Category Archives: Print

Languages: Pimsleur actually works

Who doesn’t like to travel internationally?  (Statistically, two-thirds of Americans, but whatever.)  The New York Times just published the very handy “10 Paths to a More Fluent Vacation,” which includes suggestions to learn some new phrases or brush up on your college Spanish before your next trip.

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Modern Love: Or how I went on a bad date and got published in the Times

This week’s Modern Love focuses on a writer who was contacted by a reader who shared her unusual surname (Goldenberg).  She was so besotted with the idea that “[her] mythical children would have only one surname instead of an awkward multihyphenate that sounds like the name of a law firm” that she created an entire fantasy about their married life, even before she ever met him.

Neither felt any chemistry on their lone date, which “crushed [her] like any breakup would.”  Really?  I mean, to everything.  Really, one date crushed you like a breakup?  Really, you think a legacy can only be created “under a unified family crest,” i.e. a common surname?  Really, you found something unique about this situation that millions of Koreans encounter constantly?  (All right, I suppose Goldenberg isn’t typical, but it’s hard to be mystified about this when my parents were both Kims, and my high school homeroom had 10 Kims.)

But most of all, really, New York Times, you’re now accepting Modern Love submissions about the fact that people conjure up ridiculous fantasies before what winds up being a shitty date?

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Game of Thrones: How TV adaptations of epic fantasy novels reveal my inner racist


(No, this doesn’t contain spoilers.  At least not really.)

I’m reading A Song of Ice and Fire (aka “the Game of Thrones books”), and I just finished the second book, A Clash of Kings, today on the subway.  I’ve seen Season One of the series on shoddy European links, but I’m super excited to watch every episode this coming weekend when HBO marathons both seasons.*

A few days ago, I set my DVR to record the series, and I noticed that a Season Two episode, “Garden of Bones,” had recorded.  I thought, “Sure, I can watch this.  I’ve already read this part,” upon reading the episode description.

Anyway, in the Dany storyline, she arrives at Qarth and encounters the Thirteen.  This episode marks the introduction of recurring character Xaro Xhoan Daxos.  And to my racist surprise, British actor Nonso Anozie (who is black) had been cast as Xaro.

Why is this a surprise?  I guess I had envisioned Xaro as white while reading the book.  Which is completely illogical.  First of all, Xaro is a desert guy.  I mean, if you’re from the desert, you’re probably not pasty.  Secondly, he’s a part of Dany’s storyline.  Almost nobody in Dany’s storyline (except Dany and Ser Jorah, who is only there because he’s an exiled knight) is white.  Everybody else is Dothraki or some other nomadic warrior tribe-person in the desert.  (Not to mention, everybody who IS white in the books refers to the Dothraki and the other nomadic warrior desert tribes as “savages,” which I don’t think has historically ever really been used to describe white people.)

Why do I envision everybody as white?  I’M not even white!  Also, at least a third of the world is, like, solely Chinese and Indian.  This doesn’t even include all the Asians, not to mention the other non-whites.  According to Wikipedia, white people only constitute like 12-13% of the world population.  SO WHY DO I ENVISION EVERYBODY AS WHITE?

Anyway, I’m a little sickened with myself.

* Special thanks to Kevin at Time Warner Cable who was charmed by pitied me when I called last week to set up my account.  He asked, “So do you like to watch movies?” and I replied, “Well, yeah, but I don’t like to pay for them,” and for some reason, he decided to reward my frankness with a full year of free HBO.  Moral of the story:  tell the truth because somebody might feel sorry for you.  Also, Kevin rocks.

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Melissa Joan Hart: sitcom star and memoirist


According to The Hollywood Reporter, Melissa Joan Hart just signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press to publish a memoir entitled Melissa Explains It All:  Tales from My Abnormally Normal Life in 2013.

Honestly, what is up with the barrage of memoirs from all of these young people?  Right now, there is a ton of pre-Olympics publicity for Dominique Moceanu’s memoir (she’s 30), I’m currently reading Rafael Nadal John Carlin’s Rafa (published last year and predictably not that great), and now this?  These things are supposed to be released after a lifetime of retrospection!  A memoir from someone like Gabriel García Márquez is, like, actually a memoir.

Anyway.  I wonder how Macfadden Publications, the company that published Teen Beat, feels about the title.  I used to religiously read “Melissa Explains It All,” Melissa Joan Hart’s post-Clarissa, pre-Sabrina advice column, in my favorite monthly celeb glossy.  Personally, I would confuse this upcoming book with her mid-1990’s advice column!

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Golfer Ivan Lendl seeks to improve his game

The New York Times

This Sunday’s New York Times Magazine has a great feature on former No. 1 Ivan Lendl, who is currently serving as Andy Murray’s coach.  With Wimbledon coming up, I suppose it’s unsurprising that there would be Murray-related features, especially since the media loves to remind everyone that the last British man to win there was Fred Perry in 1936.

