The Looming Threat of “Generation Z”

“Here Comes Generation Z,” cheers a headline on Bloomberg View. “If, like me, you’ve been looking for a primer to explain Generation Z, the one that follows the ‘Y’ millennials,” the writer says, “take a look at this 56-slide presentation by Sparks & Honey, a hard-to-pin-down organization that’s part marketing agency and part think tank.”

This presentation is not a primer. Nor is it a marketing deck, though that is its form. It is a stunning work of speculative fiction about a future that must be avoided at all costs. It imagines a generation defined exclusively in opposition to the ill-defined one that came before. Its incoherence, like the incoherence of its subjects, it what gives it such paralyzing power.

The Uber Diaries

I’m not supposed to drive or bike anymore, so when I discovered rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, my life became much easier. I usually try to talk to my drivers. Here are a few of their stories.

Abram. Wednesday night.Just before nine o’clock on Wednesday evening is the most stressful time of the week. Easy to feel un-buoyed. Abram had been smoking in his car. That, or he just hopped into the driver’s seat, mid-cigarette, as soon as he got my call. He was maybe sixty-five, seventy tops. Mostly bald, with thick glasses and shadowy eyes. His English was not great; he spoke with a heavy slavic accent. He inserts your name at the end of almost every sentence, you see. I asked him where he was from. Sacramento.

“Everyone say, it beautiful — very very beautiful picture — on email.” Abram was talking about the picture of a giant cheeseburger that arrived in the inbox of every Uber user in his area this morning. He had been driving with the app for 14 months, and was asked to be one of seven drivers running the burger promotion. He had spent all afternoon delivering burgers instead of people, and thoroughly enjoyed it. He didn’t even like burgers. He’d tried a burger, maybe once or twice. But he liked the connection with people.

I was trying to talk about burgers and he interrupted me. “Will, I’m sorry for my question: Are you blind?” he asked. I started to ramble. I realized I was lecturing. He let me talk for a minute. Then he said, “We all have some problem.”

When Abram wakes up every morning, he holds his breath. On some days his wife recognizes him; on others, she turns over in bed and sees a stranger. She has Alzheimer’s and is schizophrenic. On the mornings that she recognizes him, he stays home and spends the day with her. On the mornings when she opens her eyes and says “who are you?” he gets out of bed as fast as he can. “Shari, I’m going right now,” he says to her, trying to reassure her as he leaves, “don’t worry. Don’t get up.”

00:08:23 $9.27 ✭✭✭✭✭

How to Make a Good Salad Without Dumb Leaves

When someone says salad, your first thought is probably a bunch of leaves, like lettuce or spinach or kale, plus some other stuff, and a dressing. Here’s the thing about the word “salad”: it means nothing. It doesn’t mean something cold; it doesn’t mean something raw; it doesn’t mean something with lots of different ingredients; it doesn’t mean something vegetable-based; and it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean a pile of leaves.

Leaves, even the stronger-tasting ones, are filler. No one has ever once thought, “Dang, this salad is good, but it’d be more good with more lettuce in it.” This idea of a leafy salad is perpetuated by make-your-own-salad joints that ask you to pick which kind of leaves you want. Do you want the spinach? How about the baby spring mix? Have you ever said “no leaves, thanks?” THIS WILL FLUMMOX MOST SALAD-MAKERS.

But there are a lot of reasons to ban leaves from salads! They go bad quickly, forcing you to consistently throw out half of each bag of salad greens you buy; they wilt even once they’re in the salad; they cannot be kept as leftovers, ever, since they rapidly turn into slimy organic compost. Also, making your salad consist of anywhere from thirty to sixty per cent leaves really limits your creativity. So let us forgo leaves. Let us not require our salads to rely on our least-favorite ingredient. Let us shape our own salad destiny.

Here are some good leaf-free summer salads.

Ask Polly: I Survived a Hard Life, But I Never Learned How to Be Normal

Hello Polly!

I’m 23 and I feel like I’ve come a pretty long way already. I grew up in an abusive and poor-as-hell home; went to live on my own when I was fifteen; struggled with depression and a terrible relationship; and made (and paid off) a huge amount of debt. All the terrible things happened. ALL OF THEM.

However, I think I did a lot of cool things as well: I raised my sister to be a happy, normal person, and I finished school with really good grades even though I did not know at the time where food would come from and I had to sleep on the smelly couch of the local pot dealer. When the schizophrenic father from hell returned (he had been missing for years) I told him to fuck off. I made peace with my tired, overworked, shy mum and we glued the family back together and we’re all pretty damn happy about it. Since I was kind of a stoner, I pretty much got along with everybody and I made some cool friends who made my hard life way easier and who I loved very much. So, that was my teens, basically.

