Monday, April 28, 2008

1st in Class

Have you ever wondered what the results of a Google image search for "bonhomie" would bring? You're looking at them

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Imports vs. Exports: Bring it On!

The "Indian Premier League," a brand new 44-day 59-match cricket extravaganza (and "one of the largest and most- promising new business opportunities in India in recent years," according to Bloomberg's Andy Mukherjee) is quickly gaining on "Barack Obama" in Google Trends rankings! This surely in part due to the controversy erupting around the IPL's decision to import cheerleaders -- like those of the Washington Redskins (who apparently, may not even have Indian work permits) -- to spice up the sidelines. "What the cheerleaders are doing during cricket matches is ten times more vulgar than what used to happen in dance bars of Mumbai," Nitin Gadkari, leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra told Reuters. (As for "what used to happen in dance bars of Mumbai," well, the BJP worked to ban it.) The counterpoint of course: "Our stars wear skimpy dresses in movies but nobody seems to protest. Why this double standards?" Why indeed? As the spectator interviewed in this Washington Post video puts it, "Sexuality and cricket is the way forward!"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

From First Lady to Lady Macbeth

It is as if Hillary Clinton is engaged in a toxic transmission onto Barack Obama of every outrageous insult and accusation ever inflicted on her by the American Right over the decades. She is running against what she might have become. Too much politics dries the soul of the idealist.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Home of the Brave

This New Yorker article about the U.S's future role in global affairs and this New York Times article about retired military generals being recruited to spout Rumsfeld-friendly talking points on Iraq as network television "military analysts" ... well, read them.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Missing the Train

The Subway Crush site might be new, but the experience -- and documentation -- of sudden strong feelings among underground commuters isn't.  This passage from Subwayland by Randy Kennedy describes the work of a man named Neil Goldberg, who would wait on subway platforms with a Sony handheld video camera for the sole purpose of filming the facial expressions of MTA passengers who missed their train:

Most interesting and striking in some of the 17 hours of footage Mr. Goldberg has taken so far is the way that commuters briefly let down their subway masks, allow their faces to register real emotion and then, realizing where they are, quickly bring the masks back up again.

"It makes it almost hard for me to watch sometimes," Mr. Goldberg said in his studio, where he will eventually distill the hours of recorded faces into probably five minutes of pure disappointment.  "Somehow, it's almost sad."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Go Obama!

From my brother: Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's first Secretary of Labor, is going to formally announce his endorsement of Barack Obama later today. "She's an old friend," Reich told New York magazine (on the subject of Hillary Clinton), "I've known her 40 years. I was absolutely dead set against getting into the whole endorsement thing. I've struggled with it. I've not wanted to do it. Out of loyalty to her, I just felt it would be inappropriate." What pushed Reich over the edge was the Clinton campaign's ad response to Obama's "small town" comments:

We have three terrible traditions that we've developed in American campaigns. One is outright meanness and negativity. The second is taking out of context something your opponent said, maybe inartfully, and blowing it up into something your opponent doesn't possibly believe and doesn't possibly represent. And third is a kind of tradition of distraction, of getting off the big subject with sideshows that have nothing to do with what matters. And these three aspects of the old politics I've seen growing in Hillary's campaign. And I've come to the point, after seeing those ads, where I can't in good conscience not say out loud what I believe about who should be president. Those ads are nothing but Republicanism. They're lending legitimacy to a Republican message that's wrong to begin with, and they harken back to the past 20 years of demagoguery on guns and religion. It's old politics at its worst — and old Republican politics, not even old Democratic politics. It's just so deeply cynical.

