The Big Elitist Article on Culture

Madame Bergeret
François Boucher,
possibly 1766

If I had studied CS or math in school, I’d program for Google or Amazon, or work for a bank in NYC or San Francisco. And even though the train stations would be glutted with homeless people, I’d probably be able to forget about that, between shopping trips to Anthropologie and the excitement of restaurants and travel. But if my boss asked me to stay until 11 or 12 and work weekends, I’d look at my co workers and if they were all doing the same, then I’d remember all the homeless out there who could not afford rent in the exorbitantly overpriced city I lived in, and I’d probably say, “sure, that’s cool.”

But I did not study Computer Science or finance or business. I studied art history for no other reason than that I liked it. And in doing so, I learned something unexpected. I learned there is a great tradition of people who did not buy into ideas about what they “should” do, but did what they were convinced was beautiful and true. Yes, these were poets, artists and philosophers, the characters we laugh at today and call “useless”. But those people have existed all throughout history, trading material pleasures for the luxury of spending their time in freedom to use their vision and talents as they wished.

I learned about these useless people for 6 years, and what did it get me? Not any money, or even a job in the arts. Like the artists I learned and wrote about, I had to work a day job to pay the bills, (just an office drone, not the kind of high-salaried job that came with unending demands). Instead I got inspiration, a feeling of greater empathy for my fellow humans, (because how can you hate someone when you like their music or art?) and the pleasure of unapologetically letting art lead me on its journey into myth and life’s mysteries. I also learned that man and woman is in charge of his own destiny, and most importantly that you can choose what you want to be.

Is someone telling you to study business or finance because they think you will make more money? Only study those things if you want to. It’s not admirable to do an advanced degree if you are only doing it to compete or because everyone you know is. Try art! Read literature! You may still have to work a boring desk job, not a “cool” job, but you will become interesting and enjoy your free time more. And your desk job will get you by, especially if you are smart and don’t go shopping too much. You will feel more free because you made the decision for yourself. And knowing that you made that one important decision, you will never allow yourself to be treated like a slave. Who cares about “cool” cities. Let me give you a little insight. The coolest cities are the most expensive, overrun by people who have bought into the hype. Try a boring city. Make it cool!

There was a recent article about millennials as a “burnout” generation that is always internalizing expectations and working harder. Nothing wrong with working hard! But any animal can learn useful skills to get treats. Only a human can work purely for the fulfillment of their soul. If you are getting your kids to take math and physics classes on weekends, consider getting them art lessons instead, or as well. They have the right to do these things with their time, which is after all their life. It’s important for them to learn about history and philosophy so they can learn about this long human tradition I mentioned earlier, with its lofty people and ideas, who seem so silly at first, but who one comes to realize are the most important of all, because these people had confidence in their god-given ability as humans. The word inspiration is important. It’s learning because you want to not for fear of failure or the promise of external rewards.

We must not create a generation who can’t say no. They will be a stressed-out meek domestic labor force for future bosses to take advantage of. Saying “no” to work that you don’t want to do, is perhaps the most important skill a kid can develop. It’s a muscle he needs to learn to flex as soon as possible. And before you say it’s impossible, for example because you are from a poor county and your children must work hard to establish themselves in America, or because the job market is so competitive that art and theater is not an option, remember that a good lifestyle doesn’t require Coach bags, Anthropologie clothes, thousands of dollars spent at Disney resorts, or BMW’s. You can do quite well paying rent or even a small mortgage, enjoying books and movies and food, going to concerts, and spending time hiking or staying with friends on travel. There are many wonderful ways to enjoy life on a budget that justifies time spent communing with the humanities. And as you do, the appeal of the Disney resorts will fade away.

As media hype about global competition gives us all the impression that things are getting tougher and we must sacrifice all humanity to survive, just please remember that’s mostly not true. I don’t expect many parents to listen to my message. I expect kids to be forced to do math tutoring in summer and on weekends and be encouraged to find work in big banks, instead of getting guitar lessons or art classes. But all the forced skills in the world won’t make up for a kid who wants to learn because he’s doing something he loves.

The Other Princess Cornflakes

Recently, I learned about the other Princess Cornflakes. It is an independent French film, an “extra-large fashion comedy” by and. You can see it here. I just watched it and from what I can tell, it’s a parody of girls aspirations to be beautiful and perfect models when they grow up, sort of a mini-Jane Campion. It’s creative and features special-effects scenes worthy of 50’s pulp fiction such as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. I enjoyed Princess Cornflakes very much and I’m proud to share a name with this production.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 6.15.03 AM
Princess Cornflakes, the film by Antoine Asseraf René Habermacher

the American classic film. 5/10 stars on imdb!

no further explanation

It Feels So Scary Getting Old

-Lorde, Ribs

Last night I said to my son “In past generations, you had to use a lot of
words to win an argument. We tried to sound really smart. Now the thing to do is
sound really dumb, and you still win. Think about it.” He thought about it and agreed. I remember arguing to my dad about how I should be allowed to have blue hair in the early 80’s when I was experimenting with punk styles. I wrote a very complicated, erudite essay brining up every possible historical tragedy (you know – the usual ones, Jesus, the Nazis, etc) and compared it to my own persecution. I used as many big words as possible.

