Friday, October 31, 2014


Weekend Roundup / Open Thread

HAPPY HALLOWEEN Y'ALL. Here is a spooky thought: none of our dope Halloween Advent Calendar would've happened without the inimitable Jolie Kerr, so give it up for Jolie. (I will pause and allow you the adequate time to give It up.)

(It should be long, because Jolie is great.)

(OK, you can stop now.)

Dang, what a week. We opened with Haley talking about her vibrator, which... good. That's exactly why I took this job, to read about my boss' sex toys. #blessed. We championed death positivity, analyzed a new album, re-read Fear Street, made some white people tacos, played light as a feather, stiff as a board, defended unlikable protagonists, assimilated, revisited some of Buffy's favorite treats, used [highbrow cinematic allusions] to define ourselves, texted with Mallory, interviewed the Soska sisters, checked in with Baba Yaga and found some Wikipedia entries to scare our pants off.

As for your two trusty editors: Haley is back in New York next week, and she'll be teaching jacket draping classes in the middle of the Hudson. Please email her for more info. I wrote something I'm really proud of.

There have been so many CrazySexyCool things by women this week: cyborg Anna Fitzpatrick wrote about courage in journalism, real-life yogurt ghost Natalie Eve Garrett was profiled in Brit + Co, famous person Emma Healey discussed Jian Ghomeshi, comedy genius Monica Heisey got high on Taylor Swift, and HBIC Anna Holmes on the intersection of books and relationships. Read them all when you're recovering from your hangover, candy or otherwise, and we'll see you here next week.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Even More Wikipedia Entries to Read in the Dark

5 Wikipedia Entries for Romantic Trips With Your Ghost Boyfriend



Draculas Through History

draculaSince Bram Stoker wrote his novel in 1897, Dracula has become one of the most famous and reproduced stories in our culture. These days, Dracula seems a little quaint. The narrative is not that scary, not that shocking or sensational, compared to what has come along since. We've got richly art-directed cannibalism on network TV now. We’re post-Poltergeist and "they're heeeere," post-Antichrist, where testicles are crushed and blood is ejaculate. There’s a thing called torture porn and people shrug their shoulders about it. I hate to invoke The Human Centipede, but it did mark a grim psychosexual apotheosis in popular entertainment. Where do you go from these advancements? Surely not back to the man in the cape, collapsed in a garlic swoon. Yet Dracula endures, hokey accent and all.

I wanted to review every Dracula, but there are hundreds of versions. It would take months, maybe even a year, if you took days off to watch the occasional Frankenstein. In the last two weeks, I watched/read/consumed as many portrayals of Dracula as I could. READ MORE


Assimilation #2

I make a sex joke about my name
It’s Tova and it means good and
you do good, don’t you
when you’re doing me


Erotomania and Murder in Memphis


Alice+Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe, is out now. You can order it from wherever you choose to prepare for the coming apocalypse:




Less than an hour after the murder, Memphis's Chief of Police knocked on the front door of the Mitchell's fashionable home on Union Street. Chief Davis was sorry to disturb "Uncle George," as the retired salesman was affectionately called, and sorrier still for the decidedly unpleasant nature of the call. He had come to arrest George Mitchell's youngest daughter for the murder of Freda Ward.

George had been expecting him. He readied himself and Alice for a trip to the jailhouse, just a few minute's walk from the scene of the crime. He waited patiently as Davis booked his nineteen-year-old daughter on the charge of murder, amiably chatting with jailers, all sympathetic friends who promised to look after Alice while he sought legal representation.

By eight o'clock that evening, George returned with two of the most prominent, expensive attorneys in Eastern Tennessee, if not the entire state. Both Colonel George Gantt and General Luke Wright were affluent, respectable Memphians from old, Southern families. They had emerged as community leaders after a series of yellow fever outbreaks in the 1870s all but ruined the city; Memphis's charter was revoked, the economy stalled, and its population dwindled, with thousands buried and many more having fled, never to return.



Ask Baba Yaga: How Do I Abandon Striving For Glory?

baba spirituality 0001
Transcript after the jump. READ MORE


A Battle to the Grave: An Interview with the Soska Sisters

soska sistersI’m mesmerized by the photo on the Soska sisters’ “About” page. It’s compelling in a gory, expected way; Jen and Sylvia Soska take up the left half of my screen; their shiny, stick-straight hair and pale skin are both completely splattered with blood. They’re identical twins, so it’s a mind trip of sorts, their piercing eyes stare at the camera-— one sister gives that vampy look while the other sister looks like she's thinking “All in a day’s work.” The Soska sisters are gorgeous and tropey, everything you’d want in horror film stars—or in their case, horror film directors.

For the past decade, the Soska sisters have been making alternatives to the mostly male-driven horror film genre. Their original female-driven narratives include Dead Hooker in a Trunk, American Mary, See No Evil 2, and the upcoming Vendetta. With American Mary, they created a harrowing rape-revenge film. Mary (played by Katherine Isabelle) surgically removes limbs, sews someone’s eyelids shut and places a vaginal speculum in her rapist’s mouth. (Hell yes.)

