Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

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A caipirosca is a form of Caipirinha made with vodka instead of cachaca, a type of Brazilian liquor made from fermented sugarcane. Both caipirinhas and caipiroscas are popular in Brazil and Uruguay.

Since I’m sure the good people of those countries know a thing or two about cocktails that can withstand the heat (and since I have vodka in my bar, but not cachaca), I decided to try my hand at caipiroscas this Friday afternoon, inspired by Ms. Stewart to use fresh summer strawberries, lime and ginger as mixers.

Here’s the recipe below—highly recommended. And, as always: No soda, no artificial ingredients and as close to healthy as you can get with an alcoholic beverage!

Strawberry-Ginger Caipirosca

Yields: 2 drinks

Ingredients:
1/2 cup vodka
10 fresh strawberries
1 lime, quartered
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
crushed ice

Preparation:
Put strawberries, lime, ginger and sugar in cocktail shaker or other lidded container.

‘Muddle’ mixture until almost pureed. [For those of you, like me, who aren’t cocktail afficionados, to muddle is to sort of mash together ingredients with a muddler, a long pestle-shaped wooden tool with one large, rounded edge; if you haven’t got a muddler, any pestle-like utensil will have to do].

Add ice & vodka. Shake well.

Divide between two glasses, and serve.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

May 9, 2012 at 12:08 am

Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Have To Carry America’s Obesity Epidemic, Too

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There’s a growing body of research on how obesity can be ‘programmed’ in the womb—and a growing campaign to thwart America’s obesity ‘epidemic’ by targeting pregnant women. I’m all for public health agendas aimed at increasing maternal and fetal health. But the trend toward blaming obesity rates on women’s choices is worrying—don’t pregnant women have enough to think about without being responsible, literally, for the weight of the nation?

Melinda Sothern, a professor of clinical exercise at Louisiana State University, doesn’t quite blame pregnant women themselves for today’s high obesity rates—it was “the evil ’50s,” she told The Los Angeles Times, an era when doctors often advised pregnant women against gaining more than 10 pounds but said nothing about quitting smoking. The new moms and mothers-to-be of 1950s America smoked, dieted during pregnancy and spurned breast-feeding—what Sothern calls “the obesity trinity.” Inadequate fetal nutrition can program babies to ‘catch up’ on growth as infants, which studies suggest increases the risk of later obesity. Smoking during pregnancy is also thought to increase obesity risk in children, because nicotine interferes with the body’s control of appetite, metabolic rate and fat storage. And formula-fed babies have a higher risk for becoming obese than breast-fed babies.

I think this is all very interesting, and important in terms of figuring out what behaviors and habits doctors should recommend to pregnant women. I’m glad folks are conducting research on these topics, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about it. But it’s framing pregnant women as “the root” of America’s obesity problems that I find troubling. Here’s how the LAT described Sothern’s theory:

… the tide of obesity that has swept the nation in the last two decades had its roots in what young mothers did, or didn’t do, in the postwar, suburban-sprouting 1950s.

If she’s right — and evidence is stacking up on her side — reproductive-age women may become the central focus of efforts to reverse America’s fat problem.

Oh my. Obesity in our society (as Sothern acknowledges) has myriad causes—fast food, convenience food, decreased physical activity—many of which developed alongside changing maternal habits in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Obesity rates may have began soaring in the 1980s due partly to mothers’ smoking, diet and lack-of-breast-feeding, but they had a lot of help from other areas.

Written by Elizabeth

May 8, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Posted in The Best Things

Facebook Feed Poetry, Cont’d.

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Guys, this may be one of the dorkiest things that I find interesting/amusing, but: Last year, I wrote (and posted here) a “most recent” poem, composed entirely of snippets from facebook friends’ status updates. I went to my facebook homepage, set my news feed to ‘most recent,’ and then took a sentence, phrase or few words from each update, reverse chronologically down the page. I tried it again yesterday, and again this morning, and the second and third attempts have been just as funny to me—so I am going to share them with you. In the hopes of inspiring you to do your own, of course. It’s a good creative writing exercise, I think. The result is part random, obviously, but part deliberate, because you pick from the status update (and comments, if you play that way) what to use. I took (some, but not many) liberties with punctuation and capitalization. The best part so far is how the result invariably comes across a bit like a T.S. Eliot poem. But strung together out of context, the result actually has no meaning except whatever narrative or sentiment you read into it.

most recent. 3.3.12 4:37 p.m.

