Monday, August 29, 2011


With one week to Labor Day, the new semester is almost upon me, and that means the end of crazy doing my own work days and the need to share my time with my students. I'm vowing this semester will be different and that I will accomplish big things. I will get the new book proposal out in the next couple of weeks and I will finish those almost done articles. I will get the celebrity book proposal out to the press by Christmas and I will write the second chapter of the femininity book. I will go to yoga, zumba and pilates, and I will not let the potentially endless job of course prep and teaching impinge on my publication schedule. I have no intention of neglecting my teaching duties but putting them in their place, conducting them efficiently rather than letting things slide into work days. As such, I'm declaring Thursday and Friday as writing days and teaching prep for Tuesday and Wednesday. Weekends can go either way, depending on my needs.

I want this to be a big semester for me and it will only be that way if I get my nose to the grindstone and use my time efficiently. Otherwise the sadness that always accompanies abandoning the summer months with their time to be used on whatever work I choose, will be truly deserved. I can't do anything about the cooling winds and shorter days (both of which make me a little sad), but I can keep an eye on the way I organize my time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Damp Weekend

Well, that was quiet. I woke up at 8 this morning and was relieved that there was little damage to survey, just some leaves on the ground. The marvelous tall tree opposite was still there--it was clear that we'd escaped lightly. Even the storm surge a few hours later was minimal. Sadly, it looks like some people upstate bore the brunt of the winds and rain, but other than having a rather tepid weekend working indoors on syllabi, I thankfully have nothing to report.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting for Irene

That pretty much sums up today. I went to zumba--the last class of the day (ending at 12.30) at my yoga studio which was running an abbreviated schedule like every other business in NYC. After showering, we went out to look for torches but there were none left in Jackson Heights. Then it was home until further notice. I wrote a couple of syllabi but it's an odd experience waiting to see if power and/or water will cut out, if the apocalypse will arrive or if the storm will be just a storm. Enforced inaction seems to have some kind of link to eating, which may account for all the crazy food shopping that many NY-ers engaged in over the last two days. Our form took cooking--I made a fish tagine which takes a while to cook, and Evan made chocolate chip cookies. The peaches in the kitchen were getting pretty ripe so I had two of them. I watched a of pre-Code film (got to maximize that electricity) and followed the storm's unbelievably slow progress online. Yesterday, it was predicted to hit NYC on Saturday around 2-10 p.m., now it seems that it will be nearer 11 am on Sunday.

As long as we have power and can work, we'll be fine. And water too, of course. I'm hoping all NY-ers will be safe and will keep power/water. But it has been oddly quiet everywhere today--no trains and very few people on the street.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Madness

About 90 minutes ago, I decided to take heed of the warnings saturating the media and went out to buy a few essentials for the storm--water, batteries, salad greens, fruit, cookie mixes (per Evan's request and the city's recommendations) and some batteries and a torch. I needed to hit a few local shops to pick up a few ingredients I need for a fish tagine I'm making this weekend if we still have power, and I also wanted to get a couple of Indian ready made meals from Patel Brothers supermarket to take into work for dinners (that way I *won't* grab bagels).

The streets looked deceptively normal--the weather is great--but then I hit the madness that was the local supermarkets. Patels was pretty busy but a lot of it looked like normal shopping. Then I hit Trade Fair and Met Foods which were nuts--so much so that certain items were already gone (bananas, cookie mixes). People were bulk buying meats and one woman clutched her canned black forest ham. Queso, salsa, chips, large quantities of nuts, soda and pet food seemed popular too, as did bags of sugar, peanut butter and jam. I figure people are going to cook tons of meat tonight and Saturday and eat that cold as and when we lose power.  The fruit stands were also busy--again bananas seemed to be the big favorite, along with tomatoes and bagged carrots. I found some black figs and got three ($1) as a little pre-hurricane treat. Mixed salad greens were neglected and I stocked up as they may end up being our Sunday dinner in a salad with avocados, small tomatoes, cheese, walnuts and some eggs that I need to hard boil soon. I am glad I got some 12 grain and seed bread from Whole Foods yesterday as it is evidently insane in there today.

I hit the dollar store very close to home and managed to get three gallons of Poland Spring water and staggered back under the weight of all my shopping. We have 4 gallons of water now and maybe could get a couple more, but I didn't want to stockpile at someone else's expense. Already water seems scarce in quantities over 1 litre bottles. All this seems like madness--we still need to get a torch and batteries--maybe two--so we can read if the power goes out. I'm also charging ipods and laptops so I can watch movies--I think my Mac will give me about 4 hours of entertainment that way. Fortunately we already buy cat food in bulk as our three have rather healthy appetites so there's a lot of Wellness in the house--I just hope no windows blow out as I don't want to have to wrangle them into their carriers.

