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Let It Go, People

Is this happening everywhere?  Today, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon – the 27th of February, in fact – walking around Park Slope, I was struck by the sheer number of people who won’t or can’t let Christmas 2010 pass into the record books.

(I took every single one of these pictures, and I took them earlier TODAY.  And by today, I mean Sunday, 27 February 2011.)

This is how it went down:

I’m walking to the Key Food for toilet paper and a roll of quarters (unrelated necessities), and I see this in the window of the New China Tung nearby:

We have this very same decoration. The one in the middle, I mean.

 

By itself, no big deal.  One random Christmas decoration in one random window does not a crisis make.  But then, in the Key Food itself, I see this in the breakfast aisle, between wheat germ and oatmeal:

Egg Nog for breakfast? Maybe. But only in DECEMBER, where it belongs!

 

Weird, huh?  Well, wait!  Walking home, I begin to notice the scary abundance of neglected Christmas all around me.  For example, a massage parlor:

"Away in a Massage Parlor..." "Acupuncture Fideles..."

 

The  vegan yogurt place:

At least they're owning up to the "year-round" thing.

 

One of the five-thousand real estate agencies on 5th Avenue:

Subtle, but still wrong.

 

Nearly apoplectic with shock, I hurried home.  But when I took Margot out for a walk, the horrors followed me.

A parenthetical observation:  One of the strangest sights in New York is the proliferation of dead trees after Christmas.  It starts literally the day after, with dead trees strewn on curbs in front of buildings inhabited by people who probably shouldn’t have bothered with the Christmas fuss at all if they were so ready to ditch the damn things.  Then, it continues for weeks, well into January, with tree carcasses finally appearing on the stoops of people who are fascinated with decay, or who really like the smell of dried pine, or who were probably just too busy to take the ornaments off the dead thing in the living room.

But it’s the penultimate day of February.  There is no excuse.

Please take me...six weeks ago.

 

My whole block is a feast of sad Christmas blight:

It didn't grow this way, but this is how it will DIE.

 

A-wreath-a Funklin

 

Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, and WREATH

 

A stick in a door? A crappy half-string of lights? YOU DIDN'T EVEN TRY!

 

Let it NO.

 

In one building, you can even see Christmas crap haphazardly piled in the window, as if a tornado of good sense swept up (almost) all the other neighborhood decorations and deposited them here.

 

This is where Christmas goes to die.

 

I think the best shot I took is of desiccated evergreen with fake berries in a window planter.  I like it because the silhouette reflection of another tree in the window reminds me of the evil forest at the beginning of Tales from the Darkside.

 

Because dragging Christmas into March is EEEEVIL.

 

Maybe I’m overreacting.  Maybe the sustained celebration of holidays is just a New York thing.  I mean, look what was in my miso soup today:

 

Aw, you love me? Well, I loved you two weeks ago.

 

To be fair, I passed New China Tung again later on, and I noticed something positively progressive on their door:

 

You'd think this is for Easter. You'd be wrong.

 

But then I realized…it’s not Hoppy Early Easter.  No.

 

It’s Hoppy Late New Year…of the Rabbit.

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Seen & Heard in NYC

Seen on 6th Avenue, in the teens:

You'll never have to go out again.

 

 

Overheard in Union Square Friday evening:

OBNOXIOUS TWENTY-SOMETHING WOMAN: I think I’ve figured out my problem.  I’m too good at dating.  I think I’m too interesting, and guys can’t handle it.

WOMAN’S PATIENT MALE FRIEND: Yeah, I don’t think that’s it.

 

 

Seen at the N, R, D platform, Atlantic-Pacific station, Brooklyn:

He did not.

 

 

Overheard in Park Slope, also yesterday evening:

WOMAN: I mean, can you tell me that?  It’s been, what, four years now?  What am I supposed to tell people when they ask me?  WHY AREN’T WE MARRIED?  HUH?

MAN: Well, there’s conversations like this, for a start.

 

 

Seen on the High Line, two women making out under a pashmina:

Red Riding Hood, indeed. (They did this FOR AN HOUR.)

 

 

Overheard on the High Line, as two permissive parents try to talk it out with their insanely screaming and disobedient toddler:

PASSERBY #1: God.  Is it too late to abort?

PASSERBY #2: Yeah.  Once they’re out of the womb, it’s murder.

PASSERBY #1: No, that’s a mercy killing.

 

 

Seen at the New School, near Union Square.

Oh, so that's where they go.

 

 

Overheard on the High Line:

MAN: There’s so many guys in the bathroom.

WOMAN: What?

MAN: Like four or five guys, packed in there.

WOMAN: In your ass?!

