Thursday, April 24, 2014


How to Take Advantage of Rhubarb Season


Go to the liquor store and get margarita mix and a handle of tequila. Set up a Facebook invite called "PIE PARTY," making sure to invite every woman you know, but especially the girl with the food blog.

Guests begin to arrive.

"Where's this pie?" Julia asks. She's wearing a tea-length cocktail dress and carrying a chartreuse felt clutch.

"Here's a margarita. Be right back."

Three hours later, the food blog girl will have made you and all your guests a pie. She had some spare vegetable shortening in her purse.


Tell your 10-year-old cousin that rhubarb is celery dipped in blood.


You're not much of a crafter but a cool idea for a chair is if you took 16 stalks of rhubarb and cross hatched them into a seat. You've also never used Pinterest but see how many pins you can get from this idea. Count up all your pins, luxuriate in the validation.


Fact: All moms are named Barbara.


Is a menorah a candelabra? Are 10 candles better than one? Can you stuff a handful of rhubarb stalks into a glass filled with oil and make it a homemade scent diffuser? Sell this idea to Pier 1 Imports, you are a fucking genius.  READ MORE


Consensual Comedy: An Interview with Comedian Heather Gold

Heather Gold is a comedian living in Oakland. She’s shared the stage with (among others) Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford, Margaret Cho, Bill Irwin, and Judy Gold. She’s best known for her one-woman hit show “I Look Like an Egg, But I Identify as a Cookie”, an “interactive baking comedy” that’s made the rounds in Austin, New York, and most recently played to sold-out audiences in Berkeley. So far she’s baked over 50,000 cookies with audiences.

She also co-hosts the weekly web series Morning Jew with NYC-based comic Katie Halper.

I asked her to talk with me about she’s messing with the hyper-masculine conventions of traditional stand-up in her work and how women are becoming an important–and importantly different–audience for comedy.

Hi Heather! I'm thrilled we get to talk about women in comedy—in the audience as well as onstage. Thanks for doing this!

My pleasure!

Your work has been described as being closer to “consensual comedy” than traditional stand-up. How’d you start developing that?

Years ago I was hosting the Internet Roast at SXSW. I asked the room as part of setting up for a joke, “who here has had Repetitive Stress Injury?” Someone yelled back “We can’t raise our hands!” It was so great.


I thought, in that room with a lot of early Internet folks: “what if I didn’t write all the jokes?” I’m taking this idea of participation—the idea that anyone can participate and even talk with each other—from listservs and the net. I'm pretty obsessed with emotional connection and storytelling and threading the room. I still do stand-up, and it helps me practice certain skills. But I am really driven by creating a unique live moment and by sculpting the social space: getting the feeling in room to get from one place to another.

Threading the room. This metaphor, Heather, it’s so careful and generous. It’s hospitable. Would you say there’s a specifically domestic slant to your comedy? Are you gendering it towards women and baking on purpose?

I’m using what makes sense to me and what I’m compelled by, and I’m a woman. I love baking. For Cookie, I’d done a lot of stand-up and had no idea what to do with my hands on stage. Baking seemed like a good idea. Originally, I thought I’d have about fifty Easy-Bake ovens on stage. A lot of light bulbs.

I love Easy-Bake Ovens as an overkill solution to awkward hands.

I’m working to invert certain things I wanted to change about stand-up in these shows. I wanted it to feel inclusive. I wanted other people to want to tell me their stories. I wanted people to feel comfortable. Hell, when I started, *I* wanted to feel comfortable. I made it up as I went along.

What you do is pretty obviously different from what most people think of as stand-up. How is it different from traditional crowd work?

Well, it has a good bit in common with it. But one of the basic goals I work toward is that this is a room full of people that mostly enter as strangers, and those people have a chance to get to know each other and I can help make that happen. Sometimes I'm trying to set the conditions for a really poignant moment. I'm working toward a social goal as much as anything else. And I'm also often setting people in the "audience" up for *them* to get punchlines. I do this when I have enough time on stage or in one of my shows or talks. It takes time.

You’re giving them the punchlines? That’s pretty radical, dude.

Yeah, I spend time trying to flip the authority of traditional stand-up. And I really try hard to invert the bullying that crowd work in some stand-up situations can become.

I love that. Last question about genre: when I think of a collaboration between comedian and crowd, I think improv. Is this improv?

Kind of. The participatory style of the web, especially the culture of the early web (and live events with the people making the early web) really influenced me. So, this can mean I'm not driving to a joke every 20 seconds, although once a show is really developed it can get there. But the point isn't only laughs. It's to get the room to the place laughs get us to: open, closer to each other. Oy, this is sounding like some kind of hippie encounter session.  READ MORE


The Other Woman: Better Than Staring at Your Own Vomit

NPR's Linda Holmes reviewed The Other Woman, the gal-pal comedy starring Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz, Kate Upton, and Nicki Minaj and out this Friday. (A direct quote from the trailer: "Put the lawyer, the wife, and the boobs together, and we know how to do it just as shady as he does!" Here it is: the secret to Having It All.) Holmes delivers the sort of ethering that the Sex and the City sequel required:

It does not, however, manage to pass the Bechdel test, the laughably low bar that asks these questions: (1) Does a film have two women in it? (2) Do they talk to each other? (3) About something other than a man?

