Tuesday, March 11, 2014
This was supposed to be a very different post. When I went to bed last night, it was almost a sure thing that for the first time in over twenty years, a woman would win the Iditarod. But when I woke up...alas. My dreams of a matriarchal utopia of ice and puppies had been dashed.
The Iditarod, as you may know, is an annual sled-dog race through more than 1000 miles of Alaskan wilderness, from Anchorage to Nome. The event it commemorates—several mushers relaying medicine to Nome in time to quell a diphtheria epidemic—took place in 1925, but the race itself didn't come into being until 1973. Which means that it was still a pretty new institution when, for a few glorious years in the '80s, a woman won every time.
First was Libby Riddles in 1985. She had finished the race twice before, but nowhere remotely close to first place, so her landmark win was a huge surprise. If you'd been betting on a female racer in 1985, it would've been Susan Butcher—until a moose attacked her team, killing two dogs and injuring the rest. She went on to win four of the next five years, though, including the year her team fell through the ice on a frozen river but then climbed back out and beat everyone else to the finish line. READ MORE
We went to the diner on our first date. Or maybe it wasn’t a date. We were hanging out, going over lines for a community theater production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream we were both in. It was one of those build-on, customizable dates, or non-dates, where you keep adding to as it goes well. Rehearsing lines became coffee became going to hear a band became more coffee became going out to breakfast at 3 a.m. We spent time one-on-one, deep in conversation and in groups, near each other, but not touching, arousing the suspicion of our friends.
The diner was an old train car with a space-age, art deco feel. The wall curved where it met the ceiling and the surfaces were shiny metal, or pink laminate. I ordered a spinach and feta omelet, hash browns, rye toast, and decaf. He ordered a spinach and feta omelet, hash browns, wheat toast, and regular coffee. We held hands over the table and talked about how much we had in common.
The lasagna was nothing special. I used generic noodles, store brand sauce, part-skim cheeses. I didn’t even use fresh parmesan, but that stuff from a can. The recipe came off the back of the box of pasta. My one special touch was to switch out the ground beef it called for with sweet Italian sausage and add a little basil to the sauce. I cut the sausage out of the casings before I sautéed them, then drained them while I assembled. I added a little extra water to the baking dish and didn’t bother to parboil the noodles. Then I sat around for an hour while it baked.
This dish required some effort, and seemed special, but really, the hardest part was doing the dishes. He raved over it. Raved more than I thought it deserved, to the point that it made me uncomfortable.
We had sex for the first time after I made that meal. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was sitting around for an hour while the food stupor wore off. Maybe it was just the fact we had been texting and talking, getting coffee and kissing in cars and movie theaters like ninth graders for nearly three months up until that point. After, he went outside for a cigarette, but he brought his phone with him. I could hear him talking, fast and sharp as a knife in a sushi bar. He said it was his friend Dan.
The magazine article said that this chicken could be used to take relationships to the next step, whatever that step may be. The women quoted had gotten their boyfriends to propose with the help of that chicken. Others had had boyfriends move in. Somehow, this meal caused men to open their eyes to the warmth, stability and hominess offered by the woman cooking it. The chicken was the gateway drug to commitment. I wanted it to lead to declaration of some sort, an end to limbo. I wanted the chicken to be the conversation I wasn’t willing to have.
I had also read a little about witchcraft, paganism, natural magic, the secret language of spices. I wasn’t dying my hair black and wearing robes, but I wasn’t above using an appropriate herb to align my desires with the Universe’s will—if it harm none. Along with the traditional lemon and garlic, I added cinnamon for masculine energy, rubbing the skin with a tiny bit in the butter. Thyme, ruled by Venus. A little cayenne for heat in all areas. I plugged in my hot rollers and showered while the chicken roasted. READ MORE
One of the most obscene things I learned as a barista was how eager people are to be liked. NYU sophomores, the ones with Jansport backpacks in full makeup at 9 a.m., stuttered their orders and shyly complimented me on my nose ring. I semi-patiently listened to innumerable Wikipedia-style monologues about the music I was playing from men in their twenties trying to render their business attire invisible with cultural know-how. I was given zines, mixtape-party fliers, home-recorded chillwave demos.