MAN: What?  No.  In the bathroom.  I can’t fit that many guys in my ass.

WOMAN: How many can you fit?

 

 

Seen in Chelsea (not the gentleman quoted above):

He's wearing these on purpose.

 

 

Overheard on 14th Street near 8th Avenue:

WOMAN #1: And the Burlington Coat Factory there is shit.

WOMAN #2: Burlington Coat Factory everywhere is shit.

WOMAN #1: No way.  I shop there, like, all the time.

WOMAN #2: It’s stuff nobody wants.  Everything’s irregular.

WOMAN #1: (A revelation.)  Huh.  Maybe that’s why nothing ever fits right.

 

 

Seen on the Manhattan-bound N train:

Happiness is not a riddle, when you're listening to that BIG BASS FIDDLE!

 

 

And finally, one more from the High Line:

I just found them like that.

Ubieberquity

Sometimes, you look around, and something that had previously and comfortingly escaped your notice demands your attention with a relentless fury.

Right now, that something is Justin Bieber.

The first time I’d ever heard of this kid was in the following video:

That little video has OVER 20 MILLION HITS.  For a while (too long, probably), I just thought the kid was crying over some boy at her kindergarten.

Then, around the same time or shortly after, I became aware of  Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber.  (Click it.  At the moment I write this, there are 209 pages on that site.)  But I still didn’t quite know who he was.

That video above was posted in February 2010.  LWLLJB went live in March 2010.

Flash forward to now, one year later.  I don’t think I have ever heard a single Justin Bieber song, and yet a 3-D movie of his life was released on my birthday.

Disturbing. Deeply so.

 

Then, two days after the movie release, he lost the Best New Artist Grammy to Esperanza Spalding, which provoked his rabid fans to wage digital war against her.

HATEFUL.

EVIL.

CHILDREN.

Then, a few days after that, he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Wonder if he bought ten copies for his mother?

Then, a few days after that, he appeared on CSI, where he his character was shot to death.  Only 13 million hits on this one, but trending:

Then, a few days after that, he got a haircut.

A new haircut, and a new friend.

And here’s where we have to pause for context, because this haircut is BIG news, and it’s big news at a time when New Zealand is being struck by another earthquake, and regimes are losing power in Egypt and Libya, and the Governor of Wisconsin is trying out fascism, and there are so many other things we have to be worried about.

Besides, the last time a male singer’s haircut was big news, it was because he had joined the Army.

HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW. ELVIS. (Not Costello. The other one.)

But this is about more than a haircut.

See, Bieber is Christian.  His music isn’t Christian-themed, but his image is, so much so that his followers fans call themselves Beliebers.  So much so that Paramount sought to exploit this angle in promoting the Bieber film. So much so that, in the Rolling Stone article, he speaks out in absolute terms about a number of issues, including health care and abortion.

Now, I’m not judging his faith, although I do judge his willingness to allow it to be used as a marketing tool.  And I don’t question the validity of his beliefs, but I do question his motives in putting forth a position on abortion.  (And to be fair, I also question Rolling Stone‘s wisdom in giving him the platform to put forth a position on abortion.)

Please understand: I don’t question these things because I agree or disagree.  Whether I agree or disagree is irrelevant.  And I do believe that 16-year-olds are entitled to their opinions.  But most 16-year-olds have to write those opinions in persuasive essays in English classes, or defend them in debate competitions.  Most 16-year-olds don’t have movies made about them.  Most 16-year-olds don’t have Beliebers.  And I would argue that this young man – who must be aware of his followers, aware of his influence, aware of what he’s saying and how it’s being transmitted – isn’t just some 16-year-old speaking his mind.  This 16-year-old is preaching.

And it’s a little scary that his Beliebers retaliate with death threats whenever their messiah loses a prize, or is seen in public with a Kardashian, or is criticized.  (Seriously.  Google this shit.)  Death threats.  From Christians.  Over a 16-year-old singer.

A 16-year-old singer who’s song lyrics include repetitions of “Baby, baby, baby, ohhh” and “I’m coming for you” and “Let me inside your world.”

A 16-year-old who calls girls “shorty.”

And now, he’s a 16-year-old who just wants to go to the Playboy Mansion. And apparently, he wants to go with his dad.

Just like Jesus.

Please pray for him.

 

Lost (Souls) in Yonkers

So, Cammie’s doing demos in Yonkers today, and I took the drive with her, thinking I’d have a nice change-of-scene and be able to get some work done.  Wrong.  The first place I hit – a little coffeeshop called “Slave to the Grind” (kinda great, right?) in old-timey downtown – I spent $5.00 for a coffee and croissant, only to discover the following after I’d been sitting there a few minutes:

ME: Excuse me, do y’all have WiFi?

