The Things She Read

I had the great luxury of abandoning my computer for a few hours and jumping on a train. That meant more time than I've had in months to read!

And fortunately, I picked some amazing things to take with me. I read a piece by Chris Jones (Canadian author of the celebrated profile of Roger Ebert in Esquire) called "The Things that Carried Him." (Not to be confused with another fantastic piece from the Atlantic, "The Things He Carried") This piece earned Esquire and Jones a National Magazine Award. It's a phenomenal feat of journalism that tells how the body of an American soldier finds its way home to his grave in Indiana. The story is a few years old but its power hasn't diminished one bit.

You won't be able to put it down and you will not soon forget the story. If I sound hyperbolic, I'm not. It's really that good. Make sure you have Kleenex nearby.

On a lighter note, try the New Yorker's Parent's Guide to "Your New College Graduate"

Finally - I've just started Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman. I like this book because it was a winner for me in our book publisher "fantasy football" league (pick your list, order books, see how they sell), but also because it happens to be written in Friedman's signature lucid style. The book is a manifesto, calling America to step up and embrace sustainability as way of life-- and the its best hope for the future. Friedman's prose is urgent, clear, and persuasive. When I'm done, I'm sure I'm going to feel very smart.

What the hell, Toronto?

I was really excited to visit my brother this weekend. For the first time in my (recent) life, I was looking forward to coming to Toronto. (Cue general dismay about past life at York University.) Five minutes after I arrive at Union Station, a respectable looking man comes up to me asking for 35 cents so that he can get home. I lend him the money and he promises me good karma. Ok, sure.

Only 10 minutes later, William and I are getting off the subway and, as passenger rushed into the car, HE KICKED ME.


Know your place

Fifth Avenue and 22nd Street, New York city. Photo by Mark Armstrong.

/via The Awl

/via Ish (aka where I get all the material for my blog)

Heffernan Laments the Death of the Open Web; the Times Props Up its Paywall

The New York Times' media columnist Virginia takes something of an elegiac tone in her recent piece about "The Death of the Open Web":

"But a kind of virtual redlining is now under way. The Webtropolis is being stratified. Even if, like most people, you still surf the Web on a desktop or laptop, you will have noticed pay walls, invitation-only clubs, subscription programs, privacy settings and other ways of creating tiers of access. All these things make spaces feel “safe” — not only from viruses, instability, unwanted light and sound, unrequested porn, sponsored links and pop-up ads, but also from crude design, wayward and unregistered commenters and the eccentric ­voices and images that make the Web constantly surprising, challenging and enlightening."

Ok, cute. But the paper that you work for is going to charge its readers to read online in about 6 months. I wonder what the dialogue about the open web is like inside the NYT offices.

Heffernan's argument is confused, I think. Perhaps, not as honest as she could have been writing the piece for anyone else. Despite it's flimsy thesis, the essay has this gem of an analogy:

“The App Store must rank among the most carefully policed software platforms in history,” the technology writer Steven Johnson recently noted in The Times. Policed why? To maintain the App Store’s separateness from the open Web, of course, and to drive up the perceived value of the store’s offerings. Perception, after all, is everything: many apps are to the Web as bottled water is to tap — an inventive and proprietary new way of decanting, packaging and pricing something that could once be had free.




More things I have collected

To read:

To share:

For your convenience:

To listen to:

For your information:


Bye, Kitty

According to an article from the New York Times, 36-year-0ld Hello Kitty is fading in popularity (In Search of Adorable, as Hello Kitty Gets Closer to Goodbye).

What's Japan's favourite cartoon character now? Anpanman.

How do I explain Anpanman? I'll let Wikipedia do it. Here's their character synopsis for the anime's protagonist:
[Anpanman is] the main character of the anime, whose head is a bun made by Uncle Jam. His name comes from the fact that he is a man with a head made of bread (Japanese: pan, a loanword from the Portuguese word meaning "bread") that is filled with bean jam (Japanese: an) called an anpan. His weakness is water or anything that makes his head dirty. He regains his health and strength when Jam Ojisan bakes him a new head and it is placed on his shoulders. Anpanman's damaged head, with Xs in his eyes, flies off his shoulders once a new baked head lands. He was created when a shooting star landed in Uncle Jam's oven while he was baking. He is in love with Melongirl. He has two special attacks called: An-punch and An-kick (with stronger variations of both). When Anpanman comes across a starving creature or person, he lets the unfortunate creature or person eat part of his head. [Ed's note: Now you're just blowing my mind] He also has super hearing in that he can respond to anyone that calls his name out in distress from anywhere in the world.
Sorry, Hello Kitty. Anpanman is way cool.


