Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Best Spam Title Ever

An e-mail with this subject line arrived in my spam folder today:

Take just a candy and become ready for 36 hours of love

Now that is some creative spam e-mail writing. I have to admit I've really enjoyed seeing spammers' tactics evolve over the past few years or so. Remember when you used to get spam from people with names that could in no way exist in this universe, like, "Ryken Hamburger" or "Johnny Johnsoning" or something? Now, my spam comes from normal-sounding, trust-inducing people like "Joanne" or "Maggie Moon," and instead of subject lines like, "xyzsyss pharm drugsxysys," the titles have become much more tricky and plausible, like "Re: Your Request" or "Hello."

I know I shouldn't root for the bad guys, but the above title pushing a link to what the e-mail says is discount crates of Cialis Soft Tabs sort of warmed my heart.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New York Happens

New York happens when you least expect it. Sometimes people call those incredibly lucid seconds when you finally understand the city "New York moments." But I just call then "New York": the New York of my childhood dreams and adolescent escape fantasies.

I walked home from a party at a fancy club tonight where I met some amazing New York ladies who shared my affection for anything Shakira, and where there were probably more TV celebrities than I was able to recognize. I met the douchebag from that reality TV dating documentary "Hooking Up" -- the guy who was such a jerk that Gawker said was doomed to date the worst of Murray Hill. On the show, immediately after his date with this girl Amy ended, he said something like, "I banged a girl last night, and I'll bang another girl tomorrow night..." Well, let me tell you, apparently (and this is so incredibly unjust) he's doing just fine with women. He was wearing some kind of loud Hawaiian-type shirt, and as he introduced himself to me as "Dave," someone threw a pair of bronze-colored shiny thong panties at him. "Hang on," he told me as he went to find the undies' owner and then flirt with two blondes who ostensibly threw them. And I am proud to tell every self-respecting lady who's reading this that I promptly walked away to find my friends. In what parallel universe can acting like a total misogynist jerk on a low-budget reality show net you a bevy of rock-star-groupie-like women?

New York.

But that wasn't when New York happened for me tonight.

I was determined to hoof it home instead of grabbing a cab because I was wearing black pumps, not toting a pair of crutches, dammit. I hobbled slowly because three-inch heels don't let you power-walk, and I saw workers changing the displays at Ann Taylor. Not just clothes off of dummies, but wholesale repainting and retooling of the background walls that made them look better than any surface in my apartment. A few blocks down, garbage collectors were taking out the trash from the Sprint store, and people were still waiting in line at the Shake Shack. The Empire State Building poked out from among the trees of Madison Square Park and all the surrounding buildings, and somehow everything seemed fair. Level. I was content to inch my way home among the bums, the youngsters, the professionals who had stayed at work later than they planned. In five blocks, I'd reach the cube of space that I earned.

I live here.

Tonight, New York happened. And for now, despite my petty problems and the idiot misogyny that is David L. Ross, that is enough.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Christianity Today

This article by Bill McKibben from Harper's magazine about the twisting of Christianity's message is about a year old, but I just read it today, and I thought it was fantastic. One of McKibben's central points is that far-right-wing Christianity today emphasizes messages more consistent with self-absorption than helping others -- specifically hanging onto one's wealth rather than giving it to those in need. And, frankly, it's hard to argue with him. I recently ran across a broadcast of one of young star preacher Joel Osteen's services in the sports arena he rented out to house his church, and within the first five minutes, it was hard for me to distinguish whether I was watching a business seminar or a sermon. He speaks in broad terms with real-life and personal examples, and it's distinguish to see what, exactly, that message is. All that's apparent is that he's certainly marketable and charismatic, and he makes people feel great about themselves.

I'm from the Midwest (as you all know), so it's not a surprise that I was raised in a conservative Christian church. I haven't denied my religious upbringing; I still consider myself a Christian. But what irritates me most about the version of Christianity the world sees -- Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tom DeLay, George W. Bush, Laura Schlessinger -- is so far from what I believe God stands for. Religious tenets intertwine with politics, with sociopolitical climates, and with the economy, and that's not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to ethics. But I think, as McKibben points out in his article, that Scripture is so often used to further individuals' wealth or social position and so rarely used to help the poor or the suffering. The U.S. response to Hurricane Katrina, anyone? The repeated attempts to block gay marriage, anyone?

