Monday, September 30, 2013

Go see this now

Beautiful, gut-wrenching and inspired by a true story.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Links sept19

Five thousand Syrian refugees are crossing the borders daily to neighboring
Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq (and making homes in camps like these).  

Today's links will make you mad, cause you to shake your head in equal parts horror and disbelief, and may even make you cry. Then you'll want to do something about it.


  • Did you know more than 2.5 million Syrians have fled since fighting began in 2011? We're talking Biblical proportions. (Migration Policy Centre/European University Institute)
  • More than half of Yemeni girls are married before they turn 18. This 8-year-old child bride died on her wedding night. (Albawaba)
  • The tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday is the fifth mass shooting in the US this year. Kind of makes you wonder, "What the f*ck is going on?" (USA Today/Mother Jones)
  • Air rescue efforts in flood-drenched Colorado have been the largest such evacuation in the country since Hurricane Katrina. (The Denver Post)
  • The number of people dying of heroin overdose in Cleveland has officially made it a public health crisis. (

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday selfie

Today's look: Rockin' the Princess Leia braids.

I'm very proud to be a Star Wars nerd. In addition to knowing the nomenclature of various spaceships, planets and alien characters, I'm also a total fan of the costume and hair design-- particularly Princess Leia's.

My favorite look comes from The Empire Strikes Back. On the icy planet Hoth, Leia rocks an amazing white quilted jumpsuit with matching puffy vest. And those glorious braids! I mean, wouldn't you want to look this good during one of the most epic intergalactic battles between good and evil?

Though she's remembered for those cinnamon buns,
I think braids will always be Leia's best look.

Here's how I got the look:

Step one: This style will only work with long hair (mine reaches about six inches past my shoulders). Take a small portion of hair from your temple (like the photo on the left), then make a braid. Rubber band the end to hold it in place. Do the same thing on the other side.  

Ready to channel your inner-Princess? Let's do this!

Step two: Lift each braid over the crown of your head. Crisscross the braids, take off the rubber bands and use barrettes to pin braids in place.  

Lift. Crisscross. Pin. Tuck. Pin some more.

Step three: Tuck any out-of-place hairs with more bobby pins. As for the back of your hair, you can either leave it down or put it in a bun. 

Voila! Princess Leia braids.

With practice, this style should take you no more than 10 minutes. It's the perfect go-to style, especially when you're having a bad hair day.

Now, go rock some Leia braids of your own! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Phillip Lim for Target (review)

My favorite piece: this fun 3.1 Phillip Lim for Target Boom! sweatshirt.

Call me a die-hard fashionista. I was one of those style fans who forsook my cozy bed on a sleepy Sunday morning to get an up-close look at the latest highly-anticipated Target + designer marriage. 

Unlike my New York and Los Angelean counterparts, here in Cleveland there was no hysteria and no lines to check out the 3.1 Phillip Lim for Target collection. I giddily breezed in around 8:45 (Target opens at 8 on Sunday) and was surprised to find just a gaggle of shoppers. But everyone was on a mission: snap up Lim.

One guy had his shopping cart filled with every style and color of Lim's line of handbags. "This is gonna be great on eBay," he gloated to his wife. A few women were on their phones, describing goods and taking orders (by 9 a.m., many items had already sold out online). Another fashionista made her poor mother follow her around the store as she piled blouses, dresses, trench coats and purses into her cart.

I surveyed the collection, touched the clothing, ran my fingers over the beading, looked closely at the stitching in the handbags.

In three words: a bit underwhelming. 

Now, I'm a big admirer of Lim's work. He is an undeniably talented designer and his main collection is gorgeous, imaginative and has vision. 

Maybe it feels different if I actually try it on. I had to at least wear Lim before I made a final decision. First was the navy/kelly green pullover ($34.99) paired with the silky animal print skirt ($29.99). Then my favorite, the Boom sweater dress with attached flared skirt ($44.99). Followed by a black and white drop-waist dress ($44.99). 

I think all the looks here had great potential. But I couldn't get over the quality.
Though my favorite was the Boom sweater dress with attached flared skirt, the
sweater was too boxy (p.s. please forgive the beat-up Converse sneakers,
which obviously don't go with any of these outfits). 

I couldn't get over what was lacking in quality. Everything made in China (no surprise) with cheap materials (rayon, nylon, polyester). And the cut. Boxy, no shape, unflattering. Of course, if you're 5"10 and rail-thin like the models in the lookbook, then boxy looks drapey. But on my 5'1" frame, boxy = frumpy. Perhaps I am not the target market. What do you think?    

As you can see here, I wasn't wearing the trench,
it was wearing me. And this was a size small!

You would think a simple trench coat would be a no brainer. Classic, elegant, a wardrobe staple. Unfortunately, this one ($79.99) felt like a paper bag. Horribly stiff. I'd rather save up and get the real deal.  

I was super excited about this sweatshirt. Then I tried it on and felt dumpy.

I was the most excited about the Boom French Terry sweatshirt ($29.99). I love the old-school comic book-inspired graphic emblazoned across the front. Very super hero.  

I won't go into length about the handbags, which is the hot item everyone wants to get their paws on. They are close cousins of Lim's Pashli line of satchels and at $34.99-$54.99 it sure beats the $895 price tag of the real thing. 

