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Monday, July 28, 2014

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Take It From Cats

LIFE GOALSIf someone moves to make room for you, take up more room.

If someone is looking over there, there's something to see.

If somebody sneezes, run.

If someone brings a bag into your home, look inside it.

If you don't want someone to leave, sit on his suitcase .

Clean between your toes.

Flaunt your full figure.

Hide loose change.

Even though you can take care of yourself, it's okay to let someone be nice to you.

It is perfectly fine to take a nap on the laundry. READ MORE

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Michelle Goldberg has a piece in this week's New Yorker about the state of the argument between trans-exclusionary radical feminists and transgenderism writ both large and personal; it reads slightly evasive (lots of "some people say that [insert old offensive idea]" type language; a lingering sense that the advent of trans rights is already "too much") and sort of stunningly gotta-hear-both-sides to this very pro-trans, pro-letting-a-person-be, chillwave-feminist brain over here, but it's a fascinating read.

Some self-described radical feminists [] have found themselves in an acrimonious battle with trans people and their allies. Trans women say that they are women because they feel female—that, as some put it, they have women’s brains in men’s bodies. Radical feminists reject the notion of a “female brain.” They believe that if women think and act differently from men it’s because society forces them to, requiring them to be sexually attractive, nurturing, and deferential. In the words of Lierre Keith, a speaker at Radfems Respond, femininity is “ritualized submission.”

"Radical feminists," writes Goldberg, "now find themselves in a position that few would have imagined when the conflict began: shunned as reactionaries on the wrong side of a sexual-rights issue. It is, to them, a baffling political inversion." God, I'm so glad that I was not in college during the second wave. [New Yorker] | July 28, 2014

Space Invaders

IMG_7499Tourists are freaks. (For context: I work in Times Square.) Tourists are unnatural to the environment into which they insert themselves; they walk funny; they talk wrong. David Foster Wallace wrote (in a footnote) that to be a tourist “is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all noneconomic ways would be better, realer, without you.” Something similar might also be said of journalists, who also insert themselves awkwardly on someone else’s turf. But the journalist, if we’re being high-minded about it, serves some civic or artistic purpose; the presence of the tourist is for the sheer sake of personal amusement. That is to say, the mission of a tourist is selfish, and with that comes a degree of indulgence—even a sense of entitlement, which maybe is necessary to function in a situation where, as a tourist, you know you don’t really belong.

I was a tourist in China for two weeks. I bopped from one landmark to another, squeezed into the subway, and did my best to avoid restaurants patronized by anyone who looked like me (i.e., non-Asian). Being an American tourist made me a burden as well as an object of fascination. I found myself, as a novelty, the unexpected beneficiary of attention and perks: somebody in Yunnan province asked where I was from, and then requested a picture; at a hot pot place in Xi’an, where there was an hour wait for a table, my group was told, through my Chinese-speaking college friend, that we could be seated right away because we were foreigners—we were “special.” Before we could protest, the waitress whisked us to our seats—past a row of disgruntled hungry people—and gave us small plastic bags to protect our phones and a cloth with which I could wipe steam from my eyeglasses. This sort of treatment was the opposite of what I would have expected from anyone forced to serve a tourist: not only was it encouraging of our trampling all over someone else’s night out to dinner, it was downright obsequious. Tip was included, so that wasn’t a motivating factor. Awkward as this should have been, it wasn’t—tasty, fun, kid-friendly, recommended!—because that is the essential contradictory nature of the tourist. READ MORE

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Ask a Fancy Person: Occasionless Gifts, Chemo Baldness at the Office, The "Thanks For the Birthday Wishes" Anomie

IS IT WORTH IT, LEMME WORK ITDear Fancy,

I am a woman in my 30's undergoing chemotherapy. As a result, I'm bald. It hasn't been so bad (well, the chemo sucks, but fashion-wise, I mean), because my friends have lent me many colorful headscarves to wear. I'm also fortunate to have a nice wig to wear for special occasions, but I prefer not to wear the wig all the time.

Sometimes, though, I'd just like to be bald, especially in the summer when it's so hot outside. Do you think it would be unprofessional for me to go bald sometimes in the office if I still dress well and pay attention to my makeup? I've only done it a few times in public and I've liked it, but I'm worried about working in the office bald.

Thank you!

Baldie

Dear Baldie,

First, let me say on behalf of my real self, my alterego Fancy, and all the ‘Pinners, we’re rooting for you and are completely positive you’re going to deal cancer a humiliating loss, akin to the one the Mighty Ducks dealt Iceland in D2.

