Friday, November 21, 2014


College application stress be damned: here is the application that any journalists wanting to cover Will & Kate's trip to the States will have to submit, along with "a scanned copy of an official media ID (as provided by an international organisation or US/UK/foreign government), or a letter from your bureau chief, on official letterhead, confirming your assignment."

Gonna get Haley to draw a hairpin at the top of a sheet of looseleaf, write "lol, idk" with her signature, and I'm gonna send it in. I really need to ask her about this [nsfw]. | November 21, 2014


How To Write An Email

Mary Beard knows everything about everything, so if she says she knows the right and wrong way to send an email, I believe her.

I have to say that, despite what I have just said, I actually prefer those emails which are exactly as old-fashioned letters would have been: "Dear Mary... Yours, Simon" (I hope Dr Heffer is reading this, because it to you whom I refer, though I rather doubt you are!). I find myself more irritated with those much more email specific locutions, that play too much with the apparent familiarity of the genre.

I, for example, do use "Hi Simon" (though not to Dr Heffer), but sort of hate myself when I do.

She has a particular dislike for emails that start with "Dear Mary, I hope this email finds you well..." ("Did letters once start like that? Maybe they did, but not any that I used to receive. And it does seem the worst sort of inanity.") and emails that fake a certain kind of friendly intimacy, i.e. "Dear Mary, I hope you are having a lovely holiday.." "Err sorry, sunshine," Mary retorts, "I have been, and am, working my socks off, and while you might think this is a holiday (and honestly you shouldn't, as you should be working too), I DONT."

This is bringing up a lot of questions for me. I mean, I know "I hope you are well" is a dumb way to start an email, but it's also dumb to start an email with just "Hey I need something from you do it right now you dumb idiot," which is pretty much what you're implying when you don't even make an attempt at a dumb statement that shows you recognize you're speaking to a human being with their own lives and their own priorities and you're sorry for interrupting that with your dumb email.

On the other hand, if Mary Beard emailed me "jump" I would email her back "how high." So.

Perhaps the only solution is to never email anyone ever again.

Spending Money To Make Money: The Cost of Getting Your Law License

miranda-the-look-02-1024This year I graduated law school, took and passed the bar, and was admitted as an attorney in my state. It’s a given that law school itself is expensive. But like a lot of other professional programs, there are also tons of costs when you’re coming out of law school that I didn’t really think about until I had to. Since you have to be licensed in order to work and make that sweet professional salary, there’s no getting around some of them. For lawyers, of course, there’s the bar.

One option for law students are bar loans. My school was mysteriously quiet about this process, but they are the most common option for people who need to borrow in order to cover their post-grad expenses. Basically, your school confirms to the federal government that you will need extra funds to cover “education-related expenses” after you graduate. This allows you to then apply for more federal loans. If you miss the deadline to do this (December for my year), private loans are available, and are also called bar loans, and they typically come with the same or similar terms as most private student loans.

If it is at all possible, the best bet is to plan for this expense at the beginning of your final year: you can set aside any loan money you take out and earmark it for your bar expenses, or you can opt not to take out the maximum amount of federal loans offered to you, and go back and take it out later. This is what I was lucky enough to be able to do, and it’s worked out well. READ MORE


Men Explain Cars To Me

Cars 2
In the summer of 2011, a friend convinced me to try make a profile on OkCupid. I filled my profile with jokes because I wanted project a certain personality: “haha look how not seriously I am taking this, I am a carefree and fun girl, please date me.”

When OkCupid asked what I spend a lot of time thinking about, well. I did not hesitate:


I went on exactly two dates with two different men within the first month of creating the account before I lost interest. And yet I never got around to deleting my profile. Every few weeks I would log on and my inbox would be filled with messages: a couple of them would just be stock lines (“hey ur cute wanna grab a drink?”). The rest were all theories about the movie Cars. Some made me think, some made me roll my eyes, others brought up existential questions in other animated films; all of them entertained me. I finally deleted my OkCupid account, having never found love, but instead something much better: a deeper insight into the Pixar movie Cars.



The League of Ordinary Ladies: How Was Your Summer?

Summer Recap_edit

Previously: The Fishwife With the Sleeve Tattoo

Esther C. Werdiger writes, draws, and produces the music podcast Sounds Ace.


Animal Farm, But Worse

This is FAST Corp. — the acronym stands for Fiberglass Animals, Shapes, and Trademarks — one of the country’s most intriguing and entertaining niche manufacturers. FAST uses these molds to cast large fiberglass statues that have become icons of roadside Americana. If you’ve ever seen a big steer perched atop a steakhouse, a giant soft-serve cone in front of an ice cream stand, or a Bob's Big Boy statue, FAST probably made it.

Have you been haunted by the dark, glassy eyes of Bob's Big Boy, a friendly oversized cow, or LITERALLY ANY OTHER PIECE OF ROADSIDE AMERICANA, and are wondering where not to go so you can avoid them? Paul Lukas went to the Fiberglass Animal Farm for Medium and Heather McCabe took pictures, all of which you can view safely in your home and nowhere near the lifeless, nightmare-inducing statues we all know.


