Annals of Online Dating
Published on December 5, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at GOOD magazine, Jill Filipovic explains what she's learned from online dating. The piece is both insightful and hilarious, with shrewd observations of a number of subcategories of online daters, including Nice Guys (who are never as nice as they think) and the guys who don't want to date crazy girls (who are often crazy themselves).

Here's an excerpt:

"I soon found that online dating did not force me to be nice—actually, it required me to be mean. And the process of ferreting out the weirdos was oddly cathartic. Offline, women are socialized to Be Nice (or at least to be polite and respond to advances). Men are socialized to Hit Anything That Moves (or at least to consider having sex with any interested woman). Online dating offered a new playing field. For women, OkCupid is both a less-intimidating medium for asking men on dates, and an easy out for evading creepy suitors. You’re entitled to select a date you are interested in and attracted to, which means you don’t have to respond to a guy’s advances just because he’s taken the time to advance upon you. The sheer volume of potential mates helps turn the tables even further. At a time when women are told that we’re getting too old and successful to find suitable partners, online dating offers us the buffet of options men have traditionally enjoyed.

Of course, buffet-style dating strikes a lot of people as overly consumerist: You’re evaluating potential mates not based on any real-life connection, but on a set of characteristics they list on a website and a curated set of self-shots. It can be limiting in that regard, but the little things can be significant. Online dating informs you from the get-go if your potential companion enjoys the musical stylings of John Mayer, thinks The Da Vinci Code counts as a “book,” or voted for Ron Paul. People lie—despite the appearances of my tightly curated online profile, my typical Friday night is not actually spent out drinking whiskey, but rather downing a bottle of $10 wine on my couch. But at least you get a sense of the kind of person a potential mate can be when they put their most dateable face forward."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Thinking About the NBA
Published on December 5, 2011 by Sara Foss

Bethlehem Shoals is one of the sharpest basketball writers around, and over at the new site the Classical he offers some thoughts on the upcoming NBA season.

Notes On Poetry, Online And Otherwise
Love Flea: A Love Poetry Blog
Published on December 4, 2011 by guest author: Dan Schneider

A recent battle with fleas (a story for a different kind of blog post!) inspired me to look up a poem I’d read sometime back in college or grad school called, appropriately enough, "The Flea." I couldn’t remember the author, but a quick Google search brought up “The Flea” by John Donne, a contemporary of Shakespeare. Reading this again (you can find the whole poem here), I was struck by how modern the poem seemed—as long as you disregard Elizabethan notions of chastity and honor. Donne opens:


Mark but this flea, and mark in this,   

How little that which thou deniest me is;   

Me it sucked first, and now sucks thee,

And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;


Perhaps it is Donne’s tongue-in-cheek speaker, his directness when describing the flea sucking blood from both lover and beloved, or the idea of finding love within something revolting (believe me, I can tell you exactly how revolting!) that give this 400-something-year-old poem a modern feel. But then it made me wonder: If Donne was subverting the conventions of the love poems of his time by using the device of the flea, what conventions are contemporary writers using or subverting in love poems today? Does anyone even write love poems these days?


The Magic of Books
Published on December 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

In my column this week at the DG, I write about the joys of reading fantasy and science fiction, and manage to touch upon the epic magician novel "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell," the death of Anne McCaffrey, Elmore Leonard, Stephen King and William Shakespeare.

Here's an excerpt:

"Over Thanksgiving break, I traveled to Maine, where the balmy weather allowed for long walks on the beach and bike rides through the marsh. I also saw 'The Muppets' and finally finished the doorstop-sized novel I’ve been reading since the waning days of summer.

Titled 'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell,' the book tells the story of two magicians seeking to restore magic to 19th century England. The men have vastly different personalities — Mr Norrell is stuffy and cautious, while Jonathan Strange is dashing and daring — but they join forces to help the British defeat the French before parting ways over philosophical differences.

At 900 pages, 'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell' is quite large, but it’s also an absolute blast to read, and I have no excuse for taking so long to get through it. (I had hoped to finish it on my vacation but opted instead to work my way through a 13-magazine backlog.) I’d been reading it in bits and pieces, but over Thanksgiving I had time to sit down and plow through the final 300 pages.

This is how I read books when I was younger, long before I had a job or real responsibilities to attend to — in huge chunks, over the course of a few days."

Click here to read the whole thing.

