Tuesday, September 23, 2014


"Has Your Husband Read It?"

bfe39b8a5b35753c07a0c90b405fc468Over the weekend I read Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce, mostly because several of my friends had e-mailed me this review by Pooja Bhatia with the following line highlighted:

People compare Tierce to Joan Didion, maybe the doyenne of literary realism, and Mary Gaitskill, whose intense short stories have explored sex and debasement.

I mean, sold.


Incongruity Noted

What happens if you strip away most of the connective tissue in this New York Times article about sexual assault in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn?

1. By day, the handsome block of Irving Place that runs between Gates and Putnam Avenues in Brooklyn projects a vibrant wholesomeness. Women push strollers past the red-brick Mount Zion Tabernacle Church; young couples tote Trader Joe’s bags past a photo gallery; and watchful neighbors walk dogs in front of Public School 56.
2. It might seem incongruous, then, that this area would be the setting of two violent crimes: A 31-year-old woman told the police that she had been sexually assaulted twice on Aug. 31, the attacks coming one hour and a block apart in the near-dawn of Sunday morning.
3. Many residents of this section of Clinton Hill said the assaults had occurred amid a broader pattern of crime that taints these blocks on the weekends.

“You come out late at night, early in the morning, you see three, four prostitutes,” said Benny Allen, 30, a youth sports coach who grew up and still lives in the area. “Two years ago, I saw a man and a woman going at it right there on that sidewalk. I had to run them off.”

4. Standing in the doorways of multifamily buildings valued at $1 million to $3 million, residents told of their encounters with prostitutes and their clients.

We can keep going:

1. wholesomeness, strollers, Trader Joe’s
2. incongruous, sexually assaulted
3. broader pattern of crime, prostitutes, "run them off."
4. $3 million, residents

The GENTRIFICATION STORY lens is so narrow and distorting that a report about sexual assault in a changing neighborhood becomes a story about a "broader pattern" of crime; just broad enough to include and implicate both the people perpetrating sexual assault and their victims. But no broader!



What’s the Color of Your Existential Abyss?

What was the last book you read?
1. A comfort.
2. A masterpiece.
3. A disappointment.
4. A story now stitched into your psyche.
5. A tale that still makes you ball up your hands into fists.
6. A whole other place.


How to Save Time and Money


The Erotic Thrill of Michael Douglas


Crossed, uncrossed. Crossed, uncrossed. Michael Douglas sat on stage at the Toronto Film Festival mirroring the most famous scene in one of his most famous movies. In Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone crosses and uncrosses her legs while being interrogated by a room full of men. At a dinner in his honor earlier this month, Douglas did the same thing while being interrogated by Tina Brown. And even though he was wearing pants (and presumably underwear), all I could think of was what was inside them; because to me, to this day, where Michael Douglas goes, sex follows. READ MORE


The Bacha Posh of Afghanistan

At Mehran’s school, children are absolutely forbidden from seeing the opposite sex naked. The headmaster tells me that at this stage, she is certain that to most students, what sets little boys and girls apart is all exterior: pants versus skirts.

That, and the knowledge that those with pants always come first.

Earlier this month, The Atlantic published an article about Afghanistan's young girls who present as boys, or bacha posh, excerpted from Jenny Nordberg's forthcoming book, The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan. The girls, who are all under ten, undergo a superficial gender "change"—short hair, boyish clothes, no jewelry—for a multitude of reasons, but most often to strengthen their family's security, safety, and reputation. Since the children are so young, some of them, like the aforementioned Mehran, who "transitioned" at age six, understand that it's just for show, and that they will one day return to femininity. Others reject the change completely. As Nordberg notes, Freud ascertained that children don't learn about genital differences until they are four or five years old, but more recent research maintains that it can happen much earlier—before the girls undergo their transitions, hence some of the girls' fervent pushback. Either way, many Afghani children are purposely sheltered from such lessons, the first stake in the unceasing project of families attempting to maintain purity among their young. READ MORE


We Are Now A Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen Appreciation Blog


During a Q&A session, a fan asked how they felt when people stared. It was amusing, considering the whole cruise was designed for the twins to be stared at constantly.

“We don’t really mind it because we’re used to it,” Mary-Kate said. “But I think it’s funny when people are standing right next to you and whispering, ‘Look, it’s the Olsen twins!’They think they’re whispering, but they’re, like, screaming it out.”