Now think of a kid from today, an angry kid. Who is the ultimate angry kid? Eminem. Think about him arguing with his parents. He’s been doing it all his life so that is easy. For example his new song “Headlights”:

‘Cause to this day we remain estranged and I hate it though
‘Cause you ain’t even get to witness your grand babies grow
But I’m sorry, Mama, for “Cleaning Out My Closet”, at the time I was angry
Rightfully maybe so, never meant that far to take it though,
’cause now I know it’s not your fault, and I’m not making jokes
That song I no longer play at shows and I cringe every time it’s on the radio

That probably wasn’t a good example. In this song he’s trying to make peace with his mom. And Eminem really knows how to use words. On the other hand, he doesn’t use the “20 thousand dollar words” which is why he appeals to kids. If you look at online comments from anyone under 20, you will see things like “bad” or “that’s gay” or just “FAIL”, without any further explanation. These bumper sticker-type comments will win against “the social significance” or “mutually exclusive” because no one has time for those expressions now! Words are old school, for prissy white people, or fussy teachers who have nothing better to do than sit around and read them, and anyone with a life has no time for that.

The other thing is that young people rebel by flaunting youth in the past generations face, for it’s own sake. It’s not that they think we are wrong, or have old-fashioned ideas. They really couldn’t care less about our ideas because they aren’t going to bother arguing against them anyway (see above). And we (the older generations) are really eager to side up with them. Look at how badly we want to be young! We spend all our money on plastic surgery and cosmetics to try to preserve our youth obsessively. Adolescence lasts until death today. Nobody gets “old” as in stodgy, old-fashioned beliefs.  They just “age” and get more wrinkles but try to pretend nothing is happening, and all the bands that ever were just keep touring.

Still authentic youth is recognizable in photos and it is the holy grail in more ways than ever for both young and old. Anyone over 35 suffers from an automatic lack of swag, and young people know this. They don’t even need to “rebel” now, all they have to remind us is that they are young, and that is enough.


NOTE: All mis-spellings and grammatical errors in this article were intentional as they make the writer appear younger like she just don’t give a sh%$t.

The Princess has an Ugly Robe

I love the bathrobe that the mom wears on Christmas morning in “A Christmas Story”. It’s such a  beautiful vintage robe with a shawl collar, tailoring, and a full skirt. I think it’s even got shoulder pads but that’s ok because it’s perfectly proportional. You could go around your house looking like great all day without even putting clothes on. It’s a robe of the 1940’s and it’s perfectly elegant.






In contrast, the robes of today are completely boring. Mostly they are just a straight kimono style without darts or fitting, like a sack:

ugh. What a boring robe.

If you do an Amazon search on “woman’s robe” this is all you will find, for upwards of $50. If you go to TJ Maxx, you will find the same thing. Sometimes they are made of nice materials like silk, but it’s always the same old boring style. Because they have a straight, narrow skirt, when you sit down the skirt splits open. Ugly! Impractical!

How did we get to this awful state of woman’s loungewear?

Perhaps we are still cringing from the abuses of loungewear that took place in the 1970’s when women like Mrs. Roper would go around in robes and mumus all day long.

Mrs. Roper in an ugly caftan.

Nobody wants to look like Mrs. Roper!

So we modern girls just throw on a hoodie track suit for hanging around. After all, we aren’t old ladies and we were just about to get ready for the day….OR ARE WE?…..more and more I see girls out and about in hoodie track suits. OK, a hoodie track suit is fine, but what’s worse, now people are walking through Target and the mall in ugly pajama pants! I think that pajama pants are the modern day equivalent of the 1970s mumu, a lounging garment that we kids ourselves into thinking is good enough for the street. I think we can do better. I think that robes need to be more elegant, like they were in the past, and they should be confined to the home.

A beautiful robe with a waistline.


In the 1940’s – 1970’s, they had beautiful women’s robes. They were edged with feathers or made of nice heavy padded satin. They had tailoring and button holes, like this beautiful quilted satin robe which is currently on sale at Etsy. Doesn’t look like much on the mannequin, but it would look great on!







An elegant 1970s ruffled robe


Also there are plenty of vintage patterns for beautiful robes! I am so excited about vintage patterns. You can have old garments in new, strong fabrics!




a nice 50s design. I could see this in velvet or rayon


Here is another fun vintage robe pattern, from the 1950s. The seller wants $20 which I think is a little high, but its stylish!









