Sunday, January 31, 2010

Decoding food labels: CSPI says don’t believe the hype

Tired of being lied to by food producers’ creative marketing practices? Grocery shopping can be a little overwhelming. There are so many options and new health food brands are constantly emerging and declaring themselves “healthy”, “immunity boosting”, “all natural”, and as having “0 g trans fat” (as if I wasn’t going to check the saturated fat to find that, shocker, ice cream isn’t really good for me after all). Don’t fall for the traps. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is on a mission to get the FDA to crackdown on false and misleading information presented on real food and what I like to call “food-like substances” or junk food labels. The report, released in December, calls for the FDA to completely reform nutrition labeling practices and calls out some of our favorite food manufacturers for luring us to certain products by claiming that they are “lightly sweetened”, like breakfast cereals for kids, when there is no FDA criteria for “lightly sweetened” products . “All natural” is another common misnomer. If an ingredient was added that did not occur naturally in production, then it is no longer “all natural.” The FDA took on General Mills last year to get them to stop exaggerating the powers of Cheerios, but those commercials with the kids who are so concerned with mom and dad’s health and well-being that they want to feed them Cheerios for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are so cute. Check out the report, even Kashi and Glaceau have been called out. With record rates of overweight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes in the US, the bottom line, according to CSPI senior staff attorney, Ringel Heller, is "companies should market their foods without resorting to the deceit and dishonesty that's so common today. And, if they don't, the FDA should make them.


NYT: Six Meaningless Claims on Food Labels

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Innovative reality programming? If I Can Dream

If I Can Dream is a new interactive reality show that will premier on Hulu. The show will allow viewers to choose which camera they watch (the stars will be living together in a fully wired house), and to give the participants advice on their performance career via social networking sites. Is this good innovation or have producers finally jumped the shark on reality programming? What do you think?

(Millionaire) Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me A Match

Patty Stanger, founder and CEO of The Millionaire’s Club, is a firecracker. I have some questions and reservations about the value of a dating service that hooks up single male millionaires (and on occasion, a female) from all around the country with PYTs in Los Angeles, but I also have to give Patty props. I mean, it is obviously entertaining—Bravo’s The Millionaire Matchmaker is a smash hit. And it is apparently very lucrative.
Are you too busy hopping about in your private jet from boardroom to private estate to just ask a girl/guy out to dinner Saturday night? Are you afraid that those Armani suits are only attracting gold diggers? Well, Patty will take the guess work out of the dating game and deliver the meat market to you…for a LARGE fee. These ain’t prices. For $20,000, and on up there, she’ll bring you sea of average intelligence hot girls in stilettos and push up bras, which is her makeover recommendation for every “average Annie” and aspiring model that shows up at her agency hoping to get an invite to an exclusive meet and greet for the chance to snag a millionaire. Seriously, WTF?

Friday, January 29, 2010

CSMonitor's Patchwork Nation: A cool new journalistic display of quantitative news stories

Today I discovered Patchwork Nation over at the CSMonitor website. It's a geospatial display of statistics (by US county) that the publication talks about in news articles, and is correlated with demographic characteristics of each county. I'm not sure how accurate the demographic information is, but the stories are pretty compelling. Today's article on the use of payday lending across the US is not particularly surprising, but interesting nevertheless.

From 2008: Michela Wrong on why women make better investigative journalists

I just discovered this little rant from way back when, and I have to say, I kindof love it.  Especially this part--After Michela Wrong receives a call from a young aspiring male journalist who is looking for tips on his latest project, a book about Africa, despite having no experience covering African stories, she muses:
I realised that my conversations with aspirant writers, and there have been dozens, had one thing in common: they all involved the male of the species. Africa is full of female reporters who tramp through Darfur’s refugee camps and grit their teeth during Mogadishu firefights. Yet not one of these indomitable females has ever called me for the Quick Guide to Successful African Book Writing. I think I know the reason. It’s the same one that ensured I tried my hand at being an author only after 16 years of journalism. Women probably see an Africa book as featuring Africa first, their own exploits second. They fear they know too little, have nothing original to say. Even in this neo-feminist era, they have a sneaking suspicion they are not worthy.
Now, I won't deem to paint all women with such a broad brush,  but it is an intersting counterpoint to all those articles telling us we need to be more like men.  I can just hear what those career counselors would say--that's because those women are too shy, too reticent to reach out and ask for help, and too self-doubting to recognize their own abilities!  While there may be some truth to that, too (I often have to push my female friends to not be afraid to draw on their network for help in projects or career searching), there's also definitely something to Wrong's point.  Growing up as a woman has a tendency to make us more convinced of what we can't do than what we can, and in some cases, that lends a beneficial pensiveness to our actions.  For example, some female journalists might find it necessary to do some research on African subjects before making them the topic of our latest vanity project.

Recipe Fridays: Turkey Meatloaf with Mushrooms and Herbs

When it is in the middle of winter with freezing weather every warm, hearty, and comfort food sounds like the perfect end to a long day. Normally, I shy away from meatloaf, but this recipe uses ground turkey which is leaner and makes ordinary meatloaf a little more upscale. I found this recipe when I needed something quick and simple for a dinner party a few months ago. Not only did it win rave reviews from the dinner party guests, but also from everyone else I passed the recipe along to.

Thanks to Bon Appetit for the delicious Turkey Meatloaf recipe.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sex-Offenders Can Now Access Victims' Medical Records?

This should have been just another story of girl sues boy for sexual assault.

Multimillionaire Jeffery Epstein is being sued by women alleging he paid them to give him massages (while nude) when they were as young as 14. Some of the women also reported being sexually assaulted by Epstein.

To defend his client's irreparable emotional damage to these ladies, Epstein's lawyer is digging through their painful memories and (better yet) their medical records. The judge on the case, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele, decided this was totally OK. He agreed that the lawyers could subpoena the women's abortion records... as long as the women had priorly been questioned about their abortion history.

This precedent could mean you have to wave goodbye to your right to privacy. Also, these lawyers are trying to win this case by arguing that if you have had a traumatic life event, you can't suffer further psychological damage from being sexually assaulted by an adult when you are 14. I have just one question: Why are the victims on trial here?

For clarity, this is the civil suit following his criminal conviction and incarceration.

Hat tip to V.M. for sending me this link.

Recipe Fridays: Baked Salmon with a Fresh Tomato-Based Sauce

I love salmon, and this is one of my favorite recipes to make. It's a great dish to make for a celebratory dinner, a dinner party, or just a regular evening at home! I created it on my own (so you'll have to trust me that it's been delicious every single time I've made it), but I draw inspiration from one of my favorite cooking sites!

