Loved this story from today’s New York Times. Take two former prep-school buddies a little bored with their 20s and create a one-day adventure race.
Who’d buy it?
Lots of people:
But on Sunday, the Brooklyn-based Tough Mudder will conduct a race for 4,500 people. Each has paid up to $100 for the privilege of negotiating a seven-mile obstacle course of muddy hills, cold water and flaming bales of straw at a ski resort near Allentown, Pa.
Tough Mudder has six employees and two interns, all in their 20s. It has plans for three more races around the country this year and about 10 in 2011, some projected to have as many as 20,000 participants. It announced itself with little more than $8,000 worth of Facebook advertising and a Web site (toughmudder.com), relying on the extrapolative power of social networking to generate an enthusiastic following. Tough Mudder has about 11,000 fans on Facebook and has attracted potential buyers…
Sunday’s race will feature long slogs up ski slopes, wades through mud bogs, crawls through corrugated pipes and under barbed wire, climbs over vertical walls, traverses on rope bridges and a drop from a plank into a cold pond. The finish line is through a ring of fire — next to the free beer, near the live band.
There is no prize money, and contestants are not timed. The idea of Tough Mudder is not really to win, but to finish. And to have a story to tell.
I love the spirit of this! It’s so defiantly and unrepentantly British — the goofy, have-fun, who-cares-if-you-win vibe that’s so rare in razor-elbowed America, where people are desperate to compete for everything, and win, even through the public humiliation of televised weight loss.
I’m not in good enough shape for this first event, but I’d love to sign up for November.
Try these on for size — “healthy” fish dishes offered by popular mass-market restaurants. Their calorie counts, and fat content, make them a bad joke. Eating what appear to be healthy foods is like tap-dancing through a minefield, especially in a restaurant where you have no idea what’s really in your meal.
Null said he was later told that if he hadn’t visited his doctor when he did, “he could have died within a short period of time.”
When Null discovered what the problem was, he “sequestered himself and fasted, only consuming massive amounts of water, as he was told that there was no medical treatment to lower the amount of Vitamin D in his system,” the suit says.
“It took three months to get his blood seemingly back to where he was able to function. Even now, Null’s condition is questionable, as he continues to occasionally urinate blood,” the suit says.
Null markets fitness DVDs, as well as hair-care, anti-aging, anti-stress, air-purification, weight-loss and pet-care goods on his Web site.
Look into your fridge and cupboards and see what’s really healthy. Every single food, except fresh meat and produce, is likely to be drenched in some sort of fat, salt or sugar — the worst hidden culprit, high fructose corn syrup. From Wikipedia:
In May 2006, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) threatened to file a lawsuit against Cadbury Schweppes for labeling 7 Up as “All Natural” or “100% Natural”, despite the presence of high-fructose corn syrup. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no general definition of “natural”; however, FDA regulations define “natural flavoring” to include products of vegetables. In April 2008, an FDA employee was quoted in an article suggesting that the agency had changed its opinion on HFCS. However, this was not the official position of the agency. The FDA subsequently issued a clarification stating that the agency does not object to labeling HFCS as “natural.” The CSPI also claim that HFCS is not a “natural” ingredient due to the high level of processing and the use of at least one genetically modified (GMO) enzyme required to produce it. On January 12, 2007, Cadbury Schweppes agreed to stop calling 7 Up “All Natural”. They now label it “100% Natural Flavors”.
In September 2008, the Corn Refiners Association launched a series of United States television advertisements that claim that HFCS “is made from corn”, “is natural” (changed from previously-stated “doesn’t have artificial ingredients“), “has the same calories as sugar or honey“, “is nutritionally the same as sugar”, and “is fine in moderation“, in an attempt to keep consumers from boycotting HFCS. The ads feature actors portraying roles in upbeat domestic situations with sugary foods, with one actor disparaging a food’s HFCS content but being unable to explain why, and another actor rebuking the comments with these claims. Finally, the ads each plug the Corn Refiners Association website.
I recently received a coupon for a product manufactured by multinational conglomerate DelMonte. A mom wields one of these things, called a Fruit Chiller, which comes (yes) in a “freeze and eat tube” as if it were a light saber, banishing a monster made of doughnuts, cookies, ice cream, potato chips and candy corn. The headline: “Freeze Bad Snacks in Their Tracks. Each package is made from one pound of fruit.”
