Tuesday, February 28, 2006

last day of february notes.

Poppy Z. Brite is interviewed about New Orleans at the Village Voice. She's known lately for the books Liquor and Prime, about a couple of guys who own a restaurant in New Orleans. I haven't read them yet, but my copies of her goth-y, gay books Lost Souls and Drawing Blood are falling apart from my reading them each at least a dozen times when I was about 14. I was reading her blog for awhile when Katrina first hit, since she's the writer I've always associated with New Orleans, and I knew she had something like 20+ cats in her house down there. She and her husband ended up leaving town at the last minute before the hurricane, completely torn up about having to leave the animals, but amazingly managed to find most of the kitties with various rescue organizations when they got back. Their house was pretty much destroyed though.

Also at the Voice: Rachel Kramer Bussell has a kind of bizarre column, where she talks about whether guys should pay the check on a date. It's funny to see her writing about this now, since I just started reading Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions and Cash by Liz Perle, which is about the different relationships men and women have to money and power. I'm not far enough into it yet to have an opinion, but it's pretty fascinating (if not totally surprising) stuff. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thanks partly to the completely gut-wrenching Modern Love column last weekend, and partly to downloading Beatles songs while I was in the throes of procrastination last night, I really really want to watch Help! (ie, Beatles movie #2, the one in color), which I haven't seen since the hundred or so times I watched it as a kid (Zach and I had a very serious Beatles fixation for awhile there. It will surprise no one that John was always, always my favorite). But it doesn't seem to be out on DVD. So Netflix doesn't have it, and VHS availability is limited. Which of course only makes me want it more.

I'm listening to The Life Pursuit, the new Belle and Sebastian record. It is even more sugary than Dear Catastrophe Waitress. But I don't really care if people are whining about that. I could listen to "Funny Little Frog" and "To Be Myself Completely" on repeat all day. And I just might. These songs are sooooo fun, they work like caffeine. I wish I could go to one of their shows this week - especially since they're playing with The New Pornographers, who I'm totally in love with - but they've been sold out for a long time. It might actually be good that I can't go to the show, since if I heard B&S play live in in the same night as The New Pornographers, I might overdose on poptastic happiness.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Do yourself a favor and go pick up the March issue of Harper's and read the article "My Crowd," by Bill Wasik, who "invented" the flash mob. I haven't even finished it yet but it is blowing my mind. They're serializing it here, but you really need to read it all at once. If you don't feel like buying it, email me and I will scan and send you a copy.

Consider the generational cohort that has come to be called the hipsters—i.e., those hundreds of thousands of educated young urbanites with strikingly similar tastes. Have so many self-alleged aesthetes ever been more (in the formulation of Festinger et al.) “submerged in the group”? The hipsters make no pretense to divisions on principle, to forming intellectual or artistic camps; at any given moment, it is the same books, records, films that are judged au courant by all, leading to the curious spectacle of an “alternative” culture more unanimous than the mainstream it ostensibly opposes. What critical impulse does exist among their number merely causes a favorite to be more readily abandoned, as abandoned—whether Friendster.com, Franz Ferdinand, or Jonathan Safran Foer—it inevitably will be.

Yeah, when I mentioned South Dakota yesterday? Maybe not so much.

And so I stand by trying to turn craftsters into abortionists. Can you picture that Very Special Issue of Readymade?

Phoebe Connelly looks at the political potential (or not) of crafting:

Is the resurgent craft movement a new form of consumption, albeit with more felt and assembly, or is it a bold political act that challenges the way we think about gender roles and how we engage with our commodified world?

Oh jeez. It's an ethic people, tied to a culture that is supposed to care about things like politics and civil rights and all that. No, "an iPod cozy alone isn't going to protect the right to an abortion," but the drive that goes into making those things - and choosing to make them, maybe instead of, or at least in addition to, dropping a ton of money at the mall - is related to the drive to organize. Like crowds of kids at punk and hardcore shows, people involved in these communities are in a position to be politicized, because the arts and crafts and music they are involved with have roots in political engagement. The realization that you can literally Do It Yourself can be (though is obviously not always) revolutionary. This is not so complicated. What is complicated, is figuring out how to get these craftsters to take the next step. Maybe they can knit a giant straightjacket for the White House. Maybe they can be more visible or active in giving a shit about recycling, or small businesses. Hey, maybe they can be on the frontlines of DIY abortion.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I spent this morning searching for stock photos of people shopping in supermarkets, something to illustrate "consumer behavior" for the Annual Report. Now I have to decide which one to use. There are a lot of pictures of people talking on their cell phones as they walk around with their carts full of food, people groping fruit, cuts of meat, semi-cute kids sitting in shopping carts, that kind of thing. Then there are some random weird ones... a couple making out next to a cooler full of gallons of milk, some nudity in the produce section. A whole mess of photos of Hilary Clinton grocery shopping in 1994.

