What Your Sorority Says About You

Labor Day weekend has come and gone (RIP, my liver), and that means school is back in session. Tis the season for leggings disguised as pants, waiting to buy your books until halfway through the semester, and sorority rush aka the most soul-sucking, Spanx-up-your-ass, I-will-cunt-punt-a-bitch-if-I-hear-that-song-one-more-time kind of season.

Whether you’re gearing up to rush for the first time or gearing up to judge the shit out of new freshmen’s last season Kate Spade welcome an entire new class to the chapter, you’re probably well aware of the popularity contest and social hierarchy that is every sorority on campus. And if you’re not, do you even go here? I mean, think about it—everything about rush is purely physical. You only get one fake five-minute convo about your college major, a quick tour, and maybe some Minute Maid lemonade, so really, your decision comes down to square footage of the house and which girl probably has the hottest brother. But when all is said and done, you chose a sorority that was totally “you” and that will determine your social status for however long you shall live. So listen up, because whether you know it or you don’t, your sorority speaks much more about you than three random letters stitched into ugly fabric on basically everything you own, and I’m about to tell you how, so get cozy. Also you should know that in my greek prime, I thrived off of being Campus Gossip royalty, so your generous discussion of blatant hatred in the comments only makes me smarter/better/faster/stronger. Deep down, y’all know this shit’s about to hit close to home, so bye.

Me not pretending to care:

 

Gamma Phi Beta

When I think of GPhis, I think about the horror that is probably sitting through “It’s a Small World” on mushrooms, except with much more pressed pastel linen and much less diversity. Gamma Phis are like your stereotypical half-a-virgin movie sorority, and also the reason I had to schedule an immediate therapy session after rush, mostly because when I accidentally clapped, they looked at me like I just fucking retweeted Trump. Why? Because they motherfucking snap their fingers. They’re like that girl in class who reminds the teacher that you had homework due three minutes before class is dismissed. Idk. Look, I’m not saying anything bad about them, but all they really care about is school, and their mom, and their friends. Oh, and did I mention they snap?

Delta Delta Delta

Nobody puts triple the “D” in TriDelt like this group of closet hoes. These girls are the secret freaks of the greek system who mask their hoeish-ness by taking on weird “hobbies” they’re into, like Burning Man and on Netflix. You never know what you’re gonna get with TriDelts, considering every chapter ranges between everything from Green Peace Vegans to homey-hopping frat row. Regardless, a TriDelt’s open-leg policy scores them unlimited access to date parties, formals and HPV, so like, live it up.   

Kappa Alpha Theta

There are the type of girls who say they like your vintage skirt from the ‘80s and actually mean it, and then there are Thetas. Generally all-around, they’re smart, cleaned up and classy af. Everything matches from their caramel highlights to their $60 pedicures. But their façade doesn’t come easy. Deep down, everyone knows it’s better to be in The Plastics Theta hating life than to not be in it at all. Beyond the white canvas tote bags and the lavish recruitment center pieces, Ashley just got her ass handed to her in the passive-aggressive email about why her vest was disgusting and goes against all dress code violations. But you know what they say, “A girl should be three things… Classy, Fabulous & Theta.” —Probably Marilyn Monroe

Kappa Kappa Gamma

Kappas are the all-around American girls next door who will eventually go on to marry a sweet, loaded Jewish man and live in her own fairy tale with three half-Jewish children. I only say that because Charlotte from was a Kappa and you can’t make this shit up. Kappas are one of the OG sororities that have been around for like centuries, so consider them the older, classier group of the bunch. But whatever you do, don’t mistake them for lame. Kappas are like the Jennifer Lawrences of the greek system, and I don’t see Jennifer Lawrence going sober to any bougie event. Get you a girl who thrives off Sunday brunch, but can also spend an entire weekend binge-watching a marathon on ABC Family. Get you a Kappa.

Alpha Delta Pi

I’m not here to judge, but that’s mostly because TotalFratMove.com already did it for me. There’s a reason these girls are called AD-proof, and that’s because they can outdrink anyone in the entire greek system. You’ll always see the same group of them at a Sig Ep rager, but the good thing is, they’ll unknowingly always be your ally when you’re waiting for your own sisters to arrive, because 1) they’re never not obliterated and 2) they’ll never not offer you a handle pull. ADPis are the drunk girls in the bathroom sporting last night’s eye makeup who will always compliment your new boobs or eyebrows, so really I have no problem here. Four for you ADPis, you go ADPis.

Alpha Chi Omega

AChiOs may look intimidating from the outside, but that’s only because they are. They had like, 12 founding sisters who you know just sat around watching Bravo while talking shit on every sorority, and prob their own, but their philanthropy serves women of domestic violence, so you know they can fuck some shit up. Like I literally called out sick during Greek Week because of the sheer murderous volume of that fucking AAAAA-CHIIIIII-OOOOOO chant that still haunts me when I sleep. But being competitive also means getting what you want, so if it were me, don’t even bother asking Dillon from ATO to formal if an AChiO might have dibs. She’ll go full Rihanna on your ass faster than you can say Michael Kors.

Alpha Phi

Remember that girl in college who claimed she wanted to really make a difference in the world and you were all like, “That’s awesome! How?” and she tells you she’s thinking of taking on the event planning industry? Gee wow, Tiffany for Prez 2020. Alpha Phis know how to have a good time, but they also know how to get away with doing the bare minimum—same. Their list of college Comm courses consist of Tourism 101, Brunching For Mass Basics, and Popular Culture. And yeah, that’s textbook lingo for “pop culture,” and it also may or may not have been a class I barely passed took. Once graduated, she’ll be plastering her “glamorous” LA lifestyle all over Instagram while working in public relations, aka the front desk morning bagel-getter.

