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June 2011 (136 posts)
Sure, there have been a lot of surprise homecoming videos out there that make us glad to be humans on this big, confusing planet. But what this brother did at his sister's commencement—with the help of the college dean at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo—made us sob (quietly, ducking below computer screen) with happiness.
Monday is too stressful. Wednesday is already hump day. But Tuesday is "you" day: a day when you have the energy to do—or plan—something fresh and unexpected that might just turn your whole week around.
Celebrate June 28th with some wacky math. How to honor—and understand—Tau Day (Hint: It's a cousin of pi)
Get ready for the Fourth (without a stove). How to make a stars-and-stripes hat for your pooch
Prepare yourself for the airport. How to laugh at holiday travel...for once
The Two-Minute To-Do: Mark your calendar for Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. How to watch it live
I was never sure which attracted me more: the totally wrong brother-sister love affair in Flowers in the Attic or the cool, metallic cover with a creepy mansion where Cathy peeked out, her face contorted with unspeakable terror. I spent a lot of seventh grade with that book—reading it, enjoying the feeling of being afraid, secretly aflutter "down there" and full of desperate longing all at the same time. Like all my friends, I tore through the next three in the series.
And then I grew up.
At last, a book that captures all those same feelings, only with exquisitely written literary prose. Rebecca Wolff's The Beginners debuts this week—a novel about Ginger, a shy 15-year-old girl who befriends the Motherwells, a new couple in her tiny Massachusetts town who may or may not be ghosts from the Puritan witch-burning past, live humans with sociopath tendencies, or just young, beautiful, magnetic 20-somethings with some questionable values. As Ginger gets more and more involved with the twosome, I found myself similarly enthralled. What did these very grown-up adults want with this girl? What were they going to do with her? The real mystery, though, had less to with the Motherwell's dark designs and more to do with tentative, starstruck Ginger, who so willingly adapts herself to their every need. Wolff captures the awakening of this dreamy, shy girl so perfectly and acutely, you might just shiver—not only from fear but recognition.
Many years ago, I knew a woman who couldn't wait for her boyfriend to go out without her on hot summer nights. That way, she could stay inside and scrub the floor in her underwear. And by underwear, I mean the genuine female article: white cotton, saggy, stretched elastic. She didn't want her boyfriend to see her like that, I assumed, because it conflicted with the rare but crucial poetic fictions that a couple often needs to survive long term.
These days, I know friends who indulge in all kinds of secret activities: say, smoking a forbidden cigarette or overeating alone. In my case, I wait until a night when my husband has to work really late and watch mindless romantic comedies back-to-back until 1 in the morning, while guzzling Diet Coke and a 2-pound bag of fat-free Twizzlers. Nobody, not even my husband, needs to see me passed out on the bed, mentally wounded (by choice!) from Kate Hudson movies, aspartame and artificial strawberry flavoring.
Then along with 4 million other people, I saw this video of a cat barking.
Here was this cat, in his hour of presumed privacy, barking away like a German shepherd. What was he thinking? Was he trying to protect the house? Did he have some kind transspecies issue, i.e., inside, he was secretly a dog? Or was he barking—like so many dogs do—just for the joy of it? This was what it felt like to me. Then again, I am not a cat.
The important part came when the cat realized that his owner was taping him and began instantly to meow. I wanted to say, "Don't change yourself for anybody! Bark it up! Be different! Be yourself!"
Instead, I thought about my old friend. I called her up. "Is the reason you don't wash the floor in front of your boyfriend, now husband, because you're embarrassed and you think he'll think of you differently?"
The site features a growing collection of thoughtful, pig-centric pieces. Gilad Muth, who grew up eating beef salami in his kosher home, remembers when he learned at the high school lunch table that most salami is actually made from pork. "I tried to reason with myself that there was no way that [my friend] David was right, but his 'Italian defense' ('Trust me, I'm Italian') was foolproof," he writes.
In another essay, Jackie Lilinshtein, who doesn't eat pork for religious reasons, recalls living with a Spanish family as a student. When Lilinshtein's host mother served her a bowl of soup Lilinshtein asked, "Senora, is this made out of pork?" The host said yes, and that Lilinshtein could just eat around the pork, but once Lilinshtein explained that wasn't an option, she said, "I know you don't eat pork; I didn't realize you don't drink pork either."
In today's world of bacon-of-the-month clubs and nose-to-tail eating, Pork Memoirs offers another take.
Given the importance of catching HIV early to get the care necessary to prevent it from becoming AIDS (and to prevent passing it along), I was glad to see the volunteers. Getting tested for something as serious as HIV can be intimidating, and—as many of us know from experience—it can be easy to put off. By approaching all passersby and urging them to take responsibility for their health, these volunteers made HIV tests seem like another ordinary, responsible habit for conscientious adults.
The Black Women's Health Imperative is also trying to get people talking openly about HIV. In honor of National HIV Testing Day, the BWHI's Elevate campaign has organized a "blog-a-thon" to "elevate the conversation about black women and HIV." They've asked popular African-American female bloggers to weigh in on the topic. We especially enjoyed this music video featuring a Lil Wayne look-alike (complete with grill and Auto-Tune). It addresses the elevated HIV risks of the African-American population while cheerfully spreading the catchy message that women and men of all ethnicities should get tested. You'll be humming this tune all the way home...or to a testing center in your area.
Chanel's chic nail polishes generate waiting lists a mile long, and we have a feeling that this intoxicating new shade will be no exception. Since it's named after one of our favorite brunchtime cocktails, we think this is the perfect shade to be wearing at all your lazy Sunday morning meals (and the best way to cure today's 3 o'clock slump).
Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour in Mimosa, $25 (Chanel.com)
Every Monday, we're rounding up things—small and big—that made us stop and think. Today, we were captivated by a gospel singer's defense of love songs, a comedian's advice to his TV daughter, a therapist coming forward to talk about her personal struggles and more...
* Kim Burrell, influential younger gospel singer, responds to criticism over her new "crossover" album that includes covers of nongospel love songs:
"What is our common ground of love outside of the four walls of the church? What is our conversation of love with people that are not of our fold? ... That's what The Love Album is about."
* Marsha M. Linehan, the therapist and psychology professor who created a now widely used treatment for severely suicidal patients, publicly acknowledges her own mental illness for the first time:
"I honestly didn't realize at the time that I was dealing with myself. ... But I suppose it's true that I developed a therapy that provides the things I needed for so many years and never got."
* Comedian Louis C.K. in the season premiere of Louie breaks down the rules of fairness to his younger daughter:
"The only time you look into your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look into your neighbor's bowl to make sure you have as much as them."
* New York State Senator Roy McDonald, the second Republican to support the newly passed marriage equality bill (after previously expressing opposition), explains his change of heart to reporters:
"You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn't black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. ... I'm trying to do the right thing."
* Beyoncé on the value of female friendships:
"I grew up around women; I believe that we can teach each other so much. I'm always thinking about how unselfish we are and the things we need to hear and how much pressure there is being a woman."