Hopefully, none of this will be necessary. But one thing is certain--I won't be going to pilates on Sunday morning as we're all supposed to be indoors from 2 p.m. Saturday till 2 p.m. Sunday. I'm not panicking and expect this will be more fuss over nothing--at least, that's what I'm hoping, but better safe than sorry.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Small Purchases

I suppose if I'd thought about it twice, I would have been able to get through the month without buying any clothes. But I cracked just a little yesterday. Around the time of our monumental earthquake, I wandered into Anthropologie, more out of curiosity than anything. I tend to find their clothes monstrously over-embellished and somewhat overpriced--if I like something, I know it will never make it to the sales wrack, so browsing is usually safe. I see the things I would buy if they were cheaper or reduced, and if discounts are applied, their eager fan base nabs the items before I do. I'm not that worried about it as there are always other places to shop.

I am a fan of their nightdresses, however. They are pretty, comfortable and distinctive. I also refuse to pay full price. Of late, they have not been discounting them--or at least the ones I like don't go on sale. Again, I don't stalk this store so I could have missed out on a few.

Anyway, there were two nice ones on the sale rack. One reddish cotton jersey/t-shirt fabric with pockets at the bottom, and one short cotton woven one in a cream print. Both were $29.99 or half price and below the tax threashold. Both were comfortable and fit--the creamy one was even a little big but you don't want nighties sticking to your skin in hot weather. So I got both, figuring that these will last a while and replace ones that will soon be on their way out. I have a couple of anthro nighties that are old and will perish soon (I worked out that they are about 6-8 years old, to my horror).

But did I need them? A quick mental count today put my number of anthro nighties at 11, with one extra from Target (a cotton Liberty of London that probably won't last forever). So I guess nighties can now go on the list of unnecessary purchases--along with striped t-shirts, pyjama bottoms and tights. Unless they are spectacular, I do not need any more of the above items. And when I mean spectacular, I really mean I should not buy them unless they are so staggeringly wonderful that I'd regret it forever.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So we had an earthquake

Or at least, that's what I was told. I went into Gallatin for a student colloquium today--the oral exam or conversation on a student's concentration that marks the end of their degree. This one was particularly fine--great student with a great topic (melancholy and romanticism) and a great committee. She also bought macarons, madeleines, strawberries and champagne grapes which I ate--colloquium food, like travel food, doesn't count.

After that, acupuncture. And supposedly the earthquake tremors--which I didn't feel. I must have been on the table or writing a check when it struck, or maybe I was walking down 17th Street, but I did see a bunch of people outside an office building--my immediate thought was sample sale (but the location didn't fit) or maybe some celebrity was signing something. It was only when I got home that I heard we reportedly had an earthquake.

I've never lived in LA or any earthquake prone area but the very fact that the subway was working perfectly and there were no delays on the LIRR or Metro North--as there are when we have a major rain storm--makes me amazed at the fuss the media here and globally are making over this event. Maybe some people felt something but I can only imagine from the people I saw and from my own experience that as far as NYC goes, this was truly a lot of fuss over nothing.

Monday, August 22, 2011


The last month has been dedicated to the new book. My writing mode is not one without consequences as I turn into some form of hermit. Any "what I wore today" posts would only document my descent into some kind of sloven. Pyjamas, nightdresses, yoga pants and anything that can withstand humidity would probably be top of my list. Scraped back hair, make-up free face, and whatever shoes I may need to break in around the house complete the attire. I usually make breakfast relatively early (oatmeal, berries, walnuts) and then pick at it until the bowl is finally empty some two hours later. Lunch (usually something like a salmon burger and one slice of wholegrain seeded bread) comes when I realize it's 3.30 because of the gnawing pain in my stomach or my general light headedness. Sometimes I also realize that it's 3.30 and I'm still in my nightie so while everything heats up, I grab a shower and something to wear. Dinner comes at 10 or so--after Evan finally tells me that he's starving and has to eat and thus ends the day.

Some days I decide to have fun--I put on an old dress to see if I can fit into it. Today was one of them. I found an old empire waist purple cotton Jill Stuart dress. I bought it for a baby shower (the friend's daughter is now 5) and didn't wear it again. I realized why today. It's low cut in a way that I don't like--I'm not Lindsay Lohan and don't want to pour out of my clothes, even though I am far from busty like she is. This dress is one of those that would have that effect on anybody which was probably why it was 80 percent off. Fortunately, I can still fit into it, but I think that's largely because it is an empire waist dress and so open (ahem) on top.