Chloe Schildhause writes about her experience aboard The SS Olsen Twins (not the real name of their cruise) (but wouldn't it be so perfect if it was?) READ MORE


Weekend Round Up / Open Thread


Hehehehehhehehehehehehehehehehhehehehehehehehehehehheehheheheheheheheheheheheheheheh (Haley should've never let me follow her on Instagram) (Happy #flashbackfriday, y'all)

It's Friday afternoon, so this is where we leave you: at the end of our third week. Our first was the worst, our second was the best, here is our week with the hairy chest: we destroyed men, sexted a bot, wrote some fan-fiction, reconciled our thoughts on motherhood, went to TIFF, re-watched She's All That, wrote a letter to our aunties, conned some Canadians, despised the wigs of The Brittany Murphy Story, interrogated the Internet, investigated our iPhones, almost died in the Italian woods, and, of course, ate some snacks.

Let's celebrate the Ladies We Love: Chiara Atik wrote about the coolness of flip phones, Katie J.M. Baker investigated Charity Johnson and the deceit of her youth, and Pizza Queens Hazel Cillis and Gabby Noone were featured in the New York Times for their #snackwave authority. Two Random Women got new jobs, and we couldn't be happier. They are all MacArthur geniuses in our heart, second only to Alison Bechdel, a MacArthur genius in real life. Dang!

In Hairpin-land, Haley and I bought matching computers; she got a tattoo and I took out my braids (the hair was fake, as I'm sure you all know, but the neck problems were very real) and cut my hair to what some call Emma Watson short but I just called Monday. Ch-ch-changes. What did you change this week? If you didn't change anything, what David Bowie songs have you been listening to? I know I always tell you to send comments, dog pictures, and pie recipes—which many of you have, causing me to grow literal tears in my eyes in the middle of the Apple Store because I love dogs and pie THAT much—but consider the roundup your open thread, too! Come! Sit! Show me puppy pics! We'll see you back here on Monday.


Hail Satan, Tonight: John Darnielle's Wolf in White Van


When you punish a person for dreaming his dream

Don't expect him to thank or forgive you

The best ever death metal band out of Denton

Will in time both outpace and outlive you

Hail Satan!

Hail Satan tonight!

Hail Satan!
Hail hail!

-The Mountain Goats, Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton

Wolf in White Van is the first novel from the man who might've been the Poet Laureate of the United States of America, despite having only really written songs about lonely people and monsters. As the sole founder of the beloved indie folk band The Mountain Goats, John Darnielle is no stranger to touching people with his words—in The New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones once called him “America's best non-hip-hop lyricist.”

In October 2012, a few thousand people signed a petition for the White House to bestow on him the same honors once held by Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mark Strand, and Louise Gluck. The power of Darnielle's lyrics are such that it's not hard to envision his name on the historic list of our most highly honored poets.

More than the lyricism of his work, Darnielle is known for the power of storytelling and myth-making in his songs, and has crafted characters that live on in the hearts of fans the world over. Consider, by way of example, Jeff and Cyrus, “a couple of guys who’d been friends since grade school,” who are the subjects of the first song on The Mountain Goat's 2002 album All Hail West Texas. Once you've heard the fuzzy, tape recorded voice of John Darnielle hissing “Hail Satan” over his single, forcefully strummed acoustic guitar a few dozen times, the hopes of young Jeff and Cyrus will become a part of you, no matter how you feel about pentagrams. As Martin Seay wrote in his recent article on the power of this one single song, for The Believer, “Here, as elsewhere, Darnielle’s angry, earnest, defiantly uncool project is to reclaim for awkward adolescence—which has no escape route, no better option than to stand its ground and reject what would assimilate it—the moral authority that is its rightful due.” READ MORE


Thrashin' Fashion: A Lover of Weirdos


A soft blanket of romanticism fell over London this season. The city's usual wild and crazy spirit gave way to silks hanging by thin straps, ruffles, and an abundance of florals. This romanticism was not without its edge (this is London, after all), but there was a palpable calmness on the runway. The rebel spirit borne out of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen's influence lives on, but in a younger generation; I guess that's the way that it should be.

Meadham Kirchhoff, the label favored by Tumblr girls, continues to proudly carry the #1 weirdo torch on the London scene. I say this as a compliment—what am I if not a lover of weirdos. READ MORE


The Best Time I Thought I Was Going To Die In The Italian Woods

“You don’t have to speak Italian, it’s completely fine. Non ti preoccupare.”

The fact that my boss couldn’t get through the entire reassurance in English should have been a tip off. But it wasn’t. I accepted the job, an offer almost too good to be true: myself and my first-ever Serious Boyfriend would be working in Italy for a now-defunct government program that sent Italian government officials’ children away from them for a few weeks every summer.

