Just Whom Is Bruce Springsteen Trying to Impress?

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I had the unusual experience this week of feeling sorry for a very chic, very thin Frenchwoman. That would be Fleur Pellerin, France’s minister of culture, who was asked in a television interview to name her favorite book by Patrick Modiano, the Frenchman who just won the Nobel Prize for literature. This put the French minister of culture in a highly awkward position, as she was unable to name any of the works of the highly celebrated M. Modiano, seeing as she’s never read anything he’s written. (She had, however, she noted, much enjoyed a recent luncheon with him.)

Mme. Minister then compounded her sin by admitting that she hadn’t read a book of fiction in years: “I read a lot of notes, a lot of legal texts, the news, A.F.P. stories, but I read very little,” she said in the interview, according to the New York Times.

Whereupon French social media exploded, and writer Claude Askolovitch promptly called Mme. Minister “barbaric” on the French site of the Huffington Post, demanding that she resign.

Poor Fleur. Read more »

Who Says Halloween Is Just for Kids (and People With ’Em)?

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I started to worry about Halloween a couple years ago.

Right around the time when my hallowed hangover started to creep into November 2nd, my friends started staying home because they couldn’t find a sitter. Just as 10 p.m. began to sound a little late to head out to a costume party, my Facebook feed blew up with pictures of tiny humans in tiny pumpkin costumes.

This year, it seems official: I’m in Halloween purgatory — I’m wise enough to know the true cost of an open bar, but still selfish enough to steal Reese’s Cups from your little pumpkins.

But while there are a lot of holidays I’ll surrender to my 20s (it was real, New Year’s), Halloween is not one of them. I grew up in the Northeast, where trick-or-treating was a competitive sport, where tightly packed row houses meant all the candy you could carry — and then a second helping after emptying your pillowcase at home.

So how to celebrate a proper Halloween when you’re not a kid anymore  —  and don’t have one? It’s easy, but there are some rules.

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Introducing #catjawns, Instagram Hashtags for Philly Cats

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The problem: Lots of Philadelphia cats on Instagram, but no way to tell what neighborhood they live in. The solution: #catjawns.

A few years ago, a friend of mine who lives in Kensington posted a photo of her cats to Instagram. I tagged it “#kenzokats.” She picked up the idea, and she and another friend of mine use the #kenzokats hashtag. It’s time to expand this project.

Here’s how it works: When posting a photo of your cat to Instagram, please use the corresponding hashtag for your neighborhood (or one near it). Here’s an example: The cat in the header image at the top of this post, Detective John Munch, lives in East Falls. Take a photo of her, and you’d tag the Instagram photo #eastpaws. Get it?

What follows is an exhaustive list of #catjawns hashtags.

Read more »

Facebook Trying to Civilize Young People; Young People Resist

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It’s no surprise to anyone who’s ever had one that kids are mean. Really mean. Unspeakably mean. They’re enormously invested in social status, and the way to attain it, as far as they can see (they’re short), is to tear others down. For many eons, young people were only able to do this to those in their immediate vicinity, but now the miracle of technology allows them to stomp all over the feelings of young people around the world and drive them to suicide. (You can read about some particularly egregious examples here, if that’s how you like to spend your spare time.) This is why bullying, and cyberbullying in particular, have become such hot topics. According to Pew Research, 65 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 say they’ve been cyberbullied, and 92 percent have seen it done to somebody else.

Now Facebook is attempting to address the problem, at least on its pages, by teaching its users to empathize with others. A recent story in the New York Times discussed the work of Arturo Bejar, director of engineering for Facebook’s Protect and Care Team, which is exploring ways that Facebook users might let others know when their feelings are hurt by a post. Read more »

Five Real Philly Housewives We Want to See on Bravo

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The strangest thing about “Real Housewives” — after the fact that we watch it, we watch it so hard — is that the franchise never set up shop here since debuting in 2006. For a show that lives and dies by its batshit quotient, you’d think they would have made Philadelphia home years ago.

That, however, might be about to change: As the Daily News’ Jenice Armstrong reports, producer Princess Ann Banton-Lofters — creator of the series’ gold-standard Atlanta version — has been in town scouting, for lack of a better word, talent.

Presumably, Bravo is poking around the Main Line and Rittenhouse for their usual mix of old money, new money and hopefully-results-in-jail-time money.

But that would be a mistake.

Read more »

This Halloween, Can We All Just Ghost?

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I committed a grievous etiquette sin last weekend. I pulled a Halloween ghost.

Let me explain, and see if you wouldn’t have been tempted to, too.

