maybe now is the time to sell this thing I've been sitting on for nearly a decade
I have not actually read this, but, I would like to point out that nobody who likes this film has ever entertained the notion of shame
A decade after its release, Love Actually is under attack. The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr posted a lengthy takedown of the movie last Friday, eliciting glee from the film’s many haters and only sheepish defiance its fans. His criticisms: the movie focuses too much on physical attraction; it portrays relationships as grand gestures and crushes, rather than timeworn care and hard work; it suggests love can’t overcome obstacles. Basically, Orr says, the movie offers a lusty, shallow, wimpy version of love.
I disagree, and I’ve been plotting my response to Orr’s post for a while. At approximately 4:33 p.m. a Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, virtually all work at our D.C. office ground to a halt when staffers circled around me and Orr, Fight Club style, as we loudly debated the movie’s merits. And since The Atlantic is “of no party or clique,” there’s room for more than one Love Actually opinion on this website.
I admire the bravery that’s needed to declare oneself the enemy of Christmas, Colin Firth, and crushes nurtured by 11-year-old kids, and it would be cowardly to hide behind the movie’s cute-factor in mounting my defense. There’s a real argument to be made on the film’s behalf: Love Actually shows awkward, charming, complicated entanglements that can be very instructive in thinking about love.
To help explain why, I hereby declare my second in this duel: C.S. Lewis. Although a mid-century Christian apologist might seem like an bizarre choice for back-up in a battle about a romantic comedy, his book The Four Loves provides a helpful framework for examining the big question Love Actually asks: What is love, actually?
Well, for starters, it’s a lot more than romance. Some of the movie’s most “aww!”-inducing moments do involve big, dramatic declarations of the heart (more on that later), but the most interesting of the movie’s nine or 10 subplots are those that don’t quite fit the expected rom-com mold. That’s because they’re not romantic at all: They’re versions of the first two kinds of love Lewis writes about, affection and friendship.
Take, for example, the lovely Laura Linney, who plays a graphic designer who can’t consummate her crush on her co-worker, Carl, because she feels obligated to spend her emotional energy caring for her mentally ill brother. Orr doesn’t buy it, writing, “It’s not as though she’s caring for her disabled brother full-time: He’s in a state facility! But by the molehills-to-mountains calculus of Love Actually, Linney appears doomed to an early spinsterhood.”
That misses the point of this subplot: Sometimes, non-romantic relationships are more important than romantic ones, even if that fact can be frustrating and heartbreaking. Linney may be scared and shy and slightly awkward, which are all understandable, true-to-life explanations for why she’s not getting any with Carl, but she’s also emotionally preoccupied. For Linney, her affection for her brother has displaced the role of eros, or romantic, sexual love, in her life.
“Affection … is the humblest love,” Lewis writes. “People can be proud of being ‘in love,’ or of friendship. Affection is modest—even furtive and shame-faced.” Linney captures this perfectly: She’s embarrassed and sad about getting in her own way with Carl, indulging a quick cubicle cry when Carl wishes her only a brief good night at work after their failed post-Christmas-party hook-up.
But her relationship with her brother is also one of great need. Since their parents have passed away, she feels he must be her emotional priority, and in some ways, she uses him to hide her own feelings of shyness and dissatisfaction with her love life. Lewis writes that this is an important component of affection: “It is a need-love, but what it needs is to give. It is a gift-love, but it needs to be needed.”
Need is also an important part of the relationship between Liam Neeson and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who play a recent widower and stepson dealing with loss. Neeson is unsure of how to be a father to Brodie-Sangster after the death of the child’s mother. “The problem is, it was his mom who always used to talk to him,” Neeson says. “This whole stepfather thing seems suddenly to somehow matter in a way that it never did before.” When Brodie-Sangster confesses that he’s despairing about a crush on Joanna, “the coolest girl in school,” the two find something to work on together, a temporary distraction from grief. “Her name’s Joanna?” Neeson asks. “Yeah, I know, same as mom,” Brodie-Sangster answers.
The movie’s most heartbreaking plotline shows how affection can become the substance of marriage over time—and how, sometimes, that’s not enough. Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson play a husband and wife with a friendly, banter-filled domestic routine: raising kids, shopping for presents, crafting ridiculous papier-mâché lobster costumes for their daughter’s Christmas nativity play (“There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?” Thompson asks. “Duh,” her daughter replies). Thompson clearly feels that she has become less sexy as she has aged: At one point, she remarks that her skirt size makes her look like Pavarotti, and her husband fails to take the compliment cue when he replies, “Pavorotti dresses very well.”
Meanwhile, at work, Rickman’s sexually aggressive secretary is pursuing him, and he gives in a little, buying her an expensive gold necklace (while his wife gets only a Joni Mitchell CD). Thompson finds out and confronts him in a devastating scene. “What would you do if you were in my position?” she asks. “Would you stay, knowing life would always be a little bit worse? …You’ve made a fool out of me. You’ve made the life I lead foolish, too.”
Orr praises this scene but condemns the movie for failing to supply an adequate resolution to their story. But again, this criticism is besides the point: Although this incident might not be fully realized infidelity, it represents the unhappiness hiding beneath a friendship-style marriage. We can’t be sure what to make of Rickman and Thompson’s final conversation at the end of the movie, when she greets him coldly at the airport after he returns from a trip, but that uncertainty seems just as plausible as a scene where we find out that Thompson has made a definitive choice would have been. “Nearly all the characteristics of this love are ambivalent,” Lewis writes. Especially in the context of marriage, the idea of definitively “overcoming an obstacle” seems much less authentic than “just trying to figure it out,” muddling through the infinite composite of good moments and bad moments of a life lived together. Ambivalence is appropriate: Thompson can love her husband and feel hurt by him at the same time.
Then there’s the complication of Lewis’s second kind of love: friendship. Although we don’t know much about the longtime friendship between two thirtysomethings played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Andrew Lincoln, we do know that Lincoln’s character has long been in love with Ejiofor’s new wife, played by Keira Knightley.
In most romantic comedies, there would be no space for a plot line sympathetic to a guy who wants to get it with his best friend’s brand-new wife, but that’s why this story is so charming—and challenging. Love does not always or even usually happen in convenient or symmetrical ways, and that’s painful: We see Lincoln’s character literally spin in circles outside of his apartment, trying to decide what to do after Knightley finds out how he feels about her. Ultimately, he decides to be honest, but in a non-predatory way: He confesses that he cares about her but asks for nothing in return. For some, this may seem morally messy, made even worse when Knightley runs after him to give him a kiss. But “not all kisses between lovers are lovers’ kisses,” Lewis writes. With that kiss, Knightley recognizes how human it is to love someone but not be loved back in the same way, but both she and Lincoln seem to understand that having feelings for someone doesn’t make it right to break up a marriage or destroy a friendship.
We see another friendship between Bill Nighy and Gregor Fisher, a washed-up rockstar and his manager who are trying to stage Nighy’s return to fame by promoting a genuinely terrible Christmas remix of one of his old hits. Orr dismisses this relationship as “pretty clearly tacked on at the end to make that story fit the film’s larger framework,” but I disagree. As Lewis writes, friendship “withdraws men from collective ‘togetherness’ as surely as solitude itself could do.” That’s a lot like how Nighy describes his feelings for Fisher at the end of the movie when he leaves a decadent Christmas party to come to Fisher’s apartment and drink beer instead: Being at a glamorous bash full of people who only like you superficially and temporarily is infinitely lamer than hanging out on the couch with the friend who’s been with you for the most significant moments of your life. This, coincidentally, is the guiding principle of my couch-intensive social life. But unlike me, Nighy is a celebrity with roomfuls of admirers, which is why his late-in-the-movie realization is believable. Throughout, Fisher is always with him, always willing to be the butt of his jokes—it just takes a while for Nighy to realize that this is more substantive than the “collective togetherness” of fame.
Despite the striking elements of these plotlines, I would be lying if I pretended I don’t swoon a little at the movie’s examples of eros, or romantic and sensual love. Lewis’s description of eros is important for debunking the claim that the movie focuses too much on physical attraction, because it’s not quite right to say that the characters are just full of raw sexual urges. “Sexuality may operate without eros or as part of eros,” Lewis writes. “Lovers, unless their love is very short-lived, again and again feel an element not only of comedy, not only of play, but even buffoonery, in the body’s expression of eros.” It’s telling that there’s very little sex in the movie; lust plays a very minor role (with the possible exception of Kris Marshall’s clearly-intended-to-be-comical character, Colin Frissell, an awkward Brit who travels to Wisconsin with the explicit goal of getting girls and promptly finds himself a trio of women to take him home. My brother, who’s living as an ex-pat in China, says this is the only believable part of the movie—figures).
Orr is right that we don’t see many long, relationship-building conversations, but that doesn’t mean the characters aren’t in love. In fact, it seems true to life that crushes should happen in irrational, unpredictable ways. It’s also possible that “similar likes and dislikes, overlapping senses of humor, shared values,” and other elements of romance cited by Orr factor into the characters’ feelings, but it’s valid for the movie to focus on showing a different aspect of love: the mysterious, sometimes inexplicable experience of falling for someone.
This brings me to the most important point in defense of the movie: the greatness of grand gestures.
One of the movie’s “disturbing lessons about love,” Orr writes, is that “the principal barrier to consummating a relationship is mustering the nerve to say, ‘I love you’—preferably with some grand gesture—and that once you manage that, you’re basically on the fast track to nuptial bliss.”
He’s right that relationships don’t become permanent and perfect just because someone says “I love you.” But the movie recognizes this—take Lincoln’s confession of love to Knightley, for example. More importantly, it recognizes the hand-wringing nervousness that comes from confessing care, and from having an all-consuming crush on another person, as a real and authentic part of romantic love.
Lewis agrees. “The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory,” he writes. Becoming fascinated with someone else is so exciting, so nerve-racking—it’s “the total agony of being in love,” observes Brodie-Sangster, quite a wise 11-year-old.