Zeta Tau Alpha

On the west coast, ZTAs are all the girls who decided to rush for the sole purpose of boosting their resumes and taking a leadership role rather than being sexually active in the greek system, but on the east coast, Zetas are so much more than that. If you’ve seen Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video, or just anything she’s ever been in, just think of Zetas as a group of powerful, always-involved, mostly white girls, who will deny that to their grave, exactly kinda like Taylor Swift. Zetas are overly committed to fundraising and their philanthropy, but probably to distract people from their true identity—that being the Regina Georges in sheep’s clothing. Also like Taylor Swift.

Delta Gamma

When it comes to DGs, dumb shit like GPA, extracurricular activities and part-time work experience are at the bottom food chain. These are the girls who scored white M3 series for their 16th birthdays and paid for overpriced gifts for their littles with daddy’s tuition money. They spend a stupid amount of time, and dollars, on Dry Bar blowouts and Kendra Scott statement necklaces, while their claim to fame is knowing all the words to Nicki Minaj’s verse in “Monster.” Oh, and it’s no coincidence “Dirty Girls” worship their sacred anchors because, like, nothing goes down faster than an anchor. You didn’t hear it from me.

 

Read more: http://www.betches.com/what-your-sorority-says-about-you

You Are Making Scrambled Eggs All Wrong

It’s hard to think of a dish as elemental as scrambled eggs. The only requirements for the original two-ingredient recipe (if you don’t count seasoning) are fat for cooking and eggs. Though plenty of ways exist to make them more ambitious, with fancy ingredients and elegant presentations, it seems impossible to think of a way to change them beyond the three-step process of cracking, whisking, and pouring into a hot pan.

But Daniel Patterson has figured it out.

Daniel Patterson wants home cooks to throw out their cookbooks.
Courtesy: Maren Caruso

The San Francisco-based chef has earned Michelin stars and a James Beard award for his fine-dining restaurant, Coi. He is a co-founder of Locol, the California fast-food spot whose mission statement is to save the world by offering well-sourced, affordable burgers, soft serve, and coffee in underserved neighborhoods.

Patterson is likewise on a mission to give home cooks a point of view in their own cooking. In a cookbook just out this month,  (Riverhead Books), he has teamed up with perfumer Mandy Aftel to teach readers to be confident in their flavor combinations, rather than blindly relying on recipes. (Patterson compares this to the way people unthinkingly follow GPS directions in their car.)

Patterson’s goal is for home cooks to cook without recipes. “Chefs make multiple decisions simultaneously when they’re creating dishes. This book allows people to make their own recipes. Much of that is functional: determining you want acid in a dish, and then deciding from options like Champagne vinegar, or balsamic, or citrus. Brown sugar or honey or a juice if you want sweetness. Once you get a sense of what works for you, you gain confidence.”

Learn to hit your flavor target, says Patterson.

“There are a million recipes out there, but hardly any that explain why you’re mixing this with that, or that empower you. This book is about the ‘whys,’ about knowing what your flavor target is, and how to hit it,” says Patterson. “If you like spicy foods, high acid foods, dishes with that rich umami flavor, then get a handle on the ingredients that push that forward.”

Take sweet potatoes, he says. One of his favorite dishes in the book is for a soy-glazed version. Using three ingredients (sweet potatoes that are roasted, plus melted butter and dark soy sauce), Patterson transforms a staple side dish into one with sophisticated layers of dark, sweet, and salty flavors. “It will change your Thanksgiving,” predicts Patterson. 

To lead cooks to a place of understanding, Patterson takes time out in to point out the power of some ingredients to undo the wrong direction a recipe might go in. In the book’s final chapter, “The Seven Dials,” Patterson highlights the seven kinds of flavor adjustments (salt, sweet, sour, bitter, umami, fat, and heat) you can make to a dish. There are “Sweet Rules”: If you’ve added too much salt to a dish, a hit of sugar can alleviate that. So can a hit of a tangy ingredient, such as a squeeze of lemon juice. (Under “Sour Rules” you learn that sour balances almost every other flavor.) From “Fat Rules,” you confirm that fat, like a knob of butter, fixes and balances just about everything.

It was this kind of experimentation that led Patterson to his most trailblazing recipe, a transformation of scrambled eggs. The background: He had always cooked his eggs in a non-stick pan. When his eco-conscious wife took issue with the hormone-disrupting problems associated with Teflon, he cooked his eggs in cast iron pans and soon found the egg remnants cumbersome to clean.

Patterson had a “eureka” moment: Why not try cooking the beaten eggs in boiling water? Eggs are poached all the time; these would just be beaten first. Experimentation taught him that eggs wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pan if you add them to a mini-whirlpool of simmering water. 

In the meantime, the intense heat of the water bath would cause the air bubbles in the eggs to expand, while simultaneously setting the protein. The resulting eggs are terrifically light, fluffy, and tender, like an expertly made omelet. It also lends itself to any number of toppings, from a drizzle of olive oil to a wedge of goat cheese, even gravy. We like the way butter melts into it.

The simplest of recipes. 
Photographer: Daniel Patterson

Boiled Scrambled Eggs

Serves 2

4 large eggs, as fresh as possible
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Unsalted butter

In a bowl, beat the eggs until well-blended, about 30 seconds. ( For lighter scrambled eggs, crack each egg into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl; a little bit of the watery egg white will drip out. Discard it, rinse the strainer, and set over your sink.) 

In a medium pot of water, heat four or more inches of water to a low boil over medium heat. Add a few large pinches of salt.

