If there is a spa that offers a bath full of olive or grapeseed oil, please let me know. I would go to that spa. As the winter continues, I cling to my oils to keep my skin from falling off of my body.

First, if you are not cleansing your face with oil, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? It is the best lazy lady trick ever because your makeup comes right off, your face is clean, and your skin is moisturized. And I have acne-prone skin, which has only gotten better since oil cleansing, so stop worrying about putting oil on you face. It is a bit weird-feeling but you just put the oil on your dry face, see the mascara drip down your cheeks disintegrating without any effort, and then you wash the oil off with water.

If you are really lazy like me and want to skip moisturizer, use the Garnier oil. If you don’t want your face to have any oil residue on your face post wash, use the Body Shop oil. Both are great.

But because we are in the dead of winter, follow up with some Argan oil from the natural food store (a quarter of the price of Josie Maran stuff, and totally the same thing). Or if you are even broker, some Jojoba oil. The big difference between Argan and Jojoba oil is that Argan absorbs quicker. But both are loaded with Vitamin E. Then put on some light moisturizer (I love the Cerave PM moisturizer). Because despite what hippies tell you, pure oils don’t do everything.

My new favorite makeup product is also an oil = the Josie Maran Infinity Lip and Cheek Creamy Oil. I have Boundless Berry. This stuff gives you that Outlander, it is only the 18th century so we only have natural flushes, look.

I particularly like this stuff with no eye makeup at all. Here are the rest of the products for this Outlander look (Also, when is Outlander coming back!?).
(the crucial elements here are Charlotte Tillbury’s Bronze and Glow, the Anastasia Brow Wiz, and the Pore Professional primer).


If you still don’t have enough TV

I watch so much TV that I frequently run out of episodes. The Good Wife is only one hour of my week, and even though Girls, Togetherness, Looking, Parenthood, and Downton Abbey are all back, altogether that is only like three hours of TV. Fortunately there are a few shows that even I have not gotten around to, and recently this backlog has been a source of total delight. Also in honor of the ridiculous charade we are all about to embark on in which we pretend movies are great, I think it is a good idea to remember why TV kicks movies’ butts. Also all of these shows were snubbed by the Golden Globes, which exists in some parallel planet where The Affair is appointment television.

1. Penny Dreadful
I dragged my heels on this one. It seemed a bit gimmicky and I don’t like scary things. But I finally came to this via the Slate end of year TV Club, which is a total treasure trove of TV recommendations.

Things that are great about this show: Eva Green truly embraces her big ears and gives an incredible performance as a lady in touch with spirits. If awards were actually about quality she should have won the Golden Globe for best female lead in a dramatic show.

Josh Hartnett, remember him? My thirteen year old self would be stoked to find out that he has finally found a venue for his beautiful and rugged visage. But most importantly, this show actually understands what is interesting about the nineteenth century Gothic = it is the queerest cultural moment ever.

2. The Missing
It is like True Detective, the Killing, and Serial but with the added bonus of showing you how not appealing France really is.

4. Happy Valley
It is like True Detective if you replace Mathew McConaughey with a middle-aged, charming, normal weight, and FEMALE detective.

Bonus, all of these shows have short first seasons (ten episodes or less).

Ladies of Habit Book Club: Meghan Daum’s The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion

Ladies of Habit Book club has recently been surveying the genre of lady essayists—Lena Dunham, Joan Didion etc.—who explore both autobiography and cultural criticism simultaneously.


Daum not only is a central figure in this genre, but also a theorist of it when she distinguishes between “letting it all hang out” and “putting yourself out there.” She writes:

Letting it all hang out is indiscriminate and frequently gratuitous. It’s the stuff of paint flung mindlessly at a canvas and words brought up via reverse peristalsis, never to be revised or thought better of, always to be mystically discounted as “a gift from above.” Letting it all hang out is an inherently needy gesture. It asks the audience to do the heavy lifting. It dares the audience to “confront the material” without necessarily making that material worth anyone’s while.

Putting yourself out there is another matter entirely. It’s an inherently generous gesture, a gift from artist to listener or viewer or reader. The artist who puts herself out there is not foisting a confession on her audience as much as letting it in on a secret, which she then turns into a story.

This distinction comes from Daum’s essay on Joni Mitchell, or the “Joni Mitchell Problem”, and it makes perfect sense that Joni would become the patron philosopher of lady essaydom—being a lady essayist herself, as Daum argues. But this distinction is a little cruel and I have indeed heard it being used cruelly to critique Lena Dunham. Unlike Daum and Joni (and Didion), Dunham does not take every personal story and wrap it in the aura of a larger narrative that speaks to the conditions of ladies everywhere. I worry that Daum’s rejection of women’s writing that assaults the reader with its lack of a “so what” is a bit of self hatred, because some of her best writing is also firmly in “the letting it all hang out” category.

Amongst very pleasurable essays on her lack of interest in good food, what it is like to interview your hero, how straight women identify with butchness, there are two essays that slayed me—and both I think fit into the category of “letting it all hang out.” The first is “Matricide,” which explores her lack of sadness when her mother died, and the second is “Difference Maker,” an essay about the decision to not have children. These essays are not tear-jearkers so much as tragedies that never build to any kind of crescendo. There is no cathartic moment, just a kind of constant buzz of complex sadness. They are also page-turners. I kept thinking “but is she going to have a baby?” or “is this the moment when she will cry about her mother’s death?” But I also think that these essays are so powerful because they do not turn to any larger cultural touchstones. They explain nothing but themselves and thus they are “needy” “gifts from above.”

