Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Battle of the Bulge: Go Team Health!

Trans-fats are EVIL. They are also pretty crafty; if you eat kosher and have dessert after a fleishigs meal, trans-fat mimicking dairy is probably lurking in there. 
It was fun while it lasted.
I'm currently on a quest to for a non-trans-fat option to non-dairy whip, and since I loathe coconut, it's taking longer than I thought (I tried it, it still tastes like coconut to me).

But, as Mark Bittman preaches in "Trust Me, Butter is Better," the real stuff is the only way to go:
And as everyone should know by now, a well-made pie, a beautifully frosted cake and perfectly crisped fried food are treats, occasional indulgences. Let’s make them as well as we can, rather than take short cuts using phony ingredients that don’t taste good and are unhealthy. 
Misunderstanding what food qualifies as healthy is still a problem. Most kiddie-marketed yogurts are bursting with the same sugar content as soda, for example. Juice, once considered to be a growing-child requirement, is slowly getting shunned. 
With all this new information demonizing most processed foods, taking the right mellow angle with children is a delicate balance, as Jane Brody reports in "Another Approach to Raising Healthy Eaters." I made the mistake of bellowing, "Just TASTE it!" to my nephew this past week. Nope, didn't fly. 
For an example of Healthy Diet Fail: Peter Funt's "Kale, With Fudge on Top." 
Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of plain yogurt, even drowned in maple syrup. Yet science tells us this B12-rich food works wonders, such as reducing moodiness. So I’d like to give a shout out to the Yoplait company for thoroughly de-yogurtizing yogurt.

Monday, November 23, 2015

"So Happy For You!"

The Big Bang Theory, "The Bon Voyage Reaction"

Stephen Hawking is sending an expedition to the North Sea to test his theories; one of the experimental physicists dropped out, giving Leonard the opportunity. 

From the beginning, Sheldon has been attempting to talk Leonard out of it; in typical Sheldon fashion, he predicts doom, citing the possible hazards of boat travel, even going so far has to hint how the four-month separation might affect Penny's affection for Leonard. 

Sheldon continues to sulk; Leonard believes it is because Sheldon is terrible with change, and worries about him. But it's Penny who calls him on it: 

Sheldon: You know, I have to say, Penny, I don’t understand why you of all people are encouraging Leonard to do this. 

Penny: Honey, this is a big deal for Leonard, okay? He gets to work with Stephen Hawking. Who, by the way, will not be on the boat. I checked it out. 

Sheldon: It’s not that big of an opportunity. And even if Hawking’s theories are correct, all they prove is where the universe came from, why everything exists and what its ultimate end will be. I mean, me? I’m interested in the big questions. 

Penny: Oh, my God, Sheldon the genius is jealous of Leonard. 

Sheldon: I’m not jealous. I’m just very unhappy that good things are happening for him and not happening for me. 

Penny: Look, sweetie, this is a natural thing to feel, okay? But just because good things are happening to Leonard doesn’t take anything away from you. You know what? Let me tell you a little story. Once there was a girl who worked at the Cheesecake Factory, and she wasn’t very good at her job. 

Sheldon: It was you. 

Penny: It wasn’t me. But she was also an actress, and we were both up for the same part in a toothpaste commercial. She got it. Look, I was so jealous. But instead of ripping out her fake blonde hair… 

Sheldon: You ripped out your own fake blonde hair. 

Penny: I looked her in the eye, smiled and said, I’m happy for you. Because that’s what friends do. 

Sheldon: They lie so they don’t look petty. 

Penny: Yeah. 

Sheldon: How?

Penny: Like this. (Fake smiling) I am so happy for you.
Sheldon: Wow. No wonder you didn’t get that toothpaste commercial.

Later, at Leonard's going away party: 

Sheldon: Um, can I have your attention, everyone? (Clinks glass) That’s, uh, B-flat, for those who don’t have perfect pitch. I would like to propose a toast to my best friend, Dr. Leonard Hofstadter. He has been presented with a wonderful opportunity, and I couldn’t be happier for him. 

Leonard: Thank you, Sheldon. That must’ve been very hard for you to say.

Sheldon: Well, I mean it. I’m really happy for you. And that’s how you get a toothpaste commercial. Cheers. 

For a better boost on being happy for others, I recommend this Chevi Garfinkel shiur (the link won't work unless you are a girl already in possession of a torahanytime account confirming that fact. Yeah, I know). 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stocking Status

I couldn't believe it when I saw "The Politics of Pantyhose" by Troy Patterson while browsing the magazine section. No way! It's not just a frummie thing?

According to Patterson, seamed stockings, on the one hand, can be considered "sultry," while on the other, a requirement for attending church. Huh. Maybe stockings aren't established religious wear. 


Historically, hose was a dude thing
women were, after all, smothered beneath miles of petticoat. 


