Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Lectern is Dead! Long Live the Lectern!

That's it, folks! I'm pulling the plug! This blog is FINISHED! The concept is stale, and the material is slowly becoming unremarkable. Although I'll still read both columns with enthusiasm (although I can't say that feeling persists through the end of my readings), I won't be doing weekly recaps anymore. I quit in frustration. Besides, I have better things to do with my week than talk about this stuff.

(of course, the original gag was that I aimed to find people who didn't have anything better to do than to obsess about these columns. And I've had many a hearty laugh both at the readers', authors', and participants' expense in the ensuing months. Heck, I even got to laugh at myself for a bit.)

Your last guaranteed full weekly recaps:

Modern Love
tells the tale this week of a girl with a shifty-handed boyfriend. He hoards, he steals, he misplaces things. An occasion for a Sartre quote if I've ever seen one. Heather Fenby uses this opportunity to graduate from the Villager, where her writings seem to frequently appear (thanks, Google!). If you want to learn more about her, find her blog at (again, thanks Google!) Fair warning, it's hardly readable due to color issues. Black text on a dark gray background? Honey, wearing all dark colors only works for clothing. Web fashion faux pas!

Note I didn't have much to say about the Modern Love essay itself. The column is slowly sinking into the quicksands of reader ennui. Right now, anyone who starts a Metropolitan Diary blog has an easier assignment than this. Personally, I'd rather start an Ethicist blog or a Manohla Dargis blog if I were to start anew. Someone's already doing a Bruni blog, Choire and Tom have the Kuczynski beat, Gawker's got Stanley and El Ocho covered, and Maureen Dowd has peaked in her literary popularity (Vegas pulled the odds on Dowd's overactive libido, so no guesses on how much longer that persists). Surely the writing and the authors' backstories in the Times are as colorful as the city itself, but Modern Love no longer fits the trend. And, besides, most of its glory moments are when it caused more controversy than entertainment - therefore making the backstory the entertainment, and the column itself meta-entertainment. (which is exactly why I saw this fit to blog about - my Technorati referrals soared after I started writing about Modern Love, and to this date they are still strong.) Now that they're not running anything that's truly fucked up, I have nothing to say about it anymore. Done. Finis. So over.

Let's beat up on our other favorite whipping-boy now: Meet Market! And, oh do they deserve a spanking this week! Lindsay was a terror of a date - how could you deem her fit for a set-up? She hovered close to Queen Worst territory - alternately skewering and praising Joshie (who performed admirably - too bad he hung himself out to dry in the recaps by being the only participant interested in romance). My oh my, what a terribly big-mouthed, classless girl we have on our hands here! Let's display:
When Joshie got to the restaurant, he walked straight up to the table and pulled me in for an all-too-close hug - I was expecting the casual "Nice to meet you" handshake.

I gave him the once over, and immediately noticed one physical "no-no" for me - too short!

I called over the waitress for a glass of wine. Joshie wanted the bottle, which told me he seemed a bit nervous.

He told me about... his love for his favorite food - "meat and potatoes." I'm your typical sushi kind of girl so we hit a sour note with ordering. He wanted the Vertigo burger, which I have heard rave reviews about, but nevertheless, I haven't eaten red meat in five years!

He suggested that we order a lot of different dishes, but sadly followed that with "Well, we're not paying the bill!" That wasn't very romantic.

As he talked about his former partners, I made a mental note of three of Joshie's attributes - good hair (no baldness), good jokes (no pity laughs) and, reassuringly, he smelled like he took the time to take a decent shower.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, I need to be able to wear heels with any guy I date without feeling like he should be wearing a leash.

Rarely does someone bury themselves this completely in a matchmaking column. All of her rejection criteria focus on superficial needs; she has little restraint from embarassing a gracious date in a widely-read newspaper column; and the girl is obviously spoiled. Perhaps she's the one who should be on a leash.

(Just because I'm bored with writing this blog doesn't mean I've lost my mean streak. Not one bit.)

Next week's date is Becky, a mid-20's art-production coordinator. She admits that she's a dork. Lucky for her, she's got a bunch of dorky-looking guys to choose from. Carlos looks like her best match; he's cool, sophisticated, motivated, confident, and smart. Perhaps she can turn on some of his Latino heat. The other two guys really just cannot compete; Glenn's a bit on the young side to be dating a girl around Becky's range, and Greg needs to grow a set of balls (and lose the earring, Captain Lou Albano).