What I took from this article is that if I consider myself a Christian person, I'd better start spending more time on others and less on myself, lest I become like a rich, comfortable suburbanite in his megachurch, basking in God's message as long as he gets to keep all his money from the new Bush tax cuts.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Two Tiny Amusements

In a break from my usual rants as of late (I blame red wine -- a convenient scapegoat if you ever need one), I wanted to share two things that were a nice distraction from my normal day of work, gym, takeout, computer:

1. I saw a short, stocky blond woman walking down the street in a white pantsuit and black bra -- with no top. Yep, just like the Braless Wonder from "Seinfeld." Now, I realize "Seinfeld" did have some element of New York realism to it, but this? And, yes, I made sure to take a good, long look just to make sure a button on her blouse hadn't come undone. Nope. No shirt. Just a black Wonderbra.

2. I found this Birthday Calculator via Lifehacker. It really is worth a five-minute detour from your usual websites, if only to find out what your "birth tree" is. I'm a Cypress, and apparently that means I'm strong. (Natch.) That's a useless fact that's good to know.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Girls' Night Idol

I despise the term "girls' night" about as much as I despised the term "group work" in college -- and for many of the same reasons: The conversation always veers off into subjects that are completely irrelevant, everything takes way too long, and one person is always responsible for pulling everything together. Such was my girls' night tonight, and I would complain more, except for the fact that I got free wine out of the deal. So any complaining from here on out officially gets me banned from the girls' night committee.

At some point tonight, one of the girls I was "out" with (and by "out," I mean "drinking wine in a cramped Manhattan apartment in front of a large-screen TV") mentioned the "American Idol" finale. In an attempt to steer the conversation away from future engagement rings and diets, I suggested we turn it on.

Now, I am not an "American Idol" fan...anymore. My admiration of and subsequent horrification at the antics of Clay Gayken (apologies to Kathy Griffin) pretty much ruined "Idol" for me. So as we turned on "AI," I braced myself for what turned out to be -- bad clothes, bad singing, and bad everything to boot -- the Worst. High school. Talent. Show. Ever. Really: A number from Dirty Dancing? The movie wasn't good in '87, let alone the horrible music we've been subjected to year upon year after the film finally left theaters. Must everyone in America listen to its mediocrity all over again? Prince's cameo appearance was, admittedly, worth the price of admission, but maybe not enough to justify my 15-minute descent into the FOX underworld.

When Taylor Hicks (a.k.a. That Gray-Haired Guy) was crowned the Season Five American Idol (the "Season Five" title addition cheapens the entire experience even further, I feel), I sat back with my glass of cabernet and surveyed my girls' night collective: "Is it just me," I asked, the gravity of the situation weighing on my voice, "or does this guy really suck?"

<Four other women sit in silence, ignoring me.>

Oookay, then. I guess crappy Taylor Hicks has the girls' vote, and Katharine McPhee has the overeager stage mom-slash-singing coach vote.

Now, God help us, we won't have to listen to any more Dirty Dancing medleys until our next night at karaoke.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New York Magazine, Gender Inequality, and Wine

I read this story, about female teachers soliciting their students, in New York magazine today, and I wish I hadn't. I began the first sentence one minute into my session on the elliptical trainer, and I felt my pulse rise and my face get red even before I hit the usual five-minute exertion mark. I knew it would be a long night, and I knew I would need to walk home to calm down and maybe get a bottle of red to continue the cooling-off process at home.

It's stories like this that explain popular theory about sex and gender roles that make me depressed about the United States and our popular culture: When boys have sex with female teachers, they turn out fine, but when girls have sex with male teachers, they're ruined forever. Color me surprised that this seems patently unfair the grand scheme of everything that is good and right in this world.