I do not think it means what you think it means.
Brunch, Manhattan beach,
red-eye with Tito’s handmade vodka, belgian pilsner, tomato, dill, picante, quail egg—
sometimes a necessary part of achieving success—
roasted beets with blood orange and grapefruit vinaigrette.
… a Little Creepy:
12 kids performing Glee style on the Mall.
Avery, Janie and Jack
started reading a book;
over 1000 performances of the ancient Greek anti-war comedy Lysistrata took place.
Before you go out tonight, make sure your dress doesn’t show your chocha!

I took my son to the state semi-final for spoken poetry and was shocked.
“These are my sons, Glacier and Warrior.”
“You need to dry hump it.”
LA, you are so pretty!
ho ho! leap year!

It’s strange that at least two people in your family survived the Black Plague.
Really a wasted investment in hospitality, all of these kids
I’m in a Chicago state of mind.
It snowed a little bit.
New Orleans is about to get a little dog in their wog. Tonight at Zeitgeist!
Russian infant-swinging exercise guru Lena Fokina is back.
I think I may have to make breakfast
at the smallest AZA zoo by acreage
for her birthday.

It should be noted this is Benedict Cumberbatch, not RDJ
Transferring
Good morning

“We prefer the term adultophobe.”

Fun time at the Children’s Museum today!
Transferring
my Affliction t shirt is’t small enough
Misty Malarky Ying Yang
BLOB!!!!

Damn, Aubrey Plaza:
There is no doubt that The Cato Institute adds crucial intellectual perspective.
Hey, We’re a Year Old!
GO SAM GO!
I know its been said before …

Take Care,
Kenji & Caelin
(in the City)—
you should think she was being raised a bewildered hooker
running for a cause.
Make time to write.
Let me be the first to congratulate Craig and fabulous Eileen.
So great!

Twenhofel Middle School, Sunday March 4—
What country, and what era, are we …
Dear President Barack Obama:
French fries don’t have to be terrible for you.
Home photoshoot and the sounds of Peggy Lee
Science is a hobby of mine.

Laura Beaver – not only was that a pathetic retort, but you’ve obviously completely missed the entire meaning of the underlying issues, which show in your poor analogy.

Had White Castles for the first time in over a year (husband wouldn’t let me eat them while I was pregnant)
Your body is just as good as any fancy fitness machine!

Our Art Director Orlando snapped
(true love can’t wait till the wedding):
I am already sick of spring break! …
A long way since I lived on 7th avenue and 12th street in the seventies!
Maybe we’ll see you there!!
Ya.
Happy Birthday Tony!
Do you have these male roles fulfilled in your life?
OMG! Aweseomesauce!!

Ben Cake wonders why advertising is filled with so many submissive men.
A Poetry Murder Mystery
A snazzy new Gowanus studio space.
Enter to win one,
in the virtual “waiting room” for a Comic-Con badge.

14th St., downtown Cincinnati—
Come find us if you haven’t already!
Birthday party tonight!! woooo!!
Feeling pretty badass right now.
Listened to Tennis on Spotify
Head to your basement or lower-level, inner-room when the sky turns green…

••••••

most recent 3.4.12 11:31 a.m. 

Vacation with a purpose!
Sombrero guy,
married to Hazel,
designed to sit next to other consoles;
myself on the oatmeal box.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that
I’ll definitely be applying
to this “then and now” celebrity site.

Perhaps he has really been drifting to the right ideologically.
Fabulous hats and fascinators made by a lovely lady …
Church, breakfast, wedding planning …
He compares birth control to sneakers,
adizero Rush running shoes,
helping people have healthy sex
at Arnold’s Bar and Grill.

A trip to LA & Tokyo—
the unspoken crossover—
full of many wonderful things.
At the School of Seven Bells
(it’s a great place to be)
experience elevated energy, increased circulation,
those fine
“Slut” On Air
exhibiting paintings.

I do hot yoga and I’m starting acupuncture.

At the circussschool, upsidedown spin,
you’ve been looming over my head,
the amount of reflex wide eyed liberations,
DiLeo’s first attempt,
she spins and spins ……
People of Earth
on food stamps to wild animals
Nikos in a Ferrari
winter waning
Late at Night

I got a lot of neat stuff to show and tell
I get a month to every July
core- and have it- and be liberated,
at the home and garden show.
(Yes I actually said that and meant it lol)
Click “Like” if you’ve fallen into any of these traps.
Should we try to reinvigorate the skilled trades, which are mostly held by men?
(Crazy, busy day)
Breaking: “Mamie Eisenhower was a $5 crack whore.”