Your scrambled eggs are done.
Photographer: Daniel Patterson

Stir the water to create a whirlpool, then pour in the eggs. Cover and count to 20. Uncover: The eggs should be floating on the surface in ribbons. Carefully pour the eggs into the strainer and let drain, gently tapping the strainer against the side to shake off any extra water. Divide the eggs between plates. (Tester’s note: Blot off any excess water from the plate with a paper towel.) Season the eggs with salt and pepper and a hunk of butter and serve with toast.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-29/you-are-making-scrambled-eggs-all-wrong

    PR Nightmare: Make-A-Wish Accidentally Sent A Costumed Hero Named Terminally Ill Spider-Man To A Healthy Kids House And Asked The Child To Comfort Him In His Final Hours

    Yeesh, the Make-A-Wish Foundation is not looking too good right now.

    The nonprofit organization usually does an excellent job of making sick kids happy, but earlier this week a clerical error really threw a wrench into things for them. Instead of sending Spider-Man to visit a terminally ill child, they arranged for a completely healthy child to meet with a superhero named Terminally Ill Spiderman.

    Its an understandable mistake, but it still ruined an afternoon for healthy 8-year-old Michael Cooper, who heard a feeble knocking at his door announcing the unexpected arrival of a gaunt and shivering Terminally Ill Spider-Man. The incredibly unwell wall-crawler declared that he was on his way to hospice but needed to stop at Michaels house to use the bathroom. The superhero asked Michael to help pull his mask up so he could vomit into the toilet without getting his costume filthy, and after retching up blood for several minutes, he asked to lie down on Michaels bed to regain his energy while huffing from an oxygen tank.

    In a half-conscious delirium, the dying web-slinger gave Michael a pair of toy web-shooters and asked if he could count on the boy to help fight the Green Goblin, since Spider-Man was no longer physically able. Terminally Ill Spider-Man explained that he couldnt climb buildings anymore because his skin was very brittle, and trying to cling to a wall would make his fingertips rip off.

    The waning superhero then offered to autograph one of Michaels Spider-Man comic books, but the boy had to turn him down because he wasnt really a huge Marvel fan and didnt own any, so Spider-Man instead shakily wrote, To my favorite sidekick! Spider-Man, on a copy of Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, ruining its cover.

    Terminally Ill Spider-Man was exhausted from all that interaction, so he then slept for 15 hours, his labored wheezing audible throughout the house. At one point the wheezing stopped entirely, and Michael thought that Spider-Man had died, but then the masked vigilante abruptly woke up in a coughing fit and asked Michael to empty his urine bag.

    In the morning, Terminally Ill Spider-Man still wasnt feeling up to walking, so Make-A-Wish sent over an ambulance, and two paramedics carried the ailing superhero away on a stretcher.

    Overall, this debacle is a real black eye for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Not only did they force an 8-year-old child to confront human mortality way earlier than necessary, but they also wasted resources that could have sent a healthy Spider-Man to visit a child who was actually dying. Make-A-Wish really needs to iron out the kinks in its operations so this kind of embarrassing mixup doesnt happen again.

    Read more: http://www.clickhole.com/article/pr-nightmare-make-wish-accidentally-sent-costumed–6400

    13 tweets about last night’s health care vote that should be in history books.

    Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) tried to pull a fast one on America, putting crucial health care legislation up for a vote in the early hours of July 28. Unfortunately for McConnell and other supporters of the so-called “Skinny Repeal” bill, it was struck down in a dramatic moment with 51 senators voting against it.

    “Trumpcare,” at least in its current form, was dead.

    Joining 48 Democratic and Independent “no” votes were three Republicans: Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), and in a dramatic last minute pivot, John McCain (Arizona).

    From left, Murkowski, McCain, and Collins. Photos by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

    Though Murkowski and Collins have maintained their opposition to the bill from the start, McCain has been getting what miiiiiiight be seen as a disproportionate amount of credit for killing it.

    For example:

    Watching a man getting more credit than women for the same amount of work seemed a bit familiar to many Twitter users, who were quick to make sure Murkowski and Collins get the place in history they deserve.

    After all, it was McCain’s “yes” vote earlier in the week that led the Senate to the precipice in the first place while Collins and Murkowski were steadfast in their opposition. Collins and Murkowski spent the days in between the two votes getting threats from members within their own party while McCain received praise from the president himself.

    McCain’s decisive “no” vote on Friday places him solidly on the right side of history, protecting health care for millions of Americans, but watching him place his two votes was a bit like watching someone light a house on fire, help others put it out, and then get all the credit.

    In many ways, Collins and Murkowski’s votes were tougher than McCain’s. While Collins isn’t up for re-election until 2020 and Murkowski until 2022, it’s likely that they’ll both seek it, meaning that this vote could come to define them for better or for worse. Additionally, President Donald Trump threatened to retaliate against Murkowski if she voted against the bill. McCain, on the other hand, now 80 years old and recently diagnosed with brain cancer, has probably run his last campaign.

    Add in the fact that separate House Republicans appear to have half-jokingly threatened Murkowski and Collins in the past week, and it’s clear that the senators won’t exactly be seen as popular with certain segments of the party moving forward.

    Beyond McCain, Collins, Murkowski, and the other 48 “no” votes, it’s important to remember the real heroes of the health care fight: regular people doing extraordinary things.

    Activists played a huge role in shutting down the effort to gut the Affordable Care Act that shouldn’t go overlooked.

    The ACLU shared some stunning numbers from its push to stop the bill, noting that 89,000 supporters e-mailed members of Congress, made nearly 19,000 phone calls, and attended hundreds of in-person events.

    And organizations like disability rights activists ADAPT kept sustained pressure on senators of all stripes to do the right thing.