I'll be reading what happens next week, but someone else will have to blog about it. I won't be! Guest authors are more than welcome if they're sufficiently motivated; email me at my Gmail account (user brianvan, natch) with your submission and I'll post it here. Otherwise, signing off!


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Week of 01/29/06 - Only The Air Is Warm

Quick reviews:

Modern Love does its Readers' Digest impersonation again, selecting a beautiful essay about families, life, and death that fails to provide any real insight into contemporary trends. The essay would have worked better for the "Lives" column in the magazine (and I do insist that this column tends to pickup the "runoff" from that column at times). Anne Marie Feld's work is definitely a recommended read, but my only issue with it is that it's unfocused by way of severe editing - it looks like this might have been a book cut down to two pages. Oh, wait, look at the end... it is a book! (*rolls eyes*)

In Meet Market, Sonia chose Rob, they indeed were two nice (if not quite young and goregeous) people on their date, and nothing quite happened there. I would continue to blame the winter blues, but you know what? It's been 55 degrees outside. No excuse! You Meet Market authors better step things up... you've totally lost your edge. Don't make me start buying the Daily News!

This week's chooser is Lindsay's breasts. Lindsay herself is a very young girl with very high expectations... boys, now's the time to make that pumpkin a carriage if you can at all manage (in other words, don't be taking the subway on your date - spring for the town car). But attached to Lindsay are big, round, beautiful breasts. Simply stunning. I looked at that picture 5 or 6 times and I still don't remember Lindsay's hair color.

Who's got a shot at winning this week? Murty is an outside chance - or, more like a match made in hell. Both would be miserable on a date, I assure you. Next is Joshie - Joshie! Wow, his common name is cutesy! That's gotta get laughs down at the DMV! Anyway, he looks like Elvis (more than he looks like Patrick Dempsey, as his profile would suggest) and he might make the grade for Lindsay's breasts... if he has money, that is. (Which I think he does not.) Finally we have just plain Josh, who looks somewhat acceptable for the purpose of taking Lindsay's breasts out on a date. I would tentatively choose Joshie over Josh, but that's no dig against Josh, and I admit the pick could go either way. That said, with all the participants being so young and possibly misguided (I'm biting my tongue here a bit... I think some of these participants are clearly unsuitable to date anybody), there's only a very slim chance of lasting romance. Enjoy the free meal on Rupert's tab, though!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Week of 1/23/2006: Old People Are Scary

Modern Love goes creepy this week: Abby Sher relates a tale of how she nearly seduced a gentlemanly older professor, and herself too - until she snapped out of it and realized that she just wanted to be around her dad. And Old Wrinkly Professor Guy is not dad. An admirable performace by Andrew while dealing with a mentally-crippling case of blue balls. And another lesson to not trust any girls under 25.

Verdict: It's good. Nice, sharp material.

Meet Market doesn't fare as well this week. To start, Michael ignored my advice and went for saucy Beth. Result: two people trying to find flattering things to say about each other while silently bemoaning the lack of chemistry on the date. It's like giving a eulogy for a mean aunt: "Well, ummm, she smelled nice. And she, uhhh, liked cats..."

Eulogy is correct here; there won't be another date. Will there be romance this week, though? Hard to say... I'm not getting any feelings of longing while seeing this week's daters! We've got a bunch of older double-baggers trying to find romance without vomiting. I say it's not possible.

Sonia picks. She's luscious. I beg to differ: chocolate cake might be luscious, but just because you eat a lot of it doesn't make YOU luscious.
When she's not working, she loves to "cook, sleep, read, listen to music, work out, take long walks and explore."

Explains the shoulders-up headshot, eh? Luckily none of the guys on this week's slate are athletic, either. Rob's about the only decent one overall. Not naming names, but I think being a pervert and having a second chin the size of Michael Moore would both be disqualifying factors for picture-dating, no matter how nice the people are.

Let's make this clear: save for one guy who looks a little sharky, they all seem rather nice. But that and $2 will get you a subway ride in this town.

My hasty pick is Rob. After having a minute to look over the choices, I decided quickly and then burned the newspaper to prevent these faces from haunting me. Think happy, happy thoughts... happy thoughts... pictures of Naomi Watts to cleanse the palette... ahhh, that's better.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Week of 01/15/2006: Two Things Are Certain In Life - Death and Neuroses

Modern Love has another Readers' Digest week. No one in the story is below 50 years old. (*snooze*) It's not that Caroline Miller's tale isn't a good one; it's just that there's more contemporary narrative in US Weekly than there is in these sort of essays. (50-year-husband had a life on the side. I've never heard of this happening before, ever. Really.)

