Tuesday, May 20, 2014


"If I were to do anything differently, I would believe in myself more in my 20s than I did. Maybe it’s part of being in your 20s. Maybe it was the fact that I’m female — I worked with a lot of women, but it was not lost on me that the most powerful people in publishing tend to be guys. The writers who were respected the most at EW were the dudes. Sometimes I felt like I was a bit of an impostor, because I was surrounded by people who went to Harvard or Princeton, and had these privileges I didn’t have, and who seemed to have an innate confidence that I never felt."

-Anna Holmes, founding editor of Jezebel and Fusion's most recent hire, talks to Jill Filipovic for Cosmopolitan's "Get That Life" feature, admits to not having a five-year plan ("A lot of times I’m just like, 'I’m going to move to Namibia and work with orphaned elephants. Fuck this stuff'"), calms your bones. [Cosmopolitan] | May 20, 2014


The 316 Best Commencement Speeches

The auto-fill on the search tool for NPR's new app, "The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever," is the (great) speech Lisa Kudrow gave at my own graduation, so I'm obligated to suggest you watch it, but there's plenty more here to choose from. 316 made the cut; click around just for a second and you'll find yourself, for example, in Adrienne Rich's address to Douglass College's class of 1977 [click to download in full]:

Responsibility to yourself means... resisting the forces in society which say that women should be nice, play safe, have low professional expectations, drown in love and forget about work, live through others, and stay in the places assigned to us. It means that we insist on a life of meaningful work, insist that work be as meaningful as love and friendship in our lives. It means, therefore, the courage to be "different"; not to be continuously available to others when we need time for ourselves and our work; to be able to demand of others—parents, friends, roommates, teachers, lovers, husbands, children—that they respect our sense of purpose and our integrity as persons. Women everywhere are finding the courage to do this, more and more, and we are finding that courage both in our study of women in the past who possessed it, and in each other as we look to other women for comradeship, community, and challenge. The difference between a life lived actively, and a life of passive drifting and dispersal of energies, is an immense difference. Once we begin to feel committed to our lives, responsible to ourselves, we can never again be satisfied with the old, passive way.

Plenty more to choose from. Have a look. [NPR]


BANKS, "Drowning"

Here's BANKS delivering very scorned realness on "Drowning," a recovery anthem that dips and dives around her vocals. Pair this with her last release, "Goddess," and you've got something like a soundtrack to a girl gang's post-breakup assessment brunch. BANKS' debut album, Goddess, is due out in September, and she's got some shows coming up, possibly in your vicinity.


Hitchhiking to the End of the World

Sandwiched between a hulking grey backpack and an expandable bag on my chest, I stand on the shoulder of a steep road that winds up from a surreal aqua lake. I’m on the edge of the pristine Aspen-like town San Martin de los Andes in Argentina’s northern Patagonia. I have a purpose here. I just decided one hour ago: I am hitchhiking to Ushuaia, the southernmost tip in South America. I am hitchhiking to the End of the World.

I’ve been in the country for a month and only hitchhiked once before. I don’t know what I’m doing. "Stick out your thumb higher,” two passing Chilean hitchhikers call out to me. “You look hesitant!”

I imagine my dad panicking to know his only daughter is on the opposite end of the earth, alone, ready to leap in cars with strangers. Then I imagine him sticking out his own thumb, 40 years ago in the U.S., with his notebook in his pocket and his pen ready for bolts of inspiration, just like me. My blonde waves blow in the brisk mountain wind and I see his jet black curls dancing around in Alaska air: he launched his cross-country hitchhiking journey in the 1970's when he was about my age. He slept on roadsides, smoked drivers' hashish, and picked up stories of strangers who poured out their life confessions on the road. Last year he dredged his old journals for a wildly popular essay in the New York Times about the journey and how it linked him to the "spirit of adventure."

A few months later, I decided to take off for Argentina after working in NYC as a daily reporter. My dad worried I'd throw away my stability and never get it back. "This is like Meredith's 'hitchhike,'" my mom reassured him: it would be a meaningful trip with a safe return to previous life. He had written at the end of his own essay, "My daughter Meredith thinks I should try the journey again. She's as cavalier about risk as I was at her age. I certainly wouldn't want her to do it."

Once in Patagonia I realized—why did this have to be "like" a hitchhike? The trend may have withered in the U.S., but around here I saw plenty of backpackers trying to wave down cars—only no single females. Friends, hostel staff, and even fellow hitchhikers told me to be extra careful, so I pledged not to get into trucks and to ride with as many families as possible. Then I met one Colombian girl who said she'd traveled extensively "a dedo" ("by finger") alone with no problems, so I made her my example.

