Tag Archives: Vanity Fair

Hello, nose. Meet grindstone.

No dessert until I finish my dinner.
No TV until I do my homework.
No shopping until I clean out my closet.
No new blog posts until I turn in my writing projects.

Sorry, I just had to put these declarations in writing. In front of a community of witnesses.

Actually, the grown-up version of that first one should be: No dessert if I finish my dinner. As far as those others go, it’s time to ramp up the self-discipline. I’m grateful to have a busy work schedule this Fall; much of it entails lots of writing.

Given looming deadlines and a busy travel schedule, it’s hard for me to justify writing recreationally. So, Word Nymph may have to put down her feather pen a little more often, so she can concentrate on her day job.

This also means that the new fall TV schedule will have to go on without me. I had even blocked out time from 1:00 to 2:00 this afternoon to watch the final episode of All My Children, so that I could write here about how the serial had changed since the last time I watched it (30 years ago), but I just can’t justify it. Books and mags remain neatly stacked for my return. Fall fashions will await me at Lord & Taylor, as the next personal project, making room in the closet, stands in the queue behind other obligations. I might even have to sit out National Punctuation Day this year—it’s tomorrow and, alas, I’ve made no preparations.

However, the work does yield good travel tales, as well as opportunity to observe regional language differences. Maybe I can weave an epic tale when things settle down.

While you may see less of me around here, may I rely on you to stay in touch?

Please post a comment now and then, and tell me what I’m missing:

  • How did All My Children end? Did Erica Kane find happiness? Is there peace in Pine Valley? Is Susan Lucci finally free to overindulge in Boston creme donuts and Popeyes chicken and biscuits?
  • Who’s interviewed in Vanity Fair’s latest Proust Questionnaire?
  • Is the bow blouse still (back) in fashion and will I still be able to get one?
  • Has Mark Zuckerberg caved to public outcry and put Facebook back the way we like it?

All right, I’ve procrastinated long enough.


Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Movies, Television and Radio, Reading, Technology and Social Media

Lil something for everyone

The other day I complained to you about a recent case of writer’s block. You reassured me with good advice.

Truth be told, I’ve also been suffering from acute reader’s block—provided that too isn’t a made-up disease of lazy people.

While I usually read more than ever in the summer, I’m still reading a book I started last December, while nibbling bits of other books and articles in between.

I’m three months behind on my Vanity Fair and two months behind on Esquire and, these days, it takes me longer than usual to get through The Washington Post in the morning—sometimes until well into the evening. Or the next morning, when I feel I must read it before starting that day’s paper.

I know this all seems strange; I know it’s strange for me. I’m still reading; I’m just reading a variety of things in no logical order. Habits change, I suppose.

All this said, a magazine has come into our house that recently captured my attention.

In April my husband received a birthday gift subscription to Garden & Gun. Perhaps you’ve seen it.

I know, Garden & Gun doesn’t sound like reading material suitable for a household of flaming libs. Well, maybe the gardening part. Our household is, however, composed of one native North Carolinian, one recently-returned North Carolina transplant and one whom my father calls the “Beltway Baby.”

The magazine’s full title is Garden & Gun: The Soul of the South and, obviously, covers all things Southern. This week I decided to crack open the last two issues—while I was in the middle of reading something else, no doubt.

I commend it to you. Rest assured; you won’t see Larry the Cable Guy or read anything that reveals, “You know you’re a redneck if…”

G&G a rather nice piece of publishing and superb writing on some interesting subjects.

Granted, you’ll be shown the anatomy of the perfect hush puppy and learn the characteristics of the ideal tomato and maybe learn something you didn’t already know about rhubarb.

You’ll also get to meet Nashville painter Emily Leonard; Merigold, Miss., pottery artist Lee McCarty; Athens, Ga., fabric designer Susan Hable; and Steve Huff, thought to be the Best Fishing Guide Alive.