But you didn’t write me to give you Gordon Bombay-style pep talks via the internet, so onto your question. Feel completely and totally free to do whatever you want. It’s dandy if you want to wear colorful scarves and a wig, and it’s peachy to go without, too. Professionalism doesn’t even enter into that equation. Cancer aside, if you chose to buzz your hair, you’re still presentable in a business setting. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, that’s unacceptable and you can tell them I said that. There are some kinds of styles that aren’t appropriate in all settings, but this just ain’t one of them. Looking the part of the teacher/sandwich artist/graphic designer/nanny/lawyer you are is more about not distracting from your work with a Pikachu neck tat, not about the specifics of the length of your hair. Dress like you’re at work, put on a touch more makeup than you might otherwise to play up your best features, and wear some pretty earrings and people will forget that you aren’t choosing baldness as A Look.

What I’m going to say next is likely not going to be popular, but I’m not here to make friends. Much like people love to touch the bellies of pregnant ladies in the deli aisle at the Piggly Wiggly, people love to talk to bald women about their lack of hair. If you choose not to wear your wig or scarves, you have to be prepared for thoughtless people both known and unknown to you to say galling things. You need to have a pat answer at the ready to keep it from wrecking your whole day and making you feel less confident. If you’re feeling glum, that might not be the occasion to go scalp out; having a lot of these interactions can wear you down.

So, I recommend against telling strangers you’re too busy roundhouse kicking cancer in the face to worry about dumb shit like their comfort level with your illness: it's the true response, but you’ll ultimately end up in an even longer, more galling conversation if you take that route. Tell them that you were tired of it drying weird after bikram yoga, pick up your dry cleaning, and exit stage left. There’s nothing to be ashamed of about losing your hair, but you probably don’t want to have a lengthy back and forth with anyone stupid enough to approach a woman they don’t know to ask about her prognosis.

For people you know but not well, don’t feel like you have to lie or divulge personal information or make an excuse. Say something like, "Well, Steve, I’m going through both August and chemo at the same time, and it was just too hot today to mess with my wig. Have you seen any Keurig pods? I’m not nuts about the Caribou ones and that’s all that’s left in that bin by the water cooler.” Don’t give them a point of entry into talking about your health because you don’t owe them that; be better than them by not making a scene when you easily could. Anyone who needles you about it is just being thoughtless, so surprise them by being thoughtful in return.

Yours in sickness and in health,

Fancy

 

 

Dear Fancy,

I’ve inherited a strange shopping habit from my mother and aunts, which is to buy things for my friends and family, regardless of occasion, if it’s cheap and I think they’ll like it. I do most of my clothes shopping at thrift and consignment stores, and I cannot control myself if I see something I think my roommate would look great in, or a good pair of shoes for my fashionably-challenged younger brother. Sometimes I get to the checkout and I’m buying more stuff for other people than I am for myself! Most of the recipients seem to enjoy my spontaneous “I-saw-this-and-thought-of-you” gifts, but sometimes I can’t tell if they genuinely like it or if they’re just humoring me. Is this a habit I should break, or am I doing my loved ones a favor by always keeping an eye out?

Sincerely,

I’m Turning Into My Mother READ MORE

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Eid Mubarak!

Celebrations all over the world, violence in some places, a maybe-violated cease-fire in Gaza.

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Holobody, "Fireworks" (Animal Collective Cover)


Fireworks” is probably my favorite Animal Collective song and definitely the Animal Collective song I most wish would get a blown-out, fluid, sexual R&B cover by Miguel or Frank Ocean or someone else who could pull it off; until that blissful day, I’m happy to take this psychedelia-at-the-mall version by Montreal band Holobody, with that super-plastic texture that kicks in halfway through, like a bunch of balloons rubbing against each other. (Via Fader.)

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Talking to Tina Haver-Currin, Steadfast Pro-Choice Protester and Gentle, Brilliant Troll

TINAAAI first caught wind of Saturday Chores, Grayson and Tina Haver-Currin’s ingeniously weird pro-choice protests, on Facebook. Of course I did a double-take at a photo of Grayson, the bearded, metal-loving music editor of my local alt weekly, holding a sign that said, “I Love Turtles” (full disclosure: I’ve written a couple of things for the Indy Week under Grayson’s purview). A week later, I saw Tina foisting a poster that said “Bring Back Crystal Pepsi.” I don’t think it gets more metal than standing on the side of the road surrounded by hateful right-wingers, standing up for both absurdity and common sense.

I emailed Tina, one half of Saturday Chores, to see what prompted this feat of humor, bravery, and Tumblr-worthiness.

