Sunday, March 1, 2015

TED Talks


Have you noticed something spreading?

Nope, it’s not the measles.

It’s the proliferation of TED Talks here, there, and everywhere. As well as that sentence, snuggled between the bizspeak and the chitchat: “Did you see that amazing TED Talk?”

When the TED conference series was launched in 1990, I loved the idea of talks on technology, entertainment and design, but like New Yorker cartoons, I didn’t know if they were for me. They were heady and mind-blowing, and catnip to the NPR totebag-carrying, interesting eyewear-wearing crowd. These video vitamins were good for me but sometimes hard to swallow.

Then TEDx happened. Community-organized talks sprouted up everywhere and I couldn’t keep up. I can barely stay abreast of This American Life episodes, WTF podcasts, and all the shit queued up on my DVR, what with my job and all. How am I going to find time to watch 10- to 20-minute videos on how to use a paper towel and bands that make their instruments out of vegetables?

Does every cul de sac have ideas worth spreading, or more importantly, ideas worth my time? I’m thinking no.

For every Brené Brown talk that truly changes your thinking, there’s a talk about the importance of ticking off your bucket list items. Nice idea, but I can listen to a Tim McGraw song for that, and that only takes 4:27 of my life, allowing me to step away from my laptop and toward actual bucket list activities.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Obligatory standing ovations


Scene: A local theater troupe is gamely putting on a show, despite a terrible script, missed cues, unrecoverable gaffes, wooden Keanu-worthy acting, fill in the blank. The curtain falls and the players on stage breathe a collective sigh of relief. They can flee to the darkness of the wings.

And then…

The curtain rises for a final bow. The actors look out into the audience, who is clapping enthusiastically and, miraculously, rising out of their seats.

The actors wonder to themselves, “What the fuck is happening?”

And…scene.


Nope, these actors aren’t in an artsy-fartsy Twilight Zone. They are simply living in the era of the obligatory standing ovation.

Standing Os are given out these days as easily as Kanye West’s opinion. They are the adult version of the “everybody gets a trophy” culture, even if they metaphorically suck at soccer and kick a goal into their own net.

Regardless of whether it’s a concert by an ancient band on their fifth farewell tour, a hack comic with hackneyed bits, or a homegrown production at the avant-garde or old guard theater company in town, audiences can’t wait to jump up and simper all over the performers—even if the show was a steaming pile of merde. Standing only encourages their delusion-fueled performance.

When the curtain goes up, stand down, for the love of God, country, and good taste. Stay in your seat and send a different kind of message with your anemic-to-nonexistent applause: Get thee to rehearsal. Keep workshopping your shit. Take an acting class. Practice.

Raise your standards, not your body.


(photo: sparkmovie.net)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Yoga pants


Ladies of the yoga-pants-as-streetwear persuasion: Don’t get it twisted.

You’re just as bad as the pajamas-as-outerwear People of Walmart, except you have a 401K and a will to live. In fact, you live the hell out of your life. You’ll sleep when you’re dead.

Meanwhile, you’re overscheduled and you don’t want anyone to forget it. You’re far too busy with carpools and important deadlines at your WFH consulting gig to bother changing out of your workout gear.

Because, oh yeah, you work out. The yoga pants say so.

You know your way around a Pilates Reformer and can stay in Crow pose for more than a minute in your hot yoga class. Yoga pants are your way of broadcasting that you—and your toned ass—are better than me.

Yoga pants, camel toe, and a messy topknot announce to the world that you’re fit, body and SoulCycle. On the flip side, however, you might be of the yoga pants subset who wears them despite having never stepped foot in a yoga studio. You don’t live the hell out of your life. You just live for an elastic waistband, bless your heart, and you’re not quite ready to make the leap to maternity pants, the ones with the stretchy panel.

Regardless, if you insist on wearing your Lululemon outside of the gym or yoga studio to go shopping or out to lunch or even to a business meeting, men should start wearing some OG David Lee Roth spandex action. Because, you know, everyone wants to see that, too.

(Photo: betabrand.com)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lumbersexuals


Everything old is new again. When I think about the resurgence of canning and preserving or Michael Keaton’s performance in Birdman, I can get behind this.

But the lumbersexual isn’t content with honoring the past; he has to turn it into some artisanal, curated preciousness. Authenticity is swapped out for hipness. It’s not enough for a lumbersexual to find a favorite barbeque joint and lick his fingers in spicy bliss. He has to amass a carefully curated collection of regional hot sauces and a deep well of knowledge on the best way to smoke a pork shoulder. And then create a YouTube video demonstrating the process using his GoPro and Final Cut Pro.

How do you spot a lumbersexual, a subset of the modern hipster male? Well, if you live in Portland, just walk to the nearest corner. But for other regions of the country, a primer:

Above the waist, it’s all 1871 up in there. Looking at the lumbersexual, I’m transported to the Big Woods, tapping maple trees with the Ingalls family. Beards are so long that they look like levers. Just pull on one and watch the lumbersexual turn into a human nutcracker, one that could, in his facial hair, actually store nuts—organic roasted nuts dusted with curried sea salt, obvs.

Then there’s the plaid. Don’t get me wrong; as a former Catholic schoolgirl, I cotton to plaid the way Taylor Swift seeks out high-waisted swimsuits. But I don’t want to wear it six days a week, only swapping it out on laundry day for that graphic tee that says “I shot the serif”

Below the waist, the lumbersexual is completely of the moment, outfitted either in spendy jeans so skinny he had to channel his inner teenage girl, laying on the floor to get them zipped, or in saggy-ass Goodwill denim that gives his suspenders a raison d’être.