Daum is such a good writer that I am pretty sure I would enjoy her thoughts on ANYTHING. If Daum wrote an essay on her feelings about yogurt, Downton Abbey, or even crockery, I know that I would read it eagerly and love it. But there is something about the essays that explain nothing—that simply explore why certain options in life become completely impossible—that I loved the most.

Finally, reading Daum confirmed a nagging suspicion I have had about an emerging form of feminism represented by Daum, Cheryl Strayed and Lena Dunham. I’m going to call it competence feminism. While watching Wild, which I looooved, I kept thinking, “am I this competent?” Could I figure out the proper backpack for this kind of trip? Could I not die? I also have this question with Lena Dunham all the time. Could I write a book of essays while show-running and writing my own tv show, and would I have interesting stories to tell? Ironically this is not a “can I have it all” question. It is a question of whether I have the competence to choose worthwhile projects and complete them. In some ways the selection of projects is actually more important than the follow-through issue.

This was brought to the fore by Daum’s discussion of her decision to become a foster care advocate. I think it is so indicative of how I understand my own gendered power in the world that this idea resonated with me profoundly. I am a very competent person. I am very well educated and I could do a lot of different things. Should I thus put this competent energy towards helping kids who are totally screwed by the system, should I just go write to a public about that system, or should I have my own baby and make sure it never goes into that system? It is a credit to Daum’s embodiment of competence feminism that I completely trust her to do any of these options with total and utter skill. I both relate to the anxiety that this kind of competence entails, because it requires choice, and I relate to the sense of blustering can-do that women like Daum embody.


Relaxing: A Guide

One fundamental tenet of my whole life-system is that working at a steady and regular pace is the only way I can survive. But then there are times when an epic vortex of deadlines messes up my rigid schedule of 30 minutes of writing in the morning, never working on weekends, and only working on two projects at a time. This is what happened over the the Christmas/New Years holiday for me. Not to mention family stuff.

Anyways, I am cooked. I am exhausted. And now I have to go on holiday. Unfortunately I don’t have any money so I will be spending this holiday at home. Let the unfortunately named “stay-cation” commence! After a tsunami of work, it is actually difficult to enter relaxation mode (which I would like to clarify is never hard for me in normal life ’cause YouTube and TV, duh). So, like all ladies of habit I think I need a list to ground me.

1. Media–I have planned this vacation perfectly because just as I am beginning my vacation ALL THE TV IS COMING BACK! The Good Wife, Girls, Silicon Valley.

Also, it is my most sacred time of the year: Awards Season! I am making a list of all the movies I haven’t seen that are up for awards (it is critical to realize that this is not the same thing as the best movies of the year), and I am knocking them off day by day. Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher, Still Alice, Cake and Selma, I will see them all. But even I cannot bring myself to see Unbroken, so that will be my Warhorse of 2014. Finally I have also timed my vacation perfectly for the NFL post-season! I know, I’m a bundle of contradictions.

2. Cleaning. I know this is sad. But I actually won’t be able to enjoy my home until I give the whole thing a complete cleaning. Maybe I’ll even buy some Meyer’s cleaning spray in a fun new scent like “Rosemary.”

3. Cooking. One of the things I am looking forward to most is doing everything really inefficiently. First I will dwaddle around reading recipes in the Ottolenghi cookbook I got from C., then I will amble around the grocery store comparing prices, then I will cook these new recipes while listening to podcasts. THIS WILL TAKE HOURS. I will also exercise a lot, but go to fitness classes that are really far away and walk very very slowly home (bonus = more podcast time).

Finally, once this is all done, once I have reached a true state of relaxation, I might call and write back all the friends and family who I have completely ignored. At this point it might even cause me joy instead of anxiety to think about this task.


The Serial of YouTube

If you were already a podcast person, listening to podcast newbies drone on and on to you about the podcast Serial was pretty rough. I knew Podcasts were great before Serial. But the truth is that Serial is sort of different from most podcasts. It is highly researched, produced, and it unravels in a much larger narrative arch than even its forefather This American Life. But if you listen to say, The Slate Culture Gabfest, you were unsurprised by the intimacy of Serial’s format. The way a certain voice in your earphones becomes like a friend you walk around with.

Youtube, like podcasts, is also a cultural medium that only a committed (and younger) audience consume. Old people are boggled by the appeal of amateur videos about people’s makeup hauls and voice-overs of video game sessions. But I have been waiting for the Youtuber (Youtube content creator) who can actually cross over the way that Serial did for podcasts. I have found him! Behold Casey Neistat:

Casey Neistat is basically a professional ad director, but he actually follows the conventions of Youtube pretty closely. He rarely uses a camera man, instead opting for his own point and shoot. He has DIY’s, travel vlogs, and windows into his banal life, but most importantly he makes videos about consumer objects that feel like a intimate conversation with a friend instead of a manipulative sales pitch. These are all classic Youtube sub-genres. The only difference is that he is an actual film maker and thus he brings the sly finesse of a professional to this intimate form. I think this breaks Youtube wide open. Many people have tried making traditional tv shows on Youtube, but Youtube is a medium with its own formal logic (much like podcasts), and Neistat has embraced those limitations. On top of all that, Neistat is a very fancy person. I want to buy all the products he casually destroys so that I can be just like him. And I am hooked into the product videos by the tear jerking over shares.

Like Serial, Neistat’s videos draw on a much longer history of “research” than most creators in his medium. Because he has been making videos since he was a teenager, his new videos contain old footage that extends the temporal arc of his narratives back in time–making the fragmentary and spontaneous element of his Youtube videos feel more “important.”


This is how Youtube will take over your eyeballs.



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