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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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The Best Time I Went To E.R. Without Insurance While Attending A Conference Inspired By A Facebook Group I Started


I am in the lobby of UCLA’s Carnesale’s Commons building, having snuck out of the main conference room for the sixth time that hour to pee, only to be distracted by a very nice spread of sandwiches. At that moment my biggest concern is wondering how many sandwiches would it be polite to steal before anyone else gets to the table.

There is movement out of the corner of my eye. Francesca Lia Block, author of the cult young adult fantasy novel Weetzie Bat has just entered the room, looking exactly like she did in her author photo twenty-five years ago. I strut up to her with the false confidence of somebody who is on prescription painkillers and has been made to feel like she owns the place.

“Hey youuuu,” I say to her, extending my hand to shake hers. I am woozy, but in my defence, she looks woozier. “I am a children’s book critic and,” here I lean in to whisper, conspiratorially, “I started this.” She smiles politely and asks if I would like to be on her mailing list.

* * *

It was last summer, mid-June, and a friend of mine was going on tour to promote her new novel. Would I like to stay at her place in Brooklyn and feed her cats while she was away? I would like that very much. I brought my fellow Canadian down with me, a little lady you might know by the name of…HALEY MLOTEK. Haley and I both had day jobs at that point—I was working full-time in a children’s bookstore in Toronto, she was the virtual assistant for an American writer, but we were ambitious and very excited about having a free place to stay in New York for a week.

Our first night there we went to a party with a group of women writers of varying experience levels. The vibes, as they say, were good. We took a cab home together, discussing how lucky we were to be part of a supportive creative community.

The next morning, we were working side-by-side on our computers while Blue Crush played on the background on TV.

“What if I made something for writers to connect with each other?” I asked Haley. “Something where we can ask questions and learn from each other. We’ll invite our friends, and let them invite their friends. It might be helpful for people who don’t like, live in New York or Toronto or whatever, to network.”

“Yeah, that sounds nice,” she said.

I clicked “Create group” on Facebook, then paused. “Is ‘Binders Full of Women Writers’ a funny name?”

“Eh,” Haley said. “You can always change it later.” READ MORE

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"Zayn Malik puts strain on UK economy as hundreds of workers demand compassionate leave"

Nearly one week ago, the only member of One Direction worth caring about abruptly left the "band"—in order to be a band you have to play instruments but WHATEVER, I'll let them have this one—and America nearly fell apart. Buzzfeed hosted a vigil. Teens freaked out. Even Mitt Romney weighed in (he is not looking well).

But that's nothing compared to the reaction in the United Kingdom. From The Independent:

More than 220 calls were made to employment law experts by workers asking for compassionate leave following the news that Zayn Malik had quit One Direction.

Guys.

“If employees feel strongly about the issue then request that they take days off as a holiday, but compassionate leave is what you allow if a close relative dies, unless the employer is unaware of family ties with Zayn Malik then I hardly think that this qualifies.

Guys.

He went on to draw comparisons between the event and that of the big parting of ways of Robbie Williams from Take That in 1996, where they again experienced a huge spike in calls from concerned bosses.

GUYS. It's just a "band." Zayn will still be around!!! He isn't even that CUTE I mean—

o-ZAYNMALIK-facebook

Haley. Um. I think I need to take the day off.

Eat the Mango (No, Not That One)

maaaango

The end of March is still a dead zone for produce here in the Northeast, but in Mexico and further south to Peru, one of the world’s most diverse and most popular fruits, the mango, is beginning to enter one of its two seasons (the other is in early fall). Even though our neighbor to the south is one of the world’s biggest producers of mangoes—and Florida grows a pretty respectable number and hosts what looks like a delightful festival focused on the fruit—the mango is underappreciated and underused in the United States. This should be a crime! We should all be arrested!

If you live in a place without a substantial Indian or Mexican population, there’s a pretty fair chance the only mango you’ve ever seen is the Tommy Atkins: a large, red-green mango with a giant pit and a fibrous interior that gets stuck in your teeth. The Tommy Atkins is one of those accursed fruit varieties, like the Red Delicious apple, that is an insult to its brothers and should be banished from the planet. The Tommy Atkins is the worst possible example of the wonders of the mango: weak in flavor, egregious in texture, and popular exclusively because it is large, easy to grow, and tough enough to withstand transit.