If you pick up these latest issues, you’ll read about the so-called Memphis Mafia, learn the Rules of Yard Art and get a glimpse into Livestock of the Rich and Famous. This Beltway baby was tickled to see a spread on the Washington, D.C. dining scene.

Moseying through Dixie on your summer vacation and want to know where to find a good barbecue joint? I recommend their list of the 20 best, in part because Red Bridges of my husband’s hometown of Shelby is featured.

Last night I was finishing an article on Gregg Allman when I wondered why I hadn’t seen anything about guns. Then, near the back, on page 108 of the April/May issue, I saw a piece about Griffin & Howe, a famous gunsmith and store—in Greenwich, Connecticut. Maybe it’s in south Greenwich.

The piece notes that Griffin & Howe “is presided over by Guy Bignell, president and CEO of G&H and a Brit of such surpassing handsomeness that he is often assaulted on the streets of Greenwich.”

Am I the only person who finds that funny?


Filed under Family and Friends, Food, Reading

Famed phobia

Do other Vanity Fair readers out there read the last page first? As soon as VF comes in the mail, I flip to the back, to the Proust Questionnaire, a regular feature in which celebrities are asked to reveal their true selves–even if their true selves drive them to provide flip answers.

The questionnaire is fashioned after a list of queries developed by French writer Marcel Proust, who believed that, in order to know others, we must first know ourselves. It asks things like “What is your idea pf perfect happiness?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” as well as “What do you consider the most overrated virtue?” and “How would you like to die?” Every month I read the responses of the featured celebrity and imagine what my own might be.

When asked which talent they’d most like to have, it’s surprising to me how many would like to play the piano. I would too, though being smarter and being able to sing would be higher on my list.

One of my favorites—an example of a flip response—was, when asked “What do you value most in your friends,” Dustin Hoffman replied, “private planes.”

We all relate to those who deplore cruelty in others and admire hard work. I’ve never related more to any answer than I did to one this month by New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter. To the question, “What is your greatest fear,” he said “Being unprepared.” Bingo.

We’ve all had that dream about going into a final exam after forgetting to go to class for a whole semester. Or being out in public without a stitch of clothing. I also have one in which I’ve neglected a pet too long. Gruesome, I know, but it reflects the depth of this fear I share with Jeter.

Perhaps it comes from showing up at Catholic school without my homework or permission slip, or not taking some of my college courses seriously enough. Somewhere along the way, these experiences of my youth led to some pretty compulsive behavior in my later years: packing three pairs of pantyhose for a one-night trip or leaving the house in perfect order, just in case something happens to me while I’m at 7-Eleven. Never running out of milk or floor wax or Q-tips. Reading the whole paper in the morning, not necessarily because I want to but because someone might ask me about a column or an obituary or the Dow. Getting my car inspected before it’s due and filing my taxes three weeks early. I can’t sleep at night if I don’t have at least an inkling of what I’ll blog about the next morning.

I know nothing whatsoever about Derek Jeter, or the New York Yankees or baseball for that matter. I do know, though, that Jeter’s favorite hero is The Incredible Hulk, that he would come back as an elephant, that he thinks he overuses the word “obviously” and that he hates bullies and his own skinny legs. I’d like to know how he overcomes that fear we both share and if he’s anywhere near as neurotic as I am in compensating for it.

What’s your greatest fear and, just to make me feel normal, what quirky compulsions do you throw at it?


Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Reading, Sports and Recreation

Fill in the blank pages

Last fall, the electronic news organization Politico started a little parlor game in which people take turns predicting sentences from yet-to-be-released books. It started with Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars. At lunch one day, a table of Washington insiders took guesses at what snip-its about Administration officials might appear in the soon-to-be released book.

Vanity Fair joined the fun and put the question out to its online readers. Hilarity ensued. One reader submitted: “Biden had ducked behind the oversized leather chair where Bo had curled up to sleep. He rubbed the dog behind his ears as he put a manila folder in his mouth.”