Art Major Mess

All art is quite useless. -- Oscar Wilde
Alright. It's icky, but (for reasons not entirely clear to me), I feel I have the duty to post on Yale student Aliza Shvarts and her senior art project. Shvarts' project was billed as a provocative exploration of the relationship between art and the human body featuring layers of plastic sheeting smeared with the blood from a series of self-induced miscarriages. Shvarts said she filmed these miscarriages over a 9-month period when she alternately inseminated herself and took over-the-counter abortifacient drugs, and that she planned to project the footage onto the plastic sheeting. "Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it," she told the Yale Daily News, but it's not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone." Anyway, some scandalized parties came knocking, and the project was ousted as "creative fiction." Grossed out yet? Slate's Dana Stevens, who knows a thing or two about abortion and all along suspected that this was a scam, has assessed things nicely:
Hoax or not, I guess Shvarts’ installation is an accomplishment by some negative measure: In a single attention-getting move, she’s managed to make the pro-choice movement, feminism, performance art, and Yale all look bad at the same time ... Was Shvarts' point simply to trick people into being horrified that a young woman might really have done this to herself (and, depending on your point of view about abortion, ended the lives of several incipient human beings in the process). And if so, was her piece a success?
I suspect Shvarts just thought she could get away with pretending she had those abortions in the name of art, but if the deception was part of the project itself I'm a little more intrigued -- her work then becomes more like a highly-effective booby trap for reactionaries on both sides of the issue than just a tasteless and hollow fake-out.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

High Five!

Another Dec alum reminded me that today is National High Five Day, a glorious holiday that traces its humble origins to UVa circa 2002 (and more specifically, this manifesto). High five! If you're stuck at a desk and aren't feeling the fingers-and-palm connection, I recommend this video from 2005 (which admittedly isn't actually all that funny but still really made me laugh).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

That Model First Lady

This week Hillary Frey advocates for Carla Bruni as a "useful" and "modern" "model of feminism, and femininity." I'm not convinced. Yes, she looks great naked; yes, she's savvy and sophisticated enough to seduce politicians and rockstars alike. But what about the part where Bruni moves in with her French writer lover then goes on to have an affair -- and a child -- with his already-married son? She may be a bold icon of style, but Bruni's not exactly raising the bar for womankind with her accomplishments. As former French Vogue editor-in-chief Joan Juliet Buck says:

Versailles was conceived as a magnificent showroom for French goods, because around 1678, Colbert said to Louis XIV: We have to prove the French do things better than anybody. In 2008, at last, a model is married to the president, which is great PR for the further global extension of French luxury brands.

Or, as NYU European Studies professor Tony Judt puts it, Bruni is a "neat encapsulation of [Sarkozy's] presidency: eye-catching, over-compersatory and more than a little lacking in taste."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pamela Anderson Reads! Unmarketable!

When my buddy Jyothi emailed me this picture of Pamela Anderson reading Unmarketable -- a New Press title by Anne Elizabeth Moore (not your average "beach read," y'know?) -- I was quite amused.  Of course I asked, can I stick it on my blog? She gave me a "YES please do!" but before I could get around to it, someone else posted about it (and took the high road):

Even when Pam Anderson, whose career has traded on the “ditzy blond” stereotype, decides to do something worthwhile with her time — say, for example, digging into an intellectually rigorous exploration of the commercial infiltration and co-optation of marketing into nearly every aspect of independent culture, as Unmarketable offers — entertainment writers and blog readers still relate to her as if she should never try to be anything more than a staple for low-brow punchlines peddled by Comedy Central boys. Let Pammy read and lay off the slut jokes, why don’tcha?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

May Wah Healthy Vegetarian Food

I've recently been cooking more, and in the course of restocking the fridge this weekend, I discovered that the li'l vegetarian "mock meat" store around the corner, May Wah Healthy Vegetarian Food has its own adorable li'l blog. Though some of May Wah's products are a li'l daunting, I'm a total fan of this place, so it was nice to learn that not only was it the first of its kind (over a decade ago), but that it's also -- as the largest vegetarian distributor in New York -- probably unlikely to go out of business any time soon. Good news for me!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

DeLorean Machine

If you're going to own a car in (mid-town) Manhattan, it might as well be one of these.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I just realized that this blog has been alive for a full three months.