It's hard to believe that a week from now school will be in swing and I'll have to give up this solitary, messy and productive lifestyle. I love teaching but this book proposal really has to come first.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Draft Done!

So, the second book is now well underway. I finished the sample chapter tonight at 10.30 p.m., or should I say, the first draft. I'm still playing around with the argument, possibly wanting to add more material on Valley of the Dolls (really, how could I not given its utter fabulousness?) and I still have to cut it back. At somewhere around 80 pages, it is too long--50-60 pages would be better, but I think the topic of this chapter could easily be a book--and maybe it will one day. That topic is the female group film--and there are many wonderful examples--and equally many terrible incarnations (like Bratz--part of Ben's and my Saturday night viewing--it is as bad as you think).

But for now I have to leave it alone and return to my actual proposal. Again, it's way too long at 25 pages, and it also needs some work. But I'm getting there. I have a couple of interested university presses--so I'm hoping that I can get everything emailed off in the next two weeks. A few days away from the chapter will only help--as I work on the proposal itself, I"ll get the necessary distance to edit the chapter with a clear head.

Unfortunately, I don't think I can finish any of the three articles I was finishing off over the summer but hopefully that's what September and October are for. Even with teaching, I am determined to have these finished by Christmas--especially as one will effectively be the sample chapter for the third book, which I hope to have in by the semester's end.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I've been trying to exert some strong discipline over the last few weeks and, hopefully, I am still on target to get the second book proposal off to the press before school starts. As a result, I'm only blogging sporadically at best.

Two things of note--my black Pina resort 08 Mayle dress that was always a comfy fit and was too tight at the beginning of summer now fits again, although not quite as well as it did before.

Secondly, I have managed not to buy anything new in over two weeks and counting.

Monday, August 8, 2011

London's Burning

In just a brief break from regular programming, I wanted to offer a few words about the London riots. While ostensibly in response to the police fatally shooting a reputed drug dealer who was certainly armed (not something that is legal), the arson, looting and generally thuggery that started in Tottenham (a mixed-to-poor area of North London) is clearly not about that kind of justice. Many looters are clearly stealing plasma screen TVs, athletic shoes, electronics and clothing out of greed; social media and Blackberries have clearly helped spread the violence and I'm sure in some cases there's organized crime and gangs involved. Some of the teenagers may just be guilty of being young, on an adrenaline kick and/or poor. Clearly policing has failed as the riots have spread in all directions, even leading to some looting in Tottenham Court Road in the West End, but some of this may be because new technologies and recent cutbacks make these riots very different from those in the 1980s.

I don't think that consciously many rioters have an agenda beyond smashing, grabbing, looting and getting high on being there. But besides the ingrained dislike of police in some communities, there are clearly broader cultural issues at stake. It's no accident that these riots have occurred as major austerity cutbacks have affected the poorest, including the loss of youth clubs that keep young, poor kids occupied, the loss of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and the tripling of University fees under this government of Old Etonians, aristocrats and other social elites, for whom my contempt is endless. Combine that with cutbacks in police manpower, public services and the collapse of the global financial systems--which have already created housing bubbles and disenfranchised the majority at the expense of the few--then rioting is to be expected. Of course, the younger generation have been most subject to these cuts, and suffered the most from the downward spiral in wages and the off-sourcing of jobs, so their anger--and their ability and willingness to act on it--should not be surprising.

But that kind of rioting--the kind with a goal that suggests a true collectivity--seems to be a more modernist phenomenon, one responding to the possibility for change coming from the people, and the desire to attain social mobility while still protecting the social good. This is more aimless, viral in the most cliched sense, but it doesn't mean that there is no social context. In a western culture saturated with greed, where identity seems to be dependent on having the latest consumer goods, this response should not be surprising. Sadly, it's likely that aimless rioting will bring no results--especially when the perpetrators hurt their communities and those of others, and are probably as unlikeable as their actions would attest. But it doesn't mean that these riots are just meaningless bad behavior. I don't condone them at all, but they are a product of a broader malaise, one entrenched in the financial system, the rapaciousness of increasingly global corporations and the international shift back to a world of a few ultra rich, a select, small middle-class and bitter competition among the rest for increasingly limited resources.

