Thursday, January 28, 2010

Still Looking For The Elusive Bananfish

I'll admit, my first reaction to the news of J.D. Salinger's death was puzzlement. It wasn't that I was surprised he was still alive until now, I have heard about the recent lawsuits after all. It is that, for a long time, I considered J.D. Salinger to be one of those people whose cantankerousness and reclusiveness kept him going. He could not die as death would prevent him from guarding his privacy and protecting his unpublished work from the prying eyes of an adoring public. So I can't help but wonder, now that he has passed, will we see all the novels and stories he has written over the years? It goes without saying that I would expect anything he has been writing to at least equal the work that has come before and one hopes that his characters, conflicted and complex as they were, grew and found some contentment. Because it is hard to remain angry at the world forever. Holden Caulfield's anger at the world is appropriate at 17, it is not so appropriate at 35 or 91. The passion of youth is something we should all try to hold onto, but we also have to work to forgive those around us and make the world a better place. If there is any lesson from his work, living in the world and loving the people one encounters is the only salvation we have. Unfortunately, it is a lesson J.D. himself did not seem to learn and he will be remembered as much for his rejection of the world as he will for his literary gift to the world.

I have not thought of The Catcher In The Rye in awhile. I'll admit, love it as I did, I grew to dislike it because so many of my classmates in high school loved it too and felt such a connection to it. It bothered me greatly that so many people who I perceived to be the phonies Holden railed against had the audacity to suggest that they felt an affinity with him. I wanted to hold up a huge mirror and shout, "see how you are," but since I could not, I just moved on to Salinger's other works, works all those plastic people never bothered to check out. But as time has passed, I find my feelings have softened, or perhaps, my understanding has grown. Adolescence sucks for almost everyone and no matter how easy someone seems to have it, they aren't necessarily able to see that. We all think we are alone in our confusion and, unbeknownst to us, everyone else is confused as well. Holden was a rich boy dropping out of prep school, his complaints could easily be disregarded as whining self-pity, yet it resonated with so many of us because while we didn't have his exact set of experiences, we knew exactly what he was feeling. Confusion, pain, self-hatred, self-pity, a sense of superiority? Yep, I was feeling it. And maybe if I had stopped wallowing and looked around, I would have seen that so many of the people around me were feeling it too. But maybe this is one of the gifts of hindsight.

And while the fact that Holden Caulfield's middle name was Morrissey is almost too perfect, there is a song by a different artist from the eighties which does a much better job of distilling teen angst and dissatisfaction into four minutes of new wave melodiousness. Yes, it is self-indulgent to hear Nik Kershaw tell us that he's got it bad, we don't know how bad he's got it (and yes, I want to say something flippant like "maybe next time you'll get the flu vaccine, Nik"), but we all know what like to be sick of fighting and to have a broken spirit frozen to the core and wouldn't it be good if we could live without a care?

Also, I learned recently that this is one of the best songs to do one's grocery shopping to, something about the tempo makes it perfect for pushing a cart through aisles, which only goes to show that angst and anger is noble and all, but over time, it all fades to consumerist ennui.

P.S. All Things Considered had a couple of lovely remembrances for J.D. Salinger. Read and listen to them here and here

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It Must Be True, A Computer Said So

Never mind that I hear Sandra Bullock often (though less lately as I think we are now aging differently) and Denise Richards never, my features are 83% similar to both of theirs (though not necessarily the same features).

I have known about this website's feature for years, but I don't think it ever occurred to me to post this here (though maybe I did and I have forgotten because everything eventually blends together. I can't tell you the number of times I will hear a song and then say, "I already talked about that, didn't I?" and then I find out I didn't, but the moment has passed). Anyway, I was reminded of this because, over on Facebook, people are posting photos of celebrities that they get told they look like and, well, I like to back all this up with empirical evidence.

Go upload a photo of yourself at and find out who the computer thinks you look like.

P.S. I know, it is cheating to upload a headshot (on both my and the celebrities' parts) so maybe I'll try uploading a passport picture or my new driver's license picture. Of course, my vanity will not allow me to upload that collage. And they are comparing faces, not bodies, so it isn't like I'm suddenly issue free or anything.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Most Interesting Man In The World

I don't ever drink beer, but if I did, these commercials would inspire me to consider Dos Equis.

Yesterday, my uncle, Les, turned 60. Many members of my family would agree that if any person in our family could approach Most Interesting Man In The World status, it would be Les.

However, as you can see, he hasn't always been very finicky about the beer he drinks and he probably wouldn't be allowed to babysit, nowadays.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Makeup Of My Childhood

Eunice Johnson died this past Sunday and public radio has had tributes to her throughout to week (most recently, here). In all of these tributes, there are references to the cosmetics company she founded, and I hear a name which had such huge significance to me as a child.

It came in pink packages and those pink containers filled my mother's makeup bag. Oh, there was an occasional eyeliner from Estee Lauder (clearly an impulse purchase when she was buying the Youth Dew), but the foundation, blush, eyeshadow, lipstick all was Fashion Fair.

I used to watch her putting her makeup on, and it always confused me how she could be prettier without it, but more glamorous with it. My mom would tell the story about her first makeover, how her best friend, Mary Beverly, dragged her to the makeup counter and had them make her over and how she walked out of Marshall Fields with her hands over her face saying, "Mary, I feel like a painted doll."

I didn't realize, until much later, how lucky my mom was to have the option of painting herself at all.

Fashion Fair was founded in 1973. 1973! When looking back from the vantage point of today, I find that unacceptable and unfathomable. How could cosmetics manufacturers have ignored all the potential customers for so long? But then I remember how my mom would try to buy other brands of makeup and would always come back to the pink compacts. I remember my own struggles to find a foundation that actually matched my skin tone (for some reason, in the eighties, makeup counter salespeople saw olive skin and thought that meant dark, possibly because they didn't make makeup for olive tones, which often meant I was sold foundation that was way too dark or which was way too pink. I remember how stunned I was to encounter Prescriptives when I was in college. I'm Y/O, in case you were wondering). I remember teaching a makeup class in 2004 and one of the participants, who was African American, came in with Cover Girl makeup that was way too light for her and she said, "But this is the darkest color they had!" And after remembering all of this, I find it unacceptable and unfathomable that so many cosmetic manufacturers continue to ignore potential customers.

While I have felt angry in the past for not having all the options as someone with blond hair, blue eyes, and pink skin, angry that definitions of beauty have taken a long time to evolve to this point where I may be included and courted, at this moment, I feel sad that I cannot wear Fashion Fair myself. Because even though my lighter skin offers me more makeup options than my mother had when she was my age, I feel the loss of the makeup I played with as a child.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


A graphical dictionary and thesaurus? There are so many things I find appealing about this. Words, graphs, pretty colors, it is as if someone developed internet catnip just for me. I may never leave the computer again. Check it out. Words alone cannot describe how truly great this is.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

It's a new decade, so of course, any and all wishes for the new year are multiplied by ten. So Fred, Julian, and I wish you a safe and prosperous decade, as well as a fruitful new year.

Merry New Year

I will get around to creating our Holiday/New Year e-card (because not only am I not so organized as to actually mail out cards, but I feel guilty about all that paper destined for a recycling bin), but for now, I will just quote Eddie Murphy in what was, arguably, his best film and wish all three of you a Merry New Year!