We were invited to the wedding of a friend of our daughter Marcy. Marcy was in the wedding party, so I had gone to the wedding shower as well. I’d dutifully bought gifts for both occasions. My husband Doug and I got dressed up on a Saturday and got to the venue on time. We’ve had the happy couple over to our house for a couple of parties. We’re not close, exactly, but we like them and wish them the best.

We enjoyed the ceremony (I cried), and chatted with acquaintances and strangers at the hour-plus cocktail hour. Then we found our seats for dinner, introduced ourselves to our table-mates, and made quite enjoyable conversation with them for a couple of hours while the meal was served. It was lengthy because it was interspersed with speeches and first dances. By the time the floor was opened to general dancing, we’d been there for four-plus hours, and frankly, we were beat.

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Crowdfunding Has Consequences

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Over two weeks this past summer, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge poured millions of gallons of frigid water over people’s heads and millions of dollars into the ALS Association’s coffers. (“Coffers”: one of those words used only in writing, never in conversation.) The combination gag phenomenon/act of charity caused a social media tsunami and quadrupled the foundation’s usual fund-raising take, drawing 70,000 new donors to the cause.

I thought about the Ice Bucket Challenge when I read in the New York Times about the “Table of Peace,” a nifty little jewel-bedecked item of 18th-century French furniture (see close-ups here) that made a guest appearance in Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way. (Fancy!) The table was in the Times because it’s the latest item the august Louvre is attempting to buy through crowdfunding. Turns out the French government has had to downsize financial support for cultural institutions for two years straight, so the museum launched a campaign to raise a million euros of the $12.5 million euro price tag set by the current owners, the family of the Baron de Breteuil, from the people. (Let them eat cake off of that, amirite?)

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Will This New “Sex App” Clear Up College Sexual Assaults?

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In his eloquent paean last week to watching porn, Daily News scold Stu Bykofsky equated the practice to stopping by the watercooler to chat with a colleague. There’s one essential way, at least, in which the two acts differ: One is solitary, and one is not. Stu cited the statistic that 29 percent of Americans say watching porn is morally acceptable.

I’m surprised the number’s that low. I don’t give a royal hoot who watches porn, though I’d prefer public officials not be doing so while they’re on the job. But what’s being called “Porngate” reminded me of a handy app that’s being pushed as the answer to the current “crisis” of sexual assault on college campuses. The app, Good2Go, takes the mushy gray out of “He said, she said” college sexual assault accusations by reducing the question of consent to a Wawa touchscreen condiment choice. Read more »

Women-Only Coworking Space The Hive Is a Great Idea

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Like a lot of people who freelance, I’m writing this post from my couch. My company for the morning? A clearly annoyed cat, a news anchor who has no business looking so perky, and a not-so-modest amount of toast crumbs.

Right about now, The Hive is looking like a wonderful idea.

Opening this fall in Old City, The Hive is a coworking space that follows in the footsteps of Indie Hall and Seed Philly (among others — plenty of us are getting sick of the crumby couch). This time around, however, it’s girls-only: billing itself as a “chic coworking space for the self-made female entrepreneur to learn, network and thrive,” this gorgeous 900-square-foot office is strictly for “queen bees.”

Read more »

Solomon Jones’ Quaint Views on Women, Men

solomonjones-400x400When this old world starts getting me down and people are just too much for me to face (doo-doo, doo-doo), I like to open the pages of the Daily News and find me some Solomon Jones. If you don’t know Mr. Jones, he is, as the Daily News describes him, the author of 10 books, the married father of three, and a parenting columnist. I can understand why he became a parenting columnist. On a planet that so often seems to be spinning too quickly, Mr. Jones is a calming influence, an anodyne presence, an antidote to the harsh rush of reality. Mr. Jones’s world is more akin to Mayberry or, perhaps, the land of the Lockhorns than the present day. One of his role models, after all, is Mr. Wilson, Dennis the Menace’s curmudgeonly neighbor from back when TV, and so much else, was black and white.

Consider, if you will, the piece he wrote not long ago (he has a weekly column at the DN) on the TV show Marriage Boot Camp. It was a small, gem-like riff  on how real life is much more fraught with hazards than any “reality TV” show could ever be:

On each of these occasions, marriage boot camp is in full swing. Someone’s going to start yelling, trash cans are going to start rattling and one of you is going to have to drop and give your spouse 20. You’ll have to give them 20 seconds to hand over the ice cream. You’ll have to give them 20 sentences of dialogue during the NFC Championship game. You’ll have to give them 20 minutes of affection when you’re exhausted. That’s marriage boot camp, my friends. It’s on every day at my house, and it’s probably on at your house, too.

Because, seriously, fellas, don’t you just hate it when your wife wants to talk to you during the big game? Don’t you detest it when you’re tired and she wants to cuddle? Women — so unreasonable and demanding, amirite? I can just hear those trash cans rattling! Read more »

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