Category Archives: New York Times

Bud Konheim New York Times Nicole Miller

Do we need Fashion?

“We as a business cannot afford to have a customer take a second look and ask, ‘Do I need this?’ That is the kiss of death. We’re finished, because nobody really needs anything we make as a total industry.”

These are the words of Bud Konheim, the chief executive of Nicole Miller, in a New York Times article titled Dress for Less and Less, about how the price of clothes has actually deflated in past years.

This sentence is remarkable for its honesty. There’s no spin here! Who really needs fashion? We need to cover our bodies, and fashion might be fun sometimes. But do we really need new clothes each season? This top exec at a fashion house knows we really don’t.

Konheim’s honesty continues when he adds that the price of clothes has truly hit bottom, “I think we’ve exploited all the countries on earth for people who really want to work for nothing.”

During this time of presidential politics, where people barely say a word without doing a focus group first, I have to commend Bud for being an honest man.

Ian Fleming New York Times

Fleming, Ian Fleming

“If I wait for the genius to come, it just doesn’t arrive.”

That’s a modest statement from an author without literary ambitions whose books spawned the James Bond empire. Ian Fleming didn’t seem to think he was very talented – rather he scheduled “seat time” daily and wrote a novel in two months. Fleming kept up his writing pace through a glamorous lifestyle which included his Jamaican retreat and a steady diet of cigarettes and cocktails. In one aspect, his lifestyle sets an example for writers — that is to schedule time to work every day and not let lofty visions of literary excellence hold you back.

In a New York Times article titled Remembering Fleming, Ian Fleming the reviewer writes about a current exhibit on Fleming in London’s Imperial War Museum. Fleming had rich experiences to use for his books from his military career in World War II. It’s amazing that the man whose first book was Casino Royale also wrote the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Fleming’s approach to his writing reminds me of the words by Pablo Picasso, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

Earth Day New York Times Pollan

Pollan’s Earth Day Advice

Today being Earth Day, here is a sentence on how we can help combat climate change. In food writer Michael Pollan’s essay Why Bother?, he makes the case that taking small steps to live green really matters. Pollan recommends planting a garden, adding that during WWII Victory Gardens grew 40% of the produce Americans ate.

“At least in this one corner of your yard and life, you will have begun to heal the split between what you think and what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen.”

His sentence captures the enormity of the problem, pointing out this will only help in one corner rather than solve the entire, overwhelming problem. I feel the split he describes when I buy a product for my family that comes with unnecessary packaging which can’t be recycled, or when I use more gas to drive out of my own town to buy florescent light bulbs. Central Oregon is a challenging climate for gardening but this year we’re trying vegetables beyond tomatoes, perhaps zucchini. More writing on Earth Day can be found in New York Times Magazine The Green Issue.

Marx New York Times Obama

Obama and Marx: Similar sentences?

“It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

How could I ignore this now infamous sentence spoken by Barack Obama and the controversy swirling around it over the past ten days? William Kristol has a brilliant op-ed The Mask Slips in the New York Times in which he likens Obama’s comment about small-town Americans to other famous words spoken by Karl Marx about religion: “It is the opium of the people.”

I’ll leave the political analysis to others and focus on the language. If Obama had wanted small-town Americans to sound dumb and irrational, he couldn’t have used a better word than “cling.” Webster’s defines it: “to have a strong emotional attachment or dependence.” So those small town folks act on emotional rather than making logical decisions like the rest of us educated city people – right? And those folks in podunk places are so swept away by emotion they can’t even focus on their real frustrations? Obama’s choice of words is patronizing. However, rather than making a conscious choice, I think he let his true feelings of disdain show all too well in that sentence.

New York Times

Weekend Words: Do book choices reveal personality?

What do your reading choices say about you? Do you judge your friends, romantic or platonic, by what they read or don’t read? I have been pondering this as I read one of the most emailed articles on The New York Times site recently; it is Rachael Donadio’s essay It’s Not You, It’s Your Books. The essay begins with the writer getting a call from a friend who had just broken up with her boyfriend exclaiming, “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”

Well, I don’t require a friend to read Pushkin but I think it is a good indicator of compatibility.

Funny comments follow the essay, one person saying anyone who loved Da Vinci Code would get the boot, another saying any book by Ayn Rand would be a turn-off and another saying the whole notion is too elite. Another commenter added there are now “literary speed dating” events at libraries where people bring a favorite book and find new like-minded friends. Years ago, my own “speed dating” question was to find out if the guy read at all; if not, how boring! What does your book shelf say about you?

Clinton New York Times

Hillary Clinton on Health Care

“I know that there are a lot of experts who may disagree about how to get to universal health care, but they agree with me that in the absence of universal health care it’s very difficult to control costs, and it’s extremely hard to incentivize quality improvements at the level you need to really see results.”

Actually, this sentence is the opposite of stunning. Incentivize?! I dislike adding suffixes to real words to make new ones which supposedly sound more important. Politicians love to do this. Incentive is the noun which has been hijacked into the fancy “incentivize” or incent (as a verb). I was surprised that Merriam Webster actually lists this as a word. After people misuse a word long enough, I guess good old Webster relents and decides it’s a word.

Head to for Clinton’s interview.

New York Times

Obama’s Powerful Words

“At the core of the campaign is the fact that words matter. Central to the idea of his candidacy is the idea that a speech can change the world. You can’t have a campaign that has that notion at its core and then point to other people’s words and say, those don’t really matter.”

Republican Strategist Todd Harris is talking about Barack Obama’s emphasis on oratory and that he needs to address the racial remarks said by his pastor. Can words change the world? In this age of instant around-the-world news, are they more important than reality? If the words and reality don’t match, would we know? With so many campaign leaders practised in “spin,” I hear message points more than heartfelt words. Do you believe all the carefully crafted sentences you’re hearing in this presidential race?

New York Times

Bobbling Around

“Parents bobble between a nostalgia-filled yearning for their children to play and fear that time spent playing is time lost to more practical pursuits.”

This sentence might not take your breath away but I think the word choice is fun to ponder. It’s from a New York Times article by Robin Marantz Henig titled Taking Play Seriously. What if the reporter had written “parents go between,” it would have been a weaker sentence. If she’d written that we “decide between,” it would have sounded much more conclusive than parenting really is. Instead, she used bobble which means to fumble and is an accurate word for the uncertain world of parenting. With our Sweetpeas, we feel our way (sometimes awkwardly) and hopefully find a path which works. It’s not a straight line; we need to bobble.

Clinton New York Times

Tea with Hillary

I want the citizenry to elect Hillary Clinton as president of the United States next
November — if only so that we might all get a respite from seeing her offhand,
controversial 1992 comment that she could have “stayed home and baked cookies
and had teas” (rather than pursuing an outside profession) parsed and squeezed
and hung out to dry again and again like the moldy old dishrag that it is.

Sometimes book reviews are as fun to read as the book itself. This one made me laugh and maybe we all need a break from the increasingly bitter battle for the White House. This review in The New York Times was written by Alexandra Jacobs about the book Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers edited by Susan Morrison. Yes, why bring up that old dishrag when we have important issues like, say, national security to discuss?