Five Things Guaranteed to Turn Him On

Has this happened to you before? You're pumped and alive and you reach for your guy and he's just... dead. Lucky for you, this can be resolved easily. Follow these simply steps to have him turned on in no time. READ MORE


Ask Baba Yaga: How Can I Create Stability?

Transcript after the jump. READ MORE

Looking Back at the Nine 'SNL' Players Who Left Us Too Soon

hartman_hooksWhen Jan Hooks — SNL cast member from 1986-1991 — died at the age of 57 last month, the show truly lost one of its stealthy greats. Like frequent sketch costar Phil Hartman, Hooks's incredible talent didn't need to call attention to itself, so it's only now, in hindsight and reruns, that the full measure of her brilliance is beginning to be calculated. Since SNL debuted in 1975, over 140 players have been in the cast, and nine have passed away from illness, drugs, or violence. Whether they leave us as beloved superstars with promising careers ahead of them or underappreciated and semi-forgotten talents with few recent onscreen credits, all nine of SNL's deceased alums have produced groundbreaking work that can make for some very bittersweet viewing. Before this column comes to an end, here's a look at those nine performers whose many comedy contributions continue to entertain and inspire fans both old and new. READ MORE


Reviews of Store Catalogs

The_J._Peterman_Company_(emblem)The J. Peterman Company: Owner's Manual No. 121
By John Peterman
The J. Peterman Company, 74 pp., $0.00

Not long ago, I spent an afternoon in a sparsely populated cafe on the bank of the Seine with an older gentleman, an Ernest Hemingway-type in rolled-up sleeves. His chief claim to fame was that he'd successfully wooed Audrey and Marilyn in the 1960s, but while the glamor of his private life eclipsed his public travails, he'd been busying accomplishing more than his fair share of success in life—or should I say exactly his fair share; when you meet the man it becomes immediately clear that he runs on only a dash of luck generously greased by a certain European charm and personality—and today his résumé includes climbing Mount Everest wearing only a motorcycle jacket and adopting a coterie of displaced polar bears from southern Alaska, which he raised as his own children. We'd been talking for three hours before I realized I wasn't in a weathered cafe off the Seine at all: I was in a small room in my own home—my bathroom—reading a J. Peterman catalog. READ MORE




Do you want to have children, and if so, when? How many?

How important is religion to you? Could you survive in household where there are two different, perhaps disparate views on religion?

Are you gonna eat that?

How close will we be to your parents?

OK, well, can I at least have half?

Do you like my friends? Do you expect me to hang out with your friends often?

How will we divide up money? How will we tackle debt? How will we decide what to save?

How important is equality in a marriage?

I just don't understand why you won't give me half—like, I know it's a good sandwich, but can I at least have a BITE?!


Some Things I Cannot Unhear


In 1968 James Baldwin was a guest on The Dick Cavett Show and said, “…as Malcolm X once put it: the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday.” High noon, he said in a slight baritone as if trying to find the right key for a song. Baldwin then goes on to give examples of other institutions, not just the Christian church, where systematic racism has wielded its power; the labor unions, the real estate lobby, the board of education. Part of this episode can be found on YouTube and runs a swift one minute, one second. Baldwin’s voice—its’ near-sport of a voice—is one I cannot unhear. The way he says “evidence” is capable of galvanizing the most blasé listener. His is a staccato that quickens in clip when Baldwin repeats words like “white” or “hate,” but ripples with words like “idealism” so as to wane its meaning into nothing more than what it is: a naiveté.

When Baldwin asks a question, it does not ferry the inflection. Instead, he issues it declaratively, testing the acoustics of a room. Close your eyes and sure, Baldwin has a sermonizing tone, but one that bounces like a boxer in his ring. Baldwin’s voice multitasks, and requires of me what he was asking of America and the world: to pay attention. His words toll and have carried their repercussive meaning into today. So much so that in August when the headlines read “No Fly Zone Over Ferguson,” for a minute, I only heard those words in Baldwin’s voice.


All My Friends Are in My Head


I used to talk to myself all the time. Now that I have a cat, I mostly talk to him. It's not because I live alone; I did the same thing back when I had a half-dozen roommates, too. It's great if you can find someone who'll talk back, of course, but it isn't entirely necessary; you can get by with a pet, an imaginary friend, or perhaps a pony-shaped thought-creature that you've manifested with your own mind.

As a young woman growing up in Brussels in the eighteen seventies, Alexandra David-Neel loved secrets: secret societies, esoteric religions, all things taboo and forbidden. She dabbled in Freemasonry, Theosophy, opera singing, and anarchist pamphleteering; she dressed up like a man to hang out with a French cult that smoked hash and saw visions. In her twenties, she began traveling to Asia. In Sikkim, she met the Dalai Lama; in India, she studied Sanskrit and took part in tantric rites. She spent two years living in a cave in Tibet with a hermit who wore an apron carved of human bone; he taught her telepathy and tumo, a Tibetan technique for generating body heat through breath, which they used to avoid freezing to death. Between adventures, she returned to France and published books about her exploits, which were devoured by a public eager for tales from the exotic east.