On the most basic level, this is why I love Love Actually and, I think, it's part of why people are drawn to romantic movies in the first place: the excitement and power of demonstrations of love. None of the movie’s characters manages to pull off a Hollywood-perfect version of this. Hugh Grant, who plays Britain’s prime minister, gets caught kissing one of his staffers, played by Natalie McCutcheon, on stage at her nephew’s Christmas play. Colin Firth proposes to his former house cleaner, Lúcia Moniz, in grammatically sketchy Portuguese. Martin Freeman’s character meets Joanna Page’s character while they’re working as body doubles on the set of a soft-core porn movie, yet he fumbles their first kiss after he finally asks her out on a date. These scenarios are messy, awkward, and often hilarious, but they are also winning, because they make the universe seem ever-so-slightly more wondrous.
If the real world is not like this, then perhaps it’s the real world that needs to change—we’d be better off if there were more grand gestures. These are moments that remind of how special life really is: The gesturer gets the thrill of delighting someone they care about; the recipient feels as though they are uniquely worth of someone’s affections; and bystanders believe that, one day, they too might find the high heights of enthusiastic, whirlwind love. Especially at Christmas time, when new snow and Mariah Carey and the smell of pine make the world seem magical even for Jews like me, big expressions of feeling should be applauded, not condemned—and perhaps that’s why Love Actually has been declared a “‘classic’ holiday film.”
For those keeping score on the C.S. Lewis front, you’ll notice I’ve only mentioned three loves, not four. That’s because charity, the fourth love, is where the “Christian apologist” part of Lewis’s work becomes unavoidable: The three “natural loves” of affection, friendship, and eros cannot equal or replace the loving relationship we experience with God, he says. Any argument I could make for applying this concept to Love Actually would be total bullshit, so for now, let’s stick with three.
But I think three loves do the trick. Love Actually is not solely romantic, but it’s also not un-romantic. Although it may have flaws, these imperfections probably make it more romantic, because they make it more true to the complicated nature of love in real life. I refuse to be shamed into taking my Netflix and bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats and retreating into my bedroom to watch the movie in secret. C.S. and I will enjoy our annual viewing with pride.
"A large number of spells are drawn from or inspired by Latin, and have a certain resonance with English speakers. For example, priori incantatem (a spell which causes the last spells performed by a wand to be reproduced in reverse order) would be familiar to many English-speaking readers as the words prior (previous) and incantation (spell, charm). To create a similar effect in the Hindi version, the Sanskrit, typical in mantras, has been used for the spells."
never forget that for voldemort’s name to rearrange to “je suis voldemort” in the french translations, they had to make his middle name ‘Elvis’
I CANT HANDLE THIS
are you telling me the french word for wand is ‘la baguette magique’
oh… oh my GOD. LA BAGUETTE MAGIQUE.
"LE PAIN, C’EST MAGIQUE, HARRY. PARCE-QUE C’EST LA BELLE FRANCE."
San Francisco resident Mat Kladney has created an easy to read San Francisco bike map with a simple design that is based on subway system maps. He is pre-selling a poster version of the map on Kickstarter.
image and video via Mat Kladney
via Matt Haughey
Friends, we need your help.
Last week, Gregory Warner and David Kestenbaum reported on the afterlife of American clothes. Lots of t-shirts from used clothes bin in the U.S. eventually make their way to sub-Saharan Africa.
Including the one above. From Jennifer’s bat-mitzvah from November 20, 1993. We want to find Jennifer.
What we Know: Jennifer’s bat mitzvah was on November 20, 1993. The theme may have been cartoons. And there’s a nametag in the shirt labeled Rachel Williams.
That’s all we know. Which is where you come in.
Do you know Rachel? Do you know Jennifer? Help us solve the mystery. Please email us at email@example.com, and put “that’s my shirt” in the subject line. And please share this as much as you can. It would be really awesome to find Jennifer and talk to her about her bat mitzvah t-shirt’s journey.
The old saying is that winning can go to your head, and winning the Nobel Prize is no different. Nobel winners earn a certain level of credibility and exposure that opens the door to more opportunities while allowing for stronger discretion. The rest of us only dream of this choosy luxury.
UC Berkeley's Randy Schekman won his Nobel Prize in Medicine this year for describing the transit happening within cells. It's important research that could become required background reading for the entire medical field. And since the new notoriety presents Schekman with an entirely unique spotlight, we're all waiting to learn what his next move is.
Initially, at least, Schekman appears ready to use his Nobel platform to talk about about how the top science journals are merely glamour rags that favor style over substance. Speaking to The Guardian this week, he said that leading academic journals represent a "tyranny" that must be broken and that his lab would no longer publish in the likes of Nature, Cell, and Science.
via multitask suicide
it's not that bad, and it's not the bitterest liquor in my cabinet, either
On a long drive recently, NPR held up Malort as the gold standard for what tastes bad, as if this had been firmly decided. So, after hearing about this concoction over the years, it was time to see what all the revulsion was about. The New York Times said “The taste has been compared — by advocates and detractors alike — to rubbing alcohol, bile, gasoline, car wax, tires and paint thinner.” One “Malort face” is here, a collection is here (and NPR’s audio reaction is here).
Malort is Swedish for wormwood, a key ingredient of this liqueur. The same mischievous plant (also known as Artemisia absinthium) also provides a key ingredient and the name for absinthe and vermouth. Recent Jeppson’s labels do not mention the following, but the writing seemed so distinctive that I wanted to capture it before it recedes further into the past:
Most first-time drinkers of Jeppson Malort reject our liquor. Its strong, sharp taste is not for everyone. Our liquor is rugged and unrelenting (even brutal) to the palate. During almost 60 years of American distribution, we found only 1 out of 49 men will drink Jeppson Malort. During the lifetime of our founder, Carl Jeppson was apt to say, “My Malort is produced for that unique group of drinkers who disdain light flavor or neutral spirits.” It is not possible to forget our two-fisted liquor. The taste just lingers and lasts – seemingly forever. The first shot is hard to swallow! PERSERVERE [sic]. Make it past two “shock-glasses” and with the third you could be ours…forever.
I am not sure if it sounds more like a sales pitch or a threat. Other than the Wikipedia article, I could not find much to verify that this text appeared on labels. Apart from the shock value of this product, as per usual, legal issues abound. First, I wonder how this comes to be classified as a beverage (subject to taxing and licensing as an alcohol beverage). If this is not non-beverage or unfit for beverage purposes, it starts to get really difficult to make this distinction (as between potable and non-potable), so crucial to much of the law around alcohol beverages. Malort may underscore that it’s okay for one purveyor to elect to be regulated as a beverage, even when the liquid tastes awful, and even though it would not be okay for another purveyor (of drinks with “rugged and unrelenting” flavors) to capriciously elect to be regulated as non-beverage.
A second law-related issue arises from the ownership of this brand. Carl Jeppson was an immigrant from Sweden and brought Malort to the U.S. during the Prohibition era. Before Jeppson’s death in 1949, he sold the recipe to a Chicago lawyer, and he left the company to his secretary, Patricia Gabelick. As of 2012, Ms. Gabelick was a “69-year-old retired secretary who runs the company out of her condo on Lake Shore Drive” in Chicago. The Wall Street Journal explained:
sales climbed last year by more than 80% from just a few years ago to 23,500 bottles, with annual revenue of more than $170,000. … Ms. Gabelick seems a bit baffled by the interest in Malört, which was a hobby for her boss, George Brode, a Chicago lawyer who left the company and its one product to her when he died in 1999. … “All my life I wish George had made a product I could drink,” she says. … Jeppson’s Malört got its start when Mr. Brode landed one of Chicago’s first liquor licenses after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. He added Malört to his stable of liquors when approached by Carl Jeppson, who had a recipe for a spirit favored by the city’s Swedish immigrant population. Mr. Brode eventually exited the liquor business for a career as a lawyer, but kept Jeppson’s Malört.
Even if this blog can’t help you with what to drink this holiday season, we wanted to do our part toward informing you what not to drink.
Atemberaubende Vintage 30er Jahre Tiefschwarz, Bias Schnitt Seide samt-Kleid mit zarten Perlen Schultern, große Strass dress, Clip, weiß Seide getrimmte Fluttter Ärmel, Mesh zurück und lange fließende Rock.
passt wie: große/xl
Büste: 39-42 "
Taille: 30 "- 41"
Hüfte: 48 "& unter
Länge: 54 "
um eine gute Passform zu gewährleisten, lesen Sie bitte den Sizing Guide:
➸ Besuchen Sie den Shop-http://www.DearGolden.etsy.com
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via multitask suicide
via multitask suicide ("advanced shoe philosophy")
I have come to the conclusion that shape alone is the key to a beautiful shoe. No matter how silly looking everything else might be, an elegant shape will at least command your attention and even if you may not appreciate the upper, you will at least admire the shoe for its shape. You know this when you look at a boring black brogue like this one shown and are blown away by its simplistic and elegant nature. But that elegance is simply created by its shape, not only in the last, but also in way that the upper hugs the last. This is one reason why one would go for bespoke shoes, because no RTW shoe, no matter how good it is, can match the shape of a hand lasted bespoke shoe.
This one by TYE shoemaker (Japanese), is a perfect example, as I am not sure that I have seen a more beautiful, simple black shoe. There is really nothing special about the upper. I have seen it done by every single English shoemaker, but the way the upper rounds and hugs those sharp curves on the outside of the vamp down to the toe box, is simply exquisite. It does not pretend to be a chisel toe either. It is one through and through with the sharp edges starting in the quarter of the shoe, directly below the facing line on the side. That detail creates a last that has character, not something so plain-jane and expected. Its melding between soft and sharp is brilliant and it is just another reason why I love Japanese shoemakers!
admiral hopper autoreshare
Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral. A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. She conceptualized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. She is credited with popularizing the term “debugging" for fixing computer glitches (inspired by an actual moth removed from the computer). Owing to the breadth of her accomplishments and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as “Amazing Grace”.The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named for her, as was the Cray XE6 ”Hopper” supercomputer at NERSC. (from Wikipedia)
She’s also the basis of the Google doodle today.