One more reason …
Hawt.
I knew about Gentry
Punk Rock
Neon Trees,
this place is not your home. Nor was it …

Happy birthday baby.
It’s happening …
… play for me?
Congrats on another great show.
A couple of lovely ladies.
Mythos is both surprising and comforting.
Central for the past two hours, and no end in sight.

Written by Elizabeth

March 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm

What Is With Diana Athill?

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A search term that led someone to my blog yesterday.

What is with diana athill? did she have any friendships with women

I’m sorry, I just thought it was funny that someone seemed so passionately aggravated by the 94-year-old British editor and memoirist’s lack of female friends.

What is with it? I don’t know; I’ve read two of her books, Stet and Instead of a Letter, and haven’t noticed it (more pronouncedly, she had very few friends in general, just acquaintances and love affairs). I do think Athill had/has ADHD, and women with ADHD have more male friends, in my limited anecdotal experience. But maybe it’s just because Diana Athill is a badass who was too busy editing books (by Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Rhys and V.S. Naipaul, to name a few) and having love affairs. Geez.

(thank’s for asking, I guess)

Written by Elizabeth

February 22, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Friday Flashback: Happy Bullets // ‘The Vice & Virtue Ministry’

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I really loved this song two years ago*:

* I didn’t say flash-very-far-back …

Written by Elizabeth

September 9, 2011 at 7:38 am

Interior Design

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loft

“Here’s my general philosophy:  Your house should be an amplification of your favorite feeling.  I know i sound like i’m 6, and i’m all ‘mrs. johnson my favorite feeling is ‘happy’, but whether you want it more calm and comforting or loud and engaging, it should be a strong version of that.

For me its totally ‘happy, with a little bit of the crazy’.”

{Emily Henderson}

I really get into decorating and setting up places I live way more than it’s not-embarrassing to admit.

Written by Elizabeth

August 30, 2011 at 9:07 am

Posted in The Best Things

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Blogger Crushes, Redux

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A long, long time ago,  in blog years, anyway, I wrote a post about two bloggers I was newly in word-crush with: Phoebe Maltz (now Bovy) of What Would Phoebe Do (at the time one of my fellow bloggers on the ill-fated Culture 11’s regrettably-named “Ladyblog”) and Freddie deBoer, of L’Hote .

Considering I’m now living with Mr. deBoer, one of these turned out to be a little more relevant to my life than the other—but, damn if Ms. Maltz-Bovy doesn’t still continually impress me and makes me laugh to this day. Here’s Phoebe on why she took her husband’s name when she got married recently:

What feminism hasn’t meant, for me, is wheel-reinvention. In other words, I do not lose sleep over the fact that I do not defy gender norms in all areas. I recognize that it’s convenient to say the least to identify as the gender you were born. I don’t think that my relationship with my husband is something so complex and unique and snowflake-ish that the word “marriage” fails to describe it. I’m lucky that the kind of relationship I wanted is the one society wanted me to have. So the fact that wife-takes-husband’s-name is how it generally goes was not in and of itself a reason, for me, to be suspicious of it.

This nicely captures one of my favorite habitual Phoebe peeves: Progressive/feminist/hipster writers who go to all sorts of elaborate rhetorical lengths to justify their utterly normal but—gasp!—utterly bourgeois wants (see: the Jessica Grose paragraph here). You can also always count on Phoebe to cut through the bullshit on media panics, as in here, on some recent controversy about a 10-year-old Vogue fashion model:

Like I’ve said about these scandals before, the issue is not – no matter how many times Jezebel or whichever other site tells us it should be – Think of the Children. (Somehow I doubt that even in France, pedophiles are buying let alone created by French Vogue.) It’s always fundamentally Think of the Grown Women, who will never measure up if an ideal is defined as preadolescent.

Yes yes yes yes yes.

Written by Elizabeth

August 19, 2011 at 7:26 am

Catalogued: ‘Instead of a Letter’ // Diana Athill

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 Athill, Diana. 
 Instead of a Letter: A Memoir / by Diana 
     Athill. - London: W.W. Norton & Co, 1962

Instead of a Letter is the first book by British editor/publisher Diana Athill, who was born in 1917; edited the likes of V.S. Naipaul, John Updike and Jean Rhys; and and wrote several subsequent memoirs after this one. I’d read one of her previous memoirs—Stet, about her life in publishing—before this one, which dealt more with Athill’s childhood (growing up rich in the English countryside), her first love (who goes off to war, ignores her for two years and then writes to tell her he’s engaged to someone else; not a spoiler, b/c that’s on the book jacket) and her early years on her own.

