Friday, September 19, 2014

Week in review

This week around the world: Scotland rejects independence from the UK, Nutella turns 50, and grandmas who accidentally tag themselves as Grandmaster Flash.

Have a restful weekend!


Scotland votes to go it alone. (Daily Record)

Paving the way for low-income students to attend elite universities. (The New York Times)

President Obama to send 3,000 troops to West Africa in response to the Ebola crisis. (Reuters)

Microsoft buys Minecraft for $2.5 billion. (AP News)

Thanks to Nutella, the world needs more hazelnuts. (NPR)

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes welcome a baby girl. (Refinery29)

Japan loves their CDs and just won't make the move to online music. (The New York Times)

Try making this delicious peppery tofu dish this weekend. (Week of Menus)

To spank or not to spank a child. (The Sound of Ideas)

Grandmas who accidentally tag themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook (thank you, Autocorrect). (Laughing Squid)

Can you solve this riddle? (A Cup of Jo)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ballet at 40 (the leotard)

Trying on a leotard for the first time in 30 years kinda made me feel like
the woman in Picasso's Girl Before A Mirror: grotesque and distorted. 

There's a fine line between a leotard and a sausage casing. I learned this during a recent trip to Capezio, the ubiquitous dancewear store and reckoning point of self esteem.

Here's the thing about taking ballet -- you need to dress the part. Which means you have to wear a skin-tight leotard. Though a dress code isn't mandated for the adults, everyone showed up to the first class in traditional attire. Even the lone guy in my class donned tights. I wore yoga pants and a tank top and felt like a misfit ballerina among my peers.

The next day, I stood before the mirror in the Capezio dressing room with at least a dozen different black leotards staring me down. "Try me! Try me!" they earnestly called out. "Put me on and you'll look and feel like a true ballerina!"

Those damn leotards lied.

I tried every size and every style from halter and camisole to tank and short-sleeved. At 5'1" and 120 lbs I'm usually a size petite, but in the world of ballet apparently I'm gargantuan. I barely got my ass into a small. The medium? Not on Anna Pavlova's life. I took a deep breath and asked the salesgirl to bring me a large and extra-large. 

Here's the other thing about ballet -- you spend A LOT of time looking at yourself in the mirror. Exorbitant, ungodly amounts. I felt pretty low in the dressing room that afternoon. My critical eye examining every flaw -- my flat chest, broad shoulders, flabby midsection and fleshy thighs. The leotard does not lie. 

I showed up to the next class looking like a proper ballet student: the tights, the sheer flowing wraparound skirt, the damn size large leotard. And while I should have felt good about my graceful pliés and beautiful pointed toes I spent the entire hour in self loathing. 

"How was ballet?" my best friend, a wonderful and accomplished dancer, asked later that week. I told her about my disappearing waist, how my leotard accentuated my back fat and how unforgiving it was of my paunch. 

"Ah, yes," she said in that soothing voice I love. "That's the journey every dancer has to make. Doing the work, not just learning the moves and what to do with her body, but the work inside and eventually coming to accept and love her body -- flaws and all."

I turn 40 next month and taking ballet is my proclamation, a testament to myself and to the world that I'm taking my body back. I want to see what I'm capable of. I want to trust in my abilities. I want see how high I can jump, how far I can leap, how many times I can turn.   

And although I wasn't expecting ballet to be a journey of the soul as much as it is an exploration of the body, I look forward to doing all the hard work it requires.   

Making the sweater leotard insanely cool, as only David Bowie can. (Cheezburger) 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The importance of a crappy job

Everyone should have a crappy job at least once during their lifetime.

A crappy job will make you grateful. It will teach you about ambition. And most of all it will confirm all the things in life you don't want while affirming all of your non-negotiables.

I recently read a fantastic interview with LA-based designer, web developer and entrepreneur Jon Setzen in The Great Discontent. Jon's path was unconventional: in college he majored in photojournalism because he thought he wanted to be a photographer only to discover he hated the program; worked at a small radio station then dabbled in web and graphic design; got a job at the San Francisco Chronicle in interactive design; moved to New York after 9/11 and started his own company; and eventually landed in Los Angeles where he is currently creative director for a web hosting firm, founder of an artisan candle company AND co-host of a popular podcast and breakfast lecture series.

"I still feel like I don't know what I truly want to do," Setzen says about having an "Aha!" moment in his career. "But I do know what it feels like when I do something that I want to do."

Moving to a new city, having no money or job opportunities, and enduring crappy jobs like being a furniture mover in Queens taught Jon the value of hard work and resilience.  

I've had my share of shitty jobs. As a kid I spent a summer delivering advertorial pamphlets door to door to earn extra spending money. I stuffed envelopes at a radio station during a college internship. Stocked shelves and worked the cash register at a convenience store. Organized 3-foot mounds of newspaper clippings and random documents for a crazy, germ-phobic pack rat who called herself a "political activist" (that job lasted one day). And was a coffee girl for a political talk show host who absolutely loved to hear himself talk (hint: his show is still on the air!).

During these crappy jobs, there were times I hated my life and asked myself why I didn't have rich parents or why on earth I had to endure such torture. These moments of self-entitlement were usually preceded by me dropping soup cans on my foot or getting chewed out by a superior or being told to wear a hairnet because the crazy political-activist-pack-rat-lady was allergic to hair.

But it turns out I learned a lot from these crappy jobs. They gave me faith in my abilities. They taught me about gratefulness. They reminded me that kindness and goodness are always in short supply and because of that, to spread them like germs. They forced me to persevere, to delay gratification and to keep things in perspective.

In a weird way, all those crappy jobs made my life big. Because they fueled my ambition and helped me figure out what I really wanted out of a job, a career, a life.

How about you? Have you ever had a crappy job? What did you do? Did you learn anything valuable from it?

Read the full interview with Jon Setzen here. (The Great Discontent)
Illustration by Marcus Connor. (Brainless Tales)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Career advice from smart women

A great post today on one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo. Good advice -- for career and life -- from smart women. 

This nugget of wisdom from Anna Quindlen really resonates with me:

          Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. That's what I have to say. 
          The second is only a part of the first...There are thousands of people out there with 
          the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people 
          doing what you want to do for a living. But you are the only person alive who has 
          sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at 
          desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of 
          your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul...
          People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a 
          résumé than to craft a spirit. But a résumé is cold comfort on a winter night, or when 
          you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the chest X ray and it 
          doesn’t look so good, or when the doctor writes “prognosis, poor.”
And this one from Tina Fey:

         Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor 
         who says, “I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your 
         procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?” Make statements, with 
         your actions and your voice.

And finally this one, from Nora Ephron:

         Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not 
         to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble 
         out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf 
        of women.

Girl with Black Eye by Norman Rockwell.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Star Wars airport in 2014

If our planet had an airport that supported the spacecraft in Star Wars, this is what it might look like. Don't I wish!

We may see Robert Downey, Jr. and Hugh Jackman in Star Wars Episode 7. (Metro)