    Three of our tough women leaders of Atlantis ADAPT (Denver, CO) in DC at the Senate healthcare vigil at the US Capitol….

    Posted by National ADAPT onThursday, July 27, 2017

    In the end, blocking Trumpcare was a group effort. Senators, representatives, and ordinary everyday Americans came together in the name of what’s right.

    Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/13-tweets-about-last-nights-health-care-vote-that-should-be-in-history-books

    10 Old Fashioned Dating Habits We Should Make Cool Again

    1. Coming to the door to pick someone up.

    I think we’ve all had it with the incredibly unromantic “here” text, and meeting up always seems to be more casual and platonic than the alternative. Of course, meeting someone from online or any circumstance like that would probably be the exception to this rule, but generally: the 30 seconds it takes to get out of a car or cab and knock on the door makes a huge difference.

    2. Trying to dress really nicely for a date.

    “Nicely” means different things for different people, so I think it’s just a matter of putting effort into how you put yourself together to go out with someone. It’s not about wearing suits and petticoats again, but just realizing that, whether or not we like to accept it, appearance does count for something, and we should do our best to make sure that our appearance says something about us, in whatever way we’d like it to.

    3. Bringing flowers or other tokens of affection to the first date.

    Now, many lucky ladies (and some men) I know get this regularly, and in fact, I have myself as well, but only ever with people I’d been dating for a while. I think there’s something to be said for bringing flowers to the door on your first date. It’s become uncool because it’s forward and it’s a gesture that confirms their interest, but we should definitely get past that idea and worry more about how we’re going to let someone know we really do care and appreciate that they want to spend time with us.

    4. Going dancing that’s not grinding on a grimy club floor.

    Whatever happened to this? Dancing for the sake of dancing, like fun, not essentially sex on a dance floor dancing. What’s a better way to literally shake off nerves than seeing them bust a really dorky move on a dance floor? And the art of slow dancing has generally been lost, though I’ve been one to do it in my living room with my slightly coerced significant other, and I’ll tell you he’s said on numerous occasions it ended up being one of the most romantic nights we had together.

    5. Straightforwardly asking someone out and not calling it “hanging out.”

    Or, as is very popular these days, “talking.” “Oh, we’re just… talking.” As in, seeing one another and speaking frequently as to get to know each other? So… dating? We’ve found these really convenient ways to skirt around the issue of having to put our hearts on the line, but honestly, it just ends up being messy and confusing for all parties involved. There’s no need to go back to the idea of courting or anything, unless you want to, but simply being direct about whether or not you’d like to go on a date with someone is a truly lost art, one that really shouldn’t be.

    6. Additionally, being clear about when you’re “going steady.”

    Oh, the awkward, “so… are we… you know… what are we?” talk. Classic. We should go back to asking one another if the other person would like to “go steady” or something. There’s something about asking them if they’d like to rather than assuming that you are or aren’t anything that’s just very cute, in my opinion.

    7. Romantic gestures like writing poems.

    Writing poems may not be for you, I know mine would look something like “Roses are red, violets are blue, I hate poetry but I love you.” I literally just made that up thank you please quote me when you inevitably post that gem on Tumblr. But seriously, like a handwritten letter in the mail or just surprising them with something you made even if it looks like the macaroni necklace you made when you were 5 is cute just because you tried and were thinking of them.

    8. Turning electronics off and just being with one another.

    I’m not sure there is anything worse than the person who picks up their phone and starts staring at it in the middle of dinner, or at any point while you’re together and having a conversation. I’m not anti-technology here (hello, I work for the Internet) but I am saying that there comes a time to turn it off and disconnect and remember what actually matters. People.

    9. The general concept of asking permission for things.

    It used to be principle for people to say: oh, when can I see you? Or, when could I call you? Rather than just assuming they can at any point. But I think that old concept could be applied to our modern world by just assuming that, unless told otherwise, you should ask permission to you know, touch them , take them out, call them at a certain time, etc. Once you’re in a relationship these things usually don’t require asking anymore, but some do, especially when it comes to sexuality. I once knew a person who said that they asked permission before so much as touching a girl’s thigh, and that always stuck with me.

    10. Not assuming sex is to be had at point in time.

    Now, I’m certainly not saying it should go back to being a taboo that’s unspoken of, but we certainly shouldn’t expect it from someone on the third date, on the first date, because they’re being flirty, because you know they’re into you, or even because they agreed to go out with you. A date does not have to be a precursor to sex, and you shouldn’t be disappointed if it isn’t because you should never assume that it will be. It depends on the person you’re with and what they want to do.

    Read more: http://thoughtcatalog.com/kate-bailey/2013/12/10-old-fashioned-dating-habits-we-should-make-cool-again/

    Henry David Thoreau by Laura Dassow Walls review radical, unsettling, relevant

    A superb new biography of the seer of Walden Pond reconsiders his reputation as tax-refuser, recluse, environmentalist and writer

    In March 1845, Henry David Thoreau borrowed an axe and set off for Walden Pond, near his home in Concord, Massachusetts. He was going to build a hut, and he knew exactly where: on a spot near the water, backed by a pine grove and fronted by smaller pines and a chestnut tree. Before stopping for his first lunch break, Thoreau had cut and trimmed enough of these pines to make the houses main timbers.

    Then he paid $4.28 to buy a shanty from a railroad worker who was moving on the line had just been built past Walden Pond. Thoreau dismantled it and dried its planks in the sun to become the huts roof and sides. He laid a chimney foundation using cobblestones from the pond. When he finished the house that autumn, it had weatherproof shingles on the outside, neat plastering inside and a few carefully counted possessions: three chairs, a desk, one cup, two forks. He planted rows of potatoes, corn and peas and miles of white beans making the earth say beans instead of grass, as he put it. The project had begun: Thoreau would live there, dedicating himself to the principle of simplicity. He would observe nature and write.