Peter de Jonge, who followed around the duo — and of course Andy’s mother Judy — for the past few months, notes:  Murray’s deepest ambition… is not to be filthy rich but to win majors and earn a place in tennis history.

Unfortunately, I don’t exactly see the latter happening, considering that his coach, who retired nearly two decades ago, is the subject of substantial profiles in the Times Magazine and not Andy himself.

(And yes, that is Andy on the green mat doing his downward dog!)

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Fun facts: Men like to aim their pee

According to Michael Pollak’s FYI column in the Times, the urinals in Terminal 4 at JFK have a large black housefly at the center, toward the bottom.  Apparently, the Dutch realized that if you put a target in a urinal, men aim for it, which reduces “mistakes” by 80 percent.

But this still doesn’t explain why so many toilet seats in ladies’ rooms are drowning in pee.

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A Game of Thrones: The one without Sean Bean on the cover

Random House

Yesterday, I finally finished A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (or GRRM, as I’ve noticed how he is referenced on blogs).  I actually read the Kindle version, so I suppose I can’t actually claim one cover over the other, but honestly, how can Random House think that it’s acceptable to sell copies with the TV series poster?  That’s a huge pet peeve of mine.


Look at this!  Okay, so HBO decided to rename the series Game of Thrones (omitting the indefinite article)… but when you’re using the poster for the book cover, how can you alter the original title?

Okay, so obviously this is arguably the best-known cover now.  (And to be honest, the Kindle page on Amazon uses this cover, so I should shut my mouth since this is what I read.)

But what’s this?


I also found this image on Amazon.  What is this?  I guess it’s a slightly newer edition but one that predates the other two, since the first two covers use the same font?

What is that animal?  Is that a lion?  I guess?  So that’s House Lannister?  If so, why House Lannister?  I would’ve thought that the bulk of the book focused on House Stark.  Even the TV tie-in cover agrees, though maybe that has more to do with the fact that Sean Bean was the most recognizable face when the series premiered.

And who the hell is this?


It must be a member of the Night’s Watch, right?  Jon Stark?  I don’t know!  Jon’s only 14, so this can’t be him… Benjen Stark?  Who’s barely a character?  I mean, it looks like the winter, so it could be Ned Stark, but does Ned Stark dress in all black too?

I’m really bad at identifying people on book covers.  For instance, on Baby-Sitters Club book covers, I could never really tell who was Stacey or Dawn!  Usually I could only tell which blonde was which by seeing if she were next to Claudia or Mary Anne.

Anyway.  A (?) Game of Thrones was highly enjoyable.  At the very end of the Kindle version, however, there were some very helpful guides for all of the Houses in the Seven Kingdoms.  If I had been reading a physical copy of the book, I probably would’ve noticed these references earlier, which would have made identifying the characters a lot easier since there are SO MANY.

The show is highly enjoyable too.  I’m very impressed at how the producers have managed to condense the book into one season.  I’ve seen five episodes so far, and the show remains pretty faithful to the source material (although reading about a guy getting his throat slit open is different than seeing it onscreen).

Time to buy A Clash of Kings.  Unfortunately, these books are not loanable on Kindle, but as my sister pointed out, if we are willing to shell out $14 for a two-hour movie, paying $8.99 for a book (that provides many more hours of entertainment… and are re-readable) is nothing!

And for those of you who are curious (aka NOBODY), here’s the original A Game of Thrones cover, as per Wikipedia:


Boring.  No wonder they went with Sean Bean.


Nationality and the Olympics

London 2012

Maria Sharapova recently announced on Facebook that she will serve as the flag bearer for Russia in the opening ceremonies in London for her first (!) Olympic Games.  Her selection to represent Russia, however, may come as a surprise since she plays a sport dominated by her fellow countrymen, who allegedly label her a “passport Russian,” since she has lived and trained in the U.S. since 1994. has a great piece about Sharapova’s decision to remain a Russian citizen.  The criticism that she receives (that prompt jokes by Slate that the U.S. finally broke through at the French Open) is quite a contrast from the public’s reaction to Novak Djokovic, the upcoming flag-bearer for Serbia.  Granted, we’re comparing apples and oranges:  Serbia is a tiny country where Djokovic is idolized and whose own president talked to 60 Minutes earlier this year about his influence on the nation, despite the fact that Djokovic has lived in tax haven Monte Carlo for years.

Interestingly, this week’s cover story for Time, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter (and undocumented immigrant) José Antonio Vargas, chronicles the struggles of Americans in this country.  They may not have passports, but they live here, work here, and arguably understand the concept of the American dream better than anyone who was actually born on U.S. soil.

So what makes everybody so much more willing to accept someone like Sharapova, who proudly continues to represent Russia, as an American, than any of these others who would jump at the chance to wave around Old Glory anywhere?

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