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Me at First Person Arts

May 19 2010 | Comments 7

Hey, check it out!


liz | 12:35 PM | media, philadelphia, random

Last-Name Conventions

Sep 17 2009 | Comments 15

Sometimes I don’t know if what I’m obsessing over is a result of the mild OCD I have or just JNS (Jewish Neurotic Syndrome) or maybe OPPPS (Overthinking to the Point of Physical Pain Syndrome). But I can’t stop mulling over the way people clarify their last-name spellings on the phone. It’s been preoccupying me for about a year now, and it shows no sign of abating.

For instance, when I was growing up and my dad needed to spell our name to someone over the phone, he’d say, “S-as-in-Sam, P-as-in-Peter, I, K, O, L.” Thus when I grew up, and to the present day, I also say that, although it’s not like Peter is a super popular name anymore. My friend Laura, whose last name begins with P, says “P as in Paul,” which is also Biblical but more au courant, and it makes more personal sense for her because her father’s name is Paul. We don’t have any Peters in my family; pishers, yes.

I’m sitting in a cafe right now, and the guy next to me just said into the phone, “No, no, the name is Rigel — like Nigel with an R.” How many times has he said that? I really want to lean over and ask how his family developed that strategy. Is he the first-generation Nigel-referencer? Or did he get it from a parent? And wouldn’t Nigel work better in England? Maybe, but then again, what are his options?

Every time I meet someone or hear their name on the radio, I think: I wonder how they handle their last name? Especially if it’s a hyphenated mess coming from someone with an accent, as you often hear on NPR.

Why can’t I stop thinking about this????


liz | 4:12 PM | random

Pimping My Friends: A.D. by Josh Neufeld

Aug 5 2009 | Comment 1

I think I’m allowed, kinda. One of my oldest, bestest friends, Josh Neufeld, has a book out, and it’s a winner. It’s called A.D., and it follows the seven real-life stories of people enduring Hurricane Katrina. As it’s not related to mental health, I’ll quickly post a link here to the original web comic, published by Smith magazine. But I will say this: Josh and I caused each other no end of emotional stress in college, so you could make an argument for relevance. Also, he’s the one who got me hooked on comics, which have been one of the chief joys and antidepressants in my life.


liz | 12:19 PM | media, random

Quote of the Day: Chuck Klosterman

Aug 4 2009 | Comments 4

From Klosterman’s novel, Downtown Owl, comes this hilarious passage from the point of view of a 16-year-old male. It’s remarkably similar to my thoughts every morning of my life:

“Why do we get out of bed?” Mitch wondered. “Is there any feeling better than being in bed? What could possibly feel better than this? What is going to happen in the course of my day that will be an improvement over lying on something very soft, underneath something very warm, wearing only underwear, doing absolutely nothing, all by myself?” Every day, Mitch awoke to this line of reasoning: Every day, the first move he made outside his sheets immediately destroyed the only flawless part of his existence.


liz | 9:27 AM | random

Email Is Down

Jul 6 2009 | Comment 1

Breaking … Liz Spikol’s email is down … please use teletype to communicate, or perhaps Morse code … or perhaps for this site Morose code (more appropriate) … this cat gets the idea …


liz | 10:58 AM | random

As I’m a Nostalgia Whore, I Love This Piece

Jun 29 2009 | Comment 1

BBC News Magazine asked a 13-year-old to give up his beloved iPod and use a Walkman for a week instead, in honor of the Walkman’s 30-year anniversary. Since that was my first portable music player, purchased in 1983 and lovingly cradled across continents, I smiled as I read this.

My dad had told me it was the iPod of its day.

He had told me it was big, but I hadn’t realised he meant THAT big. It was the size of a small book. When I saw it for the first time, its colour also struck me. Nowadays gadgets come in a rainbow of colours but this was only one shade – a bland grey.

So it’s not exactly the most aesthetically pleasing choice of music player. If I was browsing in a shop maybe I would have chosen something else.

From a practical point of view, the Walkman is rather cumbersome, and it is certainly not pocket-sized, unless you have large pockets. It comes with a handy belt clip screwed on to the back, yet the weight of the unit is enough to haul down a low-slung pair of combats.

When I wore it walking down the street or going into shops, I got strange looks, a mixture of surprise and curiosity, that made me a little embarrassed.

As I boarded the school bus, where I live in Aberdeenshire, I was greeted with laughter. One boy said: “No-one uses them any more.” Another said: “Groovy.” Yet another one quipped: “That would be hard to lose.”

My friends couldn’t imagine their parents using this monstrous box, but there was interest in what the thing was and how it worked. In some classes in school they let me listen to music and one teacher recognised it and got nostalgic.

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn’t is “shuffle”, where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down “rewind” and releasing it randomly – effective, if a little laboured.

I told my dad about my clever idea. His words of warning brought home the difference between the portable music players of today, which don’t have moving parts, and the mechanical playback of old. In his words, “Walkmans eat tapes”. So my clumsy clicking could have ended up ruining my favourite tape, leaving me music-less for the rest of the day.