    The idea had come from his friend and neighbour, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said a writer must have a hideaway. Walden was an obvious choice: Thoreau knew it well, and had spent lazy days in his youth drifting in boats on the pond, playing his flute. Now, he had a more serious purpose. He lived for two years in the hut, then spent a further seven working up his notes for publication. When he produced Walden, he made the earth say a lot more than beans. This cranky, observant, mystical, polemical, exhilarating masterpiece became a classic of 19th-century Americana, studied by schoolchildren and stuffed into pockets for journeys on the road with generations of young idealists. Through this and his essay Civil Disobedience, which urged non-violent political resistance and the principled withholding of taxes, Thoreau called on Americans to tune in, drop out and seize control.

    Walden had a rousing effect on me when I first read it. It still does, but I now find it disquieting, too. Besides nature lovers, Thoreau speaks to a spirit of refusal that runs through the modern US (and elsewhere). This spirit rejects political institutions, large-scale civic structures and tax-paying, in favour of holing up in a woodland fastness following only ones raw sense of personal rightness. It unnerves me to read the famous line in Civil Disobedience, That government is best which governs not at all. It sounded good once; now it evokes the kind of thinking that considers public healthcare an evil.

    Others have raised milder doubts. After Walden came out, Thoreaus friends and critics alike voiced surprise at the books portrayal of a proud recluse, when they knew that Thoreau had gone on doing regular handyman work around Concord during those years, as well as popping home once a week for dinner prepared by the family cook. Friends visited him all the time, despite his lack of a full set of forks. He was a frequent visitor to other households so much so that Emersons young son Edward was surprised to learn that Thoreau had been officially resident at the pond during a time when he thought the writer was living with them.

    A
    Dedicated to simplicity a replica of Thoreaus house on Walden Pond. Photograph: Alamy

    In her superb new biography, Laura Dassow Walls defuses such cavils with a wry, understated humour. No other male American writer, she says, has been so discredited for enjoying a meal with loved ones or for not doing his own laundry. That quiet male is characteristic; like Thoreau, Walls lets her sharpest observations slip through to the readers consciousness without touching the sides. The observations and interpretations are not hammered home, yet they are persuasive. She gives us a Thoreau who is more interesting, more intellectually curious and more subtle than I (for one) had given him credit for despite his unsettling side, or perhaps because of it. Exploring his environmentalism and radicalism, she shows us why he might be worth reading differently in the 21st century.

    The standard biographical way-stations are all covered. Walls explores Thoreaus childhood in Concord, his far from glittering years at Harvard, where he felt out of place (though he did master five languages and would spend his Walden evenings reading Homer in Greek), and his early attempts at schoolmastering. She then focuses on his writing life. Walls inspires us to read not just Walden, but his lectures, his essays and especially his journal.

    This downright weird journal forms a backbone to his life and in Wallss biography is a theme in itself. He began it while under Emersons spell, opening it by quoting a question asked by his mentor: What are you doing now? Do you keep a journal? Later, his journal-keeping picked up tempo by adapting a modest volume of Nature Notes kept by his brother, John, who had died horribly from tetanus following a slight skin cut. Where John simply noted what he saw, Thoreau took it into a different dimension. Walls describes the uncanny feeling she had looking at this notebook, where Henrys raw and angular handwriting spills down the page, ripping open a vortex in Johns tidy checklist.

    Later, Thoreau repurposed the journal as a professional naturalists log, but combined this with an attempt to capture every moment of each days experience, writing pencil notes almost continuously and transcribing them the next morning. (He used Thoreau family pencils, incidentally: their fortune had started from a graphite find, and he continued to work out ways of refining the pencils hardness.) By delicately juxtaposing her stories, Walls implies an intriguing possibility as to why this shift of style may have occurred. At around the same time, his friend Margaret Fuller had died in a shipwreck with her family, leaving Thoreau in grief. He wrote to himself: If you can drive a nail, and have any nails to drive, drive them … Be native to the universe. Perhaps, faced as well with the loss of his brother, Thoreau was attempting the impossible with his journal: to capture and preserve every scrap of experienced existence before it vanished.

    Walls biography allows Thoreau to breathe his own air on her pages, while turning her critical gaze on each of the public roles he played as political activist, mystic, tax refuser and environmentalist. In the end, they all come together in Thoreau the writer the person who said: A man writing is the scribe of all nature he is the corn and the grass and the atmosphere writing.

    Writing, for Thoreau, meant living with full attention and awareness living deliberately at every moment, in the sense of applying proper deliberation to his life. It meant, Walls says, living so as to perceive and weigh the moral consequences of our choices. If this isnt a reason to see Thoreau as a man with something to say to our times, I dont know what is.

    Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls (Chicago, 26.50). To order a copy, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of 1.99.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/aug/10/henry-david-thoreau-a-life-by-laura-dassow-walls-review

    Luc Besson on turning Rihanna into a 28th-century Cleopatra and being stood up by Prince

    From The Fifth Element to Lucy, Bessons gender-splicing sci-fi films have never played by Hollywoods rules. Now hes taking the biggest gamble of his career by sending Cara Delevingne into space in Valerian

    No one needs a hit right now more than Luc Besson. His production company, EuropaCorp, recently posted record losses of $135m. He was ordered last year to pay nearly half a million dollars after being found guilty of plagiarising John Carpenters Escape from New York in his 2012 screenplay Lockout. And his new futuristic adventure, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, is the most expensive independent movie ever made, with a budget of around $200m. The film needs to crack at least $400m worldwide (like his Scarlett Johansson action fantasy Lucy) to push the company back into the black. Right now, that looks as far fetched as any of the films 28th-century intergalactic escapades. Valerian had a dismal $17m opening weekend in the US last month. In Germany, it landed in third place behind Despicable Me 3, which had already been on release for three weeks.