It's funny how schizophrenic I am when it comes to work. Friday and yesterday I was very into my job, being super efficient and smart and productive, and thinking to myself the whole time, "Wow, I am really into my job today." But today I can't make myself do anything. Still, those two days felt pretty good. I get all these emails from kids doing research projects on the rainforest, and I got one the other day from a girl who basically just sent me the entire list of questions her teacher had obviously handed out, and asked me to answer them. This is the part where I get to sternly say things like "I am sure that this information is available on the Web or in your school library."

While I'm procrastinating I'm reading Khaela Maricich's blog, which I haven't read in awhile, and which you should read if you don't already. The second photo down on this page looks like exactly where I feel like being right now, on a road on the way to somewhere I haven't been yet, with open fields out to both sides, in a car with some people that I love. I wouldn't need to lay on the road like in the picture, but I could if I felt like it. But this particular road is in France, and if I have a choice that's not where my road would be. I mean, France is okay, but I would rather be somewhere like Vermont. Though that sounds boring when compared to Europe. Maybe somewhere in Canada - Vancouver? - or some really random state like South Dakota. If international, I don't know. Switzerland was really beautiful. Ann always raved about Sweden. Wait, forget it - Washington state, definitely. Up in the mountains, and we could stop at the coffee stand where they sold everything made with lavendar, including lattes and honey.

I'm behind in updating the blog because, well, I've been watching a lot of figure skating on TV and had a lovely busy weekend which included seeing Allie and Lauren and then spending a large part of the next day crying about how much I miss them. I am just really emotional about the whole thing - about Allie being far away, and about the really hard situation she's in, about time together having to be like an event instead of just a fact. I am just a fucking wreck lately when it comes to thinking about my friends, I am responding like I'm watching Sophie's Choice or something. And really, that is a stupid comparison, not least because I haven't even seen that movie. But I also got to go out with Katie, and then today I made plans in the next week with both Alice and Betsy, and there is almost nothing better than seeing good friends who you never get to see. Except for seeing them all the time, I guess. I would definitely give up the novelty factor for routine when it comes to this.

Somewhere in between all the triple lutz combination spins by girls in spangly costumes, I saw a preview for an Amanda Bynes movie called She's The Man, wherein Bynes disguises herself as a boy and then falls in love with a dude while still passing as one. OMG! It opens next month. I might have to pay to see this one, I'm so intrigued. Even though I, like most other people, cannot stand Amanda Bynes. Maybe she'll be better as a faux boy. It's possibly (and surely loooooooosely) based on Twelfth Night, because Bynes' character is named Viola and there's the whole gender disguise thing. I can't imagine it will be anything by sickening, but I still want to see how gender bending is handled for the tween set. You can watch the trailer here.

Someone who I do not know wrote something very nice about my zine on her blog! I feel a little bit fame-ulous.

The Observer has an interesting profile of New York Times Magazine writer Daphne Merkin (who, somewhat irritatingly, wrote about vaginal rejuvination surgery a couple of weeks ago as if she were the first to notice that it exists), that gets at some of the thorny issues of being a woman writer who wants to write about both Serious Issues and also more personal things:

Ms. Merkin’s productivity is remarkable at a time when many magazines look like all-male reviews, save for the random communiqué from a woman on blowjobs or work-life balance. One could argue that women are unfairly penalized for baring their souls or, on the other hand, hired solely for such soul-baring. But Ms. Merkin manages to write about W.G. Sebald and Henry Roth, all while disclosing her experience of getting plastic surgery and discoursing on her own bad taste in men.

...Once, women who wrote about women and feminine concerns were considered feminists. Now it seems that women writing about women are in danger of bringing down all of womanhood. If the very subject that a woman writes about suggests her level of seriousness—i.e., her feminist chops—sometimes this might not include the subject of self.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Having a daughter makes parents more liberal than having a son.