Butterick even did a re-issue of an old 40’s robe pattern. Elegant! I love the re-issue patterns.






ok, there are some ugly vintage patterns too, like this one :

Don’t wear this unless your hair is up in curlers and you have a cigarette dangling from your lips!

So make one of these great vintage robes, (but not the ugly one). and sit around looking elegant all day long. As long as you have a waistline, you will never look like Mrs. Roper! And please don’t go outside in your pajama pants.

I Want My E-Mail!

Remember email?  I love email. I think that the email format is a great way to get to know someone in our busy world. You can express complete thoughts. If you email at work, it does not look conspicuous like facebook or texting. You can do it on your break! If you hate your keyboard, a better one is cheap and you don’t have replace the entire device! Texting is nice for working out plans or sending an occasional “hi”, but it’s not a good way to have conversations. Have you ever gotten a text from someone like this?

“Hey! How are you doing?”

That is just annoying.

Now you have to reply “Fine!” or else type in a bunch of stuff on that tiny keyboard. And texting gives people excuses to butcher the English language. Email does not. There is no excuse. You are basically using the same device that Sylvia Plath used when he wrote “The Bell Jar”, yes, right before she committed suicide. You are still here, aren’t you? Stop whining then and take a minute for punctuation and proofreading! And with all that time you have left over, go read The Bell Jar. It is an awesome book.

Oh, and what about the wonderful world of attachments? It’s all there for you in email. You can impress your correspondent with a link to an obscure and edgy music video, a photo of yourself, or just a long and badly formatted joke that has been annoying everyone on the Internet for months (well this defeats the whole incognito-at-work advantage).

I love voice. Don’t get me wrong. Talking on the phone can be great. But not at 10:00 p.m. when my kids are in bed and I am finally sitting down to unwind. Phone calls are nice on weekends when there is time to relax but for mid-week communication, I choose email. Do I sound like I’m trying to talk you into something? LOL ;-DDDDD.

Maraschino Cherries

I realized that was what was missing from my life – maraschino cherries. So I went out and bought two jars yesterday, one with stems and one without. The stemless are better for baking, but it’s fun to try to tie the stems into knots with your tongue.

where the crowds aren’t

Today I got into the car, expecting to head up the Turnpike about 14 miles to the Jersey City Promenade and the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Boat Tour. Then, at the last minute, I reconsidered, got Camilla out of the car, put her in the stroller and instead took a walk across the Raritan River to New Brunswick. Instead of being out amongst the cars, distracted, glancing at billboards, and ending up in yet another crowded tourist setting, I walked around an old American city with lots of streets, sidewalks, trees and storefronts, and few parking lots.

New Brunswick is a town of 25,000, which boasts the old Rutgers Campus, Johnson and Johnson headquarters, a train station with trains to NYC, a downtown restaurant/shopping district, theatres, and lots of neat old dilapidated and unremodeled houses. The population doubles during the week, with students and JJ workers. On weekend days when the workers are away, New Brunswick is only the train station on the way to New York. There are no views of the Manhattan skyline and the museums aren’t very big. On weekends you see the locals – many of which are Oaxacan Mexicans.

But today I ended up in there. I noticed a particularly dark old brick house with a high pitched roof and white trim. I also noticed that the Moscow Symphony Orchestra will soon be playing at the NJ State Theatre, and I found a Oaxacan Taqueria that I mean to try some time. Other times I have visited the Mason-Gross Art Center (Rutgers art department) for exhibitions. In New Brunswick one can only wander, think one’s thoughts, and look for interesting buildings and side streets, but there are plenty of those.

There are other forgotten cities around here. Last week my husband’s green card interview brought us to Newark. There, parking the car in some back all-day lot, I was struck by very beautiful view of the backs of the buildings, complete with old fire escapes and vines growing up between the windows. It was breathtaking. Broad St. in Newark has some really glorious architecture, many turn of the century stone buildings, currently covered and obscured by cheap awnings and signs. They also have a new light rail, which is a nice way to see the architecture. The Philadelphia central train station is beautiful too, and feels just like one is in Copenhagen. Another abandoned New Brunswick site I love is Jersey Avenue, with its warehouses. I dream of starting an art exhibition space there someday.

Old train stations, student art shows, high-rises, hidden courtyards, warehouses and fire escapes. There is a completely seperate, and much more interesting world that exists away from the world of commodities. It’s the world one see while walking, from the window of the train, or in the older cities where there isn’t enough parking for Target or Wal-Mart to move in, and is therefore only home to small cafes and little odd shops where nothing you need can be found. I want to see more of this world, but for that I have to discipline myself, be patient and remember to visit these places and not just get sucked up in the New Jersey whirlwind of easy strip-mall shopping and weekend trips to Manhattan.