    Luc
    Luc Besson. Photograph: Lee Jin-man/AP

    There are glimmers of hope. France welcomed the movie enthusiastically last week, as it usually does with anything by the Parisian film-maker, giving it the second-best opening day of the year. But these are still fraught times for Besson. Its difficult launching a film like this, the embattled 58-year-old director says when we meet in a London hotel. The big studios dont leave you any room. They love to take all the space. He is a stocky bear of a man but today he looks small and sheepish with unkempt hair, a more-salt-than-pepper beard and a T-shirt bearing the title of the movie on which his reputation rests.

    Besson had tried to get Valerian made for seven years. Its my baby. Probably my most important one. He gives a soft heh-heh. Its kind of crazy. Adapted from the comic strip Valrian and Laureline, the film presents a jubilant, noisy, gaily-coloured alien world. Flirting and bickering their way through it are a pair of young law enforcers, played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, investigating an attack on a peaceful planet. The movie opens with a warmly funny montage of interspecies etiquette, as scientists and astronauts encounter various alarming extraterrestrial counterparts throughout the centuries.

    Thats the stuff that makes it real. I wanted to imagine the future positively. Today people look around them and say, Oh shes black or hes homosexual or this one is too old, this one too young. Theres always some barrier to make others difficult to be with. Imagine now that we have to deal with 8,000 different species coming from space. Suddenly anyone terrestrial will look like my brother. So the film is my way of saying, Are you sure its so difficult to live together? Really? How comfortable will you feel when you have to deal with these guys?

    Bessons equally out-there 1997 adventure The Fifth Element was progressive in its view of race and gender, placing in the traditional damsel-in-distress role a priapic African-American man (Chris Tucker). The new film goes further, enabling several characters to personify male and female simultaneously. Society is structured around the differences between men and women, but if you have too much difference, there is trouble. I think the artistic part is more feminine. I have the feeling that I have been using that side of myself since I was 10. That was the age he got hooked on Valrian and Laureline. It was the first time I had ever seen a couple where the woman was so in charge. That was a big influence. He grins. Look at me. I am like the guy who cuts down trees in Canada. A lumberjack? Yes! Im the lumberjack. But inside I have the sensitivity of a woman.

    Chris
    Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element. Photograph: Allstar/GAUMONT

    This claim is hard to reconcile with the man who bashes out coarse action thrillers beginning with T: Taxi, Taken and Transporter can all be attributed to, or blamed on, him. Thats Besson in hack mode, as a one-man script factory, whereas the films he chooses to direct (such as the hippy-dippy diving drama The Big Blue and the hitman buddy movie Lon) tend to be more nuanced. There is certainly tenderness in Valerian, which is dedicated to the directors father, who died last year. It was Besson pre who first introduced him to the Valrian and Laureline comics. I dont think he ever offered me a novel in his whole life, he laughs. But he bought me so many comic books. Another absent figure looming large over the movie is David Bowie, whose song Space Oddity rings out during the opening sequence. I was trying to find a good moment to call him to show him how the song fitted into the film but he died before I got a chance.

    They last met when Bowie provided one of the voices for Bessons animated adventure Arthur and the Invisibles. Indeed, the director has a penchant for directing musical performers, including Rihanna and Herbie Hancock in Valerian and Madonna, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Snoop Dogg in Arthur and its two sequels. The Fifth Element also featured a cameo by Tricky and very nearly starred Prince in the Chris Tucker role.

    Ah, Prince, sighs Besson, ruefully. I love him but it was impossible. He said yes to the part. You make a meeting for Monday at noon and he turns up on Tuesday at six. Or he cancels three times. Always so charming and sweet but the reality of musicians doesnt fit with film. I warned him a few times and he said, But this is my tempo. Finally, I asked him: Do you mind if we just do something less big another time? Working with Rihanna, who plays the shape-shifting dancer Bubble in Valerian, was more straightforward . He took particular pride in getting her to deliver lines from Anthony and Cleopatra. For me thats the ultimate pleasure Rihanna, the queen of music, as Cleopatra. Its the sort of mix I love. We can all listen to reggae music in Greenland while eating sushi. We are allowed to do whatever we like!

    If this is Besson thumbing his nose at critics who accuse him of being lowbrow, then it wont be the first time. In his 2013 black comedy The Family, Michelle Pfeiffer blows up a shop in rural France because the owner is heard disparaging America. I am Michelle in that scene, he says. Ive heard so many French people saying, Oh, the Americans dont have culture. I want to say, When is the last time you went to the Louvre? Shut up!

    Jean-Marc
    Jean-Marc Barr and Jean Reno in The Big Blue. Photograph: Columbia/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

    His career can partly be explained as a populist lashing out against the cinephile country of his birth but it is also the revenge of the nerd. Bessons parents divorced when he was a child and dumped him in a boarding school while they started families with their new partners. When he realised he wanted to make films, he was mocked by his friends. They said: Oh, youre gonna work with Alain Delon, are you? He felt completely alone. Youre by yourself. Youre too weird for girls. The two subjects I could talk about were dolphins and movies. The girls actually ran away when they saw me.

