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Snapshots of a Summer

Edinburgh Fountain and Castle

Edinburgh Fountain and Castle

Someone, probably my mother, once told me, “When you’re traveling, remember to take photos with people you know in them. In a few years you won’t be interested in looking at pictures of buildings or landscapes, and no one else will either.” Great advice. I wish I’d listened.

Now, sifting through a long-lost shoebox of snapshots from my first trip to Europe, I hear those words echo, as I realize how many photos I have of buildings and landscapes, and how few I took of the two college friends I traveled with the summer after we graduated, in 1981. Continue reading ‘Snapshots of a Summer’

Missed Connections, Manhattan, 1981-2011

"Don't even *try* to compete with these boots of mine, 'cause there's nothing else like them."    Photo:Ed Yourdan, Aug. 2011)

"Don't even *try* to compete with these boots of mine, 'cause there's nothing else like them." Photo: Ed Yourdon, Aug. 2011

Fast Walker with Nice Eyes – w4m – 22 (Upper East Side)
Date: 1981-11-22, 8:45AM EST

We’ve seen each other nearly every morning this fall, walking down Lexington Avenue to work. We both walk faster than everyone else. This morning, as you peeled off east down 47th Street, you glanced over your shoulder. Our eyes met, briefly. I wonder if you could tell I was blushing as I mouthed, “Bye.”

If Craigslist had existed thirty years ago, I might have posted this chance encounter under “Missed Connections.” Instead, I dutifully recorded it in my diary. These days, a missed connection is a solvable problem (post it on Craigslist!), but back then missed connections were the norm. Continue reading ‘Missed Connections, Manhattan, 1981-2011’

Breaking the Code

My very own QR

My very own QR

Black and white is hot this fall. I learned this from Bill Cunningham’s video journal from fashion week in Paris, where unseasonably hot and humid weather during la rentrée had the likes of Anna Wintour stripping down to their $500 T-shirts.

Closer to home, I’ve spotted a more affordable black and white trend this fall: QR (quick response) codes. Like bar codes on a bad hair day, these little square patterns are this year’s must-have accessory. Once you’ve trained your eye to look for QRs, you’ll start to notice them all over the place. The staid bar code is so “out,” as Heidi Klum would say; QR codes are the future of advertising and promotion. That’s what fashion-forward marketers would like us to think, at least. Continue reading ‘Breaking the Code’

On This Day in…

Along with reminders about friends’ birthdays, upcoming events, suggestions for people to friend and pages to like and, of course, sponsored ads, Facebook’s marginalia now includes a category entitled, “On This Day in 2010” that displays flotsam and jetsam plucked from the sea of our own posts exactly one year prior. My friends’ “Previous Status Updates” are salvaged in the same screen area, though there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to their selection, chronological or otherwise. Long-forgotten posts wash in with the tide like messages in a bottle.

I try to tune out the auto-generated noise on Facebook’s right side, so I didn’t notice when this insidious memory aid made its unheralded debut – when it comes to inventing new ways to mine our personal data, Facebook reserves the pre-modern woman’s prerogative to change her mind; by this day next year, this retrospective rubric may well be ancient history in social media terms. In the meantime, it underscores the irony of archiving our Facebook ephemera. Continue reading ‘On This Day in…’

What’s the Big Idea?

Larry David on "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

In a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (“The Hero,” Season 8, Episode 6), Larry David attends a dinner party with a hot date and is peeved when the hostess tells him couples are being seated apart. What’s worse, he is relegated to the very end of the table, next to a stranger named Hank (SNL alum Chris Parnell), who remarks, “You know, when I first saw you I guessed you for a Spaniard.” We’ve all been in Larry’s shoes; assigned seating can spark a lively dialogue, even kindle a new friendship, but sometimes it’s heavy sledding. As always, the fictional Larry mines the comic gold in an uncomfortable situation by flouting social convention, asking his new acquaintance, “How’s your marriage?” When Hank takes offense, Larry explains he’s merely “trying to elevate small talk to medium talk.”

Leave it to Larry to say aloud what no one else dares: small talk is, by definition, superficial and shallow, greasing the conversational wheel but not moving the vehicle forward. Larry is being disingenuous, of course, to feign impatience with small talk. After all, in both Curb and in real life, he owes his fame and fortune to the success of an entire series “about nothing.” Inane small talk, whether by a “low talker” or a “close talker,” is his bread and butter. Yet, just imagine how the real Larry David must cringe when strangers quote chapter and verse from favorite Seinfeld episodes. Yada, yada, yada! Continue reading ‘What’s the Big Idea?’

Plus ça change?

Sarah's Key book cover

I’ve been starring at the cover of the paperback edition of Sarah’s Key, an international bestseller by Tatiana de Rosnay, trying to understand what would make a publisher (St. Martin’s Griffin in this instance) so willfully conflate the relative geography of two of Paris’s most familiar landmarks: the Eiffel Tower and the Luxembourg Gardens?

The publisher’s art director evidently believed that the Luxembourg Palace, which anchors the northern axis of the gardens and is where the French Senate meets, would not be recognizably Parisian enough without the Eiffel Tower visible in the background. Problem is, the photo is looking north, and the Eiffel Tower does not sit behind and to the right (northeast) of the Palace because it’s in the other direction – due west. Continue reading ‘Plus ça change?’

It’s My Turn, Babe

Texas Forever

I never imagined I would fall in love with a TV series about a high school football team in Texas. Each winter when college bowl season rolls around, my family and friends know to expect another of my rants about how semi-professional sports have no place in our educational system. (A reprise follows during March Madness.) I resisted watching Friday Night Lights until last summer, when a friend persuaded me to give it a chance. My husband and I watched the pilot episode on Netflix and promptly went on an FNL bender, running though the first four seasons in just a few weeks. Last Christmas I gave him a “Riggins 33” jersey as a joking reference to our mutual crush on FNL heartthrob Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch). When the fifth and final season ended, we both went into a Friday night funk. Continue reading ‘It’s My Turn, Babe’


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