Her prose is just gorgeous—also very precise and slightly formal, in the manner of, say, Virginia Woolf—and I think one of her special talents is putting into words ways of thinking that I’m sure many people share but couldn’t describe as well. Her other is for honesty: Athill never spares herself in describing things, you know? If anything, she’s harder on herself than you think maybe she should be (okay, so she wasn’t too jazzed about the War Effort; I’m sure not everyone else contributing was either, but Athill, in this memoir, seems to almost believe its a unique shortcoming in herself).

What I found most interesting about Athill’s descriptions of her flaws or proclivities, though, is that there’s really strong evidence to support an interpretation that Athill went through a long period of clinical depression, and suffered from ADHD. And when I say ‘there’s strong evidence to support,’ what I really mean is, reading it, I kept thinking HOLY FUCK Clearly This Woman Is Depressed and Has ADHD. I’ve read a lot about (and have firsthand experience with) both of these things, and many of her behaviors and actions and emotions, as she described them, could have been lifted directly from the DSM-IV. If this were a book written by someone weened in today’s climate—even if it were a novel, but especially as a memoir—depression and ADHD would be splashed prominently across the back cover, if not mentioned in a subhead. And there’s no way in hell our protagonist, or our author, wouldn’t have mentioned them in the course of describing their effects.

But Athill—writing in the early 1960s about events that took place in the 1940s and 1950s—doesn’t pathologize her condition once. The woman spent nearly 10-years in a funk in which her only solace was sex with random men (experiences which she initiates in order to feel something but quickly detaches from once the going gets good; “I would split in two on these occasions, one half going obediently and easily through the routine, the other watching with an ironic amusement”), reading and living vicariously through others—and yet it’s never called ‘depression.’ She’s a terribly disorganized procrastinator who has trouble completing tasks or working on anything that doesn’t ‘positively’ interest her at any given moment, all things she chalks up to her ‘lazy’ or ‘frivolous’ disposition. I don’t want to make any judgments here—there’s something a little to pat about making this some sort of referendum on Psychiatry in Our Time; but it is somewhat fascinating, in comparison.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with a few quotes, so you can get a taste (because I really do recommend you pick up an Anthill book, whichever one). On her grandmother:

Intelligent herself, happy to send two of her girls to Oxford when it was still uncommon, and proud of any success her female grandchildren might achieve in unwomanly careers, she yet insisted that women’s minds were inferior to men’s. There was some kind of ambiguity at work here, for although masculine superiority was never questioned, the climate of my grandmother’s house was markedly feminine and her daughters’ husbands always seemed to be slightly on the fringe of it. On a subject suitable to men—war, politics, a question of local government, the appointment of a clergyman to a living—she would turn to a son-in-law in formal deference: ‘I have been wanting to ask you—ought I write to the bishop…?’ but if she intended to write to the bishop, that was what she would do, whatever the son-in-law said. It was not that the deference as false, but perhaps it was paid to a figure too masculine, too infallible to exist.

On college:

To me Oxford became a game at a time when play was life. The play young animals, their pouncing and stalking and wooly wrestling, is serious. It is learning, without which they would not survive as adults, and that kind of play among human beings is too often restricted by economic necessity to childhood … Oxford struck me as the perfect place for this kind of learning, or growing. Some of my friends became impatient of it, feeling it unreal, but I argued that if for three or four years you could have the advantages of being adult with none of the responsibilities, what more could you ask?

On a married man she had an affair with:

Felix enjoyed women so much that he could not help making them feel valuable, indded he would have considered it amateurish not to do so.

On traveling:

It is not only seeing landscapes and works of art hitherto unseen, different kinds of buildings, faces of a different cast and complexion, behaviour formed in different moulds, which makes traveling important. It is the different eyes with which the traveler, startled out of habit by changes, looks at these things.

On why people do bad things:

I have seen few evils, and few ills, which could not be traced to the individual’s monstrous misconceptions of his own value in relation to that of other individuals.

