Smart Girls Who Do Stupid Things

Sometimes…

A Goodbye

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There are lots of reasons I love Nora Ephron, but I think perhaps the biggest is how relatable she was. Not even to my set of life experiences, but how comfortable she felt, like my mom or my grandmother or my aunt. She even looked sort of like them. She wasn’t just relatable in one medium; not just her romantic comedies or her essays or her journalism or her novels. All of it was good. She was the kind of writer and thinker I’d like to be; funny and self-deprecating and honest. Even the serious stuff wasn’t serious enough to be dull.

The only way I could think to memorialize Ephron in a succinct manner that hasn’t been summed up with this excellent obit from the New York Times, as well as numerous other sources (though I do think she would have been a great subject for The Last Word) was to excerpt a section of my thesis paper, where I couldn’t avoid talking about her even if I tried (even though the topic was hardly all about her). Here, I use Ephron’s personally revealing writing to make a larger argument about the state of women of her generation. So thanks Nora, for letting me bastardize your life, in this discussion of an article you wrote about Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown in the February 1970 issue of Esquire:

This article, which was eventually republished in Ephron’s book of essays, Wallflower at the Orgy, is a fascinating look at the Cosmo girl way of life by a woman who was part of the media, but also profoundly affected by the conflicting messages she was receiving as a feminist and as a woman. Ephron was a strong example of a woman who was stuck between the Cosmo girl and the Ms. woman; she expressed an interest in maintaining personal attractiveness, but questioned cultural demand for it. Of Brown, Ephron wrote: “She is demonstrating, rather forcefully, that there are over 1,000,000 American women who are willing to spend sixty cents to read not about politics, not about the female-liberation movement, not about the war in Vietnam, but merely about how to get a man.” This comment was clearly aimed towards the writers of Ms., who featured more articles on political issues that Cosmo often trivialized or barely talked about. Yet Ephron had a point: Cosmo was more fun to read than Ms., as indicated by the vast difference in their readerships. Ephron herself explained that her often-complex relationship with the magazine existed primarily because she did not feel she was the magazine’s target audience – “I have not been single for years” – but she was still “suckered in” by its headlines. “Yes, I should know better. After all, I used to write for Cosmopolitan and make this stuff up…Buy a padded bra, the article on bust lines tells me. Fake it, the article on orgasm says. And I should be furious. But I’m not. Not at all. How can you be angry at someone who’s got your number?” Here, Ephron confirmed that even the most knowledgeable women were simply looking for answers, something Cosmo’s traditional prescriptions provided, however limiting the method or the results.

Ephron was an excellent example of a “new woman.” She did not fit into the archetypes associated with a woman who read Cosmo or a woman who read Ms. She remained at the edges of the New York women’s movement, keeping her distance from activism. In another essay in her anthology written in May 1968, she described a makeover she received courtesy of Cosmopolitan as one of the most depressing experiences of her life, although she had gone into it willing to be transformed. Ephron explained that originally, Helen Gurley Brown had edited her essay so that it became a description of an upbeat experience. But the anthology contains the original piece. “Like most of my friends who have been overexposed to fashion magazines, I had come to believe that cosmetic and plastic surgery could accomplish anything. Perhaps plastic surgery – but I am here today, with my long face and drooping eyelid, to tell you that cosmetic surgery can do close to nothing.”

Why did Ephron find her makeover so depressing? Perhaps because nothing permanent about her looks or her life had actually changed. Ephron explained that she has been looking at magazine makeovers for years, but in her experience, the makeup washes off, the hair goes back to what it looked like before, and you are left with what you started with. After the makeover, Ephron wrote that, “I looked exactly like Nora Ephron used to look. Only a teeny bit better.” She had experienced most feminists’ greatest problem with “deep-cleavage feminism”: It offered only a fleeting path to liberation. Nonetheless, Ephron represented the woman who responded more to Cosmo’s strategy than to the daunting and fiery language of Ms., with its goal of consciousness-raising at all costs and its dismissal of issues of beauty and body image that preoccupied most women. Though it was frequently dogmatic, not to mention repetitive, Cosmo certainly covered body image issues that most women were immediately concerned with more often and more thoroughly than Ms. ever did. Brown never considered that she could be entrapping women even while advocating for them, which may be one reason by feminists never targeted Cosmo like they did Playboy, which was more flagrant in its sexist expectations of women. In Brown’s own way, she did represent a “real” woman – a woman who was unsatisfied with the way that she looked and acted, and wanted to be the best she could be. Even women like Ephron could identify with such dissatisfaction. But, the confidently liberated women of Ms. magazine seemed far out of reach for most, and were more difficult for everyday women to identify with.

TTMMW: Overdue

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It’s been months, so if this is all old news, well excuseeeee me.

READ

Alexander McQueen was inspired by Friends.

Rock Hudson was gay. Here’s a look at his hidden “bachelorhood.”

A woman got really unhappy because people were putting plastic Flamingos on her lawn. So she’s basically an idiot, because that is a fine fine gift.

The guy who designed the literal Wheel of Fortune and did art direction for Jeopardy! died. His name was Ed Flesh. Yes. Also the man who invented Doritos died, and he was buried with them.

Linda Ronstadt is writing a memoir. So is Neil Young. And Patti Smith’s Just Kids will become a movie.

A very thorough look at time zones and how ridiculous they are.

I appreciate any recent reference to Simply Red.

