Category Archives: new york times

It’s Young Adult Fiction Day in the New York Times.

Not really, but there were two pretty interesting articles on a couple of the most popular books among my female students:

The Twilight Series
Writer Gail Collins looks at the legacy that Edward Cullen is leaving behind and it’s impact on female readers

Gossip Girl
Writer Michael Winerip discusses the “brand placement” in teenage girl series and asks how adults should respond to the consumeristic mentally in such series.

Both are thought provoking and worth the read.

The Morning Paper (Online).

My favorite part of the week might be waking up on weekend mornings and reading with some tea. I don’t often blog about newspaper articles, but seeing as I am without someone here to discuss them with, I felt compelled to write. (This is similar to me watching Lost alone, and sending out links to articles about each episode. Sorry. Can’t help it.) These aren’t coherent, per se. It’s the beginning of a conversation. With myself. Ha.

The article “The New New City” by Nicolai Ourousoff is about cities like Dubai and Shenzhen that have literally just popped up recently compared with cities that were developed by a combination of historical and cultural events and phases. It is interesting because there seems to be an architectural freedom and creativity, but a lack of cultural inspiration. The cities want everything to be new, but does that harm the city to be without the (beautiful) mess of human cultures? I’m also confused about where on earth the funding for all of this comes from. A really interesting read, especially while living in New York, a city where development can mean something different to everyone. The most interesting quote to me, found at the end of the article: “The amount of building becomes obscene without a blueprint,” Koolhaas said. “Each time you ask yourself, Do you have the right to do this much work on this scale if you don’t have an opinion about what the world should be like? We really feel that. But is there time for a manifesto? I don’t know.”

The article “The Snare of Privilege” by Elizabeth Bumiller was pretty thought provoking, and I mean that it the widest sense: it spurred me to think about a lot of things, so this rant isn’t necessarily closely related. It’s main tenet is that the majority of high powered politicians come from privileged backgrounds and elite universities, and that they have to connect with the everyman–appear to be trustworthy, likeable, relateable–to be elected president. Bumiller mentions that candidates often play down the privileges that money had afforded them when talking with the those not of similar heritage. What struck me in this article is what wasn’t discussed at all. One of the top qualifications that I am looking for in a president is that he/she is brilliant when it comes to history. Obviously, it would be nice if this historical genius was also well-rounded, believed in social justice and protecting the environment and was not corrupted by politics. But seriously. Why aren’t the degrees obtained ever discussed–and only the university.

The other part of this discussion that is uncomfortable for me is the whole concept of playing down privilege. Because let’s be honest, privilege can be a nice thing, and even though I’m planted firmly in the middle class, I am still ridiculously more privileged than the majority of people on the planet. It’s interesting to me because I get so disgusted by wealthy people who spend thousands, millions of dollars on x, y and z when those dollars could be put to such better use. But am I the same as I make my purchases, just on a smaller scale? Do I want to give up the ability to buy or do things that I have grown accustomed to? No. But I want to consider this. I hate social ladders and yet I inhabit a rung. Ugh. The never ending dialogue of my mind.

Lions and Tigers and Bears

The New York Times Magazine ran an article today about the growing problems with the population growth of bears in the United States and Canada. If you have ever been camping or talked about camping with me, you probably know that the sole reason for me not wanting to go to Banff Canada is because I am deathly afraid of grizzly bears. Granted, this article was about black bears, and I may have, just in May, talked trash about how I’m not afraid of black bears. I have never run into one, but that is besides the point.

The article addresses the complicated issue of bears becoming more and more visible in suburban settings. Some people just want the bears to be gone, by any means possible. Some people fight for the rights of bears, and of course many lie in between the two sides. Here’s the line that stuck with me, though, that addresses the attitude that people long held, and a possible reason for some of the current problems:

“For two centuries, as European immigrants moved west across North America, they sought to rid the landscape of any possible threat to themselves, their crops, their livestock; anything with big teeth — bears, wolves, cougars, bobcats — received a lethal round.” And as much as I could talk about bears, this struck me as a profound metaphor.

I suppose that it makes sense that when a person is threatened, the most logical answer is to remove the cause of the threat. But at the same time it seems like that just places us within a nice, neat fence with everything that could potentially cause us to hurt–or even feel–at a safe distance. In some ways this sounds appealing: ultimate safety and protection. But in others it sounds more dangerous than the threats themselves. If I am destroying or ignoring everything that might be difficult–be that relationships, honesty, poverty, the list could go on–then I am ultimately remaining unchanged, then I think

I think

I think

is worse than the pain that I may have endured for a short while.

(Now, if you are out camping and see a bear…take this out of a hypothetical metaphor. Obviously.)

Anorexia of the Soul?

It is always interesting to me when all sorts of texts in my life start overlapping.

This morning I read an article in the New York Times called “For Girls, it’s Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too.” The article chronicled the lives of a few girls who live just outside of Boston in a prestigious community and have the luxury of attending one of the best public schools in the country. The premise of the article is that girls now have a freedom that wasn’t open to even just the previous generation of women. This freedom has opened up so many opportunities for young women to explore and pursue, but also begs the question at what cost?

The girls in the article are juggling AP classes, extracurriculars, community service and social expectations. The message that is understood, the title of the article, is that they should be themselves—pursue what moves them and excites them—and at the same time make sure that they land A’s in all classes, nail the SAT’s, and have all the right extra activities that will bolster their resume for college application. On top of that is the message that being pretty counts. Aye.

One of the mothers made an extremely interesting comment: “You just have to hope that your child doesn’t have anorexia of the soul.” That idea is devastating—to starve the part of you that makes you truly live; to push that part of your identity to the side in the name of success or achievement or acknowledgement.

I also had the privilege of watching many of my seventh graders perform Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” this week. I studied this book in college, but forgot how powerful a metaphor it was. Victor Frankenstein dedicates his entire life to studying science, forsaking relationships to the point that he misses his mother’s funeral. Eventually, he is on the brink of his educational quest: to bring to life a creature made from various parts of dead bodies. Disgusting, yes. But so is the way that this parallels so many lives. The creature becomes the physical manifestation of Victor Frankenstein’s inner life. The moment it comes to life, he is so disgusted by it that he wants to kill it. The creature gets away, and despite its desire for comfort and love, does not know its own strength and becomes responsible for the deaths of many close to Victor. By the end, Victor’s entire family is lost, including his fiancée. Victor then dedicates his life to chasing down his monster, only to realize that he himself cannot kill it. Then he dies.

The final link in all of this is a question that my pastor, Tim Keller, repeatedly talks about in his sermons: What is your ultimate identity?

This is where the phrase “anorexia of the soul” sticks the most. Am I living in a way that is taking the literal life out of me? Am I pursuing things that will ultimately have the metaphorical equivalent of Victor Frankenstein’s creature?

Jeremiah 17: 5-6 Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.

This is where I picture Victor Frankenstein. This is a visual of anorexia of the soul.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8 But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

This is where I want to find my ultimate identity. In something that gives life that is truly life.