I'd hope to see these riots--in what is one of the safest, most beautiful and most prosperous global cities--as a wake up call: I just hope the British people, myself included, attach blame to those who deserve it--both at the micro level of finding and convicting ring leaders and looters, but also at the macro-level--the politicians themselves, particularly Cameron, Osbourne and Clegg, who with all their millions have cut off the resources to so many who depend on them. And, more importantly, I hope that the financial system and the neo-liberal corporate culture with which it is synonymous, is seen as one of the major forces behind these kinds of behaviors. The bigger criminals, after all, are those that would plunder communities, remove jobs and entire industries overseas while bribing us all with the allure of cheap commodities.

Carb Cutback

While I don't have Marti's willpower, I'm doing a little weight loss experiment of my own here, cutting back my carbs. I was stunned that my morning organic oatmeal has nearly as much carbohydrate as some low carb diets recommend for a day (24 g), especially as I don't add sugar. I combine it with berries and walnuts so there's probably a little more carbs in there that puts me over the seemingly impossible low carb 30g.

As for the rest of the day, I'm cutting back to one smallish slice of 12 grain organic bread at lunchtime. My main fear is by mid-afternoon I'll be ready for more. I don't entirely buy into all the health benefits of low carbs (meat is a prime factor in so many illnesses from colon cancer to heart disease and vegetarians generally live longer as a result), but I'm upping my salmon, sardine and egg intake. I just hope I can still concentrate on my writing without as many carbs.

Now back to work.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Almost every day, some email now drops into my inbox about some sale that grabs my attention. So far, two pairs of coveted shoes have been marked down to just over $100 and I saw a coat on Gilt's 90% sale that I like a lot (even though it is nearer 75% off). I'm holding back for the time being. I have 11 coats of varying descriptions although this one would be a nice addition--it isn't like anything else I have and I know I'd wear it. But wouldn't I just wear one of the other ones instead? Why do coats always speak to me like this? I know NYC requires coats for 9 months or so but it's more than that--the image that a coat gives of being well put together, the warmth it provides and the way it seems like something more permanent than a cardigan, dress or shoes which will ultimately wear out.

As for the sandals, I need a pair of highish ones for summer events. My Miu Miu silver sandals turned yellow in places and are too high for anything other than real parties. I need something that is dressy but not too much. The Comey Chadwicks and the A Detacher Bellows are both on sale. Should I bite or should I just let them pass. And if I select a pair, which one to go for?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Facing Reality

For the last two years, I've been really careful with my diet. I purged most non-organic foods, stopped drinking coffee, have had healthy breakfasts (organic oatmeal with water, a sprinkle of sea salt, organic raspberries, blueberries and walnuts with organic green tea or water) and I've tried to eliminate pasta and ice cream (successfully) and sugars (varying success) from my diet. I've cut out pseudo healthy foods like juices and smoothies that are actually high sugar calorie bombs. I've exercised five times a week (yoga, pilates, zumba, boot camp). Net result? I think I've gained 10 lbs although I have lost weight when I cut out all sweets (except fruit) and tried to stick to one bagel a week on Saturdays.

I used to eat chocolate all the time--at least once a day (English chocolate bought at home and carried back in my bag or imported from Fairway and overpriced English food stores) and I was easily a size 6. Now I'm nearer a 10 and some of my clothes don't fit (mainly jeans, shorts and pants but a few dresses and tops). The big increase has come recently, since I loosened my prohibition on sugars and deserts at celebrations (like birthdays) which meant my sweet tooth returned. It's a very limited sweet tooth--I don't like sweet drinks, I hate sweet and savory mixed so I don't like ketchup, sweet spicy food (cut the sugar and elevate the spice for me) but I know a bar of chocolate here and there is far from innocent. It's not just the calories, it stimulates more cravings and it causes inflammation of various body tissues.

I hate being hungry so I've looked at all the guidelines on healthy eating and so-called super foods that fill you up and even burn fat (claims I'm not sure I believe). Ironically, these are the foods that constitute most of my diet--oatmeal, black beans, raspberries, blueberries, wild salmon, whole grains, chilli peppers, cumin, garlic, onions, green tea, etc. I also get at least 8 hours sleep a night so I'm not putting on weight because I'm sleep-deprived. Indeed, if I look at all the guidelines about losing weight, I'm pretty much doing everything right unless I move onto modified versions of Atkins and cut out all carbs. I'm tempted but I can't do that--but I can cut out one of the two slices of organic 12-grain bread that I have on a lunchtime sandwich or with a bowl of soup.

