Monthly Archives: May 2009

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What the new Urban Outfitters store can do for Charlottesville

It can say a big “fuck you” to the big-city Urban Outfitters franchises with their condescending employees. It can prove that salespeople can be both nice and have dyed hair/tattoos/neon leggings. It can say, “Despite our hip national status, we are still going to integrate into Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall culture by being hospitable and unpretentious. Also, we are going to maintain our positive reputation in the community by giving a certain local blogger free clothes and/or scarves whenever she asks for them.”

Many sociological questions arise when I contemplate the new Urban Outfitters on the Downtown Mall:

1) By month’s end will all the teenagers in Charlottesville be wearing different versions of the same outfit?

2) Is the new Urban Outfitters a harbinger of the homogenized, corporate culture that will eventually take over downtown?

3) Can I get that in a large?

4) Can I get that in an extra-large? What about an XXL? Do you have that?

5) Is this new store good for the local economy? Specifically, my economy?

6) Does this color look good on me?

7) Can you buy me this?

In which my husband solves the newspaper publishing crisis

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about the future of journalism residing in “hyperlocal” news. Hyperlocal news steps in where the doomsday scenario leaves off: Newspapers fire experienced writers, writers have no place to go, newspapers die out, the end is nigh. Yet we still crave news that is streamlined and directly relevant to our lives. So instead of scavenging a national paper on its deathbed, we might read a blog written by an out-of-work reporter who lives down the street, a meaningful voice that in turn aggregates other meaningful voices.

This is where Darren Hoyt comes in. He and Ben Gillbanks, an English colleague, just launched Dispatch, a WordPress blog theme for writers and journalists. An add-on to the Mimbo Pro WP theme, Dispatch gives any journalist with $20* an online platform that looks and feels like a professional newspaper or magazine website. So with minimal effort and financial commitment, you can launch a respectable blog for posting pictures and stories of your tour in Afghanistan or your cat or whatever. God, my husband is on the cutting edge.

Tech Dirt tells us why hyperlocal news makes sense, and, by extension, why you should be interested in Dispatch:

The technological and economic constraints of newsprint meant that the whole process had to be done by full-time employees and carefully coordinated by a single, monolithic organization. But the Internet makes possible a much more decentralized model, in which lots of different people, most of them volunteers, participate in the process of gathering and filtering the news. Rather than a handful of professional reporters writing stories and an even smaller number of professional editors deciding which ones get printed, we’re moving toward a world that Clay Shirky calls publish, then filter: anyone can write any story they want, and the stories that get the most attention are determined after publication by decentralized, community-driven processes like Digg,, and the blogosphere.

Other tech people weigh in on hyperlocal news here and here and here.

In my own hyperlocal news, I want to punch that word “blogosphere” in the gut. And then make sweet love to it.

Here’s a “for instance”: Your wife needs a new website ASAP so she can compete with the New York literati! You just created an awesome website! What’s your next move?

Screenshot of Dispatch WordPress theme

Screenshot of Dispatch WordPress theme

*Keep in mind that Dispatch is an add-on to Mimbo Pro, which costs $79. Still, that totals $100 for a website with amazing functionality and versatility that you might otherwise pay a designer thousands of dollars to develop for you. I feel like I am one step away from an infomercial right now.

What – I can’t blog from hell?

Lately I’ve been thinking about what will happen to my blog and my Facebook account after I die, so this CNN article, “New services promise online life after death,” is timely.  Maybe I will create a cyber will. I hereby bequeath my Twitter status updates to my husband. I hereby bequeath my Bookreads account to my sister. I hereby bequeath my porn bookmarks to my brothers. Just kidding. That would be weird. Stacey Richter, it is okay with me if you want to post on One Star Watt when I’m dead. The same goes for Zadie Smith. I mean after you’re both done crying over me. Mom and Dad, you get nothing. I just don’t trust you with the technology.

