Archive for the ‘Deals Tips and Recommendations’ Category

New Yorkers win again!  If you live in or near the 5 boroughs, grab a blanket, get there early, eat snacks, and remember to store your Trader Joe’s wine in plastic bottles so you don’t compromise our youngsters with broken glass, or simply have police approach you to remind you that bottles are illegal in NYC parks (this didn’t happen to me last summer at Chelsea Piers with Beth Cannon et al watching Big).

Watch!  Enjoy!  The Skint 2011 Free Movie List

As an aside, Matt and I will probably decide, in desperation, to start our own underground rooftop film screenings in Shenzhen.  While bootleg DVDs are available on every corner for $1.50-$2, the Chinese only allow 20 foreign films a year to be shown in theaters!  French, Italian, Hollywood, Bollywood, you name it, only 20.  And there isn’t a society of film buffs making these choices–the 2 films we noticed advertised this summer were Suckerpunch and Killers with Ashton Kutcher.  So keep your eye on Amnesty International in case an adorable American couple makes the home page…





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My dad is an engineer.  Matt is an engineer.  My friend Savina married a pretty normal engineer.  Somehow, they both figured out how to navigate the dating world with some panache.  But, surely we all know an engineer who need a success story–

Dating Tips for Engineers

I realize that this too is not a blog post–and I apologize!  I am in the process of turning 30 as we speak, and becoming older takes focus and concentration.  Sometime soon, though, you’ll get a fun update about our weekend escapade–a visit to the local Chinese cultural park–half of which was called “Splendid China” and the other half “Chinese Folk Villages.”  With pictures.  I promise.  And yes, I did get pulled out of the audience to join a dance customary of the Yi people…

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In what could be misconstrued as fan mail, a reader recently mentioned a liking for the at-times exotic vocabulary on this blog and wanted more (“wanted more” might also be misconstrued).  I might be alienating my readership here, but out of a cherished hope that there are some fellow word-nerds among us, I press on.  I must confess that I think inserting stilted and overly formal vocabulary into inappropriate contexts has all sorts of comedic value, notably at the New York wine and cheese party.  (Perhaps it’s not notable, perhaps it’s just that I’m attending one today).

Whether corporate, social, or hobby-ist, these parties proliferate in Manhattan’s dear universe of shoebox kitchens peopled with the food-prep-averse.  (Holding your own at a wine and cheese can be found in the New Yorker manual between coaxing a ticket from our withholding metro card machines and joining http://www.groupon.com.)  If you’re like me, you’re likely to find yourself eating regrettably odd cheese while offering shaky facts culled from a 2009 Economist article, only to find out someone in the group is studying that very thing for their doctoral thesis.  Blasted academics.  There they go, firing off a linguistic bazooka of subtle poise and intelligent commentary, flicking the ash of the timeless cognitive cigarette, and leaving you to stammer out a reply.

Next time you’ve backed yourself into one of these content pinches, or simply need a conversational U-turn, I suggest you say absolutely whatever comes to mind and just sprinkle it with high-end vocabulary–a salve for discerning ears.  With any luck, your audience won’t catch on to your obfuscatory flourish and will think you said something logical and then changed the subject.  I’ve seen it happen.  I’m advocating a long-term strategy of depreciating deception for steady or increasing returns, of course.  Not sure what the heck I’m talking about yet?  No matter, just pepper me with big words.  See?  Now you’ve got the hang of it.  Here are nine big ones proven to initiate general befuddlement:

Prosopagnosia—a form of neurological disorder that causes one to have a great challenge distinguishing human faces.  If you are introduced to that someone who unnervingly remembers the last two times you’ve met but you’re struggling to place them, then simply say, “I apologize, I’m having my monthly fit of prosopagnosia, where had we met before?”

Expeditious–a good way to say “quickly” when you want to sound learned.  “That’s all very interesting I’m sure, may I propose an expeditious rear advance toward the Cabernet, over which we can continue this jaunty debate?”

Luddite—technically one who is opposed to machinery and innovation under the belief that it will stifle employment, this one can mean one who prefers old-fashioned items over new-fangled gadgetry.  If a guy wants you to put his number in your phone, hand him your social card instead with a sweet smile and say “I’m sorry, I’m a bit of a Luddite you see.”

Venial—as in venial sin, the Catholic church’s not-too-bad category, not to be mixed up with murder and slander and whatnot.  If you’re walking in embarrassingly early, say, 20-30 minutes after the stated arrival time, then give a little bow and say “Oh dear, venial party error, I missed the subtle nuance behind 8:30.  Can I, err, help put that child to bed?”