Happy birthday to one of my heroes and role models, RADM Hopper! May the women who follow in your footsteps be even close to as groundbreaking as you were.
sharing != endorsement
674. Vladimir Putin on a horse
675. Vladimir Putin in a race car
676. Vladimir Putin doing karate
677. Vladimir Putin snorkeling
678. Vladimir Putin on a yacht
679. Vladimir Putin arm-wrestling
680. Vladimir Putin attempting to bend a frying pan with his bare hands and failing
681. Vladimir Putin on a snowmobile
682. Vladimir Putin driving a helicopter
683. Vladimir Putin holding a puppy
684. Vladimir Putin on a motorcycle
685. Vladimir Putin on a horse, but also shirtless
686. Vladimir Putin, generally
Benedict Cumberbatch is a talented actor. But Benedict Cumberbatch is not hot. Here are 917 people who are hotter than Benedict Cumberbatch.
1. Martin Freeman
2. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
3. Jeremy Brett
4. Your mom
5. Ron Artest
6. Metta World Peace
7. Prince Harry
8. Prince William
9. Prince Charles
10. This lady who got knocked over by the wind recently
11. Joan Cusack
12. Joan Didion
13. Joan Jett
15. Lee Ranaldo
16. Andy Garcia
17. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
18. Mark Spitz
19. Marc Spitz
20. Danny Trejo
21. Paul Wesley
22. Ian Somerhalder
23. Steven R. McQueen
24. Zach Roerig
25. Michael Trevino
26. Michael Jordan
27. Michael B. Jordan
28. Jordan Knight
29. Jordan Fisher
30. Jules Jordan
31. Montell Jordan
32. Jeremy Jordan
33. Richard Jordan
34. Ben Lee Jordan
35. Jordan Pruitt
36. Jordan Waring
37. Vernon Jordan
38. Matthew Davis
39. Javier Bardem
40. Louis C.K.
41. Tony Plana
42. Tony Danza
43. Sidney Blumenthal
44. Rick Stengel
45. Jimmy Akingbola
46. Alan Igbon
47. Hugh Quarshie
48. Javone Prince
50. Josh Charles
51. Josh Duhamel
52. Josh Turner
53. Josh Hartnett
54. Josh Hamilton
55. Josh Cuthbert
56. Josh Brolin
57. Josh Smith
58. Charles Esten
59. Charles Woodson
60. Charles Kelley
61. Charles Grodin
62. Young Charlie Chaplin
63. Ray Charles
64. RuPaul Andre Charles
65. Beautiful woman on a ladder above the clouds looking far away
66. Roger Klotz
67. Tupac Shakur
68. Tim Tebow
69. Tim McGraw
71. This guy
72. Barack Obama
73. Michelle Obama
74. Dominic West
75. Idris Elba
76. Mary Louise Parker
77. Jackie Jackson
78. Tito Jackson
79. Jermaine Jackson
80. Marlon Jackson
81. Michael Jackson
82. Janet Jackson
83. Whoever this was
84. Michael Keaton
85. All of the Michael Keatons in Multiplicity
87. Samuel Alito
88. Elena Kagan
89. John G. Roberts
90. Anthony Kennedy
91. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
92. Sonia Sotomayor
93. Stephen G. Breyer
95. Rowan Atkinson
96. Mr. Pibb
97. Dr. Pepper
98. Mr. Clean
99. Mr. Sparkle
100. Elian Gonzalez
101. Sheryl Crow
102. John Wayne
103. Milton Berle
104. The guy next to me in line for pizza earlier today who ordered his slice “well done”
107. Henry Ford
108. Joe Isuzu
116. Kid Rock
117. Ronald Reagan
118. Joe Jonas
119. Nick Jonas
120. Kevin Jonas
121. Luke Wilson
122. Owen Wilson
123. The other Wilson brother
124. Elijah Wood
125. Henry Kissinger
126. Dan Hedaya
127. Stan Zbornak
128. Dorothy Zbornak
129. Blanche Devereaux
130. Rose Nylund
131. Sophia Petrillo
132. Diane Warren
133. Celine Dion
134. Rene Angelil
135. Albert Nobbs
136. Glenn Close
137. The original Brawny Man
138. Juror #1
139. Juror #2
140. Juror #3
141. Juror #4
142. Juror #5
143. Juror #6.
144. Juror #7
145. Juror #8
146. Juror #9
147. Juror #10
148. Juror #11
149. Bobcat Goldthwait
150. Juror #12
151. Michelle Williams
152. Michelle Williams
153. Kelly Rowland
154. Latavia Roberson
155. Tina Knowles
156. Solange Knowles
157. The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg
158. “man slipping and falling”
