Ladies of Habit Book Club: The Vacationers

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Synopsis: fancy New York people go to Majorca on vacation, daughter’s last summer before going to Brown, discord between long married parents, lots of descriptions of food and what it feels like to sit next to swimming pools.

I liked this book. This is not quite as good as Seating Arrangements, but for a book that is being marketed as chick lit summer vacation reading, it satisfies my needs.

It is strange however to read this book about New Yorkers escaping the muggy city while being stuck in said muggy city.

To her credit Straub does not try to trouble my basic understanding of the world: Majorca is a nicer place to be than New York in the summer, rich people have fun vacations even when they have familial problems, and the one poor person stuck with the rich people can see their foibles clearly.

All the characters are specific, human, and their interactions are laced with very funny dialogue. This book will not mess up your vacation by making you feel sad and if you aren’t going on vacation you will appreciate the transporting descriptions of white stone villas and young AND old people sex.

Summer Armour

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Fedoras are stupid, baseball hats don’t cover my neck, and elegant sunhats fly off in the wind, so I am going full chin strap this summer. I’d like to think that this look says “post-graduate Woofing in southern France.”

Take that Sun.

I’m Done

This blog is redundant. Katy and Katie are the true ladies of habit. Bow down.

Summer Pop

Here is my perfect mix for summer activities that require minimum intellectual engagement: flapping, looking at nineteenth century annual reports, and reading Lucky Magazine while sitting on grass.

1.

I only vaguely remember Ingrid Michaelson from the days when the WB was a channel and Felicity required endless emotional but generic singer songwriter songs, but low and behold she has produced one of the catchiest tunes of the season and my favorite video: “Girls Chase Boys”

2.

Obvious Child is my FAVORITE movie right now. All movies should be this movie. In the meantime I will listen to Paul Simons’ song to relive the cinematic experience.

3.

I hated the book, but I am sure I will love the movie of The Fault in Our Stars because I love wood-sprite Woodley and I love crying. It turns out the soundtrack has a very catchy song called “Boom” by the new pop producer/writer overlord Charli XCX. She also cowrote “Fancy” and Icona Pop’s “I love It.” She might be the 21 year old version of Dr. Luke.

4.

Stromae. The entire recent album is great but start with Papaoutai, which also has a cool video. He is a huge Belgian pop star with a Rwandan father and a Flemish mother and the music is thoughtful dance hall.

5.

Robyn: all of it. Last year’s hit, this year’s hit, who cares.

 

-D

 

Ladies of Habit Book Club: The Fault in Our Stars

I was very interested in this book because of the literary debate it kicked up over the genre of YA, and because it is super popular. I don’t think anyone should be embarrassed to read YA, but I think the debate has glossed over the real issue: this book sucks. Not in comparison to Zadie Smith, but in comparison to other books in its own genre.

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The terribleness of this book forced me to consider what I like about the genre (YA realism, or the ones with no vampires or apocalypse):

1.Great YA realism takes the emotions of young people very seriously but also takes the “fatal flaw” convention to its most mundane extreme–a lead character is brought low by such tiny things as shyness or an inability to let their best friend change and become a goth.

The Fault in Our Stars on the other hand takes the emotions of its leads seriously but these emotions are not real emotions, they are rather the existential musings of a forty year old man projected on perfect 17 year olds who are never cruel, insecure, or irrationally grumpy. They are saints whose only flaw is their immanent deaths. Puke.

2. Having terrible things happen is not unusual in the genre. One of the things I love about the genre is the exploration of how mundane problems are melodramatic for the vulnerable not-adults experiencing them. You know what can ruin your life? Selfish parents, being poor, or having your friends ignore you.

The Fault in Out Stars does not understand how dramatic stakes work because the only thing these kids think about is their deaths and the perfect foreverness of their love. They are never mad at their parents or each other. Yawn.

