Kim Kardashian: the new American dream

If you look at the comments section of any online article featuring Kim Kardashian, you will find detractors. There are the people who deride her appearance, who call her fat, who say she’ll be nothing when she’s 50. There are people who say she’s vapid and doesn’t deserve fame. There will always be someone who asks why she’s given any attention at all, and “why can’t she just go away.”

The reason is, we won’t stop talking about her. Or clicking on articles about her new nude photos or her latest cleavage bearing, flesh colored, slit-up-to-her-netherparts vinyl dress. We can’t. I think our collective fascination with her is that she’s the new American dream. It’s got nothing to do with the old one: the one where your parents come as immigrants and you work hard every day of your life and give your children a life better than your parents ever dreamed. No, not that one.

This one is much more glamorous. The new American dream is that anyone can become rich and famous and jetset around the world. After all, Kim Kardashian did it, so what does she have that you or I don’t?* You don’t have to be particularly pretty — she’s not ugly, but she’s not exactly a supermodel either. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to have a college degree. You don’t have to have any particular talent or skill. You don’t have to be interesting. I’m not criticizing her: she’s just thoroughly average, the way that most of us are.

Who am I supposed to be impressed by? Stephen Hawking? Bill Gates? Hilary Clinton? Those people were born brilliant. I expect them to do great things. Kim was born average and she’s achieved wealth beyond what most of us can imagine. I’m impressed the way the rest of the world is impressed when someone with Down’s Syndrome writes a book.

There you have it. If you conveniently ignore that she was born into wealth, the rest of her is average. But that gives us hope. We see her and think — maybe someday, for no good reason at all, I can be the idle rich too. I can get paid $20,000 for a tweet. I can go to fashion weeks in Paris, New York, Milan and sit in the front row. I can go to the Met ball. I can fly off to Dubai on a whim. I can have any dress, any purse, any shoes, any house, anything anything anything I want. Won’t that be marvelous? We sneer over every mistake she makes and every poor fashion choice. We make fun of every tasteless misstep, but it’s really because we’re imagining how we would do it better. That’s why we can’t stop looking, clicking, talking. It’s because we’re all secretly dreaming.

* It may not sound like it, but I deeply admire Kim and of course I wish I could be just like her. That’s why I wrote this: she truly is the new American dream!

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Benedict Cumberbatch’s shotgun wedding


A few months back, when Benedict Cumberbatch announced his engagement in The Times (of London), I thought “That’s interesting — I didn’t know he was seeing someone.” It was not that surprising though, since he’s famously protective of his privacy. Good for him. I left it at that. A week or so later, he was in my newsfeed again, commenting on his engagement. When asked if he was happy about the fan approval he was getting, he responded that he was, but

The only support I really need, to be honest, is from the woman I love, who I proposed to.

That seemed strange and unnecessarily distancing. That quote was when I first thought something was off. Is that the reaction of a man in love? Someone who is happy spreads joy involuntarily. He’d gush about his future wife and his lovely fans.

A month later, his fiancee was rumored to be pregnant, and a month after that, it was confirmed by his PR. Then, things started to make more sense, e.g. why Benedict seemed grumpy and irritated rather than happy. After news of the pregnancy, I googled for any indication that the engagement was the result of an unplanned pregnancy and came across the delightfully addictive Sophie Hunter Gossip Blog. In one sitting, I must have hit “previous posts” about a hundred times. It was a joyous occasion, discovering that I’m not the only one who doesn’t buy the “we fell in love and had to get married right away” spin they’ve put on it.

What do I want?* I think it’d be nice if he had a sit-down interview and just told the truth instead of trying so hard to sell this fairytale version of it. Something like — they just started seeing each other, she got pregnant, he’d been wanting kids since he was a kid, Oscars season was coming up, everyone advised him to play it up as a happily ever after and he tried but his face gave him away. Oh, wasn’t that silly. Still, they’re making a go of it, and who knows, it could work out. I see nothing wrong with that story. It has a charming honesty and relatability to it.

There’s been speculation that he has ambitions to be the next Hollywood leading man like George Clooney or Brad Pitt. A better way to court a larger fanbase is by staying dorky and lovable. Who says you can’t be a huge star and a goofball at the same time? Just look at Taylor Swift! People value authenticity and kindness. Trying too hard to emulate someone more famous doesn’t play well. Feeding the paparazzi may garner Kardashian status at best — but if he really cares about the longevity of his acting career, that isn’t what he wants. It isn’t too late to come clean, and I hope he does soon. Maybe his new baby will inspire some honesty.

Disclaimer: I’m a fan of his work, but I’m too lazy to be a really dedicated fan. I’ve never had the energy to fantasize about marrying him, nor have I even paid to see any of his movies. Forget about seeing him live or waiting anywhere for an autograph. I think my favorite of his work must be Parade’s End, and it seems like life is now imitating art.