George Saunders makes me want to be a better woman

I’m more of an Esquire girl myself, but last night I read George Saunders’ 2007 GQ travelogue about visiting the Dominican Republic and Africa with Bill Clinton, and I was shaken in my boots. I’d read some of Saunders’ fiction, but not his essays, and this one reminded me of a less tangential David Foster Wallace, like a pared down version of the latter’s Straight Talk Express McCain chronicle from 2000 (unabridged in Consider the Lobster as “Up, Simba”), which I also loved. Unfortunately Saunders’ “Bill Clinton, Public Citizen” is not available online (I found it in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008), but you can read the accompanying interview here. I mean, I didn’t, but you can.

The “Public Citizen” piece is nominally about Bill Clinton, ostensibly about the good works of the Clinton Foundation, and essentially about what individual human beings are capable of accomplishing through empathy and diligence. At the end of the essay, Saunders is flying on a private jet back to the States, luxuriously bypassing customs and long lines and bland airplane food. He contemplates his “undeserved good luck.” He writes:

A friend’s grandmother, on her deathbed, said: I should have forgiven more.

What I’m afraid I’ll say on my deathbed is: I should have done more to help other people and less to feed my own ego.

Up here, my ego has been good and fed.

Looking down at the mountaintop, I say a little prayer that all this luck will make me more compassionate instead of more full of shit.

I’m a sucker for any author who performs a moral function through writing, who somehow – with or without an agenda – inspires us to think bigger, think more lovingly. And one who has the insight to know that he’s not always authentic or above fault himself. In this interview with Vice Magazine, Jeff Johnson asks Saunders who sees the first drafts of his work. “My wife,” he answers.

She has great judgment and honesty and, of course, knows me completely, all my tricks and falsenesses. And she has a brilliant impatience with the Merely Artsy—she wants stories to do very high-level moral work (as do I) and she reminds me of this, and forces me to go back to this higher-ground when I’m feeling tired and self-satisfied too early.

So now, thanks to George Saunders, not only do I want to go out and heal sick children, I also want to be a better writer. And find myself a wife. There goes my summer.

For my seven-year-old fanbase

Last night a friend of mine told me that her seven-year-old daughter reads my blog. I couldn’t have been more delighted if she had told me that Salman Rushdie was a fan. Granted, her daughter has also read the entire Goosebumps series, but I feel like if you can hold a precocious seven-year-old’s attention even for a minute, you are doing something right.

This also opens up a huge YA market for me that I hadn’t previously thought about exploiting. From now on when I write, I will consider, “Would a young reader like this post?” Adjusting my audience should be easy. For example, how hard is it to tell you about my weekend in the language of the Sweet Valley Twins? Not hard at all it turns out.

After I got out of school at 5 o’clock on Friday, I called my friend Harper* Wakefield to meet me downtown for hotdogs and sodas. Harper wore sequined silver tap shoes and a white peasant dress. I wore jeans and boots because I am not as crazy for fashion as she is. She would sleep in tap shoes if she could whereas I am most comfortable in an oversized sweater. And how she finds anything in that messy closet of hers I’ll never know. Her mom must be furious! Anyway, when we rolled up to the concert in her stroller, Harper wanted to prance around in front of all the boys, but I wanted to go to a restaurant and talk quietly about books and newspapers with platonic friends. Because last weekend we did everything she wanted to do (ate cookies, went swimming, colored), she agreed to come with me to the restaurant, but only if she got a balloon first. Even though I knew she’d just lose it and make a big scene, I said okay. And what do you think happened? Sure enough, an hour later the balloon was floating up into the sky and Harper was crying about it. But even though she acts like a big baby sometimes, I can’t help but feel bad for her when she cries. She wears her heart on her sleeve, that one. Not like me. I’m all bottled up inside like champagne or a semi-automatic gun waiting to be triggered. Speaking of champagne, later that night I drank too many big-girl sodas and left my credit card at the bar for the second weekend in a row. I felt like such a nincompoop! Especially on Saturday morning when I discovered I had slept in a neighbor’s vegetable garden and my underpants were missing as well. Haha! What kind of silly mixed-up scenario would leave a girl without her underpants? My mother’s going to kill me when she finds out we have to make yet another trip to the Junior’s Department at the mall. I guess what I don’t own in sparkly tap shoes, I make up for in floral underpants! Haha!