3. Possibly the most embarrassing thing about being a grown-ass woman who likes this stuff is the extent to which I’m in it for the we-are-just-friends/or are we?, we hate each other/or do we?, and the full on consummation of young love. There indeed might be something regressive in my love of this aspect of the genre. But at its best, this genre captures the necessity of relaxed boredom and the play of anticipation and vulnerability that makes those moments GREAT. I don’t actually think grown ups have some different way of experiencing pleasure, I think we just have less pleasure.

The Fault in Our Stars follows the Michael Bay theory of pleasure in which boredom, anticipation and ambiguity should be avoided at all costs. In one promising moment the girl wonders why she doesn’t want to jump the bones of this Prince Charming who has been heavily pursuing and wooing her since page one. The good YA book might posit, “maybe it’s because his heavy handed romance is kind of gross and unsexy,” in this book the answer instead is “because I’m afraid of letting someone fall in love with a dying girl.” To further illustrate the author’s lack of understanding of pleasure I would like to point out that their first kiss takes place in the Anne Frank house, and then everyone applauds. For reals, not for fakes.

So why is Green such a big deal to teen audiences, librarians and publishing executives? Why not Rainbow Rowell or Stephanie Perkins who deserve the attention? I am worried that it has something to do with the author being a man. The YA realism genre is very closely allied with the chick lit genre and Green’s success feels like one more nail in the “feminization of the low brow” coffin. He is a big deal because he makes YouTube videos, has created a teen following called Nerdfighters, and he can sell swag. Basically he has cracked the ComicCon conundrum of how to turn the girl based culture of YA into a subculture that functions more like the boy nerd equivalent. It’s a good idea, I just wish it had been someone else.

Tracy Tested

Game of Sweat

In New York, when you don’t have anything to say to a person, your best bet is to engage them on the topic of SoulCycle. Isn’t it gross? Don’t you kind of love it? You have to try it! Etc. But when a person acknowledges that they also attend boutique fitness classes, you can get into more fine grained discussions about the schisms that generate a thousand new studios every year.

I have been so deep in the dance cardio feuds that I have been a little out of touch with the spinning drama. SoulCycle is the Robert Baratheon of spinning. Once there was a perfectly stable but crazy status quo called “Spinning,” which was actually a trademarked brand rather than a generic thing like running. Trademarked “Spinning” meant that an instructor yelled at you for 30-45 minutes while you moved your resistance up and down based on a sense of your own aerobic capacity. Very loud techno beats and the yelling were really the hallmark of this original form. In these kinds of classes (often offered at gyms), you could wear normal shoes.

When SoulCycle broke onto the scene in the early aughts, its hallmarks were: less yelling, more woo woo yoga-like talk about being present and riding the wave of energy created by one’s own heart.  The classes were only offered in special SoulCycle studios that were kind of like yoga studios (in that you paid per class). Also there are no lights, everyone wears clip-in bike shoes, the only light comes from heavily scented candles, and the instructors get off the bike and dance around to more expertly curated mixes of music (think the Black Keys and Aretha). They also had a signature color: yellow. Most importantly they charged $30 (not including the shoes).  No one knew you could charge this much for a fitness class and now everyone in NYC does charge this much. Celebrities and hedge fund managers loved this because it weeded out the poor people.

But then all hell broke loose! An instructor that founded SoulCycle became disenchanted with some of the core principles of SoulCycle and started Flywheel. In many ways SoulCycle had kept the inefficiencies of Spinning by having people change their resistance based on feel and cues like “half turn” and “full turn” and added some super dangerous elements like having people wiggle around on their bike seats (called “tap backs”) and lift small weights in a dance-ish choreography all while peddling fast.

Flywheel and SoulCycle are mortal enemies and their respective celebrities are very loyal (Chelsea Clinton is on team Flywheel, and Max Greenfield is on team SoulCycle). Now there are many studios vying for dominance in NYC. Revolve, Peloton, Cyc. They all claim to have original elements. For instance, Peloton makes you race in two packs.

Flywheel, however, is the Daenerys in this Game of Sweat. Because it is competent and pretty.

