Have you missed me? I’ve missed you.
I’m moving my publishing schedule to twice a month, in order to continue to concentrate on my other work, which includes finishing the renovation on my old house (more on that later). I also continue to publish my “member-supported” newsletter, where — each week I share One Good Thing.
And now: onto the show!
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that I might have a double out there. Throughout much of my adulthood, I’ve been told by strangers that I “remind them of someone.” My mind immediately goes toward whatever famous actor or celebrity I might resemble (Dame Judy Dench, anyone?), but, alas — the person I most often resemble is someone’s cousin. Or their sister-in-law’s half-sister’s college roommate.
When I was a kid, I was often told that I resembled Melissa Gilbert, the girl who played Laura on the popular show “Little House on the Prairie.”
Yes — I see that. That’s me on the left, by the way.
Because my headshot runs over my column in a lot of newspapers, there have even been times when the person I’m found to be twinning is actually me.
A stranger will tell me that I look familiar. Eventually, they will get around to explaining that I resemble the person who writes the advice column.
“Oh — that’s actually ME.” I’ll say.
“Hmmmm. No, I don’t think so…” they will respond.
Aside from the frustration of trying to prove that you are, in fact, yourself — and not your own doppelgänger — this type of encounter inevitably leads to a sort of letdown when my witness deems me to be the less attractive version of myself.
Sometimes, an accessory will set off a flight of fancy, where I place myself in the doppelgänger arena.
A few years ago, when I took a selfie showing off my new glasses and a hideous fake fur hat I’d just bought for a wintertime snowshoeing trip, I instantly reminded myself of “Paul Pfeiffer,” from the Wonder Years.
That’s me on the left, by the way.
And, of course, who can deny this uncanny resemblance to Elastagirl?
(That’s me on the left, by the way…)
Years ago, when my friend the photographer Gay Cioffi took my portrait (while sitting on her porch), something struck me as … vaguely familiar. I seemed to have morphed into my predecessor.
I put the callout on Twitter, asking people to share their doppelgängers with me.
Here’s a fellow’s first grade picture. And … “Spanky,” from the Little Rascals.
My favorite entrant came from Joe Newberry, a bluegrass musician (who is also a friend of mine). Joe’s grid shows how his doppelgänger status has changed over the years.
Joe’s choices show that as we age, our imaginary twins do, too.
I love this rendition of Resurrection Day, with Joe Newberry and Garrison Keillor.
Click here for a fun photo story featuring some uncanny resemblances — wherein people randomly met their doppelgängers in real life.
RAILEY JANE SAVAGE’S — JUNK FOOD: STUFF I CONSUME TO FEEL BETTER
“He combs and slicks his hair. He slips lenses into his eyes. He glues a false fingerprint with a tiny blood sachet to the end of his index finger. He looks the part, but now he must live it.
This is, essentially, the elevator pitch for the 1997 film Gattaca, starring Ethan Hawke and Jude Law as interchangeable, doppelganger white dudes. I watched this movie many, many times in high school but hadn’t revisited it until recently. (And certainly not since Jude Law’s iconic, inimitable crisis surrounding the Shania-Twain-tuna-fish-sandwich story—"How am I not myself?”—in I <3 Huckabees.)
Ethan Hawke’s character is born biologically ‘deficient’ for space travel, so he assumes Jude Law’s ‘superior’ genetic identity after he'd faked his own death; they’re both pretending to be something they’re not. The two men can only succeed by working together to create an identity acceptable to the world, but they don’t stop to ask whether they should.
I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life. I’ve wanted to hold a book in my hands and read the words aloud and feel pride for the thing I’ve created. I’ve wanted to claim the title, and feel honest about it. Whereas the white dudes in Gattaca felt entitled to lead their impostor identity, I worry my claim will ring false to others because I can barely believe it myself.
Readers, I’ve written a book about scammers and con artists that I took a year to research, and still I worry someone will ‘find out’ I’m not the real deal. But if the confidence of (white) men can teach us anything, it’s that each of us is entitled to be whatever we want just so long as we believe in ourselves. Therefore:
A Century of Swindles: Ponzi Schemes, Con Men, and Fraudsters, by me – Railey Jane Savage, thank you very much – is available now wherever fine books are sold. The scammers’ currency was, more often than not, sheer confidence and I’m trying to take a page out of my own book.
So now when someone asks what I'm about I will reply, with confidence, “I am a writer.”
[You can follow Railey Jane Savage on Instagram @cartoonsandcats]
CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT EMILY MASON’S
Meet Xebec, a portable screen system for your laptop.
This techno tool claims that it attaches to the back of any computer, and instantly expands it from 1 to 3 screens! No setup, no installation!
Apparently Xebec is also quite portable, weighing only two pounds.