159. The New Face of America
160. Santa Claus
161. A common elf
164. Lumiere as a candlestick
165. Lumiere as a man
166. Cogsworth as a clock
167. Cogsworth as a man
168. The wardrobe
169. Sully Sullenberger
170. Mr. Big
171. Aidan Shaw
172. Jack Berger
173. Aleksandr Petrovsky
174. Richard Wright
175. Smith Jerrod
176. Trey MacDougal
177. Bunny MacDougal
178. Harry Goldenblatt
179. Skipper Johnston
180. Robert Leeds
181. Steve Brady
182. Steve Brady’s Mom
192. Miss Piggy
196. The Swedish Chef
197. The cast of The Real World New Orleans
198. Christopher Walken
200. Professor Plum
201. Colonel Mustard
202. Mr. Green
203. Mrs. Peacock
204. Mrs. White
205. Mr. Body
206. Ted Cruz
207. The Candyman
208. The other Candyman
214. Mr. Pitt
215. Larry David
216. Cheryl David
217. Craig David
218. Michelangelo's David
219. David Paymer
220. This block of wood
221. The cast of The Wood
222. The person who delivers your mail
223. The person who delivered you
224. Any clown
225. Sister Mary Clarence
226. Sister Mary Robert
227. Jackee Harry
228. Sister Mary Lazarus
229. Sister Alma
230. Sister Mary Patrick
231. This piece of toast
232. An Oscar
233. An MTV Moon Man
234. A Golden Globe
235. Goldie Hawn
236. Kate Hudson
237. Kurt Russell
239. Any of the Hendersons
244. Garry Marshall
245. Penny Marshall
246. Fred Armisen as Penny Marshall
249. Patrick Wilson
250. Woodrow Wilson
251. Mr. Wilson
256. Captain Phillips
257. Captain Planet
264. The Cowardly Lion
265. The Tin Man
266. The Scarecrow
267. The Wicked Witch of the West
268. The Lollipop Guild
269. A lollipop
270. The Umbrella Man
271. The Lawnmower Man
272. The Orkin Man
273. The Trojan Man
274. The Wicker Man (1973)
275. The Wicker Man (2006)
276. The Music Man
277. The Running Man
278. The Postman
279. The Mothman
280. The Best Man
281. Encino Man
282. The guy who just added you on LinkedIn
284. Peter Gallagher
285. Abraham Lincoln
286. Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet
287. Mary Todd Lincoln
288. Shirley MacLaine
289. Shirley MacLaine
290. Shirley MacLaine
291. Shirley MacLaine
292. Shirley MacLaine
293. Shirley MacLaine
294. Denise Huxtable
295. Vanessa Huxtable
296. Theo Huxtable
297. Rudy Huxtable
298. Clair Huxtable
299. Cliff Huxtable
300. Cousin Pam
301. Cousin Eddie
302. Cousin Itt
303. Cousin Larry
304. The Cloverfield Monster
305. Your RTF 317 Intro to Narrative Film professor
306. Your RTF 317 Intro to Narrative Film TA
307. Most of your TAs, actually
308. Howie Mandel
309. Howie Mandel’s hands
311. Jackie Earle Haley
312. A Minion
313. Dorian Gray
314. Meredith Grey
315. The color gray
316. Michael Landon
317. Tyne Daly
318. John Ratzenberger
319. Marg Helgenberger
320. Erin Brockovich
321. Peter Bogdanovich
335. The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain
337. The missing link
338. Barton Fink
340. This guy
341. This guy
342. This guy
343. These two
345. Ewan McGregor
346. Mamie Gummer
347. Grace Gummer
348. Don Gummer
349. Henry Gummer
350. Meryl Streep
351. Joanna Kramer
353. Karen Silkwood
354. Molly Gilmore
355. Susan Traherne
357. Rachel Samstat
358. Helen Archer
359. Linda Chamberlain
360. Mary Fisher
361. Suzanne Vale
363. Madeline Ashton
366. Roberta Guaspari
367. Susan Orlean
368. Clarissa Vaughan
369. Abigail Adams
370. Hannah Pitt
371. Eleanor Shaw
372. Aunt Josephine
373. Lisa Metzger
374. Yolanda Johnson
375. Miranda Priestly
376. Joanna Silver
377. Lila Ross
378. Corrine Whitman
379. Corrine Whitman
380. Janine Roth
382. Sister Aloysius Beauvier
383. Julia Child
384. Mrs. Fox
385. Jane Adler
386. Margaret Thatcher
388. Violet Weston
389. The Witch
391. Joe Rogan
392. Joe Camel
393. Joe Dimaggio
394. Joe Fresh
395. Joe Scarborough
396. Joe Cool
397. Joe Pesci
398. Cesar Chavez
399. Julius Caesar
400. Little Caesar
401. The Winklevoss twin who stands on the left
402. Taye Diggs
403. Morris Chestnut
404. Terrence Howard
405. Harold Perrineau
406. Eddie Cibrian
407. Sanaa Lathan
408. Nia Long
409. Regina Hall
410. Monica Calhoun
411. Melissa de Sousa
412. The Man Without a Face
413. The Man Who Wasn’t There
414. The Man From Snowy River
415. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
416. The Man on the Moon
417. The man on the moon
418. The Man of Steel
419. The Man of La Mancha
420. The Man Who Knew Too Much
421. The Man Who Knew Too Little
422. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence
423. The Man In The Iron Mask
424. Juwanna Mann
425. Leslie Mann
426. Whatta Man
427. Crazy Pete
428. Old Man Marley
429. Mean Old Lady Higgenlooper
430. Untitled (Big Man)
431. Woody Allen
432. Woody Harrelson
433. Woody Woodpecker
434. Woody Guthrie
435. Woody the Cowboy
436. Buzz Lightyear
437. Buzz Aldrin
438. This BuzzFeed list
439. The whammy
440. That professor my friend dated in college despite the fact that I did not approve of the relationship
441. The silhouette of a man uglier than Benedict Cumberbatch
443. Ali Go
446. Boris Karloff
447. Marla Sokoloff
448. Ron Howard
449. Andy Griffith
450. Maria Rainer
451. Captain Georg von Trapp
452. Elsa Schrader
453. Rolf Gruber
454. Liesl vonn Trapp
455. The Mother Abbess
456. Phonte Coleman
458. Nelly Furtado
462. That hot dad I accidentally flipped my hair into on the Q train three years ago
463. Most dads in the borough of Brooklyn
464. Your dad
465. Patty Mayonnaise
466. Apple Store Lady
467. Conan O’Brien
468. Conan the Barbarian
469. Xena Warrior Princess
470. The heart-eye Emoji
471. The sunglasses Emoji
472. The devil Emoji
473. The policeman Emoji
474. The heart-eye cat Emoji
475. The grandma Emoji
476. The pair of dancing ladies Emoji
477. The smiling poop Emoji
478. The guy who stole my iPhone 4
479. Nick Carter
480. Brian Littrell
481. Kevin Richardson
482. A.J. McLean
483. Howie Dorough
484. Justin Timberlake
485. Lance Bass
486. JC Chasez
487. Joey Fatone
488. Chris Kirkpatrick (gratuitous)
489. Gandalf the Grey
490. Frodo Baggins
491. Samwise Gamgee
494. Most hobbits
495. Tom Brady
496. Drew Bledsoe
497. Babe Parilli
498. The Fab Five (Michigan basketball edition)
499. The Fab Five (U.S. gymnastics edition)
500. Fab Five Freddy
501. Josh Lyman
502. C.J. Cregg
503. Donnatella Moss
504. Charlie Young
505. President Jeb Bartlet
506. Dr. Abby Bartlet
507. Zoey Bartlet
508. Toby Ziegler
509. Toby Ziegler’s dad
510. Leo McGarry
512. Tinky Winky
517. Sexy Tinky Winky
518. All of the women laughing alone with salad
519. All of the women struggling to drink water
520. Moe Howard
521. Curly Howard
522. Larry Fine
523. Roof guy
534. Mary-Kate Olsen
535. Ashley Olsen
536. Elizabeth Olsen
537. Uncle Jesse
538. Bob Saget
539. Bob Marley
540. Bob Dylan
541. Bob Hope
542. Bob Barker
543. Vanna White
544. Bob Ross
545. Bob Dole
546. Bob Costas
547. Bobby Orr
548. Bobby McFerrin
550. Keira Knightley
551. Keira Knightley’s lower lip
552. Sage Steele
553. Linda Cohn
554. Hannah Storm
555. Scott Van Pelt
556. This guy
557. Max Read
559. Erykah Badu
560. Erika Christensen
561. Erica Mena
562. Eric Dane
563. The Prime Minister of Denmark
564. A cheese Danish
565. Nick Denton
566. Jonah Peretti
567. Chelsea Peretti
568. The Peretti dad, probably
569. Amy Poehler
570. Tina Fey
571. Rachel Dratch
572. Janeane Garofalo
579. John Shankman
583. Kelly Ripa
584. Kelly Clarkson
585. Gene Kelly
586. Cord Jefferson
587. That guy in corduroys from the Destiny’s Child song “Apple Pie a La Mode”
588. Lou Bega
592. and Rita
593. Rita Ora
594. Rita Levi-Montalcini
595. Rita Hayworth
593. Rita Wilson
594. Tom Hanks
595. Chet Haze
596. Chester Cheetah
597. Mr. Peanut
598. The yellow M&M
599. The red M&M
600. The orange M&M
601. The turquoise M&M
602. The green M&M
603. The guy who went on a date with the green M&M in that commercial
605. Flo Rida
606. Florida Senator Marco Rubio
607. Ricky Rubio
608. Ricki Lake
609. My first crush
610. My sixth grade crush
611. My seventh grade crush
612. My eighth grade crush
613. My ninth grade crush
614. My tenth grade crush
615. My eleventh grade crush
616. My twelfth grade crush
617. My freshman year crush
618. My sophomore year crush
619. My junior year crush
620. My senior year crush
621. My current crush
622. Steve from Dream Phone
623. Wayne from Dream Phone
624. Susan from Guess Who?
626. Tony Hawk
627. Tony Soprano
628. Carmela Soprano
629. Meadow Soprano
630. AJ Soprano Jr.
631. Livia Soprano
632. Corrado Soprano
633. Dr. Melfi
634. Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
635. Dr. Oz
636. Dr. Phil
637. Dr. Seuss
638. Dr. Dre
639. Dr. Kevorkian
640. Dr. Luke
641. Dr. Ruth
642. George Baker
643. Pierce Brosnan
644. Christopher Cazenove
645. Daniel Craig
646. Sean Connery
647. Timothy Dalton
648. Bob Holness
649. Michael Jayston
650. George Lazenby
651. Roger Moore
652. Barry Nelson
653. David Niven
654. Toby Stephens
655. The very idea of James Bond
656. Niall Horan
657. Zayn Malik
658. Liam Payne
659. Harry Styles
660. Louis Tomlinson
661. Lily Tomlin
662. Lily Allen
663. Johann Sebastian Bach
664. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, sans wig
665. Frédéric François Chopin
669. Prince Humperdinck
670. Inigo Montoya
673. The Albino
674. Vladimir Putin on a horse
675. Vladimir Putin in a race car
676. Vladimir Putin doing karate
677. Vladimir Putin snorkeling
678. Vladimir Putin on a yacht
679. Vladimir Putin arm-wrestling
680. Vladimir Putin attempting to bend a frying pan with his bare hands and failing
681. Vladimir Putin on a snowmobile
682. Vladimir Putin driving a helicopter
683. Vladimir Putin holding a puppy
684. Vladimir Putin on a motorcycle
685. Vladimir Putin on a horse, but also shirtless
686. Vladimir Putin, generally
687. The guy at the wine store who doesn’t judge me when I ask for the “affordable” Sauvignon Blanc
688. Most wine mascots
689. Most Moscato mascots
690. Most mascots
691. Andre Leon Talley
692. Grace Coddington
693. David Remnick
694. Ariel Levy
696. Daryl Hannah
697. Hannah Montana
698. Billy Ray Cyrus
699. Billy Ray Cyrus’s mullet
701. Harry Potter
702. Hermione Granger
704. Sirius Black
705. Albus Dumbledore
706. Minerva McGonagall
707. Lord Voldemort in Book 6
708. Lord Voldemort in Book 3
709. Lord Voldemort in Book 1
710. Lord Voldemort in Book 7
711. Lord Voldemort in Book 4
712. Lord Voldemort in Book 5
713. Lord Voldemort in Book 2
715. J.K. Rowling
716. Robert Galbraith
717. Happy Group Of Young Friends Watching Television And Supporting Their Team
718. This guy shredding guitar in a kilt
719. The Loch Ness Monster (Look 1)
720. The Loch Ness Monster (Look 2)
721. The Loch Ness Monster (Look 3)
722. The Loch Ness Monster (Look 4)
723. This guy pretending to pose in front of the Loch Ness Monster
724. Alan Cumming
725. Alan Rickman
726. Alan Alda
727. Agnetha Fältskog
728. Björn Ulvaeus
729. Benny Andersson
730. Anni-Frid Lyngstad
732. Björk dressed as a swan
733. Natalie Portman dressed as the Swan Queen
734. Mila Kunis dressed as the Black Swan
735. Most swans residing in public parks
736. A park ranger in New Mexico named Dave Popelka
737. Dave, Founder of Wendy's
739. The Hamburglar
740. Most hamburgers
741. This guy
742. This lady
743. Kelis’s milkshake
755. Rihanna tho
756. Melissa Forde
757. The Ford Fiesta
758. The Daft Punk guy in the silver helmet
759. The Daft Punk guy in the gold helmet
760. Pharrell at 20
761. Pharrell at 40
762. Chad Hugo
763. A lot of men named Chad, unfortunately
764. Like this guy
765. Ed White
766. Edward White
767. Malcolm Read
768. Malcolm Gladwell
769. Malcolm In The Middle
770. Malcolm McDowell
771. A dowel rod
772. Janet Malcolm
773. Sandy Alderson
774. Sandy Dvore
775. Sandy Hawkins
776. Sandy who was Little Orphan Annie's Dog
777. The Rihanna plane
778. Thomas Rogers
779. Rogers and Hart
780. Thomas Gibson
781. Thomas Dekker
782. Brooklyn Decker
783. Thomas Jane
784. Captain Janeway
785. Thomas Paine
786. Thomas Monson
787. Charlotte Ronson
788. Michael Tilson Thomas
789. Thomas Hart Benton
790. Thomas Brodie-Sangster
791. Brody from "Homeland" (pre-heroin)
792. Brody Jenner
793. Bruce Jenner
794. Bruce Banner
