Tag Archives: media

Unhappy Hipsters

rimbaud.pngMaybe naming him Rimbaud wasn’t such a good idea.

(Dwell, February 2009)

This is a brilliant, brilliant site. Check it out: Unhappy Hipsters.

(Thanks, Nicole, for the tip-off!)

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Julia Child

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When I was small, Julia Child was still on television in The French Chef and, even though I never had an Easy Bake Oven or any interest in cooking – except for that one time I melted chocolate chips over a heating vent behind my parents’ bed – she played a memorable role in my childhood.

My mother was an unorthodox cook, coming as she did from a long line of Swedish Lutheran casserole makers but caught up in the ’60s hippie craze for oil-slicked, all-natural peanut butter, spinach flat noodles and homemade granola. Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking layered crepes suzette, cheese souffles, and boeuf bourguignon onto our bland culinary lives and probably saved us from a future of iceberg lettuce salads and goulash like we had at my grandmother’s house. (Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed iceberg lettuce with Russian dressing – ketchup, mayonnaise and sugar, in her version – as much as the next seven year old, but it wouldn’t have provided a broad foundation for culinary curiosity later in life.)

I didn’t make the connection between Julia and the boeuf that appeared occasionally at dinner and I was more mesmerized by the lurid, Technicolor photographs in the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook than by Julia’s text-heavy tome on the same shelf, but Julia’s French Chef was my favorite celebrity (after Aquaman, of course). Given that our access to TV was restricted to PBS, this is like my uncle saying that I was his favorite niece during the years when I was his only niece, but that doesn’t diminish the attachment. I felt connected to her through my godmother, who was a producer at WGBH, the PBS affiliate in Boston, and I liked how civilized Julia’s life and kitchen seemed compared to ours, which was overcast by my parents’ marital strife and the endless unfinished construction projects they inflicted on our house.

Come to think of it, I led a pretty bifurcated life for a little kid. Boston’s restaurants, Julia Child’s crepes, the Boston Camerata, Gilbert and Sullivan productions, English riding lessons (for a little while anyway), private school and soccer practice were one part of my life, the part I desperately wanted to live in full-time. The other part was home with my mother’s hatred of the suburbs, her unstable health, the crying, the fighting, the moods, the impending divorce and the fearsome knowledge that that other life I wanted wasn’t ever going to be safe from the wild swings of my parents’ unhappiness. It was also increasingly clear that I was, in fact, not the misplaced child of either a.) gypsies, or b.) royalty, which was a significant blow. Julia was an unflappable, cheerful voice of domestic sanity piping out of the TV into our distinctly not sane home.

I had a warped time of it media-wise too. On one hand, there was the usual, we-make-our-own-mayonnaise-and-(mostly)-don’t-let-the-kids-watch-TV childhood of Sesame Street, Zoom and the Electric Company. (Mr. Rogers was deemed creepy and, as an adult, I have to agree. His simpering manner reminds me of those piano teachers on Law & Order: SVU who turn out to have stashes of kiddie porn hidden in their basements.) On the other hand, there were evenings of Julia Child throwing around omelettes and Monty Python tossing around livestock. Between the French Taunter and the French Chef, it’s no wonder I grew up a little weird.

In the early ’80s, my brother and I got hooked on Dinner at Julia’s. It aired on Friday evenings, and we’d rush to watch it on the TV in the corner of the living room. Why were two pre-teen kids so into the show? It included a segment where Julia would go on an outing to track down some component of that episode’s meal. Often, she’d visit a vineyard to sort out a wine pairing, tasting the choice with the vintner on-site or back in her dining room with her lapel mic two inches away from her throat. All the swirling and swallowing was picked up on the audio track. As a ten-year-old, I thought this was beyond hilarious. I know: we were super cool. Also, clearly, media-starved.

I was kind of hoping, when my brother graduated from Harvard in the same ceremony that Julia got her honorary doctorate, that she’d pull up with a personal message for me and her other loyal childhood viewers of my generation or at least swallow something loudly, but no such luck.

I still have my mother’s copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking nestled next to the Better Homes & Gardens binder and The Joy of Cooking. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never cooked anything from it, but I’m glad to have it and know that, when the time comes to pull up with a souffle, Julia will be there to hold my hand as I ease it out of the oven in my also-hereto-unused Williams-Sonoma fluted souffle dish. At least I’m well-prepared for my future, theoretical French cooking efforts. That’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?

In the meantime, I’ll be over here munching on these excellent cookies I made from a recipe I found on the internet. Bon appétit!

Photo picked up from The New York Times, Julia Child on the set of The French Chef, 1963.

Me as a Dog

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SYTYCD: News and Notes

If you’re not watching Season 5 of So You Think You Can Dance, you should be. So get on that.

If you are, how much do we love Mia Michaels? I think she’s mean and would hurt every last one of my feelings, but she can bring some choreography. Best piece yet, I thought, and in a week when all the other choreography was really pretty terrible.

While we’re on the subject of ‘terrible’, if Tyce Diorio (the resident “Broadway expert”) never worked on the show again, it would be too soon. I cringe when I hear his name and I imagine the dancers do too. When was the last time he made dance or any one of those couples look better with his work?