* (Okay, yes, who cares what I want because I’m a dog on the internet)

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Life-changing, indeed

I just read Marie Kondo’s “the life-changing magic of tidying up” in one afternoon. I think it’s one of the most touching books I’ve ever read, and even after memorizing her philosophy and putting her method to use, I would still keep a copy of this book on my bookshelf.

The introduction sounds a bit like an infomercial, talking up the (unproven) benefits of tidying, which are said to include weight loss, better looking skin, and even finding your purpose in life. It was a little off-putting (after all, I’m reading this book, so I’m already sold on the idea of tidying) but power through it. It does get better.

So, this isn’t a technical guide. It’s not one of these no-nonsense “10 steps to a cleaner house” sort of things. Where you get rid of X things every day or you clean K square feet. It isn’t antiseptic that way. Her book is more like a philosophy of life. Why won’t you need to tidy ever again? Because you’ll have gotten rid of most of your things. But the point is: you can clearly live without those things.

What drew me to this book was the premise that we should only have things we love. The things we own should spark joy, she reiterates throughout. She personifies things in what is perhaps a Shinto tradition. I grew up as an only child and did the same. I felt very sorry for the stoplights, doing their jobs throughout the night even when there were no drivers to benefit from their labors. It becomes much easier to let go of my things and to quiet the internal monologue (“but that was expensive” “I’ll wear it when it’s warmer out” “I could wear it around the house” “I could still need that someday” “I haven’t read that yet”) when I think about how my just things want to be useful to me and I’m shoving them into a dark corner of a closet to die slowly of neglect. That’s sad. Sadder than slavery and the holocaust combined. And it’s my fault. But there’s something I can do about it.

I can set my things free. I can give them a better life with someone who will appreciate them and use them. My things and their new owners can be happy together. The beautiful thing is that my old items won’t go to waste. They’ll go to Goodwill, or clothing swaps. They’ll be sold on the dozens of selling apps I have or given away on Yerdle. I only hope they will bring joy to someone else.

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I only watched this movie because it won the Academy Award for best picture. Unsurprisingly, I found it to be thoroughly mediocre. I guess the award was because the voting members could see themselves or people they knew in the struggle of the celebrity-turned-stage-actor main character?

One annoying feature was the drum noise. It happened throughout, sometimes during dialogue, sometimes while characters were walking around. Yeah, there was an unnecessary amount of people walking — down the street, in hallways, back and forth on the stage, etc. Even more obnoxious than the drum noise was the attempt to cleverly explain it, e.g. the walking character would pass a guy drumming in the street.

There was character development that never amounted to anything. Details that had nothing to do with the main story and weren’t interesting or detailed enough to be side-stories. Too many scenes left me wondering, “what was the point of that?” This question was never answered. There was no point.

If a movie can’t have a compelling plot or an interesting story, I understand. Not every story can keep an audience interested just on the merits of its plot. Then at least the characters should be appealing. I should want to know what happens to them — I should care. And lacking both of those things, a move should at least be visually stunning. This movie offers none of the above.

The acting is mostly people getting worked up and shouting monologues at each other. The one worthwhile scene is when the main character’s daughter (played by Emma Stone) tells him that he doesn’t matter:

Actually, I think it’s a good message for everyone. Let’s say the movie wasn’t a complete waste of time. The moral is good: I don’t matter. You don’t matter. No one cares. Get over yourself. Or, to spin it in a more positive way, don’t let what others may think of you dictate what you do with your life.

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Cigarette cards: coronation series

Coronations in England were so fancy that each person even had an assigned outfit. It’s hard for me to tell someone important from servants just by looking. Well, except the guy with a horn, I guess.

Maybe the super fancy ones wear capes? Let’s bring capes back. Yes, indeed.

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Poor person fantasies

Someday, I’d like to read an essay by a rich person called “rich person fantasies” because I’d love to know what they fantasize about.

As for me, I’m poor. You might argue with me and point to a starving African orphan, but that’s no fun, is it? I’m poor by my own definition, we’ll leave it at that. For your amusement, these are the things I fantasize about, in no particular order:

A kitchen so large that even if I wanted to put every dish, pot, pan, cake pan, vegetable and spatula on a counter, I’d still have plenty of counter space left over to do gymnastics. A kitchen so large that I could have 25 people in it and none of them would have to touch to get by each other.

I’d have a washer and dryer inside my own house. The kind that dumps the washed clothes straight into the dryer and dries them.

Everything I own would work. The refrigerator roof wouldn’t be dripping water, the hall lights wouldn’t only turn on if the switches at both ends of the hall are in a particular configuration. The car wouldn’t make noises or smoke. My internet would be fast enough that videos don’t pause themselves and require a refresh to play again. I could stream NPR and not have to constantly press play twice to get the stream to restart.