Soliloquy—speaking your inner thoughts as if no one were around to hear them.  While usually associated with Shakespeare, the word can be slanted to imply the poor taste of just saying whatever you want.  If you’re resorting to sheer babble, you can wave your hand and say “sorry, I’m devolving into soliloquy here, I vote to shift gears and debate veganism.  You first.”  Then elbow the watery-eyed guy nibbling the sprouts.

Antediluvian–big word to refer to something that existed “before the flood” (that’s right, that flood), but for fun you can use it to mean outdated or behind the times.  During a lull, simply fumble around in your purse, pull out a slightly post-mint electronic item, sigh, and say “God, my second generation ipod nano/iPhone 3G/blackberry Curve 1 is so antediluvian!  Can anyone entertain us with anything current?”

Impecunious.  Come now, even I don’t know what that means!

Humectants–a group of substances whose chemical properties cause them to draw and retain moisture.  If you’ve started sweating under pressure, simply grab a cocktail napkin, blot don’t mop, and opine “my goodness, they must be misting airborne humectants tonight!”

Patrician–dull or ordinary.  If you’re getting blank stares en masse, shrug them off with an “l-o-l, my commentary has taken a patrician turn, no?  O-m-g, Pete, maybe you can pick up from here?”

And Salinger needed nine stories…pish tosh.

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I must admit, I’m not your typical wide-eyed Broadway musical lover (Les Mis and Wicked make the exceptions list).  So, when I first arrived in New York, a penniless social work student, I avoided theater, discarding it as an expensive road to mediocre entertainment.

Then, in an existential twist of fate, I stumbled upon “The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to New York City” (please stop reading my blog and buy it immediately if you live in the five boroughs), and achieved enlightenment:  there was something called “Off-Broadway” and I could see all the theatre I could handle for free.  Off-Broadway theatre, as I discovered, manages a greater proclivity for the serious, and the swings are wild–it can be the best rendition of Richard III you’ve ever seen or an interminable 3 hour monologue delivered by Prometheus himself atop Mt Olympus, regenerating liver notwithstanding (neither of these are hypothetical examples…).

Volunteer ushering, of course, was the secret.  You round up a friend or two, arrive an hour before the show, wear black and white, help old ladies get settled, nibble on discounted snacks for ushers, the house lights go dim, and (usually) you get prime seats and enjoy the show.  Classic Stage Company even gave me free brownies and coffee one time…

Last weekend, I volunteered for the Cherry Lane Theater’s 25th anniversary of “Nunsense”–a  wacky 1980s musical featuring full-on habit-wearing nuns in a pinch to raise funds to bury 4 sisters (I’m not making this up) who died of food poisoning.  Their cook’s religious calling, as it turned out, did not encompass culinary matters.

This piece of Off-Broadway history, I can assure you, wasn’t shaking a stick anywhere near serious, but who can resist dancing nuns?

I arrived at the theater after some twists and turns in the ever-ambulatory West Village, and realized in ten seconds that I knew the stage manager from another playhouse where he used to work.  This made me feel happily a part of the underground theatre world.  I “knew people.”  I wished I had a cigarette (or at least knew how to smoke one).  He struggled to place me, and after cheerily reminding him where we’d met, I suddenly recalled some post-show flirtatious emailing from him that I had politely kiboshed after our last encounter…hopefully he didn’t remember!

While we waited for my friend and co-usher to arrive, he introduced me to the sound guy (a man ensnared in a tropical-vine-like twist of wires emanating from his glowing Mac).  Then, in walked the writer/creator of the show, coming for some pre-game I suppose.  The stage manager introduced me, and he was a lovely, genial old man who looked like he’d written a popular musical 25 years ago and hadn’t had any stress since.  (Make a note, young ones.)  We then went over the lay of the tiny theater, and the fact that I could get 50% off any of the snacks, and untangled the playbills from their string-wrapping.

