Friday, September 26, 2008

You can never be too rich or too thin

Atkins. Weight Watchers. South Beach. I have tried them all, with varying levels of success.

With Atkins, I simply didn't have the willpower. I would be tremendously excited at breakfast while enjoying eggs and bacon guilt-free, but I never could quite eliminate the carbs from lunch and dinner. So really, I was just adding fat and cholesterol to my diet, which unsurprisingly proved ineffective in terms of weight loss.

I did the Weight Watchers points thing and had more luck, though again, I don't know that it fostered any long-term health habits. For instance, on the weekends I would just eat celery in order to save all my points for wine.

The South Beach Diet I never actually tried because there seemed to be too much cooking involved. And I hate Florida.

My own weight loss has always been accidental, for instance when I got tonsillitis in London and couldn't swallow for a week. That was awesome. My sophomore year of college, a thyroid problem forced me to give up yeast and sugar and the pounds flew off. But you can't always count on a health crisis to lose a dress size.

Whenever I try to count calories and "be good," I always seem to either gain a pound or two or just stay where I am. I'm waiting for the genius to invent the all-carbs-all-the-time diet (that would be Nobel Prize-worthy) but until that day comes, I think it's worth mentioning a few foolproof factors that seem to correspond with slimming down.

1. Be stressed out

When you're stressed out, you don't have time to eat! There has not yet been a study to link stress to weight loss, but usually I'm stressed because I'm running around and have over- committed myself. So maybe the running around has something to do with it. Maybe.

2. Live in abject poverty

I achieved this by going to graduate school. If you don't have money, you can't load up your kitchen with empty-calorie foods! Microwave popcorn may be a somewhat unhealthy snack (it's high in sodium and has basically no nutritional value), but if that's all you eat for dinner, you're saving calories. Also, if you can't afford to buy gas or take public transportation, you'll end up walking more. Good for the environment, good for your ass.

*Note: poverty can backfire in terms of weight-loss if you are a fan of fast food. Watch Super Size Me and read Fast Food Nation to try to break the habit.

3. Have a lot of sex

It's a great calorie-burner. To learn how much you burn in various acts/positions, click here. Apparently, you burn twice as many calories unhooking a bra with one hand as you do with two, so being smooth apparently has health perks.

4. Develop a phobia of elevators

Did you know that approximately 21 people die from elevator-related accidents every year?

5. Travel to a country where it's allegedly not safe to drink the water, and then drink the water.

Ok, so this might put a damper on your vacation, but come swimsuit season, you'll be grateful. Montezuma's Revenge? More like your revenge on all those relatives who gave you the backhanded compliment of being a "good eater."

Obviously, I'm not a health expert and am not *seriously* endorsing the above methods. The refreshing observation that came from attending naked parties at Yale is that most people look pretty good (in clothes and out of them). Few are perfect, and likewise, few are without any redeeming features. So feel good about your body!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The worst rock band ever

This is a band called "Complete," performing their song, "Hoogie Boogie Land." The message of the song is complex, with some political overtones ("In Hoogie Boogie Land, there is no war") but it's the bold lack of melody that really makes this song unique.

Thanks to Noah, for introducing me to this band.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


There is an important piece of investigative journalism in this week's issue of Time Out New York. Hot-button issues like the upcoming election and the Lehman Brothers collapse may be stealing the headlines, but I felt it was my duty to draw attention to something that affects all women, regardless of age, race, moose-hunting abilities or creed. I am speaking, of course, about haircuts.

Click here to read my gritty exposé on the NYC subculture...of salon promotions. I like to think of myself as a modern-day Upton Sinclair, with breasts. Sarah Palin may talk about reform, but would she sacrifice her up-do to get to the truth? I think not.

I somehow got the Grey Lady's attention

That's right: The New York Times is reading this blog. I have no idea how they found it. I was operating under the assumption that beyond a handful of friends and family, any other traffic to this site was accidental. I pictured young actresses trying to find that Eve Ensler monologue about what vaginas would wear if they got dressed and accidentally ending up here.

Gentle reader, do I now feel compelled to write about things of more substance and stop posting about Japanese toys and my failures in yoga?