The Post's Intimidate is a little better, though. Wilson's a tall, dorky, father psychology professor, so who better to pick for him but a self-admitted mental health case - like, say, Virginia?
We made nervous conversation at first, but when he told me he was a psychology professor, with a therapy practice on the side, I was fascinated. I've logged a few years on the couch myself, so I always want to hear what it's like from the chair. I asked questions and got him to tell me about transference and countertransference!

Transference and countertransference? Too lazy to Google today. Just wear a condom, kids. Keep it safe.

Yes, Virginia and Wilson hit it off nicely. Despite my poking fun, they both behaved respectably and got along memorably. Another win for Meet Market! Maybe Tom's dream of a Meet Market marriage may come true someday after all...

This week's daters? Michael's a "self-proclaimed agent provocateur." Bad news! I can assure you that an antagonist never gets past the first date. Will he behave? Also, he's looking for a smart girl... that request is really not hard to fill, but based on his hipster-ish preferences, I'm going to say that he wants someone who looks the part, rather than someone who's brilliant and fearsome. He needs a nice girl with thick-rimmed glasses.

Kara's the only one who fits the bill - out of all three girls, Kara really looks like the stereotypical hipster. Except, she's nice! Which is not to say anything bad about Beth (red mesh thong? I'm hot for teacher...) or Lauren ("sex kitten" + "the perfect first date" = extra horny), because they're both very nice as well. However, I can see things going nowhere with Michael and those other girls because they seem sexually and romantically aggressive, and that WILL scare him off. Kara, on the other hand, will be the innocent and low-stress girlfriend that Michael's looking for.

(Beth's thong is going a long way with the polls, though - she's crushing the other two with a ridiculous 50+ point lead. Perverts! But yeah, Beth is super-sexy. I'd like to be in her homeroom class, if you know what I mean.)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Week of 01/08/2006 - Dating Wrap-Ups

First, in Modern Love... three earth-shattering developments:

1. The author isn't selfish!
2. The author isn't trying to sell a book!
3. The essay's pretty funny!

Sure, we've seen these things happen before, but I'm not sure if all at the same time! Lainie Keslin Ettinger's piece is about... well, you could say that it's about a housewife that likes cheesy romantic movies and uses them to get excited enough for sex with her husband. I say, it's about movie theater masturbation. Hey, there's nothing like pressing your own button in a dark public place for a little excitement, right? Just don't let anything funky get near my popcorn, lady!

Meanwhile, over at Page Three-Thousand-Two-Hundred-Seventy-Eight, Josh found a Gillette Mach 3 and put it to good use on the scraggly beard... alas, an improvement in grooming did not lead to romance! Lilian was flattered, but ultimately unimpressed. The restaurant was Pair of 8's, but the ratings were a pair of 2's. Oh, well! Sucks to be Josh! (Lilian, that offer still stands, you know...)

MEET Wilson, a wry and witty 41-year-old psychology professor.

And the picture looks more like a 22-year-old gas station attendant! Young looking guys just don't score... I mean, I should know, I'm reduced to hitting on girls appearing in the newspaper from my blog... so I hope he's got the personality to make up for it:
(in response to the three things question: "I'm not sure what caffeine does, biochemically that is, but I'm pretty sure without it my head would implode. ChapStick is another thing; I can seriously jones for ChapStick. Finally, sunshine. For me, sunshine is like gasoline, except it's neither liquid nor flammable. And it's not a fossil fuel."

Forget sunshine. I'd rather pour gasoline on myself instead, having just read that profile. Painful!

But not as painful as being a 26-year-old blogger having to make non-tasteless comments about women above the age of 40... which is what I must do now! And you know what? I'm abstaining. I'm just going to pick a winner, and tell you why.

It's obviously Rachel. First, she's in MENSA, so she'll appreciate those brainy psychology professor jokes that Wilson has waiting by the truckload. Second, she's the only woman who didn't specify "tall" in the requirements, and that right there is a major red-flag. (Leslie asked for: "A Bill O'Reilly type - tall and conservative." Ummm, practically the only person in the state of New York who meets that definition IS Bill O'Reilly!) All the other factors don't matter, because they're both smart and they're likely to be disgusted with one another - but at least it won't be as disastrious as a date with "Looking for a fuck buddy" Virginia and "Looking for Bill O'Reilly" Leslie.

Sorry for the lateness this week, will catch you here soon!