I may be able to cut down on carbs and to fit in another workout or two a week, but I'm coming to the sad conclusion that I am not going to lose weight if I eat as much as I do right now. I'm not talking about starving. I can't work if I am hungry and I'm not that irresponsible. But I know I have a healthy appetite and even if I'm eating healthily, I'm obviously storing calories that my body isn't using. The sad fact is that women's metabolism slows after 35 and while I though I was immune, I'm not. And it's not just vanity (although that plays a role) or the frustration of realizing that the 20-somethings at the yoga studio who work out less than me and eat just as much, if not more, are visibly skinnier than they were in June while I'm a few pounds heavier. It's the fear that this will only get worse and the horror that I could be the big girl when I was always the tall, slender--even skinny--one.

Afternoons will be tough. I write intensely and then get hungry around 4-5. I've tried stopping the pains with a cup of green tea and that doesn't always work. I have to write so I grab something. It was one of the bars of Cadbury's chocolate that my brother and sister-in-law gave me, then, in an effort to be healthier, a banana sandwich. But I fear it now may have to be nothing--maybe a hardboiled egg at best.

Still, as Mum says, the stomach is a bag of muscle that can shrink or grow. I'm just going to have to shrink mine a tiny bit so I can shrink the rest of me back into shape.

Savage Beauty

I took the day off today--well, almost. I read the necessary chapters in a not-great book that I just had to deal with to cover my bases. But the rest of the day was devoted to exercise, acupuncture and, for most of the afternoon, standing in line at the Met with Evelyn and Amy and then visiting the Alexander McQueen exhibit.

I've been a member of the Met and I have to say, I've never seen it so busy. I've been avoiding going at weekends and figured that Tuesday afternoon would be safe. But I was wrong. While the wait was listed at 2 1/2 hours (which seemed to be a standard sign) it was a little over 70 minutes, which was fine as I had good company and enjoyed the artwork the line snaked by (including my favourite Joan of Arc painting).

The exhibit itself was majestic. Not only were the gowns, jackets, hats, shoes, jewelry, suiting, dresses, etc. sublime, but it was masterfully curated. Different rooms were lit differently, had their own music, and were constructed in different materials to set different moods. Videos from shows played (both videos of the shows and the short films played at shows). Three dresses from his Voss collection were shown in a glass box that replicated the original show that the models couldn't see out of and the audience sometimes couldn't see into--just viewing their reflection, not the clothes (all depended on the light).

But the beauty of the clothes and the level of the work was what stunned me the most. I was lucky and could see them upfront (mostly that is--the elm prosthetic legs for Aimee Mullins seemed to evoke the most curiosity--it was only when I looked at the fabulous exhibit website that I worked out what was causing such a sensation as I couldn't get near them). I can't do the clothes justice here but the creativity, imagination, combination of techniques, the detail, the colours, materials (metals, mud, shells, balsa wood as well as more conventional fabrications), the craftsmanship, imagination, play with themes, intellectualism and artistry were stunning. The themes for collections and their staging were incredible and took fashion to a new dimension. I'd always heard about his stunning tailoring (which was on display, along with pieces from his student collection which were immaculate), but the historical references, variety of techniques and the play with form made this fine art. I was sad when McQueen died and knew a fashion genius had gone but I had no idea until I saw the exhibit that he was working at this level, and that he was so prolific and imaginative. It was the first time I saw couture gowns so close up (some of the pieces were from his Givenchy collections) and his runway work was at that level too.

Here, from said website, are a few of my favourites, although its tough to choose which ones were the best. And some of the pieces I loved aren't photographed online.

Monday, August 1, 2011


It's August and I stuck to my resolution and didn't buy a dress in July. Of course, that didn't mean that I was completely virtuous--the Office shoes, the gap gym clothes and the J. Crew splurge may have all been bargains and may have even totaled less than one dress, but I still have a way to go before I meet my goal of not spending anything on clothing for a month (and then I'll try for longer).

August is always difficult as the final sales wave temptation in front of my face in the form of deep markdowns on things I actually like, may even need or just fantasize about owning. Then there are those pieces by the designers I like, in prices that match what I'd love to spend (again deep discounts) that I don't actually need.

Of course, this all comes with some sadness when you miss that item that you weren't really going to buy but almost bought on a number of occasions. Case in point, this Rachel Comey Ether dress. I loved the fabrics, but don't need any summer silk dresses, particularly with spaghetti straps--it's also a shade too long for me too. I'm not sure the boning would have worked for me either. But it was so pretty and it was $168 plus tax and shipping (which may have been the killer as it puts it at a hair under $200). Too late now as it's gone, but I offer it up here as an example of what I didn't buy this sale season--and as a testament to my self-discipline if I might pat myself on the back.