The Lease Busters

220 West 98th Street, #4$3,650 per month2 bedrooms / 1 bathroomNearest subway: 1/2/3 trains at 96th Street


Flip is a startup which makes it easier to break leases. The app is still in beta, but its founder, Susannah Vila, who is finishing up her MBA at Columbia University, has introduced to fellow students at Columbia who are looking to get out of their leases. “The idea came about just because I am the number one customer for it,” Vila told me. “I just love to move. I’ve moved three times since starting business school.” Vila is currently on two leases: She lives in Lower Manhattan, on East Broadway, and sublets her previous apartment. “It’s silly that you get constrained and stuck into leases by the year—you should just be able to move in and out of apartments whenever you want.”

The Toys You Won’t Buy

I don’t have a lot of “rules” at home for the baby. I put Zelda to bed consistently, I’m strict about her eating, and I keep her away from iPhones. Other than that, it is mostly a free-for-all around here. Still, even before I had a baby, I had THOUGHTS on the insane baby toys which are really popular these days: you know, the ones that fit the whole baby inside of them, with crazy lights and sounds and glitter? “They’re huge, they’re loud, they’re ugly. They probably overstimulate the baby’s senses and make it crazy!” I told myself. That philosophy crumbled relatively quickly in the face of gift-laden visitors and a need to search out everything I could imagine that my baby would want or need. And so, while your baby will happily play with a cardboard box for hours at a time, you (like me) will probably spend a lot of time (and money) shopping for toys—to entertain, to distract, to “stimulate,” and to educate your new roommate.

How To Do Your Taxes

A Thing Of A Thing That Is Just A Thing: Self-Care With Hannah Black

In Hannah Black’s video My Bodies, Black has assembled instances of the word “body” in pop music. As different close-ups of white men appear, a stream of “my body” in pop songs plays. We zoom in on the skin of these men, counting every pore as Ciara sings “Your body/is my party.” You can hear Beyonce, Rihanna, Whitney, Ciara, along with many others, utter “My body.” Black’s editing draws you into the video and the way the sounds and images and text are layered and spliced together, you’re hypnotized by the rhythm of so many bodies on top of bodies.

For weeks, Hannah and I had been going back and forth within a Google Doc about self-care: how to define it for ourselves and for others. Over the course of a few days, Hannah would edit and re-edit responses, refining every idea. Hannah asked me to really mean what I said, or asked me to either specify context or situations that influenced the very limited ways I defined and conceived of self-care.

We chucked that original draft and, instead, turned to Gchat to air confusions about self-care: how it can potentially be problematic, what it means in a larger context, but also how self-editing could be a form of self-care too.

How to Shower in a Coffee Shop in Portland

Portland coffee shop: "You can shower in our bathroom but don't use Herbal Essences." @meaghano help

— Mike Dang (@reportermike) March 29, 2015

Mike! So what happened here?

I spent a few days in Portland, Ore., a few weeks back for a conference. It was my first time there, and I think like a lot of people who’ve never been to Portland, my ideas of what the city is like have been colored by the sketch comedy series Portlandia—this kind of DIY-hipster enclave full of liberal, zany characters. But I spent my first few days in Portland at my hotel, where the conference was being held, and it didn’t really feel as if I was actually in Portland since conferences at hotels tend to feel the same no matter what city you’re in. I knew this in advance, so I planned to stay an extra day with my friends Meaghan and Dustin and their baby, and they were going to show me around so I could get the full Portland experience. 

After I checked out of my hotel, Meaghan suggested that I walk to a small coffee shop located near Powell’s Books. I ordered a cappuccino from one of the two baristas staffing the coffee bar and sat at a table while waiting for Meaghan to pick me up. Then, a young woman walked in and asked if there was a bathroom.

“Can I take a shower in your bathroom?” she asked.

“Yes, of course you can,” one of the baristas replied. “We’re totally coooool about it.”

Zach Woods Has a Lot of Beefs (Not Really)

Season 2 of the Golden Globe and Emmy nominated HBO series Silicon Valley premieres this Sunday night. As a primer, I talked to actor and improviser Zach Woods, who plays Donald “Jared” Dunn on the series. Woods, who started improv at UCB at the age of 16, has had standout roles as Gabe Lewis on The Office and more recently, as Zach Harper on the USA series Playing House. We talked about the dynamic of the Silicon Valley cast both on and off the set, the expert craftsmanship of Mike Judge and the intricacies of playing awkward characters.