The definition of good manners, it’s been said, is making sure everyone feels comfortable. But, in an age of nano-niches, where it’s entirely possible to spend most of your leisure time — if not work — interacting only with people who abide by the same rules you think worthwhile (which may include having no rules,) how is that supposed to work?
The nature of social life, on-line and especially face to face, means dealing with a wide range of people, some of whose codes you may not know or may not care much about. As the French say, tant pis. Too bad. Just because you think leaving a used tampon on the bathroom floor or coughing into my face is cool, you’re wrong!
The publication of a new book by Derek Blasberg may mark the next. “Classy” is billed as a guide for the modern lady. The guy’s 27, so he still hasn’t been around the block too many times yet.
His advice includes items never to carry in your handbag: Food you spat out (!) Drugs or other illegal substances (where else, in your bra? Your bloodstream?) Stolen merchandise (excuse me?)
This is…not obvious?
Here are 10 rules that work for me:
When addressing anyone over the age of, say, 12, do not — as a receptionist at physical therapy recently did with me — say “What’s up?” Or “Wassup?” If you’re working behind a counter (I recently did 2+ years in retail), “Hello. How may I help you?” is a much better choice. I am not your peep. I am your customer. I have other choices, and your boss(es) would be wise to remember this.
When leaving or entering a building or room, do not let the door slam behind you into the next person. No one is in that much of a hurry.
Cellphones and PDAs are not a heart defibrillator — those are actually surgically implanted. You can live without one for the time it takes to conduct a job interview, meet for a date (even a blind date or a first date [lest it become your last date], attend a wedding/bar/bat mitzvah/funeral/memorial service.
If someone is walking slowly, (not because they are selfishly staring into their PDA), and this is annoying you, do not push or shove them out of your way. They may be ill, tired or recovering from injury. Allow them the space and time they need. If this is simply too much, live in your limo.
When using public transit, move quickly to the back to make room for everyone else. There are multiple doors and the operative word is public.
When you receive an invitation to a private social event, no matter how tedious you deem it, give the courtesy of a reply, promptly. Do not cancel at the last minute unless you or a loved one is very ill. Don’t just show up with anyone you haven’t mentioned is coming along; your host/ess may well have devoted serious time, money, thought and energy to this moment. Ignoring these efforts is like throwing a gift in someone’s face.
Thank-you notes, written in ink on a lovely card or personal stationery, are not the mark of a dinosaur but someone with…yes…class. So few people even bother to thank anyone, in any medium, you’ll stand out for miles by being so thoughtful.
Send flowers. Or bring them. Do it often. Unless your recipient is allergic, they are an affordable grace note.
When seated at a dinner table with others who are new to you, converse with them. Ask questions, nicely. Do not blather on about yourself endlessly, because, really, how interesting could they possibly be? Very, if you graciously inquire about their hobbies or pets or latest travel or favorite music. Do not use the tedious crowbar of: “So what do you do?” within the first three sentences; what if they’re unemployed? (See: make everyone comfortable.)
As they say in journalism — when in doubt, leave it out. If you think (as you must, always, before you speak) a joke or comment might offend, skip it. What’s the upside?
“Hello to the world at large,” she said in the video. “To my blog, to my friends, to everyone. I have some news today. It’s kinda tough to hear, but I can say it with a smile.” Propped in a hospital bed, Markvoort sat surrounded by her family. “My life is ending.”
Markvoort had cystic fibrosis, an incurable disease that causes mucus to accumulate in the lungs. For nearly four years, she narrated an unvarnished blog about life with a terminal disease. Even when it appeared unlikely that she would receive a second double lung transplant, the 25-year-old continued to chronicle life on her blog….
Markvoort started her blog in 2006 because hospitalized patients with cystic fibrosis were isolated because of infection. Alone in her hospital room at Vancouver General Hospital after visiting hours, she sought to connect with other patients by finding them online.
The blog’s name 65_RedRoses, originated from her childhood inability to pronounce cystic fibrosis; she, as have many other children with the disease, called it “65 roses.” Markvoort added the word red because it was her favorite color.
Markvoort was the subject of a Canadian documentary also called “65_RedRoses.” It showed her harrowing experiences with the disease: violent coughing, vomiting, IVs, the painful procedures that made her scream.