Linnie Greene: Hi Tina! Thanks so much for chatting with me about Saturday Chores. Some of this info is on your Tumblr, but for those who aren’t familiar: what is this thing? What prompted you to start these counter-protests?

Tina Haver Currin: Our very first counter-protest happened on a bit of a whim. There’s no big box hardware store very close to where we live, so Grayson and I were driving toward a suburb of Raleigh called Cary, which runs over with strip malls. I had gotten a gift card to Home Depot for my birthday, and we decided to get supplies for a garden box. We passed the clinic on the way.

Grayson and I both grew up not too far away, and we’ve seen the clinic in question hundreds of times. But for some reason, on this morning in particular, the protestors got under our skin a little more than normal. Grayson suggested that we make a sign that said “Weird Hobby” and point at one of the protestors. We tried to buy poster board at Home Depot, but they don’t carry it. As we were leaving, I ripped a vinyl sale sign off of a display and took a Sharpie to it. We posted the results to Instagram and Facebook, and people flipped.

That happened on March 8, 2014, and we vowed to keep it going. Pretty much every weekend we’ve been in town, we’ve stopped in with a new sign.

Some of the signs are fairly pointed (“Women’s Rights Expert”) whereas a few others are surreal (“Bring Back Crystal Pepsi”). How do you pick? Why do you opt for less serious messages (no offense, of course, to Crystal Pepsi)?

Grayson and I usually brainstorm signs on the way to the clinic, which is about fifteen minutes from our home. We keep a Sharpie in our car and I write the sign on location (I have the better handwriting of two of us, but not by much). We flip-flop each week, with one of us holding the sign and the other taking the pictures.

I’m more in the absurdist camp (“I Like Turtles” and “Bring Back Crystal Pepsi”), but Grayson is comfortable being a little more direct (“Women’s Rights Expert”). I think the zany signs help lighten the self-serious nature of these kinds of protests. The topic isn’t funny, of course, but I find some comfort in fighting hate with humor. If we can change the perception of what a protest is supposed to look like—serious, stern, boring, judgmental—maybe we can convince more people to take another look, start a discussion, and hopefully (!) get involved.

Are reproductive rights an issue that either or both of you have protested for or worked with previously? Was there something about the current political climate that made this seem like the right time to take action?

Grayson and I live in North Carolina. In 2012, “we” elected a Republic governor, Pat McCrory, and Republicans were voted into majority in both state houses. It’s the first time since 1870 that Republicans have had control of both the legislative and executive branch. As you might expect, there’s been a substantial shift toward conservative governance, including cuts to social programs and education, a push for voter ID laws, and, of course, restriction to abortion access.

On June 24, 2013—the day Grayson and I returned from our honeymoon—I was intentionally arrested for civil disobedience through a grassroots movement called Moral Mondays. That has stalled out a bit (I’m still awaiting trial, more than a year later), and I wanted to take more direct action. Plus, holding signs is way more fun than going to jail. READ MORE

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All Your "Working On My Novel" Tweets Now Collected in Cory Arcangel's New Book

#BYEVia Fader, here's Working On My Novel, the latest project from artist Cory Arcangel: he says it documents "the act of creation and the gap between the different ways we express ourselves today," I say it documents the impossibility of coincident documentation and the brutality of having an outsize mismatch between your ambition and your chill. Either way everyone wins because they've been published by Penguin, and a live feed of all the dilettantes is available at Cory Arcangel's book site.

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Azealia Banks, "Heavy Metal And Reflective"


Many moons ago, Azealia Banks blessed us with "212"; three years later we don't yet have a debut album (and she dropped herself from her label), but we do have movement. Here's "Heavy Metal And Reflective," an extended, bouncy, guttural boast released by Azealia Banks Records. Elsewhere: "Video Girl," a new leak from FKA Twigs' forthcoming album, and Jenny Lewis' Newport Folk Festival set.

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As they traffic in all these modified body parts, even the most esteemed surgeons in the field can come across as almost blasphemously politically incorrect in casual conversation. (I had never thought Mongoloid was anything other than an insult until a black surgeon used it to praise a mouth, and even the term “ethnic plastic surgery” confuses most accepted distinctions between ethnicity, which is tied to culture and language, and race, which includes physical appearance.) These exchanges can be jarringly retro but also oddly refreshing—discussions of race with strangely post-racial specialists who choose to see beauty as something that can be built, à la carte, with features harvested from peoples all over the world. It feels like science fiction—but utopian or dystopian, I can’t decide.