Make some egg salad sandwiches, but in a very classy way. Also make some potato pancakes with leftover mashed potatoes courtesy of Gretchen (as if there would ever be leftovers!)

A glimpse of anything you ever wanted to know about Paul Taylor and all that dance is now available.

Roseanne is back with a vengeance, with her major policy position based on legalizing marijuana.

As if we even thought it was possible, Craig Ferguson steps up the crazy and films a week’s worth of shows in Paris.

LOOK


My piano teacher growing up would have been all over these.


I would stay in this hotel in a hot second. If I had my stockpile of old magazines with me right now I’d pull out this amazing Times Magazine where these designers used salvaged oil tankers as rooms in their homes.

Pre-fabs and contemporary ranch style homes? Sign me up (and remember the great MOMA exhibit on pre-fabs from a couple years ago).


Glass Beach is in MacKerricher State Park in California. There’s all this sea glass because of years trash being dumped nearby.

A connect-the-dots Mona Lisa, and a Mona Lisa made of far fewer dots.


An Apple tree.


There was a Playboy gallery exhibit. NSFW images, obviously – which isn’t stopping this little boy.


More stamps for people who like good looking things.

Dress your life like you’re in Benny and Joon.

Girls and boys growing up.

And photos of your favorite country singers (and some less impressive ones too, what can you do).

LISTEN


Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl.” Fun fact: He’s been married seven times, twice to the same woman (the current wife is Allison Moorer, a talented singer-songwriter in her own right). Must be why his music is so good.

LOOK & LISTEN

Do a day in the life with Pixar genius John Lassater.

Running on Empty (Revisited) from Ross Ching on Vimeo.

LA didn’t have cars for a bit and it was glorious.


Check out “The Secret Life of Swimmers,” by photographer Judy Starkman. She took photos of people who swim at public pools. It is a bit of a secret club.

The Difference Between Reality And Fantasy

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Mad Men is fastidious about its accuracy, down to a pencil on a desk. In our show, we take things and we go, ‘OK, that’s exactly how it looked, now how can we make it a little prettier? Let’s pop it a little bit more.’ This show has a sort of patina to it that you’ll see with the first episode. The original Bunnies, when I talk to them—or Hef, when I talk to him—they have a twinkle in their eye when they talk about working at the Playboy Club. It probably wasn’t as amazing as they remember it, but I want the show to look like it does in their recollection. It’s a perfected memory, a bit of a fantasy. Which fits right into the theme of the show because the Playboy Club was a fantasy in its own time. To go there was to enter a different world. They called it Disneyland for adults.”

The Playboy Club creator Chad Hodge. So don’t call it a comeback, alright?

Old Vs. New, Bunny-Style

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1962 Playboy Sweater
If you get me this for Christmas or Flag Day or Easter, I promise you undying love, devotion and whatever else I’m willing to throw out there when gifted the best seasonal sweater I’ve yet seen.

“Virgin” worsted wool. That’s what she said.

Rihanna Tries On The Bunny Lifestyle
Ryan Seacrest, who has still not cashed in on his unbelievable last name with a fortune in toothpaste advertising, bring us this new shot from Rihanna’s new video for her song “S&M.” No word on whether Rihanna acknowledges that no real bunny would be caught dead in an unmatching heels, ears and bunny suit.

News From Men Who Give Us Naked Women

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Playboy is putting together the classiest of coffee-table books that will consist of some of their greatest covers. Makes one wonder why they hadn’t jumped on that bandwagon earlier, when we all know that they have been making puzzles of their centerfolds for some time.

In other news, Penthouse founder Bob Guccione died on Wednesday after a long battled with Lung Cancer. He was 79. Started a little more than a decade after Playboy, Guccione wanted to create a more explicit version of the men’s magazine, and often faced even more outcry than Playboy for his choice. So how does The New York Times choose to commemorate his life? By ending his obituary with the following passage:

“Creditors foreclosed on the Guccione mansion, and he moved out in 2006. (Penthouse magazine, however, is still being published.) Dozens of items from the town house — fireplace mantels, marble columns, even a circular staircase — were auctioned off by a Connecticut gallery in 2009 for a fraction of their presale estimates, with the proceeds going to a charity. ‘Kind of gaudy,’ said Dave Kerr, a prospective buyer looking skeptically over the lot. ‘It wouldn’t work in our house. I guess he lived a different lifestyle.'”

What a lovely way to finish a retrospective of someones life; commenting on the ugly nature of their belongings.

Alex And I Make A Puzzle

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And listened to records while sipping on juice boxes, it was very 1950s afterschool special. Except for the content…the puzzle in question was of Playboy‘s Miss December 1968 centerfold.

This was right after I left to go home for dinner because it was late and my parents set a curfew when I'm hanging out with boys. It's a good thing I left too, because things were taking a turn for the scandalous.

9:04 PM Alex: There is either a wart on her elbow, or i just discovered a nipple.

Alex: Is this considered sexting?

10:58 PM Alex: Missing two pieces. Not bad for a 42 year old puzzle.

If you’re interested in more of Ms. Cynthia Myers, especially of the NSFW variety, go here. She’s interested in parties, not interested in obnoxious people, and she’d sit still for lobster and wine. Seriously, let’s be best friends.

Also I want that dress.

Awesome Stationary

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Playboy #1 [Letters of Note]

Always keeping it classy, Hef.

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