COUNTER GIRL: Do we have what?

ME: WiFi?

COUNTER GIRL: What’s WiFi?

WEIRD CUSTOMER LADY: He means the internet.  Do you mean the internet?

ME: Yes.  Do you have the internet?

COUNTER GIRL: Oh.  No.  I don’t think so, no.

ME: You don’t think so.

WEIRD CUSTOMER LADY: The library has it.

ME: Oh, great!  Where’s that?

COUNTER GIRL: Down past the high school.

WEIRD CUSTOMER LADY: It’s a real nice library.

ME: Where’s the high school?

COUNTER GIRL: (Looking at me like I’ve suddenly sprouted horns) Um, you don’t know where the high school is?

ME: Well, I’m not from here.

COUNTER GIRL: Well, you can’t miss it.  It’s huge.

WEIRD CUSTOMER LADY: It is big.

ME: But where is it?

ANOTHER CUSTOMER: It’s about three blocks that way.

ME: By the post office?   I’m parked three blocks that way, right past the post office.

ALL THREE: No.

WEIRD CUSTOMER LADY: You can’t miss it.  It’s big.

OTHER CUSTOMER: Three blocks that way.

So I finish my coffee, and I leave.  (As I walk out, Weird Customer Lady is still talking to Counter Girl, and I swear I hear the phrase, “And that cyst was as big as a baby.”)  I walk three blocks or so, right past the post office, to my car, which is parked where? RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE SONOFABITCHING HIGH SCHOOL.  The library is two blocks past that.  Because I’m parked in some weird timed zone, I move the car to the library parking lot, and walk up to the door.  The library is closed, and it won’t open until 1:00 pm.  It doesn’t open until 1:00 pm EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK.   Why, when a stranger is asking for help at 10:30 am, would you direct him to a building three blocks away (five, really, but who’s counting?) THAT DOESN’T OPEN FOR ANOTHER TWO-AND-A-HALF HOURS?!?

I try to kill time by driving around a little bit, but the GPS on my phone would simply not connect.  I mean, at all.  I have a pretty good sense of direction, and I’m good at remembering landmarks, but I still have no idea where I actually am.  But I manage to find my way back to the store where Cammie’s working, and I decide to pop in and watch one of her presentations.  (She’s really good, y’all.  Really good.)  Her pitch starts with a P.A. announcement about a free gift, and she does it away from the actual stage where the presentation takes place.  The idea is that it gives people time to gather so that she can make an entrance.  And she does about three or four of them, which means that she doesn’t magically appear on the stage as soon as the last word escapes her lips.   So, she makes the announcement, and within thirty seconds, the most annoying woman on earth walks up.  (If you want to imagine her as a short, fat Latina woman about 60 years old with frosted blond hair, too-tight clothes, and a voice more abrasive than an asthmatic donkey, I won’t stop you.)  She’s screaming about her free gift, bitching because the “announcing girl” isn’t there yet, digging in the props on the stage, trying to engage anyone who will listen to her, the whole bit.  Awful.  Cammie makes her entrance, and starts her presentation.  By now, about twenty customers have gathered, and Most Annoying wants them all to know she was there first.  She’s pushing her way to the front, and when Cammie asks her to move her cart to the side, she ignores the request.  A few minutes later, she realizes she is in the way, and maybe she feels like a total asshole.  She tries to move the cart through the people, and in so doing, she knocks over a line of bicycles on display, which topple like dominoes.  She says simply, “Shit,” and free gift in hand, she blows off the rest of the presentation and leaves the scene of the crime.

It’s now about 12:30, and I figure I can make it back over to the library and work until it’s time to pick Cammie up.  I take my time getting there.  I pull into the parking lot at 12:59, and it’s packed, so clearly EVERYBODY knows what time it opens.  At exactly 1:00, a staff member comes out and unlocks the door, sort of like the opening of the Chocolate Factory, and I join the other Golden Ticket winners in their exodus from parking lot to free Wifi.  Only, it’s a total waste of time for me, because you can’t use the free Wifi unless you have a library card – THEIR library card.  So, screwed once again, I go off in search of a Starbucks.

And here I am.  But oh, God, does the weirdness continue.

At the table next to mine, there’s this older bald guy with a one-inch ponytail (no lie), talking to two young “Gotti boys” with those weird monastic-looking hairdos.  After Bald Guy brags about his iPhone 4 and deconstructs THE MATRIX (did you know it’s really about Jesus?), this happens:

BALD: You guys work out?

GOTTI 1: Yeah.