Ingredients (for 4 people):
4 salmon fillets
2 medium-sized tomatoes
1/3 of a medium-sized red onion
1 tbs olive oil
2-3 tbs honey mustard
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp honey
1 lime
fresh parsley or cilantro
ground black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp salt
cumin/coriander (or both)
basil/oregano (or both)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Finely chop up the tomatoes and onions. In a bowl, mix the chopped tomatoes and onions, and add oil, vinegar, mustard, wine, and honey. Squeeze lime juice into the mix. Add the spices to taste. Place the salmon fillets on a greased baking sheet, and pour the sauce generously over the salmon fillets, so that it covers them evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Add fresh chopped parsley/cilantro a couple minutes before taking the salmon out of the oven. The salmon should flake and have a tender pink color on the inside when it's ready.

Serve with sauteed vegetables and rice. Enjoy!

Image from Cooking Light

State of the Union doesn't soar, but may still redeem

Last night President Obama delivered his State of the Union address in DC. His 71 minute speech (6th longest SotU!) was not the soaring rhetoric we have come to expect from him, and he didn't spend too much time being Professor Obama. In the end, Obama's speech was a very real and sober conversation, complete with sarcasm, irony, and even a few jokes. He made it very clear that his focus this year would be on the economy and creating jobs. He also made it clear that the partisan bickering inside Washington would not do:

"Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency, that embodies their strength."

I noticed that healthcare did not show up until halfway through the speech, but it served as a pivot to another theme of the night: the partisanship in Washington. Obama has spent much time this past year trying to get Republicans on board, to get them to vote for his policies. For the most part, it hasn't worked. Obama's major piece of economic legislation, the Recovery Act, was passed largly along a party vote. He used his State of the Union to implore Congress to try again, take another look at the plans he is proposing. Whether that will help pass his domestic policy agenda remains to be seen.

Some randomness:
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan was the designated survivor this year.
For the fashion inclined.....
First Lady Michelle Obama looked lovely in a plum colored Issac Mizrahi outfit. Purple was a popular color last night; Senator Boxer, Speaker Pelosi, and Dr. Jill Biden all wore shades of purple, and Rep. Boehner and the Vice President donned purple ties.

It wasn't the best speech he's made, nor the worst. But it was straightforward and real, and that's worth something.

Whole Foods announces BMI-based employee discount program. Seriously?!

This is NOT ok.  Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has announced in a letter to all store employees that they can increase their employee discount from 20% to 30% by meeting certain health measure criteria.   Those health criteria include not smoking, having certain cholersterol levels, and having below a certain BMI.

Jezebel points out that these health indicators are necessarily under the employee's control, and therefore an inappropriate basis for an incentive package.  Moreover, they may violate discrimination laws.  Moreover moreover, they're based on medical information that should be confidential, lest an employer decide to drop you because you're too expensive to insure!

Just how bad is it?  Let's look at the completely inappropriate standards:
That's right, to be in the platinum rankings, you have to have less than a 24 BMI.  Now, I consider myself a healthy individual, but I do not have less than a 24 BMI.  Neither do most of my friends.  Who does have that low of a BMI?  People who have naturally slim builds, diet a lot, or work as a fashion model.  Is there an extra prize for being anorexic?  Just asking.

More of my ranting, and the full John Mackey letter and promotion poster after the jump.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The iPad is here! You can put your inferior kotex brands away.

The iPad has finally been announced, meaning that the blogosphere is abuzz with how this "changes the game" and "shakes things up."  It's also abuzz with how the name makes us think uncomfortably about our menstrual cycles.  Jezebel's got the hilarious twitter feed.
Sample quotes:
auxfruit: If I order this, will my boyfriend and I have to worry if it comes late?
andBegorrah: If you and your friends all buy one, will they sync up?
vlvtjones: So will iffy Wifi coverage be called iSpotting?
morninggloria: Can I get a scented iPad for when my data feels not-so-fresh?
As for the Pad itself, personally, I kinda don't get it...yet.  To me it seems like an awkward device.  How do I watch video on it--do I hold it?  If I want to type on a plane, do I put it flat and look down on the screen?  How can I use it to read on the treadmill?  Given how highly anticipated it was, I can't help feeling like it's a bit of a letdown (especially for people who were hoping for neato ways to read magazines and newspapers).  But let's remember that when the iPod came out, it was clunky and hard to use, too.  It took a long time for us to see how it had really changed things.  To demonstrate this, check out this video of Steve Jobs introducing the iPod in 2001, which makes it seem like 2001 was a realllly long time ago.  (Sample Steve Jobs rhetorical question: "Why can't I just play music on my iBook?  Because the iBook is portable, but the iPod is ultra portable.")

Gizmodo has all the details if you want to find out more about the Pad's specifications.  They also have 8 things that suck about it, and I can't help finding their criticisms persuasive.

Just in time for the State of the Union: Introducing...Lady on the Hill!

To boost our political coverage and provide in-depth commentary on DC happenings, we have a new blogger joining us from the beltway.  Lady has a masters in public policy and currently works in government operations in our nation's capital.  She spent a year as a teacher in an urban area before grad school.  She'll be sharing her expertise on politics, policy, education, national security, and more.  Expect regular posts on the Obama administration that are dishier than a West Wing press briefing!
First up, she'll tackle tonight's SOTU address, so check back tomorrow!

Healthcare Can't Wait

Tonight President Obama will remind us all that the nation is in a state of crisis. He’ll probably do it in an eloquent, reassuring, hope-inspiring way (at least, I hope), but that’s the general message. The Union isn’t so much united as floundering in a sea of crisis that erupted on Wall Street and usurped Main Street. The conservatives say that Obama’s agenda is too broad. That he overcommitted and overpromised and we should all feel let down or lied to. They want him to back off on healthcare and focus on the economy and how to create new jobs in America. Well, for a president in a time of multiple crises, he’s going to have to have multiple foci. And I’m glad that he has maintained that healthcare is and must be a priority.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Introducing...Not a Knockoff!

We have a real live designer joining our team!  Not a Knockoff works as an accessory designer in New York City, giving her access to all the latest trend forecasts, in addition to her own wicked sense of style.  She's a great addition to our team for another reason, which is that she's never afraid to speak her mind and offer her sometimes contrarian perspective on the topic at hand.  Not a Knockoff will be writing about fashion (naturally), wardrobe tips, and the latest trends, in addition to things that are less directly in her area of expertise, like what she thinks of the newest tech gadget or opera show.  Welcome to the team!

What is dry sex, and why do you need to know about it?

Two events occurred this summer that introduced me to one of the few kinky sexual practices I'd rather not hear about.  First, I spent three months in Zambia, one of the countries where dry sex is regularly practiced.  Second, I read Elizabeth Pisani's incredible book on AIDS and the AIDS industry, The Wisdom of Whores.  Because some of the language in this post is necessarily graphic, and because the content here makes me feel somewhat ill and you might be eating lunch while reading, click through if you would like to learn more.