In Germany, two-thirds of people who switched their political affiliation in the year after having a son moved to the more conservative party. The ratio was flipped for those who had a daughter.

In Britain, the two left of center parties, Labor and the Liberal Democrats, do much better — 11 percentage points — among voters with three girls and no boys than among voters with three boys and no girls.

How is this surprising?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I went out to buy rainboots and one of those brilliant devices that holds a piece of paper upright so you can type it's contents onto your computer without killing your neck (does anyone know what this is called? I felt like an idiot explaining it to 3 different people at staples, but I know it exists!). I came back with polaroid film and jelly beans.

I'm not going to my class tonight because I'm feeling kind of shitty and so I need to curl up on the couch with some tea and probably the Olympics, which I've been strangely obsessed with. I don't ever care about the summer olympics, but I think the winter games are so cool. Some of these sports are just insane. Bobsledding! Aerial skiiing! Luge! All sorts of crazy skintight costumes and boys wearing glitter. I used to live with a girl who was a former luge athlete from Lake Placid, and all of us in the house were completely in awe of this. Does anyone ever think about people who do luge, aside from a couple weeks every four years? Well I am here to tell you that they exist. We used to make her tell us stories and explain all sorts of things, and of course I don't really remember any of it except that she once got pulled over when she had her luge sled in the back seat of her car, and the cops were confused.

Also, the Olympics is the best background TV I have ever experienced. You can really watch it, while not really watching it, while cutting up magazines or making some new drawings, or, say, listing the contents of the Times Style sections over the past few months to use in an article you are writing. So I could even say that the Olympics have made me productive, and not be lying. And it doesn't make you feel nearly as stupid as other stuff on TV, even if the commentators are always saying things like "There must be something in the water in Switzerland that makes you spin well" and "The Chinese are always such strong jumpers" and "the Russians will always dominate this event." It is so quaintly global, if such a thing is possible. Also, Johnny Weir is seriously entertaining.

Other things beckoning me home tonight are a giant valentine's day cookie and the very last of the super buttery pasta I made the other day. Things I am less eager to come home to include my very very dirty floor, the mountain of clothes on my desk chair, and the giant hole in my bathroom wall.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Okay. I understand that the people who gave me Starbucks giftcards for the holidays were just trying to be nice. They were looking out for me. They were trying to indulge me. They were being thoughtful. They were not intentionally trying to undermine me.

Starbucks is one giant corporate business that I've been able to successfully avoid most of the time, and this is no small feat considering the number of Starbucks in NYC, and particularly, near where I work, dangerously close to the famous twin Starbucks of Astor Place. But I've done it. There really are a million indie coffee shops around here too, often in the shadow of a Starbucks, and you usually don't even have to search for one. And they are so much nicer and happier. And more noble. There's a Starbucks in the lower level of my office building, and after working here for a year and a half I had set foot inside only once, and it was to use the bathroom.

It's because of the mere $25 that made up those Starbucks giftcards that I discovered the cinammon dolce latte at all. And now I'm fucked. The gift cards ran out a few weeks ago, and now I'm stuck making excuses about why I need a $5 corporate coffee drink that comes in a cup with too cute philosophical musings printed on the side. I hate hate hate them for making a drink this delicious. I am ashamed. I need to detox (from Starbucks, not from coffee. Please). And I need to do it the serious way. I need to stop buying my morning coffee from the very nice guys at Coffee Master too, buy a new travel mug that isn't crusty and gross, and start making coffee at home like I used to do before I got lazy beyond words, back when I used to get to work within ten minutes of when I was supposed to.

So thank you, gift givers. Thank you for revealing me to be an unprincipled sucker. Now i'm going to go cry into my bourgie coffee, emblazoned with "The Way I See It" #76. Happy fucking Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Dan Savage has another brilliant Op-Ed at the Times:

Evangelical Christians seem sincere in their desire to help build healthy, lasting marriages. Well, if that's their goal, encouraging gay men to enter into straight marriages is a peculiar strategy. Every straight marriage that includes a gay husband is one Web-browser-history check away from an ugly divorce.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mattel concedes that a new and improved Ken, however dashing and fashionable, and his pending reconciliation with Barbie, however dramatic, is not the solution. But it will give the legions of girls who play with Barbie the kind of new plotline they crave.