I said things like "How’s the app going?" and "Welcome to the neighborhood." I answered questions for new Greenpoint residents—of which there were more each year—about the best place to grab wine and tapas, get a shave and drink a beer at the same time. How myself and my co-workers became to be known as experts in such matters was largely beyond me, particularly since many of us shortly couldn’t afford to live in the neighborhood in which we served. More than anything else, though, I was asked what else I did.
"Oh you know," the t-shirt designer or gallery assistant with blunt bangs or unpaid Harper's intern would say on their way into the office. "When you aren’t making coffee." READ MORE
is was down. So I guess this is an opportunity to be alone with our thoughts and that forever, empty feeling Louis CK tells us to embrace more often? Ok, starting now... Unless you guys want to comment below and then we can all connect with each other? Either way.
This is part of a week-long series celebrating the 45th birthdays of characters from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.
Toby started her first blog in 1999. “Toby’s Take” was hosted on Live Journal and, at its peak, was getting about 10,000 celebrity-loving hits a day (though this was before any good analytics were available to average internet users). It was filled with her lengthy writeups of celebrity sightings, scanned autographs, and photos she snapped on her own. On most weekday mornings you could find Toby prowling the streets of Hollywood with headshots and a camera and blank sheets of paper trying to get her favorite (any) celebrity’s photo, autograph, and a quick quote for her blog.
Under a photo of Sharon Stone holding a venti latte from Starbucks:
“Well aren’t you persistent! Ha! I love it.”
Connie became pregnant, but my belly did not grow of child but of wild. And where her baby attached to her and sucked the life source, dormant things grew in me that only fed to feed again. And where her skin smoothed with life, mine grew sallow of contempt. And where she could no longer bring her knees or forehead to the floor in prayer, I made rakat after rakat in empty servitude—bargaining, reasoning, demanding. The single prayer I said was the baby prayer, the fastening prayer, the mooring prayer, the prayer that said I deserved more than what was received.
It reads like a smack-you-in-the-face-beautiful prose poem, but it's actually nonfiction, a personal essay by Kima Jones about the impossibly tangled emotions of sisterhood. It's blistering and beautiful and you should read it right now.
The piece appears in the first issue of a new online literary magazine called Midnight Breakfast, which—full disclosure—I contributed an interview to, and which is worth your time for the absurdly good-looking illustrations alone, like the one above by Lyndsey Lesh. I think I'm allowed to say that because my interview isn't illustrated. Full disclosure: I don't know how full disclosures work.
Hey there, all you cats and kittens out in Radioland, do we have a treat for you! It's a Pitchfork-verified collaboration between Daft Punk and Jay-Z that was never released, probably because it is terrible!
In this unfinished rough cut, apparently meant for the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, Jay and his French robot pals take a bold stance against the following:
- texting abbreviations, especially x's and o's
- kids these days
Also includes some high-quality grunts and a crescendo of panicked shouting.
I never saw Tron, was it about how millennials are ruining a perfectly good society what with all their FaceSpaces and Tweeters?
I have been on this earth for nearly 30 years and I still don't know how to accessorize.
Sometimes I lie and tell the dry cleaner that a dress is "just a really long shirt" so they'll charge me $3.75 instead of $10.
Last week I went four (4) days without showering.
I thought being loved would save me.
I am still riding the waves of goodwill I felt when I gave $20 to the beautiful boy who plays violin in my subway station. This was, like, eight months ago.
I keep saying I'm a vegetarian but a couple of weeks ago in Texas I ate some BBQ chicken and really enjoyed every bite.
I once contemplated throwing a brick through the apartment window of the girl my boyfriend was cheating on me with. Like, kind of planned where I'd get the brick and also what time of night would be best.
I cannot toast nuts without burning them.
There are a lot of old classic films, like ones by Hitchcock or whatever, that I always claim to have seen when they come up in casual conversation. If someone asks me to recount a particular scene I say, "God, you know, I saw it so long ago..." and then wait for someone else to chime in, at which point I nod emphatically.