 

Written by Elizabeth

August 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm

So Simple It’s Worth Repeating

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The right will succeed in reining in big government — a vital task! — only insofar as it’s able to provide alternatives to historic entitlements that succeed in making people secure enough that they don’t despair of relying on them alone, even during the economic downturns of tomorrow and decade after next.

From this great Atlantic article from Conor Friedersdorf on the history and myths of entitlement reform.

 

Written by Elizabeth

May 11, 2011 at 2:01 pm

MV + Woodsist

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You are all aware how totally awesome* this is, right?

Matt Valentine What I Became LP

Matt Valentine – who’s usually putting out rambly, dreamy psych-folk ballads with his lady, Erica Elder, under the name MV & EE – is releasing a new solo LP this June on the Woodsist Records label. Woodsist is the label behind just about everything I want to listen to right now …Geez.

Preview songs up at Altered Zones and Stereogum.

 

* I say/write ‘awesome’ too much; need a new superlative. ‘Great’ just doesn’t cut it though, you know? And ‘rad’ sounds forced. ‘Fabulous’ is too theater-major, ‘lovely’ I reserve for a different kind of appreciation, I’m not from the right coast to use ‘wicked,’ ‘sweet’ reminds me too much of college stoner friends … Suggestions?

Written by Elizabeth

May 6, 2011 at 11:07 am

my life in blog tags

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tag cloud

Written by Elizabeth

February 26, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Posted in The Best Things

Tagged with

Find Love

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I was just listening to The Sarcastic Dharma Society’s cover of Clem Snide’s “Find Love,” and stumbled across this lovely little video, set to the song, by Jason Glasser. Enjoy!

Written by Elizabeth

February 26, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Music, The Best Things

Tagged with ,

New imprint from Melville House

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Indie publisher Melville House, who put out the wonderful ‘Art of the Novella’ series (I recommended Bonsai and Lucinella), has launched a new imprint, The Neversink Library. Neversink will publish “books from around the world that have been overlooked, underappreciated, looked askance at or foolishly ignored.” Its first collection, to be released this summer, features two books by one of my oh-so-favorite writers, Georges Simenon; off to a swell start if you ask me.

Offer your own suggestion for an out-of-print book Neversink should bring back here. And, for goddsake, read some Simenon. Although I’d start with one of his Inspector Maigret mysteries if I were you; might I suggest The Bar on the Seine?

Written by Elizabeth

January 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm

‘Civilization is coming to an end…’

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Via CCK, this Canonball post, “The Art of Writing While Female,” in which the author compiles her favorite snippets of Paris Review interviews with female writers. Here’s my favorite:

Dorothy Parker,  1956

INTERVIEWER: What kind of work did you do at Vogue?

PARKER: I wrote captions. “This little pink dress will win you a beau,” that sort of thing. Funny, they were plain women working at Vogue, not chic. They were decent, nice women—the nicest women I ever met—but they had no business on such a magazine. They wore funny little bonnets and in the pages of their magazine they virginized the models from tough babes into exquisite little loves. Now the editors are what they should be: all chic and worldly; most of the models are out of the mind of a Bram Stoker, and as for the caption writers—my old job—they’re recommending mink covers at seventy-five dollars apiece for the wooden ends of golf clubs “—for the friend who has everything.” Civilization is coming to an end, you understand.

Written by Elizabeth

January 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Pantsuits

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Written by Elizabeth

October 10, 2010 at 2:31 pm

This week in music was made for me (or: a post rife with Rilo Kiley minutiae)

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Album art for Peter & the Wolf's new albumSeriously. Not only did I just find out that one of my favorite bands of the past 20 years, Peter & the Wolf, put out a new album, Traffique’s Endless Weekend Mixtape, in July, but NPR is sneak-previewing an album out August 31 from Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and her boyfriend, singer/songwriter Johnathan Rice. It’s called I’m Having Fun Now, and it is … fun.

And Lewis sounds like she’s having fun—not just the wry kind of ‘look at me now’ fun that comes from wearing impossibly short gold-sequined dresses and outshining your ex-boyfriend (Rilo Kiley guitarist Blake Sennett), like circa Under the Blacklight, but real, genuine fun. And guess what? Me, too, Jenny! Good for us. Perhaps we all become better sons or daughters after all ….

For the cynics, the saviors and the self-absorbed

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The experience of reading these new volumes is akin to being taken into confidence by two writers who aren’t quite sure whether they like themselves very much, but are charmed and amused by the ways in which they don’t.

