Friday, September 19, 2014


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


At Big Lots We Think Pets Are People Too!


Adventures in Sexting: An Interview with Kara Stone

kara-stone-photoKara Stone makes the games she wants to play. A Toronto-based artist, her primary mediums are interactive films and video games; her first game, Medication, Meditation was a Kill Screen Playlist Pick. Her latest, Sext Adventure, was recently chosen to be showcased at Indiecade.

Users playing Sext Adventure will find themselves sexting with an automated bot. The results of your sexting adventure are entirely up to you—the bot’s responses vary wildly. There is no way to predict the outcome of the game. Sext Adventure was designed to give the bot its own consciousness, personality, and sexuality as players progress. The bot can even reject its sexuality altogether, if it so chooses.

I first played Sext Adventure at a Dames Making Games event, where I was working on my own project. Together with Nadine Lessio, who coded the txtr engine Sext Adventure was built on, Kara had been working on her project all weekend, and everyone was excited to try the demo. When we finally got to test it for ourselves, the room went silent as we hunched over our phones, sexting a bot, the only sounds a few nervous giggles.
Kara aimed to make a game that explores issues of technology, gender, and digital intimacy. She’s part of a growing number of female developers, such as anna anthropy, Zoe Quinn, and merritt kopas, amongst others, who are making video games on their own terms. Their games explore depression and illness, gender and sexuality, feminist issues like objectification and harassment.

Often, these games are maligned by mainstream game press and players as “not-games.” I have no use for that bullshit. These are all video games, and all the more important because people don’t want to see them as such.

I had the chance to speak with Kara at Bento Miso earlier this month. We talked about gaming, gender, sex, mental health, and exactly what qualifies as a game. READ MORE


You're Doo-ing It Wrong

So here's a jarring news flash: you've been pooping wrong for your entire life (if it makes you feel better, as a baby born with meconium aspiration, I have been screwing up pooping since before I even left the womb). Kevin Roose, as part of his series of "bettering" himself, decided to tackle his favorite room in his house: his bathroom, this week on Matter. READ MORE

A Portrait of the Alt-Bro as a Young Dumbass

It’s 11AM on the 4th day of Spring Break. He’s reading Steppenwolf at a minimal loft cafe that sells tote bags and leather notebooks and beard lube. He's drinking a $4 Americano and debating whether he should step outside to roll a cigarette. Earlier today, when he arrived at the café, which by the way is called “Brooklyn,” he thought to himself, One ought only to smoke on weekends. Yet Spring Break is currently revealing-itself-to-him-as-weekend, so he goes outside to smoke. As he observes, flâneuristically, the soft light play upon the Portuguese Church steeples across him, he feels he’s on the verge of a profound realization, a Joycean epiphany, something that will blow his mind. Google, is he manic-depressive? Sometimes he feels so much, it’s almost unbearable. There’s no way most people feel as much as he does. He’s unique. He might be a genius. He’s certainly heterosexual. He’s probably going to grad school.

He is the Alternative-Bro.

Dumpster diving though his rent is paid for him, arranging gatherings between radicals less privileged than he, calling everything “dialectical,” listening to chillwave, perpetually nodding, feeling “depressed”: this is what the Alt-Bro lives for. This is what intoxicates him “in a particularly Dionysian way.”

The Alt-Bro is now thinking, as he observes an elderly woman enter the Portuguese church, Religion has done a lot of terrible things, obviously, but it has done a lot of good things, also, and this is something most people don’t understand. The Alt-Bro wishes most people thought about things as much as he does. He’s neither elitist nor classist, but he doesn’t trust people who don’t “fundamentally feel ideas.” He says things like, “But then you start to think in iambic pentameter and it’s fucked.” The Alt-Bro takes himself seriously.

The Alt-Bro has a gift for looking like he’s thinking. His desktop background is of Swedish architecture. The Alt-Bro is in “an open relationship” with a girl who doesn’t call it an “open relationship.” He claims to be attracted to "both men and women," though he finds “something special" about women. He doesn't know what it is. It is a mystery.



Annotated Rainbow Brite Fan Fiction

Rainbow Brite fanfic front cover

Have you ever read Rainbow Brite fanfiction made up by a three-year-old girl and narrated to her teenage babysitter? Well, you're about to. This is the first of five stories that I came up with in the year 1987. My babysitter Bret did the transcribing because I couldn’t hold a pen yet.

Below, I’ve annotated my story for you in the hopes it will make some kind of sense.

The Adventures of Leila in Rainbowland
Leila Sales Publishing Co.
By Leila Sales and Bret

“A true landmark in children’s literature. Stunning.”—New York Times Book Review

“Sales is at the top of her game. Remarkable.”—Los Angeles Times

[I’m sure it seems like major newspapers were lining up to laud my infantile fan fiction, but in fact, these review quotes were actually written by Bret. 26 years later, the New York Times Book Review would, in fact, go on to review a book that I’d written. Bret was prescient in that regard. Sadly they did not use the word “stunning.”]

Comments by readers:
1. “A truly fabulous collaboration.”—Daddy S. [This blurb is from my dad, clearly. Side note: I have never in my life referred to him as “Daddy.” The “S.” presumably stands for “Sales,” but if I called him “Daddy Sales” to his face, he would have to conclude that I was a changeling.]
2. “A great, nicely written story.”—Emily V. [I do not remember who this is.] READ MORE


Notes From A Future Shitbag Mother

On the last day of August in 2014, following an especially harrowing phone conversation, I typed, “I want to stop hating my mom” into Google. There were 63.5 million results. READ MORE

Men, Makeup, Money: The Boylesque of Rify Royalty

IMG_5372"I really want to work out before my gig tonight," Sharif Abaz said. "But I still have to fix my costume and my makeup is going to take forever. I have no time." He picked up his outfit for the evening—a black mesh bodysuit, tank-top and shorts that cover the groin with a thick strip of spandex—and packed everything into a backpack. As he walked out, he took a final glance in the mirror by his front door, then brushed glitter from the night before from his eyelashes and rubbed his hand through his beard to check for untamed hairs.

Abaz arrived at the downstairs bar area of The Monster, a gay bar located on Grove Street in New York City a half hour before midnight. The dim room was crowded with sweaty young men and women, murmuring and anxious for a show. When the DJ announced the next set, Sharif took the stage in the darkened room and stood, waiting, with his head down. A moment later, the lights came up, revealing Abaz as "Rify Royalty" in full Dia de los Muertos makeup, with a long black veil covering his dark hair, a black gown over the mesh bodysuit underneath, and massive sexual attitude. He slowly raised his head toward the spotlight and began with a reverent rendition of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" as he slowly stripped away his outerwear, then ground his hips on a chair as he lip-synched to Rob Zombie's "Living Dead Girl" before moving to the floor, where he shot his legs in the air, exposing thigh-high stockings and high-heeled platform pumps. Piece by piece, the costume came off, until he was left in a black V tank-thong bodysuit, stockings, and heels, revealing a small collection of tattoos: an umbrella with rain underneath, pin-up girls, his mother's name, scattered across the olive skin of his slender, toned frame. After the set, which lasted about ten minutes, Rify bowed as the crowd cheered and threw dollars at the stage. He exited stage right, clutching his earnings and teetering on five-inch heels. READ MORE