Monday, September 15, 2008

"This Perpetual Fight" at the Grolier Club

New York readers and friends,

There is an extraordinary exhibition opening at the Grolier Club tomorrow: This Perpetual Fight: Love and Loss in Virginia Woolf's Intimate Circle. It was curated by a close friend of mine and if you are a fan of Bloomsbury or Woolf, it is a must-see collection of first editions, letters, photographs and other ephemera. To whet your appetite, below is a lovely little poem written by Clive Bell (who married Virginia's sister, Vanessa), which he presented to Virginia in December 1909 with the gift of a book. Whenever I give or receive a book, I think of this poem.

Books are the quiet monitor of mind,
They prompt its motions, shape its ways, they find
A road through mazes to the higher ground,
Whence to explore the sky-bound marches.
about us lie the open downs. Our days
Still ask a guide and goad. Wherefore always
We meditate wise thoughts and passionate lays;
Wherefore I send a book.

Books are the mind's last symbol. They express
Its visions and its subtleties—a dress
Material for the immaterial things
That soar to immortality on wings
Of words, and live, by magic of the pen,
Where dead minds live, upon the lips of men
And deep in hearts that stir. Wherefore do I,
Drawing a little near, prophetically,
Send you a book.

Books are the heart's memorial. They shall measure,
In after days, our undiscovered treasure,—
Thrilling self-knowledge, half-divined untold
Yearnings, and tongueless agonies, shall unfold
Or half unfold to half-illumined eyes.
The cypress shadows creeping gnomonwise
Still stretch their purple fingers down the hill
That hangs above Fiesole; and still
Your English fireside glows. Do you most dear
—Sometimes just guessed at, sometimes very near—
Yet always dear and fairest friend, do you
Recall the sunlight and the firelight too?
Recall the pregnant hours, the gay delights,
The pain, the tears maybe, the ravished heights,
The golden moments my cold lines commend,
The days, in memory of which I send
A book?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shouting Vase holds your anger

I love Japanese consumer culture. One of my favorite souvenirs from my 2003 trip to Japan is this bizarre plush toy that is known by those close to me as "Cat Bread." It looks like a bread box with a face, and his box-head opens up to reveal a small, loaf-shaped creature with ears:

Cat Bread was made by BanPresto, a Japanese toy manufacturer. I have been Googling "Banpresto cat bread" for years, hoping to find a way to order more online, but Cat Bread seems to be one of a kind. However, I did find some other unusual Japanese items on the web that are almost as cool. Play your cards right, and some of you lucky people might just be unwrapping something from this list this holiday season.

First, there is the Shouting Vase:

"Turn your loudest, most urgent frustrations into mere whispers with the Shouting Vase. The plastic jug is designed to fit over the contours of your mouth and absorb your screams and shouts, “storing” them in the vase and emitting a softer version of your angry cries through the tiny hole at the base."

Confused? Let's take a closer look at the science involved:


Ok, maybe something a little more practical would be in better. Some people like to give/receive things they know they will use. So how about some stylish black tissues?

Apparently, normal tissues can look "cheap," but black tissues look chic! I can't decide whether these are awesome or creepy, but since you can only buy increments of 10 boxes for $149, I'm going to hold off for now. 1 box? Funny. 10 boxes? Not so much.

How about a little something for someone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen? Let me recommend the charming heart-shaped cucumber mold set. This will add some zing to your salads and favorite recipes.

The best part is, the device actually molds the cucumber while it's growing (in your vegetable've got one of those, right?) You aren't just cutting cucumbers into heart-shapes; that would be tacky and bourgeois.

I'll wrap up this post with a little video that I'm a little obsessed with. Enjoy! (warning: this will get stuck in your head)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lay off, haters

As a
Time Out New York freelancer and subscriber, I am incredibly annoyed by the recent Gawker coverage on TONY's alleged imminent demise. I have always found Gawker to be too mean-spirited and catty for my taste; I envision their writers to be the kind of vapid, elitist, pat-themselves-on-the-back-for-being-so-clever folks that I did my best to avoid in college. Also, the "audition to comment" requirement on the blog is baffling. Really, Gawker? You need to give me the stamp of snark approval before I can respond to your posts? The whole thing just kind of pisses me off.

Gawker compares TONY to New York Magazine and comes to the conclusion that TONY is content-poor (
"New York magazine could be considered a higher-end competitor, but its content is a million times better"). Well, maybe that's because the two magazines actually serve two very different functions and shouldn't be compared. TONY is and always has been primarily about their listings. And yes, the free event listings on sites like Yelp and Citysearch have decreased readership somewhat, but most publications are in a similar boat.