Monday, January 25, 2010

OK Cupid analyzes what "works" in profile photos

The popular hipster (or at least hipper) dating site OK Cupid has taken data from its members photos to examine which sorts of photos get the most messages.  They bash popular profile photo "myths" that command online daters to keep their chests covered, always smile, make eye contact, and never take their own photo.  Among their findings: the much-maligned "MySpace photo" gets plenty of hits, the power of cleavage increases with age, and flirty-face gets more attention than smiling.  Of course, they only do lip-service to the idea of omitted variables--that the reason flirty-faced pics get more hits could have to do with the underlying characteristics of those driven to take such pics, and not the expression at all.  They also note that the things that lead to instant attention (messages) versus long-term connection (meaningful conversations, dates) are not the same.  What the study does show, though, is that it's probably better to be yourself in your pic than try to follow the advice of online dating "experts" (including OK Cupid).  Are you an OK Cupid user?  What do you think of their findings?

OK Trends: The four big myths of profile pictures

Some fashion for the men out there...

Gawker has a "look book" of CNN anchor Don Lemon.  I must say, the man's quite the chameleon.  He's like the barbie of 24 hour news.  What Don Lemon look is your favorite?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

SAG awards red carpet wrap-up

The SAG awards were on a Saturday, so complete dress lists won't be up until tomorrow, but here's the rundown for now.

Rate the dresses at, TLo's got your bitchy critiques, Jezebel has reports from the red carpet, but no best and worst yet, and People apparently works on weekends and has your best dressed list.  More to come, I'm sure.

Lea Michele looked amazing, as did Mariah CareyDrew Barrymore blew it with the hair and makeup.  I love Meryl, whatever she wears (which apparently was Chris March at the Globes!).

Oh, and for a winner's list, check out Dave Karger's blog here.  Also, apparently Brangelina are breaking up for real this time?  That actually makes me sad.

Updates: EW's got their best and worst up, and say Brangelina are not, after all, breaking up. 
Update 2: The Fug Girls have gone to work, as has Jezebel (the good, the bad, and the rest).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Femonomics at the Movies: Daybreakers

The Viewer's Angle

Daybreakers is the kind of action film that I wait all year for, but thankfully Hollywood saw fit to bestow it on us the first week of January.

Daybreakers tells the story of a world where most people are vampires, and humans are a scarce resource quickly running out (read: oil, water, food, etc.). Our hero, Edward (Ethan Hawke) is a vampire hematologist with a conscious, searching for a human blood replacement and abstaining from the authentic stuff himself.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Here are three interesting links:

Jezebel: Ready for Primetime: TV dramas tackle unplanned pregnancy
NYMag: The Abortion Distortion: Just how pro-choice is America, really?
Joan Malin (of Planned Parenthood): Abortion is Healthcare

Please share your own links, as well as your thoughts on what Roe means to you, women, and society.  I know I'm opening up to this by introducing a controversial topic, but please keep it clean and polite. 

Recipe Fridays: Chocolate Chunk Macaroons

So this is one of my go-to cookies recipes. They are fast, easy, and most importantly, absolutely delicious! I discovered this recipe when I was flipping through my copy of Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook. Every party, picnic, or gathering I have brought these to they've disappeared in the blink of an eye. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chunk Macaroon Cookies, courtesy of Get the recipe here.

Introducing...Recipe Fridays: Ratatouille pot pie

We're introducing a new feature here on femonomics.  Although I'm constantly making resolutions to cook more during the week, I do most of my stirring, slicing, and sauteing on the weekends.  And I do almost all of my experimenting with new recipes between Friday and Sunday.  So we thought we'd kick your weekend off right with a new recipe (or two!) to try.  Check back every Friday for new recipes, some from our own contributors, and some from elsewhere on the grand ole web.

To kick things off, here's a recipe from the NYTimes that I made a few months ago.  It was amazingly delicious, and a wonderful, hearty winter dish.  Being vegetarian, I of course pulled a switcheroo on the sausage for Smart Sausages, but you can try any meatless brand, or leave it as-is if you're a carnivore.  If you're using vegan sausage, slice each piece in half vertically, then slice the two halves together as though making rounds to get half-moons.  Then just saute briefly.

Let me warn you, this recipe is not all that easy (but it is worth it).  It's definitely more of a dish to make if you have a little time and want a really delicious, hearty, one-dish meal.  There are a lot of different steps, and it requires a lot of different containers and pans.  If I were going to do it again, I think I would try just sauteing all the vegetables, instead of slow-roasting the eggplant and zucchini like she does.  I'm sure I'd lose some flavor, but it would save a lot of time!

NYT: Ratatouille and sausage pot pie with cornmeal biscuits

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nicholas Kristof's not afraid to take on Haiti myths and misinformation, and I thank him for it

Nicholas Kristof takes on the misconceptions spread by Bill O'Reilly, Pat Robertson, and Rush Limbaugh.  His column is remarkable because it takes on the ugliest and most misinformed reactions of commenters and brings them into a thoughtful, reasoned discussion.  It's a difficult thing to talk to people who only want to spew invective, but somebody needs to do it.

NYT's Nicholas Kristof: Some frank talk about Haiti

Scott Brown Pimps His Daughters and Makes Me Femangry

In case you missed it, here is a gem of a clip from Scott Brown's acceptance speech. Did the Senator-elect show his possible sexist side by offering his daughters up as objects to the entire nation? Or was it just a super creepy mistake? Typically, being the child of a politician gives the masses all the permission they need to critique and objectify freely, so all Brown did was speed the process along.

Unsurprisingly, the comment boards lit up in response with disgusting posts from anonymous creeps letting the world know what they would want to do and to which of the daughters.

Here is my challenge:

Commenters, man up and use your real name when you tell us which condiments you want to see us slathered in.

I strongly believe that if anonymity were banned, over 98% of the crap posted would go away out of shame. But as long as this trash floats freely on the internet it just perpetuates the impression that misogyny is a accepted pillar of our society. If you don't believe in your words enough to go on record with them... why are you still typing?

CLARIFICATION: I was challenging Gawker, etc.'s readers, not you. While we're flattered you want to slather us in condiments, we were hoping to get somewhat away from the whole objectification thing.