The Tommy Atkins mango was created by Thomas Atkins in Broward County, Florida from a tree planted in 1922. Atkins was very pleased with his shit mango; he thought it would sell well because it is large and pretty and does not bruise easily. He was right, although it took awhile for the variety to catch on. Throughout the early nineteen fifties, Atkins kept trying to get the Florida Mango Forum to approve it; they did not, citing its subpar flavor and texture, but eventually the growers, rather than the tasters, won out. The Tommy Atkins today is by far the most common variety in the U.S., which is embarrassing as heck.

There are thousands of varieties of mangoes, ranging from giant grapefruit-sized mangoes to tiny plum-sized mangoes, dark purple mangoes to delicate golden mangoes, and flat oblong mangoes to nearly spherical mangoes. The textures range from so creamy you need to use a spoon to so crunchy you need to use a fork (or chopsticks), the flavors from crisp and vegetal to heavy and sweet. Most mango varieties do not travel well, unfortunately, and there’s not much of a market in shipping some of the weirder ones all the way from, say, the south of India, where mangoes are as beloved as apples in New York. That said, if you live in a city, or in a place with a healthy representation of certain immigrant groups, there’s a pretty good chance you can find a mango that’ll totally change the way you think about them.

READ MORE

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My Queer-oes: On Young Queer Characters in Comics

LUMBERJANES coverRecently, comics creator and champion of women comic book shop employees, Kate Leth, tweeted her gratitude that her publisher, BOOM! Studios, allows her to "push her gay agenda a lil." A couple months prior to that, she'd written in her biweekly comics column about the pushback creators often get from their publishers and editors, nixing queer characters for fear of losing money, or simply out of a personal belief that queer stories are too adult or inappropriate for young readers.

Leth argues that if the straight romances densely populating youth media aren't inherently sexual or inappropriate, neither are queer ones; furthermore, queer youth have the right to see and recognize representations of themselves in their media, to know that they're not alone, and that it's okay and normal and even great to be who they are. I know from experience that she's right, that it is important for young queer kids to see these representations, not simply for affirmation of a confirmed, existing identity, but also, occasionally, to bring that identity to light.

I'm bisexual. I've always been bisexual, but I've only identified privately as such in some form or another—bouncing between labels like queer and pansexual until recently settling on bi, for reasons that I'll save for another day—for about three years. (At the time I'm presently writing this, I still haven't come out to my parents. Hopefully that will no longer be true by the time this is published.)

Why did it take me so long to figure it out? There are the cliché reasons, of course: growing up Catholic, with its attendant guilt and shame over even the most mundane human experiences, sure didn't help. Subtle homophobic attitudes dispensed by family members, and not-so-subtle bi-antagonistic myths dispensed by straight and gay peers alike regarding girls who are confused, fake, attention-seeking, experimenting, or simply slutty, are certainly just as likely contributing factors. I was honestly afraid of sex for most, if not all, of my adolescence, and so never had the seemingly universal experience of surreptitiously seeking out and exploring the landscape of my desire through pornography. But there is also the significant fact that my attraction to boys was supported, confirmed, and described by literally every form of media I voraciously consumed, for as long as I can remember. My particular flavor of queerness, on the other hand, simply did not exist, as far as the makers of the worlds I inhabited were concerned. READ MORE

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The Beastie Men

Are the Beastie Boys done?

"We're done. Oh yeah. Adam Yauch started the band. It's not like a thing where we could continue without him."

Never contemplated it?

"No."

Does that require a psychological adjustment? The band that you were in your entire life no longer exists.

"It's a huge deal. And so, you know, it's probably just taken me time to sit and think and try to figure out what I do next or who I am now or, you know, all of that stuff. Because since high school, I was in this band. And you know, it's one thing when you're in a band in high school, but then to have it last for so long—that's who I am and what I did forever. And so now I'm just trying to figure it out.