This is my own sexist, extremist opinion, and I'll own up to that, but I still believe that women are the good ones in our culture. We begin with good intentions and want fairy tales. We don't set out to hurt, to use, to deceive. And then something happens -- something abusive or heartbreaking or disappointing -- and the landscape changes. We lose the notion of the fairy tale, and everything becomes very different and stacked against us. And because we're women, we can't do a damn thing about it. We lose, period.

I like to watch this Chase Bank commercial (click under "Life" to view the correct one) about a couple getting married and spending the rest of their perfect lives together -- replete with cheesy, manipulative soundtrack -- that clearly struck a nerve with our society, seeing as it's replayed roughly 11,394 a day, including during expensive slots on the Today show. When I watch it now, I mentally ask Chase Bank the following questions:

- Where's the shot of him losing his virginity to some cheerleader at a party his senior year of high school?

- Where's the shot of her waking up in a fraternity house one night after a party her sophomore year in college with her underwear on backward?

- Where's the shot of each of them politely tolerating each other's parents while silently wishing they were anywhere but sitting there, at that dinner table?

- Where's the shot of her thinking of her ex during sex?

- Where's the shot of him thinking of his ex during sex?

- Where's the shot of her finding out she got a sexually transmitted disease from him a year and half into the relationship?

- Where's the shot of him yelling things like, "What is wrong with you?" at her?

- Where's the shot of her nagging him to death because she needs to assert herself somehow?

- Where's the shot of her quitting her lucrative career to raise his children and suddenly realizing the importance of things like duvet covers, matching blinds, and Dora the Explorer?

- Where's the shot of him having an affair with his administrative assistant when he's 40?

- Where's the shot of her on her third glass of wine, crying in the kitchen because she's pretending not to notice he never comes home before nine?

- Where's the shot of her thinking about the one who got away?

- Where's the shot of him thinking about the one who got away?

- And where is the shot of both of them wondering what would have happened -- and if they'd each be happier -- if they'd never gotten married?

The above list is composed of reasonable fascimiles of events that have actually happened to people I know.

We need some reality in this mess. But I'm not going to be the one to pull all the little fourth-grade girls aside and tell them how everything really is.

Just an aside: I admire Forksplit these days because although this post offended me at first, she seems to be surer of herself and her femininity than I ever will be.

Monday, May 22, 2006

New York Times? "The Apprentice"? You Both Disappoint Me.

Consider this a double post.

In the past two days, two of, I'll go ahead and call them "entertainment mainstays" in my life -- Donald Trump and the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times -- have let me down.

1. How the Times has disappointed me:

I'll admit that I was excited when I opened the usually tolerable Styles section on Sunday morning and saw a giant above-the-fold article on fitness. I'm reluctant to admit it, but I'm something of a gym rat, so if the Times wants to talk dirty to me about hot sports bras or to-die-for free weights, I am all ears, baby. Tell me more.

But then I read the headline: "24-Hour Sweaty People" According to the lead, this story is supposed to be about spending an entire day in a gym. Fine. it just me or does it seem like this head accidentally made it into the paper out of sheer laziness? Does it not seem like some guy on the sports desk saw this story on the budget and, to mock it, was like, "Huh-huh. Sweaty people. Like, 24-hour sweaty people." The news editor then said, "It's midnight, and I have to catch the train to Nyack. Print!"

I then made the mistake of actually reading the article. I don't know who's in charge of reining Styles writer Guy Trebay in, but s/he must have been on vacation this week. What follows is a multi-thousand word essay on Trebay's personal musings about his personal gym downtown. Um...what? Conceptually, it might have been cool to spend a day in the gym and profile the feel of it. But I guess the Times thinks that letting one of its top writers talk to one personal trainer buddy of his, lifting an interview from Star magazine, and smooshing it all together with crap like this: "The value of spending a full day inside a gym is that it gives one the opportunity to survey a rich gallery of human types: ...the solitary ponytailed hippie who passes hours leisurely pedaling a recumbent bike while meandering through "Within a Budding Grove,"... New York University students, at a guess — in the first flush of adulthood, their flesh firm, their carriages still limber because the ravages of serial hangover, student loan terror and mortgage payments for closet size co-ops have not yet made inroads on their faces and physiques" qualifies as reporting. <Shaking head.>

2. How "The Apprentice" has disappointed me:

"The Apprentice" is one of the few reality shows on TV today that I still defend as quality programming. Crazy corporate tasks? A perennial combover? Idiot Ivy-Leaguers? I call that dramedy. But tonight, the Donald defied reason and...


fired the two smartest people on the show (both women, I might add) for defending themselves in the boardroom rather than preserving their friendship.

