughing and he’s just kind of lying [...]
Poetry occupies a cultural space in Contemporary American Society somewhere between Tap Dancing and Ventriloquism. People are certainly aware that poetry exists, but this awareness comes upon them only vaguely and in passing moments. During commercials, mostly, which feature corporate poetry. When people think of a poet, perhaps they imagine the finger-snapping beret-wearing beatnik. Or the slammy mike-wielding poet-ranter. Both proud poetic traditions. But most people who write poetry are people just like yourself. Scruffy, broken wordpals. In the age of Twitter, casual word-shaping may be at its all-time high worldwide. As we attempt to fit all the meaning and emotion we can into a few short lines, no doubt [...]
I am prepared to offer an extremely valuable free service. Why would I do this crazy thing? Just to make the world better. And, more selfishly, to save myself from being bombarded by nightmarish tabs.
For free and for nothing, I will speed-read your Medium draft and warn you of any dangers it might present. Yes! I will be like "HEY THIS PART IS RACIST" and "NO 'MISANDRY' ISN'T A REAL THING" and also maybe "LOL you have no idea what you're talking about here." And then you will be happier, I will be happier, and the Internet will be happier. (Yeah. Mostly these tips are for men. Most of [...]
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, volunteers have spontaneously organized to help the many, many people whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the storm. Many displaced or electricity-lacking NYC residents are still in need of hot meals. Occupy Sandy has been coordinating deliveries and making some food at their hubs in Brooklyn, but a lot of the food they're distributing is coming from various kitchens in churches and schools and even homes, and some of those volunteers are also finding ways to deliver the food themselves. (Here's what's happening and where to help for Thanksgiving.)
This outpouring of community support gives me a schizoid blend of alternately [...]
Much like the philosopher’s stone or the Holy Grail, the perfect hangover cure has been the subject of endless inquiries by some of history’s greatest minds, and has proved just as elusive. Those who do possess it are often fictional or demigods, or both: who can forget the mystery drink concocted by P.G. Wodehouse’s inimitable Jeeves on his first day reporting to work for Bertie (this was itself a variation on the oft-touted prairie oyster)? Kingsley Amis made a long study of hangovers and their cures, much of which can be found in Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, and in which he notes that [...]
No one's supposed to get lost these days. Smartphones have maps on them—and compasses, too. But phones have a way of losing their signals when you most need them, and then there are the times you simply can't figure out which street on a crowded map that flipping little blue dot is indicating. And then sometimes your phone dies, and who knew you can't bike through there, and oh god, the left pedal fell off—and suddenly you're meeting your boyfriend's family two hours late and covered in sweat because you took the long way around Arlington Cemetery. Hypothetically.
Or let's say, you just have a really, really lousy sense of [...]
This essay appears in Deliriously Happy: and Other Bad Thoughts, out this week.
Have you ever noticed that you always know when your dog wants to go “out”? Or when he is hungry? Or when he is angry with you or others?
You know because your dog is already talking to you!
Dogs are natural actors, instinctively adept at using their bodies and facial expressions to communicate with you nonverbally. They are also expert mimes, capable of performing a vast repertoire of deceptively simple routines to subtly get their points across. Some of these “bits” are universal (e.g., nosing the dog dish to indicate hunger, drinking out of the [...]
Have you caught up on the terrible story of Christopher Ryan Smith? The Internet entrepreneur was traveling in Africa all throughout the second half of last year, according to the emails he was sending his family. Unfortunately, he was dead the whole time, having been killed by his terribly secretly shady business partner. Horrible story! Also, how stupid: you buy yourself six months to get away with a murder by posing as the poor dead fellow, and you don't even flee the country? Moron. Still, gives one ideas.
Yes it is election day at last, when your voice can be heard! Sort of. Kind of muddily. But this is what we have for now.
This is time for our basically annual reminder that New York has a wacky way of voting! And you can make your voice be heard a little more because candidates appear on different party lines on our weirdo ballots. For instance, Democrats will often appear on the Democrat line but also on the Working Parties line, and if you want to tell them that their voter base is to the left of Democrat, you vote on that line. Crazy right? So if you want [...]
So you didn't win a Nobel Prize in Literature this week. Unless your name is Mr. Mo. Although, if you live in Europe, you did win a consolation Nobel Peace Prize at least. (Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union is like giving an Oscar to Alf.) Anyway, I know, it’s total bullshit. You totally deserved it. But you might just be a calendar year away from getting the recognition you so obviously deserve. Let me show you the way.
I waited by the phone all week for that congratulatory call from overseas myself! Not for the stuff I’ve already written, which, let’s admit, is pretty amazing. But [...]
This post is brought to you by HomeAway. Discover the world’s largest selection of vacation home rentals with HomeAway.com. Let’s stay together.
I like cities with a little grit and texture, with character. And just like with people, it’s the ups and downs that build character, not sunshine and lollipops. Oakland is a city of highs and lows. And it knows it. Lately, some things have been looking up. There’s been some smart growth downtown, and Oakland managed a spot on The New York Times’ list of "places to go in 2012." But unlike some of its more glamorous neighbors, Oakland still feels grounded and inclusive, [...]
First off, know that I want to help you. I do. I enjoy being a mentor. This is largely because I’m so inspired by, and thankful for, my past and present mentors. I credit most of my career (in publishing) to the five or six people who took the time and patience, and surely the occasional offense, to bother teaching me their business. Yet in our I want-I click world of ordering things up—no doubt made more frenetic by job crises across the board—the art of finding, courting and keeping a professional mentor has been lost.
I see this almost daily in the Mad Lib assistance-on-demand emails I receive. [...]
A love letter can stir more emotion than any other literature the human race has produced. But take one out of a lover’s hands and most of them become embarrassing, boring and absurd. They’re full of minor events reported as if they’re the opening skirmishes of a great war and small favors received with the thanks due a profound sacrifice. They’re riddled with inside jokes and lousy with clichés.
Love letters tend to fail as literature because love’s hallmarks are also the hallmarks of bad literature: lack of perspective, repetition, superlatives. But strangely, these flaws are part of how we measure a love letter’s sincerity. If we remove them, [...]
Out of compulsion, obligation or your own neurotic drive, you are hosting Thanksgiving this year. You know you have the experience and talent to pull it off, but you also know that the complexity of it—and your own high standards of performance—can sneak up on you, making the final hours before Thanksgiving dinner a tear-streaked melodrama of anxiety and disappointment.
So if you want to succeed without losing a finger, your sanity, or the weak familial bonds you still have, we need to start right away. For the next three weeks, your hand in mine, we are going to head into Thanksgiving with grace and confidence, getting enough [...]