Here’s a fun word fact on which my friend Irene White does not hesitate to correct people:
"Nauseous" does not mean "feeling nausea," but rather "causing nausea." (As in: The fact that we’ve heard about New Moon nonstop for 10 solid months and it’s only just now coming out, and there are apparently two more books left in the series, is nauseous.) If you are feeling sick to your stomach, you are actually "nauseated." (As in: I just got the Men’s Health with Taylor Lautner on the cover, and I am nauseated.*)
* People! What Abercrombie Kidz catalog did the world turn into when I was taking my post-marathon nap? Yes, yes- this boy has lovely trapezius muscles, but he is 11 years old. This is not okay.
As I read these books and the subjects evolve, real life works to give me material. Just as I’m getting high and mighty about my favorite language*, I turn on the TV and on Fox News** Bill O’Reilly makes one of my most hated errors:
"And what are the chances of Naomi Wolf and Eugene Robinson making the same comparison between Sarah Palin and Eva Peron? If you ask me, slim and none.”***
Really, Bill? The chances are slim and none? They are slim, and they are also none? No: either the chances are “slim to none,” or “between slim and none.” Also, shut up.
* Go, English!
** Don’t judge. The tube was set there because I wanted to see their long-awaited Obama interview. Unfortunately, I would have had to get through 10 minutes of Hannity before, and…you go try it****.
*** If you ask me, since Sarah Palin is exactly the second non-neutered female politician with wide working-class support in modern political history (the first being Eva Peron), the chances of the two being compared are between certain and shut up Bill O’Reilly.
**** Still don’t judge. I can’t handle Olbermann either.
It appears Ammon Shea, who will hereafter be referred to as “Ammon Shea,” is a bit of a word nerd. I can relate. I know we’re supposed to be all internet-age and loosey-goosey about usage and spelling and grammar these days, but I just can’t muster it up. I think this may be my gay trait; I can’t operate an iron, make a bed or develop an ab, but I will write the fuck out of a letter. (And you should see me when I read an email from a college graduate who confuses “your” with “you’re.”*)
So as I read this book, I’ll drop in a few of my own dumb word facts for your enjoyment (of me). Like, did you know that “short-lived” derives from the noun “life” rather than the verb “to live?” (As in: my habit of wearing guayaberas like Chandler Bing in 1997 was short-lived.) “Short” is an adjective describing the noun “life,” therefore “lived” is pronounced with a long i? Did you also know that if you pronounce it this way in a place where people are, they will all think you’re pronouncing it wrong, and over time, instead of making your case, you’ll just start avoiding the word altogether? (As in: that period when I listened to nothing but Too Much Joy was…I didn’t do that for a very long time.) The American Heritage Dictionary backs me up, but adds “the pronunciation (-lĭvd) is by now so common that it cannot be considered an error,” one of the more discouraging sentence fragments you’ll read this year.
*Seriously, what’s that about? How do you advance from fourth to fifth grade without mastering your/you’re? It’s like getting “four” mixed up with “twelve.”
"Not Buying It" by Judith Levine was like having dinner with a good friend. A really long dinner with a very chatty friend who just went vegan a month ago. Also she just saw "Food Inc."
I found a lot of therapy-speak about consumer culture, a ton of tut-tutting about America’s “addiction to economic expansion,” but no real consideration to what happens when we stop consuming. I mean, a smaller-than-usual amount of us bought SUVs a few years back; go take a walk around Detroit and tell me how that’s turning out. A percentage of the younger music-buying audience started getting their music for free online a decade ago, and if there was anyone left in the record business, they’d tell you it caused some headaches. It doesn’t take a catastrophe for our economy to sputter like Daryl Hannah in “Blade Runner,” it just takes a tiny sliver to change their habits.
Yes, it was embarrassing and artless when Bush and Giuliani told us to take our post-9/11 anxiety to the mall and shop shop shop, but until we come up with a better plan, this is the one we’ve got. Ms. Levine doesn’t have a better plan, other than “enjoy the simple things.” Great. But if enough of us do that, we’ll be drinking home-brewed beer to wash down our dogs.
Also, neither Judith nor Paul seems like the superconsumer type. They drive a used Honda and split their time between Brooklyn and Vermont, so one can reasonably assume that they have made their own soaps. Judith derides her own purchasing habits at the beginning of the book by revealing that she owns a pair of SuperWool socks. A pair. And she spends the winter in Vermont, where that’s actually practical. So while it’s interesting to see anyone drop off the shopping grid for a year, it’s not the hardship for her that it would be for the average teenage girl. Or boy. Or me.
For her next book, Judith Levine should spend a year not quoting Thoreau or Marx.