Decorum: Internet Protocol Redefined, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down

I am not very internet savvy. My girl, Coca CoLo, asked me if I wanted to contribute to her blog and I thought, hey it’s 2010 I should jump onto this information superhighway since it appears to be the road to the future! So, now I’m learning all kinds of cool new things. I’m new to the blogosphere and as I click around this strange world, I am shocked to find that it can be a seriously hostile environment.
While there is lots of information out there to exchange and plenty to learn, sometimes message boards and discussion threads can get a little out of control and abusive. People feel that they can actually attack someone personally just because they disagreed with or were annoyed by something posted on a blog? Is there no internet protocol? I have to wonder if some of these sharp-tongued folks would be so mean if there was accountability for the things they say. If commenting weren’t anonymous, if you had to call me a f*cking insipid b*tch to my face, would you?

John Edwards finally admits paternity; Mainstream media forced to eat crow in face of National Enquirer's investigative superiority

In news that surprises almost no one, John Edwards has finally admitted he's the father of Frances Quinn Hunter.  Part of Edwards' statement reads: "It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter, and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me."  Good luck with that.

The news has the mainstream media scrambling with how to cope with a story they obviously should have pursued, and broken, while this man was vying to be the President of our country.  The NYTimes doesn't even have the news on their website's frontpage, perhaps trying to downplay a story they fumbled?  The story, the National Enquirer's laudable coverage, and the mainstream media's complete indifference and incompetence have led some to wonder whether the Enquirer deserves a Pulitzer for their work.  Emily Miller has a long and thoughtful discussion here (via Gawker).  Miller offers up an old piece from Slate saying the Enquirer's accuracy is underrated.

For my thoughts, I can't believe the news sources we rely on messed this up so badly.  Look, I'm not saying they need to jump down the throats of every guy who's ever been unfaithful.  But being unfaithful with someone on your staff who you are paying to make totally irrelevant campaign materials with campaign money and who likely only became part of your staff after you started diddling her, then lying about it repeatedly and indignantly, having donors pay her hush money, and making an extremely strange deal with your top aide for him to claim paternity, all while your wife is dying of breast cancer displays some serious flaws in judgment (not to mention violations of election laws) we the American people might want to know about before electing this man to lead our country.  Mmm-kay, media people?

See this piece in New York Mag (excerpted from Game Change) for an unbelievable timeline of what was unfolding during the election.  When you have your own former staffers conspiring to keep you from the nomination and the mainstream media hasn't said a peep, something is wrong.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What does Scott Brown's win mean for you?

Scott Brown's victory over once-believed shoo-in Martha Coakley for Ted Kennedy's senate seat surely has many implications, but it may or may not affect whether the health care legislation is passed.  The Democrats have a couple options to pass the bill (Times Online has a good analysis), which would not force them to face the filibuster, and their new inability to override.

Firstly, they could pass the Senate bill exactly as-is, meaning the same version of the bill would have been passed by both the House and the Senate, and send the bill directly to President Obama.  Some are reluctant to do this because they have reservations about the Senate version of the bill. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This just in: Women are earning more now than in 1970, marriage is not easy

The most popular article on today reveals the shocking news that women's increasing income has led to shifting patterns of dating and marriage. The article seems pretty even-handed (if heteronormative), but is surprising to me for two reasons. 1) That this is news at all. The article analyzes income data from 1970 to 2007, and we've known about these changes for quite a while now (decades). 2) For a man bites dog story, this has resonated hugely with readers. It was posted yesterday and is already the number one story.

The Pew Center (who wrote the report) gives the topic an interesting spin: women's gains in income are relatively better for men when the marriage market is taken into consideration. I think this kind of messaging can convince skeptics that feminism is good for everyone (including men). However, I think the NYTimes' focus on how the new dynamics tilt the marriage market against high-achieving women is not so great. This was definitely not the main message of the report, and seems like imposing a narrative that might not be quite right or appropriate.

Red Alert!

Residents in a South Buffalo neighborhood had an unpleasant surprise last week. The snow covering their streets, lawns, and houses was pink instead of white. This pinkish tinge is suspected to be the result of contamination from a nearby chemical plant being demolished. Air quality testing and chemical tests to determine the identity of the red compound are currently underway. But it is expected to be red dye 40, a commonly used food coloring dye, which was being manufactured by the plant. Don't you totally love how we always have to find out whether these things are safe AFTER the fact?

Photo via Charles Lewis/Buffalo News

On Ideology

I will come out and say this right away - I really don't enjoy debates and arguments. I know that lots of people enjoy them; I know that they can constitute a good way to open people's minds to other points of view; I know that they can be good exercises in the art of speaking clearly and making coherent and powerful arguments. However, I really don't find joy in debating for the sake of debating. You can blame it on my lack of practice, my English as a second language, my ignorance about certain topics, or my natural propensity to be shy in large groups. Most of all though, I am opposed to debates when they are rooted in pure ideology because I think that this can be very damaging to public opinion and, perhaps more distantly, to public policy and change (or lack of change).

Would you please shut up?

I can't be the only one who's thought that in a social situation--right? Here's my story.

Hi. My name is duchess, and I'm a vegan.

The reasons why don't concern you. No, really, they don't. It doesn't matter if I'm vegan because I'm an environmentalist, if I don't like to eat animals, if I'm just trying to be healthier, if I get sick when I eat meat or dairy, or if I just don't like the taste. It doesn't matter if I wear leather or if I don't, or whether I belong to animal protection groups or not. (As for which of those really do apply to me: I'm not telling. Some do and some don't, and that's all you need to know.)

The Gender Politics Of Dining Out (v2.0)

So I went out to dinner again last night and something amusing happened. Remember this post, in which I asked why I was always given the Diet Coke and the man I was on the date with was always given the regular Coke, even though I never order diet?

Well, last night, it reached a new height (or low?). I was out with a group and I sat down. The waitress came by and asked me if I wanted anything to drink and, though I'm trying to cut down on caffeine, I was exhausted. So I of course asked for a Coke.

For the record, I'm sure I was clear about this partially because I never order Diet Coke but mostly because after the waitress left I thought of my other blog post and started a discussion with everyone at the table. The women, of course, were shocked that I never drink Diet Coke and related their own stories of "teaching myself to drink it" several years before.

The waitress, meanwhile, had left without hearing our conversation. She returned five minutes later and says, "Here's your Diet Coke!"

I stared at her in disbelief and the whole table laughed. She didn't understand why, but I thought she'd done a great job of proving my point.

And you thought I was hard on David Brooks

Matt Taibbi vehemently and hilariously takes down David Brooks' insanely insensitive column.  Some choice words:
An earthquake is nobody’s fault. There’s nothing to do after a deadly earthquake but express remorse and feel sorry. It’s certainly not the time to scoff at all the victim country’s bastard children and put it out there on the Times editorial page that if these goddamned peasants don’t get their act together after a disaster this big, it might just be necessary to start swinging the big stick of Paternalism at them.