But then: 
Women’s hose were generally a knee-high affair at the start of the 20th century, but when hemlines rose, so did their significance. Adding luster and masking supposed flaws, they had the innate glamour of the sumptuously inessential. And because they appeared in an age when people disregarded fashion dictates at the risk of their social lives, they satisfied a prevailing idea of decorum — but not necessarily modesty. In the mind, as in the department store, stockings are adjacent to the intimate. 
Really? So stockings do not automatically equal "modesty," rather "decorum"? It is the latter term I use to translate "tznius," not the former. And now I've painted myself into a corner. 
As a rule, the more male-­dominated a work environment, the more likely it is expected that women in the ranks will make a gesture toward covering their skirt-­bared legs with fabric as thin as a gesture itself. A friend who is employed by a big bank with a conservative culture (and who declines to identify herself because she would like to remain so) tells us its women are made to understand that they should wear nude hose or black hose or maybe, maybe, opaque black tights in all but the sultriest heat.
But the current First Lady quit stockings eons ago. Then again, I find her casual disregard for refined conventions to be off-putting. I don't seem to be helping myself out here.
The chic woman now inhabits a world in which the exposure of naked shins to the winds of February is quite the opposite of a ghastly mishap. . . 
The bold bareness asserts the enjoyment of an increasingly common luxury — freedom from codes of thought that are, in their way, as constraining as any corset.
Those people who find hosiery a pain are free to renounce it, while those who enjoy or endure it can indulge a multiplicity of pleasures . . . 
Women’s hose have evolved into something new and dissolved into nothing all at once, just as measured feet of poetry evolved into free verse.
So what it boils down to: Wear what you like. Don whats thou wishes. For the decorum of the world has spoken: It's all good.
Via tabletmag

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Plumberry and Dollface

OPI Conquistadorable Color is now tough to find, so I moved on to Essie Plumberry, described thusly on the brand website: "Be berry lovely in this luscious creamy berry red lacquer with hints of plush pink." Yeah, that sounds about right. Despite the multitude of other options beneath my sink, I've been opting for Plumberry week after week now.

Since my photography skills are quite lacking, here's a more expert shot: 
Polish or Perish
As Illamasqua is no longer available in the States and my Tremble Blush is running low, I purchased Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Dollface ("light pink"). The color looks a little unassuming in the pan, but a delight on the cheeks. 

Of course it's matte. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nice Can Be Interesting

The only reason why I liked Anna Karenina (after TooYoungToTeach got me to read it) was not because of Anna (BOO!), but Levin. 
Levin's a nice guy. He's trying to work things out. He makes some mistakes. He attempts to rectify them. He's a pleasant fellow muddling through life to find his purpose, like most of us are. 

I can't stand unpleasant characters. The vindictive, mean, and downright cruel do not interest me. One of the reasons why I can't tolerate Downton Abbey is Thomas, the spiteful, conniving once-footman (I don't know what his title is now).
But many do not share my preferences. Even Bookends questions, "Can a virtuous character be interesting?" According to Thomas Mallon:
. . . when it comes to literary characters, reader taste has generally followed the old saying: “Heaven for comfort; hell for company.” No one has ever preferred Amelia to Becky in “Vanity Fair,” or Melanie to Scarlett in “Gone With the Wind.” 
Really? I can't stand Scarlett, and would wholeheartedly favor Melanie if not for her passionate racism. 
Alice Gregory gets me: 
But as anyone who has earnestly attempted it will admit, being good is to feel far more at odds with the world than being bad does. It is the cumulation of calculated social compromises, purposeful acts of communion, and meticulous emotional arithmetic. Commonplace wickedness, meanwhile, is seldom the result of anything more devious than inattention to the feelings and realities of other people. Living virtuously is hard. It takes generative intellectual work that is far more interesting than the defensiveness of “being bad.” I would rather consider the challenges that go into a consciously lived life than the inevitably hurtful products of a cruel one.
A truly radical 21st-century novelist wouldn’t ask us to see ourselves in made-up villains, and then, hopefully, revise our opinions of the real ones in our own lives. Rather, they would ask us to see the arduous and often acrobatic effort that goes into living a life of common decency. They would coerce us into believing that virtue is interesting and fun to think about and far more dazzling to encounter than malevolence.
In her 1947 book “Gravity and Grace,” Simone Weil wrote: “Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.
It's "unfashionable," Gregory writes, but "It’s time that goodness be shown in all its relentless torment and sacrifice."

Amen, sister!    

