Chatting About John Grisham


Ester: How are you feeling about the John Grisham brouhaha, Meaghan? Do you have strong pro- or anti-Grisham inclinations to begin with?

Meaghan: Lol, NO! Oh, I mean, I just think of him as a novelist my parents read when I was a kid. No feelings, no interest. And now I think he’s a buffoon. You?

Ester: He was one of the first people I realized was a successful, make-your-living-by-doing-this kind of novelist, and he wrote some of the first Grown Up books I ever read — he, Amy Tan, Michael Crichton, and Mary Higgins Clark — so it’s kind of distressing to hear of his buffoonery, yeah. It made me wonder though, just how rich is John Grisham? How much money has he made over the years? I haven’t read any of his books since I think The Client but I know he keeps churning them out.

Meaghan: The first grown-up books thing is interesting. God, I don’t know what that would be for me.

Ester: I remember wandering around as a 10- or 11-year-old picking things off of the adult shelves, and not knowing what I was looking for exactly (sex?) but wanting to feel Mature, so I gravitated toward things that said New York Times Bestseller. Little did I know at the time how little that meant.

Meaghan: That’s funny, and makes sense. I keep thinking and I think I read a lot of YA as a kid (I mean, not that I knew the term). I just loved Judy Blume and shit like that. Anyway, The Pelican Brief! I remember there was a movie, and it was funny to me because ‘brief’ meant underwear. That’s really my only context for John Grisham. This man. Arguing that there are too many old white men in the prison population is really quite an angle to take. READ MORE


The Cost of Things At My Annual Physical

liz lemon 30 rock dr spacemanYesterday I went to the doctor for my annual physical, another random practice I found on Zocdoc since my insurance is always changing or not existing and, well, I’ve only gotten an annual physical one other time in my life.

Like most Manhattan doctor’s offices, it was tiny and narrow and seemed like shop was set up that very morning, a few signs taped up on printer paper and off they went. It was in an office building that was once an apartment building and the reception desk was in the building entryway and I kept questioning whether this was an actual doctor’s office or some kind of I Heart Huckabees situation. (This eerie feeling would be elaborated on when the nurse weighed me on what I suspect was a bathroom scale and then dug in a desk drawer and pulled out an EKG machine with a bunch of nodes attached to a USB port, which she plugged into her laptop.)

I sat in the makeshift waiting room — a row of chairs in a hallway — filling out forms. One form was simply a diagram of a woman’s face, labeled with different problems. I was supposed to check the things I was concerned about. Dark circles, smile lines, freckles. I mean, yes, all of those things but also, no? WHERE WAS I? I decided to skip that form, and flipped to the next one. READ MORE


Getting the Paper

tony soprano bathrobe paperThe daily paper The Oregonian sent reader Ken Bilderback a note thanking him for being a loyal subscriber. The reader forwarded the note to Jim Romenesko, drily pointing out that loyalty comes at a cost: “Another reason newspapers are failing. We subscribe to The Oregonian. The good news is that we will get the Thanksgiving and Christmas papers we’re paying for. The bad news is that our subscription will be shortened because of it.”

That’s because the “special” holiday editions of the paper cost more, being chock full of good stuff / unnecessary junk like “money-saving coupons.” The conversation continues on Romenesko’s FB page:Romenesko FB screenshot

Do you invest in your local paper, and if so, do these pricing shenanigans bother you? My local paper is the NYT, and I do subscribe; my loyalty is boundless and my enjoyment — which encompasses the ability to mock without mercy – is priceless.


How Wizards Do Money: Gregory Goyle


There were two types of Hogwarts students: the “well-adjusted” ones, who came rushing out of the Second Wizarding War with blood on their hands and smiles on their faces, ready to start their new lives, and the others.

It was a bit arbitrary; some people who had seen loved ones killed in front of them were fine, they smiled and held yearly memorials and said sweet nothings like “she died fighting evil” or, worse, “he died in service of Our School.” These were often the same people who went back to Hogwarts, afterwards. It was Our School, right? Time to finish the semester and graduate!

Goyle’s sentiments were a bit different. He had been pulled out of a room in which he should have died. His best friend had been left behind to die. And the same smug faces that saved his life were now skipping and grinning in the pages of every newspaper he saw. “Ministry Official Hermione Granger Describes Happy And Free as “A True Success.”