It's been awhile since I played with Barbie, but I don't remember ever having a problem thinking up plotlines, so long as Barbie and Ken's clothes could come off. It didn't even matter how douchey he looked.

And I didn't know that Barbie and Ken split up 2 years ago! For an Australian surfer named Blaine? Shit. Apparently, Ken, heartbroken, traveled the world in search of himself, making stops in Europe and the Middle East, dabbling in Buddhism and Catholicism, teaching himself to cook and slowly weaning himself off a beach bum life.

Sounds like too many guys I know.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

here i am on the interweb.

Over at Bookslut you can read what I ultimately had to say about Self-Made Man, that mediocre book by Norah Vincent. And here's my review of The Thin Place, a sparkly magical book by Kathryn Davis.

Monday, February 06, 2006

manohla, i really do love you for your mind.

I'm smiling so hard after reading this Q&A with Manohla Dargis, NY Times film critic and my personal hero. And it's no secret that I fucking love the stupid Oscars, and the fact that Jon Stewart is hosting them is almost too much for me to handle. Some choice excerpts:

-- As to “Mrs. Henderson Presents” – yeah, well, I like British accents, too. But isn’t it time Dame Judi started working for a living?

-- Q. Why do you think Bill Murray's performance in “Broken Flowers” was overlooked this award season?
A. Maybe because the various organizations realized that it wasn’t any good.

-- About why Crash was nominated for Best Picture:
What could better soothe the troubled brow of the Academy’s collective white conscious than a movie that says sometimes black men really are muggers (so don’t worry if you engage in racial profiling); your Latina maid really, really loves you (so don’t worry about paying her less than minimum wage); even white racists (even white racist cops) can love their black brothers or at least their hot black sisters; and all answers are basically simple, so don’t even think about politics, policy, the lingering effects of Proposition 13 and Governor Arnold. This is a consummate Hollywood fantasy, no matter how nominally independent the financing and release.

-- There is only one possible explanation for why Terrence Malick’s glorious film [The New World], one of the most aesthetically and intellectually ambitious, emotionally devastating and politically resonant works of American art in recent memory, was overlooked by the Academy: with the exception of my few dear friends in that august body, they are idiots.

Daniel Mendelsohn gets it right in the New York Review of Books:

The real achievement of Brokeback Mountain is not that it tells a universal love story that happens to have gay characters in it, but that it tells a distinctively gay story that happens to be so well told that any feeling person can be moved by it. If you insist, as so many have, that the story of Jack and Ennis is OK to watch and sympathize with because they're not really homosexual—that they're more like the heart of America than like "gay people"—you're pushing them back into the closet whose narrow and suffocating confines Ang Lee and his collaborators have so beautifully and harrowingly exposed.

CNN was on the TV in my coffee place this morning, with the senate panel hearings on the eavesdropping "program." The guys in there had it on mute, but I swear, it looked like Gonzales was trying (though not very hard) not to grin.

I just don't understand why people think a couple making a new last name for them both to have in common is any weirder than a woman giving up her name and taking her husband's. Sunday Styles was a bit radical this week, huh? They also had this article about the lack of changing tables in men's restrooms.

Ummmmm, the new Pink video, "Stupid Girls"? Maybe it's a little bit hilarious that she makes fun of Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson et al in a video airing on MTV, but it's not cool for her to spend so much time calling them stupid. And are these specific "stupid girls" really the only ones to blame for the lack of women in leadership, as a powersuit-clad Pink seems to insist? I think not. In real life, the little pigtailed girl at the beginning and end of the video, who is shown to be so impressionable (with a non-slutty Pink as the angel on one shoulder, and a gyrating stripper-type as the devil on the other, in a totally bizarre bit of messaging), wouldn't learn anything from these oversimplified put downs. But at the very end of the video, she picks up a football instead of a barbie. Hooray! See, boy things are just better - and smarter! - than girl things.

It's also a wee bit convenient that Pink can use her own hot body to convincingly imitate these "stupid girls" in their bikinis and lingerie and daisy dukes, managing to show skin in her video while condemning other women for doing the same. Is this really what a girl pop singer has to do to differentiate herself?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Times has been running announcements for gay weddings since 2002, but I think this is the first time the big feature wedding story has featured a gay couple. A nice milestone, but it must be said, the sight of two women in frothy white wedding dresses is even more ridiculous than the sight of one. Ugh.