I have a soft spot for VGH because my mom spent six weeks there recovering from a six-hour neurosurgery that removed a four-inch-wide tumor from her brain. I found tremendous skill and compassion from their staff, from their warm social worker who comforted and helped me through it to her plain-spoken surgeon (and his son, a fellow MD), to her lovely physical therapist.
Dying has always been a pretty private affair. If sharing their end with millions of strangers offers comfort, what other remaining choices do the dying have?
In the same style that she had allowed her readers (who were often strangers) into her life, Markvoort’s family plans to hold a memorial service that will run in a live stream on her blog at 7 p.m. ET Friday.
“She indicated that she thought it would be a cool idea if whatever we did, was made available for her online blogging community,” her mother said.
About 40% of freelancers had trouble getting paid in 2009, according to a survey released in mid-April by the New York-based Freelancers Union, a 135,000-member organization for independent contractors across the country in fields such as media, technology, and advertising. It was the first year the group asked the question on its member survey. And more than three out of four freelancers said they’ve had trouble getting paid over the course of their careers, according to organization.
The problem could become more acute as independent contractors emerge as a more central piece of the work force. The financial crisis and the resulting high unemployment thrust many professionals into the ranks of freelance workers, which may continue to grow despite signs of an economic recovery.
Littler Mendelson, a San Francisco-based employment law firm with 49 offices nationwide, predicts that in 2010 half of previously eliminated positions filled will be filled by contingent workers—such as independent contractors, freelancers, and temp workers—accounting for as much as 25% of the work force nationwide— based on client interviews and a survey conducted by a staffing analysis firm.
Since independent contractors aren’t covered by most federal employment laws, they don’t enjoy the same legal protections on wages as permanent employees, says a spokesman for the Department of Labor. If a permanent employee doesn’t get paid, federal or state labor departments can fine companies and even prosecute company executives. But independent contractors often have to turn to the court system, in most cases small claims, if they go unpaid.
I wrote about this trend for The New York Times last year — after two publications did their level best to screw me out of almost $7,000 I’d earned. One owed me $5,600 and sent me emails telling me of their financial troubles. Like I care. If I can run my business efficiently, so can you. I found a contingency lawyer, sued and won half (the lawyer, sad to say, took a third of that.) I hired another lawyer — a softball buddy who helped out for two bottles of Stoli — whose letter to the other deadbeat produced payment within two days of his letter, after months of nyah-nyahing and stonewalling.
These losers always manage to pay for everything else — their office space, heat, light and gas for their vehicles.
Freelancers? Feh, they can wait.
No we can’t — not with credit lines restricted and credit card APRs now shooting through the roof. My bank is charging me $10 every time I use my overdraft protection (line of credit) — this in addition to the usurious interest rate they charge on the balance and cutting my line of credit from $20,000 to $15,000 — because…they can.
If someone isn’t paying you, sue their ass. Don’t “be nice.” You don’t want to burn every bridge, but some look much better in flames. If a client is screwing you and smiling, why would you want them anyway?
I’ve seen this my entire life. Women who are actually proud of what they do — whether breastfeeding twins and/or running a law firm and/or completing their first (or 25th) marathon or caring for an ill, aging parent — are trained from birth to pretend it’s nothing.
Because, more than likely, some other women who find the whole confidence thing a little too scary and threatening will get all chicken-necked and hiss, to her face, or more likely behind it: “Who does she think she is anyway?”
Women are just as nasty to one another as we are to ourselves. We’ve already got (sorry, good guys, we love you) too many male feet crushing our windpipes, whether at work or domestically or economically or politically to need a stiletto on top of it. But when we can’t say “Yup, I’m really good at X,” we do it to ourselves.
I did this last week.
I’d been telling a fellow board member (yes, I serve on two pretty busy volunteer boards, with four face to face meetings a year, monthly conference calls and many ad-hoc emails) how hard I’d worked, because I love it, on our apartment. I’ve studied interior design at a great school, The New York School of Interior Design and even got an A (yay!) in our notoriously tough color class. When a colleague said, admiringly: “Your apartment sounds beautiful,” I was stymied.
“Um. Yeah. Um. Probably.” Modesty forbade me from saying, yes, it is.