795. The dude who wrote Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer
796. #685, but if he also had a buzzcut
797. Bonnie Raitt
798. Bonnie Hunt
799. Your Bonnie lying over the ocean
800. Any mental image of any grizzly sea captain
801. A grizzly bear
802. Gordon the Fisherman from the fishstick boxes
803. Any beard
805. Bill Nye
806. Your standard-issue classroom test tube
807. Tia Mowry
808. Tamera Mowry
809. The Flying Nun
810. Theodore Rex
815. Michael Cera
816. Michael Caine
817. An anthropomorphic candy cane
818. An anthropomorphic anything
819. The green gargoyle from Gargoyles
820. A cloud that makes you say, “That looks like a man!”
821. A flibbertigibbet
822. A will-o’- the-wisp
823. Ronan Farrow
824. Frank Sinatra
825. Nancy Sinatra
826. The tall one in The Blue Man Group
827. The mouse from Ratatouille
828. Any person saying “Ratatouille”
829. Jesus, most likely
830. John the Baptist, definitely
831. Your neighbor
832. Your neighbor’s best friend
833. Your neighbor’s best friend’s father
834. Your neighbor’s best friend’s father’s mother
835. Your neighbor’s best friend’s father’s mother’s first boss
837. Rock Hudson
838. Montgomery Clift
839. Katharine Hepburn
840. Sidney Poitier
842. Michael Myers
843. Mike Myers
844. Denzel Washington
845. Kerry Washington
846. George Washington
847. Martha Washington
848. Martha Stewart
849. A cake made by Martha Stewart
850. A turkey made by Martha Stewart
851. A man Martha Stewart refers to as “The Enemy”
852. Kristen Stewart
853. One of these
854. Your reflection
855. Mulan’s reflection
856. The word “Handsome”
857. Teddy Roosevelt
858. Anyone on a horse
859. Jake Gyllenhaal
860. Maggie Gyllenhaal
861. Peter Sarsgaard
862. Alexander Skarsgard
864. A pitbull
865. Sam, an ugly dog voted the world's ugliest dog in 2003, 2004, and 2005
866. Toucan Sam
870. The Pringles man
871. The Chips Ahoy! exclamation mark
872. An order of eggs benedict
873. An order of eggs florentine
874. An order of eggs, any style
875. Tim Gunn
876. Anna Gunn
877. Anything/anyone that goes by “Anna Banana”
878. The Chiquita lady
879. Carmen Sandiego
880. The ghost from Ghostwriter
881. Patrick Swayze’s ghost in Ghost
882. Patrick Swayze
883. A common household ghost
884. Casper the friendly ghost
885. Gaspar, Casper’s forgotten, unfriendly brother
886. G.I. Jane
887. G.I. Joe
888. Joe Blow
889. Joe Biden
890. Joe Budden
891. A cute button
892. A nice doilie
893. A happy little bush
894. A Richard Hole who goes by the name Dick, and is accordingly known by his close acquaintances as “Dick Hole”
897. The person nearest to you right now who is not Benedict Cumberbatch
898. The person farthest from you right now who is not Benedict Cumberbatch
899. Adam Frucci
902. The snake
903. Simon Cowell
904. Ryan Seacrest
905. Julianne Hough
906. Arianna Huffington
907. Marissa Mayer
908. John Mayer
909. Mayor Quimby
910. Jeff Probst
911. Jeff Bezos
912. An Amazon delivery drone with a smiley face drawn onto it
914. Julian Assange
915. Sandor “The Hound” Clegane
917. Adam Levine
Smart bookbindings - a lot of them
This morning I visited the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, and it was an overwhelming experience. The library was founded in 1572 by Duke Julius of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and it is a rare example of a 16th-century library that survived fully intact. Walking through the library I encountered a big bronze door. When I opened it I suddenly stood eye to eye with something unexpected: vast bookcases stretching from floor to ceiling filled with thousands of bookbindings from the 15th to 17th centuries.
As you would expect, many have fragments of medieval manuscripts and early printed books pasted in and on them, to provide support (last pic). However, this collection is special for another reason. The duke himself wrote on each book what it contained. To find writing on the back of an early-modern book is not unusual, but the duke was a thorough man and went a little overboard, as you can see. The backs not only contain very long title descriptions, but also numbers. In fact, duke August is rumored to have invented the system where book numbers have a decimal point. If book nr. 23 contains physics, the next book he purchased with the same topic would receive nr. 23.1 - think Library of Congress. These are not just old, but also smart bookbindings, which carry history on their backs.
this sounds like a description of my apartment after the papal enclave party (minus glitter and dirty glassware)
Space observatories are among some of the most magnificent buildings devoted entirely to science — because their windows look out on the universe. And their distinctive shape makes them into poignant ruins. Here are some observatories whose views onto space have been lost to time.
Imagine this scenario: your job is to take hundreds of pages worth of content every day and publish it to the Web, but the only way you're guaranteed to get that content is on paper. If you're lucky, the paper copy comes with an electronic version on CD—or a 3.5-inch floppy disk.
That's exactly what happens at the Federal Register, the New York Times reports. The federal publication, a record of executive orders, proposes regulatory changes and other official federal notices. It's assembled by an office of the National Archives and published on the Web and in print daily by the Government Printing Office. And while the laws and regulations that govern how agencies are required to submit content to the Register allow for digitally signed e-mail messages, some agencies haven't implemented the public-key infrastructure (PKI) required to send such messages. Flash drives and SD cards aren't even allowed yet because they didn't exist at the time the regulations were written.
That means that a number of agencies still submit their notices by courier and on floppy disk. Amy P. Bunk, the Federal Register's director of legal affairs and policy, told the Times that while many agencies now do use signed e-mails, the GPO could not make it mandatory until Congress amends the Federal Register Act and provides the funding required for all agencies to implement PKI. But due to budget cuts, some agencies are at least a year away from having PKI in place.
via multifire hosicide
via firehose ("ALERT ALERT")
St. Vincent’s latest record, St. Vincent, will be out Feb. 25 via Loma Vista. This is her fourth solo LP, with the last being 2011’s excellent Strange Mercy. A new single, “Birth In Reverse,” is streaming below.
According to press materials, St. Vincent finds Annie Clark “at her most assured and gripping,” with Clark saying she tried to make “a party record you could play at a funeral.” The album was recorded in Dallas by returning producer John Congleton, and features contributions from Dap-Kings drummer Homer Steinweiss and Midlake percussionist McKenzie Smith.
Joulupukki spreading some holiday joy.
In which Fox News tries absurdism on for size. Sample line: "Francis not only panders to enemies and professional grievance mongers, but also attacks his allies. Just as Obama snubs Britain and Israel, Pope Francis swipes at practicing Catholics."
EDIT: Here’s a Jesuit priest calling this article the worst of 2013. Don’t get a much better source than that.
"Even her name, Dasani, speaks of a certain reach. The bottled water had come to Brooklyn’s bodegas just before she was born, catching the fancy of her mother, who could not afford such indulgences."
SHE wakes to the sound of breathing. The smaller children lie tangled beside her, their chests rising and falling under winter coats and wool blankets. A few feet away, their mother and father sleep near the mop bucket they use as a toilet. Two other children share a mattress by the rotting wall where the mice live, opposite the baby, whose crib is warmed by a hair dryer perched on a milk crate.
Slipping out from her covers, the oldest girl sits at the window. On mornings like this, she can see all the way across Brooklyn to the Empire State Building, the first New York skyscraper to reach 100 floors. Her gaze always stops at that iconic temple of stone, its tip pointed celestially, its facade lit with promise.
“It makes me feel like there’s something going on out there,” says the 11-year-old girl, never one for patience. This child of New York is always running before she walks. She likes being first — the first to be born, the first to go to school, the first to make the honor roll.
Even her name, Dasani, speaks of a certain reach. The bottled water had come to Brooklyn’s bodegas just before she was born, catching the fancy of her mother, who could not afford such indulgences. It hinted at a different, upwardly mobile clientele, a set of newcomers who over the next decade would transform the borough.
Dasani’s own neighborhood, Fort Greene, is now one of gentrification’s gems. Her family lives in the Auburn Family Residence, a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.
It is no place for children. Yet Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.
Nearly a quarter of Dasani’s childhood has unfolded at Auburn, where she shares a 520-square-foot room with her parents and seven siblings. As they begin to stir on this frigid January day, Dasani sets about her chores.
Her mornings begin with Baby Lele, whom she changes, dresses and feeds, checking that the formula distributed by the shelter is not, once again, expired. She then wipes down the family’s small refrigerator, stuffed with lukewarm milk, Tropicana grape juice and containers of leftover Chinese. After tidying the dresser drawers she shares with a sister, Dasani rushes her younger siblings onto the school bus.
“I have a lot on my plate,” she says, taking inventory: The fork and spoon are her parents and the macaroni, her siblings — except for Baby Lele, who is a plump chicken breast.
“So that’s a lot on my plate — with some corn bread,” she says. “That’s a lot on my plate.”
Dasani guards her feelings closely, dispensing with anger through humor. Beneath it all is a child whose existence is defined by her siblings. Her small scrub-worn hands are always tying shoelaces or doling out peanut butter sandwiches, taking the ends of the loaf for herself. The bond is inescapable. In the presence of her brothers and sisters, Dasani has no peace. Without them, she is incomplete.
Today, Dasani rides the creaky elevator to the lobby and walks past the guards, the metal detector and the tall, iron fence that envelops what she calls “the jail.” She steps into the light, and is met by the worn brick facade of the Walt Whitman projects across the street.
She heads east along Myrtle Avenue and, three blocks later, has crossed into another New York: the shaded, graceful abode of Fort Greene’s brownstones, which fetch millions of dollars.
“Black is beautiful, black is me,” she sings under her breath as her mother trails behind.
Dasani suddenly stops, puzzling at the pavement. Its condition, she notes, is clearly superior on this side of Myrtle.
“Worlds change real fast, don’t it?” her mother says.
In the short span of Dasani’s life, her city has been reborn. The skyline soars with luxury towers, beacons of a new gilded age. More than 200 miles of fresh bike lanes connect commuters to high-tech jobs, passing through upgraded parks and avant-garde projects like the High Line and Jane’s Carousel. Posh retail has spread from its Manhattan roots to the city’s other boroughs. These are the crown jewels of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s long reign, which began just seven months after Dasani was born.
In the shadows of this renewal, it is Dasani’s population who have been left behind. The ranks of the poor have risen, with almost half of New Yorkers living near or below the poverty line. Their traditional anchors — affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage — have weakened as the city reorders itself around the whims of the wealthy.
