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Weekend Roundup

May 18, 2009

Let’s kick off this week with this amazing picture, to which I was alerted by my friend Katie:

The kid wanted to see if his own haircut felt like the president’s haircut. (For more great daily pictures of Obama and others in the White House, see the Official White House Photostream, which currently features a picture of the president talking to a pirate.)

At any rate, this picture of the kid resonated with me all the more because right now I’m reading Dreams from My Father, Obama’s first book.

Here’s a favorite passage of mine from the book, which I highly recommend:

For the rest of the day and into the next, I thought about Ruby’s eyes. [Obama had noticed that Ruby, a black woman, was wearing colored blue contacts, and he kind of called her out on it.] I had handled the moment badly, I told myself, made her feel ashamed for a small vanity in a life that could afford few vanities. I realized that a part of me expected her and the other leaders to possess some sort of immunity from the onslaught of images that feed every American’s insecurities-the slender models in the fashion magazines, the square-jawed men in fast cars-images to which I myself was vulnerable and from which I had sought protection.

I love that Obama gets it about “the onslaught of images.” That’s why I want to start a band called The True Iconoclasts. Smash images. It’s like Sex and the City and Friends, like magazines and movie stars; even though you know that the images are glossed and styled and Not Real, they provide a nonstop background noise against which, reflexively, you measure your own life and look and, of course, find them lacking.

Then there are these lines, from a story in this Sunday’s Times about good deals for first-time renters now being more available than before in the city:

Maggie Hawryluk, a freelance publicist, graduated from Hofstra University last year. She decided to look in Astoria because she knew some Hofstra alumni who had settled there. She shares a $1,600 two-bedroom with another Hofstra graduate, a dancer who works as a waitress when she’s not auditioning.

“I guess it’s the same idea as immigrants — they find ways to stay near one another,” Ms. Hawryluk said. “When I’m out on the weekends, I’m constantly running into people that I know from college, and it’s nice to see a familiar face.”

I like that take on things. It’s much more forgiving and clear-eyed than most of the vitriol that gets spouted and hand-wringing that gets done over gentrification. People want to live near others who are like them, simple as that—Trinidadians with Trinidadians, Russians with Russians, liberal arts school graduates with liberal arts school graduates.* No one ever complains about the former two groups clumping together, so why the latter?

Also RE: gentrification—I’m pretty much 100 percent over feeling at all bad about it, because A) That’s the way the market works and B) What’s the alternative? That no one should ever be allowed to relocate from the town in which they were born? Or, if you are a college graduate and you do move to New York City, that you should be required by law to live in the West or East Villages and disallowed elsewhere?

It’s just not workable. People have to be able to move wherever they feel like. That’s kind of an essential American value, I think. Now, of course, the government does have a role in preventing or mitigating some of the inherent predations of the market, in real estate and in all other areas. But swinging the pendulum too far in the direction of regulation is a bad idea.

Finally, I’m now on Twitter. If you want to follow me, my name is hrslaton. Here’s a link to my page.

* Whether or not this—people desiring to clump together with others like them—is a good or bad thing is another story entirely; but I do think it’s a very human thing. And arguing against human nature is a losing battle.

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