Quoted: Fictionalized Laura Bush

"All I did is marry him. You are the ones who gave him power."

- The protagonist, a West Texas woman emotionally marred by a car crash she caused in her teenage years and who later goes on to marry a man who becomes the president, in Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife

(pilfered off Salon.com, "Laura Bush: More interesting than her husband")

Get a Job with Google Adwords

Why didn't I think of this?

I love muffins but...

Gaga Roundup

image /via Sean McCabe at the Atlantic

There's been no shortage of magazines, lately, dissecting the popularity and stardom of the Lady Gaga.

First, New York magazine's Gaga-quotation-filled piece, "Growing up Gaga," where the pop star says something I don't like: "Pop stars should not eat." (The rest, however, is pretty fascinating, even if you've read a lot of about her)

Second, a DJ-friend writes a memoir for Esquire about his relationship with Gaga before she made it big. He reveals information and photos that are uncomfortably intimate yet still boring. That's "Lady Gaga: The Grandmother of Pop"

Finally, the Atlantic pulls apart Gaga as object, symbol, and artist in "The Last Pop Star."

The New Poor

Sometimes I complain about how little money I have. But I have a job for the summer and no one to support. I'm doing OK.

I mean, that's what I'm learning reading the New York Times series called "The New Poor," a series of articles journalling the struggles of some Americans as they cope with the effects of the recession.

You have no idea what computers are doing to people's livelihoods.


Quoted: Interviews

"Journalists request interview the way beggars ask for alms, reflexisvely and nervously. Like beggars, journalists must always be prepared for a rebuff, and cannot afford to let pride prevent them from making the pitch. But it isn't pleasant for a grown man or woman to put himself or herself in the way of refusal. In my many years of doing journalism, I have never come to terms with this part of the work. I hate to ask. I hate it when they say no. And I love it when they say yes."

-Janet Malcolm, "Iphigenia in Forest Hills," The New Yorker


Tove Jansson Carroll and Tokien Covers

Tove Jansson (of Moomin fame) illustrated editions of The Hobbit and Alice in Wonderland. See them all here.

/via the Daily What

Janelle Monae - Tightrope

Who recommended this to me? It's fantastic. Thank you!


NB: This is my first wine-fueled blog post. Let's just say I'm feeling careless with the keyboard.

So, here I am in Montreal. Our apartment is the top floor of an old house that's been converted into two apartments and an office (the landlord works there during the day). It smells like mold in the lobby but our apartment is a big space that feels like home. And if we want to have an ol' fashioned piano party, well, there's a keyboard/synth thingy in our living room. We've also been blessed with Christmas lights for an authentic McGill-student feel. I wanted to get here early to find my way around, rather than rushing into work at Reader's Digest.

But I find myself wandering on the same streets and haunts as my vacation last year: Rue St. Catherine, Parc Mont-Royal, and the Plateau. Tracy and I are staying in the student ghetto, so we are close to "Centre-ville." Downtown can feel something like a giant mall with some mediocre restaurants. It never feels like you know a city when the best places you know are steps away from a Forever 21.

We're hoping to get on our feet soon and find some semblance of a social life, and a better feel for the city. Meanwhile, I've been spending my day getting up to speed with Reader's Digest and buying groceries, and cooking like a housewife.

Tracy found me at home today taking a disco nap, only to have us spend the night at home, drinking wine, talking about our disdain for marriage and children, and eating my disappointing pasta sauce (Marcella Hazan, you failed me! And you know what went wrong? Not enough butter; that's my fault.)

Tomorrow, we head out to fill our apartment with thrifty goodness... and I commit to my promise to blog more. (Oh, and hey people in my life, thanks for all the Modern Love columns!!)


In-flight Entertainment

Perfect opening credits for How to Make It in America

Music by Aloe Blacc: "I Need a Dollar"

Says Stark Online about Blacc's track, "holy shit a HOOK."


This Hits Home

Margaret Wente: Do you have any impression of the landscape [of post-secondary education] in Canada right now?

Camille Paglia: I'm not that familiar with Canada. But when I was at York University a few years ago, I thought, “Oh my god, they are so shallow. Such a backwater.”

A landscape of death in the humanities,’ Globe and Mail, April 30



Martha Stewart, circa 1962

/via HuffPo