Monday, November 16, 2015

Walk It Off

On a Shabbos afternoon, I was perusing the many papers that had piled up, and noted "The Funny Thing About Adversity" by David DeSteno. 
He reported that while difficulty did make sufferers more empathetic, there was one exception: When others were going through the same trial. Even though they battled the same dragon, the brain has belittled the tribulation to the point that empathy vanishes: "Walk it off." 
. . . the human mind has a bit of a perverse glitch when it comes to remembering its own past hardships: It regularly makes them appear to be less distressing than they actually were.
As a result of this glitch, reflecting on your own past experience with a specific misfortune will very likely cause you to underappreciate just how trying that exact challenge can be for someone else (or was, in fact, for you at the time). You overcame it, you think; so should he. The result? You lack compassion.
I thought that point was interesting, but I wasn't going to link it since I couldn't think of a connecting point. I then moved on to the Jewish newspapers.

The previous week, the letter of a recently divorced woman had been published, in which she expressed her feelings of isolation. She isn't invited out anymore. She feels like a pariah. 

The letters printed this week were less than sympathetic, from fellow now-single mothers. "Invite people over instead!" more than one proclaimed. "Who said you have to stay at home feeling sorry for yourself?" 

Disbelievingly, my glance darted between the two newspapers, back and forth. I just read this. A divorced woman is opening up about her loneliness, and she is flatly told by those floating in the same boat to stop being such a kvetch. 

Wait. Have I done the same thing, too? Have I also been impatient and dismissive of the hurt of others simply because their pain echoed mine?

I have this memory that still haunts me from first grade. We were having a class play; Ma had gone to visit her parents, and wouldn't be attending. Rivky began to wail that her mother wouldn't be coming. 

"So what?" I had snapped. "My mother isn't coming either, and I'm not crying." 
In separate experiments, they next exposed them to people who were expressing dejection and showing difficulty in enduring one or the other hardship. Those who had overcome more severe bullying felt less — not more — compassion for current bullying victims. Likewise, those who had faced greater difficulty with unemployment had less sympathy for the currently jobless. When the adversities didn’t match, no such empathy gap emerged.
. . . Living through hardship doesn’t either warm hearts or harden them; it does both. Having known suffering in life usually heightens the compassion we feel for others, except when the suffering involves specific painful events that we know all too well. Here, familiarity really does breed contempt.
I hope I have progressed in indiscriminate empathy since I was five.      

Thursday, November 12, 2015

You Will Find Your Place

There is a difference between "fitting in" and "belonging," as I have learned from BrenĂ© Brown. "Fitting in" is conforming oneself to wedge into surroundings; "belonging" is being oneself yet being accepted in surroundings. 
Pamela Druckerman, an American in Paris, has written before about the differences in American and French outlook. When a country doesn't comprehend children's songs like "If You're Happy and You Know It," that says a lot. 

In "How to Find Your Place in the World After Graduation," Druckerman describes her careful choice of topic for a commencement speech, since France doesn't do "Reach for the stars!" 
I based my talk on a common French expression that’s optimistic, but not grandiose: Vous allez trouver votre place. You will find your place. I’ve always liked this idea that, somewhere in the world, there’s a gap shaped just like you. Once you find it, you’ll slide right in.
How to find that place?

Druckerman presents a number of points, but I don't agree with them all. The ones I like: 

1) Give yourself space and time to think. 
You need to be blank, and even a little bit bored, for your brain to feed you ideas. The poet Wendell Berry wrote that in solitude, “one’s inner voices become audible.”
2) First tries usually suck. Don't expect magic immediately.

3) Everything you hear and get exposed to is material. Keep track of "ah-ha!" thoughts. 

4) If being occasionally obsessive creates good work, that's cool.

I had thought that when Druckerman started about finding one's place, she would mean in the social sphere. But no; she means finding one's place in the wold, even when alone. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Kiss Me Kate

Ah, the squabbling lovers. I never understood the appeal.  But the musical redeems itself otherwise. 

Kiss Me Kate is about a staging of "Taming of the Shrew" and the actors that play them. Fred and Lilli, who embody the roles of Petruchio and Katherine, also happen to be ex-spouses. They yell, they scream, they holler, they kiss. Typical. 
My basis for a good musical is if the songs are sing-able. Since Cole Porter was the composer, most of the tunes are. One of my favorite scenes is where two leg-breakers for the mob serenade Fred on how to woo a woman. 
Poor Kate. Shakespeare wasn't being that loose with the realities of life back then when a loud, stubborn woman was married off to the next indiscriminate fortune hunter. 

I was so curious as to what causes Katherine's capitulation that I actually checked out Cliff's Notes. Its theory is that Kate begins as a spoiled bully, who would rather die than give in. But her initially miserable marriage makes her realize that that childish tactic won't work anymore; she has to take craftier action. 

She finds out how Petruchio thinks and instead of fighting him, she plays along. It is Cliff's opinion that her final speech was actually just for public's sake; she knows now that Petruchio's success is her success, that they are stuck together so might as well make the best of it. While she may proclaim servitude, that is not her intention. She has grown up, and she has to make peace instead of railing against the cards she is dealt. 
This is a major segue, but I couldn't resist.