Metaphorically speaking, he’s standing over the rubble and telling the people trapped under there that they need more of a “No Excuses” culture, which is insane on many different levels.
He also provides a helpful cliff notes version of Brooks' argument:
TRANSLATION: Although it is true that Haiti was just like five minutes ago a victim of a random earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people, I’m going to skip right past the fake mourning period and point out that Haitians are a bunch of lazy niggers who can’t keep their dongs in their pants and probably wouldn’t be pancaked under fifty tons of rubble if they had spent a little more time over the years listening to the clarion call of white progress, and learning to use a freaking T-square, instead of singing and dancing and dabbling in not-entirely-Christian religions and making babies all the fucking time
[True Slant, via Gawker]

Earlier: David Brooks says earthquake casualties caused by voodoo religion and anti-progress culture

Chris Blattman on why the easy story in Haiti may be misleading, and potentially devastating

Chris Blattman has a good piece on how the media is going after the "looting in Haiti" story, as is common after natural disasters, but that the looting and disorder in Haiti might actually be less severe than in most recent natural disasters.

He concludes:
Peacekeepers are undoubtedly needed. So is support for a struggling, possibly collapsed, state. I just want to suggest that an aid and security policy designed for thieving, ungovernable, progress-resistant Haitians looks very different from one that views civil society institutions as shaken but fundamentally strong.
I’m worried because the latter doesn’t make a very good news story.
The narrative of Haiti as a lawless, despondent place took root long before this catastrophe, and I'm with Blattman in worrying that it might be affecting our approach to relief aid and reconstruction policy.  For instance, would we be talking about an omnipotent Relief Fund with carte blanche to rebuild in a place with a better reputation?

Chris Blattman: Messaging, the media, and Haiti
Jeffrey Sachs: After the earthquake, how to rebuild Haiti from scratch

Donate to Haiti Partners via Chris Blattman

Jezebel on why women shouldn't just try to be like men

I liked this.  It turns out, trying to "act like a man" in the workplace only works if a) our bosses will respond to us the same way as they do to men (which we know they don't) and b) if we're willing to accept that the only positive traits to have in one's career are those associated with the "male" gender, (which I'm not).
What do you think about women trying to--or needing to--act like "men" to get ahead?

Jezebel: 3 reasons why women can't be more like men

Monday, January 18, 2010

FDA Reversal on BPA Safety Ruling

This past Friday, the FDA announced a recent study had raised “some concern” about the safety of Bisphenol A and its impact on the health and development of our children. This finding was in direct opposition to their position in 2008 that the chemical was safe.

As introduced by Coca Colo, I am a scientist. But even with a PhD in chemistry, I find it is difficult to navigate the latest health and safety warnings and keep on top of which foods and consumer products I should or should not be using.

Recently, I have been following debate over the safety of Bisphenol A (BPA). I am constantly surprised that people have missed this news story—even a chemist I used to work with was not familiar with it. BPA is a chemical that used in the production of plastics. As I mentioned, the FDA has now expressed concern about BPA, but others have been worried much earlier. Let me give you a brief history.

Today, I'm Not Mad At Harry Reid

As my pseudonym suggests, I have a complicated background. Growing up in Montgomery, AL, presented several challenges for a girl from the West side raised by blue collar parents. I remember my childhood in long bus rides across town to the more affluent neighborhood schools (read: white). My friends had straight blond hair, nicer houses, and it never seemed that their parents had to worry about where the next meal was coming from or how the power bill would be paid any particular month. At age 8, friends from school invited me to church and pretty soon I was living a life in two different worlds and I was learning the value of camouflage. I learned to fit in to a world where it became a joke to suggest that I was actually a black American. And I eventually learned to turn the proper down a notch when answering my phone at home, so as not to confuse family friends into thinking they had called a house that belonged to “somebody white” and hanging up. I taught myself to take it as a compliment when older white ladies in my church described me as “articulate” (Reid: speaking without a Negro dialect). I did notice that they never described my white friends that way—it was assumed that they would speak standard written American English. But I am neither mad at them nor Senator Reid.

I capitalized on the opportunities that being the polite, articulate little black girl brought me.

Your golden globes red carpet wrap up

People's got the best dressed list, EW has the best and worst and 30 dresses for you to rate, Jezebel's got the good (I'm sure the bad and ugly are coming soon), NYmag's got pretty complete pics of everyone who was on the red carpet (but many stars hid inside), The Fug Girls are getting started tearing people apart, and TLo as always has the snark (but also the runway pics to go with each dress).
My personal favorites were Maggie Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner's dress but not hair, Sandra Bullock (looked better onstage), and Emily Blunt.

Everyone looked a bit skinny to me, and Vera Farmiga needs to learn what to do with herself, because she's a lovely woman under all that.

What did you think of the red carpet?

Updates: Here's Jezebel's The Bad, and this is pretty freakin' hilarious.  Nora Ephron ripped up her acceptance speech when The Hangover won.

(And can I just say: The Hangover?! Robert Downey Junior?! Sandra Bullock?!  Lord help us at the Oscars.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

David Brooks says earthquake casualties caused by voodoo religion and anti-progress culture. Solution: paternalism!

Brooks’ poorly argued, enormously insensitive, and borderline racist column takes on the role Haitian poverty played in exacerbating the consequences of the earthquake, and how he believes locally-led paternalism (whatever that is), not aid, is the answer to Haiti’s plight.

He opens:
On Oct. 17, 1989, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the Bay Area in Northern California. Sixty-three people were killed. This week, a major earthquake, also measuring a magnitude of 7.0, struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Red Cross estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 people have died. This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services.

Introducing...Mad Dr!

We have a scientist joining our team!  The very same lady who, with the help of her friends, coined the term "femangry!" is joining us as a blogger.  MadDr recently completed a PhD in chemistry, so she'll be our science consultant, analyzing science articles in the news and giving us the real deal.  She's currently living in the beltway, so she'll have plenty of reports from there, too.  She's interested professionally in environmental policy, and personally in photography, music, and chemicals that are bad for us.  Expect to hear from her on all three, and, of course, whenever something makes her femangry!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Femonomics at the movies: Welcome to awards season!

I'm an awards season fiend, and I like to try to see all the Oscar nominated films (and performances, if I'm really ambitious) before the show.  This year, awards season is upon us (the Golden Globes are Sunday), and I've only seen a few of the films.  Some I'm dying to see, others I'm happy to pass on.  Here's a list of the likely awards contenders, according to the blogs I read (Dave Karger's Oscar Watch and Pete Hammond's Notes on a Season, mostly).  I include my notes on the films I've seen or have heard something interesting about.  The other contributors will chime in with their thoughts on films they've seen, and I implore commenters to do the same!  Which movies are must-sees before Oscar season?  Who do you think deserves to win at the Globes this weekend?  Who will win?