The New York cover story this week is from our pal Maureen O'Connor, who checks in on the world of "ethnic plastic surgery" and is told, diagnostically, "You inherited a Caucasian nose. Your nose is nice. Your eyes have a little bit of Asian mixed in." [The Cut] | July 28, 2014

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Weekend Roundup

me rnWe made it. We found love in a butt rock place and hate at the top of the charts; we fell in love in sickness and health but mostly in sickness, we played Knausgaard bingo, we took stock of our handbags, and we baked a Roman nut tart that called for... fish sauce. We had a personal revelation (although not the one I would have chosen) and celebrated Prince George turning one. We dated women in Paris and re-watched It Happened One Night and read Blake Lively's website for approximately five minutes. We were lonely, we refused to wiggle, we turned 40.

And now it's weekend time! Have a good one.


Photo via LC Nottaasen/Flickr

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How Butt Rock Helped Me Find Love

MONSTER BALLADSI fell in love because of butt-rock.

Allow me to tell the tale of how I stopped giving a damn about everyone's beard-strokey, sophisticated tastes in music and found the man of my dreams thanks to Def Leppard and Skid Row and Poison and Mötley Crüe (superfluous umlauts and all); also, Guns-N-Roses, Great White, Damn Yankees, Warrant, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Slaughter, Queensrÿche (there's that umlaut again), Scorpions and Metallica.

I'm in love. On a glory night. Where the children of tomorrow share their dreams. With you and me. And nothing else matters.

To rewind a bit: I met my boyfriend on assignment for an alt-weekly Portland newspaper. The idea was to throw myself into the online dating scene and write about my adventures for the Valentine's Day issue. To rewind a bit more: I’d recently moved to the Pacific Northwest after a split with my partner of four years, and so I took the job with a shrug and a scowl. My breakup, while remarkably amicable, left me heart-sore and well past cynical. True love? A joke.

Anyway, in the past, love always had always hit me hardest on the funny bone. It was too mushy to be taken seriously. My previous partner rarely said he loved me without following up his declaration with a joke and a fart, or a joke about farts. I thought sentiment was for the stupid, for the dim bulbs who didn't know better; I thought romantic comedies were a lie, love songs just fluff radio filler at best and salt in a wound at worst. “Happy in love” spelled “borderline sex addict.”

And by this year I felt myself a jaded spinster and determined to stay that way. But I was also a journalist with an article to write, so, comforted by the fact that I could always cancel my account at a moment's notice, I created a Match.com profile. Like everyone else, I posted flattering pictures of myself. I wrote pithy captions underneath said photos. I hit a button and mumbled at the screen, “Here goes absolutely nothing.”

Cyberspace seemed eager to validate my preconceived notions. Soon my inbox was full of oddly worded missives from the land of the weird: long-haul truckers wanting a ride-along, bikers in search of a bitch, spiritual types who hoped we could “meld” together. I got a flurry of unsolicited dick pics from an HVAC repairman. One dude asked if I would like to meet his mother before I'd even met him. I started to shudder every time I logged on.

Then, a week into the experiment, Eric, a divorced father of three, sent me a polite message. His profile picture showed a handsome man with beautiful blue eyes and a sweet smile. He looked cute. He looked normal. Or, at the very least, not homicidal. With my deadline approaching, I agreed to meet him in a few days for bowling and beer.

It seems so ugly now that I thought about him only in terms of material. I’m cynical, but I don’t get much more cynical than that.

It's hard to say when he stopped being material and started being someone I wanted to know better. Maybe it was halfway through his second terrible bowling game. A former Marine with a great physique, he somehow couldn't throw a strike to save his life. Or it could have been when he talked about his kids, how he talked about them, with a mixture of pride and exasperation and unconditional love. Either way, we left the bowling alley behind for a local pool hall, where, much to my chagrin, the jukebox seemed stuck in a never ending cycle of butt-rock love ballads. READ MORE

The Cost of Breaking Up and Moving Out

One Day

Last month, my relationship of five-plus years ended. Emotionally, it was about 75 percent mutual and 25 percent devastating. Financially, it was 100 percent a huge setback to my savings.

My ex and I had been living together since the summer of 2011. Luckily, we had been careful to split every major bill and purchase over those years, and kept a regular IOU that we tallied up at the end of every month and paid each other back via our separate rent checks.