For more of Scott’s experience, go here.


liz | 5:07 PM | random

Goodbye, Anti-Sacred and Profane Writing Machine

Jun 25 2009 | Comments 2

After a long battle with cancer, PW staff writer, Guardian columnist, punk-rock novelist, NME gadfly, gender-twisting rebel comedian and poet Steven Wells has gone on to other things. Well, not really. According to Steven, there’s no such thing as the afterlife, and if there is, I guarantee he’s really, really pissed off right now. I can just picture him at St. Peter’s Gates, saying, “Fuck me! This shit actually exists?”

We’ll all miss Steven so much, and I’ll say more about that later. For now, I’m wishing the best to all family and friends who are hurting. That’s what Steven really cared about in the end, though he was very passionately annoyed by knitting, as well.

Steven was often told he was anti-American. I loved his passion, and he cracked us the fuck up every day. This video was part of a series he did for PW called Steven Wells’ America, in which he took sacred cows and basically grilled them for dinner. Below, he reflects on the religiosity of an America that voted for Bush a second time (Steven was a staunch atheist). Toward the end he smiles a bit, so you know that he knows he’s being ridiculous. And that’s part of what was so cute about Steven — he’d rant, but then laugh at himself.


liz | 10:41 AM | BIG PHARMA, Funny or Offensive?, GLBT, Song of the Day, alternative treatments, anxiety, celebrities, children, cute fix, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, media, meds, military, philadelphia, phobias, politics, random, religion, suicide, violence

Voulez Vous Texté Avec Moi, Ce Soir?

May 26 2009 | Comments 0

One time I found a guy’s cell phone on the pavement and I wanted to return it to him. So I looked to see who he’d last called and easily found someone to contact. But then … my curiosity got the better of me. Here in my hand I had someone’s life in miniature, and yes, I looked at his photos.

I guess I thought maybe he had a cat and there’d be photos of his cat. If someone found my phone they’d see photos of my hamster (R.I.P., Popcorn), my sugar gliders and my dog. So why not have a quick Cute Fix? What I found on the phone was all porn. Raunchy porn of men doing things to other men, with closeups. Still photos, mind you. Which made me feel so guilty. I mean, what kind of monster was I? Violating someone’s privacy that way? It was terrible. It vitiated the Good Samaritan vibe I felt when I went to the guy’s house to return his phone. I shamefully handed it over. I wanted to apologize, as well as say, “Your life looks a hell of a lot more fun than mine is.”

Random story, I know. But the world of cell phones is so interesting. The first cell phone my family had was huge. Not quite this bad, but close.

Nowadays, they’re slim and chic and people have porn on them. But there are perils, especially for the mental health of the American adolescent. Take this excerpt from a recent New York Times article:

American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company — almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier.

The phenomenon is beginning to worry physicians and psychologists, who say it is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation. …

“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”

Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’ ”

As for peace and quiet, she said, “if something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state of mind.

“If you’re being deluged by constant communication, the pressure to answer immediately is quite high,” she added. “So if you’re in the middle of a thought, forget it.”

Michael Hausauer, a psychotherapist in Oakland, Calif., said teenagers had a “terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.” For that reason, he said, the rapid rise in texting has potential for great benefit and great harm.

“Texting can be an enormous tool,” he said. “It offers companionship and the promise of connectedness. At the same time, texting can make a youngster feel frightened and overly exposed.”


liz | 10:25 AM | anxiety, children, media, random, side effects

The Naked Party: Not Naked

May 22 2009 | Comments 3

A few years ago I wrote for PW on the experience of going to a nudist camp. At first, I thought I wouldn’t take off my clothes. But being there made me realize that clothing is actually quite artificial. I turned into Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon in about five minutes, and visited other nudist retreats thereafter. In fact, I would go again—I think it’s especially freeing for women, who aren’t even afforded the possibility of throwing off our tops in the puritanical U.S.

So though I’m not a nudist, or naturist, I sympathize with the cause. That’s why I was intrigued to see a “Naked Party” invitation in my mailbox at work. There were, however, problems that quicklys surfaced. First of all, the event was being held in Old City. If you’re from Philly, you’ll understand why that’s problematic: Nothing creative or culturally unconventional happens in an Old City club. Second, the advertisements for it featured women who looked like Victoria’s Secret models in exquisite lingerie. What, now? That’s not naked. That’s just a level of hotness most Philadelphians could never hope to achieve. And what about men? Do men not get naked?

The photos of the event taken by Irina Zhorov are here. They have confirmed my suspicions. You’ll see that people are not naked, though the women are dressed scantily. The guys? Clearly just there to ogle. Depressing.


liz | 10:39 AM | philadelphia, random

More Good News: Congratulations to James Sugg

May 20 2009 | Comments 0

Oh, James, sweet boy. When we met at Oberlin you were just a curly-headed, pink-cheeked virginal boy who still wore a signet ring with a cross on it. We briefly shared the stage together in a Noel Coward play, in which you excelled and I … spoke. You introduced me to Pet Sounds, for which I’m forever grateful. Your muscial The Sea was — and I’m being only mildly hyperbolic here — just as stunning. And now, after years of sound design, composing, acting, musicifying and otherwise distinguishing yourself in every way across the globe, you’ve won an OBIE Award!

HOLY SHIT!!!!

James’ performance in Chekhov Lizardbrain was incredible. He acted so tortured, it was like he and I were one. I think it was the best play about mental health that wasn’t about mental health that I’ve ever seen.


liz | 11:19 AM | philadelphia, random

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