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Flywheel is the only spinning class that I have ever enjoyed. Their basic innovation is to have a little screen on your bike that shows you your resistance level and your RPM. Then the instructor can tell you to move your resistance knob into a certain numerical range and keep your RPM at a certain level, which is amazing because you actually know what you are doing or failing to do. Yelling and self-help mumbo jumbo is not their thing. They just kind of talk to you. For instance, at a recent class the instructor played various theme songs from Superman movies and talked us through his favorite scenes while adding little grunts mid sentence to keep us on the beat. The seating is stadium style so you can actually see the instructor, and their is a screen that you can opt into that shows where your effort ranks in the class. But most importantly: they give you free shoes, water, and BANANAS!

This is what I deserve: BANANAS!

And this makes me think Flywheel has what it takes to win: a solid understanding of the people’s need for reliable sustenance.

Everything is Going to Be Okay

I recently bemoaned the end of Spring TV, but I spoke too soon. Playing House makes everything okay. It might be the Bunheads of Summer 2014. It certainly has all the special qualities of an Amy Sherman-Palladino show: like Gilmore Girls you can sit back and relax with the certainty that the duo at the center of the show will never break up. There is no stress of will they or won’t they, because like a mother daughter duo, Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair will always be together. And their relationship has nothing cringe comedy about it. The Gilmore Girls-like credits, invite you to come rest in the embrace of nostalgia and sentimentalism.

Just watching the credits soothes me. By the end of each episode I am anxiety free.

I had forgotten how much I missed shows that don’t worry me at all. No one will die, no one will deal with the existential weight of the 1970s, and no one will have a different boyfriend every single week. Relationships (even with exes like the delightful Keegen Michael Key) will just keep tugging along, unveiling new layers of sweet fun.

 

Drapey Pants

A woman in my life who will go unnamed recently asked me what I thought of her new drapey pants:

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“Those are pajamas,” I said. It was not really a value statement, but she heard it as one and said defensively “No, they are just really comfortable.”

I myself am now on the hunt for the perfect pair of pajamas to wear outside the house, despite the fact that wearing pajamas goes against everything I know to be true about clothes: fitted clothes look better on people, structure is slimming, and “casual” clothes look sloppy on anyone who isn’t an 18 year old art student.

But what is the alternative? Shorts also look pretty stupid and although I really respect and envy women who wear skirts and dresses all summer, I also long for a piece of fabric between my thighs.

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So I think the new trend of drapey pants/pajamas is an excellent solution. But why not just go all in and also lower the crotch while I’m at it?

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The drop crotch also solves a common summer problem: the disgusting feeling of fabric on one’s sweaty body.

-D

The Most Difficult Time of the Year

September and February bring the fervor and stimulation of great TV onslaughts. Many of these ventures fail (RIP Last Resort), but if nothing else the new seasons of the best shows still promise excellence. Now that we are on the last legs of the Spring TV season, as Mad Men, The Good Wife, and Silicone Valley end, and Girls was like, a million years ago, what next? Can I survive on Game of Thrones and Orphan Black alone? Will Youtube videos sustain me?

No, I need new shows, and thank god for premium TV and Netflix’s new original programming because Summer TV sucks. The most painful part of this process is watching the first episode of shows that I can’t trust. Fortunately I have a little bit of history with Marc Maron and Jessica St. Claire, so I will struggle through the first episodes of Maron and Playing House because I want these people’s careers to succeed. But despite their solid delivery of tenderness and cute bits, and the relief they provide from the dourness of Louie, these shows are not transporting NBC comedies. In the interest of surviving the summer I also have dipped my toes into Halt and Catch Fire, which I will keep watching solely for the prevalence of The Cars in the soundtrack. It also seems to be determined to right the gender based injustices of Silicone Valley, so I should probably reward it with my eyeballs.

But what else will fill my endless nights until Netflix unleashes Orange is the New Black on the internet? I wish I had saved High Maintenance for these dark days (which is always available on Vimeo to sooth your soul). So I guess I need to finally submit to the TV authorities (Willa Paskin and Emily Nussbaum) and watch foreign shows. I am generally opposed to reading while I watch TV but hopefully Borgen and Srugim will make it worth it.

 

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