Yyyyyyyup. That's right. The Other Woman is 109 minutes long, and at no time do any of these women – including Carly and her secretary, who only know each other from work – pause for a discussion, even for a moment, of anything other than a series of dudes: Mark, Kate's brother, Carly's father, the secretary's husband, Carly's other boyfriends ... it is truly, no fooling, all they talk about for 109 minutes.

Plenty of burns therein, but the kicker is perhaps all we need to know about this funny-lady effort: "If you were on an airplane, The Other Woman might not be preferable to simply staring into your empty airsick bag, but it has enough nicely executed physical comedy that in the event you become ill, it is definitely preferable to staring into your occupied airsick bag. This is what we've got, girls. This is what's on offer." [NPR]

My Socialist Revolution

It may seem incongruous to say that moving to Cambodia to pursue a writing career is like trying to overthrow the U.S. government, but in my family it wasn’t that different.

In 2011, I gave up my rent-controlled apartment and cushy waitressing gig in California to move across the planet and write a book. I had no funding, no connections, no association with any university or organization, and no real plan of how to support myself other than to freelance. And to teach, if I absolutely had to. I still consider this slightly less absurd than what my parents did in their twenties: fight for a socialist revolution in the United States.

My parents met at a meeting of the Communist Party, which they would later refuse to join because "it wasn’t radical enough." My dad was a long-haired Yippie and Annapolis drop-out; my mom was an blonde 18-year-old who’d gained scene-cred for taking an illegal trip to China when she was still underage. It was love at first sight.  READ MORE


The Huge Mistake Pie


Previously: The Confidence Pie

Ann Friedman will get back to you when she figures it out.


Via Mental Floss: the famous books set in each state, mapped. Alabama comes first, alphabetically, but it might also win overall? [Mental Floss] | April 24, 2014


Andy Warhol's Computer Art

The Andy Warhol Museum just released some work the artist made on a Commodore Amiga home computer (#tbt), a recovery that started with this Debbie Harry clip after the jump. Here's Warhol's Venus (1985); Vulture's also got his digitized Campbell's and a self-portrait. READ MORE


Rigs to Drive to High School From 1996-2000, Ranked





"And so we leave"

My mother once told me that these were the years that I grew a permanent smirk on my face, like I was always thinking of a joke not worth wasting on the people around me. A healthy portion of my attitude was surely due to the anger I'd built up following my parents' split and the general weight of my teen angst. But what had also risen inside me was the sense that I was a loser for living in Tucson, as if I'd come up short in a geographical lottery and now needed to take it out on the yokels too dumb to understand how dreary our days were in comparison to those being lived out elsewhere. I became the embodiment of the truth that there is nothing in the world crueler than an embarrassed person attempting to save face. I got meaner than I'd ever been. My temper grew shorter. I said hurtful things to people who loved me and even more hurtful things to strangers who crossed me. When people called me on being rude or malicious, I ignored them. What did they know? They were from Tucson.

Cord Jefferson wrote about his hometown, Tucson, Az., for Tucson Weekly, and if you've ever left a place behind and cried for it, you'll want to read it. [TW]


Tearjerker, "You Can"

This track from Toronto group Tearjerker, premiered at Pitchfork yesterday, has the same kind of mellow addictive quality as that Portlandia theme song. Highly recommended for helping clear the cobwebs this Thursday morning. [via]


Dolly Parton on Miley Cyrus

"If I didn’t know how smart and talented Miley is, I might worry about her. But I’ve watched her grow up. So I don’t. She knows what she’s doing. She was very proud of the work she did as Hannah Montana, but people were gonna leave her there forever. And she was just smotherin’ and chokin’ in it. So she felt she had to do something completely drastic. And she did. She made her point, she made her mark, and more power to her. 'Wrecking Ball' is a great song. The whole album is great. So I’m hoping that now she can relax and show people how talented she really is. ’Cause the girl can write. The girl can sing. The girl is smart. And she doesn’t have to be so drastic. But I will respect her choices. I did it my way, so why can’t she do it her way?"

—It's time for TIME's annual Most Influential People issue, and the best entries this year are, obviously, the ones in which women write about other women they love (Emily Blunt on Amy Adams: "she’s silly and funny and dirty"). Here's Dolly Parton waxin' on her goddaughter, Miley. Beyoncé's on the cover, in a bikini. [TIME]

PS: When people hear about a biology study, what are some things they can ask themselves to check for gender bias in the study?

JH: The first step is always to say, 'Does this finding replicate?' Because we've so many of these flash-in-the-pan things where a study gets tons of publicity and there's so much competition in biology to be first with your breathless finding. So that's the first question to ask, 'Has anybody else gotten this?'