Avatar: The plot is only serviceable, but the graphics are unbelievable.  See it in 3D or you're wasting your money (and time!).  I truly believe this film will change what consumers expect from films, and what producers believe is possible.  After seeing this visual feast, why would I want anything else?  (Now if only he'd hire a screenwriter next time...)

Life Skills: Unclogging a drain without chemicals

Note: This is a new feature at femonomics to help make us all a little more handy around the house, car, etc.  Let us know if there's any topics you'd like to see addressed!

Clogged drains are extremely frustrating and gross, but I don't want to even bring chemicals like Drano into my house. Here's a very effective way to unclog a drain with things you'll have on hand in the kitchen.

What you'll need: boiling water, baking soda, any kind of vinegar

Step One: Pour a full pot of boiling water into the basin and let it drain (this might be slow.) This melts the grease from soap, makeup, bath oils, etc, which is partly causing the clog. I repeat this step once or twice, just to be sure.

Step Two: Dump a pile of baking soda in the basin.

Step Three: Slowly pour vinegar onto the pile of baking soda until it all fizzes away. Any flavor vinegar will do, I recently used old apple cider vinegar. Repeat steps two and three if necessary/desired.

Step Four: Listen to the blissful gurgle of a proper drain!

This is also a great maintenance routine to perform on your drains every six weeks or so, to prevent clogs from ever forming.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Target Women: A Pretty Funny Look at How Commercials Appeal to Women

What do yogurt, cleaning products, and jewelry have in common? They are apparently all things that women secretly desire and experience tremendous amounts of joy when consuming or using them. A good friend sent me these 3 videos by Sarah Haskins called "Target Women", in which she presents a humorous take on commercials we've all seen a million times on TV.

Cleaning Products:


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Makeup on the Metro

An excellent way to save time, or a grooming habit that is better left for home, even when that means showing up somewhere with a naked face?

I've heard of this being discussed before, but I thought I'd bring it to femonomics--along with my own personal spin.

Now, if I'm going to talk about this, I guess I'd better own up: I apply makeup on mass transit all the time. Probably more than I should, because I'm pretty much chronically running late. I can usually get on the bus or train with just enough time for me to skid to a stop at my destination with thirty seconds to spare, but that's usually about as good as it gets.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Femonomics at the Movies: It’s Complicated

The Viewer’s Angle

Nancy Meyer’s new film, It’s Complicated, has fulfilled its promise to be a holiday crowdpleaser, having already garnered Golden Globe nominations and grossed over $75 million domestically.

Somewhat amusing and with an entirely pleasant story, It’s Complicated primarily seduces viewers with gorgeous sets depicting luxurious Southern California living and tableful after tableful of mouth-watering food spreads. The story follows divorcee and millionaire bakery owner Jane (Meryly Streep) as she hooks-up with her married ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) and courts Adam (Steve Martin), the architect designing an addition to her already palatial home.

These actors are able to produce some limited chemistry and are believable in their roles (imagine that! a trio of millionaires from Orange County playing a trio of millionaires from Santa Barbara County – what a stretch!)

Those looking for one of Streep’s impressive dramatic performances will not find it here, however.

Warm potato salad with green beans, capers, and truffle dressing

I whipped this up the other day when we had absolutely nothing to eat in the house except a potato and some smoked string cheese. It was fast, easy, and absolutely delicious.  (You can leave out the cheese to make it vegan.)

2 large potatoes, or 2 pounds of fingerling or another variety
Small handful green beans
4 oz smoked mozzarella cheese

1 Tb truffle scented oil
3 Tb olive oil
2 Tb white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
1 tsp mustard
1 Tb capers with 1 tsp caper brine
Pinch dried tarragon (optional)
Agave nectar or honey to taste (about a half teaspoon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil or microwave the potatoes until tender.  I prefer microwave--pierce all over with fork and nuke about 6 minutes per potato.  Boil or steam green beans until tender, but still bright green.  Cut mozzarella into half inch cubes.  Cut potatoes into one inch cubes (while still hot--you might want to hold it with an oven mitt).  Put potato cubes in bowl and quickly combine with mozzarella so the cheese becomes slightly melted.  Whisk together dressing ingredients.  Cut green beans into 1 inch pieces.  Add dressing and green beans to potatoes, stir to combine, and serve immediately.

Eye Candy from Dossier

I came across this site while spending a lazy Sunday afternoon sipping masala chai and blogging at cocoabar, the cozy space by my house that I have adopted as my quasi-living room. Dossier Journal is a Brooklyn-based "bi-annual arts and culture journal incorporating fashion, photography, creative writing, art, music and culinary pursuits." and I have already RSS'ed their Look tab: such beautiful treats! I especially love the Thom Kerr photos. He's an Aussie photographer and you can find more of these gorgeous fantasy photos and much, much more to soothe your sore eyes here.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Quel maison!

Kitsune maison is a french label that successfully marries 2 of my great loves: music and fashion. The French outfit launched in 2002 as a record label that put out releases ranging from straight up electro (Boys Noize, Alan Braxe) to the more indie-facing autoKratz and the chilled out croons of Au Revoir Simone. Their sampler albums have been an ipod staple of mine since around 2007 and I recommend you listen to each and every one. I guarantee that all volumes are a perfect DJ-replacement for any house party and even the earliest ones still sound so fresh. From bubbly (and in some cases even folky!) electro pop to dirtier, more expansive electro, you will have your guests moving their feet in no time. In terms of the clothes, the ladies line is a bit prep-tastic for me but I absolutely love the crisp yet soft lines and colours of the men's collection - particularly the Spring/Summer '10 line. Check out the just-shorter-than-bermuda shorts, ankle trousers, wickedly textured waistcoats and slim-cut blazers that scream effortless chic. I'm also coveting the pale aquamarine bow shorts - would that I had the pins to pull them off. They also have a line of cheeky tees - my personal favourite is the LIFE IS BORING stencil in salmon on that gorgeous aquamarine.

The below video showcases both the music and the fashion. I'll be uploading more music from this label soon.

Party Like it's 1929...and do your bit for World Peace!