I have a running list of Acceptable White Men in my email drafts, just in case I die and someone tries to smear me as a racist: thus far, it's Bill de Blasio, Art Garfunkel, my boyfriend (subject to change), and, always, the two remaining Beastie Boys. Here's an interview in GQ with Adam Horovitz talking about his real life—taking care of his wife, Kathleen Hanna, returning items to hardware stores, and dealing with the loss of MCA, who died in 2012. I've always loved the Beastie Boys but felt guilty about praising their destructive, careless, often misogynist lifestyle that established the genesis of their careers—but they do too: "Being a straight white guy in his, like, early twenties—there's some sort of thing about it. A sort of privilege, a sort of anger or something. You just say some really stupid things."

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Renata Adler, "Irreparable Harm"

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Not infrequently, an event so radical that it alters everything appears for a time to have had no effect, or even not to have occurred. This is true in personal as in public life. A loss, a flood, a medical diagnosis, a rolling of tanks towards the statehouse—life goes on apparently as usual. Nothing is changed. It is particularly true of events that are irremediable. When there is nothing to be done, people go to work, eat their lunch, sleep, awaken to a vastly altered world, in ways that seem uncanny in their ordinariness.

Last week I mentioned, that I was reading the new collection of Renata Adler essays, and now I'm going to mention it again, because the entire book is so fucking good. You have to read it.

The above passage is from one of the last essays in the collection and is, hilariously, about Bush v. Gore. Remember that?! What a time in our shared heritage. READ MORE

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Tei Shi, "Verde"


I am sure that "Can't Be Sure" is my new favorite song.

Listen to Tei Shi's new EP here, then listen to it all night, come back tomorrow morning prepared to discuss all the different ways it makes you feel.

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How to Deal with Weird Body Hair

cousin-it
Welcome. I see you’ve clicked on the link about weird body hair. Is it because you’re looking for ways to get rid of yours? Is it because you have some and want to make sure it’s normal? Is it because you were also betrayed by health class and were more prepared to grow black hair on your tongue from smoking a cigarette than grow nipple hairs or tiny chin hairs or the occasional single chest hair?

It’s okay. You’re in a safe space. Let’s address a few questions about some of the lesser-discussed body hairs. READ MORE

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"In recent years, these cardigan-clad packs of “dancing grannies,” as they are known, have descended on tranquil neighborhoods across the country, occasionally provoking virulent responses from local residents who object to their amplified music." (h/t Hazel Cills)

Is It OK To Lie About Your Salary History?

shosh job interview

Ester: Good afternoon, Nicole! Is it ever okay to lie about your salary history when applying for a job? Conversely, is it expected that you should or already do?

Nicole: Wow, that’s a big question for a Friday afternoon! I’m going to say no, no, and no. I don’t think it’s okay to lie, and I don’t think that it’s “expected” that people will lie. Do you?

Ester: I was rather surprised when a friend brought this question to me yesterday, because my default, if perhaps naive, assumption is that of course it’s not okay to lie and of course it’s not assumed I will lie if I am engaged in negotiations.

However, perhaps everyone else is lying and we are getting left out in the cold! FWIW, my friend, also a nice writer-type woman, had been told that “of course” she should lie in an upcoming salary negotiation, and she was surprised to receive this advice. Then again, she, my friend, is a bit on the honest/naive spectrum herself too. Perhaps we should ask someone more worldly-wise?

Nicole: We absolutely should. I do think, by the way, that there is room for—what’s the right word—a range of truth around your salary history, in that it is appropriate to give a previous salary range, a la “My previous salary was in the $70,000-80,000 range” even if you only made $72,000.

Ester: Definitely. There’s room in honesty for both tact and spin. READ MORE

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Blood and Guts in Emails

9781584351641_0 A few weeks ago, Emma got in touch with me to say that she wanted to write about the new Semiotext(e) book I'm Very Into You but she wasn't entirely sure what she wanted to say. At the time, I had just finished reading the book for the second time and had four different Word documents open, each with their own failed attempt to write even just a small thing about I'm Very Into You, about the way Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark had almost accidentally written the entire story of their relationship through email, saying almost nothing about what transpired between them but almost everything else: television, books, magazines, travel, motorcycles, distance, space, work, sex.

We decided that instead of staying locked inside our own heads we would try to write to each other about why this very small book was something we couldn't stop thinking about. Weirdly, in the process we found ourselves somewhat unconsciously mimicking the trajectory of Acker and Wark's correspondence, something that probably says more about email as a medium than it does about either relationship. Emma and I accidentally bumped into each other halfway through this process and while we were standing in our mutual friend's kitchen, surrounded by other people having their own conversations, she called it the "Universal Grammar of the Romantic Email." I think that sums it up perfectly. Below are our emails.