After I finished school, I moved to a new city to be with my cynical asshole boyfriend who somehow had realized that I was smart and funny and routinely used lines I said in his shitty standup comedy act. I started training to be a nurse. All of my coworkers were boring, or way older then me—plus, asshole boyfriend pretty much scared away anyone I tried to make a connection with—so I went friendless in a big city with a really hard job that I hated. My old friends all moved to new cities and started university, moved in with friends, threw giant insane parties—I couldn’t relate at all. I felt boring, grey, poor. Every time one of them asked me, “So, what’s happening?” I could only say “hard work, stupid boyfriend,” so I stopped saying much and eventually the calls stopped. This part of my life lasted almost three years.

I decided to blow up the whole damn thing because I was super unhappy and found myself staring at the wall in my bedroom smoking cigarettes and crying one too many times.

Ask Polly: How to Be Nice

Hi Polly,

One of the goals I have set for myself this year is to be a kinder person: more supportive and forgiving of my friends, more friendly and open to people I’ve just met, more approachable and compassionate with strangers. The problem is that this is a huge struggle because I am not naturally compassionate with people I don’t already like.

I have two reasons for wanting to be kinder: to ~make the world a better place~ in an abstract karmic kind of way, and also (this one is selfish) to fight against my depression, defensiveness, and general negative attitude toward life by opening myself up to more experiences. The first one is all well and good, but it’s not such an immediate motivating force, and the second one has its own built-in issues. When you’re already sensitive to the thought that people won’t like you, any small “no” and any negative aspect to a person makes you shrink away and turn your back preemptively.

Both my parents have very negative personalities and apparently deal with it in one of two ways: by sinking into a nasty, angry depression-pit or by maintaining iron control of everyone and denying that anything is wrong while things melt down around them. They had an acrimonious divorce about 10 years ago, when I was in middle school, and things are still raw. Being seven years older than my younger sister, I became her advocate and protector, and also tried to smooth things over between my parents wherever I could. I have definitely learned a lot of criticism from them, both of myself and of everyone else.

The Trials of ‘Entertainment Weekly’: One Magazine’s 24 Years of Corporate Torture

Jessica Alba on the cover of Entertainment Weekly in March of 2001, summer of 2006, and again this month.

When I was a young and odd child, one of the oddest things I did was collect Entertainment Weekly. Our family, like so many middle class families, had always had a subscription to Time, and one day Entertainment Weekly began arriving with it. In those early days, it was called entertainment weekly, and in many ways, it resembled many of the entertainment websites (The A.V. Club, Grantland, Vulture) that dominate the field today. There were long, industry-oriented cover stories, buttressed by surprisingly non-banal interviews with stars, producers, directors, musicians, and authors. The second half of the magazine was divided by medium: Movies, Television, Music, Books and Video, each with its own colored tab. Delightful.

I’d read each issue from cover-to-cover, deciding on its predominant “themes,” and record this data in an elaborate database program on my Apple IIe. As a finishing touch, I’d give each issue a “grade,” emulating EW‘s own, then-novel system of affixing a grade to the media products it reviewed.

In my North Idaho town of 30,000, we had three movie screens and I wasn’t allowed to watch cable. But EW‘s approach to media appealed to me in the way that all broad, detail-oriented taxonomies appeal to children: It provided me with a field to master and the tools to do so. Eleven-year-old me was an expert on the Weinsteins, Sundance, and the phenomena of sex, lies, and videotape and The Crying Game—without ever even seeing the movies, or really even knowing what they were about.

A Night at America’s Oldest Weekly Rodeo Show

America’s oldest weekly rodeo show, The Cowtown Rodeo, is not in Colorado or Oklahoma or Texas, or anywhere else that most people might imagine cowboys still roam. It’s in New Jersey, past the oil refineries of Newark and Perth Amboy, beyond the reedy Raritan Bay, west of Springsteen Country and south of the Pine Barrens, just off Highway 40, in a small town called Pilesgrove. In a place like Pilesgrove, a kind of anonymously American space that is everywhere and nowhere at once—a repeating, hypnotic pattern of rolling hills, tall grass, cornfields and strip malls—you may as well be in Ohio or Missouri as in New Jersey.

Cowtown Rodeo sits just off Game Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River. A little farther down the highway, two women were selling flowers out of the parking lot of the defunct Richman’s Ice Cream manufacturing plant. Tickets to the rodeo were available across Highway 40, at the Cowtown Cowboy Outfitters (“Jeans $20,” “Boots Cheap”) which is where I met Angela Speakman, author of a recently published history of Cowtown. A Salem County native, Speakman has worked summers at the rodeo for almost twenty years, selling t-shirts and plastic air rifles at the arena. On Saturday, however, she had been given the night off to watch the rodeo, which she had never seen before. “I get why people like it,” she said later.