Loyalty Vexed

The New York Observer has had an awful lot of articles about Facebook lately. Too many. Boring! Anyway, this week's NYO Facebook coverage consists of a little rant about the (admittedly annoying and, yes -- like most Facebook features -- "creepy. And, in fact, invasive") new "People You May Know" feature. Though the piece says little of note, it manages to end with a great quote on why "People You May Know" is so insidious:

Its infernal machine logic taunts you with people who could, theoretically, be your friends—but aren’t. Your page once served to document the extent of your social support network. Now it advertises the people you never connected to—the friends you don’t have.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Portrait of a Lady

File under: Black Sheep Alumni. Harvard's Ted Kaczynski can claim he was traumatized by psychological research conducted on him as an undergraduate, and sometime Stanford student Ted Bundy can blame heartbreak, but (according to HoosOnline), UVa's eminently industrious Temeka Rachelle Lewis -- the former English major responsible for scheduling "dates" between Emperor's Club VIP clients and employees -- has only Madison House volunteer experience (and all those sordid literary classics) to blame. "She's just too clean," Lewis's stupefied uncle told the Daily News when he learned of her line of work. "Even when she does the dishes, she puts on gloves. It just don't make any sense." But the UVa English Department website's careers page tells it like it is:

The notion that English majors are unprepared for interesting, productive, lucrative employment is an unfortunate, unfounded myth.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Soggy Pie

I very briefly met Wong Kar-wai earlier this week. He exuded cool and didn't take off his sunglasses; I was not disappointed.  Yesterday I saw My Blueberry Nights. It was awful -- actively, laughably bad. Oh well.  Maybe next year's effort will be better. 

Friday, April 4, 2008

Unaccustomed Earth

She's got a new book out! This from Slate (via my brother):

In her fiction, learning "to not build walls around ourselves" doesn't begin to cover the challenges that await her characters. They are wanderers navigating elusive borders, bumping up against barriers and testing ties, uneasily wondering if they will hold or not. That doesn't prevent Lahiri—or Hema and Kaushik, or plenty of others in these impressive stories—from finding "kinship and beauty in unexpected places." But it inspires a perpetual vigilance and an awareness that, even as the globe shrinks, vast distances will never disappear.

Garfield Silenced

Today I came across this new variation on a classic exercise.

The Anecdote File

From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

It is a small, green cardboard box, about the size of shoebox, its corners frayed and lid tattered. The cursive marker scribble on top is fading, and doesn't mean anything unless you know the box's provenance: "Mss 178," it says. "Box 51a. Anecdote file." The box's home is on the fourth floor of the University of Memphis' library, in special collections, among a trove of items collected by the Memphis Search for Meaning Committee following the April 4, 1968, assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Inside the box are notecards, numbered 1 to 347, and on them are typed, according to the archive's notes, "a collection of comments, overheard remarks, 'sick jokes,' eyewitness reports of incidents and first-person accounts of experiences that occurred before, during or soon after the period we are documenting."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Brooklyn Flea

I'm excited to check this out this weekend. 

It's Not Easy Being Green

Vowing to make New York City the center of the scientific universe — as it is for commerce, art and expensive dining — a panel of university presidents, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein of New York, the actor Alan Alda, the Columbia physicist Brian Greene and a Muppet announced plans on Wednesday for a World Science Festival to be held here at the end of May.

That's from the lead of The New York Times story about the late May event. The Muppet Newsflash confirms that the Muppet present at the announcement was Dr. Bunsen Honeydrew, pictured above. Unfortunately Dr. Honeydrew is missing from the list of the festival's speakers. Those included in the line-up: Francis Collins, Ira Flatow, and Oliver Sacks (but not Kermit). Dr. Greene, whose last book is on string theory -- and who is among the festival's speakers -- told the Times that the festival will not be about "fun" science. "This is the real thing," he said. (Soon after, Dr. Greene was sprayed with a can of silly string by Dr. Honeydrew).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lady Liberty

Outside Liberty Income Tax in Cleveland, Ohio yesterday.  When my brother saw this shot he was reminded of this Statue of Liberation in Memphis, which tells a whole other story.