May I ask, "WHAT?"

When Allie and Roxanne entered the board room, they spent a good few minutes saying things like, "It was no one's fault we lost," and "Allie/Roxanne is so great," and "Blah, blah, blah, neutral. Blah, blah." "Don't do that!," I screamed from my couch. "Stand up for yourselves or he'll fire you!" So, after the Donald egged them on to sell each other out, they did just that -- which is what any sane person in a reality show competition would do. And then? He fired them both. Because they didn't have "loyalty."

Um, loyalty to what? Shipping themselves back home to their crappy day jobs? To the social norm we call "being a good, quiet, subservient female," which keeps us from achieving more for ourselves thanks to society's expectations of us? To these weird "frenemy"-like female relationships we hang onto even thought they tend to tear each us down rather than support our ambitions?

I'm livid. And now, the new "apprentice" -- whatever that even means -- is going to be Yet. Another. White. Guy. *sigh*

You blew it, Donald. You lost me at "You're fired."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Fight of the Century

I walked by a stack of New York Posts today on the way back from the gym, and I literally laughed out loud at the cover: Axl Rose and Tommy Hilfiger apparently got into some bitch-slapping, punching fight at Rosario Dawson's birthday party over -- of course -- Hilfiger being asked to move (God forbid) from his position at the one of the banquettes. And -- gasp -- Axl may have moved Hilfiger's girlfriend's drink from its original position at said banquette.


If I ran a fake newspaper, I would totally have made that story up as a page one "get." But seeing it actually take place as Post-ian news was enough to satisfy both my lust for gossip and my desire for utter ridiculousness in one fell swoop. The cover of the Post (wish I could link to it -- it's effing hilarious) shows Tommy Hilfiger in some weirdo angry karate-chop pose trying to bring the heat in Axl's general direction.

I mean, it's hard to even say something humorous because of the facts: Tommy Hilfiger? Really? I mean, if it were Tommy Lee, I'd be like, "Eh, yeah. Well. You know rock stars." But apparently fashion designers are willing to brawl like with the best of 'em if someone as much as touches their girlfriends' drinks at fancy New York nightclubs. So take that, Axl. Except Axl was probably all, "Should I really hit this fruit? Will I muss his hand-sewn blazer? Guess I'm forced to with all his karate-chopping and whatnot." <Pow!>

Five bucks says Hilfiger shouted, "I have a black belt!" one minute before the girly fight began.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ah, Hipsters (Shaking head.)

A site for "urban parents" from, you say? Once again, gruppie scum have managed to put their filthy, trendy little paws all over something as banal and biological as parenthood. (See my previous post on grups -- scroll down one entry for it until I find the time to archive properly.) And thank goodness for this cool parenting website because Lord knows hipsters can't muster up the strength do anything unless it's chic. Underground chic, that is.

I can only imagine the kinds of topics that will be posted on this hipster parenting site:

How to Push Your $800 Bugaboo Stroller Without Looking Like You're (Gasp!) From the Upper East Side

Beyond "Holden": Bestowing an Adequately Pretentious Literary Name on Your Newborn

How Young is Too Young to Give Your Child an Ironic Mullet?

Child-Proofing Your Radio So That Your Toddler Can't Turn the Dial to Z100. Ever.

Preparing Your First-Grader for Her Very First Garage Band

Teaching Your Child to Mock Others 101

Teaching Your Child to Mock Others 210: Musical Tastes (five-page feature article)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Karaoke Basics

Seasoned vet or confirmed newbie, you must keep this one sacred karaoke rule in mind:

There are five songs that you should never, ever, under any circumstances sing in order to spare both yourself embarrassment and your listeners their sanity:

1. Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler: This song goes on far too long, and no one ever sings it well. Not even Bonnie Tyler herself. Trust me on this one.

2. Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meat Loaf: You know how you think you know all the lyrics? Even the talking parts where it goes into a "baseball" play-by-play? You don't. Plus, you'll probably get bored around Minute Six of the eight-minute song.

3. Grease Megamix by Olivia Newton John and John Travolta: This song is neither cute nor pleasurable to the ears, despite what your drunken rump might think. Even if you have your own Danny Zuko at the bar whom you're trying to impress, I suggest challenging him to a mean game of nine-ball at the pool table rather than subject him to singing the "boy" part of this stinker.

4. Love Shack by the B-52s: The B-52s did quirky and made it sorta fun. When you do it while whirling around in circles and cackling on the karaoke stage, we kinda want to go to the bathroom if just to wait out the torture.

5. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper: You know what would be so totally awesome? Getting up with six of your drunk best girlfriends and screeching your way through this Cyndi Lauper classic. Oh, wait. No. No, that would be akin to hearing Richard Simmons do his rendition of "Friends in Low Places." Or nails on a chalkboard. Especially hearing your one tone-deaf friend who will "not go up there unless all of you go up there with me!!!" Gag.

Consider yourselves enlightened. Got suggs that I didn't mention? Put 'em in the Comments section.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I Heart Mike Judge

I read something rather heartwarming in Esquire this past weekend:

Writer Brian Raftery wrote a painfully-but-sweetly honest profile of Mike Judge, the brains behind Office Space and Beavis and Butt-head. First off, I liked the way it was written, specifically when Raftery detailed the excruciatingly awkward pauses in the interview to back up the point that Judge is just a normal, suburban guy who doesn't much like to shake things up or talk a whole lot -- much like Hank Hill, Raftery said.

Good writing aside, though, this quote from Judge made me like him more than any repeat viewing of Office Space with my best college buddies ever could:

"In Hollywood, everybody you meet who's running these things, 80 percent are from this corridor of Manhattan, up through Connecticut, up through Westchester," he says. "I don't really feel the urge to mock suburbanites. It feels more rebellious to make the show on their side."

I read that passage over and over because, "Finally," I thought, "someone else gets it."

In a few pithy sentences, Judge distilled down -- for me, anyway -- exactly why I bring this inferiority complex with me to the city: that feeling that most people who are from the tri-state area have a leg up on me because, in the end, I'm on their home turf. And I love that he's giving respect to my people: the families who live honest lives in their little bubble somewhere out West, have no idea who DJ A.M. is, and don't really care about the Jared Paul Stern scandal. (I have to add, though, that in the two aforementioned cases, I think ignorance might actually be bliss.)

But as far as siding with the suburbanites goes? Mike Judge, I'll join in your rebel yell.

Monday, May 15, 2006


New York Lesson #1,283:

If you're about 5'4" and female, ordering six dumplings is plenty, even though you're hungry and nine dumplings seems far more economical and practical, and even though every single dumpling is a mini-morsel of perfection.

I spent time in the Midwest this past weekend and realized this: Midwestern food is comforting, with its basic ingredients of cheese and meat and milk, and after eating it you kinda want to take a nap and ruminate about maybe taking a walk tomorrow...or not. But New York food assaults your palate with its spices and fusions and crazy pairings you would have sworn were formed from some strange recipe in which two pages stuck together to form the concoction you're currently eating. But unlike Rachel's trifle, it's delicious and light and fabulous, and just to celebrate your amazing meal, you feel like skipping off to a strange bar on the Lower East Side and sipping PBR from the can just because dinner was So. Freaking. Awesome.

Midwest, I miss you and your values and trees and grounded people -- but I don't miss your food. I love you, New York, and your quirky, insane, fantastic, and more-often-than-not overpriced menus -- if not your hipsters, ever-present concrete, and inflated sense of self-importance.