Back out in the lobby to rifle through my discount snack options, I nearly got run over by two Fruit Festival ladies with designs on the upright piano.  The Cherry Lane theater apparently has two venue spaces, and the other was being used by the “Fruit Festival.”  I wasn’t entirely certain whether they fell in the gay rights arena or with the high-end green market crowd, but clearly the stage manager was none too keen on these imposed roommates.  “Excuse me!” he said, when they started to drag the piano off somewhere.  “Err, why are you moving the piano?”  The Fruit People looked very confused and said “we need to, I’m sure someone told someone about it?” and carried on.  The stage manager did not stop them, but he slipped over to the snack stand guy and said “just for the record, you are observing this too, right?”  Later on, he and the sound guy griped about it—“you have to tune those things every time you move them an inch!”  I nodded my head disapprovingly when they looked my way, offering full support.  These sort of amusing backstage family feuds are all part of the fun.

Finally my friend arrived, minuets before they opened the house.  As she’d had very little time to master the layout of the theater and looked fantastic (way to step it up Katie), they put her out front with the ticket scanner machine-thingy.  “House is open!” bellowed the stage manager.

Once her machine had emitted its high-pitched beep of approval (which took some finagling at times), she shooed the theater-goers my way and I got them seated.  This involved a general wave of the arm and a “it’ll be the 5th row, 4 seats in” to the competent-looking and a guided elbow sally forth for the watery of mind.  One man strolled up unapologetically with what appeared to be a life-size styrofoam human head under his arm—hair and all.  “Will that be one ticket or two tonight sir?” I asked with a straight face.  He said “One,” also with a straight face.  “Of course, sir.”  I offered him the elbow sally forth package.  I heard the sound guy, with whom I’d been chit-chatting after the piano ordeal, muffle an errant laugh-squeak.

I got all the little old ladies seated, there was the usual debacle of the couple whose tickets corresponded with a row of seats that had been removed for this performance, and the styrofoam head guy kept showing his prize to his neighbors, who seemed completely comfortable with the whole situation.  The house lights finally went down, and my friend and I settled into our fifth row seats.  The show was very funny, a little more ridiculous than I expected (Mother Superior accidentally gets high at one point, etc.), heartfelt at times about religious vocation and calling, and obviously a gas for anyone who had ever been to Catholic school.  This is certainly the only time I’ve regretted not doing so!  The nun who was supposed to have amnesia was truly fantastic and stole the show–watch a clip on YouTube if you can.

So, if you’re intrigued—consult the Cheap Bastard’s Guide at your local Barnes and Noble or just start calling up off-broadway theaters and asking if they take volunteer ushers.  I’ve had luck at Blue Man Group, Classic Stage Company, the Cherry Lane Theater, Theater Row (they have 4 small theaters and always something interesting), RoundAbout Theater Company (they are the only Broadway theater to take volunteers but I usually don’t like their stuff), and the Joyce (they are dance not theater but really great).  Enjoy a new free hobby!

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If you live in New York, you have to face it eventually–the closet space is practically non-existant.  Even though Sex in the City the movie was only so-so, every New York woman swooned at the closet that Big installed for Carrie in their nuptial apartment.  While mine is notably lacking in lights, mirrors, designer-wear (and nuptials, now that you mention it), it does have an endearing corner that I re-explored this evening:  my drawer of random beauty products.  You’ve got one too–I know.  Women everywhere attract and retain piles of beauty products–perfume samples, eye-lash curlers, half-used tubes of Mary Kay lipstick, travel size body lotions, hotel freebies, you name it, you probably have at least three drawers-full.  I consider myself a minimalist and I still have two bursting drawers, so they are really three drawers in denial. 

I decided to take action.  I dug through my stash, throw out sticky mystery objects, tried some creams and perfumes that had long since since seen the light of day, and repacked a little.  To my delight, I found an unused gift set of Origins Modern Friction dermabrasion, http://www.origins.com/home.tmpl?ngextredir=1, and my skin feels all glowy and soft with the after-brasion resin A Perfect World White Tea Skin Guardian and follow-up Youthtopia skin-firming cream.  Highly recommended.  I also unearthed some Burt’s Bees lip balm and their Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme http://www.burtsbees.com/.  Lips and hands–check.   Finally, it’s my sister’s birthday on the 25th, so I filled the Lucky purse I bought her with a little care package from my closet–lotions, lip gloss, self-tanner, elbow oil, balm claiming to induce sleep, and a natural loofa mitt.  One girl’s mystery samples are another girl’s treasures. 

Want to do it too?  Get a gift bag and some ribbon, dig up the stuff in your closet that you’ve never opened or got around to really using, pack it all up with a little note, and surprise a co-worker, neighbor, or roommate.  They’ll love it, and you’ll have the only un-purchaseable resource in New York:  free space in your closet.

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