Culture

Amanda Palmer: “Everything Feels Unstable”

Amanda Palmer released another one of her intense, thought-provoking stream of consciousness blog posts, touching on her friend’s struggle with cancer, her own struggle with her first book, and her decision to avoid reading her own book reviews but to read Lena Dunham’s book reviews instead: “every barb, compliment or dagger that goes into her soft book heart….i can just pretend they’re being aimed at me.”

And then she writes this:

i’ve snuck into some recording studios in the past few weeks to record various weird things for various weird reasons. i wrote a song for jason webley’s kickstarter, i made some songs for a compilation coming out for christmas, i recorded some things that have been burning a hole on my pocket for a while. i’m hoping to get them out into the word soon, but like thom yorke and U2 and every other musician on the planet, i’m flying by the seat of my pants, not totally sure what the right delivery mechanism will be in two weeks, in two years, ever. everything feels unstable. the only think i can trust is that someone out there might want or like me or trust my talent enough to support my song-making endeavors. that’s something i can hold onto.

It’s something I didn’t quite realize was in the back of my mind until I read it.

We don’t know.

I think all the time about whether I’ll have this type of job in two weeks or two years. (Two weeks? Absolutely. Two years? Um.) The way we interact with the written word changes just as quickly as the way we interact with the vocalized one; it mutates and shifts so subtly that we can think “remember when people used to type URLs into their browsers instead of collections of words, remember when people used to read blogrolls instead of Facebook news feeds” and we can sort of remember it but not quite, because it was stored in the part of our brains that didn’t keep things that mattered.

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OK, Gentrification is Lousy. Now What?

The problem, ultimately, is capitalism. It is a system designed to channel goods to the people willing and able to pay the most for them, including real estate.

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The Widespread Popularity of HGTV

Sometimes, at a dinner party, or at another kind of event where you are meeting friends of friends and engaging in small talk, you’ll start off by talking about what you do, and then where you live, and how crazy the real estate market is around here and how that’s reflected on shows like Selling New York, and then you suddenly realize that the acquaintance in front of you has also watched HGTV on more than one occasion, and have they seen Love It or List It or Property Brothers?

I don’t have cable, nor own a television for that matter, and yet somehow, I’m aware of all of this. I’ll be traveling for work somewhere and will find myself in my hotel room watching someone put up a subway tile backsplash in their kitchen.

Why do so many people watch HGTV? According to Pacific Standard’s Phillip Maciak, HGTV is “so watchable because it features attainably realistic ritual re-enactments of the American Dream every half-hour.”

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The Real History of Madewell, 1937

Last time I mentioned Madewell here you guys had a lot of feelings about so I am very excited for you to read this Dan Nosowitz piece, How Madewell Bought And Sold My Family’s History.

I stopped dead on Broadway, in the middle of the sidewalk, and stared, not up at the beautiful wrought-iron SoHo buildings, as would befit someone who’d moved to New York in the past month, but at an ordinary sign advertising a small clothing shop. The logo, a casual cursive scrawl with both E’s capitalized, jumped out at me like a beacon from a lighthouse somewhere deep in the back of my brain. That was the logo emblazoned on my baby clothes, the logo my great-grandfather created. It was, I thought, forgotten family history, the factories having shut down shortly after I was born in the ’80s. After a moment I took out my phone and called my mom and asked her what the hell was going on.

Nosowitz’s great-grandfather, a turn-of-the-century Russian immigrant, started the real Madewell, a workwear company (in the um, actual sense) in 1937. Mickey Drexler bought the logo, and the right to put “1937″ on all their shit, in 2006.

This piece is a wonderful reclamation of family history as well as a meditation on the (bastardized) notions of authenticity in consumerism. It totally upended my readerly expectations and I’m obsessed with it.

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How People Do Money: The High Holidays

Perhaps the less Jewish-y people have noticed that the more Jewish-y people are saying “Happy new year”? That’s because it is once again Rosh Hashanah, a lunar calendar holiday that usually falls in September and coincides nicely with the beginning of school. Happy birthday, world! Time to hit the books.

This is a pleasant holiday: we get to miss class, eat apples and honey, and challah with raisins, and various kinds of cake. I had a donut this morning when I got back from services and it felt almost, like, spiritual. We don’t have to hear horror stories about people trying to kill us. Services go on forever and ever, it’s true, but pretty much guaranteed, when you doze off, someone blows the shofar and you jolt upright again. As a teenager, when I got bored, I’d sneak off to the synagogue library and reread Exodus or Marjorie Morningstar. One time my family drove home without me because no one thought to check the stacks.

So, good food, mini-break from school right out of the gate, and you get to hear someone blowing a ram’s horn like it’s 2500 years ago: what’s the problem? Money. Especially for us X-ennials / members of Generation Catalano, the issue becomes, how or what do you pay for High Holiday tickets. Because yes, it costs to go to services: it has to, so that synagogues can keep the lights on. Even factoring in that dough, rabbis still have to make a traditional “appeal” during the high holidays where they petition for more from the people who crowd the pews once a year.