Long before Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio rose to power by denouncing the city’s inequality, children like Dasani were being pushed further into the margins, and not just in New York. Cities across the nation have become flash points of polarization, as one population has bounced back from the recession while another continues to struggle. One in five American children is now living in poverty, giving the United States the highest child poverty rate of any developed nation except for Romania.
This bodes poorly for the future. Decades of research have shown the staggering societal costs of children in poverty. They grow up with less education and lower earning power. They are more likely to have drug addiction, psychological trauma and disease, or wind up in prison.
Dasani does not need the proof of abstract research. All of these plights run through her family. Her future is further threatened by the fact of her homelessness, which has been shown, even in short spells, to bring disastrous consequences.
Dasani’s circumstances are largely the outcome of parental dysfunction. While nearly one-third of New York’s homeless children are supported by a working adult, her mother and father are unemployed, have a history of arrests and are battling drug addiction.
Yet Dasani’s trials are not solely of her parents’ making. They are also the result of decisions made a world away, in the marble confines of City Hall. With the economy growing in 2004, the Bloomberg administration adopted sweeping new policies intended to push the homeless to become more self-reliant. They would no longer get priority access to public housing and other programs, but would receive short-term help with rent. Poor people would be empowered, the mayor argued, and homelessness would decline.
But the opposite happened. As rents steadily rose and low-income wages stagnated, chronically poor families like Dasani’s found themselves stuck in a shelter system with fewer exits. Families are now languishing there longer than ever — a development that Mr. Bloomberg explained by saying shelters offered “a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before.”
Just three days before the mayor made that comment at a news conference in August 2012, an inspector at Auburn stopped by Dasani’s crowded room, noting that a mouse was “running around and going into the walls,” which had “many holes.”
“Please assist,” the inspector added. “There is infant in room.”
Dasani was about to start sixth grade at a promising new school. This would be a pivotal year of her childhood — one already marked by more longing and loss than most adults ever see.
A tangle of three dramas had yet to unspool.
There was the question of whether Dasani’s family would remain intact. Her mother had just been reunited with the children on the condition that she and her husband stay off drugs. The city’s Administration for Children’s Services was watching closely. Any slips, and the siblings could wind up in foster care, losing their parents and, most likely, one another.
The family’s need for a home was also growing desperate. The longer they stayed in that one room, the more they seemed to fall apart. Yet rents were impossibly high in the city, and a quarter-million people were waiting for the rare vacancy in public housing. Families like Dasani’s had been leaving the state. This was the year, then, that her parents made a promise: to save enough money to go somewhere else, maybe as far as the Pocono Mountains, in Pennsylvania.
Dasani could close her eyes and see it. “It’s quiet and it’s a lot of grass.”
In the absence of this long-awaited home, there was only school. But it remained to be seen whether Dasani’s new middle school, straining under budget cuts, could do enough to fill the voids of her life.
For children like Dasani, school is not just a place to cultivate a hungry mind. It is a refuge. The right school can provide routine, nourishment and the guiding hand of responsible adults.
But school also had its perils. Dasani was hitting the age when girls prove their worth through fighting. And she was her mother’s daughter, a fearless fighter.
She was also on the cusp of becoming something more, something she could feel but not yet see, if only the right things happened and the right people came along.
DASANI is a short, wiry girl whose proud posture overwhelms her 4-foot-8 frame. She has a delicate, oval face and luminous brown eyes that watch everything, owl-like. Her expression veers from wonder to mischief. Strangers often remark on her beauty — her high cheekbones and smooth skin — but the comments never seem to register.
What she knows is that she has been blessed with perfect teeth. In a family where braces are the stuff of fantasy, having good teeth is a lottery win.
On the subway, Dasani can blend in with children who are better off. It is an ironic fact of being poor in a rich city that the donated garments Dasani and her siblings wear lend them the veneer of affluence, at least from a distance. Used purple Uggs and Patagonia fleeces cover thinning socks and fraying jeans. A Phil & Teds rain cover, fished from a garbage bin, protects Baby Lele’s rickety stroller.
Dasani tells herself that brand names don’t matter. She knows such yearnings will go unanswered, so better not to have them. But once in a while, when by some miracle her mother produces a new pair of Michael Jordan sneakers, Dasani finds herself succumbing to the same exercise: She wears them sparingly, and only indoors, hoping to keep them spotless. It never works.
Best to try to blend in, she tells herself, while not caring when you don’t.
She likes being small because “I can slip through things.” In the blur of her city’s crowded streets, she is just another face. What people do not see is a homeless girl whose mother succumbed to crack more than once, whose father went to prison for selling drugs, and whose cousins and aunts have become the anonymous casualties of gang shootings, AIDS and domestic violence.
“That’s not gonna be me,” she says. “Nuh-uh. Nope.”
Dasani speaks with certainty. She often begins a sentence with “Mommy say” before reciting, verbatim, some new bit of learned wisdom, such as “camomile tea cures a bad stomach” or “that lady is a dope fiend.” She likes facts. She rarely wavers, or hints at doubt, even as her life is consumed by it.
When strangers are near, Dasani refers to Auburn as “that place.” It is separate from her, and distant. But in the company of her siblings, she calls it “the house,” transforming a crowded room into an imaginary home.
In reality, Auburn is neither. The forbidding, 10-story brick building, which dates back almost a century, was formerly Cumberland Hospital, one of seven public hospitals that closed because of the city’s 1970s fiscal crisis.
In 1985, the city repurposed the former hospital into a shelter for families. This was the dawn of the period known as “modern homelessness,” driven by wage stagnation, Reagan-era cutbacks and the rising cost of homes. By the time Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002, New York’s homeless population had reached 31,063 — a record for the city, which is legally obligated to provide shelter.
Among the city’s 152 family shelters, Auburn became known as a place of last resort, a dreaded destination for the chronically homeless.
City and state inspectors have repeatedly cited the shelter for deplorable conditions, including sexual misconduct by staff members, spoiled food, asbestos exposure, lead paint and vermin. Auburn has no certificate of occupancy, as required by law, and lacks an operational plan that meets state regulations. Most of the shelter’s smoke detectors and alarms have been found to be inoperable.
There are few signs that children live at Auburn. Locked gates prevent them from setting foot on the front lawn. In a city that has invested millions of dollars in new “green spaces,” Auburn’s is often overrun with weeds.
Inside, prepackaged meals are served in a cafeteria where Dasani and her siblings wait in one line for their food before heading to another line to heat it in one of two microwaves that hundreds of residents share. Tempers fly and fights explode. The routine can last more than an hour before the children take their first bite.
The family’s room is the scene of debilitating chaos: stacks of dirty laundry, shoes stuffed under a mattress, bicycles and coats piled high. To the left of the door, beneath a decrepit sink where Baby Lele is bathed, the wall has rotted through, leaving a long, dark gap where mice congregate.
A few feet away, Dasani’s legally blind, 10-year-old sister, Nijai, sleeps on a mattress that has come apart at the seams, its rusted coils splayed. Hand-washed clothes line the guards on the windows, which are shaded by gray wool blankets strung from the ceiling. A sticky fly catcher dangles overhead, dotted with dead insects.
There is no desk or chair in the room — just a maze of mattresses and dressers. A flat-screen television rests on two orange milk crates.
To eat, the children sit on the cracked linoleum floor, which never feels clean no matter how much they mop. Homework is a challenge. The shelter’s one recreation room can hardly accommodate Auburn’s hundreds of children, leaving Dasani and her siblings to study, hunched over, on their mattresses.
Sometimes it feels like too many bodies sharing the same air. “There’s no space to breathe ’cause they breathe up all the oxygen,” Dasani says.
She carves out small, sacred spaces: a portion of the floor at mealtime, an upturned crate by the window, a bathroom stall.
The children spend hours at the playgrounds of the surrounding housing projects, where a subtle hierarchy is at work. If they are seen enough times emerging from Auburn, they are pegged as the neighborhood’s outliers, the so-called shelter boogies.
Nothing gnaws at Dasani more.
A mucus-stained nose suggests a certain degradation, not just the absence of tissues, but of a parent willing to wipe or a home so unclean that a runny nose makes no difference. Dasani and her siblings can get hungry enough to lose their concentration in school, but they are forever wiping one another’s noses.
When Dasani hears “shelter boogies,” all she can think to say is what her mother always tells her — that Auburn is “just a pit stop.”
“But you will live in the projects forever, as will your kids’ kids, and your kids’ kids’ kids.”
She knows the battle is asymmetrical.
The projects may represent all kinds of inertia. But to live at Auburn is to admit the ultimate failure: the inability of one’s parents to meet that most basic need.
DASANI ticks through their faces, the girls from the projects who might turn up at this new school. Some are kind enough not to gossip about where she lives.
The others might be distracted by the sheer noise of this first day — the start of sixth grade, the new uniform, the new faces. She will hopefully slip by those girls unseen.
She approaches the school’s steps on a clear September morning. Fresh braids fall to one side of her face, clipped by bright yellow bows. Her required polo and khakis have been pressed with a hair straightener, since Auburn forbids irons.
Her heart is pounding. She will be sure to take a circuitous route home. She will focus in class and mind her manners in the schoolyard. She has only to climb those steps.
“Come on, there’s nothing to be scared about,” her 34-year-old mother, Chanel, finally says, nudging Dasani up the stairs.
She passes through the metal detector, joining 507 other middle and high school students at the Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts.
Housed in a faded brick building two blocks from Auburn, McKinney is a poor-kids’ version of La Guardia Arts, the elite Manhattan public school that inspired the television series “Fame.” Threadbare curtains adorn its theater. Stage props are salvaged from a nearby trash bin. Dance class is so crowded that students practice in intervals.
An air of possibility permeates the school, named after the first African-American woman to become a physician in New York State.