I spoke to Jen and Sylvia about the difficult task women have breaking into the male-dominated horror film world (not to mention the male-dominated film world), some of their favorite female-driven horror films and what it feels like to be the recipient of a boatload of misogyny. READ MORE


Starting From the Bottom

People’s reactions to my announcement became a Rorschach test that was fairly accurate at predicting the length of time we’d be in touch after graduation. It sounded cool enough to a few of my closest friends who decided to do the same, and we all began to prepare ourselves for a great migration out West. We dreamed of open skies, a chilled-out vibe, and the space to become fully realized, whatever we thought that meant. It wasn’t much of a plan but it felt like a better plan that most people had, which involved getting a regular office job. But by this time, my grassroots publishing class had begun to work its way under my skin, and I liked the way it took root there. I pictured myself running a similar enterprise someday. We published a magazine each semester, and planning out the issues, the front-of-the-book stories, features, and profiles that we would include was exciting in a way I didn’t even know was possible. In those classes, the beginnings of an idea took shape, if only I could figure out how to finance it. The reality that I had spent the last four years doing everything but studying literature, writing, and reading started to weigh on me, even though all of those areas interested me the most. But I figured I would stockpile cash, leather jackets, and skinny jeans, move to a city, live in a one-room apartment, and work and intern for free in exchange for experience points. Simple enough, right?

I really loved this essay on waitressing and post-college anxiety by Jenna Wortham, particularly the above excerpt; working a service job while your friends and peers pursue more education or entry-level office jobs really is like a Rorschach test for compatibility. I have a bias operating in the other direction, I think, where I don't trust people who don't or haven't worked some kind of service job. My background is retail, but anything where you deal with customer service and get paid to be physically present by the hour counts. I just really believe—in my limited, personal, biased experience, sure—that people who have worked in restaurants, retail, or customer service in general are often better collaborators, friends, co-workers because of what they learn in those jobs. That's what I see in their...inkblots? Human inkblots? I don't know, you get it.


Texts from Mallory Ortberg

51NkGhyEKrL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Whenever I have an idea for something funny to write on the Internet, I have to make sure that it isn’t just something I’ve subconsciously ripped off from writer/webmistress Mallory Ortberg. If there is a joke to be made about anything, chances are Mallory’s already made it, in a both subtle and absurd way that will seep into your brain and stick with you for months.

On November 4th, Henry Holt is publishing Texts from Jane Eyre—a collection based on the series in which Mallory sums up the entire canon of Western literature in a few textual exchanges with great accuracy and even greater lols. Believe it or not, Texts From was spawned on THIS VERY HERE SITE. Buy a copy, then read this interview. Or read this interview and buy a copy. Buy a copy, read this interview, then buy another copy for best results. Anything else you were planning to do today can wait. It was probably dumb anyway.

Hi hi hi!

Are you READY? For some harrowing questions that will make you look deep within yourself?
Let's DO THIS. I'm ready to get controversial. READ MORE


Man Can Sing

Auto-tune poster child T-Pain just blew everyone's minds yesterday with his performance at NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concert, where he taught us all that he can saaaaang.

The New Yorker's Culture Desk had an interview with him earlier this year: his association with the pitch-correcting device marred his attempt to be a considered a "real artist" and to be taken seriously, both by consumers and his peers, sending him into a depression. An anecdote from the article: after inviting T-Pain in to consult on 808 and Heartbreak, "Kanye wrote a song about how dumb all of T-Pain’s ideas were. He then proceeded, T-Pain said, to make “everybody in the studio join in with him to sing, like, "T-Pain’s shit is weak."'

People always tell him it makes no sense for someone in his position to care so much about idiot teen-agers posting comments on social media. “People are, like, ‘You’re rich!’ What’re you so worried about?’ ” he says. “And I’m, like, money ain’t the issue here. Yeah, I can buy shit. But I want people to like me, too! God damn!”

Hmm, what advice would you give him? How about his own!!

You already have all you need. Nothing in life worth having comes without sacrifice and/or struggle. Do not alienate the people around you. Use the negative things that happen to you as motivation to push forward. As long as you continue to believe in yourself nothing can stand in your way. Times often get rough, which is the nature of life, but your self-belief and how you view yourself will guide you through any problem.

Singer T-Pain, please listen to Advice Columnist T-Pain, and know that everything is going to be fine (as long as you drop that acoustic album real soon).

Shot Through the Heart


Last Thursday night, the governor of New York State and the mayor of New York City announced that the first case of Ebola had been diagnosed at Bellevue Hospital. The man—a doctor who had recently returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa—had fallen ill that morning, after a night of bowling in Williamsburg, they said. I live in Greenpoint, less than a mile away from the bowling alley he had been in just twenty-four hours earlier.