I'm Boycottin' It

Due to spending several hours' worth of my precious time in airports and on planes this weekend, I was finally able to finish the book Fast Food Nation. If you haven't read it, you should put it in your reading queue as the book to begin next. My takeaway from it was less of the "Ew, gross, I am SO never eating disgusting hamburgers again now that I know what's in them" variety as it was the "Corporations really are just out for profit -- literally at the expense of lives -- and need to be controlled" sort. Plus, the author, Eric Schlosser, provided no fewer than 68 pages of references that he used for the book. Not to mention the numerous first-person interviews he conducted. Now that's journalism.

I won't give you a play-by-play of the book (you can come to your own conclusions when you read it), but among other things it just reinforced my anger at the McDonald's Corporation, especially lately, for its blatant targeting of poor minorities with its "I'm Lovin' It" campaign, which I've read has been extremely successful. And then there's the obesity epidemic, which is not going to be fixed simply by offering an expensive fruit and walnut salad to those who can afford to blow a Lincoln on a little snack.

The movie version of Fast Food Nation comes out this year, and I am hoping (most likely in vain) that it will have a fourth of the impact that the book did/does. But something tells me that with a cast including Avril Lavigne, a director who also did Dazed and Confused, and an IMDB entry that cautions against "strong sexuality" -- a subject that was talked about exactly ONCE in the book -- I'm thinking I'm going to be wildly, wildly disappointed. By which I mean, "Please, God, don't let there be a gratuitous and unnecessary scene involving two 16-year-old McDonald's employees having sex on the french fry fryer. That'll make me throw up faster than anything about the meatpacking industry in FFN." Here's a recent Times article about Eric Schlosser and the movie if you want to read a little more about it.

So, needless to say, I'll be avoiding all chain fast food for the foreseeable future and reading up on the government's progress in better regulating what we eat.

Friday, May 12, 2006

No. Excuse You.

When you live in New York, you become accustomed to being in close proximity to other people. Someone brushes past you in Duane Reade? No prob. You step on someone's foot on the train? They're okay with it. Sometimes the short distance between passersby can even be advantageous, like when you get turned around in a new neighborhood, someone overhears you trying to figure out where the heck you are, and s/he points you toward the restaurant you're looking for. Or when you have two beers at a bar, somehow miss a single bright-yellow neon stairstep on the way out, fall not-so-gracefully on your behind, and a stranger helps you up. (Um, not that that happened to me this past Tuesday night....)

But sometimes being so close to others is just damn annoying. Like today, for instance:

I was walking down the street on the way to my apartment after work, and I sneezed, in the process covering my mouth with my hand, as civilized adults tend to do. Then, about .65 seconds after I sneezed, hand still on my mouth, some woman on a cell phone standing nearby says, "Excuse you!" and continues on with her conversation.

I turned back and stared at her, and replayed the whole incident in my mind at least five times on my way to my apartment. Did someone actually chastise me for sneezing in public? I mean, it is one thing to emit certain other bodily noises around strangers, but sneezing? Will someone please tell me when this became culturally offensive?

But mark my words, Rude Mystery Lady. Next time, I will not be so silent. Next time, I will go all Lynne Truss on your ass and say something really witty as I walk away.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sticking it to the Blog

I absolutely love this:

According to this article in Time Out New York, a Parsons student created the "My New York Times" print project -- which gives the daily goings-on of her life a stately, Times-ian look and feel -- for her senior thesis: "It's a commentary on they detail their personal lives like it's the most important news in the world."

I could be catty now and point fingers at bloggers who exemplify that, but, really, don't most bloggers?

That kinda reminds me of the awesome last quote of this San Francisco Chronicle story I read today about chick lit:

"But if readers seek out only what they can 'relate' to, isn't something lost?
Ermelino thinks so.
'Rather than looking in the mirror all the time, I think we should try to learn about the world.'"

Hmmm...sounds like bloggers would do well to heed that advice, too.

Hey, Doesn't That Sound Like...?

Welcome to Typing Pool's bi-yearly Music Conspiracy Theory post.