I wanted to hitchhike solo—I always travel on my own, connecting more intimately with my surroundings and lavishing in the freedom to stop and go on a whim. I'm an only child. I'm a journalist used to approaching strangers alone. I've also never felt truly threatened traveling alone as a female—which I've done since I was 19.  READ MORE


When the Going Gets Hot, The Sea Turtles Go All-Female

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

It has been known for decades that reptile reproduction is highly sensitive to temperature, with the ratio of male to female offspring varying. For species of sea-turtles, the pivotal temperature is an oddly uniform 29 degrees for incubation, beyond which more females emerge from the eggs.

At about 30.5 degrees, populations become fully female. As remaining males die off, ''it will be end of story without human intervention'', Professor Hays said. At higher than 33 degrees, embryos do not survive.

This is pegged to a new study on temperature-dependent sex determination and other aspects of Turtle Warming, published online today:

The study focused on a globally important loggerhead turtle rookery on the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic but its results also apply to species elsewhere, including the Pacific. It found light-coloured sandy beaches already produce 70.1 per cent females, while beaches with darker sands are at 93.5 per cent.

The abstract says that "entire feminization of this population is not imminent," but my mind is already in a very Margaret Atwood place about all of this. [SMH]


Royksopp & Robyn, "Do It Again (Moullinex Remix)"

Royksopp & Robyn "Do It Again" is so catchy that it's almost too on-the-nose; this deep disco flip from Moullinex spirals it out into something messier, showing the black swan side of the track's lyrics ("Let's do it all/ and when we come down/ we'll just do it again") and plunging the melody into a woozy, back-and-forth drone.

Elsewhere, here's Sia and the precocious dancer from the "Chandelier" video performing live on Ellen; Sia sounds phenomenal, and does not turn around to face the audience once.

History Will Forgive Kim Kardashian


Death jostled our usual holiday traditions, so my family spent last Thanksgiving with friends in Hastings-on-Hudson. I was seated at the kids’ table, millennials edition, which naturally meant an hour-long tangle of a conversation about Kanye West. I announced that I think of Kanye as a musical genius, but added that he struck me as something of a megalomaniac, given his remark to the Times, “I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus." The young man sitting beside me, lanky and exquisite and recently out of Middlebury, took umbrage. Kanye, he insisted, spoke publicly about feeling barred from the highest level of our cultural institutions. Dismissing him as one splinter less than fully sane—failing to grasp or grant his full prowess—made me part of the problem. My comment was “raced,” he said.

On his “Yeezus” Tour, Kanye has denounced, again and again, what he sees as the fashion industry’s racism; his rallying cry is that the industry has stifled the pursuit of his grand ambitions and tried to tell him where he can and cannot go. In Las Vegas, last October, he said:

“They didn’t let us in the fashion shows. That’s what you don’t realize. We were in there like… just like my momma was when she was 6 years old getting arrested at the sit-ins. My momma was raised in the era when clean water was only served to the fairer skin. Doing clothes you would’ve thought I had help, but they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself.”

In a discussion with Bret Easton Ellis last November, Kanye said, “I kind of saw that side of what it was, as a creative, to be free, the parallel to the main character in Twelve Years a Slave. When it was taken away from me, it felt like what it felt like as a creative to be enslaved.”  READ MORE


Food Diaries, Then and Now

“Then” data collected from twentysomething journals.

Most Expensive Restaurant I’ve Eaten at Thus Far, 1997:

Where: Chez Savy, Paris. Why: I was 19 in Paris and thought I should be fancy. Price: 250 francs, my daily travel allowance, a.k.a. $45. Noted: The French onion soup was nice and cheesy, but the chicken and complimentary ice cream dessert were mediocre. Also, FUCK YEAH ESCARGOT. Like traditional French people, I drank wine at dinner.

Most Expensive Restaurant I’ve Eaten at in the Past Year, 2014:

Where: Colicchio & Sons, New York. Why: Friends’ wedding celebration. Price: Not sure, but every woman in the main dining room was either dolled up like a corporate Jennifer Aniston or Patsy from Ab Fab. Noted: I was high on my own sophistication (or Top Chef knowledge) for catching the sour-bitter-umami notes and balances in texture in the four-course meal that was placed gently, and positioned correctly, in front of me. Not an ounce of guilt was suffered (okay, I thought about having guilt, then I relished in THE BEST THING TO EVER TOUCH MY TONGUE) at eating foie-gras-infused sour cherries. I did feel bad, though, about the budget luau food I served at my own wedding just a few months earlier. Like a seasoned wedding guest, I kept my wineglass refreshed by the 47 model-waiters who looked like they were killing time between Abercrombie gigs.