BALD: You know, the best way to work out is with your own body weight.

GOTTI 1: I’m 178 now.  I weigh 178.

BALD: Yeah?  You work out a lot?  You should work out with a buddy.

GOTTI 1: I got him.

GOTTI 2: Yeah.  He got me.

BALD: You guys buddy for each other?

GOTTI 1: Yeah, all the time.

BALD: Well, if you ever need another buddy, like a three-way work out, I could do that for you.  We could work something out.

GOTTI 1: I guess.

BALD: We could go right now.

GOTTI 1: I don’t know.

BALD: You up for it?  I’m up.

Yeah, I bet you are.  Then this happens at the counter.

STRUNG-OUT LOOKING GUY: I used to do caffeine all the time, all the time, all the time, but it turned on me, you know?  One day I was like, and then I was like, and I was like, shit, I don’t know.  So, I hadda cut it out.  ‘Cause I don’t wanna be like, you know what I mean?  Know what I’m saying?

And then this, at the condiment station behind me:

WOMAN IN SUNGLASSES ON CELLPHONE: I just can’t get out of bed.  I don’t want to do anything.  It’s been like a week now.  I don’t even bathe.  I just wet a paper towel and hit the parts that need it, you know?  I don’t want to be disgusting.  (Pause)  Huh?  Oh.  Starbucks.  I threw on some makeup and some pajama pants.  I needed a chai.  But other than that, I’m like “Screw it.”  I’m so serious.

Even the signs are weird here:

How many brutes in a tribrute blend? Ah-one, ah-two, ah-three. CRUNCH! Three.

Anyway, it’s time to leave.  I have to go fetch Cammie, and another woman at the counter just asked for “nonfat milk!  Not fat-free.  Nonfat!  There’s a difference.”

Yonkers, it’s been real.

Instant Tony Award!

I have two MFAs in writing for the theatre, and I still don’t know “how” to do it. Would that I had seen this video before spending all that time and money. (Warning: It’s one of those annoying ones that force you to watch it in YouTube.)

I wish it were parody. She should have gone ahead and entitled it “How NOT to Win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama,” because she tells you to do the opposite of everything Margaret Edson did. But in all fairness, she’s right: Wit did not play on the Broadway.

Don't try to win this. Ever.

I also love her palpable disdain for Disney, as if the imprimatur were some automatic guarantee of long-running success on the Great White Way.

Remember us?

And giving added support to her legitimacy as a theatrical maven, pundit, advisor, and sage, there is the subtly placed collection of books in the lower right corner of the frame, including Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, which also (so far as I know) has never been a Broadway show.

Feminist Theatre, Blood Meridian, and Virginia Woolf...hmmm, I sense an agenda.

She’s got other helpful tips as well.  (Again, you will watch in YouTube, ’cause they say so.)

I want to do one about how to make a contemporary video look like it was shot in 1978 through the use of flowering plants, non-descript office space, and a hairstyle that looks like the youngest daughter on Eight is Enough.

Elizabeth Bradford explains it all for you.


But, hey, who am I to judge?  It’s a lifetime of knowledge in six minutes of video!  Go write that hit show, kids!

Snow: The Musical

It’s no secret how much I love the snow up here in the frozen north.  (Like, not at all.)  But here’s a blissful alternative.

Rich Vreeland over at Colorcave has created “January,” an experiment in algorithmic music generation that is also a sweet little game.  The object of the game is very simple: you try to catch snowflakes on your tongue.  There’s no counter, no time limit, no penalty for missing them.  The reward for catching them, though, is delightful.  It’s sweet, relaxing, and it doesn’t turn gross five minutes after it starts.

 

Only the beginning.

I read about it first over at IFC.com where they post cool things.  Go play in the snow, y’all.

My Space

My wife is bu-huh-sting my ballses over a style thing.  I’m not talking about my sartorial skills, which are mad, bad, and dangerous to know.  I rock the streets of Brooklyn in an oversized hoodie, un-ironic tennis shoes, and my faded wide-leg, full-cut, husky jeans practically EVERY DAY, so believe me, it ain’t my fashion sense she’s slamming.  No.

It’s my tendency to type two spaces after a period, or “full-stop” for my Brizzits in the hizzouse.  I have to admit, I learned keystroke-writing back when typewriters existed.  (For the children, that’s a device a lot like a laptop, only there was no screen and you had to put paper into it one sheet at a time.)

Obsolete, but gorgeous.

Two spaces between the end of one sentence and the start of the next was simply the rule.  It’s what we were taught to do, it’s what we did, and it’s what kept our writing civilized and separate from the illegible, illiterate twaddle coming out of the animal kingdom.  (For the children, that’s texting.)