On Friday evening I had the pleasure of catching the tail-end of a gathering at fashion space The 1929 – a popup store created by a collective of young designers who have recently lost their commercial spaces in the wake of the r*******n. You can check out their whimsical-yet-very-New-York collections on the corner of Mott and Broome. I first stumbled across the boutique about a week ago when I was wandering up Mott St. after some delicious duck at Big Wong King and ended up spending over an hour chatting with the super-friendly designers about their project “to bring fashion to the masses”. All the pieces are modified vintage - excellent quality and with deliciously un-delicate neo-embroidery, and plenty of jewel and zipper detailing. The standout piece was a body-con LBD with a voluptuous, sculptural collar built on a sweeping bateau neckline (think Queen Elizabeth I meets Marilyn Monroe) and made entirely of black and gold zippers. A smattering of cute, gold, star-shaped studs added to the sparkle. If you're still in the market for a winter coat, ask if Levi Okunov is around: he is a partner in running the space and also runs a design/down factory upstairs. Whether you're looking for a gold leather blinging bomber, an electric blue vinyl puffa with magenta raw silk lining and a tutu-esque skirt (my personal favourite), or just a common-or-garden black waterproof, he can whip you up a bespoke coat in a matter of days.

Naomi Wolf on women in bankruptcy--what do you think?

In this Project Syndicate piece, Wolf wonders why so many middle class women are going into bankruptcy.  A million middle class women will file for bankruptcy this year, she says, finding the number shockingly large.  She offers to potential reasons for these financial troubles a) women being enticed by luxury goods manufacturers and spending beyond their means and b) middle class women being reluctant to learn about and discuss money (finding it "unfeminine"), and expecting marriage to rescue them financially.

I find this interesting for two reasons.  I think reason "a" is equally likely to apply to men, and would be interested to hear how the number of middle class men filing for bankruptcy compares to women.  Men might not be getting into trouble on their wardrobes, but aren't they equally likely to get cars, electronics, and apartments they can't afford?  As for "b", while I agree many middle class women might not be getting the financial education they need from an early age, I'm not so sure it has anything to do with waiting for a husband.  I know a number of young, middle class women who have gotten themselves in financial trouble, but most of them have recognized that the men their age are equally financially insecure.  Marriage in the past generally involved a financial transfer from men to women, but that was before birth control, female career investment, and the decline of shotgun marriages (see Akerlof Yellen and Katz).  I don't know very many middle class women today who view marriage as a financial escape valve, but maybe my sample is wrong.  Do you?  What do you think about this article?
[hat tip to Woodstock]

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snookered - Kid Kitsch's song du jour

Funnily enough my pool obsession returned almost exactly when I discovered this track. I first heard Dan Deacon when I picked up a copy of Foggy Notions magazine at Barnardo's (A Dublin charity shop) two winters ago that came with a free copy of Kool Drool's Kool Pops vol. 1. It was the best mixtape I had heard in YEARS and after hearing Crystal Cat I fell instantly in love with Mr. Deacon's crazy synthscapey tunes and lo-fi sampling genius. A friend of mine mentioned him when we were bemoaning the state of electronic music today as an example of someone who has managed to stay on point. The start of this track almost sounds like it was made on Bloom (Brian Eno's glorious iPhone app) but that may be the best thing about it. The speech bubbles in the pirate video just add to the awesomeness.

Good for a lazy Saturday afternoon

So I've been catching up on all the reality tv shows I have not been watching while the rest of the world does. Namely, Jersey Shore (Even Michael Cera is getting in on the action on this one. Did you catch him getting guidofied by Pauly D?). The show is in that "it's so bad it's good" categories. In the past few days I've been reading some really great posts about the show so I thought I would share one that was entertaining and enlightening (I can always rely on Gawker)--and it has some videos! Check it out.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Gnocchi for the faint of heart

After a very slightly slobby few weeks of vacation I felt the need to get back in the kitchen while I still have the precious time. A good friend was coming over for lunch so I decided to try my hand at homemade gnocchi. As a gnocchi-from-scratch virgin I was excited to find this manageable-looking ricotta gnocchi recipe on Delicious Days. As promised, it was simple to make and the results were spectacular - fluffy, velvety pillows of yum. I replaced about a quarter of the fresh ricotta with a beautiful, creamy goats cheese (Robiola di Capra Carlina - fellow Lower-East-Siders can find it at my much-loved Formaggio Essex in the Essex St. Market), combined it with the yolk and parmeggiano and added some finely chopped fresh basil. I didn't measure out the flour, I just incorporated it into the cheesy, yolky mixture until it formed a very sticky dough. I turned the mixture out and formed the gnocchi directly onto a (heavily floured) chopping board to avoid the hassle of moving these delicate little dumplings around prior to the boil. I had a salsa finta on the burner during the process (lazy me replaced the tomato puree and sugar with ketchup), and just tore up the fresh basil into it, a la jamie oliver, right before I boiled the gnocchi. 3 minutes later I had a delicious and deceivingly impressive dish. Have a go: it's fabulous, and so much easier than you think.

Quick Ricotta Gnocchi
Recipe source:
Prep time: ~15 minutes
Ingredients (for 2):
250 g Ricotta
1 egg yolk (M-L)
1/4-1/2 tsp fine sea salt
30 g Parmigiano (or Pecorino), freshly grated
50-75 g all-purpose flour, extra for dusting the dough/board
serve with tomato sauce or any kind of pesto

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Womenomics from the Economist--is leading "like a woman" really so bad?

Hat tip to Woodstock.

Womenomics: Feminist management theorists are flirting with some dangerous arguments (The Economist)

The article opens by quoting some famous female leaders who supposedly represent a traditional meritocracy--Margaret Thatcher, who always ordered steak; Hilary Clinton who's not afraid to answer the phone at 3 a.m., and Dong Mingzhu, who says, “I never miss. I never admit mistakes and I am always correct.”

It then goes on to talk about new ideas about women in the workplace, suggesting that maybe women need not be men to get ahead (the horror):
But some of today’s most influential feminists contend that women will never fulfil their potential if they play by men’s rules... The new feminism contends that women are wired differently from men, and not just in trivial ways. They are less aggressive and more consensus-seeking, less competitive and more collaborative, less power-obsessed and more group-oriented. Judy Rosener, of the University of California, Irvine, argues that women excel at “transformational” and “interactive” management. Peninah Thomson and Jacey Graham, the authors of “A Woman’s Place is in the Boardroom”, assert that women are “better lateral thinkers than men” and “more idealistic” into the bargain...

Introducing...Kid Kitsch!

Kid Kitsch is a Middle Eastern scholar (well, technically still a student) who recently moved to the Lower East Side from her home far, far away.  As a recent import, she'll be our New York correspondent, writing about food and (mostly) underground fashion and music as well as whatever else she encounters wandering around the streets (and dipping into the different scenes) of Manhattan and Brooklyn. You may have already seen her around town, taking the subway in one of her fabulous eighties hipster outfits, rolling her own cigarettes outside a bar to avoid paying $11 a pack, or rocking out to electro at a loft party.  She'll have a busy semester, but we're glad to have her checking in every once and a while from the "scene".