Yesterday, crediting the game Politico had started, Vanity Fair kicked off another round, this time inviting readers to guess what sentences might appear in the forthcoming memoir by 20-year-old Bristol Palin, set to hit shelves in June.

Comments put forth so far include: “Going through something like that always makes me think of an old expression: ‘That was really hard—really hard—but I’m so much more of an adult now’” and my personal favorite,  “I was like, ‘Levi,’ and then he was like, ‘What?’”

That a 20-year-old would have lived enough life to fill 300 pages of memoir confounds me. Even having a mother making a controversial splash in the national spotlight, becoming a mother herself at 18, having an ex-boyfriend who posed for Playgirl and competing on Dancing with the Stars, that still leaves a couple of hundred pages to fill. For gosh sakes, I have sweaters older than Bristol Palin.

Amazon has just begun taking pre-orders for the book that is for now named “Untitled Bristol Palin Memoir.”

Use your imaginations and guess what might be in it. You can follow the comments Vanity Fair’s readers submit and contribute your own comments there. Otherwise, if you’d prefer to scratch your creative itch before a more limited audience, feel free to do it here. What sentences would you expect to read in the memoir?

I’ll start. “One morning I shot a caribou in my pajamas.” What he was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know.


Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics, Reading

Date night

If you haven’t been following the lead up to tonight’s State of the Union address, or “SOTU” as inside-the-Beltway rags call it, something remarkable and history-making is about to happen.

Rather than being separated into sections, Republicans and Democrats have been encouraged to spread out and sit with each other. This could have all kinds of ramifications.

From the perspective of the television audience, it’ll be a bit harder to discern audience reactions than in previous years, with one side of the room in standing ovation and the other a sea of arms folded across chests at key points in the speech. In an effort to engender bonding and stimulate civil communication between red and blue, members of Congress have spent time this week choosing whom from the opposite side they’ll sit with during the address.

When I heard this, I became concerned for members whom no one asks to the dance. Just like senior prom, there are always a few who are passed over by classmates looking to score the most popular dates.

Yesterday, Vanity Fair came out with an initial report of who’s going with whom, along with suggestions of topics these duos should avoid, lest all Hades break loose in the chamber, as it did last year, if I recall correctly. This morning, The Washington Post‘s Style section suggests how bipartisan cliques might form around common interests and habits.

I haven’t heard how this intermingling is supposed to take place in practicality. Does one member go and save a seat for his or her buddy? Or will duos make it a true date—maybe a double date—and get a bite to eat together before the speech? A nightcap afterward, perhaps? Will they share a box of Jujubes? Or will they end up elbowing or kicking each other beneath the seats like young siblings, when the uncomfortable subject of spending priorities comes around?

What about those who refuse to cross the aisle and remain amongst their like-minded colleagues? Perhaps they are already practicing the Wave or synchronized heckles.

I rested up during the AFC and NFC playoffs so I can be nice and alert for SOTU. Call me a wonk if you will; perhaps this comes from many years in a job in which I had to take detailed notes and write a report the next morning. Tonight I’ll just pop some corn and watch the show. Okay, so I may take a few notes. Old habits die hard.


Filed under News, Politics

Green-eyed fan

My husband makes no secret of the fact that he is wildly in lust with actress Natalie Portman. He quivered all the way through Black Swan. From the seat next door, I could tell he was projecting himself onto the screen with her. Never mind that he is almost old enough to be her grandfather.

Just a few days ago, he harrumphed at the fact that she’s starring in a romantic role opposite Ashton Kutcher in the upcoming No Strings Attached. His feeling is that Kutcher is no match for Portman’s talent, beauty and experience. I am pretty sure my husband won’t be rushing to see his love share a screen—or bed—with the actor he pretty much considers a goofball.

On the flip side, I am an Ashton Kutcher fan and have been since he played a goofball on That 70s Show. Never mind that I am more than old enough to be his mother. Apparently, he’s quite intelligent. He can act okay enough, is plenty handsome and, I dare say, is pretty darned appealing.