I wouldn’t hear anything I don’t want to hear. No one’s leaf blowers, no arguments with gay lovers, no babies, no loud Indian phone conversations. Certainly not vacuuming from another house.

I would never smell anything I don’t want to smell. No one around me would sleep in their own urine. No one would ever smoke.

When I buy food, I won’t look at the prices. It won’t matter.

These are my fantasies. These things are what keep me feeling poor.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Okay, I guess I’m a little late. These are some valentines from my childhood. This probably dates me. That Lisa Frank one was from my bff in elementary school and I still have entire sheets of Lisa Frank stickers. Maybe that will be another collection I share with you one day, if you’re good.

I can’t find all the Care Bears and My Little Pony ones that I know were my favorites though. I must have put them somewhere special for safekeeping and then forgotten where.

My inappropriate urge this Valentine’s day was, well, let me let you in on a little secret of mine: I am good at exactly one thing. Shopping. I’m brilliant at finding good deals, at finding unusual or valuable things, and at finding the perfect present for someone. This Valentine’s day I found a purse that my ex’s new girlfriend would love. It’s right up and down her alley. I had to work to resist the urge to Snapchat him and offer to get it. Wow, awkward. But, if you ask any of my friends, I do this for them all of them — it comes naturally.

I guess I live in a fantasy world where people are friends with their exes and everything is sunshine and rainbows. I’ll settle for us all having a nice dinner together someday.

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Cigarette Cards: badges

R.A.F badges. I’m sad they’re in such poor shape. The stories on the backs seem interesting.

War decorations & medals. The King Albert medal was awarded to those who helped Belgians in distress. Oh, and it was awarded by the British monarch. Oddly specific.

Assorted badges.


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Gayssot Act

In practice, the Gayssot Act allows the French government to fine and imprison people for questioning the Holocaust. Historians questioning details such as the figure of 6 million killed, or the use of gas chambers in certain locations have come under fire because of this law.

Most arguments in favor of the law center on the assertion that historical revisionism, when applied to the holocaust, is motivated by anti-semitism and is tantamount to incitement of racial violence. Proponents believe that this law is a moral necessity more important than freedom of speech.

I see many contradictions. If it is correct to curtail freedom of speech in order to prevent social disharmony, wouldn’t it be more efficient for France to ban all depictions of the Islamic prophet Mohammed? After all, that has been at the root of more racial unrest and violence than holocaust denial has. If, as the law states, it should be illegal to deny or minimize crimes against humanity, shouldn’t it be illegal to deny the Armenian genocide? France did briefly have a law criminalizing Armenian genocide denial, but it was overturned after some pressure from Turkey.

In general, I don’t see the actual harm of holocaust denial as being serious enough that it needs government intervention. It’s more or less the harm of being offended: there’s no evidence that holocaust denial has caused any violence against Jewish populations. People deny the truth every day: there are the flat-earthists, those who believe the universe is 6000 years old or created in 7 days, people who thought humans co-existed with dinosaurs — the list goes on. Though their opinions offend me in their ignorance, they don’t do much actual harm. There are widely publicized beliefs which do result in actual harm, such as “vaccines are dangerous” — and it would make more sense for the government to ban these types of statements (because they result in actual harm and sometimes actual deaths) before banning holocaust denial.

In fact, I think such laws, when enacted to protect only very specific groups (though the Gayssot Act technically covers all crimes against humanity, has only been used to prosecute holocaust deniers) tend to increase racial disharmony. It’s an obvious question: why is the government giving this group special treatment? Why is freedom of speech more important than the Armenian genocide, but not as important as the holocaust? It looks like the French government privileges some groups over others.

For a more thorough treatment and similar conclusions, see this article from Humanity in Action.

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Christmas lights in France

I was in France this past Christmas, and I didn’t get enough pictures. This one is from the Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Their theme was “Noel Monstre” and I think you can see monster eyes all over the tree.

Here’s a video of the tree lighting:

Outside the Grand Epicerie of Paris were my favorite lights. (As if the bleu d’auvergne they have inside weren’t enough to make me a lifelong fan).

My church (La Madeleine) was dressed up with neon lights. It looked like a nightclub with all the strobe lights.

Not only colorful lights, but color-changing colorful lights.

The view from the entrance of La Madeleine is not bad either.

Here’s an obligatory picture of the tree in front of Notre Dame.

There was a strange bubble under the Eiffel tower, which housed a few trees.

It seemed most town centers had their unique set of lighted Christmas decorations. They weren’t all the generic strands of white lights looped around trees and lampposts. These were in Dijon’s town center:

There were German style Christmas markets but with an unusual twist. In France, there are rides. Sometimes just kiddie rides like merry-go-rounds, but in Dijon, there was a Ferris wheel.

There was a light show on the face of city hall. This part turned it into a gingerbread house.

And, as a bonus, here’s the little tree I got to help decorate at my boyfriend’s father’s house. Isn’t it sweet?

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