Goodbye, Time Warner Cable

We’ve been through a lot together these past twelve years. Remember when I moved to Silver Lake? You came with me! You even replaced my outdated cable box as a housewarming gift. Sure, you continued to charge me $4 a month in “rent” for that old box that you kept, for the next 57 months. But it was a lovely gesture.

I remember all those long nights waiting on hold, trying to get you to stop charging me for the old cable box, only to get a customer service rep who thought I was the one who was lying. Maybe it’s that we’re too much alike. I’m a stubborn person as well. I like doing things the way I’ve always done them. You know how you’ve stuck with the same garbage menu interface since at least 2003? I still have the same coffee machine from back then! Who needs a Keurig or a navigable UI, anyway?

We’ve had our share of arguments, but they kept us intertwined in that special way only a toxic cycle of invented drama can. Like the time I caught you charging new subscribers half the rate you charged me for the same service. We had a chat about that, didn’t we. You told me, with a straight face, that the plan I had was a “better deal,” because I guess you don’t think I understand how numbers work? You said if I wanted the new rate I’d have to cancel my service altogether and then come back a month, if that rate was even still offered by then. So unnecessary. So hurtful. I’m happy to say I’m finally taking your recommendation. The first part, at least.

An Asshole Theory of the Apple Watch

One of the selling points of the Apple Watch is that it can help make you less of an asshole. This was the thrust of the first major report about what the watch is like to wear, published before we knew what it looked like. It’s in Apple’s marketing. “You know how very often technology tends to inhibit rather than enable more nuanced, subtle communication?” Jony Ive asked in an interview with Vogue.

It is also at the core of the New York Times review.*

The effect was so powerful that people who’ve previously commented on my addiction to my smartphone started noticing a change in my behavior; my wife told me that I seemed to be getting lost in my phone less than in the past. She found that a blessing.

This reminded me of something I came across a few years ago. It’s an account of Sony Chairman Akio Morita testing out the first Walkman:

And an accompanying note, a decade later in 1989, from writer Rebecca Lind (both collected from this book):

There seems to be something similar going on with the Apple Watch: an assumption not just that watches don’t do enough, or that other smartwatches are bad, or that an Apple Watch might allow people to do new things, but that the Apple Watch can, and must, fix the way people behave. It is, in this view, a tool for correcting problems created by the device to which it must be paired to operate. The Apple Watch is supposed to be a filter between you and your gaping attention-suck hellworld smartphone; we will give it permission to intervene because it is slightly easier to look at while reducing our what’s-going-on-over-there-by-which-I-mean-in-my-pocket anxiety just enough to keep us sane. It provides a slight buzz, hopefully just enough, at a lower social cost. So it’s a little like… methadone?

Stalk the Broccoli

There are many people who love spring, and if they like to cook or eat, they might suggest famous springtime delicacies as evidence that spring isn’t just a forty-five-degree puddle of dirty rainwater. “What about asparagus?” they might ask. “Peas? Rhubarb? Fresh spring greens? Ramps? Fiddleheads?” Those are indeed all good things—even the last two which are wildly overrated and basically just differently shaped and absurdly overpriced scallions and asparagus stems, respectively.

Where the spring defenders are wrong is in asserting that these items are actually available for a reasonable chunk of spring—which I am identifying, for the record, as the months of March, April, and May. March and most of April are still, in terms of local produce, wintertime. Do not eat asparagus this week. Or peas or rhubarb. You won’t even be able to find non-supermarket-bagged spring greens. None of that is in season until, if we’re being generous, the last three days of April. With rare exceptions like the mango, the beginning of April is, in terms of availability of seasonal produce, exactly the same as the beginning of March. And the beginning of February.

One good thing you can still eat are some of the brassicas, sturdy champs which remain, if not fresh, then at least hardy and adequate through the winter and first two-thirds of spring. Cauliflower, kale, and, my favorite, broccoli, are our only friends during some of these months. People love broccoli now! It is respected and adored as a healthful and delicious vegetable. But many people are not eating the broccoli correctly, because they are eating only the florets.