Updated: TLo's got the goods on the dresses at the people's choice awards

I love dresses, and I love a little bitchy criticism to go with them.  TLo never disappoints.  Check out some of these fab little black and white frocks.  (TLo complains about the lack of color, but I definitely would not mind if any of these showed up in my closet!  Except maybe the bows.)

Update: And if that's not enough, check out Jezebel's the good and the bad lists, and EW's best and worst.

[Image via TLo]

How to fold a T-shirt--Martha style

Not to go all Feminine Mystique on you, but ever since I learned how to do the Martha Stewart T-shirt fold (hat tip to Jake), folding T-shirts has been somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me.  There's just something so...satisfying about sitting in front of the DVR with a big stack of freshly washed T-shirts after a long week, and magically transforming them into a pile of perfect little squares. Actually, since I don't wear that many T-shirts, it's usually the boyfriend's shirts that I fold in front of the tube.  But don’t worry too much—he does the laundry; I just fold it.  That’s our division of labor for two reasons: a) I like to fold and b) I am afraid of the basement.

Anyway, I promise that once you learn this folding technique cum magic trick, you'll find some small satisfaction in this task too.  I like to lay out the shirts in a big stack first and then fold them one after the other.  Illustrated instructions here, or click the photo.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gender discrimination or different preferences? And does it matter?

As an economics student, I've encountered two strands of literature on gender discrimination. There is one side that attempts to expose and document discrimination against women by measuring the wage gap that is unexplained by observable factors, by showing that the hiring and promotion of women orchestra players is increased when there are blind auditions with a screen, and by finding other examples of blatant gender discrimination in the job market. In the rest of the world, people often point out how women are portrayed differently in the media than men (Sarah Palin, for example), or how there's too much focus on women to be thin and young, or how women are stereotyped as being sensitive on the job. On the opposite extreme, there is a strand of literature that dismisses any notion of gender discrimination. This literature claims that women simply have different preferences than men (for example, they want to have children or to stay home with their children rather than work, or to be fit and work out), and that any evidence of "discrimination" is completely explained by these different tastes.

Introducing...Pearls N the Hood!

Pearls joins us from DC where she's had more than her share of healthcare, bureacracy, and policy woes.  A spunky gal whose body can't quite keep up, Pearls has plenty to complain about, but she'll do it with a smile.  Her unique background as a black Southernor from a private school and Ivy educated gives her a point of view all her own.  Expect to hear from her on healthcare, etiquette, current events, relationships (i.e., why men can't keep up), and more.  Pearls, we're so glad to have you on board!

Is Precious failing to cross over? Or did its distributors fail it? (And the race controversies of Precious)

EW’s Owen Gleiberman recently ran a piece on whether Precious is failing to resonate with wide audiences after a stellar run in limited release.  In another post, he suggests it “peaked too early.”  He worries that the film was only intensely appealing to African American and Art-house audiences, who largely drove its huge initial run.  Rather than psychoanalyze the film’s mass appeal, I favor a simpler explanation—the film was simply overshadowed by other Oscar-contending and heavily buzzed about pics, and didn’t reach audiences while they still had mental space for it.  To me, it seems like a case of the distributors failing to seize upon the positive initial buzz and expanding while people were still talking about the movie.  Slow releases have worked for indie films before, notably Napoleon Dynamite, but only where buzz was slow to build.  Precious has been out in industry circles since January ‘09, when it premiered at Sundance under the title “Push”, and was generating huge positive press, such as a front-cover Times magazine piece, right around the time of its limited release.  I think the distributors made a mistake by continuing to bank those big per theater grosses, without realizing they were coming at a cost to the film’s ultimate theatrical run. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Closure of Atlanta's charity dialysis clinic leaves some with

As an Atlanta resident, I've been hearing about the closure of our public hospital's dialysis clinics for months on the news. As we approach the deadline for services, however, the situation has been making national news. Grady's outpatient dialysis center has run at a large financial loss to the city for years and primarily serves illegal immigrants with no healthcare alternatives. To ease transition for existing patients, Grady has been paying relocation fees (back to Mexico) as well as offering services through a private contractor to bridge the gap. The primary criticism of this is that these patients will not be able to receive similar care in Mexico, and some have already had to cut back on treatments due to cost, a poor decision in more advanced cases of kidney disease.

We All Need a Guilty Pleasure...or Two

One of my many guilty pleasures happens to be reality television. One of my favorites is The Bachelor. Reading NY Mag's post about last night's premiere got me thinking...I initially scoffed at the premise of the show. 25 women all competing for a husband? Really? I secretly poked fun at my college friends who gushed over the rose ceremonies. And then I watched an episode. I was fascinated by the “I’m just looking for love” shtick, the drama, the sexy one-on-one dates, and eventually I was emotionally invested in the characters…I mean…the contestants…I mean…who or what are they, those women of The Bachelor? In this day and age of women’s independence and equality I watch the show and am overwhelmed by the portrayal of women as beautiful, sexual objects who are desperate for a husband. Sure they throw the “intelligent woman” or “career woman” in the mix, but even they are portrayed as slightly desperate for a man. (Like last night's premiere where the woman who is getting her PhD dresses up in a somewhat skimpy stewardess costume so Jake the pilot would give her a chance at love). They’re all catty and willing to push the other women under the bus just to get the coveted rose (remember Lauren from Jason’s season?? Gossiping about all the other women to make herself look better.) I mean, how can you take these supposedly progressive, modern day women seriously when they say things like, “You can land your plane on my landing strip anytime” while emphasizing their mile-long cleavages? Then the twist—The Bachelorette. Now men are all jumping for the chance to be with the woman. We see the men as competitive, insecure, and at times, vulnerable. Perhaps it evened the playing field a bit and perhaps it is still slightly projecting the woman-needing-a-man-to-be-complete idea into the mind of millions of viewers. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Best tech discoveries of '09--what are yours?

I'm a little behind on this, but NYT's David Pogue recently listed his top tech ideas of '09, including a camera that lets the subjects see how they look (right) and a magical feature that does away with ads and banners on any website (ironically something that would be supremely useful for browsing itself).  He also proffered his annual list of what he bought this year, which included a portable receipt scanner, great for anyone who needs to file expense reports (or who currently has a shoebox of receipts sitting in our bedroom--ahem, boyfriend, ahem).  One of my best tech discoveries this year was Papers, a software--only for macs, sorry--that helps you manage and store PDF files (hat tip to George).  It's great for those of us constantly downloading PDFs from the internet, only to lose them on our hardrive and have to download them all over again.  Now if only they would integrate it with a citation manager--because after all, who wants to use separate programs to write their papers versus their bibliographies?

What was your favorite tech discovery this year?  Links please!

NYT: The Pogie Awards for the Year's Best Tech Ideas