Gregory Goyle refused to be “well-adjusted.”



Do Not Roast the Squash


Trends and memes may be on the side of fall and winter squash—I dare you to find a single vendor without some variety of pumpkin foodstuff between September and December—but I rue the transition from light, delicate, and fresh summer squash, like zucchini, to heavy, sugary, and starchy winter squash, like acorn, pumpkin, delicata, butternut, and, of course, pumpkin. The most common way to eat winter squash, the one I see at potlucks and on restaurant menus alike, is actually the worst: a simple PC&R (peel, cube, and roast).

This is a very good way to cook almost any vegetable, but a bad way to cook winter squash. Summer squashes are typically eaten young, while the seeds and skins are still soft and edible—even raw—while winter squashes have been allowed to grow to a mature stage, so they are hardier; their flesh is dense and sweet and their skin tough and sometimes warty. This makes them very resistant to winter temperatures, but their texture makes people think they can be treated like potatoes or sweet potatoes, with a PC&R. Nope.

I have tried every possible way to PC&R winter squash: I have par-boiled; I have sous-vided; I have covered in aluminum foil; I have experimented with every possible temperature and timing and size and shape and amount of oil. My final conclusion is that there is no good way to PC&R a butternut squash or pumpkin. The pleasure of a roasted starchy vegetable is in the crispy exterior and pillowy interior, but this does not happen to winter squash—the only thing it does well in the oven is turn to mush.

This is all not to say that there are no good ways to eat winter squashes. That very tendency to turn to mush can be embraced. The squash is mush. Let it be mush. This means transforming it into soups, sauces, and purees, where the winter squash’s mushiness and heaviness become creaminess and richness. Here’s how to cook them properly.



Here Is Your Open Thread


Charles works three jobs. He takes care of his wife who has health problems, doesn’t work, and can’t communicate verbally. He wanted to buy the house but the owner wouldn’t sell to him. He could easily hate us—breezing in with our fluffy dogs and our out-of-state plates, polishing the front door that he doesn’t have time to tend to. The thing about buying a house in Detroit is that it’s so much more than purchasing a structure. You’re walking into peoples’ lives. Your actions speak.

— Dana McMahan, in an essay for The Morning News, about buying a vacation house in Detroit.

Photo: Jodelli


Counselor, World Traveler, Wrangler of Young Jews: A Hiring History

On the last day of Camp Firewood

Camp counselor: In the days of yore, when I was eighteen, I chased 6 and 7 year old children around five days week for eight weeks for one thousand dollars. At the end of everyday they got in the cars of their grownups and drove away and I listened to Dar Williams over and over (ON CASSETTE TAPE). I discovered her after our camp music director played “The Babysitter’s Here” on her guitar. I also made out with another counselor a lot, and then drove at high speeds from their house at five in the morning so I could be at work the next day. As you do.

Wrangler of Young Jews

Job A: I moved to the Midwest for four years to try and convince students at a small liberal arts college, infamous for performance art and communal kitchens and organ playing, that being Jewish was important. It was a fractious community, full of bright, rare, thoughtful humans who came to encompass my entire existence. In the best moments, we read the racy passages in romance novels aloud to one another in the dining hall, watched TV together in the dorm lounges, and crammed into my tiny, beloved apartment to eat snacks and laugh. In the worst, I felt isolated and more than a little crazy.

Job B: Similar job, but with a far better work/life balance at a bigger school in New York City: I had weekends off! I didn’t get random phone calls from my boss expecting me to do ridiculous and borderline manipulative things! I stayed there for almost four years, through numerous supervisors, executive directors, and job descriptions. At one point, I was the person who had worked there the longest. I was burnt out, although I was afraid to admit it at the time. The universe knew, though, and the same day as I’d been thinking about how it was time to quit my job and stop being afraid and take writing seriously, I got laid off. READ MORE


The Cost of Making My Own Sub Sandwich

my sad sandwich

As you may have heard earlier this week, I broke up with Jimmy John’s.

“I’ll just make my own delicious sandwiches!” I told myself. “I can be fast! I can be freaky!”

So I went to the grocery store and got the supplies I needed to simulate my favorite Jimmy John’s sandwich, the Number 6 With Pep.