I won my National Magazine Award in 1998 but have never even framed the certificate, which is quite beautiful and done in calligraphy. It’s in a cupboard. Where would I put it in, in a one-bedroom apartment, that isn’t eye-rollingly obnoxious?
Some people think I’m arrogant as shit (and maybe I am) because I’m usually really proud of my accomplishments. My Dad, who’s won all sorts of amazing awards for his work (which he’s hidden in the basement or even given away), poked me recently: “You don’t lack for confidence, do you?”
This can also be a deeply culturally-ingrained behavior you carry with you for decades, even when you live somewhere like New York City and its mostly-wealthy suburbs where modesty is seen as some sort of mental disability. Canadians, bless ’em, are heavily socialized to be self-deprecating and reflexively shrug off all praise. That Nobel? Feh. See also: Japan (the tallest nail gets hammered down) and Sweden and Australia (the tall poppy gets its head cut off.)
I live in New York, work in a dying industry filled with thousands of sharp-elbowed, well-connected competitors, in a recession. Not the best time to hide your light (no matter if it’s 40-watt) under a bushel.
If still you’re denying your fabulousness (which does notmean Facebooking every bloody mouse-fart you or your children or dogs just completed!), stop right now.
How refreshing — a golf story that isn’t about infidelity.
This week, Lorena Ochoa, 28, a rarity as a Hispanic woman in the elite world of professional golf, (dominated of late by Korean women), is retiring to focus on her husband and starting a family. She is the number one player in women’s golf.
“I do want to be remembered for the things outside the golf course,” she said. “I’m going to work really hard, and this is the compromise I have to myself, a responsibility to give back in order to help others to make a change in their life. I’m going to work on that. That is my goal.”
As she has shown, she is very good at achieving the goals she sets. As for the game, to be sure, Ochoa lost the desire to travel the hard road of professional golf. She was candid in saying she had lost the drive required to remain No. 1, a position she occupied for the past three years.
“Once you reach your goals, it’s really hard to find that motivation,” Ochoa said. “You need to be brave to see that. Just to really listen to your heart and your feelings and be able to see that and make a decision.”
The Taliban and other conservative extremist groups in Afghanistan who oppose female education have been known to target schoolgirls. Girls were not allowed to attend school when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan until they were ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
Last year, dozens of schoolgirls were hospitalized in Kapisa province, just northeast of Kabul, after collapsing with headaches and nausea. An unusual smell filled the schoolyard before the students fell ill…
Teachers stricken as well
Anesa, a 9-year-old girl who was among those hospitalized Sunday, said she noticed a strange odor and then saw two of her teachers fall unconscious.
“I came out from the main hall, and I saw lots of other girls scattered everywhere. They were not feeling good,” said Anesa, who gave only her first name. “Then suddenly I felt that I was losing my balance and falling.”
Azizullah Safar, head of the Kunduz hospital, said many of the girls were still suffering from pain, dizziness and vomiting.
“I was in class when a smell like a flower reached my nose,” said Sumaila, 12, one of the girls hospitalized. “I saw my classmates and my teacher collapse and when I opened my eyes I was in hospital.”
But the militants denied responsibility. Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “We strongly condemn such an act that targeted innocent schoolgirls by poisonous gas.”Some rights advocates suspect that opposition to female education is no longer the exclusive preserve of the Taliban. Instead, they claim that Islamists unaligned with the insurgency may sometimes be responsible.
A million girls attend school in Afghanistan – an unprecedented number but a sixth of the number of boys.
I confess, though, that one passage is truly memorable, in which a priest is being burned at the stake, too slowly because the wood is wet, and he begs his onlookers to fan the flames so he can die faster. No matter how gross, it’s hard not to picture, and remember that scene.
Yet so much of history, as presented to most of us along the way, is a big fat snooze, boringly taught and impatiently suffered through.
A recent piece in my favorite newspaper, the weekend Financial Times, looked at the problem and determined it was a case of “Too Much Hitler and the Henrys” — i.e. for British students anyway too narrow a focus on WWII and the Kings named Henry.
A new television series, “America: The Story of Us” began this week on April 25 and continues for six more Sundays on the History Channel. It’s the most ambitious project of its kind since Alistair Cooke’s 13-part “America: A Personal History of the United States, broadcast in 1972.