Exhibit A (left): Target tote with gusset ($54.99). Exhibit B (right): the Pashli ($895).

It's haute couture available to the masses. High fashion for the everyday person. Thanks to these designer-megastore collaborations, what was once aspirational is now available.

As I close in on my 40s, I'm no longer interested in the cheap fashion thrills I welcomed in my post-college and 30-something years. I want style with substance. Pieces that will stand the test of time. I'd rather have a smaller repertoire filled with quality fabrics, hand-stitching and greater attention to detail.

In the end, I walked away from Target yesterday with liquid Drano and laundry detergent. 

As for Limsanity? I'm saving up for 3.1.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Life after 9/11

My favorite view of New York before 9/11 was from Brooklyn.
Still is. And always will be. (Photo: Jake Rajs)

It never gets old. You would think after 12 years, it might. Emotions could fade like a well-worn piece of paper. Typeface blurred.

But you will always remember that day. You'll remember what you were doing (running across Brooklyn on election day), who you were with (strangers in a senior center), where you saw it (standing in the middle of North 6th Street).

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was a grad student at Columbia's journalism school, interviewing retired Brooklynites about their thoughts on the mayoral primary. The first thing I remember about that morning was that it was gorgeous. Perfect blue skies like the ones I grew up with in California. 

I got to the community center in Williamsburg around 9. The north tower of the World Trade Center was already on fire but I didn't know it. A few minutes into my interview, a man burst through the doors of the rec room. "We're being attacked!" he screamed. "Oh my God, we're being attacked!"

The elderly man I was interviewing looked at me with that classic New Yorker "What the f*ck is this crazy guy talking about?"-look. We cleared the room and rushed outside. People poured out of barber shops, bodegas, schools and markets. We stood in the middle of the street and looked up. Black smoke dirtied the skyline. The South Tower was gone. 

Holy shit, I thought. God help us.      

At 10:28, we all watched in horror as the North Tower collapsed right before our eyes.

The rest of that day is a blur. Memories bleed together. A Latin woman next to me was screaming and crying, "Oh my God! It's the end of the world!" F-16s flew overhead. Buses unloaded Manhattanites covered in ash. I think I finally made it back to my Morningside Heights apartment in time for dinner. Though I could hardly eat.

I already loved New York, but 9/11 made the ties unbreakable, I wrote in a blogpost from last year. People bond deeply over the loss of a family member or loved one. Can the same thing be said about a city?

I dug up this email sent to friends five months after 9/11. At the start of 2002, the UN had unanimously voted to freeze the assets of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The world was reeling from the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The US wrapped up the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. And we would invade Afghanistan.

What stuck me the most about this letter is how much I adored the city. "I still love this city and all of her idiosyncrasies... Where else in the world are you going to get 8 million people packed together on a tiny, little island living, loving, mourning, laughing, dancing and celebrating with one another? No other place on earth."  

And each year, each anniversary -- I love her more. 

To: My friends and loved ones
Subject: Life after nine eleven
Date: February 19, 2002

Hello everyone-
It's been a while since I've said hello, and if I didn't get a chance to see you while I was in town over Christmas break-- you'll have to forgive me...

I spent most of my three weeks reporting down in San Diego. Actually, I
think the word "break" in Christmas break is a misnomer since I don't feel like I got much of one. :)

Just thought I'd email you to let you know that I miss you all and that I'm still alive and kicking here in big bad New York.

They've cleared up nearly all of the wreckage and debris at Ground Zero. I was down there in December and it's completely unbelievable. We've all seen the site on television and in the papers, but nothing takes your words away like seeing it with your own eyes. It looks like a meteor hit earth. There's just this huge hole in the middle of downtown. A gap, a crater. It's like a black hole.

But I still love this city and all of her idiosyncrasies. Yes, it gets
really cold here, yes sometimes the subways screech too loud and you're
tired of hearing sirens blaring at 2 in the morning. But you know, where
else in the world are you going to get 8 million people packed together on a tiny little island, living, loving, mourning, laughing, dancing and
celebrating with one another? No other place on earth.

School's even crazier this semester. I feel like one of those speed skaters in the Olympics. I'm going my last lap around before my time's up. It's insane and I try not to let the momentum of it all overwhelm me (it's tough sometimes)-- so I'm just truckin' along, keeping in mind that I really do enjoy all this running around and not getting enough sleep. I just can't wait to graduate and get PAID to run around and not get enough sleep. :)

Stories I've covered in the past few months: wrote a story about the
arrival of a new African cream liqueur called Amarula, a competitor to
Bailey's Irish cream; went to the closing of a family restaurant near Ground Zero that fed firefighters and rescue workers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since Sept. 13; spoke with Arab and Muslim students about living in America after 9/11; wrote a profile about a woman who lost her fiancĂ© in the WTC; today I went to an international conference on publishing and technology...

The best thing about this job is meeting all kinds of interesting people and learning so many new things. One thing's for sure: you never get bored!

Well, thanks for all the emails and for keeping in touch. You are a
blessing to me. Until next time...


Friday, September 6, 2013

Flower child

As a freedom fighter she
Speaks of liberation on the land and on the sea
Her eyes are made of sunshine
And her lips are jelly sweet.

--Flower Child by Lenny Kravitz