5Habits - yeah, I'll play along.

Not that I haven't been involved with enough blog-related bullshit over the past week... now the inimitable Angelina tags my ass and forces me to play in some silly blog game. Well, I'll have a go at it.

The rules are as follows:

The first player of the game starts with the topic, "5 weird habits about yourself".And people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits, as well as state this rule clearly. In the end you need to choose the next 5 people to be tagged, and link to their web-journals. Don't forget to leave a comment in their blog/journal that says "you have been tagged" and tell them to read yours.

Bah. I have to do this here because among all my other blogs, this is the one with enough piss on it to make it worthless. Besides, Angelina tagged me at The Lectern. If you want to read a REAL blog, go here.

Onto the list:

1. I antagonize bloggers for fun. Not just any bloggers, but the biggest ones. Sometimes in-person.

2. I'm always wearing socks. I have nothing to hide, but it'll be a cold day in hell before you see me barefoot.

3. I eat my pancakes in a VERY particular manner. I cut them into a 4x4 grid and eat from the outside in. It's geometrically orderly and obsessive. I'm pretty sure that if you tried to force me to eat them differently, I would fucking kill you.

4. When I ride the subway alone, I have an intense need to peer out the windows into the surrounding tunnels and explore.

5. Conversely, when I ride the subway with others, I have an intense need to tell people about EVERY INCH of the system as if they cared where all the abandoned tunnels were. Well, I do care, motherfuckers! Deal with it!

People are gonna hate my ass for this. Faile, Whitney, Alli, Eefers, and Rudezilla. Seriously, these are the 5 people who would hate me the least for throwing this in their direction.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Week of 01/01/2006 - Dating Wrapups

Modern Love this week:

"...more than a quarter-century ago I wrote an Op-Ed article for The New York Times on the satisfaction of being a full-time housewife in the new age of the liberated woman. ... The column morphed into a book titled "Ever Since Adam and Eve," followed by a national tour..."

Christ, how low can we go here? Now we're using Modern Love to pitch books that have been out for years! And what about the idea that the NYTimes is putting their former columnists back up on the pulpit, in some roundabout self-promo scheme? Oi.

Anyway... the title of the essay is Paradise Lost (Domestic Division), which means you should expect a humdinger of a tale about someone's life being sheared apart. Simply put, the author was abandoned by her husband of 40 years, and she had to struggle in the aftermath. It was an experience filled with irony because of the book she had written years earlier expounding the virtues of domestic servitude, which is the interesting twist. The insufferable part, though, is that Ms. Hekker is so bitter with her experiences that she cannot find the good in her prior work. Instead, we're treated to a glorious bitchfest that dedicates only 6-7 sentences to the happy ending, as if it weren't so happy after all. She is obsessed with the misery of her bastard husband leaving her, and she speaks very little of what her family and her community did to help her through her trying times and lead her to independence. She does us all a disservice. She should turn that frown... upside down!

In Meet Market, things have a little more zip this week. Jennifer chose Aaron, and both found great chemistry on their little blind date. Jennifer's not as enthusiastic about the future as Aaron seems, and the writeups from both participants were very, very bland, but I'm thinking these two have a chance at future romance. A win for the Meet Market authors! (who, on my last check, now count more than just Laura and Tom, and it's just too much for me to keep track anymore.)

Next week, we have Josh choosing among three lovely ladies... ummm, seriously, where did they get this guy from? Did they just find someone living in a cabin in the woods or something? Scraggly beard, scruffy hair, puffy eyes, plaid shirt... is it safe to say that this guy is probably not from Manhattan? And here's the best part... he's a "financial analyst". There's no joke in the world that can properly illustrate the contrast between that statement and his picture. Well, maybe it's a bad picture? Maybe he's the only financial analyst on Wall St. with a beard? (and who does "stand-up comedy" on the side, too)

Our ladies? All recycled. Deepa, once again, looks vaguely boring and perhaps a bit scary. (I love it when women joke about drama and bad dates so that people can relate to them... and, instead, they look like they're one bad breakup away from boiling someone's pet rabbit. Comedy!) Lilian, once again, isn't going to put up but might put out. Denise, on the other hand, may have had her profile changed a bit from the last time; in any case, she does not come off as unattractive but she fails to be a convincing date. Naturally, Lilian is my choice here.