Saturday, day off from restaurant job, 2001:

Bowl of Kroger frosted flakes
Another pour of flakes to balance out leftover bowl milk
Another splash of milk to balance out overpoured flakes
Day-old danish roommate brought home from cafe job
Ham and cheese slice on fridge-crusted tortilla
Spoonful of peanut butter
One more spoonful of peanut butter
Fries stolen from buddy’s plate at bar
7 Sol beers (on special for $2)
2 Jager shots (bought by that one friend who always does this shit)
Moons Over My Hammy
Negative ¾ Moons Over My Hammy

Saturday, day off from office job, 2014:

Fried eggs with an Eggo waffle because they’re the best foods in my kitchen and I deserve the best on a Saturday
Brunch eggs, baked with gouda and pancetta, because I deserve better than what my fridge/cupboard offers once I feel like leaving the house
Coffee, mimosa
¼ wedge of sharp cheddar, half a sleeve of crackers
Bar wings Brooklynized with sriracha and honey, dipped in local-farmed buttermilk ranch sauce; catfish sandwich with fries dipped in jalapeno mayo––all split and bartered with husband for greater fries-to-wings ratio
Whatever sauvignon blanc the bar offers x2
Another glass of wine with a friend we happen to run into
One more––just a half glass, please––before we head home
Water, water, water, water

Following Sunday, don’t have to work till 5 p.m., 2001:

Didn’t even open my eyes until noon. Showered, gurgled, Excedrin’d, searched for carbs. Found another day-old (two-days old?) pastry on the counter and grabbed it before heading out the door to meet Aaron guys at The Abbey because I’d said I’d be there before all that Jager happened.  READ MORE


A woman named Rinat Dray is suing her doctors and Staten Island University Hospital after being forced into a C-section:

The hospital record leaves little question that the operation was conducted against her will: “I have decided to override her refusal to have a C-section,” a handwritten note signed by Dr. James J. Ducey, the director of maternal and fetal medicine, says.

Her bladder was cut during the surgery, and her doctor ("he told her that she would be committing the equivalent of child abuse and that her baby would be taken away from her") sounds like a real horror:

At first, she said, Dr. Gorelik appeared to relent, saying he would give her an epidural for the pain and then reconsider. “I was begging, give me another hour, give me another two hours,” Mrs. Dray said. Her mother, who was there, supported her, and the doctor said, “I’m not bargaining here." Mrs. Dray said she kept begging on the operating table. His answer, she recalled, was, “Don’t speak.”

The doctor claims that the baby would have been in serious danger without the C-section, but of course this case "raises issues about the rights of pregnant women to control their own bodies, even if that might compromise the life of a fetus."

Dr. Howard Minkoff, chairman of obstetrics at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn... said he believed that women had an absolute right to refuse treatment even if it meant the death of an unborn child. “In my worldview, the right to refuse is uncircumscribed,” Dr. Minkoff said, cautioning that he was not commenting on the particular facts of Mrs. Dray’s case. “I don’t have a right to put a knife in your belly ever.”


| May 19, 2014


The 95-Year-Old Bridesmaid

This Times Vows video is about a week old, but I just came across it and it made me giddy in a way that Times Vows content usually does not: it's a short profile of three grandmothers who all served as bridesmaids in their granddaughters' weddings. There is no look, I'd argue, like the look Lila Leblang gives her granddaughter when the latter says, "You're one of my best friends, and that's what you do when you have bridesmaids: you ask your best friends."  [NYT]


Mad Men: “It’s Nice to See Family Happiness Again”

You can choose your friends but not your family, wrote Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird; it’s a sentiment that carries through last night’s Mad Men, though it has a twist, because in a time in which the standard definitions of family begin to fluctuate and expand, the boundaries between families and friends and even coworkers blur as well. And, with family, to some extent, you do choose—you can choose your wife or your husband; you can choose to leave (like Roger’s daughter); you can choose to suppress (like Peggy, like Roger) or even recreate (like Don).

Last night’s show, the second to last we’re getting in the first half of the show's final season, was deceptively simple in an old-fashioned Mad Men-esque way. There were no nipples in boxes, but there was a lot of revelatory emotion, and some movement in terms of what we see of Don’s psyche. Sure, the “family” emphasis in this episode could bring to mind more Helter-Skelter-Manson-Family talk, but I think what we’ll get next week is instead something far less directly historical or violently dramatic and more thematic … though, of course, it all remains to be seen.