    Out of these feelings of isolation came his witty 1983 debut, The Last Battle, set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by mute, scavenging survivors. The first scene shows the hero having sex with an inflatable doll, a moment I had always taken to be a screw-you to the establishment which had denied Besson entry to film school because his influences (Spielberg, Scorsese, Milo Forman) were too mainstream. But he corrects me. The message of that scene was exactly the same as Valerians: look after what youve got before you lose it. It was a way of saying to people: Be careful. If you destroy everything, this is what youll be left with. Earth will be dying and you will be all alone, fucking a plastic Barbie.

    Perhaps that message extends also to Bessons own future. A bruising for Valerian would still knock the stuffing out of EuropaCorp. But thats unlikely to hamper someone as passionate and eccentric as Besson: he has been making films for too long now to start playing it safe. My dreams are my dreams, he says proudly. I wanted to do Valerian for the longest time. I wondered, Can I do it? But once I get started, Im like the English foxhound: I will never let go.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/aug/03/luc-besson-valerian-interview-cara-delevingne-rihanna

    Confessions of an American Doctor by Max Kepler

    Book Summary

    In 2005, I was arrested by agents from both the US Postal Service and the Food and Drug Administration for the importation of illegal human growth hormone and botulinum toxin (Botox) from China.

    At the time of my arrest, I was a thirty-seven year old Harvard graduate with medical and post-doctoral degrees. I attended one of the finest residency and fellowship training programs in the world at the University of California, San Francisco. I played two sports in college, earned awards at every level of education and training, had wonderful friends and a beautiful three-year-old daughter. Having grown up the son of a restaurant manager and a housewife, I had transcended the humble beginnings of a small Midwestern town to become the quintessential American Dream.

    Or so I thought.

    But with my arrest on felony importation charges, everything I had worked so hard for was swept away and the entire trajectory of my life was indelibly altered. I would embark on a three year battle not only for my medical license, but also for my freedom. This journey would lead to intense personal introspection, and in that process, I would discover with ugliness, there was also beauty, and with punishment, mercy.

    There are many reasons I have written this manuscript, with one of the most important being that I hoped my story would resonate with others who have gone through difficult circumstances as a consequence of a dark side of their personality. With this book, I hope to inspire others to accept and embrace the good and bad, while continually striving for improved self-understanding and acceptance.

    I have changed names primarily for legal purposes, but the facts are unchanged. Although the events described in the book occurred more than ten years ago, I think about them nearly every day. The shame and humiliation are ever-present. Any simple Google search of my name reveals the truth, and that truth has affected me over and over, despite the years, as it probably should. As the judge told me that day in a federal courtroom, “You have betrayed the public’s trust.”

    This is my confessional.

    Buy on Amazon – http://amzn.to/2tcoKre

    San Francisco Book Review – 4 Stars

    Confessions of an American Doctor is a true account of a doctor in the United States. The author has used different names to respect of the privacy of his patients and peers.

    The novel opens with the arrest of Dr. Max Kepler, a rheumatologist by profession. As he is being handcuffed, the events of the previous few months flash before his eyes. He then writes a detailed account of his past, leading up to his venture into cosmetology and anti-aging clinics.

    Divorced and bored with his job at Cade County Hospital, he partners up with Lance, who promises him a partnership in a startup, and together they work on medicine aimed for hair growth. Starting with that, they then foray into hormone supplementation as well as Botox and Mesotherapy. Using loopholes in the medical system of the US and the FDA, they manage to bypass standard checks as well as to use substandard compounds imported from China. Lance leads him to meet a range of businessmen interested in financing their projects. Dr. Kepler is too excited at the prospect of incoming money, and he doesn’t bother doing background checks on the sources of funds. He opens a wellness clinic by the name of Forever Lithe, which branches out to multiple locations across the country. He administers Botox, Mesotherapy, and other anti-aging and cosmetology treatments, eventually resulting in a healthy number of patients.

    He has an idea that Lance supplies hormones and anabolic steroids to professional athletes, but he feels unconcerned as he is not directly supplying them. They become cautious when their supplies of human growth hormone from China are intercepted at US Customs.

    Dr. Kepler didn’t bother doing a background check on Lance, and eventually, Lance’s shady past catches up with him. Lance is subsequently arrested on account of his import and illegal use of human growth hormone for anti-aging purposes on his patients, and his court proceedings are recounted as well. Read on to find out if he feels he is guilty of his crime and what will be the future of his venture with Lance.

    The author has given a detailed account of his childhood, relationships, and his struggles through medical education. He also explains the uses of all the hormones they created in labs, which shows his thorough knowledge of pharmacology. His detailed understanding of the medical system of the United States and the loopholes which led to them getting away with using substandard medicines on patients have been described really well. This novel is a treat to read for medical students and current physicians of any country.

    Reviewed By: Rabiya Jawed

    https://sanfranciscobookreview.com/product/confessions-of-an-american-doctor/

    Clockwork Strange: Into The Whirlwind by Dale McInnes

    Clockwork Strange: Into The Whirlwind by Dale McInnes

    Story Summary:

    A North American novel inspired by Karel Zeman’s 1955 children’s classic tale Cesta Do Praveku Our first novel begins in 1943 with the disappearance of nine children and their three puppies on a prairie farm when they discover a door to long extinct alien worlds. Their story is one of awe and exploration. It is told as two simultaneous stories, one of the repercussions on the family farm community 25 years later, and the other of how the children struggle to survive their first alien environmental ice age encounter. It is the very first time that the concept of ‘deep time’ will be told through the eyes of children [for both the children and the young adults] and kept as scientifically accurate as a good story can be told. This is the North American Debut of a prehistoric ALICE IN WONDERLAND chronicle of deep time, wherein WONDERLAND is as real as the children who tumble into it.

    http://amzn.to/2tGExCj

    San Francisco Book Review:

    From an author who had experienced the open space needed for a child’s imagination to truly blossom while growing up on a farm in Manitoba, Canada, Clockwork Strange: Into the Whirlwind by Dale McInnes is the first of a series of science fiction books that children will, no doubt, enjoy. Adults, meanwhile, shouldn’t hesitate to read this book at all. It brings back long-slumbering memories of a time when magic was indeed a possibility.