And Betty Friedan died yesterday, on her 85th birthday. Today a woman at Bluestockings was telling me something about how in Jewish mysticism it's very meaningful to die on your birthday. Well, whatever. Today, I'm going to remember this:

Though in later years, some feminists dismissed Ms. Friedan's work as outmoded, a great many aspects of modern life that seem routine today — from unisex Help Wanted ads to women in politics, medicine, the clergy and the military — are the direct result of the hard-won advances she helped women attain.

...but there'll be more to say later.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I took yesterday off. I highly recommend doing this. A Thursday off is especially good, because you basically only have a 3-day week to deal with, and then you only have to work a single day after your day off before the weekend, which is totally managable. I'm full of these elaborate schemes and philosophies about how to best arrange personal days and vacation time, and whether a Friday or Monday is a better day to have as a 3-day weekend (it's totally Monday). It would be nice to have more opporunity to put this in action though.

Anyway. Yesterday was great, two museums and then to a taping of The Colbert Report, which was just as fun and hilarious as you'd hope. The set/studio were much smaller than they look on TV, kind of like how famous people are always shorter in person than you think they'll be. The Colbert himself is actually tall, though. Watching as he watched a pre-taped segment where he interviewed representative Gerald Nadler was very cool. He was leaning back in his chair and grinning, so pleased with himself. Christie Whitman was the guest. She was okay, since, although she's a Republican - of the new "it's my party, too!" species - she's not a complete psychopath. Listening to her defend the Republican party, though, while at the same time saying that they are wrong on many social issues and are alienating lots of people and don't have much of a mandate for what they're doing to this country, made me want to throw something. You know? Moderate republicans are fiiiiiine, sure. Make nice. They don't mind the gays and theoretically support abortion rights (until it comes time to vote for a Supreme Court justice, apparently). But all of this is invalidated by their support for Bush. All these New Yorkers think Bloomberg is such a nice guy, but he was the biggest donor to Bush's reelection campaign. So is he any better? Not so much. Because when it comes down to it, you can bet Mike and Christie would happily sell you and you uterus and your deviant sex life out to protect their money and keep getting invited down to Crawford.

Speaking of your uterus, go read Rebecca Trainster's article, aptly named "What the Hell Happened?" at Salon. All I can think of now is that we need to get a lot more scary. We're pretty much on the verge of this... much as conservatives hate queers and feminists and single parents and environmentalists and civil rights activists and immigrants (and on and on), they also find us terrifying, and the kind of fear we inspire in them is a different kind than they inspire in us. There's something useful in that somewhere.

There's a show on at the International Center of Photography called, "Che: Revolution & Commerce," and it's worth checking out. It's basically an exploration of how the iconic Che Guevara image "Guerrillero Heroico," which may be the most widely reproduced image in the history of photography (just think about that!), has evolved and been used. Maybe the coolest part was seeing an enlargement of the contact sheet with the original "Guerillero Heroico" image on it, seeing where it fit in with the rest of what Alberto Korda shot that day. The show's not all about commercialization, either, or the irony of that image being used to sell things. There's a lot of that in there, but there's also a lot of protest art, and the show ultimately doesn't take a position on the pros and cons of commericalization (though you can buy a t-shirt of the show in the museum gift shop - the image on it is the uncropped photograph that is the basis of the show, which I guess says something about ICP's take on authenticity and their position on the whole reproducibility thing).

The "Obsessive Drawing" show at the Folk Art Museum was also pretty amazing, mainly because of one piece that left both Alex and me absolutely reeling. That piece, a 35-foot long, insanely detailed pencil drawing by Chris Hipkiss, isn't on the museum's or the artist's Web site, and if it was, it wouldn't compare to seeing the actual drawing anyway, which isn't behind glass, so every smudge and tiny square feels personal. I can't even begin to comprehend how he made this piece. But what I keep thinking about (aside from Hipkiss' work, which seriously makes my brain short circuit), is this: the show was made up of examples of obsessive drawing by 5 male artists. I would have been interested to know if this version of obsessiveness is something that tends to be acted out specifically by men (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is supposedly diagnosed in men and women equally, and much of the work here was clearly a product of OCD), but there's no way to figure this out based only on the gender represented at the show, since in the art world - as in so many other places - men are still the rule, and women the exception. A show called "Obsessive Drawing" that featured all women artists would be seen as some kind of statement about women... namely, that they're crazy. So, does women's absence from this show mean only men are crazy?