There is Officer Jamion Andrews, the security guard who moonlights as a rap lyricist, and Zakiya Harris, the dance teacher who runs a studio on the side. And there is Faith Hester, the comedic, eyelash-batting humanities teacher who wrote a self-help book titled “Create a Life You Love Living” and fancies her own reality show.
The children also strive. Among them is a voice that periodically lifts the school with a “Madama Butterfly” aria. When the students hear it, they know that Jasmine, a sublimely gifted junior, is singing in the office of the principal, Paula Holmes.
The school matriarch closes her eyes as she listens. It may be her only tranquil moment.
Miss Holmes is a towering woman, by turns steely and soft. She wears a Bluetooth like a permanent earring and tends toward power suits. She has been at McKinney’s helm for 15 years and runs the school like a naval ship, peering down its gleaming hallways as if searching the seas for enemy vessels.
Students stammer in her presence. She leaves her office door permanently open, like a giant, unblinking eye. A poster across the hall depicts a black man in sagging jeans standing before the White House, opposite President Obama. “To live in this crib,” the poster reads, “you have to look the part.”
Miss Holmes has no tolerance for sagging — sartorial, attitudinal or otherwise.
McKinney’s roots run deep. Dasani’s own grandmother studied there as a girl. Most of the middle school students are black, live in the surrounding projects and qualify for free or reduced meals. They eat in shifts in the school’s basement cafeteria, watched over by the avuncular Frank Heyward, who blasts oldies from a boombox, telling students, “I got shoes older than you.”
For all of McKinney’s pluck, its burdens are great. In the last six years, the city has cut the school’s budget by a quarter as its population declined. Fewer teachers share a greater load. After-school resources have thinned, but not the needs of students whose families are torn apart by gun violence and drug use. McKinney’s staff psychologist shuttles between three schools like a firefighter.
And now, a charter school is angling to move in. If successful, it will eventually claim McKinney’s treasured top floor, home to its theater class, dance studio and art lab. Teachers and parents are bracing for battle, announced by fliers warning against the “apartheid” effects of a charter co-location.
Dasani knows about charter schools. Her former school, P.S. 67, shared space with one. She never spoke to those children, whose classrooms were stocked with new computers. Dasani’s own school was failing by the time she left.
At McKinney, Dasani quickly draws the notice of the older students, and not because she is short, though the nickname “Shorty” sticks. It is her electricity. When they dote on her, she giggles. But say the wrong thing and she turns fierce, letting the four-letter words fly.
It is still September when Dasani’s temper lands her in the principal’s office.
“Please don’t call my mother,” Dasani whispers.
Miss Holmes is seated in a rolling pleather chair held together by duct tape. She stares at the anguished girl. She has been at McKinney long enough to know when a child’s transgressions at school might bring a beating at home.
The principal slowly scoots her chair up to Dasani and leans within inches of her face.
“O.K.,” she says softly. “Let’s make a deal.”
From that day forward, Dasani will be on her best behavior. In turn, Miss Holmes will keep what happens at school in school.
With that, she waves Dasani off, fighting the urge to smile. She can’t help but like this feisty little girl.
DASANI closes her eyes and tilts her head toward the ceiling of her classroom. She has missed breakfast again.
She tries to drift. She sees Florida. For a child who has never been to the beach, television ads are transporting. She is walking in the sand. She crashes into the waves.
“Dasaaaaaani!” her teacher sings out.
She opens her eyes.
There is Miss Hester, batting those lashes.
Both she and another teacher, Kenya Mabry, were raised in the projects. They dress and talk with a polish that impresses Dasani, who studies them.
Miss Hester is also watching Dasani. She does not yet know where Dasani lives, or how hungry she gets. But Miss Hester finds two things striking: how late she arrives some mornings and how capable this girl is in spite of it. Without even trying, she keeps up.
Dasani possesses what adults at McKinney consider an intuitive approach to learning, the kind that comes when rare smarts combine with extreme life circumstances. Her intelligence is “uncanny” and “far surpasses peers her age,” one counselor writes. “Student is continuously using critical analysis to reflect upon situations and interactions.”
Principal Holmes is also taking note. She can already see in this “precocious little button” the kind of girl who could be anything — even a Supreme Court justice — if only she harnesses her gifts early enough. “Dasani has something that hasn’t even been unleashed yet,” Miss Holmes says. “It’s still being cultivated.”
For now, Dasani’s most honed skill might be obfuscation. She works hard to hide her struggles, staying quiet as other children brag about their new cellphones or sleepovers with friends.
If there is one place she feels free, it is dance class. When she walks into McKinney’s studio, and the music starts, her body releases whatever she is feeling.
“When I’m happy I dance fast,” she says. “When I’m sad I dance slow. When I’m upset I dance both.”
Dasani has been dancing for as long as she can remember, well before she earned her first dollar a few years ago break-dancing in Times Square. But the study of dance, as something practiced rather than spontaneous, this is new. She is learning to point her toes like a ballerina, and to fall back into a graceful bridge.
Perhaps it is no accident that amid the bedlam of Dasani’s home life — the missed welfare appointments and piles of unwashed clothes — she is drawn to a craft of discipline. Here, in this room, time is kept and routines are mapped with precision and focus.
Dasani never tires of rehearsing the same moves, or scrutinizing more experienced dancers. Her gaze is often fixed on a tall, limber eighth grader named Sahai.
Sahai is the middle school’s valedictorian. A breathtaking dancer, she has long silky hair and carries herself like a newly crowned queen. She is a girl with enough means to accessorize elegantly. When Dasani looks at Sahai, she is taking the measure of all she is not.
You can be popular in one of three ways, Dasani’s mother always says. Dress fly. Do good in school. Fight.
The first option is out of the question. While Dasani clings to her uniform, other students wear coveted Adidas hoodies and Doc Marten boots. In dance class, Dasani does not even have a leotard.
So she applies herself in school. “I have a lot of possibility,” she says. “I do.”
Her strongest subject is English, where a poem she writes is tacked to a teacher’s wall.
By October, she is on the honor roll, just as her life at Auburn is coming apart.
IT is something of an art to sleep among nine other people. One learns not to hear certain sounds or smell certain smells.
But some things still intrude on Dasani’s sleep. There is the ceaseless drip of that decaying sink, and the scratching of hungry mice. It makes no difference when the family lays out traps and hangs its food from the ceiling in a plastic bag. Auburn’s mice always return, as stubborn as the “ghetto squirrels,” in Chanel’s lingo, that forage the trash for Chinese fried chicken.
Dasani shares a twin mattress and three dresser drawers with her mischievous and portly sister, Avianna, only one year her junior. Their 35-year-old stepfather, Supreme, has raised them as his own. They consider him their father and call him Daddy.
Supreme married Chanel nine years earlier, bringing two children from a previous marriage. The boy, Khaliq, had trouble speaking. He had been trapped with his dead, pregnant mother after she fell down a flight of stairs. The girl, Nijai, had a rare genetic eye disease and was going blind. They were the same tender ages as Dasani and Avianna, forming a homeless Brady Bunch as Supreme and Chanel had four more children.
Two of Dasani’s half-sisters, 7-year-old Maya and 6-year-old Hada, share the mattress to her right. The 5-year-old they call Papa sleeps by himself because he wets the bed. In the crib is Baby Lele, who is tended to by Dasani when her parents are listless from their daily dose of methadone.
Chanel and Supreme take the synthetic opioid as part of their drug treatment program. It has essentially become a substitute addiction.
The more time they spend in this room, the smaller it feels. Nothing stays in order. Everything is exposed — marital spats, frayed underwear, the onset of puberty, the mischief other children hide behind closed doors. Supreme paces erratically. Chanel cannot check her temper. For Dasani and her siblings, to act like rambunctious children is to risk a beating.
By late fall, Chanel and Supreme are fighting daily about money.
It has been years since Supreme lost his job as a barber and Chanel stopped working as a janitor for the parks department. He cuts hair inside the shelter and sells pirated DVDs on the street while she hawks odds and ends from discount stores. In a good month, their combined efforts can bring in a few hundred dollars.
This is not one of those times. Supreme is keeping tight control of the family’s welfare income — $1,285 in food stamps and $1,122 in survivor benefits for his first wife’s death. He refuses to give Chanel cash for laundry.
Soon, all of Dasani’s uniforms are stained. At school, she is now wearing donated clothes and her hair is unkempt, inviting the dreaded designation of “nappy.” Rumors are circulating about where she lives. Only six of the middle school’s 157 students reside in shelters.
When the truth about Dasani emerges, she does nothing to contradict it. She is a proud girl. She must find a way to turn the truth, like other unforeseeable calamities, in her favor.
She begins calling herself “ghetto.” She dares the girls to fight her and challenges the boys to arm-wrestle, flexing the biceps she has built doing pull-ups in Fort Greene Park. The boys watch slack-jawed as Dasani demonstrates the push-ups she has also mastered, earning her the nickname “muscle girl.”
Her teachers are flummoxed. They assume that she has shed her uniform because she is trying to act tough. In fact, the reverse is true.
A CHILLY, November wind whips across Auburn Place, rustling the plastic cover of a soiled mattress in a trash bin outside the shelter.
Chanel and Supreme stand nearby, waiting for their children to come from school. They are still short on cash. The children had pitched in $5.05 from collecting cans and bottles over the weekend.
Chanel inspects the mattress. Clean, it might fetch $10. But it is stained with feces. Janitors wearing masks and gloves had removed it from a squalid room where three small children lived, defecating on the floor. Their mother rarely bathed them, and they had no shoes on the day she gathered them in a hurry and left.
“You can smell it?” Chanel asks Supreme.
“No, I can see it,” he says, curling his lip.
“Those are the people that they need to be calling A.C.S. on,” Chanel says. At the shelter, the abbreviation for the Administration for Children’s Services is uttered with the same kind of alarm that the C.I.A. can stoke overseas.
“Nasty girl,” Chanel says, scrunching her nose.
Everyone knows Chanel. She weighs 215 pounds and her face is a constellation of freckles lit by a gaptoothed smile. She wraps her copper-hued hair in a tubular scarf. The street is her domain. When she walks, people often step to the side — not in deference to her ample frame so much as her magisterial air.
