Comments: Week of November 9, 2009

1. Wesley Yang’s analysis of the 141 Sex Diaries of anonymous New Yorkers (“The Sex Diaries,” November 2) posted on’s Daily Intel blog over the last two and half years put commenters in the mood to … philosophize. “If I hook up with someone I have no emotional connection to, I wake up sad and alone,” wrote one commenter. “If I opt against, I wake up sad, alone, and sexually frustrated.” “There are too many choices out there, too many ways to be attracted to somebody, and not enough time. You feel as though you’re treading water from one heartbreak to the next. The only unifying factor is that, at some point, enough of us will want to sleep with one another. Everything else from the first kiss onwards is well beyond our control,” offered another. “Yang, with the Diaries, paints a picture of an aggressively devil-may-care kind of young New York that isn’t entirely aware of its own contradictions,” wrote the bloggers over at Jezebel. “We seek romance, but avoid emotional exposure … There’s a thick vein of neurotic self-loathing in these stories, which, though rarely elegantly expressed, has its own kind of appeal. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking what the Sex Diarists tell us about our behavior, but what our willingness to read their reports says about us.” Some readers were incensed by what they read. “This hookup freak show you present is not adequately conveyed as essentially unwise,” wrote in one reader. “It’s a shame this dysfunctional and often downright emotionally destructive way of relating is presented as normal for current times. No one is offering these people basic insights into the ways of treating other people (and themselves) that will equip them to have a good relationship.” Many regular readers of the Sex Diaries online were pleased to see the story and photograph of one of their own anonymous heroes (“The Curious Case of ‘Comfortably Smug,’ ” November 2), who is both a prolific commenter and a Sex Diarist. “Smug’s always been terrific as far as I’m concerned!” avowed one commenter. “For some reason that’s exactly how I pictured you. Good job!” applauded another. Not everyone was willing to see the man made human. Asserted one commenter, “This is a hoax worse than the Balloon Boy. Smug does not exist!”

2. While we’re on the subject of sex, Robert Kolker’s investigation into the psyche of David Letterman (“The Devil in David Letterman,” November 2) left commenters deeply divided. Several expressed a desire to see the infidelity and extortion scandal move out of the public eye: “Who he has been sleeping with is nobody’s business but his and the women involved. It isn’t like Letterman is being entrusted with national secrets, he is an entertainer. The only one who needs to pursue this story any further is his wife.” Many commenters spoke up in defense of the parties involved, including Letterman—“Yeah, well, I still like Dave”—and even the accused blackmailer: “I kind of feel sorry for Joe [Halderman], who was obviously blinded by love in the situation and wanted to hurt the man who stole his woman.”

3. David Edelstein’s review of Neil Simon’s oeuvre (“Theater: Odd Man Out,”October 26) inspired a lively debate among theater aficionados. “Few people today can watch Citizen Kane and see what was new about it when it opened. Its innovations have become part of the common language of film,” wrote playwright Jeffrey Sweet. “Similarly, people new to Neil Simon can’t see what was new about what he brought to American comedy because they grew up with the great sitcoms built on foundations he laid. They take his style and technique for granted because they are now woven into the DNA of American comedy. The guy wrote five or six plays that continue to resonate, which is something only a handful of writers can match. Simon’s work spurred a generation of performers to a more precise calibration of the expression of comic anxiety. It didn’t hurt the rest of us who write to have people in our casts who had met the demands he made of them.” Performers of Simon’s work also chimed in. “Politics were discussed, the irrational and the ambiguous were confronted head-on and with much emotion, sexual identity was in play, a very long speech was given with nary a kvetch, a whine, or a barb, and many significant moments passed without laughter or tears, but stunned silence,” wrote actor Barry Miller. “I should know. I won a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award for bringing that classic play, as you have now rated it (Biloxi Blues), to life.”

4. A follow-up to an article from last spring: Our story enumerating all the stuff to be found at the bottom of New York Harbor (“Secrets of the Deep,” by Christopher Bonanos, May 18) has inspired an art project. A collective calling itself Underwater New York has begun gathering stories, paintings, photographs, musical compositions, and more. Many of the contributions are inspired by objects mentioned in our pages, from the floating dead giraffe once picked up by the harbor patrol to a Formica table that mysteriously stands, upright and ready for dinner, at the bottom of the East River. Submissions are posted at, and the site’s founders say they’d love to see more if you’re inclined to contribute.

5. New York’s esteemed art critic Jerry Saltz has a new book, Seeing Out Louder, which collects much of his best work from 2003 through 2009, covering his last years with the Village Voice and his current tenure at New York.

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Comments: Week of November 9, 2009