I claim to want to be a writer, to love the art above myself, to bleed for the words, but when it comes down to it I'd really rather watch Pitch Perfect in bed. READ MORE
I've been reading a lot of old Harold Ramis interviews in the past couple weeks, and I keep coming back to this interview he did with Tad Friend in the New Yorker in 2004. He touches upon his relationship with Bill Murray, the process of rewriting, and his ideas about comedy. I love this part though, where he talks to his son, who is anxious about being late for school:
“How did things go in school?” Ramis asked Daniel, grinning. That morning, when the boy expressed concern that he’d get yelled at for being late, Ramis had said, “If your teacher says anything, you say, ‘You know why I didn’t wear a belt today? So I could get my pants down to make it easier for you to kiss my ass.’ ” Erica gasped and said, “Oh, Harold!” Ramis explained, “It’s like Viktor Frankl’s idea of paradoxical intention—it’s clear he shouldn’t actually do it, but suggesting it is empowering.” Ramis’s sarcasm, once the epitome of generation-gap-creating behavior, has become a parenting style.
Last Funny or Die video today. This is just too good.
If you should happen to spend any time around any person returning from SXSW this week with stories of Game of Thrones parties, Uber surges!!!, and who says things like "I ended up hanging out with [famous rapper] at a taco truck. He just is so real" you may want to watch this funny video from Bridgid Ryan, Bette Bentley, and Rebekka Johnson about LA colleagues catching up after Sundance.
"Do you know what Jesse Eisenberg is like? Because he was at Sundance and he is totally trying to be my friend"/"OMG you're back from Sundance. How was it? Craaazy." [Audio NSFW]
Welp, the town elders from Footloose have finally won.
Look, I'm not one of those people who loved every part of the high school experience, but there were certain parts that seemed like important coming of age moments while you were in it. Like getting your license. And the first time you're honest with yourself and admit that Doc Martens are really uncomfortable. And also school dances. Why? Because like most coming of age moments it felt more momentous while you were in it because '80s and '90s television and movies told us it would feel that way (shout out to Paul Pfeiffer's Bar Mitzvah!).
I am saying this as a person who attended school dances during the height of that unfortunate white-girl cornrows in butterfly clips era and living in a time of slowdancing to the City of Angels soundtrack then it fading out and transitioning to the Thong Song then having to get all romantic again cause Will Smith's Just the Two of Us came on. Now that I think about it, school dances were really the worst. Except the times when you were having so much fun and wanted to enjoy every second cause college was coming way too soon. Like most of high school, it was probably the very best and the very worst all at the exact same time.
Apparently high school dances are becoming a thing of the past in any case. In Caroline Moss's piece "My High School No Longer Holds Dances Because Students Would Rather Stay Home And Text Each Other" her younger sister explained:
Lucy told me she thought the reason students didn't attend was because everyone would rather be home texting, Facebook messaging, or Snapchatting each other.
"Kids don't need to go to a dance to interact with each other when they can sit in their bed with their laptop and phone and text them," she said. "It's basically like being with that person. You don't have to show up to a dance hoping to see someone anymore. You can literally Snapchat them and see them on Snapchat."
This bums me out a bit, but at least we have the greatest video of all time.
Good morning! Remember yesterday when Bieber's video deposition felt like a gift from the Universe for your sleep deprivation? But then you woke up this morning, and found out Barack Obama appeared on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis and it's so funny and they are bro'ing out in the best possible way and Obama has awesome comic timing and you can't wait till he's done being President so he can hang with Brian Williams doing cameos on SNL and get in with that Jon Hamm and Tina Fey crowd? I know it's all scripted but let's all enjoy this for now, before all the think-pieces come out.
The London Review of Books has never been focused on gender equality. VIDA, the organization which tallies up male and female contributors and subjects in various publications every year, consistently ranks LRB as one of its worst offenders, and that status has apparently prompted the journal to rethink exactly nothing and make precisely zero changes.
So it's rather a big surprise to find out that the journal's editor, is a) a woman, and b) a sister in misandry:
Her feminism is, she concedes, "old-fashioned… I tend to take exception to men in a big way, but that's a slightly outmoded form of feminism."
Men as a general concept or men as individuals? "Men as a general concept, and individual men when they're behaving like men."
[...] She breaks off. "It happened earlier this morning. You're talking to a male colleague, trying to get your point of view across, and then another male colleague walks across and agrees sagaciously with what the other man is saying. That always happens."