When you think about it, don't these songs sound -- I dunno -- a little too similar?

Exhibit A:

"Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
"Take Me Out" by the Franz Ferdinand

Exhibit B:

"Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells or Joan Jett (take your pick; clearly one of these more closely mirrors Karen O.)
"Our Time" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Exhibit C:

"The Middle" by Jimmy Eats World
"Such Great Heights" by Iron and Wine

Don't shoot the messenger.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Most Influential/Privileged New Yorkers

Today, New York magazine showed up in my mailbox, with its story on "The Influentials" -- those people whom we're supposed to appreciate with our hero worship for their "influence" on New York. I found the whole article a bit hard to stomach with regard to its dollar-sign and celebrity worship. I'm sorry, but if Lindsay Lohan, Dan Klores, and Anna Wintour are featured as prominent figures on any list, I'm pretty much going to stop reading soon after seeing that perfect storm of superficiality. Influential? Sure. I'll give New York magazine that. But should they be? I think the answer is pretty clear.

Here's an example to clarify why I'm feeling this way right now, especially:

I was walking to the gym this past weekend and saw a line about five people thick wrapped around two-plus blocks in the upper 20s. As I looked closer, I noticed they were mostly young girls -- mostly minorities -- in jeans standing alongside their girlfriends or their mothers. They were all holding half-sheets of white paper, and I wondered what they were waiting for. A rapper, maybe? Some comedian to show up? (Lord knows I've waited in many a Comedy Central taping line.) I couldn't stand not knowing what was going on, so I finally went up and asked one of them what she was waiting for.

"Prom dresses," a pretty girl with straight auburn hair said. "They donate them, and you just have to get in line, and you can get one. Macy's, everybody, donates them."

"Oh, well, good luck," I told her. "I hope you get a good one."

After getting over my own horrible racism, I thought about the girls the whole time I was at the gym. I knew instinctively that not all of them would be able to take a dress home -- there were just too many in line. On the way back from the gym, I overheard an older woman talking to another passerby about the giveaway. The professional organization that runs the Operation Fairy Dust (love that name) giveaway is called NY BACKed, she said. The woman is a teacher and has gone to this giveaway for four years, and it's never been this big before. In years past, she said, there were maybe a hundred girls total waiting for a free dress -- accessories included. But this year, they advertised it on the radio, and by 8 a.m., there were already several hundred girls in line. Her students who came early asked her why there weren't enough dresses to go around.

I'll never forget what she said next: "They're going to close it down after I get one more girl in. A lot of girls are going to go away empty-handed and heartbroken."

I wanted to go home and clean out my closet -- get my old, somewhat dated prom dresses, run downstairs onto the sidewalk, and give them out to the girls in line. But my few dresses are all in the Midwest in an upstairs closet, gathering dust on some cheap plastic hanger.

After I, as a new New Yorker, read about the "influential New Yorkers" (including the "Billion-Dollar Litigators Club") it's easy to become incorrectly jaded -- to think every teenager in New York is spoiled and private-schooled and goes shopping at Barneys for playclothes...or clubbing clothes -- thanks Lindsay Lohan. But, despite all of those New York stereotypes, there are hundreds of girls who can't afford prom dresses. Let alone a dress that's unique or in season -- thanks, Anna Wintour.

Influential New Yorkers? Let's think again. Click here to donate to Operation Fairy Dust.

Friday, May 05, 2006

New York Stories

I overheard something great the other night:

I went into a local bodega to find my very own copy of Blueprint magazine. (Yes, I am totally obsessed with the new magazine, and I'm coming to terms with that.) For you non-New Yorkers, a "bodega" is a little corner store sort of like a 7-11 or a Kwik-E-Mart, except small, independent, cluttered, sometimes dirty, and occasionally the size of a hallway. You'll usually find an insanely extensive supply of magazine titles, a good selection of soft drinks, smokes, and possibly some food products that are best left alone. (The Bible defines it as a store specializing in Hispanic groceries, but I think colloquially it has broader meaning in the city. Correct me if I'm wrong.)