    Albert Morley, a man of the early-to-middle twentieth century, is a crazy man, according to some. His sister-in-law isn’t overly fond of him, but really the only thing that’s wrong with him is that he had experienced something extraordinary as a child thanks to a mysterious caboose. For twenty years, Albert had been gone. Nothing had changed upon his return. Now, years later, the caboose has done it’s magic again. Nine kids and three little dogs vanish, never to be seen again.

    What happened to these kids and their three little dogs reaches many ears, but what many don’t know is that these kids have been taken to a world and time where everything is big and dangerous. Cats, wolves, mammoths–everything’s big. Armed with writings that can be found in Albert’s diary, the kids have to figure out a way to survive.

    Of the nine kids, Daniel assumes the leadership role. When important decisions have to be made, his voice is the one that will most likely be heard. The puppies are out of harm’s way most of the time. The kids use the knowledge from what they see as an added tool to survive. They learn to adapt to their surroundings and do what it takes to survive even when the decisions they have to make become as tough as the mammoth hides they have to cut from mammoth carcasses. Children will love the characters in this book for their bravery in the face of terrifying circumstances and will learn a thing or two about teamwork and smart strategies to fend of predators of the wild.

    I did like what the author primarily tried to do and that was to write a story so that readers could experience the less technologically-ridden world of the 1930s to 1950s through the eyes of a child. Childhood is filled with magic. McInnes scatters it about freely in this book. My wish is that McInnes made the absence of the kids more emotionally relatable as we do get to follow the Morley clan back in the real world in the years after the incident with the caboose.

    Reviewed By: Benjamin Ookami

    https://sanfranciscobookreview.com/product/clockwork-strange-into-the-whirlwind/

    Big Sur, Californias most scenic coast, reopens to hikers only

    The picturesque highway from San Francisco to LA was battered by floods last winter, but an emergency walking route for residents is now a tempting trail for hikers too

    The coastal drive along Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles is one of the worlds great, classic trips. Anyone planning on doing it anytime soon, however, is missing a vital piece of information: you cant. Around 35 miles of the highways best-loved stretch, Big Sur, have been closed since February, after winter rains caused the Pfeiffer Canyon bridge to the north to collaspe and swept large parts of the road into the ocean to the south.

    Big Sur map

    With the only road in or out cut off, residents have been stranded in the middle, and the only tourists getting in were the mega-rich who could afford a helicopter. But Big Sur has finally found a way to reopen to everyone if you dont mind a bit of adventure.

    To help those marooned, an emergency hiking trail was dug into surrounding woodland so residents could at least buy groceries; unauthorised hikers were subject to fines. But since 1 July, its also been a way for tourists to get in. The trails purpose has expanded to include helping the economy, which is losing thousands of dollars every day.

    Hiking
    Sur thing Hiking trails at Pfeiffer Big Sur state park, California. Photograph: Alamy

    It was a perfect summer day when I hit the trail, which entails a steep half-mile climb up a hillside. Signs at the trailhead warn of rattlesnakes. Still, this is how the kids get to school, so no excuses. And though I spent half an hour plodding up switchbacks, the towering redwoods and green Santa Lucia Mountains rewarded the effort.

    I emerged on to a silent highway, right where the bridge is being rebuilt. Its usually a route for hundreds of thousands of people a week, but today youre more likely to meet a deer than a car. Locals recently spotted a mountain lion wandering the road.

    Pfeiffer
    Pfeiffer Canyon in high summer

    Helping visitors get to the emergency trail is a dedicated shuttle bus, run by a local operator. Trying to book gives you a measure of Big Surs remoteness: phone reception is limited. You fill in an online form and can expect a reply within 72 hours. This may be California, but its not Silicon Valley.

    Make the effort, though, and youll be rewarded. Nepenthe, a cliffside restaurant known for its bohemian scene and two-hour waits, went from serving 1,000 people a day to 30 when it was totally isolated. It sees 250 a day now the trail is open. It really is a unique and special time to see Big Sur in all its beautiful glory, said third-generation owner Kirk Gafill. If you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, take advantage now.

    Kirk is also president of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, and estimates that about 450 tourists a day are using the trail. But not all businesses are benefiting: the historic Deetjens Big Sur Inn remains closed, unconvinced people will hike their luggage over.

    Henry
    Henry Miller Memorial Library

    The Henry Miller Memorial Library, dedicated to the risque author who put the region on the map, is usually like a little United Nations, its director Magnus Toren told me. People from all over the world hang out on the lawn, drinking coffee, playing music, reading books. Now, with a smaller number of people to tempt through the doors, its future feels uncertain. The majority of people dont spend too much time worrying about the culture of the area and some dead author, Toren shrugged.

    But there are more reasons to return to Big Sur, with two star attractions reopening. The popular campground at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park reopened on 1 July, following the opening of some of its smaller trails in May. The park, loved for its redwood groves and rushing rivers, was closed for a year after this winters rainfall and last summers massive Soberanes fire wreaked havoc . (Were hoping famine and pestilence arent next, quipped Rob OKeefe, from the tourist board of Monterey County.) The campground is already near capacity every night. Wildly photogenic Pfeiffer Beach, also cut off by landslides, will be accessible by August.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/jul/27/big-sur-reopens-after-floods-hiking-trail