There are certain phrases that tip people off about gender bias. For example, if people do some kind of neuroscience study, let's say it's an MRI study with humans. These researchers will often say, 'This is a hardwired difference between males and females.' Well, if these are adults [who are being studied], it's not hardwired at all, right? They've had 20 to 25 years of experience that has shaped their brains. Typically, you don't find good neuroscientists using the phrase 'hardwired' because they know how plastic the brain is. Differential experience between males and females could account for brain differences as easily as any kind of brain differentiation that depends on hormones or something like that.

—PopSci has an interview with Janet Hyde, a psychologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison who helped spearhead the school's new fellowship [PDF] in "feminist biology," our new collective major. (PopSci has more words on the "hardwired" issue here, too.) [PopSci] | April 23, 2014


Estate Jewelry: Hippocampi, 18th Century Febreze, and a Circus You Can Wear

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across an unusual antique scrimshaw pie crimper that was carved in the shape of one of my favorite mythological creatures: a hippocamp. Half horse and half fish or sea-serpent, the hippocamp (or hippocampus) appears in Greek, Phoenician and Etruscan mythology, and Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, is often shown driving a chariot pulled by hippocampi. The gestural horsey/ fishy characteristics essential to the hippocamp are nearly impossible for an artist to resist, and they’ve been depicted in various forms—coins, mosaics, painting, sculpture—for centuries. You can scroll back through my Twitter feed for some examples, but definitely don’t miss this incredible late 16th century Spanish hippocamp pendant in the collection of the British Museum, and also don’t forget about the famous 18th century Trevi fountain in Rome, which depicts Neptune, the Roman counterpart to Poseidon, overlooking two rearing hippocampi (and a couple of tritons).

If you happen to have what is no doubt a lot of cash, you can always pony up for this amazing hippocamp brooch that’s currently available from Lucas Rarities in London. Circa 1939, the piece was designed by Juliette Moutard for the French jewelry house Boivin, and features a golden hippocamp with an emerald-studded tail. It’s nestled in a shell set with even more emeralds, and a ruby bow suspends a natural saltwater pearl pendant below. Gah.

If, like me, you take public transportation to work, you may want to invest in a nice little vinaigrette. No, I don’t mean the salad dressing. The vinaigrette I’m talking about is a tiny little box or container that men and women carried with them to help mask unpleasant scents in their immediate surroundings, generally during the late 18th- to mid-19th centuries. Consider it an early version of Febreze. Vinaigrettes usually had a hinged lid, and held smelling salts or a tiny sponge beneath a pierced interior grill. The sponge could be soaked in a perfume or other aromatic substance like vinegar (hence the name).

Peter Szuhay is selling this beautiful little gold vinaigrette that was designed in the form of a cowrie shell. Circa 1780 and probably French, it is enameled both inside and outside, and finished with a very pretty pierced and engraved interior grate.  READ MORE


Vampire Diaries Author Now Writing Fan Fiction For Her Own Series

Via the Wall Street Journal:

When Alloy Entertainment fired L.J. Smith from the popular young-adult book series "The Vampire Diaries" and replaced her with a ghostwriter three years ago, a civil war broke out among fans. One camp swore fealty to the characters and embraced the new books, which still feature Ms. Smith's name prominently on the cover as the series' creator. The other, more vocal faction sided with Ms. Smith and boycotted the ghostwritten novels.

"I would not read those books if they were the last books on earth," said Christina Crowley, a 35-year-old substitute teacher in Riverview, Mich., and a staunch L.J. Smith fan. "I didn't want to read her characters written by someone else."

Now, in one of the stranger comebacks in literary history, Ms. Smith is independently resurrecting her stories about the adolescent undead. She's publishing her own version of "The Vampire Diaries" digitally on Amazon, as fan fiction, creating a parallel fictional universe that many hard-core fans regard as more legitimate than the official canon.

The business aspect of this story is fascinating: The Vampire Diaries series is still being published with Smith's name prominently featured on the book covers, and Alloy after firing her is semi-promoting her fanfiction because they get a cut of the proceeds, thanks to the widening copyright loophole that Smith is using through Amazon Worlds. Shorter version: all writers are doomed. [WSJ]

Ask Polly: Why Am I Deathly Afraid of Success?

DogDear Polly,

Love your column. Can I throw something at you? Apologies for being vague with certain details.

I'm a 43-year-old woman who has spent my whole life in one industry, got pretty far, and then descended back down the ladder to the place I started from. One day my whole outlook on my career changed and I wanted out. The problem was I didn't know how to do anything else. I was unconsciously sabotaging job after job but without an exit strategy, so it was a rough few years.

Finally I ended up at the entry level of my industry, hiding my experience and qualifications so I could be a worker bee. In exchange for giving up a great salary and high pressure 24/7 job, I got over a hundred hours of my week back, and for the first time, started to have a life. Materially, it's spartan compared to what I had, but I'm at peace and happy way more often than I was before.

Now that my job is so undemanding and I have a lot more time than I've had, I've gotten back in touch with my childhood dreams and have started to do what I really wanted to do. It's in arts/entertainment.

This is where my problem comes in: Having any actual success was far from my mind when I started my new work. I was just happy to finally have the time to be doing what I always wanted to do. READ MORE