Hearing this struck fear in my heart. Not because I thought there was any real risk of me getting Ebola: I trusted the information the CDC reported, that Ebola can only be contracted from a person with active symptoms, and even in cases of a very sick person coming in casual contact with me, it would be relatively hard to contract Ebola. I am a fairly pragmatic person, capable of talking myself through the logical ends of various what-if scenarios. I have faith in modern medicine.

The fear wasn’t about me, though: It was for my nine-month-old daughter. The what-if scenarios, though only momentary, were extreme. For just one second, it seemed absolutely certain to me that she would somehow, devastatingly skirt the odds and come down with Ebola.

A thing I have learned about myself-as-parent: When my child is involved, it takes some extra arguing with my brain for rationality to prevail.



Rejected Author Bios

Jazmine Hughes is the contributing editor of the Hairpin.

Jazmine Hughes is the contributing editor of the Hairpin, a digital magazine.

Jazmine Hughes didn’t know the Hairpin was an digital magazine???

Jazmine Hughes trusts Matt Buchanan.

Jazmine Hughes is contributing editor of the Hairpin, a digital magazine, and the main contributing eater of the cheese in her shared refrigerator. READ MORE


All the Treats in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Cordelia: Here's a chocolate...Oh. I don't think I need the loony-fringe vote.

Buffy: Well, I-I don't even *like* chocolates…

Drusilla: Miss Edith speaks out of turn. She's a bad example, and will have no cakes today.

Xander: Yeah. It's a delicious, spongy, golden cake stuffed with a delightful creamy, white substance of goodness. And here's how you eat it.



Amy Poehler's 'Yes Please' Is the Best Non-Self-Help Self-Help Book Ever

yespleaseBefore I can start my thoughts on Amy Poehler’s Yes Please (Dey Street Press, out today), I have to put aside Professional Writer Voice and make a confession: I love self help books. I’m not talking about the ones that promise if you just think positively piles of money will magically appear. I mean the ones that urge us to be better people, that gently tell us it’s slowly inch-by-inch going to be okay and that it helps our hearts to be kinder to others and to ourselves. I have an entire shelf of them. If there’s a Brene Brown book to be had, I own a dog-eared, heavily-underlined copy, and I’ve kept lists of self-help books quoted by other self-help books. All of them are by Pema Chodron.

I mention this because Poehler’s Yes Please reads like a self-help book, and I mean that very much as a compliment. Actually, Yes Please is better, because it’s funny and lacks self-helpy cheesiness. Throughout, Poehler reflects on her life, gives advice through the lessons she’s learned (particularly those learned through improv), and delivers enough comedic nonsense to keep it entertaining. I want to hug this book, and not just because Poehler also suggests reading Pema Chodron. This isn’t to suggest she gives advice the whole time, but that in describing her experiences, it’s easy to see how much further cultivating healthy habits and relationships can take us.

With section titles like “Say whatever you want,” and “Be whoever you are,” Yes Please is even structured like a self-help book, and throughout, Poehler offers stand alone pages of wisdom like, “Nobody looks stupid when they are having fun,” and “forget the facts and remember the feelings.” But it’s sharing her experience of the world that makes Yes Please relatable. In “Plain girl vs. the demon,” she describes her own difficulties with self criticism, i.e. the demon that resides in her brain, and offers a smart way of countering it. “When the demon starts to... say bad shit about me I turn around and say, ‘Hey, cool it. Amy is my friend. Don’t talk about her like that.’ Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do.” READ MORE


In Defense of an Unlikable Protagonist, When the Unlikable Protagonist is Yourself

There’s this thing I’ve done since I was a kid that I rarely talk about—mainly because it’s embarrassing. Anytime I’m alone, I'm probably scripting scenarios in my head of how my life should go. Not the kind of fantastical daydreaming that encompasses what would happen if the fates were ever to align and I finally got to meet my pun-loving idol Dave Coulier; actual, real-life situations ranging from romantically tense showdowns with men (that never actually come to fruition), to the mundane small talk I practice to ensure I’m the most charming customer in the cramped waiting room of my local auto body shop.

Maybe it's a childhood tic, born out of severe unpopularity coupled with an overactive imagination. Maybe it's the machinations of a subconscious pushing me to become a writer long before I ever realized I wanted to spend my life putting words on paper. Whatever the reason, it’s something I still do, to this day, almost to the point of obsession. I’m rarely living in the moment because it’s a veritable television writer’s room in my head, with a million self-contained voices pitching different narratives, joke arcs, and real-time admonishments to their leading lady: me.

The thing that each of those scenarios have in common? In each and every one, I am always right. I am always the best. Even when spurned, I am always the most downtrodden heroine who will rise again, likely by way of a cleverly crafted monologue filled with dated references and verbal cues worthy of an Amy Sherman-Palladino television program. After all, when you’re constantly crafting your own narrative, you’re never the villain. But that’s the thing—it’s just a narrative. In my actual world, I rarely stick to the script, and I’m the villain far more often than I’d care to admit. READ MORE