“The Strategy,” the title of last night’s show, begins with Peggy interviewing a not particularly enthusiastic mom in a station wagon outside of BurgerChef. What the ad folks find is that BurgerChef is about convenience, and that women are not terribly proud of not making dinner themselves—or, at least, this new role of Mom-who-isn’t-just-a-Mom isn’t fully supported by their husbands. A BurgerChef meal is a cheap solution to a problem of time, and not something to brag about.

Pete and Bonnie are on their way to New York City, arguing about where they plan to stay, and what they’ll do in the city. He’s got to return to his own family, to see Tammy. Even though she's bought her a Barbie, Bonnie won’t get to meet Tammy—Bonnie’s not part of the family, though she is someone Pete will eagerly agree to join the mile-high club with. (Bonnie asserts her power over Pete through sex; Trudie, interestingly, ends up having a greater power through denying Pete family.)

There’s a quick glimpse of Don cleaning (later we learn it’s because Megan is visiting) and Joan preparing to leave her apartment, where she still lives with her mom and her son. Her mom tells her to eat breakfast—she’s “disappearing”—and Joan retorts with the quintessential daughter comment: “Every time you say something like that I go off my diet.”  READ MORE


Goodbye West Antarctica, It's Been Real

Eric Rignot, NASA glaciologist and lead author of one of the two terrible climate change reports released last week, writes at the Guardian:

We had collected enough observations to conclude that the retreat of ice in the Amundsen sea sector of West Antarctica was unstoppable, with major consequences – it will mean that sea levels will rise one metre worldwide. What's more, its disappearance will likely trigger the collapse of the rest of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which comes with a sea level rise of between three and five metres. Such an event will displace millions of people worldwide.

He adds:

The Amundsen sea sector is not the only vulnerable part of the continent. East Antarctica includes marine-based sectors that hold more ice. One of them, Totten glacier, holds the equivalent of seven metres of global sea level.

At the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert reminds us that "the unfortunate fact about uncertainty is that the error bars always go in both directions. While it is possible that the problem could turn out to be less serious than the consensus forecast, it is equally likely to turn out to be more serious. In fact, it increasingly appears that, if there is any systemic bias in the climate models, it’s that they understate the gravity of the situation." [Guardian, TNY]


Lisa Wade of Sociological Images draws our attention to the increase in heel height from Disney's original Cinderella movie and the live-action remake due out in 2015 (teaser trailer: literally too dumb for words). Wade calls the new shoe a "stripper slipper" and cites work on American pornification, and that's not quite my causal reading or my words to describe it, but there's really something about the fact that New York City podiatrists give women "Cinderella procedures" and now Cinderella has remade her shoes to require them.

I like the remake where the magic is not that the shoe fits but that it looks super awesome and it's comfortable as hell, and Cinderella is like "Prince, thank you so much for giving me my shoe back, I'll call you next weekend if I have time." | May 19, 2014


Happy 50th Birthday, Nutella

The BBC gives us the birth story of Nutella, setting the scene in northern Italy, "in the hungry months after the end of World War II, [when] a young confectioner has a vision – of an affordable luxury made of a small amount of cocoa and lots of hazelnuts."

Pietro [Ferrero] was a humble man who lived in an enchanting region famed throughout the land for its delicious and abundant hazelnuts. Times were hard and chocolatey delights were not for the common people. Still, he dreamed of a magic formula that would enable everyone to enjoy his sweet treats.

I think they mean that times were hard because chocolately delights, etc. Anyway, now Nutella buys a quarter of the world's hazelnut crop, a jar is sold every 2.5 seconds and Pietro Ferrero's son is the richest man in Italy. A sociology professor quoted in the BBC story notes that Nutella has held onto its initial, groundbreaking vibe of being both Fancy and also For the Masses, and says, "It allows you little forms of transgression... you can dirty yourself a bit, but it's just for fun. I think that in the course of the history of Nutella, this is something which has been played on a lot – Nutella as a 'polite transgression'."

Nutella is also a decent baby name, or at least it can surely keep up with Vanellope, of which there were 63 born last year. [BBC]


Marlene ∞, "Indian Summer"

Marlene ∞ came in strong last year with her debut single "Bon Voyage," and this latest one from her feels custom-made for the last scene of a movie about, say, four childhood best friends reuniting for one turbulent yet inspirational summer on the coast.