Culture

It’s a Weird Day. Let’s Rank States!

This weekend, for a wedding, my little family drove all the way up to Lisbon, NH, in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between America and Canada. Basically it’s about as far north as you can believe the US goes and then further. We passed signs saying “Thar be dragons.” As we drove through them, and to pass the time, we ranked the states of New England. Appropriately, this morning, I saw this: What’s The Matter With Connecticut?

Who would run away from Connecticut in the first place? It seems a state not afflicted, a lovely, hilly green hamlet nestled between Boston and New York. It has a low crime rate. It has stellar schools. It has the highest per-capita income of the 50 states. It’s home to Martha Stewart and America’s best pizza, for God’s sake. Edge complained primarily about the state’s political incompetency and its “freeloaders.” But there’s a much deeper malaise afflicting Connecticut and its angry letter-writers. While there is great wealth, there is stagnant growth. Along with high incomes has come increasing poverty. Amid those million-dollar mansions, the middle class has eroded. In short, Connecticut has somehow managed to become both the richest and worst economy in America. And what’s worse, America has started to look more and more like Connecticut.

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Amusement Park Tally: What It Cost, What It Was Worth

As promised, my little family hit up Coney Island this weekend for some sun, fun, and bruising brought on by the Cyclone, one of America’s oldest and ricketiest wooden roller coasters. Here’s what we spent and an analysis of whether each purchase was justified:

+ NYAquarium tickets

COST: $24 for two adults. Babygirl got in free.

WORTH IT?: Mostly. Did you know there are penguins in South Africa? Warm weather “jackass” penguins! They are small and adorable; in the water, swimming, they resemble ducks.

The aquarium is pretty small. A good chunk is still under construction, post-Sandy. Babygirl enjoyed trying to catch the tiny, iridescent fish in the tanks and was less enthusiastic about the sea lion show: she shrieked in terror at the sight of their sleek, monstrous bodies emerging from the water to clap their fins. Overall, it was a fun family outing, though I wouldn’t rush to do it again.

+ One Cyclone ride

COST: $9

WORTH IT: Ben emerged battered and hoarse with a huge grin on his face. Unequivocal yes, says he.

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To Refund or Not to Refund, A Tumblr Message Exegesis

Tumblr user stephanieshift — O Stephanie, I don’t want to haunt your Google results forever and I’m sorry, hopefully this is not your real name, though I suspect it is and you are just that foolish — sent Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay a little message in her Ask Box yesterday.

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What Does Success Look Like?

Vulture compiled a list of the most successful graduates of Tyra Banks’s televised charm school, America’s Next Top Model. None has come close to dethroning Tyra herself; though most are, as you’d expect, tall and skinny and photogenic, they continue to do better on TV — the medium in which they broke through — than on the runway. First place finishers don’t seem to do better in life, ultimately, than their also-rans. Witness the top two, according to Vulture:

2. YaYa DaCosta (2nd Place, Cycle 3) Post-ANTMSmall roles in Ugly Betty and All My ChildrenTRON: Legacy, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and The Kids Are Alright; Garnier Fructis campaign; playing Whitney Houston in the upcoming Lifetime biopic I Will Always Love You: The Whitney Houston Story Power Points: YaYa’s photo critiques usually boiled down to her looking too much like a dancer. Opinionated but not a mean girl, she finished second behind Eva Pigford (the mean girl). YaYa won the war, though, spinning her silver medal into respectable acting gigs, including a potential breakthrough part playing Whitney Houston in a TV biopic. Tyra approvesBobbi Kristina does not.

1. Analeigh Tipton (3rd Place, Cycle 11) Post-ANTMRecurring role on Hung; roles in The Green Hornet, Crazy Stupid Love, Warm Bodies, and Lucy; starring in ABC’s Manhattan Love Story this fall Power Points: Analeigh — an adorable, figure-skating fan favorite — had a part in a Ryan Gosling movie. We repeat: She had a part in a Ryan Gosling movie, playing Steve Carrell’s kid’s babysitter. Her upcoming lead role in the primetime rom-com, Manhattan Love Story, secures her spot in the Top Model Hall of Fame.