I was scanning the magazines as a tall, broad-shouldered gentleman behind me went up to the cashier to pay. He started talking to the cashier with a decently thick, tough New York accent: "I don't want my wife to know I'm buying cigarettes and beer with the credit card, so it okay if it doesn't say cigarettes and beer on the credit card?"

Now, I have no idea whether he meant the receipt or the credit-card statement. (Of course it wouldn't show up on the statement....) But the whole exchange made me smile. There was something very old-school or 1950s about a wife hounding her husband for drinkin' and smokin' (and probably cursin', too) and him trying to hide it.

I prefer to look at it that way rather than as a sad short New York story about a couple's problems with finances and honesty.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

So Time Travel IS Possible...

Call Doctor Emmett Brown: As if Kaavya Viswanathan weren't already royally screwed, this little tidbit came out late today. Apparently, not only is Viswanathan's future journalism/writing career down the toilet, the media has found a way to go back in time and cast suspicion on the work she did before this scandal broke.

According to the Times story, The Record newspaper in Hackensack, NJ, is going back and investigating all the stories Viswanathan turned in for them when she was an intern there in 2003 and 2004. Wow. I mean, that's gotta hurt. It's kind of like having all of your past relationships put under the microscope when someone finds out you cheated on your current boyfriend -- "unintentionally" and "unconsciously" cheated, of course, and, besides, you never really liked the current boy to begin with. It's almost enough to make me feel sorry for the girl. Well, I'd feel sorry for her if she didn't steal book passages and lie about said stealing and if I weren't sure she was going to get some ridiculous memoir deal out of all of this.

And just a quick P.S.: I paged through the premiere issue of Blueprint magazine today, and it is stop-everything-and-gawk-for-15-minutes beautiful. I am not a home design person. I have no idea how to "match colors" or "pick out bedding" or "choose a wall sconce," but I am going to subscribe to this sucker solely because I couldn't stop staring at this picture of a girl with two giant framed playing cards behind her. Click on it. You'll see.

Predictions Come True: You Hear Me, Kaavya

Oh, yes. Now it appears everything I predicted is coming true: The Kaavya Viswanathan saga is getting even more interesting. According to a source who informed the New York Times, Viswanathan has not only stolen passages from Megan McCafferty's novels, she's also "borrowed" from hit author Sophie Kinsella. AND it seems that even The Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot isn't safe from Viswanathan's heavy (plagiarizing) hand.

And P.S.: Little, Brown wisely canceled Viswanathan's two-book deal. Have I mentioned Little, Brown gets big props for standing up in the face of blatant dishonesty? Okay, again: Little, Brown, I salute you.

But all of this got me thinking: If I could get a book deal solely based on stealing from authors I admire (I have to give a nod to the Dallas Morning News's idea to do this already), I would totally pick the following:

Contemporary Romance:
Susan Elizabeth Phillips (natch)
Julia London
Rachel Gibson (thrown in for sassy flavor)
Jennifer Crusie
Michelle Rowen (love her! keep writing, girl)

Chick Lit:
Jennifer Weiner (natch)
Helen Fielding (natch)
Sophie Kinsella (idea already taken by Viswanathan)
Meg Cabot (thrown in for sassy flavor/idea already taken by Viswanathan)
Michelle Cunnah

I could go on. Have suggs? Put them in the comments section, and keep on writing your own stuff, darlings.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Naomi, You're Going Down

I stumbled upon this this weekend. And here I thought I had to have five extra inches of height, a C cup, an abusive boyfriend, an eating disorder, anger management issues, and a raging coke habit to be a model. Turns out, all the tools I need are at my local beauty supply store! Well, that and a healthy dose of PMA -- that's Positive Mental Attitude, silly!

Favorite quote from the article: "Remember that every moment is a potential pose!" I'm so totally going to perfect my poses and name them, just like Derek Zoolander: Avoiding Sitting by the Drunk Sleeping Guy on the Train, Fumbling for My Keys Outside My Apartment Building, and Waking Up for Work After a Rough Thursday Night Involving Jagermeister at the Magician are just a few that I plan to unveil in '07.