“a naked attempt by the producers to rope in viewers whose experience of United States history may be limited to their school history classes. “In that attempt to make it feel epic, it’s actually quite refreshing to see big personalities commenting on what history means to them and what that moment in the story means to them, and how that has inspired them,” said Nancy Dubuc, the president and general manager of the History channel. “It sort of ups the entertainment value of the show.”
“It’s not about dates, facts and dead people,” she added. “It’s about presenting a very rich story in an engaging and entertaining way, and along the way, lo and behold, hopefully millions of people will watch something that they hadn’t anticipated they would watch.”
I read a lot of great women’s history – (check out anything written by Glenda Riley, a historian of the American West) — when I researched my first book, about American women and guns, and learned that entire swaths of Colorado and Wyoming had been homesteaded exclusively by women, for whom being armed and ready to shoot was a matter of life or death. Many women fought in the Civil War, even those heavily pregnant, their gender or condition undetected by their comrades in arms, and detailed in the great book, “They Fought Like Demons” by DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook.
Too often, as women know, history books typically focus on wealth and power, those narratives told and driven by men. Women, confined for centuries to domestic or religious life, often seem almost invisible.
A wildly popular series for kids, (now available on DVD) is Horrible Histories, filled with gruesome/alluring details like the fact it took two swings to lop off Mary Queen of Scots’ head. The series has sold 11 million copies in the UK and 20 million worldwide, with the accompanying books translated into 31 languages.
Something is working when there’s such hunger for history amongst the young ‘uns.
Welcome to Jurassic Park. Daily print newspapers are supposed to be dead — watch the the T. Rex and the Brontosaurus claw at one another anyway!
I was underwhelmed by today’s first edition of the Journal’s new, much-anticipated Metro section.
The new section is called Greater New York, ( a sop to advertisers that they’ll also include the suburban hedge-fund wives of Scarsdale and Greenwich, CT and Short Hills, NJ) and the best story on front page today — albeit not a breaking news piece — was about a rat infestation on the tony Upper East Side. Chewed Manolos!
One front-page piece looked at the state deciding whether or not to borrow money to avoid a looming $1 billion shortfall and another focused on a commercial real estate story about a Fifth Avenue property. An inside page offered tips on how to swipe your Metrocard properly, a fairly basic urban skill. There were two food stories, two pieces about auction houses, a Tribeca penthouse at $28 million and the Mark Hotel, one of the city’s oldest and most elegant, now struggling for business.
If you’re rich — as most Journal readers are — this sort of thing matters. For the rest of us, who just live here, not so compelling.
1. Goes without saying, but this column will be primarily dedicated to New York-area fox-hunting and squash. On occasion, it will cover fringe sports, like that science experiment with a basketball in Madison Square Garden.
2. We’ll do our best to devote equal attention to the Yankees and Mets. On occasions where there is a conflict, we will simply lavish praise on the Yankees. Just kidding, Mets—calm down! Stop being the Jan Brady of New York sports.
The tone of the new section feels stiff and tentative, sort ofNew York Observer light.
It should be an interesting horse race. The Post is unrepentantly itself — today’s wood (front page) had Boobquake — and the Times will retain its own perspective. The Times and Journal will be duking it out for affluent readers, so their race for ad dollars is one to watch, reports today’s Post:
Shares of the Times Co. fell for a second day on Friday, dropping 68 cents, or 5.5 percent, to $11.61. On Thursday, the company reported first-quarter results that showed ad declines were easing but that the market had not yet hit bottom.
Despite the pressure on ad rates, media buyers don’t foresee advertisers abandoning the Times for the Journal’s Greater New York.
“It’s an attractive opportunity for advertisers looking to heavy up in the New York market,” said George Jansen, director of print at WPP’s GroupM media-buying unit. “Do I think they will pull out of the Times and put it all in the Journal? Absolutely not.”
The Times has some factors in its favor. Roughly half of the paper’s more than 900,000 daily print subscribers are in the New York market.
While the Journal has 1.6 million print subscribers, Greater New York is expected to reach about 300,000 readers. The paper also skews more heavily male than the Times, which makes it a tougher sell for retailers.
Still, Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman are advertising in the new section, according to Ad Age. Both also advertise in the Times and fall into the paper’s high-end, New York-centric retail base.
Feel the earth tremble. Let the newspaper war begin!