Even understanding that, though, it can feel weird, because mixing money with spirituality seems so strange. Can’t, you know, God provide?

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My Obsession With Health Food Products Is Eating Away at My Bank Account

I am 24, with no health conditions. Under fluorescent lights, my doctor, smelling like foaming antibacterial hand sanitizer, tells me that nothing is wrong. But my neck is sore, I didn’t sleep enough last night, ringing phones make me anxious, my hips are tight, and I’m always cranky. I do not like the way I look. I am not at home in my body.

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Is 75 Enough?

If you’d like mortality mansplained, this pedantic fellow in the Atlantic does an excellent job. (“Mortality: You’re Doing It Wrong.”) In the process of declaring that 75 is a perfect age to die, the author also declares himself against euthanasia / “death with dignity” movements for some reason and adds that he will have a memorial service before his death because wow is he a control freak. Yet, as the Dude would put it, the author is not wrong — at least not in his main point, that he won’t make any effort to extend his life past 75; he’s just kind of an asshole.

The good news is that we have made major strides in reducing mortality from strokes. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of deaths from stroke declined by more than 20 percent. The bad news is that many of the roughly 6.8 million Americans who have survived a stroke suffer from paralysis or an inability to speak. And many of the estimated 13 million more Americans who have survived a “silent” stroke suffer from more-subtle brain dysfunction such as aberrations in thought processes, mood regulation, and cognitive functioning. Worse, it is projected that over the next 15 years there will be a 50 percent increase in the number of Americans suffering from stroke-induced disabilities. Unfortunately, the same phenomenon is repeated with many other diseases.

So American immortals may live longer than their parents, but they are likely to be more incapacitated. Does that sound very desirable? Not to me.

He makes sound arguments for why trying to extend life past a certain point simply for the sake of it is silly and not cost-effective, especially when quality of life deteriorates and all we have to look forward to is that “second childishness, and mere oblivion” stage. (Which can be a serious financial and emotional burden on our children/care-givers.) I’m kind of convinced. But ask me again when I’ve reached his age: if I have also attained his level of success and feeling of supreme self-satisfaction, perhaps I too will be ready to Let It Go.

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Let’s Help FT Make Work Poetry Happen

Get excited: the Financial Times has launched a WORK-RELATED HAIKU CONTEST. (Registration required.) (To read the full article, not to submit to the contest.)

Here’s all the relevant info:

+ The haiku is a powerful poetic form, in three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. David Lanoue, haiku poet and author, defines it as: “A one-breath poem that discovers connection,” and thinks of a senryu as a comic haiku. Keeping this in mind while you write will help you.

+ The deadline for submissions for the first week’s topic is noon GMT September 24. Please send entries to workplace.haiku@ft.com

+ The best examples of haiku will be narrowed down by FT editors, with a guest judge picking the winner each week. Judges have been nominated by British Haiku Society, the World Haiku Association, and the Haiku Foundation.

Come on, ‘Folders! This is so totally in our wheelhouse. I want to see you dominate like a squad of tiny, fierce Chinese gymnasts.

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Beauty Products Will Destroy You, & Not Just Financially

Because apparently we’ve gone from Feminist Socialist Revolutionaries around here, with Mike gone, to a Blog About Shoes, Dresses, and Cosmetics, here’s some delightful news: nail salons are germ-factories and lipsticks are full of lead.

It’s not just lead we’re slathering on our mouths, either. According to Mother Jones, a variety of lip-products tested contained all sorts of elements from the Periodic Table:

In a small study out last week, researchers asked a group of teenage girls to hand over their lipsticks and glosses and tested them for toxic metals, including lead and cadmium. Though metal content varied widely from brand to brand, they found that women who apply lipstick two to three times daily can ingest a significant amount—20 percent of the daily amount that’s considered safe in drinking water or more—of aluminum, cadmium, chromium, and manganese. Depending on the lipstick, in some cases women who slathered it on (14 times a day or more) were meeting or surpassing the daily recommended exposure to chromium, aluminum, and manganese. Lead, a metal that humans should avoid exposure to entirely, was detected in 75 percent of the samples.

Mother Jones, it goes without saying, doesn’t wear makeup. If you must, though: “The FDA’s 2012 test found less than one part per million of lead in Wet n’ Wild, Bobbi Brown, and Shiseido brand lipsticks.”

Great! Now what about our nails? They / we are doomed, too, according to the New York Observer

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Saying Yes to the Dress, Pt 2: KLEINFELD’S

Ringing the Universe Room were more racks of dresses than there are stars in the heavens: ivory dresses, cream dresses, dusky rose dresses, apricot dresses, even a couple of goth-style black dresses for effect. (No one tried them on.)

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The Liberal Arts Are Not a Luxury: An ‘Excellent Sheep’ Responds to Deresiewicz

Filling our history and literature classes with only affluent students means that we will rarely again turn out a Junot Diaz, an Alice Walker, an Irving Howe or a Sherman Alexie.

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