FINALLY made it through “Not Buying It.” Pretty much your standard indictment of America’s consumer culture, except the author actually does buy things! She breaks her own rules a couple of times, and then just goes on like it ain’t no thing. It’s more a “Seldom Buying It: My Year Of Only Buying Things When I Really Wanted Them.” Where is the discipline?
I should talk. This book took me two weeks to read.
This book is actively fighting me. It does NOT WANT TO GET READ. I’m getting close, but my God, it’s a struggle.
It’s not that Judith Levine isn’t a good writer, and it’s not that she doesn’t make a good point, it’s that she makes a good point a thousand times. People often shop to fill a void inside themselves- got it. Oh, there are studies that back this up? Certainly, I’d love to read 15 pages about each of them. Fire away.
Since I have already have Judith and her partner Paul pictured in my head (my Judith is fond of dangling jade earrings and those African-print pants that cinch at the waist and ankles and billow in between, and if Paul doesn’t have a grey ponytail I’ll buy a hat and eat it), I’m just reading the book and checking off the ways in which I have correctly stereotyped them: homemade beer? Check. NPR tote? Several. Frequent usage of the word polyglot? Mais oui.
What’s missing here is the personal toll this process is taking on Judith and Paul. Maybe we’ll cover that at the end, which I swear to God I’ll get to today. (Probably. I am sick and irritable, and this book is speaking to me in the voice of a female Ira Glass.)
No, I was serious about Hip Young Dean. Personal style is key, my friends. Giving it a character name can help you define it, even if only reductively, e.g. Hip Young Dean does not wear jeans that have been “whiskered.”
Try it yourself! I’ll help. Are you partial to unconstructed sportcoats and wallets with chains? Maybe you’re Adult-Alternative Band Manager. T-shirts with shiny elements? How about Serbian Sex Trafficker? Vintage dresses: 40-Year-Old Janeane Garofalo In “Reality Bites” With A Job In Event Planning. You’re only limited by your imagination.
As a point of reference, the prevailing look among adult males in Los Angeles seems to be Criss Angel: Mindfreak.
Yesterday, Ben and I returned from two weeks in New York to a house that’s still mainly decorated with boxes. I have no desk in my office, the dining room has a table without chairs, and our new dresser is barely visible over the piles of clothes that won’t fit into it.
Needless to say, Ben went straight to Best Buy this morning to get a Blu-Ray player and surround-sound system.
I came home from a busy, sweaty day and saw our new setup and, though I put up a fight about financial priorities, it pretty much slays ass. It’s one of those new fancy jobs that connects to the internet, so we can:
Watch movies instantly via Netflix- coming soon!
Download web videos from Crackle and Epicurious, which we will almost certainly never do!
Access hundreds of internet radio stations through Slacker, like we’re doing right now! (We’re on the “‘90s Alternative” station at the moment. Here’s a fun fact: did you know 80% of this music sounds ridiculous now?)
I am aware that I have now name-checked three separate brands today, while I read the book that decries our consumer culture. It is apparently an ineluctable part of my nature. I promise you none of this is sponsored. I also promise you I would sell out in a heartbeat, and cheap.
Not surprisingly, in “Not Buying It” Judith Levine takes American advertising culture to task for its creation and satiation of artificial needs. Point taken; it’s just one of those things that gets on your nerves and fuels the entire world’s economy. Bummer.
Ms. Levine (and everyone else who’s ever written about this subject) argues that we choose our identities from the options the advertising industry provides us, and then make purchases based on what that persona would want. True: since college, I have dressed in a style that I call “Hip Young Dean.” Tweeds, starched oxfords untucked, sweater-vests, needlepoint belts, cool sneakers- that’s what Hip Young Dean is all about. Hip Young Dean isn’t going to rat you out for having an open container in the hallway- not this time. He knows the rules and he knows when to bend them. That’s Hip Young Dean for you*.
So you can imagine my inner dance sequence upon discovering Jeremy Argyleon Spring Street. The high-quality cotton! The plaids and checks! The details around the cuffs! In a very real sense, this is what Hip Young Dean lives for. Alas, Dave Holmes is having, if not a Year Of No Shopping, at least a Few Months Of Financial Prudence While He Waits To Find Out If His Show Got Picked Up For Another Season. I pulled myself away with the screaming exertion of a movie astronaut whose airlock is open. But I’m coming back, Jeremy Argyle, and I’m bringing my identity issues with me.
* Yes, Hip Young Dean is aware that he’s 38, and that a name change is overdue. He’s working on it. Watch your mouth. You want a demerit? Because we can make that happen right now, friend.
But I’ve been busy shoehorning the New York City Marathon into every conversation.
The book is still “Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping.” I’m putting myself through a no-shopping stage right now too, employing a strategy I call “being broke.” It works shockingly well, as perhaps you know.