The Definitive Thomas Friedman Hate Piece
Published on December 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

I always enjoy reading a vicious take down of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, and this piece, posted on Guernica, is pretty good.

Faith and Loss at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Published on December 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

I've stayed at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City two times, through a program called Nightwatch, which opens the church up to Christian youth groups. During the day, we explored New York City, did some volunteer work, and returned to the cathedral at night, for activities, worship and a hard sleep on a gym floor. One highlight was a nighttime tour of the cathedral that brought us up to the building's ledges, and even outside onto balconies, for close-up views of gargoyles and such.

Anyway, I have fond memories of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which might explain why I enjoyed this piece in The Morning News.

Overlook Mountain, December 4th
Published on December 4, 2011 by Sara Foss

Overlook Mountain is a nice little hike in Woodstock, N.Y. The trail is an old road, and it's pretty easy to ascend. At the top, you can explore the ruins of an old hotel destroyed by fire, and climb a fire tower.



Top Reads of the Week
Published on December 2, 2011 by Sara Foss

Travel: Kristina Ingvarsson on why you should go to Guam.

Work: R.B. Austen on working Black Friday.

Parenting: J LeBlanc on regulating her son's TV watching and A Espeseth on teaching her son to be a good consumer

Movies: Sara Foss on "The Muppets."

Pets: Sara Foss on how you cannot win a war of wills with cats.

It's OK To Be Angry If Someone Mugs You, Part II
Published on December 1, 2011 by Sara Foss

This charming story about a mugging victim who offered to give his mugger his coat and bought him dinner has been making the rounds.

People react to being mugged in a variety of ways. For instance, when I was mugged, I became very calm. The friend who was with me became tearful and panicked. You just never know how you'll respond to having a gun pointed at your head until it actually happens, or how you'll feel about it days, weeks, months, or even years later.

Perhaps this is why the headline attached to the charming story - "A Victim Treats His Mugger Right" - irritates me so much. After I was mugged, I decided to call the police and file a report. Is that the wrong way to treat a violent criminal who holds a gun to your head and steals your wallet? No, it is not. Now, if someone feels like being magnanimous and buying their mugger dinner, I won't stop them. To each his own. But other courses of action are perfectly appropriate, and I don't ever think, "Oh, maybe I should have been more like Jesus, and taken that guy to the Waffle House for pancakes and some simple human charity." Of course, the idea of spending any time alone with my mugger would have scared me half to death. Perhaps because he accosted me on a dark street, forced me to lie down on a lawn and held a gun to my head!

On Facebook, people seem charmed by the charming story. And it is charming. But every time I see a positive comment about the story, I wonder if the person making it has ever been mugged. In my opinion, only people who have been mugged have any real sense of what the "right" reaction is, and they know better than anyone that you have very little control over how you react to something like that. Until I was mugged, I had no idea how I would react to something like that. And if I'm ever mugged again, I have no idea whether I would react the same way. I really don't.

Click here for my previous thoughts on this topic, about how it's OK to be angry if someone mugs you.



Plagiarism? Or Plagiarism Hoax?
Published on December 1, 2011 by Sara Foss

I find the latest plagiarism scandal fascinating, and not just because I took a poetry workshop with the writer, Quentin Rowan, in college. (We were both creative writing majors.) At the time, we were all kind of in awe of Rowan, because he'd had a poem published in the 1996 anthology of the best American poetry.

Anyway, apparently Rowan's new book, a spy thriller called "Assassin of Secrets," written under the pen name QR Markham (which was previously used by Kingsley Amis), contained excerpts lifted from a number of other writers, including John Gardner and Robert Ludlum. The publisher, Little, Brown, has pulled the book from the shelves, while Rowan has written an apology, of sorts, over at The Fix.

OK, some links.

At Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams explains why Rowan's apology is lame. (He claims addiction made him do it, and that the urge to plagiarize is something of a pathology.)

One of Rowan's fellow Brooklynites bashes him here.

While the Huffington Post provides a detailed look at the scandal here.

And one writer suggests that Rowan might be a genius, and that the whole thing is a hoax that will make him wildly successful.

Greatest Toys Ever
Published on December 1, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at Wired magazine, GeekDad lists the five greatest toys of all time.

I've played with all of them!

NFL Picks, Week 13
Published on December 1, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 13 NFL picks.

Click here to read them.

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