It’s a good reminder that success doesn’t always look like the way we expect it to. So, btw, is this piece in Slate about an overachieving mom who freaks out about her developmentally-delayed daughter — both abstractly and sometimes at her daughter herself. If the essay weren’t candidly introspective about the mom’s faults, it would be a total hate-read. (Frankly, though I am also sympathetic, it still kind of is.)

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Players on the Playa: The Economics of Burning Man

No vendors, no logos, and still, the annual anarchic festival that is Burning Man sure puts the green in Black Rock City.

“Every single seat we have coming into this airport the weekend before will be filled and every single seat we have leaving on the departure weekend will be filled,” Kulpin says. He estimates that the airport reaps $10 million a year from Burning Man-bound flyers. “How could we not embrace that?” he asks. …

These pit stops, hotel stays and last-minute purchases equal $35 million spent by Burning Man participants—“Burners,” for the uninitiated—in Nevada each year. Sixty-six percent of respondents in the 2013 Burning Man census (yes, it has a census) reported spending more than $250 in the state on their way to and from the event. Eighteen percent spent more than $1,000. In putting the event on, the Burning Man organization adds to this stream, from $301,660 given to local law enforcement agencies in 2013 to $4.5 million spent on Bureau of Land Management and other usage fees. “This event has a huge, month-long, positive impact on our local economy,” says John Slaughter, county manager for Washoe, which includes everything from Reno to the closest towns to the event, the 200-person-each desert settlements of Gerlach and Empire. “Our stores, restaurants, gas stations, and car washes see an incredible influx of traffic, providing a great boost to the Northern Nevada economy.”

My sister-in-law is on the Playa right now! She started saving at least six months ago while nannying for two separate families. That’s commitment. Back when I was at liberty, I was more of a folk festival person (Falcon Ridge, heyyyy) but I totally get the appeal of spending — even extreme spending — to be in isolation among like-minded companions.

“‘Burning Man is like a big family picnic,’ he told me. ‘Would you sell things to one another at a family picnic? No, you’d share things.’”

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How To Become a Math Person, Vol. 1

The woman who just won a Fields Medal, Maryam Mirzakhani, did not initially conceive of herself as a math person; like so many of us, she wanted to be a writer.

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Stress-nesting During a Season of Turmoil

It was a bad week on the heels of a bad month. If you are reading this in real time I hardly have to tell you about it, but in case you aren’t: Gaza, Ukraine, Ebola, Michael Brown, Robin Williams, Ferguson, Ferguson, Ferguson—what am I missing? Probably a lot. Anyway, there was all of this, and then suddenly the lamp situation in my dining room became untenable.

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Point/Counterpoint: Does Empowerment Sell?

POINT, via the New York Times: People are paying lots of positive attention to that new Pantene ad about not apologizing so much and the Under Armour one featuring ballerina Misty Copeland! Perhaps we are finally feeling the winds of change.

Ms. Copeland, standing at 5 feet 2 inches tall, muscular and busty, faced similar criticism as a young dancer, not fitting the willowy mold of the typical ballerina. But she succeeded, making herself the perfect face — or body —  for Under Armour’s empowering tagline “I will what I want.”

“For aspiring dancers (and their teachers) to see that her body — her skin color, her monster glutes, her bust — do look right, that’s just huge,” writes Hana Glasser at Slate, in one of the many articles gushing about the campaign’s inspirational power.

Whereas the straight-up sex ads for places like American Apparel feel tired, retro. Or is that merely the brand?

Maybe Empowerment has the edge these days! Maybe we consumers, especially ladies, want to be feel inspired to part with our money rather than shamed into doing it, out of the fear that otherwise we’ll be insufficiently attractive to men.

COUNTERPOINT, via the Hairpin: I’m sorry, what

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The Virtues of Working Less

It is August, which means most of Europe is on their month-long vacation and The Atlantic is beating one of my favorite drums: To Work Better, Work Less.

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The End of Neighborliness

Hi. Nice to meet you. I live next door.

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