Turns out, though, it’s wrong.

Farhad Manjoo (love it, don’t ever change it) over at Slate posted a big exposé on the topic, and frankly, I don’t like his tone.  For example:

What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the “correct” number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces. Some people admitted to slipping sometimes and using a single space—but when writing something formal, they were always careful to use two. Others explained they mostly used a single space but felt guilty for violating the two-space “rule.” Still others said they used two spaces all the time, and they were thrilled to be so proper. When I pointed out that they were doing it wrong—that, in fact, the correct way to end a sentence is with a period followed by a single, proud, beautiful space—the table balked. “Who says two spaces is wrong?” they wanted to know.

He goes on to cite typographers (“Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule.”) and style guides (“Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period.”) as support for his argument.  The problem for me, though, is that his defense is selective.

James Felici, one of the “every” modern typographers Manjoo references, is infinitely more gracious and diplomatic in his assessment of the issue; and his article is fascinating reading, full of nuance and detail.  It’s hardly the sledgehammer absolute Manjoo suggests.

Similarly, the MLA specifically says:

Because it is increasingly common for papers and manuscripts to be prepared with a single space after all punctuation marks, this spacing is shown in the examples in the MLA Handbookand the MLA Style Manual. As a practical matter, however, there is nothing wrong with using two spaces after concluding punctuation marks unless an instructor or editor requests that you do otherwise. (My emphasis.)

CMOS is a bit less kind, but still acknowledges that the “rule” is often a matter of “preference”:

The view at CMOS is that there is no reason for two spaces after a period in published work. Some people, however—my colleagues included—prefer it, relegating this preference to their personal correspondence and notes.

The CMOS #1 reason against using two spaces is that “it is inefficient, requiring an extra keystroke for every sentence.”  Personally, I type these two spaces so reflexively that the exact opposite is true: to adhere to the single-space rule, I have to spend so much more time going through my work and correcting what I’ve already done.  (I realize and fully concede that such review can be considered proofreading.)

Manjoo also cites the publications manual of American Psychological Association, bending their position to support his claim.  Their exact wording is as follows:

The new edition of the Publication Manual recommends that authors include two spaces after each period in draft manuscripts. For many readers, especially those tasked with reading stacks of term papers or reviewing manuscripts submitted for publication, this new recommendation will help ease their reading by breaking up the text into manageable, more easily recognizable chunks.

Although the usual convention for published works remains one space after each period, and indeed the decision regarding whether to include one space or two rests, in the end, with the publication designer, APA thinks the added space makes sense for draft manuscripts in light of those manuscript readers who might benefit from a brief but refreshing pause.

In the comments section of that same article, author Sarah Wiederkehr links to the Wikipedia page on the topic, which (again, diplomatically) acknowledges the validity of positions on both sides of the aisle.

It seems that throughout this argument, as you can see in the quotes I’ve included above, the energy on the double-space side is genteel, civil, showing concern for the reader, whereas the timbre of the single-space argument is aggressive, hectoring, self-righteous, and accusatory.  To wit:

“Forget about tolerating differences of opinion: typographically speaking, typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong,” Ilene Strizver, who runs a typographic consulting firm The Type Studioonce wrote. “When I see two spaces I shake my head and I go, Aye yay yay,” she told me. “I talk about ‘type crimes’ often, and in terms of what you can do wrong, this one deserves life imprisonment. It’s a pure sign of amateur typography.”

I checked out Ms. Strizver’s website.  It’s nice, but I would argue that using at least seven different fonts in a single page is also a sign of amateur typography.  (Hugs, Ilene!)

To me, single-spacing looks jumbled and cluttered.  I like the breathing room that double-spacing provides.  Granted, most of the writing I do is playwriting, and I do it in old-school manuscript format using Courier font. (Well, more precisely, Courier New.)

And why do I use it? Because it looks like a typewriter. Womp-womp.

Since that font is a monospace font, even on the computer, two spaces helps immeasurably with the clarity and readability of my work.  But I also email, and now I’m blogging, and the whole thing has me thinking.  Is my double-spacing holding me back?  Do prospective employers see it in my cover letter and give me a pass because of it?  My wife has already pointed out that my use of it in my blog posts occasionally creates unintentional indents on the left margin, which looks stupid.  (Resizing the page seems to correct the problem, but it also doesn’t magically create the problem on single-spaced type.)

Where do you stand?  One space, or two?

UPDATE: My virtual brother-in-law Brian covered similar territory over on unqualified.org.  It’s worth a read.  He’s smart, he’s literate, and he loathes Farhad Manjoo.