In With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet, first published in English in 1931, David-Neel described two uncanny encounters. The first was with a Tibetan painter followed around by a fantastic creature that looked just like the monsters in his paintings; the second was with another with a monk who had made an exact, living-and-breathing replica of himself to confuse his enemies. Both creatures were tulpas, which David-Neel defined as "magic formations generated by a powerful concentration of thought." Stemming from a syncretic blend of Tibetan Buddhism and indigenous shamanic traditions, Tibetan tulpas were thoughtforms brought into actual existence through ritual meditation, a sort of mental counterpart to the Talmud's mindless, mud-born golem.

Admitting her own "habitual incredulity," David-Neel decided to try to make a tulpa herself. "I chose for my experiment a most insignificant character: a monk, short and fat, of an innocent and jolly type," she wrote. After a few months of seclusion and diligent ritual prayer, her phantom monk began to take shape. Over time, his form grew increasingly fixed and life-like. Months later, when David-Neel left for an extended horseback tour through the countryside, her tulpa tagged along. By this point, she no longer had to focus her thoughts to make him manifest; he was just there, performing actions that appeared to be autonomous: walking quietly, looking around at the view. At times, it was as if his robe had brushed against her. Once, she felt his hand softly rest on her shoulder.



Go Ask Colette

I mean, of course Colette had an advice column in Marie Claire between 1939 and 1940. I don't even know why I'm surprised. The Believer has a few excerpts on their blog taken from a collection of previously untranslated works; I liked this one best, her response to a twenty-year-old woman who couldn't decide between her safe, reasonable fiancé and some guy who sounds really hot.

I feel I love him more than my fiancé, or rather, not in the same way: I feel for him a violent love, passionate, reckless; for my fiancé, my love is calm, considered, as if asleep.

To which Colette responds:

When you’re twenty years old, do you listen to a love that is “calm, pondered, as if asleep”? Your age is not made for well-motivated decisions, and it seems to me you are looking more for excuses than advice. You admit that absence was enough to make you forget “a little bit” the man who, once you found him again, set you on fire. Couldn’t you try, using such efficient means, to forget him “a lot”? And at the same time—honesty invites you—find the courage not to marry the fiancé who only inspires in you lukewarm feelings. As far as I can see, he is lacking in insight and shrewdness. How can he not sense around you, around him, a presence, and thoughts, that are against him? Leave him be, the angel; and leave the tempter. Does my response not bring you the “peace” you crave? Excuse my frankness, but I can’t help remembering that you are twenty years old. And I’ve never been able to believe that peace is a good present to give a young woman.

Emphasis mine, obviously, bolded because that sentence is going to be repeating in my head for the rest of today and probably my life, ensuring I never get any peace ever again.

The Cost of Being a Salmon Swimming Upstream

After eleven years in New York City, I moved back to my native northern Virginia suburbs a few weeks ago. I’ve been planning this move for most of 2014, and thinking seriously about it since my younger nephew was born in 2013 and I realized I would only be That Lady Who Brings Us Books Every Six Months to him and his older brother unless I made some changes. Since I can do most of my work anywhere with a reliable Internet connection, in mid-October I packed up my entire adult life and shlepped it south on I-95. This is what that cost me.

Moving van rental: $335.43. When I started seriously planning the move, I got a couple of quotes from all-inclusive moving services of what it would cost to pack up my one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment and move my stuff to Alexandria, Virginia. The quotes ranged from about $2,000 to almost $4,000, so rather than spend a couple months’ rent on a moving service, I decided to rent a truck and hire movers. And then I begged my dad to come help me drive the truck. Included in the price was two days’ use of the truck and 280 miles. I paid $48 for U-Haul’s Safemove insurance, and $20 to rent two dozen furniture pads.

Movers: $149.95 to pack the truck in Brooklyn, $153.95 to unload it in Virginia, $80 in tips. When I booked my truck with U-Haul, I used the company’s Moving Help service to hire my movers on both ends. My parents and youngest brother drove up from Virginia a few days before my move to help with the packing, and also so my stepmother and brother could drive down in the car with my TV, my houseplants, and other delicate stuff.

My movers, both two-man teams, were more than worth the money on both ends. I decided to hire movers because my new apartment is on the third floor in a building without an elevator, and also because I own a lot of books. Twenty boxes of ’em. My sixty-year-old dad tends to think he still has the physical capability of a twenty-seven-year-old, and when I moved he was about six weeks removed from surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, which he gave himself by lifting weights. I didn’t want him hurting himself again. Instead my very capable movers did all the hauling and no one got hurt.  READ MORE