Next week, Lilian finds that her date is also in finance... and suddenly finds herself at some West Village bistro with the Man in the Mountains. Should be fun!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

December Dating Wrapup

You, the reader, should know several things after reading this blog:
1. "Modern Love" often tries to be fresh and thoughtful, but typically leaves a bad aftertaste.
2. "Meet Market" tries to be sincere and endearing, but typically arrives as comical and embarassing.
3. Brian Van tries to be consistent, but typically doesn't update much in the month of December.

Let's try to catch up a bit. First, in the Times:

- 12/11: Lisa Baker shares an essay about her experience being a surrogate mother. It was an acceptable entry, if you don't mind the "Reader's Digest" type of Modern Love essay. Oh, and would you have guessed that Lisa's writing a book about her experience as well? That trend is getting a bit annoying.
- 12/18: Debora Spar writes about adopting a foreign child. This essay isn't a precursor to a book, but of course she's writing some kind of book (as it's mentioned at the end). This one strikes me as somewhat odd; this woman becomes obsessed with foreign orphans online (no, not these foreign orphans) and decides to cherry-pick one for herself. The essay ends on a somewhat awful note, as Debora finds herself again browsing orphans occasionally - as if she's not satisfied with what she's got. Bah. Also, she's a professor at Harvard - so if, like myself, you smelled a whiff of "overpriviledged upper-middle-class family gets to help save the world one self-absorbed task at a time", you were correct.
- 12/25: Merry Christmas! You get the heartwarming tale of Ellen Pall and her father's descent into dementia. How cheery! Oh, and this is part of Ellen's "series of essays on loss and redemption." Which means that at some point in the future, there will be something you should buy! I'm not going to be unfair to the essay itself - it was rather good - but this makes for three Readers' Digest essays in a row.

Aside from the schmaltz and woe, I also have a problem with these essays being rather unspecific about the setting while being published in a New-York-City-based newspaper. What happened to all the romance stories? Do people not find love in Manhattan or Brooklyn anymore? Heck, I'd settle for something from the Bronx at this point! Perhaps "Bullets Over My Baby", or "I Left My Heart In Mott Haven."

Onto Meet Market:

* Jackson had went with Jocy - great choice! - and the two hit it off fabulously. Jackson, it seems, has great taste in nightlife and also knows how to dance. In the end, he had no problem charming Jocy and showing her a great time. She definitely wants to see him again (and vice versa), so we have our first successful date in a while! Nice!

* The following week, Rose chose the seemingly charming Jim. And here's where I mail it in and skip a date review, because I can't get to the archived version. Whoops! I seem to remember that both daters were well-behaved and the date executed nicely, except I think Rose was just going to move on anyway. I wish the both of them luck in the future. And you can check out Jim's blog for entertainment purposes if you'd like...

* This week, Andrew went with Leora for a date at Paris Match (the place where I had my own Meet Market date... not a bad venue). Andrew starts with, "I could tell right away that she was a very decent person" - which I find is the least romantic way to describe a date! Does this get better or worse?
Leora: The problem is that most of the guys you meet are very nice but you just don't click. And that's what happened here. We had a nice evening. We got the check about 11 p.m. and both headed home - alone.

Oooh, tough break Andrew! I know you thought Leora was a hottie, but she just wasn't feeling it with you! Sad, sad. Again, winter dates suck.

For next week, I'm not too hopeful. Jennifer starts with:
she is looking for "a man that is 6 feet tall and above" ...

*grunt!* *snort!* Aside from the fact that I'm not 6 feet tall myself (one reason to take umbrage to such comments), I should add that a very small portion of the population is really that tall. Most men fall somewhere in the middle, as the bell curve would dictate. So, that said, I can't have any hope that she'll bond with any of these guys if she really sticks to that demand. Also, how tall is she? I mean, if she's 6 foot herself, I'd understand that preference... but why do I get the feeling she's one of those 4'10" midgets who make crazy declarations like that? Puh-leeze. If you think you're too good to date in your own height range, you shouldn't be dating at all.

The guys? Mitchell's been here before, and I'm going to reject him again. A bald artist with a middling profile - I don't think Jen's going to go for him. (You're a nice guy, Mitch; tune up your profile and keep hitting the scene) Michael is a handsome and brainy guy, but we don't know anything more about him from his printed profile. Aaron is back for another go-round, and he's a good guy (also probably tall enough for Jen), but is he appropriate for our date picker?

I'll go with Aaron, because his profile is a lot more effective than Mike's. Much of the voting is going to Mike, entirely because he's a pretty boy. But we already know that's how things work with Meet Market.

Happy New Year to all! I'll see you next week...