Here’s the funny thing. According to a Vanity Fair piece appearing online yesterday, my husband isn’t alone. In fact, the magazine’s Juli Weiner has a theory about why men won’t be rushing to see the No Strings Attached: Jealousy.

Remember, in Black Swan, while sizzingly sexy, Portman didn’t play opposite a male lead per se. This, I suppose, is why men may have found it easy to imagine themselves on screen beside her. Weiner posits that one reason men aren’t eager to see her upcoming movie is that “men are saddened, revolted, and tortured by jealousy at the mere thought of Portman’s paramours.”

Very well then. The movie opens January 21st. Who’s up for a girls’ (well, middle-aged ladies’) night out? The guys can stay home and weigh in on VF‘s poll, “Who Is the Person You’d Least Like to Imagine Sleeping with Natalie Portman?” (As of this posting, John Mayer’s in the lead.)


Filed under Family and Friends, Movies, Television and Radio, Reading

Just write it

This is Part One of a three-part series on writing. The series incorporates stated views of several well-known writers and their observations about the craft.

After 25 years of writing for business, I started Word Nymph as a place to practice writing for pleasure. You have been patient and gracious guinea pigs.

At key intervals—one month online or the 100th blog post—I have reflected on the lessons I’ve learned. The effort has been underway for about eight months now, with my 200th entry appearing this weekend.

I have never written a book, and likely never will, but I’ve often thought I’d like to give it a try. Nonetheless, I do pay attention to what authors, playwrights and songwriters have observed about the writing process.

American novelist Philip Roth (Goodbye Columbus) was interviewed recently while promoting his new novel, Nemesis. Vanity Fair’s John Heilpern asked Roth, “Do you find writing difficult?” Roth responded, “I find it arduous and un-doable. It’s laden with fear and doubt. It’s never easy—not for me.” I imagine that creative juices, a sharp personal discipline and handsome advances eventually help one over the hurdles.

Even as an amateur blogger, I find I can relate to the observations of a few of the writing maestros:

Stephen King, from his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

Sharon O’Brien – “Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning.  I wanted to know what I was going to say.”

James Michener – “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”

John Osborne“Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs.”

Over the next couple of days, I’d like to share insights from other famous writers, including why they write and their techniques for good writing.

Perhaps you have thought of doing more writing. Have you been carrying around a novel idea in your head, or did you read or watch Julie & Julia and think to yourself, I could do that? There’s only one way to find out. Do it.

Don’t be daunted by the comments of Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith, who said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Or  Gene Fowler, who said, “Writing is easy:  All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” 

Just come back tomorrow and Saturday for goodies to put in your writer’s toolbox.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Quotes, Reading

Clay pigeon

While on a plane this week, I finished up my November issue of Vanity Fair. Having read all the good stuff, I swept back through my less favorite features, including one called “My Stuff.” Each month this feature asks a celebrity to list his or her favorite clothing items, household furnishings and gadgets.

November’s celeb is Amy Sedaris, author, actress and comedian. In case you were dying to know, her favorite dessert is angel food cake stuffed with ice cream. Another item on her list caught my eye.

Favorite Discovery: Romertopf Clay Pot.

This evoked tremors in me, going back decades, when my parents made their foray into the realm of health food, 10 years before anyone else did. While everyone else was eating Charles Chips and Twinkies, we were eating alfalfa sprouts and carob. Our family swore off salt, refined sugar, bleached flour and any grain that wasn’t in its whole form.

For me, the most dismal piece of this lifestyle was the dreaded Romertopf. Any role this godforsaken pot played in dinner guaranteed a nearly inedible meal—one I thought (but did not dare say) should immediately be Fed Ex’ed to the starving children in Bangladesh.