A Postcard from San Francisco

I joined the line at Blue Bottle in Mint Plaza in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood at 8:40 a.m., on the dot. Despite the early hour, the temperature was already in the eighties. The light and sky were big and empty in the way that the light and sky are only in the West. When I moved here, in the nineties, everyone used to debate whether or not “SOMA” was a real thing. Once largely empty warehouses and live-work lofts, it’s now full of excellent restaurants and soaring apartments and there’s even a Whole Foods on 4th street, and so, we’ve all arrived at the conclusion that it does in fact exist in some sort of definite spatial sense.

Soon enough, my visitor from Los Angeles arrived. He wore a suit jacket and a densely woven shirt with french cuffs. Cufflinks. He didn’t wear a belt on his black jeans, and I assumed that it was intentional; it was a good look. Mint Plaza used to be a desperate little shit-squat of an alley. But it’s nice now. It has a long line of chairs that no one uses, and it’s literally in the shadow of Jack Dorsey’s old flat. Just across Mission Street, nearly within eyesight, is the Chronicle building, where the paper was published before it presumably went out of business a few years ago.

We ordered two iced coffees and two orders of poached eggs over toast. I paid. With tax and tip, it came to slightly more than $26. Blue Bottle has a few tables outside—perhaps only when the weather is nice since I’ve certainly never noticed them before—and so we sat in the sun. My visitor was staying at the W, where, he said, the cocksuckers were charging him some $640 a night for a bed and a flatscreen. Can you imagine? Have you been to the W? Sure, it’s okay, but it’s basically the Marriott with better shampoo. If you come to San Francisco, skip the flowers in your hair and definitely bypass the W.

Brutalism’s Bullies

In late April, the city of Baltimore issued a certificate of demolition for the Morris A. Mechanic Theater, prevailing in a lengthy quest to destroy one of its most unique buildings. With a character somewhere between a stone-age helmet and a concrete cog, the nearly fifty-year-old building’s assertive structure has earned the affection of a small number of enthusiasts who embrace its almost oppressively functional style of architecture—and almost no one else. The theater, designed by the revered and often imperiled architect John Johansen, will be replaced by a condo.

The story of the Mechanic has become overly familiar. Brutalism, a muscular and monumental architectural style known for its unsparing use of cast concrete, has grown old enough since its heyday in the fifties, sixties, and seventies to have aged badly, but not old enough to inspire much sympathy. The austere, domineering artifacts of its philosophies now face widespread enmity; a number of institutions, with varying degrees of exertion, have sought in recent years to replace their Brutalist inheritances with practically anything else.

Of the five at-risk Brutalist buildings I wrote about being under threat two years ago, three of them are now gone, or about to be demolished. It’s been a bad year for Johansen in particular: In addition to the Morris A. Mechanic Theater, the delightful Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City faces imminent destruction, as soon as the proper certificate emerges from the city’s administrative process. The destruction of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago began last fall, after such helpful developments as a Rahm Emanual Chicago Tribune op-ed hailing its replacement as progress. The Third Church of Christ Scientist, a Brutalist church in Washington, D.C., was demolished in March. Five of the buildings in Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo, New York, are due to be razed.

Ask Polly: I Have Absolutely No Idea What I Need to Be Happy

Hi Polly.

I don’t even know where to start, because for some reason I’m HORRIBLE at articulating my emotions. I feel like as soon as I have an “epiphany,” it only opens up the door to another warehouse of issues to sift through. I’m so exhausted and worn out from an entire lifetime of extreme neuroticism and self-consciousness, and I need some clarity.

You seem to always have some advice that I can apply to my own life, so I have been wanting to write to you for a while. But I can’t decide what to ask advice for since I really could use help in all areas of my life, and I do mean ALL. Let’s see if I can get close to an actual question.

I’m recently married to the love of my life. From the day we met, I knew he was different than everyone else. He is an artist like myself, extremely unique, kind, up for an adventure, and patient. I’ve learned a lot about enjoying life and having fun from him. Lately though, I feel like he is no longer trying to impress me the way he used to. Not too long ago, he was bearing an equal part of all the “to dos,” and doing small and thoughtful things for me. Now, he doesn’t help me at all around the house (but does really well in helping to DESTROY the space like a drunk bear raiding a campsite before falling asleep early), and is often lost in his thoughts. We don’t talk as much as we used to, and physically he’s letting himself go as well. I think he is a little depressed and bored. I suspect he is down because 1) he hates his day job, which leaves him very little mind time to get inspired to make his art, and 2) he is going through an early thirties existential crisis, as am I. I am being as understanding as I can because I currently do not have a job so I have more time to do the stuff that needs to be done at home–but I hate the reality that I’m slowly becoming a traditional housewife.