March 18, 2015
from: Haley Mlotek
to: Emma Healey

Emma: hi!! I was so happy to get your email last night, because first I was away and you've been away and we keep missing each other, and I've really wanted to talk to you for awhile about a lot of different things. And when we realized we were reading the same book and we were both trying to write about it and were both struggling with what we wanted to say I thought that this was the perfect time for us to talk about, I guess, all of the above.

For context: the book I'm referring to is I'm Very Into You, a collection of email correspondence between Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark from 1995 to 1996. They met and hooked up when Kathy was in Australia and then emailed each other frequently, eventually spending another weekend together in New York, before the communications faded.

I read this book in, like, a minute; and then I went back and I read it again, and I'm kind of on my third re-read now, although I'm really just going back to Matias Venieger's intro and certain select passages, thinking a lot about how much I enjoy the book and how hypocritical I am for said enjoyment.

How do you feel about reading the emails and journals of deceased writers? I’m fairly evenly split when I consider the concept objectively—I’d say 49% guilty, 51% put it in my eyes immediately I need to know all the secrets—but I know I’m a hypocrite because I already have a standing deal with multiple people to burn my laptop and all my notebooks should I ever die, heavy emphasis on “should.” I have sought out all my most trustworthy friends and husbands and had them swear to me that they would never, ever publish my emails, journals, or heaven forbid, my tweets; future generations have done nothing to deserve that garbage.

I am, probably for the exact same reasons, so drawn to books and collections that do what I’m most afraid of: share writing that was never supposed to be shared. READ MORE

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BROWN: Have you ever been met with silence?

NOAH: Yeah, lots of times. Silence is great in comedy. Once you learn that death is an option, then you understand, that's where comedy begins. The silence punctuates the rhythm of the set. I love silence, I'm not afraid of it. I'm not afraid of people not laughing. These are good things.

Trevor Noah, the 31-year-old comedian with only a few appearances on The Daily Show under his belt, has been named the new host of TDS, prompting fervid Google searches and "literally who?" tweets everywhere. Here's a 2013 interview with him from Interview magazine; read up. | March 30, 2015

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"Cheap Sunglasses, Expensive Lingerie"

1b4be7ae I don't believe in "rules," because like, what am I, your mom? We're all Grown Woman™! We can do whatever we want! I have a particular distaste for fashion rules (don't mix patterns, don't wear white after Labor Day, don't don't don't), because they only exist to force people into these totally arbitrary categories of completely meaningless concepts like "taste" and "class" and "beauty," all of which are based in subjective and constantly shifting priorities that have more to do with enforcing a status quo than actually encouraging people to look and dress in a way that feels best for them. Oof. I just tried reading that sentence out loud and ran out of breath. But you know what I mean.

HOWEVER. On Saturday I spent a good six hours by myself, wandering around Toronto and completing various errands I had been putting off; I knew I wasn't going to be able to sit in front of my computer all day because I could feel a very real burnout coming on, but I also couldn't do nothing, like oh my god perish the thought, so I went to Toronto's fanciest department store to pick up some skincare stuff I "needed" to replace, and while I was there I was like, fuck it, I'm going to the floor with all the Agent Provocateur bras and buying something ridiculous. Pictured, left: one of the bad decisions I made while I was there. It's called the Alina Bra and I will probably never take it off. I also bought this bra because I was in a MOOD for making BAD DECISIONS.

Afterwards I kept waiting for the guilt or regret to creep in because, like, I don't know if you clicked on those links, but those bras cost money. Money I've been saving (hoarding, really), for important life things. But you know what? The guilt didn't happen. It STILL hasn't happened. And that's because of one of the only fashion rules I do follow, one that has many practical applications and iterations but I'm choosing to simplify it, is: "cheap sunglasses, expensive lingerie."