I'm biased -- I interned at Time Out and loved working there. They gave me the opportunity to write and not just fetch coffee and run errands. And I still write for them on occasion. Gawker is right about the freelancer problem -- it does take too long to get paid and the pay isn't great. But a byline in Time Out is valuable, which is why I keep writing for them. If you need a steady paycheck, don't be a freelancer. Duh.

New York Magazine has never been my cup of tea. Maybe it's because I don't care that much about the Best Doctors in Manhattan (because I can't afford them), the activities of NYC socialites or how much the highest paid call girl makes.

I would describe New York Mag as an interesting hybrid of classist and trashy. For interesting articles on politics and culture, I read the New Yorker. For event information, I read Time Out.

I briefly wrote for
New York Mag's website, contributing mini-restaurant reviews. It should have been a dream job but I quit after a few months because my editor was a complete harpy. She was a writing-by-the-numbers editor-- all my reviews had to follow a rigid formula (1st sentence must be about the decor, 2nd sentence must be about the clientele) or else they were unacceptable. No creativity, no finesse allowed. And she would alter my work and post it on the site with my name on it without running the changes by me. There are things on that website that I would take my name off of if I could. For instance, this sentence was added to one of my reviews: "You can expect high-quality meat and sauces that don't overpower the meat."


That crazy editor did eventually leave -- to work for, as she wrote me in an e-mail, "an upstart literary zine." I assume she meant "start-up" but I never inquired further.

I would like to see Time Out chill out a little with their editorial and layout changes of late (bring back Around Town! Fire Julia Allison!) but overall, I think it's a good magazine and a valuable resource for NYC tourists and lifers alike.

So, haters? Lay off.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Knowledge is good."

After Day 1 of Emerson orientation, which consisted of campus tours, ice-breaker games and welcome addresses given by faculty, administrators, and grad student ambassadors, this is what I learned:

1. Lewis Black is an alum!

2. There is a Will and Grace set permanently on display in the library (since the creator of W & G attended Emerson)

3. Pabst Blue Ribbon bottles are only $2.75 at The Tam

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Backyardigans: A Social Study

Today I spent 9.5 hours babysitting my boyfriend's nephews (twin boys who are turning five in February). While most of the day was spent running outside, doing sticker puzzles and playing games like Go Fish, we managed to fit in a few episodes of their favorite Nick Jr. show, The Backyardigans. As far as kids' television programming goes, this show is pretty innocuous. And apparently, many many children are OBSESSED with it. YouTube is filled with videos of adorable little kids singing the theme song and dancing around like maniacs.

However, for the analytical and culturally-sensitive viewer (or blogger with too much time on her hands), it's impossible to ignore some of the subliminal messages. The basic premise is that five "animals" hang out in a backyard and via their imaginations are transported across time and space to a number of adventurous locales including ancient Greece and the Paleolithic Age.

The main characters (pictured from left to right):

Tasha: a bossy hippo (fun fact: the only Backyardigan that always wears shoes!)

Tyrone: a sweater-clad moose with a laid-back stoner vibe

Pablo: a cross between a bluebird and a penguin

Uniqua: a sassy pink alien-looking thing with antennae

Austin: allegedly a kangaroo, according to Wikipedia, but you could have fooled me

My first question is, why not use all real animals? I'm all for encouraging tolerance towards those who are "unique," but do we really need a fake animal named Uniqua to get that point across? It's also a *little* troublesome that Uniqua is voiced by a sassy little girl named LaShawn Jeffries:
I would get it if all the characters were hybrid animals or fictional creations, but it's very easy to tell what Tyrone, Pablo, and Tasha are supposed to be (and realize that they don't belong in anyone's backyard.)

Then there are some loaded multicultural storylines. In an episode I watched today, Pablo and Uniqua sang a rousing song called "Will Work for Pancakes" and then proceeded to do farm work and manual labor for Tasha. I couldn't help but wonder, is this meant to be a metaphor for the exploitation of migrant workers, the perpetual enslavement of the underclass? Will future episodes feature the Backyardigans traveling to the antebellum south or hiking along the Trail of Tears?

I mean, probably not.

Every episode ends with someone's stomach growling and the gang deciding to break for food. Let's just hope they steer clear of this fellow:

Now that's the kind of cracked-out children's show I can really get behind.