I used to love her. Stories like this make me kind of sad; like they're bag ladies somewhere.

Suzanne Vega went to see her dentist the other day, in Greenwich Village, and afterward she had a late lunch by the window at the Cornelia Street Café, an old Village haunt where she first got noticed as a singer-songwriter, in the early eighties.
“Apparently, I’m grinding my teeth in my sleep,” she said, after ordering a latte, “so my dentist fitted me for one of those”—she cupped her fingers around her mouth—“things.” Isn’t teeth grinding related to tension? “Uh, could be,” she replied, in a tone that signified “duh.” It’s not so much her new project, “Suzanne Vega Close-Up,” that’s making her tense; it’s that she’s paying for it herself.
Vega explained that a couple of years ago, after she was dropped by her record label, “I noticed that a lot of artists, like Carly Simon and Dar Williams, were recording acoustic versions of their songs, which is a way of owning the masters. You don’t own the original recordings, but at least you own something.” So Vega saved up some money, and in the past year she has rerecorded about seventy of her songs, among them the hits “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner,” and other gems, like “Small Blue Thing” and “Bound.” Over the next two years, she will release a series of four collections of songs grouped not by era but by theme; the first volume, “Love Songs,” will come out in time for Valentine’s Day. “We’ll sell it off iTunes and our Web site, which will allow us to collect e-mail addresses, so when I want to release an album of new material we’ll know who the audience is,” she said, removing a navy cardigan and revealing a purple tunic underneath.
Vega was born in 1959 and raised in what was then called Spanish Harlem, and she thought that her stepfather, Edgardo, who was born in Puerto Rico, was her birth father until she was nine, when her parents set her straight. “With a face like this, I guess I would have figured it out eventually,” she said, framing her pale-skinned, blue-eyed countenance with her fingers. She attended P.S. 179, where she remembers being the only kid in class who could read. In second grade, she moved into a gifted-and-talented program at P.S. 163, where her teacher, Miss Feuerstein, encouraged her to write stories; she wrote several about an imaginary goat.* She attended the High School of Performing Arts (her fifteen-year-old daughter, Ruby, is a student there) and then went to Barnard College.
Her stepfather had a guitar in the house and would sing Lead Belly and Pete Seeger songs. Suzanne was eleven when she picked it up, and everyone told her how natural she looked with the guitar in her hands, so she learned some chords. There was a book of pop hits around the house; she remembered learning “Sunny”: “I liked the jazzy chords in that.” She was fourteen when she wrote her first song, and by the time she was sixteen she had about fifty. She played in coffee shops on the Upper West Side, where she met some people who told her about the Songwriters Exchange at the Cornelia Street Café.
“It was just this room back then,” she said, looking around. “We’d all cram in here and listen to each other.” After shows, she’d take names to add to her mailing list; when thirty people showed up at one of her first solo gigs, at Folk City, the owner of the club was impressed. She was signed by A. & M., and her first album, “Suzanne Vega” (1985), reinvented a pop archetype—the female singer-songwriter—that artists like Tracy Chapman and Sinéad O’Connor soon benefitted from. Her second album, “Solitude Standing” (1987), went platinum. Commercially, it was pretty much downhill from there.
“Now I’m back to where I started from,” she said. “Taking names, making mailing lists. I’ve taken on this somewhat risky thing, but it’s a relief not to have to deal with a record company, and their A.D.D. attention spans.” She picked up a forkful of salad. “At this moment, I feel at peace with it—I’ve let it all go.” She flung her arms out, pushing whatever tension was in her jaws away from her, and sending a piece of lettuce flying across the table. 

*Correction, February 11, 2010: Vega first attended P.S. 179, not P.S. 163, as originally stated. She then moved into a gifted-and-talented program at P.S. 163, not P.S. 161, as originally stated.

Things that Annoy Me Today

People who talk loudly on their phones on the subway
Subway trains that go too slowly
People who relax their sphincters on subway cars
Children who play plastic kazoos on subway cars
Guardians who don't police their noise-making children
People who pick at their fingers (guilty)
People who don't see everything as I see it at all times.

Step Closer Instead of Cropping for More Interesting Photos [Photography Tip]

Step Closer Instead of Cropping for More Interesting Photos [Photography Tip]: "

Nowadays, we can do so much photo editing after the fact that we often don't realize what a difference framing makes. Despite what you may think, stepping forward will probably be better than cropping later (or digital zoom) when taking photos.

Photo by ralphbijker.

Helen Bradley explains on her Pro Photo Blog:

If there is one technique most digital camera users can use today to instantly improve their photos it is to stand at least two or three steps closer to their subject. Most photographers stand too far away from their subjects so the subject ends up being very small relative to the rest of the photo. When you move closer to your subject you make them larger in the viewfinder so they fill the photograph.

When you're taking a picture of an actual object, like a person, a tighter photo is far more interesting and dramatic than one with lots of background. In the age of digital cameras many of us less seasoned professionals often think that we can just crop and zoom after the fact, but that isn't necessarily so—cropping and digital zooming do not achieve the same effect as actually getting the lens closer to the subject (note that optical zooming does work, in this case—most cameras have both, so if you have to use the zoom, make sure you're using the right one). Got any other tips for more interesting photos? Share them in the comments!


pool.jpg (image)

I don't think I  miss my old problems: being in love with boys who didn't love me back. Being in the constant doghouse from Tresa because my grades weren't that good. Having constant anxiety attacks in school cuz I felt dumber than everyone else.

Store-Brand Foods That Save You Money Without Sacrificing Taste [Saving Money]

Store-Brand Foods That Save You Money Without Sacrificing Taste [Saving Money]: "

If you take a pass on supermarket brands at the grocery store in favor of name-brand foods, Consumer Reports' comparison test might interest you. Turns out there's often very little difference between the two in taste or quality.

Photo by The Consumerist.

Consumer Reports ran a blind taste-test on several types of generic and name-brand foods and discovered, perhaps unsurprisingly to many, there's typically a marginal difference between them. In fact, in some cases, the store brand was better than the national brand.

For instance, Kirkland's salsa rated better with food tasters than Old El Paso's similar chip dip, and Walmart's au gratin potatoes won out over Betty Crocker's spuds. It's not always a total win, of course. Comparisons between brownie mixes and frozen lasagnas resulted in a tie, while Publix generic-brand barbecue sauce tanked next to the much-preferred K.C. Masterpiece national brand.

The taste-test results are great news for those of us trying to squeeze value out of every dollar, since buying generic can really save you some cash at the grocery store.

[T]he store-brand foods we tested cost an average of 27 percent less than big-name counterparts — about what you'd find across all product categories, industry experts told us. The biggest difference: 35 cents per ounce for Costco's vanilla vs. $3.34 for McCormick's. (Prices are the averages we found across the country.) Price gaps have less to do with what goes into the package than with the research, development, and marketing costs that help build a household name.

If you're new to supermarket brands, start off with simple items like condiments or canned vegetables and see what you think. If you like them, then give boxed meals and prepackaged dinners a try next. What generic products do you use regularly (ketchup? rice?)—and what name brand foods will you never give up? Share what you like in the comments.


I love make up.