French demi baguette: $0.99

Cucumber: $0.99

Tomato: $0.42

Avocado: $0.99

Sliced provolone cheese: $2.29 (but I only used 1/3 of the package, so technically $0.76)

Sliced hot peppers: $3.99 (but I only used a few slices, so… we’ll say $0.25)

Mayonnaise, salt, pepper: I already had these in the apartment, and I should figure out exactly how much a shake of salt costs, but I’m not going to do that. How about another $0.25 for these three supplies.

Total cost: $4.65 READ MORE


Good Enough Homes & Destinations: What You Get for $295,000

everyone loves an old house Tara Gone With the WindAfter last week, which found her listless, the Gray Lady is back in fine form, telling us tales with shining eyes about houses on sale for $2,950,000.

The oldest section of the three-story main house was built around 1698. Renovations and expansions followed over the years, with the last round of updates in 2012. Original and period features include random-width hardwood floors, exposed ceiling beams, hinges, handles and other hardware throughout, as well as six fireplaces with wooden mantels. The light fixtures mimic wall sconces. … Three bedrooms, including the master, are on the second floor, all with en-suite bathrooms. The master bedroom has a fireplace and broad views of the property. Its en-suite bathroom has a claw-foot tub and two showers. Also in the suite are a walk-in closet and a dressing area. The remaining two bedrooms are on the third floor.

I can’t explain the allure of a claw-foot tub, but I do feel it. I feel it in my bones.

Well, Taylor Swift can afford a $3 million pad. The rest of us must make do. Here’s what you can get for the more reasonable price of $295,000.

Lexington KY



Selling Sexless Sex at Abercombie & Fitch


One day in college, on what would have otherwise been a forgettable afternoon, two attractive people approached me outside of my department. The man, with his bionic back, parabolic pectorals and arms fixed at right angles, cut an intimidatingly precise figure. The woman was an implausible series of distends, curves and stares—all unnervingly suggestive. There were no introductions or pleasantries; instead, they presented me with a pristine white card. Looking down at it in hope of an explanation, I read, “Abercrombie and Fitch recruitment.” They stood back proudly and expectantly, letting what I suppose they thought was an honor sink-in. When I showed no response, they resorted to their pitch. They told me that they needed someone like me and that I would really enjoy working at the company. Everyone was exceedingly “cool” and, in fact, it “wouldn’t even seem like a job.”

Their company-supplied rhetoric was far from compelling, and had I received this pitch alone, such an afternoon would have inevitably meandered into the anonymity it had once been headed for. However, I slid too easily into the Hollywood high school cliché where the popular, beautiful kids invite an unsuspecting and shy outcast to sit with them at their lunch table. This was in London, and Abercrombie was still relatively new in Europe and carried little of the baggage of its domestic travails; it wasn’t cool, but it was still attractive.

I joined, out of a pitiful vanity and because I thought I would get laid. READ MORE


Kickstarter’s New Motto: Kaveat Emptor

caviar dreamsAnonabox, the Washington Post reports, may not just be a silly name for a product; it might have the distinction of being a Kickstarter cautionary tale.

But the Anonabox, which has raised more than $600,000 from 9,000 people since going online four days ago, is a curious case. Most Kickstarter controversies erupt after the fact, when a project has been funded and the creator fails to deliver. (Earlier this year, in fact, Washington’s attorney general sued a Tennessee-based project that did just that.) But funders began to notice problems with the Anonabox — a tiny, affordable Internet router that anonymizes your online activity — long before that point. There were glaring discrepancies, they noted, between creator August Germar’s original description of the Anonabox and actual pictures of the device online. Germar claimed that he had designed the hardware from scratch, when, in fact, the primary components were bought almost off-the-shelf from China.

Haha oops! And backers are not happy.

Since 9 a.m. today, donors have withdrawn roughly $14,000 in pledges, or 2 percent of the project’s earnings to that point. (Under Kickstarter policy, backers can change or cancel their donations at any time before a project closes, with some exceptions if they cancel in the last 24 hours.) According to Anonabox’s Kickstarter page, more than 200 people have contributed at least $250 to the project, and a handful have donated considerably more.

Funny that Kickstarter refuses to get involved in a case of fraud and misrepresentation, whereas GoFundMe was quick on the draw when it discovered that a woman was trying to raise money for a lawful abortion. But the bigger lesson is, of course, caveat emptor, everyone.