So good news! Now with Xebec you can work from anywhere!
...Like at a cafe taking up an ENTIRE table!
Because if there’s one thing the last year has taught me it’s that boundaries don’t matter, and work can and should be done from anywhere at any time!
Like...from the beach, I guess!
Yay! This is great! Absolutely no one will go insane working from literally anywhere!
Why am I Seeing This?
I considered a technology upgrade recently. Naturally the internet took this information and ran with it.
Did they sell me?
I think everyone has that one ad that drives them so crazy they don’t even care what the product is, this is mine!
While Xebec could be useful, frankly, I don’t want to be able to work from anywhere, and I’m a little annoyed that this company is encouraging customers to do just that. More than that though, as a former waitress, this hits a particularly raw nerve.
(Hello! I’m not mad you’re here!)
Working in the service industry isn’t easy, especially right now. But even pre-Covid, if I had a customer plant themselves at my best table and haul this thing out of their messenger bag...
I don’t know what I would have done, but I can assure you it wouldn’t have been good.
So I will pass on Xebec, both for my own sanity and for the sanity of everyone around me, and leave my technology at home where it belongs: safely under my bed.
LAURA LIKES: Where my friend Laura recommends great stuff:
“Having now read maybe 10 articles on how shipping concerns could have a serious effect on end-of-year shopping and delivery, I thought I'd share some of my best advice for organizing holiday gift-giving.
At least one upside of this pandemic is that I think it's changed expectations about what counts as a gift, and in a lot of cases it's really pared down the frenzy of holiday shopping. If you're not out in a crowd, you don't get that sort of panicky feeling about "I have invested way too much time in this store to walk out of here with nothing." So I'd say my first advice is: relax. It's supposed to be about sharing things with people who mean a lot to you, not some sort of biggerbetterfastermore-fest.
I make a list with the headings: people I kinda have to get something for, but I'm not enthused about it; people I want to get something for; people I want to get something for and I can't wait to give it to them. It's remarkable how helpful this is.
Set hard boundaries. I know it's easy to overspend. I've been in the spot where I honestly didn't have an extra dime to buy a present.
If you do have the money to buy whatever for whoever, good on ya. Ship early. For real. Consider curbside pickup to cut down on time spent wandering in the store. It's often just as easy to browse online, they bring it out to you, and you save time all around.
If you don't have a ton of money for gifts, consider that a bonus, particularly since creative concept gifts can often wait a bit later and often don't require shipping (think the old reliable "I will babysit for you for 4 hours of your choice" or "once it's summer, I'll mow your lawn one Saturday" option). You can tell the person that in a phone call or email.
Do you have a friend or family member addicted to movies? You can offer to pay for a year of an online streaming service, or if that's too steep, write up a list of great films for them to watch in the coming year.
Know someone who adores music? Playlists, my friend. Make one up and say "here are some of my favorites, perhaps you'll like them too." You'll be shocked at how much people like such things.
Another option is a list of links to useful instructions. A couple of years ago, all my friends with kids were having issues with wifi connection...there was always something going wrong. So I made up a list of links for how to overcome those problems. (The real winner was the link that tells you how to link your router to a personalized QR code...scan it and you're in. No having to post the password everywhere, no having to go over it again and again.)
Everyday goods that are a drag to have to buy yourself. I know, I'm super old, but I swear it just gripes me to buy detergent, or soap, or socks. This isn't great for a kid or someone you don't know well, but for your cordial next-door neighbor who you just know is going to bake you cookies? Might be perfect. You can do this with a gift card to a grocery store or dollar store if you don't know what odd brand loyalties they have. Throw in a note that says something like "Use this on things you have to buy that you don't want to buy, to free up some extra space in your budget for something you'd really rather have." Obviously, you don't want to accidentally insult someone, but if you know your friend has a Thing about Cascade Platinum Action Pacs, a big tub of them (that she didn't have to fork out for) is probably going to make her pretty happy.
· There's always baking, if you don't have to ship it far.
· There's always knitting or another craft, if you have the time.
If you are strapped for time and cash, a recipe plus one of the main ingredients is almost always a hit. I've given mulling spices (which you can make yourself for pennies on the dollar in big batches) a lot of times. Never once had someone say "ugh, what is this?" They don't bake, or drink wine? Tell 'em to use it as sachet.
I made recipe boxes for a bunch of people one year with inexpensive index card boxes from the dollar store, a glue gun, and cool wrapping paper. Pop in some cards with a couple of recipes, you're good to go.
What I guess I'm saying here is that you can give yourself the gift of time during the holiday season if you start now. This doesn't have to be about money. The point of the whole annual set of events is to enjoy yourself, which is easy to forget in all the hubbub. Feel free to drop your own hints in the comments -- I'm sure everyone has their own.”
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