Chanel is in everyone’s business, scoping out snitches, offering homeopathic remedies, tattling on a girl’s first kiss. A five-minute walk through Fulton Mall can take Chanel hours for all the greetings, gossip, recriminations and nostalgia. She has a remarkable nose for people, sniffing out phoniness in seconds. Those who smile too much are wearing “a frown turned upside down.”
She is often spoiling for a fight, or leaving people in the stitches of laughter. While others want the life of the music mogul Jay-Z, Chanel would settle for being his pet. “Just let me be the dog. I don’t care where you put me.” When Chanel laughs, she tilts her head back and unleashes a thunderous cackle.
Dasani can detect her mother’s laugh from blocks away. Today, she returns from school lugging a plastic bag of clothes donated by a security guard at McKinney.
Dasani begins rummaging through the bag. She pulls out a white Nautica ski jacket and holds it up to her shoulders. It is too wide, but she likes it. “It’s dirty,” she says forgivingly.
“Look, Mommy!” she says, modeling her new coat.
“That fits you real nice,” Chanel coos.
Suddenly, Supreme leaps into the air. His monthly benefits have arrived, announced by a recording on his prepaid welfare phone. He sets off to reclaim his gold teeth from the pawnshop and buy new boots for the children at Cookie’s, a favored discount store in Fulton Mall. The money will be gone by week’s end.
Supreme and Chanel have been scolded about their lack of financial discipline in countless meetings with the city agencies that monitor the family.
But when that monthly check arrives, Supreme and Chanel do not think about abstractions like “responsibility” and “self-reliance.” They lose themselves in the delirium that a round of ice creams brings. They feel the sudden, exquisite release born of wearing those gold fronts again — of appearing like a person who has rather than a person who lacks.
The next day, Dasani goes to school wearing her new Cookie’s boots. Feeling amped, she gets into a verbal spat with some boys in gym class and must spend her lunch hour in the principal’s office.
Miss Holmes glowers at Dasani, who tries to leaven the mood by bragging about her place on the honor roll. The principal is unmoved. Dasani still has a B average.
“I want the highest end of the honor roll,” Miss Holmes says. “I want more. You have to want more, too.”
Dasani stares at her tray. The discussion returns to her behavior in gym class.
“While we care for you, we’re not going to take any crap,” Miss Holmes says. “You understand?”
Trying not to cry, Dasani examines her food — a slice of cheese pizza, chocolate milk, a red apple. She wrinkles her nose. Miss Holmes has seen it before, the child too proud to show hunger.
“Can you hurry up?” Miss Holmes says. “The drama with the pizza is not working for me.”
“I’ll feed you,” Miss Holmes says. “I will feed you. You don’t think I’ll feed you? Bring the tray.”
Dasani slowly lifts the pizza slice to her mouth, cracking a smile.
Miss Holmes has seen plenty of distressed children, but few have both the depth of Dasani’s troubles and the height of her promise. There is not much Miss Holmes can do about life outside school. She knows this is a child who needs a sponsor, who “needs to see ‘The Nutcracker,’ ” who needs her own computer. There are many such children.
Here at school, Miss Holmes must work with what she has.
“Apples are very good for you,” she says, smiling. “Bananas are, too.”
“I don’t like those,” Dasani says.
“Pretend you like them.”
When Dasani is finished, she brings her empty tray to the principal for inspection. Miss Holmes gestures at Dasani’s milk-stained mouth.
“Fix it,” she says. “Go.”
THE tree is covered in Christmas lights that mask the lack of ornaments.
The children gather around it inside a dilapidated, two-story rowhouse in East New York, Brooklyn — the closest thing they have to a home. It belongs to Chanel’s ailing godmother, Sherry, whom the children call Grandma.
Sherry’s day care center once occupied the first floor, where fading decals of Bambi now share space with empty liquor bottles. Chanel’s two unemployed brothers, 22-year-old Josh and 39-year-old Lamont, stay in the dark, musty basement. When the children visit, they spend most of their time upstairs, sleeping on a drafty wooden floor beneath a Roman-numeral clock that is permanently stopped at 2:47.
Sherry’s electricity has been cut, but the tree remains lit and the heat stays on, via a cable illicitly connected to a neighbor’s power supply. Christmas gifts are scarce: coloring books, a train set, stick-on tattoos, one doll for each girl.
A few nights later, the children are roused by shouts and a loud crash. Uncle Josh has punched his hand through a window and is threatening to kill Uncle Lamont.
Josh lunges at his brother with a knife. The men tumble to the floor as Chanel throws herself between them. Upstairs, the children cower and scream.
Dasani calls out orders: “Nobody move! Let the adults handle it!”
Sirens rattle the block. Josh is taken away in handcuffs as an ambulance races Lamont to the hospital with a battered eye. They had been fighting over a teenage girl.
January brings relief, but not because of the new year. It is the start of tax season, when Dasani’s parents — and everyone they seem to know — rush to file for the earned-income tax credit, a kind of bonanza for the poor.
Their tax refunds can bring several thousand dollars, which could be enough to put down a rent deposit and leave the shelter.
On Jan. 7, the family heads to Manhattan for a rare outing. They take the Q train, which barrels high across the East River. The city’s lights shimmer, making Chanel think of opportunity.
They will start looking for a home soon, she says.
“I wanna go somewhere where it’s quiet,” Dasani says.
“I wanna go somewhere where there’s trees,” Chanel says. “I just wanna see a bunch of trees and grass.”
“Daddy say that he gonna buy this house with a lot of land with grass,” Dasani says, “so that each of us would get a part, so that you can do whatever you want with that part of the land.”
Supreme sits far-off, listening to music on his phone. Baby Lele wails.
Suddenly, Chanel spots Chinatown. The children squeal. Dasani mentions a book she read about the Great Wall of China.
“That’s not this town,” Chanel says.
“It’s a big wall though,” Dasani says.
“That’s the real Chinatown,” Chanel says. “This is the New York Chinatown, where they got Chinese people in Popeyes.”
Dasani presses her forehead against the window and cups her hands around her eyes, as if preserving the view for herself.
OPPORTUNITY comes rarely, but Dasani is always waiting. She wakes early on Jan. 18, hours in advance of a track competition known for rescuing girls from the ghetto.
She has no running shoes, just a pair of imitation Converses. She is unknown in the rarefied world of athletic recruiters and private coaches. But ask anyone in her small corner of Brooklyn, from the crossing guards to the drunks, and they will say two things about this tiny girl with the wayward braids: She is strong like a boy and can run like the wind.
Dasani heads out in the icy cold with her mother and two of her sisters. They walk a mile before arriving at the manicured grounds of the Pratt Institute in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill, which is hosting the Colgate Women’s Games.
The amateur track and field series is a magnet for athletic recruiters, and some of its champions have gone as far as the Olympics. Dasani will compete in the 200-meter dash. She heads to the bathroom to change.
“She got shorts to put on?” one of the organizers asks. Dasani reaches for her leggings.
“Those are the sneakers?” the woman frowns.
Wearing no socks, Dasani ties her rainbow laces and walks to the track. When her number is called, she takes her place among four other girls.
The blank fires and she is off, ahead of the pack.
Win, Dasani tells herself. Win.
At the first bend, she trips and falls behind.
By the second turn, Dasani has caught up with the lead runner.
“Run, Dasani!” Chanel screams. “Run!”
They are in a dead heat for the finish line.
Dasani comes in second. It hardly matters that her time is insufficient to make it past the preliminaries. They leave the stadium feeling euphoric.
“My baby’s going to the Olympics,” Chanel crows. As they walk west along Willoughby Avenue, they talk of finding a trainer. Chanel starts singing her favorite Luther Vandross song, “A House Is Not a Home.”
The girls have heard it enough times to sing along.
A chair is still a chair
Even when there’s no one sittin’ there
But a chair is not a house
And a house is not a home
When there’s no one there
to hold you tight.
They turn north on Carlton Avenue, passing a renovated brick townhouse with sleek, metal window frames.
A skinny brunette is unloading her station wagon. At the sight of Dasani’s family, she freezes. She smiles nervously and moves slowly to her car, grabbing an infant from the car seat.
The mood shifts.
“She thinks we gonna jump her,” Chanel says as she keeps walking. The shelter is only three blocks away.
“Why do they feel like they’re so apart? She’s just two steps away from us. If you got jumped out here, a black man would be the first to save your ass. That’s what I feel like telling her.”
When they reach Myrtle Avenue, Chanel goes searching for a beer at her favorite corner store. Dasani trails her.
Inside, the short-order cook, a Mexican girl, stares at Chanel suspiciously.
“Don’t look at me,” Chanel says.
“You so nice, that’s why I see you,” the girl responds cockily.
“You better watch that grill,” Chanel says. “I don’t want to scare you.”
“You think you scare me?” the girl yells.
“Let’s fight right now!” Chanel shouts.
“Wait for me outside!” the girl calls back.
Chanel moves toward her, reaching for a mop.
“Mommy!” Dasani screams.
The owner, Salim, races toward Chanel.
“I’ll crack her with a stick!” Chanel yells as Salim holds her back.
Dasani is frozen.
“I’ma wait for your ass when you come out,” Chanel says. “What time she get off?”
“You run your mouth,” Salim says, gently leading Chanel away, as he has done before.
As they leave, Dasani turns to the cook.
“She gonna knock you stupid, Chinese lady,” Dasani says.
“Don’t use those words,” Salim cries out. “You’re not supposed to turn out like your mother.”
Reporting was contributed by Rebecca R. Ruiz, Joseph Goldstein and Ruth Fremson, and research by Ms. Ruiz, Joseph Burgess, Alain Delaquérière and Ramsey Merritt.
when I was a kid, when my parents drove me and my best friend to boston to go to the science museum, we improvised a car game that we called "dead people." we would look out the windows and point out all the places that could be full of dead people. the undersides of bridges were a particular fixation of ours.