A regular summer camp in most of its programming, we would teach English for three hours total each day. In return, we would be housed, fed, paid, and free to roam the Italian national park where the camp was located. “If you’re working, try to keep it professional, you know. No more than three glasses of wine with lunch,” my future boss—a British man named Peter who sounded like he was kind and handsome—had said on the phone. It was really and truly too much. READ MORE


Valery Gore, "With the Future"

I'm an old fart, so usually songs released in the past ten years make me feel like I'm in an Urban Outfitters in one of two ways: that I'm in Urban Outfitters and stressed out and feeling poor but on a fashion bender and committed to purchasing something cool that I know I'll never have the guts to wear while manic alt-punk music fills my ears, or that I'm in Urban Outfitters, I hear a cool song that would never have come on the Ella Fitzgerald Pandora station, and I think, "Thank God I came into Urban Outfitters to hear this cool song." READ MORE

"I Stopped Carrying a Wallet When I Became Homeless"

george wallet seinfeld

Maybe I should start carrying a wallet again. Maybe a nice, grown-up wallet would act as a talisman, attracting wealth and prosperity. The pink vinyl change purse I got at Target seems to only attract change. It’s not big enough to hold more than several bills and cards. Maybe a nice, leather upwardly mobile billfold would change my luck.

Since I was old enough to carry my own lunch money to school, I have had a wallet. Usually, I carried them until they fell apart, transferring them daily into whatever handbag matched that day’s outfit. Having a wallet felt like being a grown-up.

My father carried a wallet. Having lived through the Great Depression, he didn’t have full faith in banks, so at times his billfold was thick with over $1,000 in cash. My mother didn’t have a wallet. She placed her meager money in a delicate hankie, folded up into a tiny square and pinned inside her bra. Loose change went into one of those plastic oval holders that opened like a mouth when both ends were pinched. Momma didn’t work, but Daddy would always give her a few dollars for incidentals, nothing more. Early on, I learned that he who had the thick wallet had the power.

And when I got old enough to wear a bra, I never felt secure with a hankie and a safety pin.

When I became an adult, with a real job and responsibilities, I got a nice, fancy wallet to match. I remember the pride I felt when I placed by very first credit card in my wallet. As the years passed, I filled all of the slots in my wallet with every credit card known to man, while the amount of paper money dwindled. Even though all of those accounts are closed now, either by choice or by default, I still keep some of those cards, like photos of old friends that I used to know but have lost contact with over the years.

I stopped carrying a wallet in December 2011, when I became homeless. READ MORE

The Cost of Missing Your Flight

airplane wing I spent a week in Seattle recently – my sister had a wedding to attend, and I tagged along to shop and explore the city. The wedding was on a Saturday night. Our flight home was booked for the following day, connecting through O'Hare, and we were scheduled to arrive home just in time for her to get a full night's sleep before her nursing shift early Monday morning.

We ended up missing our connection because we were stupid enough to think we had enough time between flights to go to the bathroom and get something to eat without running through O'Hare like romantic comedy heroines chasing after Chris Pine or whatever. We showed up at the gate two minutes after our plane finished boarding, and we knew it was the last flight home to Montreal that day.

So, here's what it costs to be an idiot and miss your flight:

$30.70 USD: a turkey sandwich for me that ended up being cold and bland, and a lemonade and soup for my hung-over sister. Luckily her soup wasn't as bad as my sandwich. Price includes tax and a tip for the slowest airport food service employee I have ever seen. (In hindsight, I shouldn't have left a tip. Sometimes I'm too polite.)

$47.82 CAD: my phone bill for the roaming minutes included in my travel pack and overage charges, covering phone calls to our airline's rebooking hotline, who ultimately couldn't do anything for us, then to another airline, who was experiencing a high volume of calls and kept me on hold while we rushed through the terminal (or multiple terminals, I didn't even know anymore at that point) trying to find a service desk for said airline or really, anyone who could help, and wondered why airports don't have general customer service desks so that you would know where to find what you're looking for. More roaming minutes were used to call our parents, the hospital where my sister works to let them know she'd miss her shift the next day, and then finally to a hotel booking hotline after we found some very helpful airline employees who took pity on two stupid, weary, very polite travelers, transferred us to the first flight home the next morning, and gave us the number of a hotline to call for discounted rates on airport hotels. (They were incredible. By some miracle,we weren't charged to re-book the flight, and I would gladly send them a bottle of wine if I could. Instead, I wrote the airline a very grateful email.) READ MORE


A Man Walks Into A Bar

A man walks into a bar. He takes a seat at the bar, nods to the bartender, orders a Corona. The man is alone. He is the joke. READ MORE