Either way, it’s not attractive or alluring. I don’t want to get wit you or even hang with you; I just want you to direct me to the nearest barn raising or the best creek for gold-panning. So get on your fixed-gear bike—the one with no brakes—and head for the hills. Find someone else to talk to about your Whiskeytown bootlegs. Roll up your flannel shirt sleeve and show off your forearm tattoo of the butcher cuts of a pig to someone who cares about the difference between hocks and trotters, because I’m way too busy plucking, shaving, and waxing. Hair removal never gets old.

(photo: http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

Monday, February 16, 2015

First-world problems

After meticulously planning a two-week vacation, my checked luggage was lost when I landed at my destination. I had to wait around my friend’s apartment looking out the window for a good day and a half, stewing in the same clothes I had started my journey in, nine time zones away. 

Poor me.

Then I looked at the bright side.


  1. I was in Paris.
  2. I was staying for free in an apartment that was two blocks from the Eiffel Tower and was outfitted with gorgeous French doors that opened onto a balcony that I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to find out that Audrey Hepburn had graced. Outside this charming apartment, the Eiffel Tower looked like it had been painted against a background of blue October skies (see photo). Quel domage.
I may have been washing my panties out in the sink but I was in Paris. In other words, un problem du premier monde.

First-world problems are everywhere, if you know where to look and when to listen.


“Should we go to the beach today or just hit the resort pool instead? You know I hate getting sandy.”

“I’m in a pickle. My Swiss au pair isn’t arriving until a week after the kids finish preschool.”


“I can’t decide between buying a new four-story townhome with a rooftop deck or staying in my 1912 Craftsman.”


“One of my resolutions is to purge my stuff this year and simplify and streamline. I just have way too many clothes, shoes, books, CDs, computer equipment, train memorabilia, Precious Moments figurines…”


I sympathize, I really do. Problems are problems, even if you’re not starving or in danger of eviction or battling the measles. But a first-world problem that actually needs to be addressed is our collective lack of perspective and self-awareness. I’m sorry you weren’t able to snag those heirloom tomato seeds and it sucks that your metabolism has plateaued to the point that you can’t lose those last five pounds. But every time you get stressed or P.O.’d, take a breath and think of a third-world problem.

Nothing like Ebola or lack of clean drinking water to make the long line at Chipotle suddenly bearable.

What's your favorite first-world problem?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Airline boarding process

I recently was flying out of Seattle when I realized just how low I ranked on the food chain of travel. I wasn’t flying first class. Or business class. And I didn’t have gold, silver or aluminum club status. I wasn’t a member of the military, or even wearing camo cargo pants ironically. I didn’t have small children or a feeble grandparent in tow. I myself wasn’t disabled, on crutches, in a wheelchair, or zooming around in one of those motorized La-Z-Boy scooters.

And no, I wasn’t sporting a Russell Wilson Seahawks jersey. Which on that day moved you to the front of the pre-boarding line.


In other words, my carry-on suitcase and I were hosed. It didn’t matter that I checked in 23 hours 59 minutes before our flight. I clearly was not part of any cool kids’ club. And I clearly need to get a credit card that earns me miles.

Can it really be called pre-boarding when 90 percent of passengers are locked and loaded by the time they announce Zone 1? Airlines want us to pay for upgrades so that we can board earlier and more importantly, feel as though we’re part of an elite group of flyers, the Star-Bellied Sneetches of the skies.

Here’s an idea: Maybe they should shift it to post-boarding. Board all of the seemingly normal, deodorant-wearing folks first and then call for the dregs. Wearing patchouli? You can finally board, and take the seat in the very last row. Lump all the Chatty Cathys together and seat them in the same row. Got a pupu platter of dietary issues? You get to board, only after the gate attendant flogs you with a bunch of lacinato kale that you get in lieu of the snack pack. Carrying a shit-ton of computer equipment so you can rock some in-flight spreadsheets? Enjoy sitting between the 6’7” dude in front of you and the inconsolable toddler who likes to kick behind you.

Or maybe the airlines should just go all Lord of the Flies at the boarding gate and let us fend for ourselves. Armed with my conch shell as my only carry-on item, I can assure you that I'll be elbowing my way to the exit row in short order, Russell Wilson jersey or no.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bathrooms without hooks

Fucking men.

That's what I think every time I go into a public restroom and can't find any trace of a hook for a coat or handbag, as in "Fucking men who design these bathrooms with no regard for a woman's needs."


And what I need right now, aside from relieving my bladder, is a hook to hang my stuff on. I'm not like George Costanza—I don't strip down to do my business—but sometimes I am wearing a long coat that would be better served hanging away from my backside.

You know what I'm talking about.

Then there's my purse and laptop bag. I would rather not set my luscious Kooba bag or quirky Orla Kiely on the Petri dish of a floor that clearly hasn't seen a mop since the OxiClean guy died.

Here's where I start blaming men, who traditionally don't have extra baggage (literally, at least) or clothing that needs to be hung up. Dudes don't think about the convenience factor of a hook. These are the same guys who have designed stadium bathrooms with an equal number of stalls for men and women. Um, when are you going to learn that chicks need more stalls so we can get back to the game or totally rad reunion concert just as quickly as the XYs of the world?

So architects and building planners of every gender, when you do figure out a better ratio of bathroom stalls for women to men, throw a hook in each one, please? I've got a few hang-ups.


(photo: insidemyshoebox.com)