The Romertopf remains immensely popular to this day, though I can’t imagine why. The pot is designed scientifically to eliminate the need to cook one’s chicken or vegetables in fat, salt or any seasoning for that matter. Purportedly, the clay cooking method brings out the natural flavor of the food. The meal gets its moisture not from butter or olive oil, but by immersing the pot in water before cooking, so that it releases steam while in the oven. Basically, your meal tastes like chicken and/or vegetables and water. Mmmm.

According to the Romertopf’s official website, “If you intend baking bread or sponges, then lining the base with foil or parchment paper will aid easy removal.”

I thought that eggplant tasted like something out of the sink.


Filed under Family and Friends, Food, Health

Validation at last

I cracked open the new issue of Vanity Fair, which was fresh from the mailbox. I got as far as page 96, the October 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll, and found a teensy ray of sunshine. Which, by the way, I needed after reading Graydon Carter’s unusually grim editor’s letter.

If you’re a regular VF reader, then you know it shows how Americans weigh in on the poll’s 10 or so issues each month.

This time, 847 people answered questions on topics ranging from the war in Afghanistan to the likelihood that Sarah Palin would make an effective president; whether tanning salon services should be taxed and the extent to which Mel Gibson’s bad behavior would influence moviegoers’ seeing his latest movie.

Only 37 percent of those responding to the poll said they knew who Emily Post was and what she was known for. As sad as I am about the downward spiraling of etiquette awareness, I am not going to dwell on that here.

Why? Because I am so darned encouraged by the answers to another poll question.

The third question of the poll asked participants, “Of the following, which one do you think is the most overused word in the English language today?” The choices were “like,” “awesome,” “tweet,” “organic” and “hope.”

The top choice was [drumroll] “like.” Finally, it’s not just I being critical and whiny. Others’ ears are aching too.

As if I were not pleased enough to see acknowledgement that this nothingness word has run amok, here’s the cherry on top. Among those who said “like” is the most overused word in the English language, more than twice as many respondents were ages 18 to 44 as were 45 or older. Way to go, young people. Awesome. There is hope. Organic hope. Like, I’m so going to tweet it from the rooftops.

I’ll be optimistic that all of us who believe “like” is overused will stand up and take immediate steps to curb it. Let’s begin with not using “I’m like” in lieu of “I said,” shall we? Then maybe we can aim for good stats from the under 18 crowd.

Now please don’t go and burst my bubble by telling me that 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Beauty and Fashion, Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics, Reading, Technology and Social Media

Weird news day

I don’t tweet much. Once a day or so, just to blast out blog updates.

On Twitter, I follow more than am followed. I follow 26 people and only 15 follow me. I really must do something about this.

The reason I follow most of the tweeters I do is to get information. While it might be mildly relevant to know where someone is lunching, I am more interested in newsier Tweets. These often include items that don’t make the major newspapers, are written with esoteric angles or are relevant to narrow industry sectors. Or they’re just plain funny. Those I follow are publications mostly—The New Yorker, Fast Company, Vanity Fair, Advertising Age, Politico. Freaknomics puts out good stuff. I’ll make another pitch here for Fake AP Stylebook.

One night recently, as I was scrolling the latest Tweets before bed,  the most bizarre collection of headlines jumped off the screen.

I wondered how these would look to someone having just awakened from a decade or two of hyperbaric sleep and wanted to catch up on the latest developments in fashion, politics, the environment, cable news or travel. Then again, Twitter in and of itself might buckle the brain of anyone who’s been out of touch for, say, 10 years.

Here is just a sample of the headlines I read within in just five minutes’ time:

New York Fashion Week to Include Designer Sex Toys

Barbara Boxer aide charged with possession of pot

China Beats U.S. to First Offshore Wind Farm

Scandal Glossary: The Complicated Past of Piers Morgan, Larry King’s Replacement

Airport “Naked” Body Scanners Get Privacy Upgrade to Anonymize Your Naughty Bits

Pinch me; I must still be dreaming.

Please remember, there are no blog updates on Sundays. I’ll be opening the Sunday paper with caution.

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Filed under News, Politics, Reading, Technology and Social Media