Interesting review of two new essay collections, Emily Gould’s And the Heart Says Whatever and Sloane Crosley’s How Did You Get This Number, from Boston Phoenix writer Sharon Steel. She suggests:

There’s only one thing more dangerous than being an ambitious, attractive twentysomething female stumbling through the publishing industry, attempting to secure quantifiable career success and, also, a fantastic boyfriend: the impulse to write about it. It’s understood yet unspoken that the publication of a memoir that generates some attention is likely to make a writer’s life, in a certain sense, unbearable; ultimately, though, her life will probably become worse in ways that are more interesting than it was before. Which is excellent fodder for a second book.

Um, writers … do you ever think maybe … and, shh!, look away if you’re not a writer, please, but … just occasionally, when you’re not busy being charmed by yourself or your friends or your political party or an exotic East Asian fishing village or something related to Marx, still— do you ever get the slightest suspicion that perhaps we, as a group, really are terrible people?

And yet!—… and yet, I suppose we have some qualities that redeem us. This, from Crawley, sounds commendable, and also (for creators of all kinds) like very sound advice:

I think of all the serious nonfiction about natural disasters or biographies of unsung artists being published. There’s a lot of 4 am why am I doing this again? That’s healthy in small doses. . . . Trust that you are not an asshole and you care about the big issues of the world. . . . and that if you’re lucky, you’ll actually get to them through the smaller ones.

“At this point in time, people’s real lives aren’t often trusted to be fascinating to others,” Steel editorializes. I think that is sometimes true & sometimes not. Regardless, I like Steels defense of the likes of Crosley and Gould, two current exemplars of this type who—no matter how you regard their literary merits or personal morals, individually—get a lot of projection heaped on them for representing this type so commendably. She concludes:

[…] if these two writers agree on anything, it’s this: it’s okay to be a woman who believes that she is the best subject matter for her work, and that her unreserved thoughts are interesting, valuable, strange, comical, and worth space on a shelf. It’s okay to be young and write as if you understand love and sadness, and to look back on stuff that just happened, instead of on properly faded memories. Because it leaves a reader free to try and see themselves, somewhere, in all that mess.

She has to go and end it on a rather corny note—”There’s something beautiful in being strong enough to say exactly what you wanted at the time, even if you’re led to believe no one is listening“—but I dig the drift.

Addendum:

Steel offers just about as good as any definition I’ve yet heard for Generation Y: … the one that hasn’t grown up cataloguing the glorious and terrible minutiae of their lives on the Internet, but has come into adulthood doing so.

Written by Elizabeth

June 18, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Asides, The Best Things

Tagged with

A Puzzle

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Ever since I realized beer came in more varieties than Natty Lite and Natty Ice, I’ve been a beer girl. Oh, I think wine’s all right (particularly a good Malbec or Gewurztraminer), and it’s not that I never drink liquor, but I almost never drink liquor (more a matter of taste—whiskey never fails to make me shudder and cringe in horror— than any sort of “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” issues). Almost always, however, my alcohol preference is beer; from Michelob Ultra (so light & refreshing!) to the barley wine cask ales served at Brooklyn’s Spuyten Duyvil, I’m pretty much a fan of it all (though my appreciation of stouts and hefferveisens has waned over the years).

Now even as a youngster I was more prone to hangovers than almost anyone I knew or, at least, prone to worse hangovers from less alcohol. The amount I’m able to drink without feeling ill effects has lessened over the years, which I understand is pretty normal. But it’s been getting ridiculous in the past year or so, to the point where I can’t have two drinks in the course of an evening without reaping the effects the next day.

Ahh, “the effects.” This is where the puzzle part comes in.

These days, when I drink, I wake up the next day with extreme back pain, starting in my lower back and getting worse the closer it gets to my shoulders; a headache; and a stuffy nose the likes of which are rarely seen outside of January. No amount of pain medication, hydration, or any other hangover cure, scientific and homespun, does much good. I’ve researched alcohol intolerance, but found it mainly occurs in Asians and refers to symptoms that begin immediately after consuming alcohol (and while congestion is listed as a symptom, back pain is not).