Anyway, I was thinking that if I ask for some advice about my own issues, maybe in turn I can inspire him somehow. I don’t want to resent him because I want to be sure that I’m not contributing to the problem by nagging or being a hypocrite. I suspect that I may be rubbing off on him a little bit, or even projecting.

How the Alternate Side Lives

Mary Norris doesn’t want other people to know where the block she dubs “the Sanctuary” is located, so I won’t provide the key details. But, like most streets in Manhattan, twice a week, parking is prohibited on each side of the Sanctuary under the “alternate-side parking” program, which allows New York Department of Sanitation sweepers to clean the curb. Unlike most other city blocks, however, the ban only lasts half an hour, instead of the usual hour and a half, giving Norris plenty of time to get to work by 10 a.m. Moreover, in a rarity for Manhattan, the Sanctuary is a cul-de-sac, and one not easily accessed from the main street grid. Its out-of-the-way location also makes it a pain for both street sweepers and traffic police to access, so Norris is unlikely to be forced to move or be ticketed once she finds a spot.

“It’s my favorite place of all time,” Norris told me one day this past winter, as we toured parking spaces in her East Side neighborhood. As we walked, she noticed that there was plenty of space between a nearby car and a fire hydrant—well more than the fifteen-foot gap required by law. “I can’t help but look for a spot even though I don’t have my car here,” she said. (Her 1990 Honda Civic was on loan to a friend in the Rockaways.) Later, she pointed out a new smart car on the street. “There’s a great parking car,” she said.

Norris is a long-time copy editor at the New Yorker, and, as required by the job, an expert grammarian. Parking is her other obsession. A Cleveland native, Norris moved to New York from Vermont in 1977. During her first week in town, she received two hundred dollars in traffic tickets. She gave her car up for a decade afterward; her current study of parking is partially an attempt to master an art that once eluded her. In 2007, she started a blog called “The Alternate Side Parking Reader,” which has covered topics like the optimal time of day to find a parking spot, getting her car towed by a “Sex and the City” film crew, and earning bathroom privileges at a local Greek restaurant after helping a waiter squeeze into a spot. “Some people think it’s a dull subject,” Norris said. “But I never tire of it. It’s like grammar.”

Norris is one of many New Yorkers who have a quiet fascination with the challenges of parking a car in the city. Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, and Greg Daniels poked fun of the city’s parking culture in two early episodes of Seinfeld. Author Calvin Trillin wrote an entire novel, Tepper Isn’t Going Out, about a man who just wants to sit in his parking space in peace. Even Horst Störmer, a Columbia University professor who won a Nobel Prize in physics, has pontificated on the best techniques to finding a parking space in New York City.

The City of New York does not keep data on the number of residents who park their cars on the streets, but some sources suggest that it’s a large group of people. There are approximately 1.8 million cars registered in New York City. While many are kept in garages, driveways, or parked on the streets of more suburban outer borough neighborhoods—where finding a parking spot is rarely an issue—if just a third of the city’s registered vehicles are kept on the streets of the more densely packed neighborhoods, then six hundred thousand people depend on the city’s graces for parking.

How Is Martha Stewart Doing?

“I live on a farm. I cook. I garden. I craft. I do all those things,” Martha Stewart said, as a giant, high-resolution lobster glowed behind her. “I’m your mom.”

Martha—it’s always “Martha”—had just returned to New York after a trip to China, where the Wall Street Journal reports she is plotting a “cupcake revolution.” She also met with the team behind e-commerce giant Alibaba, which she found to be very inspiring. “China is the land of opportunity. If you are an entrepreneur, or interested in the growth of a new middle class, China is the place to go,” she said. “I do hope the censorship is lifted.” Her enthusiasm for Alibaba notwithstanding, the wider Internet garners only imperious disdain from Martha. And why shouldn’t it? Websites like Pinterest and Instagram harvest the content of publications like hers all the time: “If we’re the most-pinned magazine, we should get paid for that,” Martha said. There is more bridal content available to consumers than ever, she lamented, even as fewer and fewer young people are getting married. “Shame on you!” Martha admonished the overwhelmingly female crowd of mostly journalism students. “It’s fun! It’s a rite of passage.” She laughed, and so did everybody else in the room.

As far as her own media consumption goes, Martha listens to NPR and reads the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and “a tabloid, the name of which I will not mention” on her commute from Katonah, New York, where she lives. She reads these cover to cover, and is disappointed in young people for reading newspapers on their phones. “You miss a lot,” she said. (She’s not wrong!)