“No Body Talk” Summer Camps: Is This a Good Thing?

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Shutterstock.com

Last week the New York Times ran an article on a couple of summer camps that enforce a “no body talk” rule. As one such camp’s founder, Vivian Stadlin, explains it, this means that while at camp, kids and counselors “take a break from mentioning physical appearance, including clothing. And it’s about myself or others, be it negative, neutral or even positive.”

My first reaction to the article was, “What a great idea!” At Stadlin’s camp, Eden Village, campers are taught to give compliments like “Your soul shines” or “I feel so happy to be with you.” Signs on bathroom mirrors read, “Don’t check your appearance, check your soul.” Another chain of camps, Rosie’s Girls, takes this a step further and covers mirrors completely, so that campers won’t even be tempted to judge themselves. Read more »

Is Orange Is the New Black Too Funny?

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Count me among the many who happily binge-watch Netflix’s most successful series, Orange Is The New Black. It has what most great shows have: nuanced characters, great dialogue and an interesting story arc with just enough ridiculousness sprinkled in to make the mundanity of everyday life seem entertaining.

Except, what Orange unpacks is a little more than mundane ordinary life. The show, which centers on the lives of the female inmates of the fictional Litchfield Correctional Facility, makes jail the centerpiece of its LOLs and hijinks, then snaps the audience back into the grittier realities for a pathos-driven push-and-pull to humanize the way we think about the incarcerated.

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I Miss White Bread

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Poor bread.

Nobody wants to eat it anymore. It’s full of carbs. And gluten. It’s made from wheat.

I’m not talking fancy-ass bread, the kind that comes in the extra-cost “bread service” at elite restaurants these days, made from spelt and oats and black rice and seaweed, served with anchovy-tamarind-apricot spread. I’m talking white bread, the fluffy stuff that used to be a given at the start of any meal out and a staple of the home dinner table. That you ate with butter, not a plate of extra virgin olive oil pocked with herbs.

I miss white bread. Read more »

Whoa, Kids! Stop Horsing Around With “Woah”!

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Keanu: Whoa or woah?

So I keep seeing young people spell the word “whoa” as “woah.” And I can’t figure out why this is. It’s not like “wh” is an unusual way for a word to begin. (What? Where? Who?) And it’s not like the word has two syllables when you pronounce it: woe-AHHH. So — why? Before you know it, “woah” will have become a word on its own and “whoa” will be forgotten, kicked to the roadside, left on the dust heap of obscurity along with the distinction between “rein” and “reign,” which is another error that’s a burr under my saddle. But that’s a horse of a different color. And anyway, going against the millennial tide is like beating a dead horse, right? Read more »

Does Handwriting Really Matter?

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Shutterstock.com

As a product of Catholic school education, it’s hard for me to imagine a world where good penmanship doesn’t matter. In fact, I still remember a day in sixth grade when I was instructed to re-write a cursive letter “D”’again and again because I opted to put my own personal flare on the old-fashioned stencil. Aside from the personal trauma that comes with overzealous instruction from ladies dressed in habits, there’s a different kind of psychology associated with handwriting, according to a piece in the Times.

“Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information,”the story goes. “In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.”

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Which TV Ad Babe Is For You: Progressive’s Flo, Toyota’s Jan, or AT&T’s Lily?

Flo, Jan, Lily.

Flo, Jan, Lily.

First there was Flo, the kooky TV spokeswoman for Progressive Insurance, stuck inside her weird futuristic white sales habitat, bundling things together, demonstrating the Name Your Price tool and monitoring the security cameras.

I didn’t mind Flo. She was different, a little bit Manic Pixie Dream Girl, quirky without being off-putting. Once she headed out of the store, though, Flo began to seem more sinister. She tried to pick up strangers riding motorcycles. She had that bizarre encounter in the rain with a young man. Was he her lover? Her customer? I didn’t want to speculate about Flo’s love life. I liked her because she was flirtatious without flaunting her sexuality — fun and feminine (sort of) and nonthreatening when she popped up in the lulls of college football games.

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Have a Moral Dilemma? There’s an App for That.

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The parking garage I use downtown has a coupon online that makes for a hefty discount. So every day, I make sure I’ve printed out a copy of the coupon to present when I check out. The garage recently switched over to a fancy new automated checkout system that everybody hates, and my printed-out coupons are a wrinkle in that system. Last week, as I settled up, the attendant told me, “You know, you can download that coupon on your phone and then just hold the phone up to the scanner. What kind of phone do you have, an iPhone or an Android?”

I scrambled in my purse. “Um … ” I held up my flip-phone, and his face fell.

“Oh,” he said. “Never mind.”

I read recently that two-thirds of Americans now own smartphones. I’m not sure why. I don’t feel a void in my life because I can’t locate the closest 20 shoe stores or play Angry Birds. I did read about an app the other day, though, that almost seemed useful. Developed by Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, it’s called the Ethical Decision Making app. As described in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “The Ethical Decision Making app is an attempt to bring applied ethics into the 21st century. It is not so much a Magic 8-Ball as a pocket Socrates, which is to say the app asks more questions than it answers. The idea is that someone facing a decision can use it to evaluate each possible option.” Read more »

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