*Names have not been changed to protect the innocent, because how innocent are you really at four years old? At 28 I’m hardly much older, and yet I don’t see anybody trying to protect me. Okay, I’m a little older. Eat my dust, little girls!

Charlottesville blind items

1) Baby rabbits

2) Dates set up by mutual friends

3) Rear view mirrors

4) Bats

I was going to write a list of local blind items in the manner of Gatecrasher/Page Six, but everything I came up with just seemed too mean-spirited. How am I going to make it as a writer in New York City if I can’t stand to hurt anybody’s feelings? Gawker is going to laugh at me.

Not-so-blind-item: Which milquetoast local blogger took a secret nap this afternoon and dreamed that a Mexican racehorse almost stepped on her face and also that she crashed her car into a snowdrift after drinking too much wine on the road, but was grateful that no one was hurt in the accident, even though she was upside down? She/he also enjoys eating chocolate cake frosting out of the jar on Wednesday nights. Your guesses after the jump!

My dental surgery – a postgame

The Novacaine wore off about halfway through the grafting procedure, so suddenly I could feel as well as see the dentist’s dainty fishhook as it threaded sutures through my gums. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the pain. My dentist just hurts me so good, like Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors. I still have fond memories of having my wisdom teeth removed a couple years ago, and last week’s receding gum operation was like a second honeymoon. Today at my post-op appointment the dentist said that my gums would continue to look “angry” for another week. “They’re not angry,” I should’ve said. “They’re glowing.”

Unloading some sweet links

Stuff White People Do (as distinguished from SWP Like) is a thoughtful blog about racial behavior in America. This isn’t really indicative of most of the posts, but read this former slave’s response to his ex-master’s request that he return to the plantation in Tennessee:

I served you faithfully for thirty-two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to.

Heavypetting shows the horrified pets captured on camera while their owners shoot amateur porn videos from their living rooms. All but the human silhouettes are blocked out, so the site is technically SFW. Unless you can identify the silhouette of a penis.

I prance around the internet in gold high heels. It’s hard to say goodbye to Caite White’s “Brick Watch!” blog on

Homeless soccer team wins its first match at Chelsea Piers.

Waldo Jaquith schools Mark Penn for alleging that 1.7 million bloggers profit from their work.

Horses with hair extensions.

Maria Robinson writes about the future of sex. Apparently we’re all going blind.

I keep finding myself telling people about this at parties, so here is the proof that a 5cm fir tree grew in a 28-year-old Russian man’s lung. Perhaps now I can come up with something new to talk about after a couple drinks.

Disturbing Strokes:

Lit stuff:

James Wood on Ian McEwan.

Elaine Showalter on the literary tradition of women.

“Men are terrible” interview with Martin Amis.

Thoughts on the publication of David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon commencement address.

“End the University as We Know It” NYTimes op-ed.

AV Club interview with Bret Easton Ellis.

UVA’s Mark Edmundson promotes non-directed readings in college English classes.

Review of Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor.

Whites are mostly offstage too, but for these characters, as for many blacks in the upper middle class, there’s a constant worry about the white gaze. “You didn’t, for example, walk down Main Street with a watermelon under your arm. Even if you had a pretty good reason. Like, you were going to a potluck and each person had to bring an item and your item just happened to be a watermelon, luck of the draw, and you wrote this on a sign so everyone would understand the context, and as you walked down Main Street you held the sign in one hand and the explained watermelon in the other, all casual, perhaps nodding between the watermelon and the sign for extra emphasis if you made eye contact. This would not happen. We were on display.”

Sorry for the NYTimes-heavy links. I don’t get out much, I guess.

Lately I’ve been unloading most of my sweet links on Twitter, so follow me (onestarwatt) if you want the goods more often.