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Leigh Newman (186 posts)
As if he wasn't blue-eyed enough, sharp-jawed enough or cut enough (perhaps you too glanced in the open V of his rumpled, unbuttoned shirt in The Hangover?), it also turns out that Bradley Cooper speaks fluent—and very sexy—French.
One hundred years ago today, the world's largest ship, the Titanic, was launched into the dark, cold waters of Belfast. Fourteen years ago, the world's first movie to rake in over a billion dollars, Titanic, was released into the dark, warm theaters of America.
In homage, I planned to break out the DVD and Kleenex. Unfortunately, I don't own the movie and physical video rental stores no longer exist. On YouTube, I thought I'd found a way to bawl quietly and quickly at my desk: The Five-Second Titanic.
The Five-Second Titanic lacks the beauty and mystery of the 1994 regular Titanic. There is a sweep of dreamy music, then a clip of a minor character saying in a fancy English accent, "This ship can't sink." After which, splash, the ship sinks.
I've ruined the joke but not the point: Sometimes, exceptionally complex things in life can be distilled down to a single moment.
A close friend of mine recently told me a story about her old, dear college roommate, Sarah, who didn't come to her mother's funeral. Sarah, my friend told me, had had all kinds of terrible situations with her own mother. Sarah had two kids. Sarah was under a lot of stress at work. Sarah had troubles with intimacy. But Sarah was still a good person and a good friend.
I listened to all this. I groped around for something to say. But what I needed was a video camera in order to tape the 10 minutes that my friend spent talking about Sarah, then cut the footage down to the five seconds during which she said, "Sarah didn't come to my mom's funeral."
Yes, life is complicated and messy. Yes, people do regrettable things for a myriad of understandable reasons. But sometimes five seconds all is we need to tell us what is really going on in a relationship. Then we can spend the next five—or 5,000—seconds figuring out what to do about it.
The Friendship Quiz: Good friend? Bad friend?
Martha Beck on what friends never do
What makes Oprah and Gayle's friendship special?
Seven years ago, when all the lights went off in New York City, I did not assume, as the rest of the world did, that we were dealing with a multistate blackout. I thought we were being attacked by terrorists, who had knocked out the lights so that they could move on to the next phase in their plan. Accordingly, I threw on my flip-flops and grabbed my laptop, my mother's pearls, a jar of peanut butter and my dog, Leonard.
I was panting. The dog was wheezing. I held up my backpack in triumph. We had peanut butter, pearls and a computer to live on!
My husband sighed. "At least we know what you'll take in case of a fire." He, of course, would have taken our social security cards and birth certificates and other practicalities such as his shoebox of high school cassette tapes for which we have no tape player.
It turns out that we are not that unique in our understanding of what's really important. The new site The Burning House documents what people worldwide would grab from their homes in case of a fire. The objects are arranged and photographed, creating surprisingly intimate portraits.
The loveliest are poetic mixes of antique keys and beloved books. But a shockingly huge amount of people included their Mac laptops, passports and pets. Other quirkier items include an antique British maritime crest, a volcanic rock from Mt. Kilimanjaro and a "coconut broke with my head." One practical guy included a cast-iron skillet (presumably to cook food?) and a bottle of musk (to disguise body odor)—apparently confusing running out of a burning house with running out of burning house into a survivalist world without showers or restaurants.
Kids, of course, understand what's really crucial. Six-year old Brody grabbed his Garfield cup, his Lego helicopter, a bumblebee Transformer and a yellow belt (via FlavorPill.com).
There are a lot of children's picture books out there that speak to grown-ups as well as kids. This is why 21-year college graduates often get a copy of The Lorax—and why I still get weepy over The Giving Tree by page three, embarrassing my children and staining the black-and-white drawings with tear blobs.
But what about children's picture books that aren't for kids? Two weeks ago, Go the F*** to Sleep hit the number one best-selling spot on Amazon.com, and the book isn't even slated to reach stores until June. Every parent in the world—and child-free friend of a parent—can relate to the message of this hysterical, brilliant, totally inappropriate, curse-filled nursery rhyme:
The eagles who soar through the sky are at rest / And the creatures who crawl, run and creep / I know you're not thirsty. That's bullshit. Stop lying / Lie the f*** down, my darling, and sleep.
Meanwhile, David Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) also has an adult-only children's book coming out the same month. When Marlana Pulled a Thread tells the story of a girl who finds a loose stitch in the world and yanks—undoing trees, palaces, towns, people—until all that's left is a black tangle. For a child, the idea that you can destroy things long past the point of any happy ending is a little overwhelming and scary. But for an adult, it's a much-needed reminder of the consequences of how we live our lives.
There's something kinder and easier to take, too, about being shown such a painfully true parable by comforting, retro line drawings. I am considering writing and illustrating such a book for my husband called Lawrence Takes Out the Trash.
The next time you go on a date, don't worry about whether your hair is perfectly combed or your palms are a little sweaty, or if you can possibly eat a taco at the restaurant without getting meat stuck in your teeth and guacamole all over your lap. What you say is what matters to the person across the table, at least when it comes to your "thes".
Last week, Scientific American published an article on social psychologist and author of the upcoming book, The Secret Life of Pronouns, James Pennebaker. Pennebaker recorded the four-minute-long conversations of 80 speed daters, attempting to predict if each couple would—or wouldn't—want to go on a second date. On the tapes, he wasn't looking for awkward pauses or even lonely sighs, but instead for each person's use of seemingly innocuous words like "an," "as" and "her."
I feel like I need a support group for a psychological condition: PBGS, also known as Plastic Bag Guilt Syndrome. Like everybody else in the world, I bought some mesh bags for groceries. But sometimes, I forget them at home. Other times, I buy too many groceries and have to take a few plastic bags from the store. I keep those in order to recycle or reuse them. But if I, say, scoop up dog poop with the bag, is that really reusing? I’m only reusing it once.
And what about the little baggies for sandwiches? After I use those, I wash them out with soap and water, but it’s hard to dry them. I worry about bacteria and mould, not to mention the smell of onions. This is horrible... but a few times, in secret, I have thrown out a plastic bag—just not to have to look at it anymore.
My PBGS is related to a larger problem: GPGS or General Plastic Guilt Syndrome, which strikes every night as I walk through my living room, picking up plastic trucks and Legos, not to mention scattered abandoned plastic cups and plates. Am I destroying the planet? Am I poisoning my family?
Hence my call to Susan Freinkel, author of the new book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. “Look,” she said. “The problem isn’t plastic in general. Plastic goes in vital things like MRI machines and car seats. The problem is is single use items, stuff you used once and throw out. In 1960, the average American consumed 30 pounds of plastic a year. Now, we each consume about 300 pounds a year.”
Which is the problem. I should feel bad! I’m like a plastic Pac Man. After the jump, Freinkel’s 5 Strategies for Feeling Less Guilty—or even a little ecologically smug.