Also on my “why haven’t you fired them yet?” list are the freakish Jean-Marc and France. (Let’s be clear about that name: she’s not actually French, she’s French-Canadian.) I don’t know where to start or finish with them. Yeah, ballroom is legit, but their offerings are through and through sappy. Also, they look deranged and creepy and like they might hurt my pets.

Sonya looks deranged too but in a good way, because there’s nothing as attractive as competence, right? Her choreography kicks ass (remember Courtney and Mark last summer?) If Nigel would just boot the Quebecois whack jobs and the Broadway nutter and fill their slots with Sonya or Tabitha and Napoleon, I might faint I’d like the show so much.

Sidebar: for those of you who caught last season, is Kupono this season’s Comfort or what? That dude has got to go. Seriously.

And finally, a home front shout out to R for tolerating three hours a week of my yelling at the television when the show airs. I can see how that might get irritating.

Saturday Art

Thanks for the tip, Katy!

He Lives Vicariously Through Himself

30 Rock Favorite

Sunday Realization

Let today be remembered as the day I officially admitted that our Netflix queue has gotten out of hand. The current crop of films is living in a stack in front of the television like friends of friends who crash on your couch for a weekend and just won’t leave.

Currently in-house and holding on for the eighth straight week: Rachel Getting Married, the well-reviewed but very possibly depressing story of an annoying, alcoholic chick played by a very possibly annoying starlet going to her sister’s wedding and wreaking havoc. A perfect choice for those of us already completely paralyzed at the prospect of planning a wedding. Possible happy ending: I have no sister and therefore this movie will not happen to me.

In a close second, Happy-Go-Lucky, a movie about an incurable optimist (likely deeply irritating) directed by Mike Leigh (known to be deeply irritating. To me. I don’t like disorder, and people who don’t use scripts reek of disorder. I like scripts. It’s why I write them. Don’t ask me why I put Leigh in our queue. It was a trap.)

Closing out the list and holding on for a month is Keane, the tale of a man who lost his kid at Port Authority a while ago and is still really upset about it. Which is understandable. Port Authority is pretty upsetting all on its own without layering the whole losing your kid thing on top of a visit.

I know. You don’t have to say anything. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Once those go back though, we’re all teed up for Shark Week: Ocean of Fear: Disc 1. It’s going to be awesome. I can feel it.

Note to New Web Sites

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I know you, the small business owner, spent a gajillion dollars on your web site, dollars you probably didn’t have in your lovely little small shop’s budget until some friend of yours or (more likely) some consultant friend of a friend of yours dropped by wearing a trendy scarf and very expensive shoes and convinced you that to stay competitive, to stay current, to make a statement, you needed to have a web site with lots of sensual images and flowing movement. She said it was essential that you build this site in Flash. She said all the cool kids were doing it. And you fell for it.

You probably know nothing about how to develop web sites and maybe you don’t want to. Maybe – probably – you just want to go about your business of selling specialty teas or lipstick made out of ground up fairies or balsa wood harmonicas. You had a dream, a small business dream, and your web site was not part of that dream. Your web site was like that trivet you bought before that party that one time: it’d be nice if it were pretty but mainly it just had to preserve the finish on your coffee table.

I’m sorry to have to break it to you but you blew it.

I know it’s Monday and I know it’s raining and you were probably hoping to just sort through your grey day and go home for a nice cup of tea without anyone getting all up in your business, but there it is. You made a mistake. You dropped the ball. You took the wrong tine at the fork in the road and the end of that road is your very expensive, extremely irritating web site.

Unless you are either a game-crazed teenaged boy or a deranged person with a lot of time on your hands at the residential facility where you live, a Flash home page is a blight.

When you build a Flash movie into your home page (e.g. here), your visitor’s very first experience of this business of yours – the one that you have so carefully planned and built – is of waiting. Waiting while you get yourself together. Waiting while you go get your slide deck and set up the projector.

I hate to break it to you, but a musical slideshow of your best features is not of interest to anyone but your beloved and even then, s/he is probably only being polite. I know it’s hard news to get, but your customers do not want to see your slides or your movies. (At least not until you’ve gotten them drunk or offered them a shiny object and maybe not even then.)

Let me give you an analogy. You see a store. You go into the foyer. There is a clock in front of you blocking the door into the store itself. The clock starts counting to 100. You wait. You have no choice. The clock is at 17, then 23. You wait some more. There is nothing to do but wait or leave. If you are me, you leave. If you are not me (or a more patient version of me), you wait. But you are getting progressively more impatient. By the time the clock gets to 100, you are annoyed. Then you get to go into the store. But since you’re annoyed, all the nice things in the window look annoying now. To make things even more scream-out-loud frustrating, the actual store doesn’t have an address, only the foyer has an address. So when you come back (not that you’d want to but maybe you have short term memory loss) you have to go through the whole thing all over again.

See? Not good, dude, not good.

It’s time to get back to basics. Pull the plug. Strip out the Flash and build a usable site with clear navigation and no pop-up windows (you’re not selling porn, are you?). If you must, take your pretty pictures and create a gallery that your customers can visit if they want to, but no more countdowns and mood music and movies of flower arrangements.

I don’t even know you yet. That crap is not first date material so just cut it out.

Blame Game (Swine Flu Edition)

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