The ur-text for women without tongues is Philomela, the princess of Athens famously mutilated by her rapist (Tereus)—who was also her brother in law—when she threatened to name him for his crime. But Philomela is resourceful: still mute, she weaves an incriminating tapestry and sends it to her sister, Procne. In revenge, Procne kills her son and serves him boiled to his rapist-father. When Tereus catches wind of his dinner’s ingredients he chases Procne with an axe, and when Philomela and Procne pray to escape, the gods turn the pair into a nightingale and sparrow. But it gets worse: contrary to Ovid’s interpretation of the myth, whose message is justice, the female nightingale is silent.
So begins a long history of women without tongues. In the Western tradition, tonguelessness is ritualistic and punitive. On women, contemporary modesty is usually a visual category: clothing appropriately fitted, eyes blinkingly demure, etc. But chastity and modesty evolved from the classical Greek virtue of sophrosyne, which is verbal. (Anne Carson translates sophrosyne as “verbal continence.”) Its value is also gendered. Here is how Freud put it: “A thinking man is his own legislator and confessor, and obtains his own absolution, but the woman…does not have the measure of ethics in herself. She can only act if she keeps within the limits of morality, following what society has established as fitting.”
“Tereus Abducts Philomela,” by Johann Wilhelm Baur (c. 1939), via.
This moral deficit is why Timycha, a soldier’s wife in 6th century BCE Greece, would rather tear out her own tongue than be tortured: not because she wanted to minimize her pain, but because she didn’t trust herself, as a woman, to remain silent. Here’s the account as described by Iamblichus’s Life of Pythagoras:
Dionysius therefore, being astonished at this answer, ordered him to be forcibly taken away, but commanded Timycha to be tortured: for he thought, that as she was a woman, pregnant, and deprived of her husband, she would easily tell him what he wanted to know, through fear of the torments. The heroic woman, however, grinding her tongue with her teeth, bit it off, and spit it at the tyrant; evincing by this, that though her sex being vanquished by the torments might be compelled to disclose something which ought to be concealed in silence, yet by the member subservient to the development of it, should be entirely cut off.
As a woman, it’s easier to bite your own tongue off than it is to resist the chatty destiny of your sex, which is easily “vanquished.”
The really fascinating thing about women without tongues is that they’re not followers— at least not straightforwardly. Many of these tongueless women achieve the height of their virtue when they become mute. I mean this in the least analytical way. Not that women are better for their tonguelessness, but that time and again—literally, millennia worth of texts—women earn non-metaphorical immortality by first speaking out and then becoming mute. They also de-tongue themselves as often as they are de-tongued (though always under duress). Tellingly, many of these stories are early versions of fairy tales.
One heroic self-mutilator is Khana, a Bengali folk hero whose weather proverbs are still quoted by the area’s rural population. One Khana saying is “A plentiful crop of mangoes is followed by a good crop of rice and many tamarinds foretell floods.” (This rhymes before translation.) Unlike Timycha, Khana was an unqualified have-it-all. She had a successful career as an astronomer, is credited with building Medieval Bengali language, and she and her husband were in love. One day she presented her findings to the royal court, and the king was so impressed by her scholarship that he called her his “tenth jewel,” the other nine of which were his “nava ratna,” also scholars. The king requested Khana’s presence at the court the next day, but her father in law, Varaha, panicked. Rather than disallow Khana’s immodest presence the next day, he ordered his son to cut off Khana’s tongue. Khana’s husband resisted his father’s demand, but ultimately adhered to patriarchal law and mutilated his wife. In a different version of the story, Khana herself cuts off her tongue, either to spare her father-in-law from upstaging (he was also an astronomer) or, in versions in which her astronomy has advanced to divination, to spare her father-in-law from arrest. READ MORE
There are some people who speak several languages, and that's great and I'm really impressed, but this girl can speak like twelve different kinds of gibberish! Swedish gibberish, Arabic gibberish, a whole United Nations meeting of gibberish! I don't think I could pull this off even in English. Some are better than others—the Italian turned out so stereotypical she labeled it "Pizza"—but they're all pretty interesting glimpses at what a language (kind of) sounds like to people who don't speak it. (See also: this old Italian music video in a nonsense approximation of rock-and-roll-style English. It's about 10% more decipherable than "Gimme Shelter.")