I once bought a pair of really beautiful, very expensive Karen Walker sunglasses; this was back when I worked as a legal secretary and was just rolling in disposable income for the very first time in my adult life. I still have them! They're great! But I almost never wear them. They feel a little too...heavy, maybe? Too much. Which is strange, because I almost always wear sunglasses when I'm outside, my eyes are extremely sensitive to light and even indirect sunlight makes me tear up almost immediately, plus they just make me look cool. I prefer the sunglasses I get from this cute store around the corner from my apartment. They have a whole wall of sunglasses for $10 each and I'll buy one or two, wear them to death (you should've seen what happened to the sunglasses I brought with me to Cuba, R.I.P. those beautiful reflective aviators, they were too pure for this world), and then replace them as necessary.

Sunglasses bounce around in your pockets and bump up against your keys and get jammed into your purses. More than that, they're right in front of your face all the time!! Everyone sees them! They're not special. That's my point. They're common. Like, who cares about sunglasses.

Lingerie, on the other hand. I expected to feel guilty because, like, how could I spend so much money on something that I was going to show to so few people? I mean, I'm not some kind of lingerie purist who is like "this is for my husband's eyes only" because like lol as if. You better believe I sent about a million texts and Instagram DMs of my tits in those bras when I was in the Agent Provocateur change room, I looked amazing and I knew it and I wanted all my friends and loved ones to simultaneously know it and share in my narcissism. But if you're someone who wears bras and enjoys wearing bras, you know how it feels to find a really, truly great one. I once had a friend who described the way her tits looked when she held them in her hands guided into exactly the right height and shape and said her life's mission was to find a bra that did exactly that, a comparison I loved because I knew what she was talking about but also because a really good bra should feel like someone is lovingly propping your breasts up to the height and shape you feel your best in. Sunglasses can't do anything even remotely comparable to that kind of emotional and physically flattering support. I mean, apparently they make your face look more symmetrical? Who cares.

Once I started thinking about this I realized I have so many other similar rules that I'd been secretly holding on to, guiding all my purchases and beauty priorities. This has been a very longwinded preamble to sharing those with you. They are, more or less in order, the following: READ MORE

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Weekend Roundup / Open Thread

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TODAY IN CLUELESS NEWS: I just realized that Murray wears a Superman necklace throughout the movie, and then my multiple viewings of Scrubs throughout the years made me go, "Wait, Turk had a Superman tattoo!!!" And now I'm going to spend the rest of my weekend trying to figure out Donald Faison's affection for Superman. Please feel free to leave all theories in the comments.

Haley started this week with a meditation on a small fashion magazine, then we... put on some poison dresses, wrote a poem in Dutch, figured out if he was into us, watched some Bollywood videos of Helen, recast The First Wives Club, wondered if God ever spoke to us through cats (probably not), named our plants, quenched our thirst, wrote a letter to Jenna Lyons, talked to Baba Yaga, wrote some neurotica, praised Uncovered Classics and all our piles of books, repeated a word, and interpreted some dreams.

As always, here are some women who gave us life (load up your Instapaper): Arabelle Sicardi on Fresh Off the Boat and her mother, Kathleen Hale interviewed Fran Lebowitz, Kristin Russo, Nicolette Mason, Arabelle Sicardi, and Rae Tutera on fashion and the queer identity, ">too many women we love named the funniest women on Twitter by Playboy, and a small-town steel worker, Kim Kardashian impersonator and beverage enthusiast wrote about gel manicures in the New York Times magazine.

In other weird/sad/exciting/weeeeird news: next week is my last week at the Hairpin. * please insert every emoji ever created here * You'll hear more on that from me soon, but LET'S MAKE THIS LAST WEEK A GOOD ONE, EH?????? See you Monday. Let's do it big.

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The National Geographic has a piece on how swarming bats avoid crashing into each other:

A new study finds that the nocturnal creatures follow a few simple "traffic rules" to avoid midair collisions: The bats first home in on the positions of other bats using their built-in sonar, then follow the flight path of a leader bat—or wingman, as it were.

And, oh my god, the idea of little creepy bats following traffic rules is so adorable to me. I am imaging little bats staying in their own little bat lanes and stopping at their little bat four-way intersections to give the other little bats the right of way, and they all have little bat bumper stickers that say things like, "My other vehicle is the Batmobile" and "Bela Lugosi on Board" and "Honk if you love echolocation" and wait a second I think I just invented a kids' TV show.