I guess I’m wondering if any others have experienced similar reactions to alcohol as they’ve gotten older, or have any suggestions for how alcohol consumption could be tied to back pain & congestion? Perhaps it is uncouth to be blogging about my own personal health mysteries, but it occurred to me there may just be a burgeoning Dr. Hugh Laurie out there reading this who will be able to swiftly and over the Internet both tell me what my problem is and offer a way to avoid all these terrible symptoms while still getting to enjoy beer.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

Written by Elizabeth

June 12, 2010 at 12:04 pm

The doublethink of ‘green living’

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A few weeks ago, I visited Washington, D.C. and stayed with my friend Johnny. On Johnny and I’s walk to check out Glover Park’s brand new “social Safeway” (in D.C., each of the Safeway grocery chains are precluded by some alliterative adjective, like “social,” or “scary” or “sexy”), I mentioned that his roommate looked like he’d put on weight. This launched Johnny into a minor diatribe about said roommate’s eating habits. Even when he did eat vegetables, said Johnny, he slathered them in salt- and chemical-laden condiments.

I turned to Johnny — who grew up in the same redneck, lower-middle-class (and I say that fondly; I’ve been known to drunkenly challenge Midwestern strangers at bars to hillbilly roots contests) inner-ring suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, that I did—and asked him how and when we’d gotten like this. Just the week before, I’d found myself in prolonged deliberation in the sunscreen aisle of a New Paltz mom-&-pop pharmacy, perturbed by the lack of natural sunscreen options. Nevermind that I hardly even wore sunscreen until a few years ago; I was now filled with dread at the prospect of sunscreen containing p-aminobenzoic acid and ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB.

Johnny may be a vegetarian who buys organic and disapproves of his roommate’s soy sauce choices, but he still washes his hair with Pert Plus and pops Excedrin almost daily. I make sure my shampoo is paraben free and clean my house with Dr. Bronner’s, eschew packaged foods and fret about whether I should really be eating soy — but I only recently quit smoking, I love $1.25 Polish beer from the corner store, and I reach for some sort of over-the-counter medicine at the slightest sign of minor ailment.

Clearly, in mentioning all this, I’m ruling out the possibility of ignorance (or, at least, of complete ignorance). But it’s not hypocrisy, either; giving up diet Pepsi was far harder than giving up cold medicine would be). I’m a true believer. But my mom’s always been a true believer in Catholicism, and she took the pill to keep her number of offspring at two. My roommate was a true believer in vegetarianism until all her friends started eating good meat; and aren’t there all those stories about evangelical teens having anal so they can remain “virgins?” Belief – and the behavior resultant from that belief – is sometimes conditional, flexible and incremental.

In trying to live well, to live right (whatever you think that means), there are always trade offs, idiosyncrasies and downright delusions. There’s a doublethink quality to the whole business. Will I be less likely to get cancer if I drink from non-plastic bottles? Possibly, but it’s probably canceled out by the fact that I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn right now, one of the most toxic places in America. Do I think our government is really possible of providing for a sustainable future? Of course not. But I believe maybe we can.

Three years ago, I thought anyone who cared about environmental issues was a bore or a wacko. I lived on pizza lunchables and cheese-its and red bull. I had no idea it was possible for just anyone to grow an eggplant. I can’t speak for Johnny, but I know his habits have changed a lot in the past few years as well. Building sustainable habits — not in a wide, global sense, but in a personal sense; habits that become ingrained in you and aren’t just fads — takes time. I think that’s okay.

Written by Elizabeth

May 26, 2010 at 5:17 pm

“Burroughs Has Gone Insane”

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Can’t help but love letters like this from Jack Kerouac, about his time visiting William S. Burroughs in Tangiers:

Dear Lucien & Cessa — Writing to you by candlelight from the mysterious Casbah — have a magnificent room overlooking the beach & the bay & the sea & can see Gibraltar — patio to sun on, room maid, $20 a month — feel great but Burroughs has gone insane e as, — he keeps saying he’s going to erupt into some unspeakable atrocity such as waving his dingdong at an Embassy part & such or slaughtering an Arab boy to see what his beautiful insides look like — Naturally I feel lonesome with this old familiar lunatic but lonesomer than ever with him as he’ll also mumble, or splurt, most of his conversation, in some kind of endless new British lord imitation, it all keeps pouring out of him in an absolutely brilliant horde of words & in fact his new book is best thing of its kind in the world (Genet, Celine, Miller, etc.) & we might call it WORD HOARD… More >>

Source: Columbia University’s new online exhibition, “Naked Lunch”: The First Fifty Years.

Written by Elizabeth

March 25, 2010 at 10:21 am

Posted in Asides, The Best Things

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