However, separating our lives and moving out has still been a huge hit to what little I had in savings. A tally of what I have spent so far:

$4.15: Cost of public transportation to take myself and three travel bags to stay with a friend the morning after the break-up

$62.40: Various toiletries and cleaning items I bought to use at my friend’s place that I couldn’t haul with me when I left

$350: Rent I paid my friend to stay in the guest bedroom of her apartment for most of June READ MORE

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Why I Have To Be So "Rude"

FUCK YA BRO"Rude" is the #1 song in America; “Rude” is a strong contender for the worst song I have ever heard. For the lucky uninitiated, I can only explain “Rude” like this: it’s the aural equivalent of a man listening to reggae for the first time in his racecar bed, slowly fucking the hole in a Kidz Bop CD.

Here, take a dip, the water's absolutely disgusting!

Ostensibly, the success of Magic!’s “Rude” can at least partially be explained by the history of American top 40's irregular dabbles in reggae, which have tended to appear in the form of one-offs rather than any tangible wave: “I Can See Clearly Now” in 1973, “Red Red Wine” in 1984, Shaggy in 2000. But “Rude” is a reggae song the way a gas station taquito is a formal expression of Mexican cuisine, and I think, if we’re going to situate the song in some larger context, “Rude” is most interesting as an artifact in the realm of ideas. “Rude” is like a Dorito bag that got stuck on a spike of the crown of the Statue of Liberty: it’s a pop object with no content and only as much form as is necessary to deliver brief chemical gratification, which, through an unlikely ascension, becomes newly visible as a pure expression of tragedy, degradation and American garbage. “Rude” is utterly embarrassing and radically unselfconscious, a derpfaced college sophomore defensively grunting FML as he waddles to the closet for toilet paper because he ran out mid-wipe.

The first time I heard “Rude” I thought it was a 1-800-411-PAIN ad, because Detroit radio is currently running one that sounds sort of like a more palatable version of “Rude.” The next couple of times I had the sort of physical reaction I associate with suddenly coming in contact with bees; before my mind could process what was happening, I pawed at my radio dial quickly, ahhh, get it away!

Eventually, because I do spend a lot of time in my car listening to top 40, I let my guard down for long enough to consciously hear the end of the chorus: the “marry that girl” refrain, suggesting cartoon lobsters singing under the sea, and then the “marry her anyway” echo that follows, frenzied and palm-sweaty sentimental, like a sonic blend of Crazytown and Tal Bachman. MARRY DAT GURL, marry her anyway; MARRY DAT GURL, marry her anyway.

Thus was I swept under the horrible surface to briefly swim in the song’s tenuous claim to an idea: “Rude” is one of those songs with a “story.” A drunk second cousin to the “You don’t know you’re beautiful (babe, let me help you with that low self-esteem [WITH MY DICK])” mainstream pop banger, this song takes as its central conceit the retrograde plight of a young man requesting a title transfer. Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life, sings the singer to a dad, the melody wandering downwards to illuminate the fact that this is not a real question. Say yes say yes because I need to know. I am from the South and understand that some people enjoy this “tradition” but it’s also 2014 and the only true “need to know” situation I can imagine is if the daughter is under the age of consent, in which case: ask away. Otherwise, time to do a little less.

About a month ago, I was in Los Angeles and very stoned in the middle of the afternoon and taking an Uber across town. Stuck in traffic, the guy driving sent a string of emails from his Blackberry, pausing only to turn up the radio when “Rude” came on, and then, a few seconds later, turn the song up even more. I accepted this divine message: the light in me needed to salute and honor the light in “Rude.” So I listened closely, wanting to understand. READ MORE

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Back in June, Slate published a piece about adults reading books meant for kids, making the case that we should read more sophisticated, age-appropriate material. Three days later, Medium published a response entitled “Why Criticizing Young Adult Fiction is Sexist.” If irritation were fatal, I’d have perished where I sat.

But my patience around other purportedly feminist issues had been tried in smaller ways. Like last year, when Sheryl Sandberg declared that the word “bossy” needed to be reclaimed. #BanBossy, the moms on my Facebook feed chorused, bragging about how they were going to teach their daughters that being bossy was actually great. Now, there is a reasonable conversation to be had about how women’s assertiveness is not valued, but #BanBossy was not my idea of a conversation. It was a cheap commodification of something more complicated.

#BanBossy was just one of the feminist flavors on Facebook that I tasted and immediately wanted to spit out. There is also the persistent complaint about airbrushing in magazines, as if fashion magazines have ever promised to be a woman’s friend, as if someone were forcing us to buy them.

Hot 44-year-old and known David Brooks impersonator Sarah Miller is on TIME today, advocating for messiness and ambiguity where messiness and ambiguity is deserved. | July 25, 2014